Mormon Church reveals its founder Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives, including a 14-year-old girl

Joseph Smith (1805-1844), 1st President of the Church of Christ (later the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).(Wikimedia Commons)

In an effort to be "transparent" to its members, the Mormon Church recently released 12 essays that revealed that founding leader Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives, including one girl who was only 14 years old.

Smith has always been portrayed as a loving husband to his wife Emma, but the essay entitled "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo" proved otherwise. In it, Smith even took women who already had husbands. Polygamy was said to have been "an excruciating ordeal" for his first wife.

However, Smith might not have had sexual relations with all of them because some women were "sealed" to him for the next life, according to The New York Times.

The Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, decided to share those controversial documents to prove that it had nothing to hide about its past. The church has been marred by numerous controversies before, including its exclusion of Black members.

"There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history," the church's historian Elder Steven E. Snow said.

But the revelation might not have been the best idea, since a lot of members were upset to learn that someone they have looked up to for so long carried such a shocking secret.

"Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people," said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor.

She, together with some Mormons, underwent the five stages of grief when they learned the truth about Smith's past. The first stage was denial, then anger, followed by bargaining, depression, then acceptance.

"This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love," Jensen said.