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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Smith Polygamy: History Volume 1-2
Title: Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Volumes 1&2: History
Author: Brian C. Hales; Contributor: Don Bradley
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Year: 2013
Pages: (vol. 1) 623 & (vol. 2) 594
Binding: Hardback
ISBN-10: 158958189X
ISBN-13: 978-15895818904
List Price: $36.95
Buy Now: Amazon

Reviewed by: David M. Morris...
Published 14 months ago by D. M. Morris

versus
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Benefited and Troubled
My review expresses an alternative thesis realized by a life-long believing member (in my mid-sixties) having researched at length this controversial topic--but we can agree to disagree.

Hales' efforts of turning back in hopes to defend Joseph's polygamy can inadvertently backfire against line upon line progress and course corrections. His trilogy has the...
Published 9 months ago by Curtis Henderson


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Smith Polygamy: History Volume 1-2, May 22, 2013
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
Title: Joseph Smith's Polygamy: Volumes 1&2: History
Author: Brian C. Hales; Contributor: Don Bradley
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
Year: 2013
Pages: (vol. 1) 623 & (vol. 2) 594
Binding: Hardback
ISBN-10: 158958189X
ISBN-13: 978-15895818904
List Price: $36.95
Buy Now: Amazon

Reviewed by: David M. Morris

Regardless of the reader's religious or societal views, what Brian C. Hales has achieved, ought to be recognized as an audacious study. Perhaps it is too soon to declare it a definitive work, maybe what Richard Bushman's 'Rough Stone Rolling' did for the biography of Joseph Smith, so 'Joseph Smith's Polygamy' will do for for Mormon polygamy. One of the endearing features of these volumes is how Hales, assisted by Don Bradley, has seemingly sought to find every reference, mention, or instance of polygamy and Joseph Smith. This is true to his goal of maintaining 'a firm commitment not to categorically reject any source of information. Antagonistic, apologetic, and neutral documents have all been given equal consideration and scrutiny.' (1:xi)

Brian C. Hales, is a board certified anesthesiologist in Layton, Utah and this volume represents his seventh book, primarily on polygamy. His interest was roused by a close family member temporarily joining the Allred polygamous group in 1989, and has since spent years researching polygamy. Hales works from the premise that modern polygamous groups do not have genuine authority to practice plural marriage, and contends that the history points to Joseph Smith as the one with such a genuine authority. (1:ix).

That said, it is a very frank and empirical based study and is rarely devotional or confessional in tone. On the few occasions that the register does change, the author can be clearly identified as a believer in Mormonism. For example, early in Volume 1, Hales cites Danel Bachman as to the early familiarity of the plural marriage doctrine, even as early as 1831, but precedes the statement with 'the Prophet learned of the correctness of plural marriage' (1:85, 91). The assumption of course that there is a correctness of plural marriage. However, this does not detract from the main thrust of these volumes.

Already, it is a significant reference for primary and published sources, and with that in mind maybe Greg Kofford Books should also be credited for producing a three-volume set (two on history and one on theology) that perhaps other publishers might not have undertaken.

The first two volumes focus on the historicity and the dynamic and controversial relationships of Joseph Smith, et al. The first volume consists of 22 chapters (no index/bibliography) and volume 2 is the continuation with chapters 23 through to 33. Following these chapters are an extensive appendices and index for both volumes. It would have been preferable to include at least an index in the first volume as well, nevertheless, when combined with the second it is an excellent source of references and cataloging of issues and narratives surrounding polygamy.

The early chapters engage with matters including the contextual morality of the time, 1820s to 1835, as well as first charges of immoral conduct between 1836 and 1842. Particularly in Chapter 3 Hales contends mainly over Fawn Brodie's assertions of Clarissa Reed Hancock as a plural wife of Joseph Smith (1:76) and calls on Andrew Jensen, D. Michael Quinn, H. Michael Marquardt, Todd Compton and George D. Smith for rebuttal. (1:77). On this matter the majority is agreed, but throughout the volumes, there is a great array of thought which makes for useful reading and assessment of the current theme.

Chapters 4-6 primarily examines Fanny Alger's relationship with Joseph Smith, perhaps this is the most familiar or earliest of Joseph's relationships but as Hales advises it 'can be interpreted differently as either a plural marriage, a friendship, or an adulterous union'. (1:124) Jeff Johnson, an LDS historian, who is described as having a middle-of-the-road perspective, contends that no historical evidence provides proof that 'Joseph Smith had any kind of relationship with Fanny Alger.' (1:124 fn66). The evidence that Hales uses to support the notion of a relationship can be found in Volume 2, Appendix D. This is the pattern, an empirical approach with the expert weaving of commentary followed by opposing views in order to attempt an objective approach.

Maybe the genius of this new work is in the re-evaluation of age-old assumption of what some might consider a most difficult period of Mormonism. There is occasionally inconsistent dates or places, for example, the later marriage of Fanny Alger to Solomon Custer (a non-Mormon) in 1836 against Benjamin Johnson's recollection that it was sometime after 1837-1838. (1:123). There is also a family tradition that Brigham Young (post-1844), with Fanny Alger's brother, came to her to ask for her hand in marriage, prior to her marriage with Solomon Custer. Hales does not resolve that anomaly but merely makes note of it. (1:123 fn59, fn60). Whether it was earlier or later matters little, but it does demonstrate that Mormon history is often is complicated by inaccurate record keeping, the confusion/certainty of family traditions, lore, and hearsay.

