This interview with Brian C. Hales and Laura Harris Hales continues Meridian Expand’s forum on polygamy.
Ralph: “When did you become interested in the Mormon Polygamy question? How has your interest developed, and what have you written?”
Brian: In 1989 a member of my family was excommunicated for joining a polygamy group. I studied their teachings but was never impressed, especially regarding sealing authority. In response, I wrote three books about Mormon Fundamentalist history and the theological problems with their doctrines. When I spoke with people about modern polygamy, many would ask me questions about Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, but I couldn’t answer them. Eventually, I started what turned out to be a six-year project culminating in the 1500-plus page Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013).
Laura: I became interested in the Mormon Polygamy question after attending a panel discussion on Brian’sJoseph Smith’s Polygamy books shortly after we became engaged. The response from the crowd during the question and answer session included tears and heart-felt expressions of distress. The dramatic reaction encouraged me to set aside a serious block of time to read his books.
What I learned was surprising because it represented unconventional, unusual, and sometimes odd behavior. Unlike some members, I grew up knowing Joseph Smith had plural wives, but I presumed they numbered three or four, and Emma was aware of the sealings. That was not the case and processing new details into a long-established narrative was at times disconcerting, though the experience helped me empathize with those who struggle with Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy.
I myself had information overload and needed time to figure out how this new narrative reflected on Joseph’s prophetic calling. For the next six months I studied, prayed, and pondered. After reaching my own conclusions, I was able to convince my husband to once again delve into the topic of Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy and co-write a book for a mainstream LDS audience titled Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Separating Fact from Fiction, available this spring. This book contextualizes the historical record in light of the theology Joseph taught and also includes short biographies of Joseph’s plural wives. [See cover illustration.] My husband and I also blog regularly on JosephSmithsPolygamy.org, a website containing essays on each of the major discussion points dealing with the early practice of polygamy.
Read the full interview at Meridian Magazine.
Latest posts by LDS Missionaries (see all)
- How Missionaries Get Sick and How to Avoid it - Jun 16, 2017
- LDS missionary finds his own Jr. Jazz jersey while serving in Africa - May 6, 2017
- How I Never Got Sick on My Mission to Africa - May 2, 2017