Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger

117 Primary Sources


Webster Dictionary's definition of "scrape" (1830).


Webster's Dictionary's definition of "affair" (1830).


1830 U.S. Census lists Samuel Alger in Cuyahoga County, OH.

Dec 3, 1832

Joseph records William McLellin's 1832 excommunication.

1834 - 1907

M. Hancock provides his birthdate in his autobiography.

Aug 1835

1835 D&C declares that the Church believes in monogamy.

Nov 24, 1835

Joseph records officiating at the marriage of the Knights in November 1835.

Apr 3, 1836

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery have a vision in the Kirtland temple; Elijah bestows the sealing keys.

Apr 3, 1836

J. Smith and O. Cowdery receive the sealing keys in April 1836.

Nov 14, 1836

Marriage record of Solomon Custer and Fanny Alger in November 1836.

Sep 1837

W Cowdery's Defense of Joseph and the Rigdon family against rumors in Milton and Palmyra areas.

Nov 6, 1837

Joseph informs the council that "a matter" involving Cowdery had not been "satisfactorily settled."

1838 - 1847

Whitmer on Kirtland secret combinations and plurality of wives.

Jan 21, 1838

Cowdery calls Joseph's relation with Alger a "dirty, nasty, filthy scrape/affair."

Feb 15, 1838

Letter from Marsh with multiple testimonies regarding Joseph's and Alger's relationship.

Apr 12, 1838

Council minutes on the relationship between Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger.

May 11, 1838

Joseph records William McLellin's 1838 trial and excommunication.

Jul 1838

Elders' Journal says Mormons do not "believe in having more wives than one."

1839 - 1841

Joseph reported that he was born on December 23, 1805.

Apr 3, 1840

Rigdon refers to "a real drunken scrape" involving Cowdery and Granger.

Oct 23, 1840

Record book shows Alger (Custer) attending a Church conference in 1840.

Sep 13, 1842

Brewer claims that Joseph had "unlawful intercourse" with "a young orphan girl."

Jul 12, 1843

Joseph Smith records a revelation in D&C 132 that lays out the concept of plural marriage.

Nov 5, 1848

Pottawattamie High Council minutes mentions Oliver Cowdery's rebaptism.

Nov 11, 1848

Orson Hyde writes to Wilford Woodruff about Oliver Cowdery's rebaptism.

Nov 16, 1848

R. Miller mentions O. Cowdery's rebaptism by Hyde in November 1848 in a letter to H. Sabey.

Aug 21, 1850

1850 U.S. Census lists "Francis Custer" as 31 years old.

Aug 29, 1852

O. Pratt officially introduces polygamy to the public.

Jun 18, 1856

The Republican Party Platform of 1856 lists polygamy as one of the "twin relics of barbarism."


Butler writes that McLellin robbed the Smith home while Joseph was in prison.

1860 - 1871

Holbrook recounts Johnson dying in the Smith home in 1833.

Jun 12, 1860

1860 U.S. Census lists "Fanny Ouster" as 42 years old.

Aug 12, 1861

W.W. Phelps writes to Brigham about Joseph's 1831 revelation on polygamy.

Dec 17, 1864

Millennial Star reviews McLellin's excommunication and hostilities toward the Saints.


Joseph B. Noble provides affidavit stating that he sealed Joseph to Louisa Beaman.

Jan 22, 1869

F.D. Richards records that Joseph Noble "performed the first sealing ceremony in this Dispensation" between Joseph and Louisa Beaman.

Oct 7, 1869

Orson Pratt says that Joseph said polygamy was "a true principle" in 1831.

1870 - 1913

Lightner claims Joseph was commanded Joseph to practice polygamy in July 1834.

Jul 1872

McLellin describes the Smith/Alger relationship to Joseph Smith III.


Stenhouse claims W.W. Phelps taught that Joseph learned polygamy from the Egyptian papyrus.

Feb 16, 1874

William Clayton recounts the writing of the revelation on plural marriage.

Oct 14, 1874

Deseret News prints Samuel Alger's obituary.

Oct 6, 1875

McLellin is quoted in the SLT about Joseph and Alger's sealing.

Apr 24, 1876

E. Webb recounts the Joseph/Alger sealing.

May 4, 1876

E. Webb refers to Joseph's and Alger's relationship as similar to a "sealing."


A.E. Young provides an overview of the Joseph/Alger relationship.

Dec 16, 1878

Orson Pratt quotes Lyman Johnson as saying that Smith knew about plural marriage in 1831.

Oct 1, 1879

Emma Hale Smith denies that Joseph practiced polygamy.

Jun 17, 1880

1880 U.S. Census lists "Fanny W Custer" as 63 years old.

Apr 1881

Anti-polygamy periodical recounts the Joseph/Alger relationship.

Aug 2, 1882

Unknown author from The Hagerstown Exponent claims that Custer and Alger are practicing spiritualism.


Susa Young Gates quotes Joseph Smith in 1835 claiming to have authority to marry others.

Apr 27, 1883

Littlefield states that Joseph "understood and believed" plural marriage in Kirtland.


Helen Mar Kimball Whitney says that plural marriage was revealed to Joseph in 1831; was commanded by an angel to practice it.


Eliza Snow recounts a conversation between Lorenzo Snow and Joseph about plural marriage and the angel with a sword.

Feb 12, 1884 - Mar 8, 1884

Braden says that Joseph "practiced polygamy in Kirtland," "committed fornication," and seduced "an orphan girl."

