Episode 09: Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner

Written by Lindsay Hansen Park on . Posted in year of polygamy

Join Lindsay for the primer series on Mormon Polygamy that will begin with the wives of Joseph Smith and eventually broaden to contemporary strains of the practice today. This episode deals with Mary Rollins Lightner. [powerpresss] Links mentioned in the podcast:

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Comments (5)

  • Alan


    I really like the narration – she did a great job! Actually, hearing what they said themselves is a great addition to Lindsay’s summary. Thank you!


  • Chris


    This episode was superb! I really liked the set-up and the delivery, it added a dimension. 🙂


  • Mark Rollins


    As a descendant of Mary Rollins, I have been and continue to be interested in her story. I have her autobiography before me as I write this. I was following along with the narration. The reader starts out word for word. Around 5:20 Lindsey editorializes and then the reader continues from Mary’s 1905 testimony, not from her journal or autobiography. An uninformed and unsuspecting listener would assume that this is a continuation of her autobiography. This is deceitful.

    I am disappointed in this dishonest presentation of Mary’s autobiography mixed in with her 1905 testimony at BYU. As any reader can know, Mary’s autobiography doesn’t mention anything about Joseph as a love interest, polygamy, or angel visits. These are all “recollections” when she is 87 years old giving a talk at BYU.

    In every instance when her 1905 comments at BYU mention a story that was included in her autobiography, read the bio at the same time frame and notice what is missing. That is, if you care to look at this honestly.

    Mind you, her autobiography is written after she arrives in Utah in 1863, long after the polygamy cat is out of the bag, so no reason not to mention in a post-1863 bio that she married the most famous Mormon after an angel told her to.

    Why do you suppose these crowning events of her life didn’t receive so much as an honorable mention in her autobiography?

    She records in her journal July 22, 1863 “Had a thunder shower, no sickness yet.”

    So ti rained, but that whole Angel thing with the sword slipped her mind? Then at 87 years old she suddenly remembers? It simply didn’t happen. She made the polygamy thing up in her twilight years for whatever reason … for the notoriety … whatever, and didn’t think to go back and revise her bio. That’s what an honest look at the evidence shows.

    In the several podcasts I’ve seen and listened to with Lindsey as a guest, she comes off as highly intelligent. I mean that sincerely. So I can’t believe that she is ignorant of this work that she professes to be so passionate about. Unfortunately, that leaves a black mark on her integrity.

    If one has to be dishonest or deceitful to make Mary’s story fit a predetermined narrative, it calls into question all of the “evidences”. Ie. if you are lying about this one, should I even listen to anything else?

    This deceitful presentation is similar to what Brigham Young started in 1844. Change the journals, change the scripture, change the history … make Joseph a polygamist and the mormons will believe “the brethren’s” adultery is a celestial law. Being in company with Brigham Young is not a good place for anyone to put themselves.

    The truth hurts sometimes. But only if you’re a liar.

    Mark Rollins


    • Tracy Averett


      Didn’t the church come out and and admit that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy and polyandry?


    • flug


      I think your beef is far more with Todd Compton, researcher and author of In Sacred Loneliness. Lindsay is following that research pretty closely.

      Conveniently, Compton’s chapter on Mary Rollins is online here:


      Unfortunately for the argument you are making, there is quite a lot more evidence outlined in that chapter than one single speech at BYU. Among the evidence is other people who were in the Nauvoo mileu of the time openly acknowledging Mary’s sealings to Smith and Young some decades before the BYU speech. That is pretty hard to explain away.


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