Mormon founder Smith's polygamous past not told to members

(Photo: REUTERS / Jim Urquhart)A group of Mormon women walk to Temple Square in an attempt to get tickets to the priesthood meeting at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints semi-annual gathering known as general conference in Salt Lake City, Utah April 5, 2014. The group, who want ecclesiastical equality with men, sought admittance to a male-only session of the faith's spring conference on Saturday, as they promote the ordination of women into the lay priesthood of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Mormon Church has acknowledged for the first time that its founder and prophet, Joseph Smith was polygamous, but many church members may not know it.

Earlier portrayed as a loyal partner to Emma Hale, Smith has been found to have as many as 40 wives, including 15-year-old Fanny Alger, , The New York Times reported.

The revelation is part of a series of essays in an attempt at transparency on the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church.

Many Mormons may not be aware of these revelations since the church has not publicly announced the posting of the essays.

Other essays tackle the ban on blacks in the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978, and accounts of how Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the church's sacred scripture.

Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of the Mormon senior leadership said, "There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history."

He noted that the church need to be truthful and that people are not perfect.

According to the essays, Smith's wives were between the ages of 20 and 40, but he married Helen Mar Kimball, a daughter of two close friends, "several months before her 15th birthday."

Smith also married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith's friends and followers.

But those who read the essays are divided. Some say they were well aware of the polygamy, but did not know the extent of the act. Others are shocked with the revelation.

"Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people," said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

The Mormon Church officially banned polygamy in 1890. According to the Pew Research Center, only 2 percent of Mormons today believe that polygamy is morally acceptable.

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