Apr 1, 1884

Emily D. P. Young says that Emma Smith knew about plural marriage and was "bitter" and "unpleasant" about it.

Jan 1885

Hawley recalls John Alger saying Alger was "seald" to Joseph.


E.R. Snow says that she lived with the Smiths in the "Spring of 1836."


Holbrook reports that Alger was a "spiritual wife" of Joseph's.


Wilhelm Wyl claims that Emma Smith threw Eliza Partridge down the stairs; assaulted Eliza R. Snow with a broomstick.


C. Webb describes the Fanny Alger/Joseph relationship as a sealing and states that Fanny Alger was pregnant.


Alexander claims that "plurality of wives" was practiced in Kirtland.


Eliza R. Snow lists Fanny Alger and others as one of "Joseph Smith's Plural wives."

May 1887

Andrew Jenson article on Joseph's plural marriage; identifies 27 women as plural wives.

May 1887

Mary Ann Frost Pratt recalls the conversion of her sister Olive Frost to plural marriage and her marriage to Joseph.

May 1887

Joseph learned about plural marriage in 1831; Alger is listed as "one of the first plural wives sealed to" Joseph.

Aug 18, 1887

Newspaper interviews Eliza R. Snow about plural marriage; she mentions the angel with a sword commanding Joseph to practice polygamy.


E.R. Snow identifies Alger as "one of the first wives Joseph married."


Martin Harris quoted about Joseph's "improper proposals" to Alger.


Reprinted obituary of Fanny Alger.

Sep 22, 1889

Winchester talks about Joseph's "licentious conduct" during the Kirtland period.

Dec 5, 1889

Newspaper reporting Fanny Alger's (Custer) death in 1889.

Oct 6, 1890

Official Declaration 1 of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


John Alger is excommunicated in 1890 after the Polygamy Manifesto.


Lucy Walker recalls that Joseph saying he learned the "principle of plural marriage" in 1831.


Emily D. P. Young testifies that Emma Hale Smith consented to plural marriage, but became bitter soon after.


W. Woodruff discontinues plural marriage, naming revelation and opposition as the reason.


Lucy Walker affirms she lived with Joseph as a wife.


L. Hancock recalls that Joseph told him to take Alger to Missouri.


Levi Hancock marries Clarissa Reed.

Apr 4, 1899

Alger sealed by proxy to Joseph Smith in 1899.

Feb 8, 1902

Lightner recalls Joseph saying an angel with a sword commanded him to practice polygamy.

Apr 1903 - Oct 1911

Benjamin Johnson recalls being told that Joseph and Fanny were "spied upon & found together"; calls Fanny Joseph's "first plural wife."

Apr 20, 1904

Lightner says that Joseph was commanded by an angel in 1834 to practice plural marriage.

Mar 10, 1905

M. Hancock recounts the marriage of Alger and Joseph.

Apr 14, 1905

Lightner quotes Joseph saying that an angel commanded him between 1834 and 1842 to practice polygamy; if not, the angel would slay him.

Jun 1905 - Sep 1905

Lightner says Joseph was commanded to begin plural marriage in 1834 [?] and was threatened by an angel.


B.H. Roberts states that the revelation on plural marriage was received in 1831.


Leroli C. Snow provides late account of Emma Hale Smith pushing Eliza R. Snow down the stairs.


Todd Compton summarizes the Fanny Alger family background.


Todd Compton speculates that Fanny Alger may have miscarried.


Todd Compton reviews Fanny Alger's departure from Ohio.


S. Faulring provides an overview of O. Cowdery's rebaptism in November 1848.


Ugo Perego et al., reports on how DNA study rules out 2 possible Smith descendants; casts strong doubt on third.


Richard Lyman Bushman explains the possible background for the 1835 "Article of Marriage."


DNA study confirms that Oliver N. Buell and Mosiah Hancock were not Joseph's sons.

Mar 7, 2008

Study finds that marriage age gaps rose between 1850 and 1880; gaps ranged from 4 to 7 years on average.

Sep 9, 2008

Mark Staker argues that Alger lived with the Smiths between 1834 and 1836.


Brian C. Hales concludes that the story of Emma Smith pushing Eliza Snow down the stairs is likely "folklore."


Don Bradley concludes that the Alger/Smith relationship was Smith's first polygamous marriage.


Don Bradley dates the discovery of the Smith-Alger marriage between April-September 1836.


The ages of Joseph's plural wives are compared to other regions of 19th-century America.


Brian and Laura Hales argue that the Alger/Smith marriage took place in 1835-36.


Massachusetts statistics indicate 15-20% of women were married before age 20 in the 1840s.


Alice Merrill Horne hears the story of Eliza R. Snow's sexual assault in Missouri.


W. Smith explains the evolution of the meaning of "celestial marriage."


Craig Foster provides data on regional marriage ages between 1850-1880.


DNA study rules out Josephine Lyon as Joseph Smith's daughter.


Ugo Perego reports on how DNA results rule out Josephine Lyon as Joseph Smith's daughter.


FamilySearch lists Fanny Alger's birthdate as September 30, 1817.


Find a Grave Website lists Fanny Alger's birthdate as September 30, 1816.


The Hales list Fanny Alger's birth date as September 20, 1816.


Joseph Smith Papers Website list 1818 as Fanny Alger's birthyear.


Church's essay lists Fanny Alger's birthyear as 1816.


The Joseph Smith Papers identifies May 28, 1843 as sealing date for Joseph and Emma Hale Smith.


The Joseph Smith Papers identifies May 28, 1843 as sealing date for Joseph and Emma Hale Smith.