40 years ago today - 40 years ago - Dec 5, 1978-Tuesday

[Leonard Arrington]
Yesterday I took opportunity to ask one of our best scholars [D. Michael Quinn] who had been through a number of diaries in the 20th century to give me the "straight story" on two episodes involving General Authorities that I hear rumors about all the time and have never had the chance to investigate them myself.

The first relates to Elder Richard R. Lyman, who had always been a favorite speaker and General Authority. ...

[A] friend says that Brother Lyman's "problem" was not adultery but plural marriage. He said that he was married in a covenant marriage to a second wife in 1925. This woman had previously been married herself in a plural marriage, about 1920, and Elder Lyman had been designated to investigate her situation, which he did and excommunicated her. She showed genuine repentance and came back into the Church about 1922. He played a role in that, apparently. But he did not fall in love with her apparently until about 1924 or '25. Rumor says that it was about that time that his wife, Amy Brown Lyman, determined she would not share the bed with him anymore, and that denial was a contributing factor to him "taking up with" this other woman. But my informant says that he has read the Lyman diaries and there is not one word in the diaries that would suggest that he blamed his wife for that liaison, not one word of recrimination or even a word indicating that she had denied him sexual privileges. This may reflect his genuine manhood-his refusal to blame someone else for his difficulties. At any rate, he entered into a covenant marriage-no third person performing the ceremony-in 1925, and held her as a plural wife until his excommunication, which occurred 12 Nov. 1943. The announcement of the Quorum of the Twelve said that he was being excommunicated "for violation of the Christian law of chastity," and my informant said that the Quorum of the Twelve did not know of his covenant marriage and he chose not to tell them. It was only in the years that followed that they learned this. He was rebaptized, I think in 1954, although he asked for rebaptism about 1945 or '46.31

The other case I enquired about relates to [theater professor] Joseph F. Smith-patriarch to the Church-Joseph Fielding Smith [his uncle's namesake], the son of Hyrum M. Smith, who in turn was the son of [church president] Joseph F. Smith. He was ordained a patriarch in 1942 and released in 1946, "due to ill health." My informant says that he was also disfellowshipped when he was released but that this was never announced. This almost no one knows about. My informant says that the disfellowshipment was arranged by his relative, President George Albert Smith, and that this was done quietly, probably in order to avoid a formal Church trial which might have resulted in his excommunication and in a wider knowledge of his "problem." The problem, according to the informant, was homosexuality. Apparently a woman whose son was about to leave for a mission came into his office to obtain a blessing for her son. She later charged that he had exhibited homosexual tendencies with her son. This charge resulted in him being called in for questioning by the First Presidency and led ultimately to his release.

The informant said that this may or may not have been the case. Apparently Patriarch Joseph F. was very effusive in greeting people. Instead of a normal formal handshake, he was more demonstrative and affectionate, let us say, and his hands would be on the shoulders or around the waist, and some people may have interpreted this as "pawing all over you." The informant thinks this may have been the case with the missionary and that Patriarch Joseph F. may have "seemed" to exhibit homosexual tendencies without having been an actual "hard" homosexual. The informant says that Patriarch Joseph F. had been ill for several months. Just what kind of illness is not clear. Could it have been an emotional illness-a kind of nervous breakdown? Could this have been an illness mentally which caused him to exhibit homosexual tendencies that were only latent when he was emotionally healthy? Could this have resembled the illness of people having emotional troubles, such as when such persons shoplift or exhibit their privates in a public toilet or kiss members of the opposite sex when they are not accustomed to doing so? And could his illness have been the real reason for his release, and the exhibition of symptoms of homosexuality been the reasons for the disfellowshipment? He was soon reinstated and his blessings restored, which suggests that he had once more become healthy emotionally. ...

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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