This is part 8 of a series of posts on Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, Joseph Smith’s July 12, 1843 revelation on marriage. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. For the follow on post, part 9, go here.
In Nauvoo, two notions of “kingdom expansion” in the hereafter developed in logical tension. They had textual roots from the New York and Kirtland periods.
(1) Kingdom expansion for a person in the hereafter was based on having many earthly progeny. In this way, after death and the exaltation of those children, their own godlike activities of world peopling and priesthood connection made one a greater “king and priest.”
(2) More wives in mortality meant faster growth of progeny in the hereafter somehow, though precisely how or what that meant was not really fleshed out until after Joseph’s death (by Orson Pratt, W. W. Phelps, Eliza R. Snow, Brigham Young and others)—in short, it entailed pregnancy and birth of, not physical bodies, but “spirit” bodies—Pratt saw heavenly gestation as comparable to mortal, hence the advantage of multiple wives.
In either case, the next section of the July 12 revelation addresses “the law” in more specificity: it was not just about generating eternal contracts, it was about multiple wives. Admittedly, the terminology is unclear in some respects, and one gets the feeling again that the revelation, had it been intended for publication, may have been more cogent, much as editing earlier revelations performed that service. (See part 7, for an obvious error in the text. Further inconsistencies show up in verses 42-44 considered below.)
28 I am the Lord thy God, and will give unto thee the law of my Holy Priesthood, as was ordained by me and my Father before the world was.
This law (polygamy), like all other ordinances (see D&C 128 or the June 1843 sermon, for example) was set before mortal persons began to inhabit the world. In Joseph’s sermons, he sees the Temple and for that matter all the salvific sacraments of Mormonism as a key part of the work of what he termed the “grand council” in heaven “before the world was.”
The “by me and my Father” expression seems very modern. Recent conference sermons seem to almost struggle to add “the Father” to discussions of the works of Christ. But that’s a tangent for another day.
29 Abraham received all things, whatsoever he received, by revelation and commandment, by my word, saith the Lord, and hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.
30 Abraham received promises concerning his seed, and of the fruit of his loins—from whose loins ye are, namely, my servant Joseph—which were to continue so long as they were in the world; and as touching Abraham and his seed, out of the world they should continue; both in the world and out of the world should they continue as innumerable as the stars; or, if ye were to count the sand upon the seashore ye could not number them.
31 This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham, and the promise was made unto Abraham; and by this law is the continuation of the works of my Father, wherein he glorifieth himself.
32 Go ye, therefore, and do the works of Abraham; enter ye into my law and ye shall be saved.
33 But if ye enter not into my law ye cannot receive the promise of my Father, which he made unto Abraham.
34 God commanded Abraham, and Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham to wife. And why did she do it? Because this was the law; and from Hagar sprang many people. This, therefore, was fulfilling, among other things, the promises.
35 Was Abraham, therefore, under condemnation? Verily I say unto you, Nay; for I, the Lord, commanded it.
This is the answer to the opening question of the revelation: what about the ancient patriarchs and polygamy. Answer: it was divinely mandated and now it is again. This suggests the sense of previous passages about living the law if it is revealed to you. Get on board or else. Again, I think this is directed in some respects to Emma. She read or heard the passage read by Hyrum. Deeply conflicted over it, she seems to have burned the original, but still felt bound by the provisions.
Joseph as descendant of Abraham is a theme that was important in Utah. There were a few contrary narratives for it, such as seeing Joseph as a “pure Ephraimite” or as a descendant of Jesus (hence the tribe of Judah) himself. “Adoption” from the beginning, had a somewhat lesser status, if one can read that into Joseph’s remarks about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. The “blood of the Prophets” trope was still strong in Utah and it broadened and deepened as it worked to see sons of prophets as prophets or other church authorities. This subject is so large, I can’t really do justice to it here.
36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
The Pauline language reveals some DCT going on and it reappears in an alleged letter to Nancy Rigdon, published in the Sangamo Journal by John C. Bennett. [A provenance of the letter—along with the original—doesn’t exist beyond Bennett’s claims. It won’t make it into the JSP apparently. However, it seems the Utah Mormons owned it. The letter is styled as an apologetic for polygamy, in fact a kind of warning–and–proposal to Rigdon. If it is authentic, Nancy’s acceptance might have made a large difference in Sidney’s future.]