Follow on from the post Alger affair, Chapters 6-10 considers the reactions of Oliver Cowdery, one of Joseph Smith's closest confidants and Book of Mormon scribe. Hales considers argument that Cowdery was an early polygamist by Danel Bachman and Glen M. Leonard (1:127) and opposing views such as Richard van Wagoner contending it was impossible (1:129). Yet, prominent 19th century Mormons, Joseph F. Smith, alleged Cowdery was 'taking liberties without license' (1878) (1:129) and George Q Cannon, makes the charge of adultery. (1885) (1:129). It must be noted, however, that Cannon was not a first hand witness to these event as he joined Mormonism in 1840. Interestingly, Hales makes it clear that Joseph Smith was only accused of adultery briefly but never accused of polygamy prior to 1841 (1:144-145). Moreover, it appears that no one publicly knew, neither Smith's religious or political critics, press or local writers that such things were being practiced. (1:146-149).

Chapter 11 deals with sexuality within Joseph Smith's plural marriages. In fact, Hales ascertains that he has found no credible evidence or reliable documentation regarding some of the more salacious allegations of sexual relations, for example, sexual relations with two separate teenagers, non-married females and those who were experiencing conjugal relationships with their own legal husbands. (1:284-285). What is clear from reading these two volumes is that much that has been said or alleged and generally is without proof, the more scandalous, the less evidence exists.

The thorny issue over polyandry is dealt with in depth throughout Chapters 12 to 16. Hales does not deny that polyandry existed, but argues against earlier writers such as Fawn Brodie (1:305) and D. Michael Quinn (1:307) that Joseph Smith practiced sexual polyandry (that is sexual relations while married to two men). Throughout these chapters, Hales again challenges former interpretations or assumptions. Clearly, he walks a very thin line while extracting as much of an angle as possible to prove his point, while at the same time curtailing nuances of bias supporting the opposing case.

Chapter 15 explores some of the ideas of marriage or unions/sealings that were for 'time only', 'time and eternity', and for 'eternity only'. Those of 'eternity only', were not physically consummated but were for promised friendships in the hereafter. Those for 'time only' might be considered as traditional marital relationships. (1:413-415). The difficulties and complexities of marital and sexual union were more acute among those who were married for 'time and eternity'. It is perhaps this group that most is written.

Chapters 18 through 22 provides quite a detailed portrayal of John C. Bennett, a contemporary and confidant of Joseph Smith, as one who was described as being completely involved in his own licentiousness (1:550) and was drawn to Joseph Smith's plural marriage teachings to satisfy his own urges, while others argue he was following the revealed word on plural marriage. Hales argues, 'authors seldom account for the fact that Bennett had been accused of sexual impropriety before arriving in Nauvoo...'including previous marital infidelity.' (1:550-551). Robert Flanders argues therein that 'Bennett, a promiscuous and lascivious man had stumbled across the developing religious principle' and was attracted and distorted it (1:548). Conversely, Hales draws on a number of equally respected scholars, including Todd Compton (1:547-548), Gary Bergera (1:517, 549), Richard S. Van Wagoner (1:548), that locates Bennett as one of the closest confidants and friends of the Prophet, and that his awareness of plural marriage came from that source.

The remaining chapters 23-33 (volume 2) deal with the reaction of Emma Smith, Joseph's legal wife as well as the fallout and the martyrdom of Joseph Smith at Carthage, Illinois in 1844. Culminating in Chapter 33 is a review of Joseph Smith's wives. Often the thoughts and feelings of Emma Smith are overshadowed by all of the other characters involved in polygamy. Her accounts of bitterness and the early casting out of her home of Fanny Alger, and the report (probably fictional) of throwing Eliza Partridge down the stairs, but did send her away (2:109) highlights the plight she had. It is clear from these later chapters that by May 1843 she had come to terms with polygamy, and while the term 'accepted' is used (2:47, 2:113), perhaps tolerated is closer. She participated in at least giving a further four wives to her husband. (2:47). To the credit of the character of Emma Smith, 'multiple evidences indicate that Emma tried to believe and obey' for many years. (2:128). Unfortunately Emma's part in the Utah Mormon narrative fades quite quickly after Nauvoo, where she chose to stay when the church moved westwards. Maybe Emma is the one wife that is overlooked most.

The following appendices, A-H consume nearly 150 pages, offering evidence of dates, places , chronology, as well databases dealing with polygamy at Nauvoo, Illinois. Combined with the bibliography the latter half of the second volume is a welcome resource for the empirical researcher.

In conclusion, there are some criticisms, that even with three volumes overflowing with references, that some of the nitty-gritty detail remains missing due to 'no contemporary evidence exists' (1:91), 'no contemporaneous evidence exists' (1:101), 'Little or no evidence exists (1:277), clearly demonstrating that an intimate understanding still eludes even the hardiest of researchers. Hales does not claim this to be the complete finished work, but hopes that perhaps smaller studies might pick up where he has left off. And no doubt there will be some. This is a very well researched and presented volume, and should be considered as a serious piece of scholarship that enlightens neglected areas of of Mormon past.

This publication was reviewed for and on behalf of the International Journal of Mormon Studies (ijmsonline.org). No influence has been exercised over the journal from the publisher or author.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Smith's Polygamy, May 16, 2013
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
The topic of polygamy has always been a center place of heated debate
between scholars and laymen alike. The scholar disagrees with the
scholar, the layman disagrees with the laymen, and the laymen disagree
with the scholars. What do we do with the narratives in the Hebrew Bible
that betray the fact that polygamy was commonplace in ancient Israelite
culture? Do we throw the Patriarchal fathers under the bus and say that
they were not living the commands of God when they practiced polygamy or
do we say that there must have been some religious rationale behind
their social norms? Whatever we say about polygamy the fact remains that
it is there, and very much alive in ancient Israel. The same can be said
about Mormon polygamy.

