Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 2: History
by Brian C. Hales
Now available in paperback.
Few American religious figures have stirred more passion among adherents and antagonists than Joseph Smith. Born in 1805 and silenced thirty-nine years later by assassins’ bullets, he dictated more than one-hundred revelations, published books of new scripture, built a temple, organized several new cities, and became the proclaimed prophet to tens of thousands during his abbreviated life.
Among his many novel teachings and practices, none is more controversial than plural marriage, a restoration of the Old Testament practice that he accepted as part of his divinely appointed mission. Joseph Smith taught his polygamy doctrines only in secret and dictated a revelation in July 1843 authorizing its practice (now LDS D&C 132) that was never published during his lifetime. Although rumors and exposés multiplied, it was not until 1852 that Mormons in Brigham Young’s Utah took a public stand. By then, thousands of Mormons were engaged in the practice that was seen as essential to salvation.
Victorian America saw plural marriage as immoral and Joseph Smith as acting on libido. However, the private writings of Nauvoo participants and other polygamy insiders tell another, more complex and nuanced story. Many of these accounts have never been published. Others have been printed sporadically in unrelated publications. Drawing on every known historical account, whether by supporters or opponents, Volumes 1 and 2 take a fresh look at the chronology and development of Mormon polygamy, including the difficult conundrums of the Fannie Alger relationship, polyandry, the “angel with a sword” accounts, Emma Smith’s poignant response, and the possibility of Joseph Smith offspring by his plural wives. Among the most intriguing are the newly available Andrew Jenson papers containing not only the often-quoted statements by surviving plural wives but also Jenson’s own private research, conducted in the late nineteenth century.
Telling the story of Joseph Smith’s polygamy from the records of those who knew him best, augmented by those who observed him from a distance, may have produced the most useful view of all.
Praise for Joseph Smith's Polygamy:
“Brian Hales wants to face up to every question, every problem, every fear about plural marriage. His answers may not satisfy everyone, but he gives readers the relevant sources where answers, if they exist, are to be found. There has never been a more thorough examination of the polygamy idea.” — Richard L. Bushman,author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
“Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, the first thorough treatment of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages written by a conservative Mormon scholar, is a landmark in the historiography of Mormon polygamy. While I disagree with some of Hales’s conclusions, I admire his willingness to confront difficult topics and the depth of his research. This impressive work furthers the ongoing dialogue in the Mormon historical community on a fascinating and challenging aspect of the life and teachings of Mormonism’s founding prophet.” — Todd M. Compton, author of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
“Hales’s massive and well documented three volume examination of the history and theology of Mormon plural marriage, as introduced and practiced during the life of Joseph Smith, will now be the standard against which all other treatments of this important subject will be measured.” — Danel W. Bachman, author of “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith”
“Brian Hales is an exceptionally thorough, meticulous, and evenhanded researcher and assessor of Joseph Smith’s complex and controversial polygamous practices and the theological rationale that supported them. His path-breaking and indispensable three-volume study provides the most comprehensive documentation and assessment yet available of the extant evidence on the topic, even though Hales’s fellow scholars of Joseph Smith’s polygamy may not always find persuasive the ways in which he interprets and contextualizes his evidence.” — Lawrence Foster, author of Religion and Sexuality
“It is clearly the single greatest guide to available resources on the practice of polygamy in Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo. And, it will without any doubt shape the arguments regarding the centrality of plural marriage in early Mormon theology, as well as arguments on precisely what that plural marriage means historically and theologically for Latter-day Saints.” — Cheryl Bruno, Worlds Without End
“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.” — Colby Townsend, Association for Mormon Letters
“Regardless of the reader’s religious or societal views, what Brian C. Hales has achieved, ought to be recognized as an audacious study. . . . 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.” — David M. Morris, International Journal of Mormon Studies
“Hales's work is a solid contribution to the historical and theological literature relating to Joseph Smith's life. These three impressive volumes will contain something of value for readers of many backgrounds. Historians, both friendly and antagonistic to Joseph Smith, will appreciate the detailed and comprehensive focus on primary source materials. Latter-day Saints with an interest in history will appreciate reading the words of a writer who shares a common foundation of faith.... This important three-volume work will doubtless be referred to and read for years to come” — M. Scott Bradshaw, BYU Studies QuarterlySee more reviews at Goodreads.
Other Volumes in the Series:
Podcasts and Video:
Podcast interview with the Mormon Discussions Podcast.
Podcast interview with the Mormon Stories Podcast.
Podcast interview with the Good Word Podcast.
Podcast discussion with FAIR.
Presentation at Benchmark Books:
About the Author:
He authored Setting the Record Straight: Mormon Fundamentalism (2008) and The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy: An LDS Perspective (1992). Hales has published articles in Mormon Historical Studies, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and the Journal of Mormon History. He also contributed a chapter to he Persistence of Polygamy: Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormon Polygamy, edited by Newell Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster (2010). He is also webmaster of www.MormonFundamentalism.com and www.JosephSmithsPolygamy.com. In addition to a fulltime LDS mission in Venezuela (1976-78), he has served as a music missionary (1999 -). Hales has also served as president of the Utah Medical Association and as president of the Medical Staff at Davis Hospital and Medical Center. He is the father of four adult children.
More Information:602 pages
ISBN: 978-1-58958-686-4 (Paperback)