Clarissa Lyman, 25
John Smith and Clarissa Loomis Lyman were civilly married in the fall of 1815. John was the paternal uncle of Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the church. John and Clarissa joined the church in 1832, and were living in Kirtland, Ohio by 1833. In 1838, they followed the Saints to Far West. John, already an assistant counselor to the First Presidency, served as a stake president in “Adam-ondi-Ahman,” and by June of 1839 they had resettled at Nauvoo, where John continued to preside over local congregations. The Smith’s marriage became polygamous in early August of 1843 when John was sealed for time to Mary Aikens Smith, his widowed sister-in-law.
Mary Aikens Smith had been civilly married to Silas Smith, John and Joseph Smith Sr.’s brother, for 11 years when he died in February 1839 in Pittsfield, Illinois. Mary had followed her husband to Kirtland, Ohio in 1836 after he had joined the church the previous year. After Silas’ death, John brought Mary and her sons to Nauvoo. Later, John as served as Silas’ proxy when Mary was sealed to Silas for eternity, following which she was sealed to John for time.
During this period, John was also sealed for eternity to Julia Ellis Hills Johnson, the mother of several of Joseph Smith’s plural wives. Julia’s first husband, Ezekiel, with whom she had had sixteen children, was not a member of the church. Her son Benjamin later speculated that his parents’ separation around this time and her sealing to John Smith had been directed by Joseph Smith.
John did not marry again until January 1846 when was sealed for eternity to five women: Nancy Ann Carr Brimhall, Miranda Jones, Sarah Marietta Kingsley, Asenath Hurlbut, and Rebecca White. All were in their 50s and 60s. Though these marriages occurred during a period when families were being organized for the exodus from Nauvoo, none of them traveled with John and Clarissa and some did not go at all. The decisions made by these women in the following years may evidence the extent to which some of these sealings had more to do with the social order of the next life rather than this one.
Although information about her is scarce and contradictory, Nancy Ann Carr Brimhall is known to have been born in Connecticut. She may have been civilly married twice before her sealing to John Smith. Sometime after 1846, she married William Hawk as one of his polygamous wives and migrated with him to the Utah territory in 1849. Nancy died in Salt Lake City in 1875.
Miranda Jones was sealed for eternity to John Smith on the same day as Nancy Ann Car Brimhall. She had previously been civilly married to James Davis and, subsequently, to Nathan Newton. She had borne three children with each man. She migrated to Utah in 1850 with her son’s family. She died in Utah in late 1857.
Sarah Marietta Kingsley Cleveland settled in Quincy, Illinois in 1834 with her second husband John Cleveland. When the Saints were chased out of Missouri in late 1838 and early 1839, Emma Smith and her children stayed with the Clevelands. Sarah joined the church, though her husband did not. Sometime in 1842, the Clevelands moved to Nauvoo, where they lived across the street from Joseph and Emma Smith and in 1842 Sarah became counselor to Joseph Smith’s first wife, Emma, in the Relief Society presidency. This same year Sarah was sealed for eternity to Joseph Smith but continued to live with John Cleveland. In 1846, she was sealed Joseph Smith, Jr., for time and to John Smith for eternity. Sarah wanted to go west with the main body of the church but was counseled by church leaders to remain with her husband, John Cleveland. Ten years later Sarah died in Plymouth, Hancock County, Illinois, four years before John Cleveland.
Sixty-six-year old widow Asenath Hurlbut probably joined the church in Kirtland and followed it to Nauvoo where she was sealed for eternity to John Smith in the temple in 1846. She had been previously married to Elkanah Sherman, who had died in 1817 in Kirtland. She joined the migration westward, but went only as far as Iowa, where she died in 1860.
The widow Rebecca White was civilly married to Henry Harvey White in Vermont in 1808 and had four children. On January 24, 1846, five months after Henry’s death, Rebecca was sealed for eternity to John Smith in the Nauvoo Temple. She migrated to Utah with her son’s family in 1852 and died in Pleasant Grove, Utah in 1867.
Julia Ellis Hills Johnson followed the Saints to Iowa, but never made it to Utah. She died at Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1853. Mary Aikens Smith did not leave Nauvoo until summer of 1846, several months after John departed for Iowa with his other wives. She caught up with them in Iowa and they travelled together to Utah in 1847. Ten years later, Mary and her two sons, Jesse and Silas, were called to help settle Parowan in Iron County, Utah. Mary lived in Parowan until her death in 1877. Clarissa and John had died in Utah in the spring of 1854, only a few months apart.
Bergera, Gary James. “Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–1844,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38, no.3 (Fall 2005): 1–74, 29.
“Cleveland, Sarah Marietta Kingsley Howe Cleveland,” and “Sherman, Asenath Hurlbut,” The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/people/
“Cleveland, Sarah Marietta Kingsley,” “Smith, Silas,” and “Smith, John,” The Joseph Smith Papers, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/reference/people
Hales, Brian C. “Sarah Kingsley,” https://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/sarah-kingsley/. Accessed 12 Aug 2020.
Jensen, Margaret S. “Silas and Mary Aikens Smith,” typescript. 6 pages. J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah. https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6j11jg3. Accessed 12 Aug 2020.
“Smith, Clarissa Loomis,” and “White, Rebecca,” Pioneer Database 1847–1868, https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/overlandtravel/
Thayne, Linda J. “Julia Hills Johnson, 1783–1853: My Soul Rejoiced.” Masters thesis, Brigham Young University, 2008.