This woman’s sealing to Joseph Smith illustrates many important elements of Joseph’s polygamy. Ruth was married to a non-member who greatly admired Joseph Smith.
Mr. Sayers suggested to his wife that Ruth should be sealed to Joseph, as Mr. Sayers himself didn’t believe in the afterlife.
Joseph had no sexual relations with Ruth. Eternity-only sealings were a means of connecting families. Joseph was sealed to many women with whom he had no sexual relations. Ruth is a clear example of this unique sealing phenomenon.
You may want to listen to this informative 5-minute podcast on Ruth Vose:
Critical segments below:
Ruth states the sealing was performed by Hyrum Smith who did not accept plural marriage until several months later on May 26, 1843. Therefore, either the identity of the sealer or the date is in error. Regardless, Ruth Vose’s sealing to Joseph Smith is important among all of the Prophet’s plural marriages to legally married women because it is documented to have been for eternity only, not time and eternity and therefore did not include sexual relations.6)
Within the research papers of Andrew Jenson, author of the 1887 Historical Record article on Joseph Smith’s plural wives, is the following statement:
Sister Ruth/ Mrs. Sayers was married in her youth to Mr. Edward Sayers, a thoroughly practical horticulturist and florist, and though he was not a member of the Church, yet he willingly joined his fortune with her and they reached Nauvoo together some time in the year 1841;
While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to the/ theory of a future life insisted that his wife Ruth/ should be sealed to the Prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim [page2—the first 3 lines of which are written over illegible erasures] her in this life. She was/ accordingly the sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus were became numbered among the Prophets plural wives. She however though she/ continued to live with Mr. Sayers / remained with her husband until his death.7
Another document confirms that concerning Joseph’s plural sealing to Ruth Sayers: “Joseph did not pick that woman. She went to see whether she should marry her husband for eternity.”8
Ruth and Edward chose to return to Boston where they stayed until 1849. She was unable to be sealed by proxy to Joseph in the Nauvoo temple, but Church President Lorenzo Snow arranged for a vicarious ceremony to be performed for Ruth in the Salt Lake Temple in 1899.9 After their five-year stay in Boston, Ruth and Edward moved to Utah, reuniting with old acquaintances.
Edward died in 1861 and Ruth in 1884. Her obituary gives a glimpse of her demeanor: “Tall and erect in figure, a countenance always beaming with human kindness, charitable to the poor and ever ready to comfort the disconsolate, she endeared herself to her associates. She was a woman of brilliant conversational powers and possessed a ready fund of valuable information, especially upon topics of interest to the Saints. She was never tired of relating incidents of her Boston life nor of dwelling upon Gospel themes and the days of Joseph and Hyrum.”10