Pony before the cart. …
Gentlemen mark your opponents
Fire into your own ranks.
Pick the weakest as strategic
Move. Square off. To
Meet your enemy.
For each and every gathering
A scapegoat falls to climb. ~R.E.M.
Stephen O. Smoot is an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University pursuing bachelor’s degrees in Ancient Near Eastern Studies and German Studies. He is a writer for the Student Review, an independent BYU student newspaper, a volunteer with FairMormon, and an Editorial Consultant for Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture. He blogs at the FairMormon Blog and Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So’s Mormon Blog.
Is one of many from FAIRMORMON’s ranks who are obsessed with attacking and scapegoating Jeremy Runnells. They have even devoted a whole website to doing so. (Yes Mormons, that is what your donations to FAIRMORMON are being used for). Even Daniel C. Peterson and Michael Ash have jumped on this bandwagon. This has troubled other Mormons, like David Bokovoy who wrote:
But what about attacking people directly like Jeremy Runnells and John Dehlin? Does this strengthen faith? It may, but I’m not convinced. I don’t like it, and it feels wrong to me. More importantly, that type of apologetic seems inappropriate from my perspective for a serious academic venue, especially one sponsored by the LDS Church.
I’m not going to cite the emails because they’re personal exchanges, and to do so would be highly inappropriate. But I will give a personal example. In the not-too-distant past, my name was attached to an apologetic email list that was discussing how the group should respond to an article that appeared in the news. Several of the emails discussed openly the type of “digging” that could be done into this person’s past in an effort to provide an effective apologetic response. It made me feel very, very uncomfortable.
I responded, asking the group to please reconsider their approach, stating, “placing the blame on [name omitted] for his struggles is not an effective apologetic and I personally don’t think it will help [your] cause.”
And this is what this entire unfortunate public confrontation comes down to: What is the most effective type of apologetics, and what style of academics should an LDS sponsored institution engage in? I don’t believe in aggressive attack style apologetics. Some people do. I believe in critical thinking, listening to alternative views, and open friendly exchanges.
Smoot has had Jeremy in his sights ever since the wildly popular CES Letter was made public by Jeremy in 2013. In one of his blog articles written in June of this year, Smoot advised his fellow Mormons about the dangers of the Internet:
…Church leaders … have urged the importance of using the Internet to both stem the tide of misinformation and deception about the Church found online as well as preach the gospel. But they are not alone. Elder Quinten L. Cook lamented in the October 2012 General Conference, “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony.” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf likewise reminded us of the following in 2013:
For those who already embrace the truth, [Satan’s] primary strategy is to spread the seeds of doubt. For example, he has caused many members of the Church to stumble when they discover information about the Church that seems to contradict what they had learned previously.
If you experience such a moment, remember that in this age of information there are many who create doubt about anything and everything, at any time and every place.
You will find even those who still claim that they have evidence that the earth is flat, that the moon is a hologram, and that certain movie stars are really aliens from another planet. And it is always good to keep in mind, just because something is printed on paper, appears on the Internet, is frequently repeated, or has a powerful group of followers doesn’t make it true.
Elder Steven E. Snow, Church Historian and Recorder, gave this counsel in the June 2013 issue of the New Era (which was subsequently reposted on the Church’s website for youth).
Certainly, the world has changed in the last generation or two. The Internet has put all kinds of information at our fingertips—good, bad, truthful, untruthful—including information on Church history. You can read a great deal about our history, but it’s important to read about it and understand it in context. The difficulty with some information online is that it’s out of context and you don’t really see the whole picture.
Information that tries to embarrass the Church is generally very subjective and unfair. We should seek sources that more objectively describe our beliefs and our history. Some websites are very mean-spirited and can be sensational in how they present the information. Look for sources by recognized and respected historians, whether they’re members of the Church or not.
Instead of leaving it at that, Smoot adds:
The tantrums of Jeremy Runnells notwithstanding, what these brethren have taught is absolutely true. It’s college-level critical thinking 101. Don’t default to Wikipedia or reddit for your information. Don’t default to meme-think. Don’t default to snarky YouTube videos. Steven C. Harper said it best, “Googling is not a synonym for seeking.” Take the time and make the honest effort to acquaint yourself with “the best books” (D&C 88:118) you can find on Mormon history, scripture, and doctrine. (For our purposes here, “the best books” include academic journal articles, academic and popular press publications, Internet websites, multimedia, etc.) It will ultimately be much better for you intellectually and spiritually.
The only one that seems to be throwing tantrums is Stephen Smoot. In this piece Smoot sets up a strawman by turning Jeremy’s comment about Hales being an amateur Historian into his claiming that he triumphantly announced “that one cannot possibly maintain faith in Joseph Smith after learning the “real” history of plural marriage.”
Of course Jeremy said no such thing and you can search in vain for that quote. Smoot goes on and on about Hales how is not an amateur historian, but Hales himself claimed that he was:
“Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian…” (Brian Hales, Facebook, Mormon Historians, July 17, 2014, 3:38pm).