Mormon polygamy is very much alive in historical discussions, whether
about the different groups in America's history that have practiced
polygamy, settling the American West, the character of Brigham Young,
the history of the Mormon church, or Mormon polygamy's early rise with
Joseph Smith in the 1830's and when and where it actually began. For
many it is a very controversial topic, for some it is a topic never to
be discussed, and for others it is simply a part of history and needs to
be discussed. Whatever we say about polygamy in the history of the LDS church,
as with the above discussion of ancient Israelite practices, the fact remains
that it is there.

With the above in mind, Brian C. Hales has done a superb job in bringing
all of the relevant history together in one place. No matter what one's
opinions are, for the coming decades this set will prove to be the
standard to turn to in researching Mormon polygamy. Hales wants to
answer literally every question that has ever been raised about the
origins of Mormon polygamy with Joseph Smith and respond to every
negative answer that he feels has no historical grounds to hold it.
Hales commits himself at the beginning to give "equal consideration and
scrutiny" to "antagonistic, apologetic, and neutral documents."(1) He is
upfront with his apologetic views and recognizes how these views flavor
his approach to the historical texts. He recognizes that there are other
scholars with differing views than his, and sought their opinions of his
manuscript. He points out that he and they "do not always agree about
the interpretation of a particular document, but [that] the manuscript
is much stronger for their candid discussions and interpretations."(2)

Hales begins his work in the first two volumes by studying the "History"
of Joseph Smith's polygamy. He follows a chronological pattern, taking
up each topic as it fits into the chronology. Important subjects such as
"Joseph Smith's Morality, 1820s to 1835," "Fanny Alger and the
Beginnings of Mormon Polygamy," "Oliver Cowdery's Articles on
`Marriage,'" "The Puzzle of `Polyandry,'" and "Sealings for `Time and
Eternity' and for `Eternity Only,'" are only a few examples of the
material Hales covers. Volume 2 includes the bibliography and index for
the first volumes, so the reader does have to have both volumes 1 and 2
to make sense of all of the sources he cites. He writes in a very fluid
manner that is accessible to both the scholar and the layperson. He
makes what would be unapproachable topics for some approachable topics
for all.

In the third volume Hales finishes his work with an important discussion
of the theology behind Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy. This is
important because this is usually assumed to not be important. While
many will not agree with Hales' treatment in this volume, it is
important to remember that Joseph Smith's theology has not usually been
taken seriously in historical studies of Mormon polygamy.
In the opinion of this reviewer Hales has stayed true to his
"commitment"(3) to not reject any source due to its apologetic or
antagonistic claims, but rather to take every source for its worth and
use it in constructing what he thinks is the most plausible explanation
of what happened in Joseph Smith's polygamy.

Although it is not about polygamy directly, note 75 on page 207 in the
first volume is a great example of Hales' use of his sources. Hales
discusses the seemingly thorny history behind Elijah visiting the
Kirtland temple and bestowing certain priesthood keys, and the fact that
this part of the history was not published or really talked about until
years after the experience. Hales references an 1838 pamphlet by David
Patten entitled "To the Saints Scattered Abroad," where in the text
Patten says, "And these are they, who make the fulness of times complete
with us...And also Elijah, who holds the keys of committing the power, to
turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the
children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a
curse." Hales points out that this could be considered a "direct
reference to the visit of Elijah in the Kirtland temple" but that
"Patten is apparently simply quoting and paraphrasing D&C 27:5-13."(4)

This would be a very important point for an apologetic approach to the
history and I would not be surprised to find this quotation used in that
manner elsewhere. Hales shows his ability to use source criticism to
locate the origin and meaning of Patten's words. This is most likely
referencing D&C 27:5-13, and not the visit of Elijah in Kirtland. There
are many instances similar to this in the set, and Hales needs to be
commended for his commitment to interpreting history responsibly.

While in many points Hales' work is to be commended, there are a few
points of critique that I would like to add. First, there is a glaring
error in Hales' number of men and women who practiced polygamy during
Joseph Smith's lifetime. Hales states that at the time of Joseph's death
twenty-nine men and fifty women had entered polygamy, and then cites
George D. Smith's identification of thirty-two plural husbands and
fifty-four plural wives. Hales then states that "data for three of the
marriages appear inconclusive."(5) If you subtract three marriages you
would end with fifty-one wives, not fifty as he states. Hales must be
mistaken here in either (1) his identification of three marriages being
inconclusive should be four, or (2) his identification of fifty women
should be fifty-one. Either way, the text as it stands makes little
sense and requires revision.

Another point of critique is found on page 123 in volume 1. Hales
discusses how Fanny Alger married a non-Mormon, Solomon Custer, after
only a few weeks of courtship. They married on November 16, 1836. Hales
notes at the bottom of the page that an Alger family tradition states,
"Brigham Young, accompanied by Fanny's brother, John Alger, did come to
Indiana, "before Fanny married Solomon Custer" [sic; this would have
been after the martyrdom], to ask her to marry him."(6) If Brigham went
with John before Fanny married Solomon in 1836, how could this have been
after the martyrdom? Hales simply adds this note with no explanation or
reason behind his statement. It appears that he was not aware of the
contradiction here and added this note for an unknown reason.

