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Customer Review

on August 27, 2013
Brian Hales's epic work puts original accounts, rumors, and hearsay about Joseph Smith and polygamy into their proper context. This work is by far the most comprehensive treatment of Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy to date.

Volume 2 picks up the history early in 1843, when the accusations of John C. Bennett are fading from memory. Instead of shadowy, inferred plural marriages involving a handful of people, Joseph begins systematically teaching celestial marriage and plural marriage to dozens of individuals. While most eventually accepted these teachings, a minority resisted. Most notable among these are Emma, Joseph's legal wife, and William Law, Joseph's counselor in the Church presidency. Emma's resistance ultimately severed Joseph's children from the theology that taught families could be bound together for eternity. William Law's resistance began a chain of events that lead to Joseph's death at the hands of a mob.

Here is a summary of what is covered in each chapter of Volume 2:

23 - Joseph Smith's Plural Sealings, February to July 1843 - a summary of ten more women Joseph is believed to have married, including a lady Joseph refuses to marry and another who refuses to marry Joseph.

24 - Emma and Hyrum Accept Plural Marriage - Joseph persuades his brother, Hyrum, of the doctrine of celestial marriage. Emma finally agrees to accept the "New and Everlasting Covenant" including granting four young ladies to Joseph as wives. They're all happy for at least a few hours, maybe even several months.

25 - Emma's Resistance and a New Revelation - Emma's ill-treatment of the Partridge girls and her apparent decision to leave Joseph causes Hyrum to demand a written version of the revelation on celestial marriage. Emma burns the original (but then, it does say she risks damnation and was planning on accepting something that would be the opposite of cleaving to Joseph).

26 - Emma Confronts Joseph's Plural Wives - the fascinating tales of Emma's explosive interactions with three of Joseph's young plural wives. The Partridge sisters were forced to move out. Flora Anne Woodworth was so flustered by Emma's treatment she got married to a non-Mormon suitor the very next day.

27 - Emma's Struggles as Joseph's First Wife - Hales discusses the unique situation Emma faced, knowing her own husband was the oracle through whom the plural marriage revelation came. She loved him, but was tormented by the dilution of family financial resources and the possibility that his love for her was less than it ought to be (else he'd happily remain a monogamist, neh?).

28 - The Revelation as a Catalyst - this is a catch-all chapter, discussing both how the fact of a written revelation was used to spread the doctrine involving plural marriage and the snippets indicating Joseph tested John Taylor, Heber Kimball, and possibly Brigham Young by asking them to grant him their wives. I personally think the testing part should have been covered in conjunction with the saga of Orson and Sarah Pratt.

29 - The Knowledge and Practice of Plural Marriage Expand - this great chapter describes how knowledge about plural marriage and eternal marriage was indefatigably taught to the faithful in small groups over the 9 months prior to Joseph's death, giving birth to what Emma's sons would later disparage as the "Utah Church."

30 - Confusion and Rumors outside Polygamy's Inner Circle - Coverage of the confusion created by the code language, official denials, and unauthorized teachings (bad, bad, William Smith, you spiritual wife seducer, you). Yet many remained unaware anything related to polygamy had ever been taught in Nauvoo.

31 - Polygamy and the Martyrdom - Hales traces the causality leading to Joseph Smith's death at the hands of a mob of non-Mormons, pointing out the origins of the fatal action in William Law's disaffection related to polygamy.

32 - Did Joseph Smith Intend to Abandon Plural Marriage? - addresses William Marks' assertions that Joseph was planning to deny plural marriage just prior to his death. Also covers Emma's final testimony, denying Joseph Smith had other wives.

33 - A Review of Joseph Smith's Wives - Hales covers all of Joseph's alleged wives again, focusing on the various compilations assembled over the years. Hales also touches on the matter of Joseph's youngest wives (14 years of age) and the dozens of women who had themselves sealed to Joseph posthumously, without any evidence (or sometimes possibility) that they'd been Joseph's wives in life.

Appendix A. Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 - the only document produced by Joseph Smith specifically addressing plural marriage.

Appendix B. Evidence of Plural Marriages for Each of Joseph Smith's Plural Wives - a comprehensive collection of the evidences for Joseph's plural wives all in one place - excellent...

Appendix C. Databases Dealing with Plural Marriage at Nauvoo - information on compilations showing how plural marriage was adopted and practiced by the Saints during the years immediately before and after Joseph's death.

Appendix D. Historical Accounts Referring to the Relationship of Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger - because the three chapters and other mentions of this earliest possible plural marriage weren't enough.

Appendix E. Sexuality in Joseph Smith's Plural Marriages - asserting that it occurred, but indicating it wasn't the skanky behavior asserted by authors and detractors since 1838.

Appendix F. Horace Cummings and the "Conspiracy of Nauvoo" - tale of the William Law rebellion told from the standpoint of Denison L. Harris and Robert Scott, teen-aged boys who infiltrated the conspiratorial meetings conducted by Law and reported to Joseph Smith.

Appendix G. Non-specific Reports of Sexual Impropriety against Joseph Smith and Church Members - a collection of the reports scattered through the text, begging the question why the reports weren't more pointed if Joseph Smith and the Mormons had actually been as wanton as commonly assumed.

Appendix H. Chronology - because you and I lost track at wife number eight...

Bibliography - the long list of books we no longer have to read, because Brian Hales has done such a decent job of pouring through all this stuff on our behalf.
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