There are 10 thoughts on “Stretching to Find the Negative: Gary Bergera’s Review of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology”.

  1. A very astute and interesting defense of his three-volume work. Brian Hales does a marvelous job reducing to salient points why Gary Bergara’s review should be considered in light of the facts as presented.
    While polygamy remains a difficult topic (and increasingly so in this current age when Joseph’s and the other brethren’s polygamy is viewed as horrid and offensive and yet everything else under the sun is condoned and congratulated,) this rebuttal shed new light on this difficult subject.
    I must mention that I came away from this rebuttal with a much clearer and greater understanding of Joseph Smith than I had prior to reading it. For that reason alone, I congratulate Mr. Hales on a job well-done. If nothing more than we understand the Prophet’s intentions and character even slightly better, then the effort was well-worth the price. Thank-you Brian C. Hales!

  2. Brian,

    You mention ‘As a writer seeking to know how to strengthen a possible second edition, Bergera’s critique provided few useful suggestions’

    Have you given a second edition much thought since?
    Just in case I buy the 1st edition and you then release a 2nd edition.


  3. I am highly amused at the implied review Gary gave your books. I can only imagine the critiques my own views of a Faithful Joseph Smith would elicit in such a forum.

    I’m curious why you count Sarah Whitney as a polyandrous spouse? Clearly her public husband (married to Sarah nine months after the marriage to Smith) considered it a pretend marriage. The way it’s worded here, you imply Sarah was separated from her spouse.

    Of course, you know me. Given the state of medicine and contraceptives in the 1840s, I prefer to assume there was no procreative sex unless babies show up. And for all my lovely friends who want to imagine hosts of hidden babies stashed away in the folds of history, recall that we now live in an age when you can find out your family relationships for the cost of a swab kit ($99 for a single test, $300 or so if you participate in all the DNA databases). If there were these hosts of hidden babies, they should be getting outed any time now.

    I predict what we’ll find instead is a loud silence when it comes to any children other than those Emma bore.

  4. Excellent article. I have a friend that left the church over Joseph Smith polygamy issues. I will be recommending your books in hopes they can provide the clarification and understanding required to remove this stumbling block for him.
    Thank you for your research into this difficult subject.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your review of a review. Although I have not read any of your books on polygamy, I’d like to suggest that you include, in your second edition, in a footnote, what Ugo Perago said about Joseph Smith’s potential descendents other than Emma’s children. Using DNA testing he found none that carry Joseph Smith’s rare DNA marker so far. This puts doubt in my mind about how sexual Jseph Smith’s relationships were with the polygamal wives!
    Perhaps Perago could publish an update on this and other DNA topics on the Interpreter website.
    Thaks for your good work.
    Sincrely, Robert B. Hawes

  6. Brian,

    Thank you for all work you’ve done and interviews you’ve given. I haven’t read the books (maybe I need to), but I have listened to a number of your interviews on the topic of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Will you entertain questions? I’m new to the topic so I apologize if they are bit pedestrian.

    1. From what I gather from your presentations, Emma was unaware of Joseph’s marriage to Fannie Alger until some time after it was performed. Am I correct that this is what the best evidence indicates? If so, is there some justification for Joseph keeping it secret from her?

    2. You write above, “[t]here is no question that obedience to the principle of plural marriage was required in order to be a devout Latter-day Saint between the 1840s and 1890.” My understanding is that, even during this time period, only about 20% of church membership practiced polygamy. Does that mean the other 80% were out of sync with church teaching? Is there some way a church member can be obedient to the principle of polygamy without practicing it?

    3. You quote Joseph Smith as teaching, “[a] woman would have her choice [of who to be sealed to], this was a privilege that could not be denied her.” From this premise, you argue that Joseph Smith could be sealed to women, who were already married to faithful LDS men.

    Does this principle apply equally to today’s convert women who are married at the time they are baptized, and thus did not know they were choosing their eternal companions when they got married? Or is this a principle that went out with the practice of polygamy? Why would it necessarily be tied to polygamy?

    Is there any evidence of a married convert woman, who joined the church after Joseph Smith’s death but before the 1890 manifesto, being sealed to a man other than her husband? Is there any evidence that such women were informed that they had that choice in the matter? Was anyone besides Joseph Smith sealed to a married woman pursuant to this principle?

  7. I really like this article.

    I must confess that part of my liking it is that it pretty much matches my view of things from my studies. Not entirely, but then, I never studied things so in depth that I could have produced even this article much less the books. Nevertheless, my studies have led me to the same conclusions.

    So its nice to see something in depth that confirms what I have thought.

    Thank you Brian.

  8. I share Brian Hales’s enthusiasm for an informed discussion of Joseph Smith and plural marriage.

    My comments at Sunstone regarding Brian’s three-volume study of the beginnings of plural marriage were extracted from a review of Brian’s books scheduled for publication in the fall 2013 issue of the John Whitmer Journal. Readers interested in reading my full review of Brian’s work will find it there.

    Brian and I may quibble over over a handful of details, but I very much appreciate his willingness to engage in a thoughtful discussion.

    • It seems like more than a quibble to criticize Hales for using later in time documents when you apparently did/do the same thing. And it seems more than a quibble to ignore newly discovered documents, directly relevant to the issues at hand, but not fitting your notions of the Prophet.

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