My final and last critique concerns Hales' statement on page 217 in
volume 2. He says, "Some authors writing about the Nauvoo period have
downplayed Joseph Smith's establishment of the practice of plural
marriage...it seems nearly impossible to adequately portray the last three
years of the Prophet's life without dealing with the subject-if for no
other reason than the fact that plural marriage was perhaps the most
prominent driving force leading to his murder." I do see his reasoning
and think that Hales makes a good argument for at least including
Joseph's practice of polygamy as a reason among many for why Joseph was
martyred, but I do not agree that it was the "most prominent" force
leading to Joseph Smith's murder. I follow along the studies that have
shown Joseph's politics to be the more likely prominent reason for his
martyrdom, like those of LeGrand Baker and Robert S. Wicks and Fred R.
Foister.(7) I do not think that enough people knew about polygamy for
this to be a leading cause of Joseph's death and therefore I lean more
toward U.S. politics for explaining Joseph's demise.

In the end, this is the best work I have read on the history of Joseph
Smith's polygamy. Hales has done a great service to the student of early
Mormon history and his work will be hailed and used for decades as one
of the best works on the subject to this point. He did a great job
indeed in choosing Don Bradley as a research assistant, and I believe we
will continue to see a lot of good studies in Mormon history from his
writings. I recommend this set to everyone interested in Mormon studies
in any way, shape or form.

Footnotes
------------

1. Hales, "Joseph Smith's Polygamy," 1:xi.
2. Hales, op. cit., 1:xii.
3. Hales, op. cit., 1:xi.
4. Hales, op. cit., 1:207, nt. 75.
5. Hales, op. cit., 1:2, nt. 4.
6. Hales, op. cit., 1:123, nt. 60. Emphasis mine.
7. LeGrand Baker, "Murder of the Mormon Prophet" (Salt Lake City: Eborn
Books, 2006); Robert S. Wicks and Fred R. Foister, "Junius & Joseph:
Presidential Politics and the Assassination of the First Mormon
Prophet," (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2005).

[...]
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The most comprehensive treatment of Joseph Smith's Polygamy ever written, April 17, 2013
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This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
Dr. Hales spent many years and much money accumulating all available information on his subject. The result is this massive, extremely comprehensive 3 volume treatment of Joseph Smith's involvement with polygamy. The author approaches the subject from a faithful perspective, but his treatment is fair and objective. This is no sugar-coated account. He addresses the issues head on. This text is for anyone wishing a complete picture of Joseph Smith and the early Mormon church's adoption of polygamy. Sometimes it is not a pretty picture. It not an easy read. the subject is complex, murky, and has been muddied tremendously by earlier works and polemics. This work fairly illuminates as much as possible the dark corners of Joseph Smith's life and early Mormonism. It evaluates critically and fairly historical statements made by the principals involved, as well as their associates.
Dr. Hales is to be congratulated and commended for a very valuable contribution to history.
The work is too massive and complex for any detailed review to do it justice. Those interested should buy it and read it for themselves.
My main criticism (and the reason for 4 instead of 5 stars) is technical: There are numerous typographical, word choice, and word placement errors. Also, in places the text does not flow smoothly, making for a somewhat choppy read. Some paragraphs have to be re-read several times to understand the meaning. Hopefully these issues can be corrected with better editing and proof-reading in a second printing to make the presentation as good as the content.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Polygamy, Polyandry, and Secrets...OH MY!!, June 21, 2013
By 
mike barker (Medford, OR, US) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
Note:
This is a book review of only Volume 1 of Brian C. Hales' Joseph Smith's Polygamy. The reviews of Part 2 and 3 will come later.

_______________________________________________

"If polygamy is the most controversial story in the history of Mormonism, 'polyandry' must be its darkest, least understood and most troubling chapter."
- Andrew Ehat.

The distinguishing factor of Mormonism in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were mainly two things: Its communal economic practices and polygamy. A century later, if one was to ask what are the two distinguishing factors of Mormonism that answer would probably be: Mormonism's health-code, known as the Word of Wisdom and still...polygamy.

Although the Utah LDS church abandoned polygamy in the early twentieth century after the President Joseph F. Smith's Second Manifesto, it still remains the religious practice most readily associated with Mormonism. Just like novels of the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (the antagonist in the first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, was provoked to murder by two Mormon polygamists), polygamy still fascinates popular culture. Just off the top of my head, I can think of three shows dealing with Mormon polygamy: Sister Wives, Polygamy USA, and Big Love.

Why the fascination? Polygamy seems to exploit humanity's most intimate feelings: sex and religion. And, with Mormonism's early clandestine polygamous practices, add secrecy to sex and religion. Now, we have the perfect triple threat: sex, religion, and secrecy.

"...Polygamy is an interesting thing because it serves as a Rorschach test. People project onto Joseph Smith and polygamists their own sense about human nature." - Dr. Richard L. Bushman

I am a fully active member of the LDS Church. My personal interest in early Mormon polygamy grew out of what many have called a "faith crisis". It was the clandestine practice of early Mormon polygamy that forced me to re-access my LDS faith and eventually reconstruct it into something that still carried meaning in my life, but also acknowledge some of Mormonism's more difficult historical aspects.

In order for me to recommend a book about early Mormon polygamy it must address the following in a fair and open manner:

1. Joseph Smith's relationship with Fanny Alger
2. Oliver Cowdery's famous quote regarding the Alger - Smith relationship being "A dirty, nasty, filthy affair."
3. The account from William McLellin of Emma Smith seeing Joseph Smith alone in a barn with Fanny Alger.
4. The sexual dynamics of polygamy
5. John C. Benett and his "spiritual wifery"
6. Polyandry (a woman married to more than one man)
7. The accounts of an angel appearing with a sword and commanding Joseph Smith to practice polygamy.
8. The relationship between Orson Pratt, Sarah Pratt, Joseph Smith, and John C. Bennett
9. The relationship between Joseph Smith, Sylvia Sessions Lyon and Windsor Lyon and was Josephine Lyons really Joseph Smith's daughter?
10. The "Law of Sarah".