37 Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, because they were given unto him, and he abode in my law; as Isaac also and Jacob did none other things than that which they were commanded; and because they did none other things than that which they were commanded, they have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.
Again the deification doctrine, but this time tied to polygamy. Doing none other things, might be connected to Joseph’s remarks to Clayton about the dangers of rogue behavior—and establishes a textual bar of judgement. See Part 5. The notion of concubines was an item of discussion in Utah, but it was never clearly defined in the modern context.
38 David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39 David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord.
The damnation of David was a recurring theme for Joseph Smith. Protestants took various sides here. This verse might be seen as a sort of nuanced version of Jacob’s “Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.”
40 I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things. Ask what ye will, and it shall be given unto you according to my word.
This forms a revelatory basis for the popular explanation of polygamy as necessary to restoration.
The Adultery Section
The revelation claims that Joseph asked about adultery at some point. The original “law of the church,” section 42, covered the subject, but not in the way section 132 does. There are different rules for males and females in plural relationships here (DCT).
41 And as ye have asked concerning adultery, verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.
So, sealing man and wife does not prevent a woman being “appointed” to someone else apparently. The language here is somewhat confusing. It might even be interpreted in terms of polyandry. But, if a woman was not appointed to another man and had sex with him, destruction awaits. I think this may be Emma directed too. However, read on.
42 If she be not in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man, she has committed adultery.
43 And if her husband be with another woman, and he was under a vow, he hath broken his vow and hath committed adultery.
44 And if she hath not committed adultery, but is innocent and hath not broken her vow, and she knoweth it, and I reveal it unto you, my servant Joseph, then shall you have power, by the power of my Holy Priesthood, to take her and give her unto him that hath not committed adultery but hath been faithful; for he shall be made ruler over many.
The rules of polygamous adultery don’t mention destruction of male adulterers but like David, the sinning male may lose his wife (wives) and they get “transferred” to someone worthy. This is an odd regulation, given the rules of sealing and salvation (vs 19), but see the Addendum below. The chattel theme is hard to avoid, but the whole document reads like an Old Testament procedural law. There is not much about love and attraction here. In practice, divorce among polygamists was often connected to romance, or lack of same as well as occasional adulteries. William Clayton was apparently the object of chaste lust by women on the trail west. Who knew it could happen?
45 For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.
Again the promise that Joseph is the Elias, the restorer, bringing back everything, including plural marriage. Even animal sacrifice was considered by Joseph and original planning for the Salt Lake Temple included an altar for sacrifice, not apparently the Mosaic version, but the Genesis version.
The Sealing Keys of the Kingdom
The next few verses confirm that Joseph is the one (and only one) authorized to exercise the sealing authority, binding in heaven/earth, loosing in heaven/earth, the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19). Joseph also has the “keys” of cursing. (See sections 82:20-1; 78:12; 104:9-10.) Make note of the power to remit sins! There was some discussion of this in later church administrations, but beyond restoration of blessings after excommunication, I think it is a lost or little mentioned idea. It’s connections to Catholicism are evident and in fact those same connections invaded Joseph Smith’s sermon-making nearly a year later.
46 And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven.
47 And again, verily I say, whomsoever you bless I will bless, and whomsoever you curse I will curse, saith the Lord; for I, the Lord, am thy God.
48 And again, verily I say unto you, my servant Joseph, that whatsoever you give on earth, and to whomsoever you give any one on earth, by my word and according to my law, it shall be visited with blessings and not cursings, and with my power, saith the Lord, and shall be without condemnation on earth and in heaven.
Joseph’s Exaltation is Guaranteed
This is important for those (Emma) who might believe that Joseph was off the reservation with polygamy. More parallels to the ancients. This is not the only revelation where Joseph’s salvation is assured. But the whole revelation speaks to the idea of perseverance as mediated by liturgy. In fact, it seems Joseph’s liturgical innovation in Nauvoo is directed toward an embodiment of the spiritual claims in his earlier revelations: section 93 for example, promises that the faithful will behold the face of God. The Nauvoo endowment terminated with the faithful admitted to God’s presence. Section 76 tells of the Holy Spirit of Promise shed forth on the faithful, Nauvoo places the Holy Spirit of Promise within an ordinance–a realization of the spiritual in the physical.
Joseph, tagged as the sole dispenser of assurance, doesn’t confirm transfer of this power in case of his death in written revelation, but does so in at least two other ways. He confers the fullness of the priesthood on a small group, and that apparently included a kind of dormant power to exercise sealing powers. The “final charge” or “last charge” was a common story, assigning to the apostles the duty to carry on the work.
