Did anyone have a right to solemnize plural marriages after Joseph Smith’s death?

Was it intended to be the general and continuing practice it became under Brigham Young?

There are a few points that I think are important:

  • D&C 132 was unpublished and uncanonized during Joseph’s lifetime. Nothing in the text indicates that it was meant for public consumption or to be implemented as general practice. What Joseph did intend for people to know about sealing he taught publicly, openly, repeatedly, and from the scriptures. I would support the canonization of those sermons before I would support the canonization of section 132. Though they may not be intact enough for canonization, I do wish more people would study them.
  • The text contains a bestowal of the sealing power on Joseph Smith, not on anyone else. There is no evidence in the teachings of Joseph Smith that power to seal can come without God manifesting himself to ratify and confirm. Brigham originally claimed to have received it as part of the apostleship given in 1835, then when the account of Elijah’s 1836 appearance was discovered, he and Orson Pratt created the idea that Elijah had given Joseph sealing power. It didn’t matter that Joseph never claimed that, nor indeed even mentioned that 1836 account. It was never made clear how or when Joseph was supposed to have transferred Elijah’s keys to Brigham or anyone else, but by 1852 Brigham certainly claimed to be D&C 132:7’s “one man.” I disagree with Brigham, and believe Joseph received the sealing power directly from God in the revelation recorded in D&C 132, and Brigham can’t point to any similar revelation granting him a damn thing.
  • I think it is very likely that the text of section 132 was altered at some point between its original production and its publication 9 years later. Some of the doctrine (related to the marriage covenant but not plural marriage) is corroborated by contemporary records of Joseph’s sermons. Other portions (the more draconian verses about the husband’s rights in a plural marriage situation and the “one man” doctrine from verse 7) align with later doctrines retroactively inserted into journals under Brigham Young’s direction (as in the famous case of Willard Richards’ 5 October 1843 entry). At very least, I think we should take a few breaths before accepting section 132 as a entirely Joseph Smith’s product. At the same time, I don’t want to just chuck out what I don’t like and keep what I like, as that would be a terrible way to seek truth. Personally, I accept as Joseph’s teachings what I can find corroborated elsewhere in his scriptures, sermons, or writings, and set the rest aside until I have more information. Some of the further information I have found makes me think specific portions of the section were edited after Joseph’s death
  • Section 132 (and Jacob 2:30) restricts the practice to unions that are specifically commanded, or “appointed” by God. This should have prevented the entire practice of plural marriage after Joseph’s death. Instead it spread promiscuously and mutated into a defining characteristic of Mormonism, with Brigham’s version of the doctrine and practice retroactively edited into Joseph’s record.