Hales' not only addresses the above 10 requirements, he provides an impressive in-depth discussion on all of them.
The following are questions for which I wanted some clarification and was hoping Brian C. Hales would address in his first volume of his three-part volume dealing with early Mormon Polygamy:

1. Can one call something a "marriage" when the ceremony is done secretly and is not acknowledge by the government as being a legal contract?
2. When did the idea and teaching of "eternal marriage" first enter the mind of Joseph Smith and when was it first taught?
3. When were the first intimations, from non-hostile sources, of polygamy being practiced?
4. When did the concept of "eternal marriage" tie to polygamy?
5. When did Joseph Smith first publicly preach about polygamy?
6. Who was the second Mormon man to enter into an authorized polygamous marriage?

Once again, Hales not only addresses the above 6 questions, he provides an impressive in-depth discussion on all of them.

In my readings, I have found that either the author (or his/her audience) will find polygamy so tantalizing and scandalous that any report that paints Mormon polygamy in that light will immediately be grasped, while the historical records that paint polygamy in less sensuous light, are not considered. The other extreme is also hugely problematic. That is, the LDS apologist that downplays the sexual dynamic and secret nature of Joseph Smith's polygamy is completely over looked.

Brian Hales points out right at the beginning the problem with writing about early Mormon polygamy. And that is the primary contemporary documentation. There were no documents written during the early years of polygamy except for two, one of them being Section 132 of The Doctrine and Covenants. The other difficulties are:

1. We are only given opposing views.
2. There is no defense of polygamy for the first decade of its practice.
3. Nothing in the historical record is clear about the unfolding of its practice.

The strength of Hales' book is that, for most of the book, he hits the sweet spot. He presents so much of the primary documents as well as the different conclusions from previous historians who have written about Joseph Smith's polygamy. I appreciated him bringing up the respected and often controversial, Dr. Michael Quinn's work as well as Dr. Todd Compton's and Richard Van Wagoner's scholarly works. He honestly presents their conclusions and then points out why he disagrees. He does this in a very respectful way, avoiding any ad-hominem attacks. Hales even goes so far as to provide primary documentation of some of Quinn's presentations, papers, and emails to Hales where Quinn out-right disagrees with Hales' conclusions. Although the reader may disagree with Hales' conclusions, he/she is able to do so only because Hales has presented enough primary documentation and alternative conclusions, that allows the reader to do so.

Of all the different books I've read about Mormon polygamy, Brian Hales has done the best job of handling Fawn Brodie's allegations in her land mark book, No Man Knows My History, of Joseph Smith having sired multiple children through polygamous relationships. Hales once again goes back to the primary documents and points out the difficulties of painting a clear picture of what happened, but more importantly, points out the sloppy historical reconstruction that Brodie attempts. He clearly shows where Brodie is clearly wrong and where she might be correct. Once again, Hales does this respectfully and in a scholarly manner. Hales does not hide anything.

Regarding primary documents, Hales provides actual photos of some of the historical records. I was excited to see photos of Andrew Jenson's handwritten manuscripts that were collected as he was traveling through Utah in the 19th century interviewing some of Joseph Smith's polygamous wives and trying to gather the names of others that were then deceased. One document, that really excited me was a Jenson manuscript that had Eliza R. Snow's handwriting where Snow had written down the name of Fanny Alger being one of Joseph's polygamous wives.

Hales' charts were probably the thing I found most helpful. For example, on a two-page spread, Hales has documented in table form the names of children attributed to Joseph Smith's polygamous relationships, the mother, the birth date of the child, the probability that the child is Joseph Smith's based on either statements of the mother or others, genetic testing, etc. Instead of having to go back over chapters and chapters, the information is right there and is easy to compare. He does the same with dating the reports of the "angel with the drawn sword" accounts, documenting the conjegual visits between Joseph Smith and his polygamous/polyandrous wives, and with the primary documentations of the Fanny Alger - Joseph Smith relationship.

When I read a historical book, I am one of those nerds that actually looks at the foot-notes to see from where the author is drawing their conclusions. With most books, that requires me having a book mark at the back of the book where the footnotes are; so I am constantly flipping back-and-forth in the book. With Hales' book, the footnotes are at the bottom of each page. I loved that. In speaking with the main editor at Kofford Books, this was not an easy task to do, which made me appreciate this even more.

The other part of the book that I appreciated was at the end of every chapter, Hales summarized the chapter. After reading primary documents, differing conclusions, and arguments for the different conclusions, it is easy to forget what you had read. The summaries were extremely helpful in bringing all these complicated issues together in a nice and tight package.

Now there were a few problems with the book.

With some of Hales' conclusions, there were at times too much conjecture (see page 207); to many "perhaps". At times Hales' seems to equivocate with the word "marriage" as it relates to Joseph Smith's polygamy. The biggest problem I had was how Hales' used Doctrine and Covenants section 132 to proof text that sexual polyandry was no part of Joseph Smiths theology, leading to the conclusion that Joseph Smith did not practice it (sexual polyandry).

So, to whom would I recommend this book? To truly appreciate what this book is and has done, one has to have some background of early Mormon polygamy. This book is not an introduction; it is an advanced course. I had a non-LDS friend at work ask me what I was reading one day and I told him. He said, "Oh, my wife would like that book." I told him probably not, but perhaps she should start with a scholarly book that deals with Mormonism in general and then work her way up to this book and I would be happy to recommend a reading list for her. I know, it sounds a bit snobbish.

I can't wait to dig into Volume 2...