49 For I am the Lord thy God, and will be with thee even unto the end of the world, and through all eternity; for verily I seal upon you your exaltation, and prepare a throne for you in the kingdom of my Father, with Abraham your father.
50 Behold, I have seen your sacrifices, and will forgive all your sins; I have seen your sacrifices in obedience to that which I have told you. Go, therefore, and I make a way for your escape, as I accepted the offering of Abraham of his son Isaac.
I’m sure Emma misread vs 49-50 as applying to her. Absolutely sure. I’m only kidding of course. I think the strategy of dictating the July 12 revelation at that time was in fact necessary and even brilliant. We may find it hard to appreciate the cachet a written revelation from Joseph Smith had among most Latter-day Saints. Strange or threatening or otherwise, section 132 was a powerful symbol to those who knew of it, and it created a bright line in the sand for the inner circle.
Next week: Emma’s dilemma.
 For Pratt, celestial persons are so attractive (heavenly hormones?) that heavenly sex was essentially inevitable. See part 10 to come. Also, check out Sam Brown’s recent BYU Studies Quarterly article, “Believing Adoption”
 While Joseph’s ancestry may have been in dispute, the idea that his family/descendants were destined or at least marked for church leadership was not ignored in Utah and drove the RLDS establishment. The banner was taken up by Joseph before he died, though prior to Nauvoo, he saw succession in different ways. Modern biology suggests that the physical content of such “ancient blood” theories is fanciful.
 Erastus Snow’s long 1883 sermon (JD 24:163ff) offers the following:
Now, those who take this other view, and are trying to convince themselves that this is an institution of man and not of God, bring forth the law that was given to the Nephites of old upon the American continent, which was given them by Jacob, the brother of Nephi, and which you can read, as doubtless you have often read, in the Book of Mormon. Jacob arraigned some of the people because the men were giving way to the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life, and whoredoms, and they attempted to justify themselves in their whoredoms by referring to what is written in the Jewish Scriptures concerning David and Solomon and other men having many wives and concubines, which Jacob informed the Nephites was an abomination in the sight of the Lord, and gave unto them a commandment that not any man among them should have save it be one wife, and concubines they should have none, saying that the Lord “delighteth in the chastity of woman.” And in the same connection the Lord said: “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” Now, there was a reason why the Lord gave this commandment to the Nephites. But this reason did not exist when the Lord called Abraham and promised that, his seed should be like the sand upon the sea shore for number. He recognized the righteousness of a plurality of wives, and never at any time did he restrict them from the days of Abraham until Christ, so far, as we have any record in the Jewish Scriptures. But there were reasons, as I said before, why he restricted the Nephites, but in this restriction He intimated that when the time should come that He should raise up seed unto himself, He would command His people.
Snow’s sermon tells us that there were folks (Mormons!) out there appealing to the Jacobean passage. I’ll come back to this.
 The parable of the talents. Used by Joseph during his April 2 visit to Ramus, in reference to multiple wives.
 With the death of Brigham Young, John Taylor’s administration began. Here is Taylor’s account of applying the revelation in a case of adultery:
A certain Bishop wrote to me to know what should be done in the
following case: A man had been away from home on a mission, and during his absence his wife had committed adultery. I replied that the woman would have to be severed from the Church; but requested that the, aggrieved husband should call upon me. He did so, bringing with him his delinquent wife and three beautiful little boys-three as beautiful little boys as I ever saw. He also brought with him the villain who had done the damage. But I told him to take him away, I would have no communication with such a contemptible wretch. The husband explained that he wished to talk with me in the presence of his wife, if it was agreeable. He wanted to know what was to be done in the case. I told him I should be under the necessity of confirming the Bishop’s decision in the case, but I will have read to you what the law says upon the subject.
George Reynolds, who is one of my secretaries, was present, and I asked him to read certain portions of the revelation on celestial marriage; for they had been married according to that order. That revelation states that, “If a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and if she be with another man, and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she hath committed adultery and shall be destroyed.” And in another place it says, “they shall be destroyed in the flesh, and shall be delivered unto the buffetings of Satan unto the day of redemption, saith the Lord God.”
