Soooo…anyone else surprised to find out a LDS prophet was divorced? It’s not exactly the kind of information that makes it into a Sunday school lesson about church history or a Sacrament meeting talk about marriage or even a RS/Priesthood combined 5th Sunday lesson. Why not? Divorce happens. People suffer. Why pretend the truth of life didn’t happen to someone we in the church hold up as an example to follow? I believe there is more to learn from understand our church leaders are human with real life problems rather than the cute habit we have of sanitizing all the ‘icky’ stuff out of our collective history.

For those of you who don’t know/ weren’t taught/ didn’t know which non-church authorized books to read, here’s the straight poop:

Joseph F. Smith, at nineteen, married his sixteen year-old first cousin, Levira Annette Clark Smith. Joseph went on a three year mission after less than one year of marriage. He returned home to find Levira in a severe state. She had a lot of physical and emotional struggles. Levira was not a well person. Joseph couldn’t handle it. He wanted a wife who was healthy and able to support his efforts in the church. They were married eight years (during which time another wife was added to fulfill Joseph’s responsibility to plural marriage and also in the hopes that the new wife would be able to whip Levira into shape. It didn’t work.) Joseph and Levira had no children together.

“On June 10, 1867, they filed a legal separation that ended in a bitter divorce. This was perhaps the most painful period of Joseph F.’s life, for family was second only to God…and he knew his quick temper had played a part in the failure of his first marriage.” (1)

Levira died on December 18, 1888 at age 46.

Joseph felt badly about his relationship with Levira. He was shocked when he received notice of her death because he and other family members were convinced she was a hypochondriac. There are no medical records of her symptoms, just records stating her constant complaints of ill health.

Joseph F. Smith went on to marry in total 5 wives, had 43 biological children and adopted 5 others. He enjoyed an excellent reputation as a loving, attentive husband and father.

If Joseph F. was with us now, what do you think he would say he learned from his first marriage and why isn’t this part of his life acknowledged in any church lesson manuals?

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1. The Story of Joseph F. Smith by Blaine M. Yorgason. Page 247.

I read a ton of online and book sources to prepare this post. I was gonna do it up right and site every fact, etc. But here is the deal: I am old, tired and not getting paid for this fun. If you want the info. on my sources, tell me that in the comments and I will email them to you. Maybe. When I get around to it. Or just do your own internet search. It isn’t rocket science anymore.