Michael Barker
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tour de force and mandatory reference work regarding Joseph Smith's polygamy, August 23, 2013
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
I think I groaned when my husband told me there was yet another tome out about Joseph Smith's life. But this is a great book, that covers almost everything I have encountered in prior works.

Brian Hales's epic work puts original accounts, rumors, and hearsay about Joseph Smith and polygamy into their proper context. Those wishing to credibly accuse Joseph Smith of rampant and predatory sexual activity will have their homework cut out for them, in light of this research. Similarly, those wishing to ignore the practice of polygamy during early Mormonism cannot merely blame it all on anti-Mormon rhetoric (though I'm not sure how these individuals overlook the history of publicly acknowledged and authorized polygamy in the Mormon church from 1852-1890/1904...).

There are a few places where I find Hales' conclusions problematical (e.g., asserting Joseph Smith necessarily fathered Josephine Sessions and "frigged" Mary Heron Snider, dismissing rumors about Hannah Dubois). But this work is by far the most comprehensive treatment of Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy to date.

Brian Hales tackles thorny issues regarding Joseph's polyandry and accusations Joseph encouraged illicit sexual liaisons. Hales makes the case Smith didn't engage in sexual polyandry, merely ceremonial polyandry. Likewise, Hales does a good job of differentiating between the Spiritual Wifery concept used by Bennett's sex ring and the Celestial Marriage that would later be openly practiced by the Mormons in Utah.

Rather than me blather on what I learned or the typos I noticed, here is a summary of what is covered in each chapter of Volume 1:

1 - Joseph Smith's Polygamy: An Introduction - a broad overview of the topic of Joseph Smith and polygamy - a definite must if you can only read one chapter.

2 - Joseph Smith's Morality, 1820s to 1835 - calls into question claims Joseph Smith was generally 'known' to be promiscuous or a polygamist prior to Easter 1836.

3 - Charges of Immoral Conduct against Joseph Smith, 1836-1842. Despite incorrect accounts from distant reporters asserting Mormons held everything in common, including wives, there are no contemporary accusations of fornication or adultery against Joseph himself.

4 to 6 - Fanny Alger and the Beginnings of Mormon Polygamy; The Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger Relationship: Plural Marriage or Adultery? and Oliver Cowdery and the Aftermath of the Alger-Smith Relationship. These chapters discuss Fanny Alger, who likely married Joseph after Easter 1836, causing a row with Emma and Oliver Cowdery's apostasy. But several contemporaries considered the relationship a valid marriage.

7 - Oliver Cowdery's Article on "Marriage" - debunks claims that this article was a cover-up.

8 - Pre-Nauvoo Preparations for Plural Marriage - excepting the case of Fanny Alger, a decade of hesitation, reticence, and lack of extra-curricular sex occurred from the time Joseph claimed to have received the revelation (Feb 1831) and when Joseph was sealed to Louisa Beaman in 1841.

9 - Eternal Plural Sealings Begin - covers the first `sealing,' introducing the apostles to polygamy, and a fall 1841 discourse mentioning the possibility of practicing polygamists (e.g., converts from Turkey or India).

10 - October 1841 to June 1842: Ten Additional Sealings - discusses women Joseph approached about plural marriage prior to John C. Bennett's explosive letters in the Sangamo Journal.

11 - Sexuality in Joseph Smith's Plural Marriages - Hales concludes that evidence suggesting sexual relations exists for only twelve of Joseph's plural marriages. But no DNA evidence supports paternity claims (evidence is inconclusive in the case of Sylvia Lyons). One subtitle reads "Sexual Relations: An Apparent Rarity for Joseph Smith" speaking of relations between Joseph and his plural wives.

12 - The Puzzle of "Polyandry" - An overview of Joseph Smith's documented and alleged polyandrous relationships. Hales quotes me regarding Elvira Cowles (pp 328-329).

13 - Joseph Smith and Sylvia Sessions Lyon: Polyandry or Polygyny? - Hales hypothesizes Sylvia's daughter, Josephine, was fathered by Joseph, but that Sylvia was separated from her husband during the timeframe of conception.

14 - Sexual Polyandry: Examining the Contradictory Evidence - Covers the incompatibility between then-extant Mormon doctrine and sexual polyandry, as well as lack of evidence that should exist were Joseph to have participated in or taught sexual polyandry.

15 - Sealings for "Time and Eternity" and for "Eternity Only" - Discussion of evidences that some marriages were only for "Eternity," without any expectation of sexual relations.

16 - The Fourteen "Polyandrous" Wives - Coverage of all fourteen women Hales credits as polyandrous wives. I strongly disagree with Hales' conclusion that Joseph had relations with Mary Heron Snider.

17 - Nauvoo Plural Marriage Slowly Expands - Discussion of plural marriages in early 1842, without mention these marriages could have involved innocent women seduced by Bennett or his cronies.

18 - Joseph Smith Marries Additional Plural Wives - Joseph's marriages in 1842, without mention that three of Joseph's four 1842 wives could have been innocent victims of Bennett.

19 - John C. Bennett Impacts Plural Marriage in 1842 - a solid overview of Bennett's meteoric rise and fall in Mormon circles from 1840 to 1842.

20 - John C. Bennett: Polygamy Confidant or Sexual Opportunist? - makes the case Joseph Smith never taught John C. Bennett about plural marriage.

21 - John C. Bennett, Sarah Pratt, and Orson Pratt - coverage of the love triangle involving the Pratts.

22 - Post Bennett Resurgence - the cautious expansion of plural marriage in spring 1843.
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18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Benefited and Troubled, October 12, 2013
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
My review expresses an alternative thesis realized by a life-long believing member (in my mid-sixties) having researched at length this controversial topic--but we can agree to disagree.