I actually took part in that conversation, and can verify that it is an accurate quote and that Brian was not being sarcastic. So if Hales is calling himself an amateur; then why is Stephen Smoot even bringing this up? To scapegoat Jeremy Runnells, of course.
So what is wrong with Wikipedia or reddit? Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia using wiki software. The entries are compiled by anonymous editors who have to footnote their entries. Anyone can edit entries and it is basically self policed. One Mormon apologist, Roger Nicholson lamented about Wikipedia in The Mormon Interpreter:
According to Wikipedia,
The Wikipedia model allows anyone to edit, and relies on a large number of well-intentioned editors to overcome issues raised by a smaller number of problematic editors. It is inherent in Wikipedia’s editing model that misleading information can be added, but over time quality is anticipated to improve in a form of group learning as editors reach consensus, so that substandard edits will very rapidly be removed.
In general, this philosophy tends to be effective as regards many Wikipedia articles. Errors that bring an article out of balance tend to be corrected given sufficient time, and the article progresses toward a stable and “neutral” state. However, articles dealing with highly controversial subjects, such as Joseph Smith’s first vision or polygamy, do not tend to stabilize themselves over time. These types of articles become magnets for editors who have an agenda to push. Wikipedia becomes an attractive way for such editors to “publish” their opinions with immediate worldwide visibility and considerable credibility.
He then writes,
Wikipedia articles are required to rely “mainly on reliable, published secondary sources and, to a lesser extent, on tertiary sources. All interpretive claims, analyses, or synthetic claims about primary sources must be referenced to a secondary source, rather than original analysis of the primary source material by Wikipedia editors.” Wikipedia is intended to summarize the work of others rather than act as a forum for creating original work. In the case of contentious articles such as “First Vision” or “Golden Plates,” it is extremely tempting to take advantage of the “immediate publication” of material in order to create new interpretive material. The “no original research” rule is often ignored. This can lead to situations in which the wiki editor’s own thinking is reflected in the article. Consider this example, which appears in the wiki article “First Vision” as of 18 October 2011: “However, when in October 1830 the author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a religious book he was writing, he said Smith was unable to recount a ‘Christian experience.’ ”
There are several issues with the above statement. It does correctly represent the source, which was an interview between Peter Bauder and Joseph Smith. Bauder was attempting to expose false religions, and he notes that “among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr.” The wiki editor introduces the quotation with the word however, thus implying that this statement is a possible disqualifier for the validity of the first vision. Nowhere in the wiki article is it noted that Bauder was a strong critic of Joseph Smith and that Joseph may not have desired to share the experience of his vision with such an interviewer. The earliest known extant attempt by Joseph to put the vision in writing occurred two years later. In 2009, however, the LDS wiki editor added his own interpretation of this interview by drawing the conclusion that “either Smith did not view this early remission of sins or vision as a ‘Christian experience,’ he forgot about the experience when asked by Bauder, or Smith and Bauder somehow miscommunicated.”?
Not only did this blatantly violate Wikipedia’s “no original research” rule, it was also an absurd interpretation. How would Joseph not view a remission of his sins as a “Christian experience”? Would he truly have “forgotten” about his theophany? The simplest and most obvious explanation was completely ignored: Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church. The wiki editor eventually recognized that the original research could not remain and removed the paragraph. The unqualified statement about Joseph not recounting a “Christian experience,” however, remains in the wiki article as of September 2011.
There are several things wrong with this analysis. First, the Peter Bauder interview with Joseph Smith was published in 1834, not 1830, so we do not know the exact circumstances that led Bauder to Joseph Smith, other than what Bauder wrote later. Bauder wrote,
However … we find him [anti-Christ] in various other places. For instance, view him in the Mahometan system, and a variety of other imposters, who have drawn disciples after them, who had no Theological Seminaries among them; but if you will observe their manner of increasing their numbers, you will find it is done without a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter, 1, 8—because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them according to Romans, 5, 5.
Among these imposters there has one arisen by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr. who commenced his system of church government in this state, (New York) in the year 1830. His followers are commonly called Mormonites, sometimes New Jerusalemites, or Golden Bible society; they call themselves the true followers of Christ. I conceive it my duty to expose this diabolical system for two special reasons—first, because I have had an opportunity with Smith, in his first setting out, to discover his plan; secondly, because I learn since they were broke up in New York State, they have gone to the western States, and are deceiving themselves and the people, and are increasing very fast.
