Filthy Affair


Frances Ward (“Fanny”) Alger Custer (September 30, 1816 – November 29, 1889) is generally considered as Joseph Smiths first plural wife. Although undocumented, the marriage of Fanny and Joseph most likely took place in Kirtland, Ohio sometime in 1833 (before sealing authority had been restored). She would have been sixteen years old at the time.

Joseph kept his marriage to Fanny out of the view of the public, and his wife Emma. Chauncey Webb recounted Emma’s later discovery of the relationship: “Emma was furious, and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet, out of her house”. Ann Eliza again recalled: “…it was felt that [Emma] certainly must have had some very good reason for her action. By degrees it became whispered about that Joseph’s love for his adopted daughter was by no means a paternal affection, and his wife, discovering the fact, at once took measures to place the girl beyond his reach…Since Emma refused decidedly to allow her to remain in her house…my mother offered to take her until she could be sent to her relatives…” [footnote] Fanny Alger – Wives of Joseph Smith  [/footnote]

In January 1838, some months after the Algers had left Kirtland, Oliver Cowdery wrote his brother concerning his indignation at Smith’s relationship with Alger. Cowdery said he had discussed with Smith the “dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s … in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself.” [footnote] Oliver Cowdery, Letter to Warren A. Cowdery (Oliver’s brother), January 21, 1838  [/footnote]


Crash Course:

Year of Polygamy Podcast – The series follows the Mormon faith through the lens of “The Principle of Plural Marriage”.

Joseph Smith’s Polygamy – Discusses Joseph Smith’s introduction of polygamy into early Mormon Church.

Plural Marriage and Mormon Fundamentalism – D. Michael Quinn

Fanny Alger – The Wives of Joseph Smith