Hales' efforts of turning back in hopes to defend Joseph's polygamy can inadvertently backfire against line upon line progress and course corrections. His trilogy has the troubling potential of pushing people back into a rut we should have escaped. He elevates LDS marital plurality as being pristine, without sufficiently examining some of the major impure contributors that helped fashion it. Hales bends over backward to justify a presumably benign form of LDS polyandry by attempting to prove "sexual polyandry" did not occur with both men during the "same time period," as if sex in close proximity is the only ethical and infidelity question here. This theory is not only threatened by proven childbearing sired by legal husbands before and after their wife's polyandrous marriage to a Church leader, but minimizes violations to the first legal marital vow, like Joseph's with Emma. Even in cases where no sexual relations were involved with the extra men, the legal, ethical, religious and infidelity problems remain serious, unsolved and deeply violated.

Hyrum's poor and presumptive question he suggested Joseph ask on 12 July 1843 (D&C 132:1) is potentially best answered by the Lord's better questions asked of Joseph and us (D&C 132:8-14). I find too little evidence showing Joseph, D&C 132, or Hales sufficiently acknowledging and examining the potential implications of these verses. There is a critical difference between justifying and authorizing as opposed to ordaining, appointing, accepting, or authoring. The verse 1 question is presumptive and after the fact (theologically and chronologically coming after polygamy experimentations--this is not the same question Joseph initially asked, of which we have painfully little though troubling information on--i.e., he was initially instructed not to teach it as a doctrine of the gospel). The verse 1 question does not ask if God authored or commanded this practice, but how he justified it among some ancients. God justified, authorized or allowed a prophet of Israel, Balaam, to defy God's first instructions and scheme with Balak and worldly notions against Israel and at enmity to God's actual and higher will. God did not ordain, appoint or accept it, though a prophet of Israel did it. Under the same self-will Israel received--even at the hand of prophets--deadly meat in the wilderness, a king form of government and a golden calf at the allowance or even behest and wrath of God who honors our deepest agency, wills and desires mortals may not even discern they have. This powerful reality is repeatedly demonstrated throughout history, is capsulated in Alma 29:4, and functions outside ultimate answers of whether something is right or wrong, good or evil.

Near 1900, societies using public drinking mugs tied to old-fashioned water fountains--and religions (including Mormons) converting the cultural and biblical shared goblets into a religious rite for sacrament sipping--spread germs, illnesses and even death. Stiff opposition to banning the common cups came in the name of individual rights and religious freedoms. The tradition continued through years of rules and regulations meant to purify the practice by requiring periodic cleaning and changing of the mugs--until we finally came to the inescapable realization that the best solution was really to totally abandon the ritual. Cities started to abandon the practice in 1909, installing newly invented sanitary drinking fountains. By 1911 the first LDS ward used tiny sanitary sacrament cups, despite traditionalists "arguing that the Lord would not allow illness to result from his Sacrament." For six years the Church restricted this innovation to one local area, but the Spanish flu epidemic finally pushed the tiny cups beyond Salt Lake City until, by 1923, a 13-step guide on sacrament sanitation with one-to-one cups went church-wide, finally ending nearly one hundred years of custom (Doug Gibson, Standard-Examiner Blogs, May 6, 2013). This historical event joins many others (modern and biblical) in warning of the steep resistance Israel and religious people including Mormons have against taking correction and instruction through truths coming from outside sources--i.e., BD, Habakkuk 1; Jer. 27-29. The manifesto was a mere beginning of a vital course correction ("God, not the United States Congress, brought about the official discontinuance of plural marriage"--Our Heritage, 101). The Manifesto was not errant as was the surreptitious plurality practice that crept into the Church through the back door. It was not just rebellion, disobedience, insubordination and apostasy that fought polygamy, but sound law, ethics and truth. Prayerful greats like Abraham Lincoln, Judge Zane and numerous others stood against us on this question. Christ has always known of the unfortunate trend that "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light" (Luke 16:8).

Hales delineates the "Charismatic or Spiritual Experiences" of those who chose to embrace this practice without examining the similar experiences of those who stood against it. Once that is done we would all be forced back to square one where we must discern whether God did or would vacillate to author or command such a thing rather than authorize or justify mortals' choice of it, and answer the Lord's better questions (D&C 50:4, 13-16). It is unbalanced to defend polygamy with an archaic quote by Elder Hinckley while in the Quorum of the Twelve to argue that the modern oracles are travelling the same direction as the early saints on this issue (3:32, from a remote 1947 text), without including numerous opposite declarations and President Hinckley's more recent and blunt declaration on national TV: "I condemn it [polygamy], yes, as a practice, because I think it is not doctrinal. It's not legal." The modern Church leadership is increasingly going in direct opposition to past polygamy teachings--despite the obstinate and duplicitous attempts to keep defending our past.

Some early saints became so extreme in their pursuit for polygamy that they fanatically attacked monogamy. Though touched upon (2:177; 3:50-52), a thorough covering of this one part of our history demonstrates, by itself, how many saints clearly went off course on this subject. Only around 20% ever embraced polygamy. That means some 80% did not embrace it, despite inordinate pressures of "command." The dissenters of this practice were not a "small minority" (3:277), even though they were understandably a "silent majority." Better than focusing on those who rejected D&C 132 at Hyrum's reading to the stake high council (2:141), we should focus on the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency who, except for Hyrum, were not in attendance at that reading. Of those ordained Apostles serving in the original Quorum of the Twelve, and all others who joined that Quorum during the 1837-1844 polygamy controversy, and including all the First Presidency, Counselors and Associate Presidents who were either ordained Apostles or at least served during that same window of time, nine of twenty-four opposed polygamy (without David W. Patten, who died in 1838 absent a stand on polygamy, or John C. Bennett, a brief Associate President rejected for his form of plurality). Only two of six in the First Presidency supported it--hardly unanimity, unity or common consent.