Now, said I, I did not make that law. I find it in the word of God. It is not my province to change it. I cannot make any change. I am sorry for these little children. I am sorry for the shame and infamy that has been brought upon them; but I cannot reverse the law of God. I did not commit this crime; I am not responsible for it; I cannot take upon myself, the responsibility of other peoples’ acts. Well, it made my heart ache. The husband wept like a child, so did the woman; but I could not help that. I speak of his for the purpose of bringing up other things, and of presenting them before the people. And the principle I desire to impress upon their minds is, that we have no right, any of us, to violate the laws of God.
 Joseph dictated the following to his clerk at the time (October 5, 1840), Robert Thompson:
These sacrifices as well as every ordinance belonging to the
priesthood will when the temple of the Lord shall be built and the Sons
Levi be purified be fully restored and attended to then all their powers,
ramifications, and blessings–this the Sons of Levi shall be purified.
ever was and will exist when the powers of the Melchizedek Priesthood
are sufficiently manifest. Else how can the restitution of all things
spoken of by all the Holy Prophets be brought to pass. It is not to be
understood that, the law of moses will be established again with all it
rights and variety of ceremonies, ceremonies, this had never been
spoken off by the prophets but those things which existed prior Moses’s
day viz Sacrifice will be continued –It may be asked by some what
necessity for Sacrifice since the great Sacrifice was offered? In answer
to which if Repentance Baptism and faith were necessary to Salvation
existed prior to the days of Christ what necessity for them since that
Young meant to carry out the instructions in plans for the temple in Salt Lake City:
Under the pulpit in the west end will be a place to offer sacrifices. There will be an altar prepared for that purpose so that when any sacrifices are to be offered, they should be offered there.” (Journal of Wilford Woodruff, December 18, 1857.)
 Speech about the Holy Spirit of Promise after Joseph Smith seems driven by disparate texts or ideas. With the “conditionalization” of sealings, it gradually becomes disassociated from the physical ordinance and seen as spiritual affirmation of the sealing by the Holy Ghost, usually after a delay that marks faithfulness, often postponed via the “endure to the end” pessimism. I see Joseph as being all about a “this life” “grace by sacrament” kind of guy. But it’s just hard to resist John and Charles it seems.
Nauvoo seethed with talk about polygamy. Rumors circulated about secret authorized sexual freedoms. The counterbalancing speech grew rather extreme, with Joseph Smith publicly disclaiming any association with such things. These statements were carefully worded to avoid alarming polygamists and at the same time attempting to reassure the ignorant. A great example and one that became decontextualized to the point that it fostered unjustified (and generally nutty) apologetics over the fate of (repentant) adulterers, centered around a Nauvoo High Council trial. The Manuscript History of the Church editors combined the September 25, 1843 entry in Joseph Smith’s journal with the following selection from Wilford Woodruff’s journal for the date:
I was called in the evening to a Council with the Twelve. When I arived at Joseph Smith’s Store I found the High Council sitting on a case of Harrison Sagers for some improper Conduct or offer towards some female.
At the close President Joseph Smith made an address upon the subject which was highly interesting & its tendency was to do away with evry evil & practice virtue & Holiness before the Lord. That the Church had not received any license from him to commit adultery fornication or any such thing but to the contrary if any man Commit adultery He Could not receive the Ceslestial kingdom of God. Even if he was saved in any kingdom it could not be the Celestial kingdom.
He said he thought the many examples that had been manifest John C Bennet & others was sufficient to show the fallacy of such a course of conduct. He condemned the principle in toto & warned those present against going into those evils, for they would shurely bring a Curse upon their heads.[Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 2:327-328. On Sagers, see Norbert’s post here. Also check the comments. Norbert being related to Sagers explains a lot.]
Keep in mind that Hyrum Smith had read the July 12 revelation to the high council ten days previous to this trial. Not only is the idea that adulterers are permanently barred from celestial glory a new one, it extends a popular meme even further: “not just next to murder, but equal to it.” The hoped-for effect was three fold at least: warn off imitators of polygamy, show non-participating insiders Joseph’s position regarding polygamy and adultery, turn Bennett into a son of Perdition (maybe). Aside from this, the sin of adultery clearly misses the cut for breaking the seals of the priesthood (see part 7). The shock value of the Woodruff journal report is hard to underestimate for the repentant adulterer in Mormonism. Since it was published in Joseph Smith’s history, it received wide and unfortunate circulation among those who scratched the surface of “church history.” The July 12 revelation displays some inconsistency with its language marking Adultery as a somehow Davidic Level Sin (see vss 42-44).