D. Michael Quinn discusses the "Happiness Letter" and its supposed purpose.

D. Michael Quinn

D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1994), 112

Signature Books
Nancy Rigdon, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Jr., D. Michael Quinn
Reading Public

In tandem with this revelation on formal laws, Smith also wrote an explanation of his theocratic ethics. To justify his polygamous proposal to the nineteen-year-old daughter of counselor Sidney Rigdon, Smith wrote this letter within a few days of his 7 April revelation on theocracy:

That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another. God said thou shalt not kill,—at another time he said thou shalt utterly destroy. This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added . . . even things which may be considered abominable to all who do not understand the order of heaven . . .

This was the first written statement of Smith’s theocratic ethics, a doctrine he had originally announced when performing the illegal marriage ceremony in Kirtland nearly seven years earlier.

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