80 years ago today - Nov 28, 1941

[J. Reuben Clark]

[Regarding the marriage of John F. Burton and Florence A. Porter, performed as polygamous marriage in 1901 by Matthias F. Cowley:]

Sister Muzetta Burton called to see me regarding her personal situation. in brief, the story is this:

She married John Burton. She was childless. She wanted her husband to have a family. The husband showed interest in her sister. Her father-in-law urged the husband to raise a family if there was any possible way of doing it. They made two trips to Salt Lake City at intervals of a few months apart, after each of which they reported back to her they had seen President Joseph F. Smith who had given them some encouragement; that she had previously, upon first seeing signs of intimacy between her husband and her sister, suggested that he should take another wife if possible; on the occasion of the second alleged visit to President Joseph F. Smith there evidently was a marriage performed by someone, (Sister Burton never asked by whom, and was never told) this marriage being performed in 1901 (either February or November); that the other wife, her sister, began immediately to rear a family; and that the husband then suggested that in order to regularize the situation Sister Burton go to California and get a divorce; that she went, but after some six or eight months she returned, at his request, without getting a divorce; ... she retaining only enough barely to maintain her with food and clothes; ... and since that time she has done nothing but sorrow and repent for her misdeeds; that her question now was, as she wanted her husband to have his family in the Hereafter, whether she should get a divorce, civil and Church, from her husband so that h could be sealed in the temple to the woman by whom he has reared the family. She has never had a divorce.

She said she had never told her husband of her slip or indeed told anyone but myself.

...I explained to her the situation which existed prior to 1904; that I could not accept her thought that President Smith had married them unless I made him a liar to all his Brethren, and I was sure he had not been that; that at the period which this supposed marriage occurred, some of the Brethren of the Quorum were still performing marriages; that since people entering into that supposed relationship had done so under the advice and counsel of the Apostles, the Church had never handled them up to this time; and that I would not be surprised if the facts were that the ceremony between her husband and her sister was performed by one of the Quorum.

With reference to her own question also to whether she should get a civil and Church divorce, I suggested that she just let matters ride as they are and get as much comfort as she could out of the situation and cease to worry about it, and I felt very sure that ultimately the matter would be straightened out.

[The Diaries of J. Reuben Clark, 1933-1961, Abridged, Digital Edition, Salt Lake City, Utah 2015]

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