I am shocked that this "exhaustive" trilogy does not more seriously examine the influences of individuals, cultures and other-religions as contributors to LDS polygamy, beyond divine revelation. "By 1730, a full century before Joseph Smith began thinking about it, polygamous advocacy was described as an epidemic" (Hardy, Solemn Covenant, 2). Studying LDS polygamy without considering the profound worldly influences prior to and during this time is like studying human health without examining spreading germs. Van Wagoner's, Compton's, Hardy's and George D. Smith's works are indispensable in this regard.

If this thesis opposite to Hales' is true--a divine course correction away from marital plurality instead of defending LDS polygamy as Hales does--LDS Polygamy will ultimately join the ranks of public drinking mugs, the common cup for sacrament, Israel's king form of government, Israel's deadly meat in the wilderness, the early saints' "adoption" sealings, our exclusionary priesthood practice, and even the belief that our earth is flat since this belief also has biblical support and indications. If this polygamy practice came from heaven and needed to be restored, why are some of our best modern scholars increasingly discovering that the biblical plurality practice actually had no connection with Hebrew religion but with Mesopotamian and Hebrew culture tied to slavery and other extreme forms of patriarchy and chauvinism? And why did we not restore circumcision, animal sacrifice and other things which in fact did have connections to genuine past religious rites? Why isn't God's first answer and pattern good enough and best for us (Adam and Eve at the pristine Garden, Noah and his sons each with one wife at the flood, Lehi and Sariah at America, Jacob at the Nephite temple, numerous other scriptural documentations, and the first marital form of monogamy revealed to Joseph Smith at the restoration [D&C 42:22; 49:16])? Polygamy is one of our mistakes to be prevented, escaped and discarded rather than sanctified, embraced, defended or anticipated. Increasing numbers are beckoned by the realities of truth surfacing during this Information Age, impelling us to proceed with the scriptural mandate to more carefully harvest truth while increasingly discarding ongoing falsehoods which continuously creep in (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-52; I Cor. 13). The germ theory at the common cup is significant and true.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best yet, March 1, 2014
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This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
Excellent research and copious sources cited. Hales and Bradley leave no rolling stone unturned including positive and negative statements about Joseph Smith and plural marriage.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable resource for truth-seekers, July 11, 2014
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
Anti-Mormons portray Joseph Smith as an adulterer and hypocrite. However, there is no credible evidence to support this view. That is the conclusion of this 3 volume work, after examining all the historical documents pertaining to polygamy.

This 3 volume work fills a void in understanding Joseph Smith's polygamy, from what I can tell.

One one side you have the anti-Mormon narrative from Fawn Brodie et al, that Joseph's was a womanizer and hypocrite. On the other side, you have Mormon believers who focus on what Joseph taught as a prophet but largely ignore polygamy as something of secondary importance.

But for a believing Mormon like myself who wants to really understand this subject, Brian Hales has stepped in to help. He has done a thorough examination of all significant primary sources, and tried to interpret what they all mean. His tone and approach are very matter of fact. He gives ample space to all sides and and to his critics. I think he is really trying to get to the bottom of it all, to get to the truth, even though he is obviously a believing Mormon.

The first two volumes focus mainly on examining historical documents. Then the third volume is a welcome "explainer."

I think in the end it still comes down to testimony for all of us. Was Joseph a prophet or not? Do you believe in God and the Holy Spirit, and if so, what does the Spirit tell you? You can see from the negative reviews here that no amount of evidence (or lack of it) will convince some people that Joseph was anything other than the philandering charlatan portrayed by people like Brodie.

But it's always very nice to learn there are also rational, fact-based reasons for believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

This book goes a long way, along with Richard Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, toward balancing out all the misinformation and misunderstanding about Joseph Smith and the church he founded.

Honest truth seekers owe it to themselves to read and consider these 3 volumes by Brian Hales.
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14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best resource for Early Mormon Polygamy, February 28, 2013
By 
C. Larsen (Salt Lake City, UT, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
It is interesting how few Mormons are actually aware or accept that it was Joseph Smith that introduced polygamy. It may be because they don't know what happened, or it may be because they don't know why, or they find it too uncomfortable to address. Here finally are answers to those questions.

Volumes 1&2 contain the most comprehensive history of polygamy under Joseph Smith every written. Volumes 1&2 are literally one continuous history split in half (I'm sure for length, each is over 600 pgs) so if you get Vol 1 you must get Vol 2, but thats ok, because the history is so thorough, well done, and engrossing that its a treat to read. Volume 3 is the answer to why as it addresses the theological reasons Joseph Smith had for introducing polygamy.

There are several other great books on the subject out there, but from now on Brian Hales's "Joseph Smith's Polygamy" will be the go-to resources for early Mormon polygamy.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Work on Joseph Smith and Polygamy, October 4, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History (Hardcover)
So much has been said and written on this subject. Brian Hales takes all the known statements and synthesizes them into an understandable format. The format includes sources favorable to Joseph, and unfavorable. To me he presents the facts. The reader may make the choice of what to believe. Al last we have it all included in these volumes. I am reading Volume two at the present time. I think along with Danel Bachman, that this trilogy will be the definitive work on this subject for many years to come.
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Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History
Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Volume 1 History by Brian C. Hales (Hardcover - February 26, 2013)
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