Sexual Polyandry - Not a Practice of the Church
See the 13:00 video above introducing and addressing the topic of polyandry found in the CES Letter.
CES Letter Core Question
Did Joseph Smith and the church practice sexual polyandry where women could cohabitate with multiple husbands?
CES Letter, Page 52
The simple answer to the above question is no.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “polyandry” as “the condition or practice of having more than one husband at one time.”
This definition can be confusing when applied to nineteenth century marriages because some civil unions ended without a legal divorce. In many cases, the couple separated and would even remarry without completing divorce paperwork. Stanley B. Kimball wrote: “Some church leaders at that time considered civil marriage by non-Mormon clergymen to be as unbinding as their baptisms. Some previous marriages… were annulled simply by ignoring them." (Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981, 95.)
Women could be permanently separated from their legal husbands but not formally divorced. If they remarried, they would be practicing polyandry from a documentation standpoint, but not practically speaking or sexually.
True polyandry is where a woman has two genuine husbands with whom she experiences conjugal relations. To differentiate this from all other forms of polyandry, the unambiguous term “sexual polyandry” is used. Sexual polyandry is the same as a “plurality of husbands” and proxy husbands.
There is no credible historical evidence that sexual polyandry was practiced by Joseph Smith or any other man in the Church. No woman in Nauvoo considered herself (or was considered by others) to have two genuine husbands.
The CES Letter attempts to exploit the potential confusion between sexual polyandry and women who failed to obtain a civil divorce before being sealed in eternal marriage. It refers to legally married women who were sealed to Joseph and then implies that sexual polyandry occurred.
Joseph Smith taught that marriages for “time and eternity” were part of the “new and everlasting covenant” (D&C 132:4) and that the new and everlasting covenant causes “all old covenants” to be “done away” (D&C 22:1). Therefore, a marriage in the new and everlasting covenant would have caused a civil marriage (the “old marriage covenant”) to have been “done away” creating the equivalence of a Church divorce. From the Church's standpoint, a woman could never have two husbands (one legal and one by a sealing).
Within the new and everlasting covenant of marriage are “eternity only” sealings that are just for the next life. They do not permit sexuality on earth. Evidence indicates that most of Joseph Smith’s sealings to legally married women were of this type.
Some of the women were married to non-members to whom they could not be sealed. Why the other women chose Joseph Smith over their legal spouse is unclear and puzzling. Lucy Walker: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.”
Section 132 contains three references to sexual polyandry (vv. 41, 42, 61-63) and labels them all as "adultery."
Early Church leaders and members condemned sexual polyandry.
Brigham Young asked in 1852, “What do you think of a woman having more husbands than one?” And then answered, “This is not known to the law.”
Heber C. Kimball taught, "There has been a doctrine taught that a man can act as Proxy for another when absent – it has been practiced and it is known -- & its damnable."
Orson Pratt instructed: “God has strictly forbidden, in this Bible, plurality of husbands, and proclaimed against it in his law.”
Belinda Marden Pratt wrote in 1854: “’Why not a plurality of husbands as well as a plurality of wives?’ To which I reply: 1st God has never commanded or sanctioned a plurality of husbands…”
On October 8, 1869, Apostle George A. Smith taught that “a plurality of husbands is wrong.”
Bathsheba Smith, was asked in 1892 if it would “be a violation of the laws of the church for one woman to have two husbands living at the same time…” She replied: “I think it would.”
Later Church authorities denied that polyandry was ever practiced in the Church. First Presidency Counselor Joseph F. Smith wrote in 1889:
“Polyandry is wrong, physiologically, morally, and from a scriptural point of order. It is nowhere sanctioned in the Bible, nor by the law of God or nature and has no affinity with ‘Mormon’ plural marriage.”
Elder Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in 1905:
“Polygamy, in the sense of plurality of husbands and of wives never was practiced in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah or elsewhere.”
American Heritage Dictionary, CD-ROM, 1992.
 Lucy Walker Kimball, “A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Life and Labors of Lucy Walker Kimball Smith,” CHL; quoted in Lyman Omer Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints: Giving an Account of Much Individual Suffering Endured for Religious Conscience, Logan, Utah: Utah Journal Co, 1888, 46.
 Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:361, August 1, 1852.
 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1835-1893, Salt Lake City: Privately Published [Smith-Pettit Foundation], 2010, 160; see also 157.
 Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 18:55-56, July 11, 1875.
 Belinda Marden Pratt, “Defense of Polygamy: By a Lady of Utah, in a Letter to Her Sister in New Hampshire,” Millennial Star, 16:471, (July 29, 1854).
 George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol.13, p.41, George Albert Smith, October 8, 1869.
 Bathsheba Smith, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony (part 3), page 347, question 1142.
 Joseph F. Smith to Zenos H. Gurley, June 19, 1889, CHL. Richard E. Turley, Jr. Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Provo, Utah: BYU Press, vol. 1, DVD #29.
 Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1905), 48.
“Mercy Thompson and the Revelation on Marriage: D&C 132″ by Jed Woodworth
“‘Mormon” Women’s Protest: An Appeal for Freedom, Justice and Equal Rights,” The Ladies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints protest against the tyranny and indecency of Federal Officials in Utah, and against their own disfranchisement without cause. Full Account of Proceedings at the Great Mass Meeting, held in the Theatre, SALT LAKE CITY UTAH. Saturday, March 6, 1886
“Polygamy, Prophets, and Prevarication: Frequently and Rarely Asked Questions about the Initiation, Practice, and Cessation of Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by Gregory L. Smith
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