I will name some of the particular discoveries which through Divine Providence I was favored with in an interview with Joseph Smith, Jr. at the house of Peter Whitmer, in the town of Fayette, Seneca County, state of New York, in October, 1830. I called at P[eter]. Whitmer’s house, for the purpose of seeing Smith, and searching into the mystery of his system of religion, and had the privilege of conversing with him alone, several hours, and of investigating his writings, church records, &c. I improved near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers: he could give me no christian experience, but told me that an angel told him he must go to a certain place in the town of Manchester, Ontario County, where was a secret treasure concealed, which he must reveal to the human family. He went, and after the third or fourth time, which was repeated once a year, he obtained a parcel of plate resembling gold, on which were engraved what he did not understand, only by the aid of a glass which he also obtained with the plate, by which means he was enabled to translate the characters on the plate into English. He says he was not allowed to let the plate be seen only by a few individuals named by the angel, and after he had a part translated, the angel conmanded him to carry the plate into a certain piece of woods, which he did:—the angel took them and carried them to parts unknown to him. The part translated he had published, and it is before the public, entitled the Book of Mormon: a horrid blasphemy, but not so wicked as another manuscript which he was then preparing for publication, which I also saw. He told me no man had ever seen it except a few of his apostles: the publication intended was to be the Bible!!! The manner in which it was written is as follows:—he commenced at the first chapter of Genesis, he wrote a few verses of scripture, then added delusion, which he added every [p.18] few verses of scripture, and so making a compound of scripture and delusion. On my interrogating him on the subject, he professed to be inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it. I will now give the public my fears on this subject, (unless God prevents) when he gets his work ready for the press. He will pretend that the angel has brought the plate, and his new Bible will be a translation of the remaining plate, which were not put into the Book of Mormon, and the public will have this diabolical invention imposed on them. (See also, Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, p. 16-18).
It is obvious that this is written from an 1834 perspective. We do not know how Bauder felt in 1830 when he visited Smith. He may not have been antagonistic at all. Nicholson assumes this of Bauder, and then concludes that “Joseph may have simply chosen not to share the experience of his vision with an obvious enemy of the church.” Yet, Joseph shared his claimed 1820 vision with Robert Matthews in 1835, who Smith speculated was a murderer and claimed his “God was the devil”. In the light of Smith sharing his supposed vision with one such as Matthews, Nicolson’s argument doesn’t make much sense.
What is interesting is that Bauder got all of the details right about Smith’s claimed visit with Moroni. He also got the details right about Smith’s “translation” of the Bible, although his later speculation that Smith might claim it came from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon never came to pass. If Bauder was simply making it up about Smith’s lack of Christian experience in 1830, why did he correctly claim that Smith told him he was later translating the Bible with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? This is not about Joseph joining any church; Bauder describes what “Christian experience” is, in an earlier paragraph:
“…a reformation wrought in the hearts of their members, by a godly sorrow for sin, and a compunction of soul, and pungent conviction, which precedes a joy which is unspeakable and full of glory…because the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them…”
That is not about joining a church. The fact that Bauder claims that Joseph did not speak of any Christian experience before his supposed encounter with the angel Moroni in 1830, is borne out by what Mormon Missionaries were teaching in 1832; and what Smith and Cowdery wrote themselves in 1834. Smith made an attempt to rewrite his history in 1832, but left it unfinished and abandoned it in the back of a letterbook and did not include his supposed vision of Christ in the 1834 history. In that version of his history they claim that Joseph prayed in 1823 to see “if a Supreme Being did exist” and was answered by an angel who told him about some gold plates.
The wiki article today (2015) reads:
In June 1830, Smith provided the first clear record of a significant personal religious experience prior to the visit of the angel Moroni. At that time, Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery were establishing the Church of Christ, the first Latter Day Saint church. In the “Articles and Covenants of the Church of Christ,” Smith recounted his early history, noting
“For, after that it truly was manifested unto [Smith] that he had received remission of his sins, he was entangled again in the vanities of the world, but after truly repenting, God visited him by an holy angel … and gave unto him power, by the means which was before prepared that he should translate a book.”
No further explanation of this “manifestation” is provided. Although the reference was later linked to the First Vision, its original hearers could have understood the manifestation as simply another of many revival experiences in which the subject testified that his sins had been forgiven. On the other hand, when in October 1830, non-Mormon critic and author Peter Bauder interviewed Smith for a book, Bauder was writing about false religions, Smith apparently declined to share his experience. Bauder thus stated that Smith was unable to recount a “Christian experience.”
So it appears that Nicholson’s objections of a few years ago are groundless, since Bauder is described as a “non-Mormon Critic” in the current wiki article. Now, these changes may have come about with the persistence of Mormon editors, but that is the way it is supposed to work, right?. It appears that this wiki article has “stabilized itself over time,” at least in this instance.
So why the current objections to wiki? Because FAIRMORMON can’t totally control the flow of information there as they can at their own site. But what is almost comical is that FAIRMORMON has its own version of wiki. And what do they have on their own wiki page? This:
In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.
Notice there is little difference from the current “First Vision” Wikipedia page. FAIRMORMON uses this quote to try and prove that Joseph Smith didn’t join any Churches. On another page, they write the same thing:
In October 1830 Peter Bauder (a non-Mormon minister) spoke directly to the Prophet. Bauder commented: “he could give me no Christian experience,” meaning that he did not belong to any church before his experience with the angel and plates in September 1823.
Bauder absolutely did not mean that, as he himself explains above. The Wikipedia article is still wrong though, because Bauder did not say that Smith declined to share his experience, Smith could not give him one, as defined by Bauder. And Bauder did not just spend an hour or two with Smith, he claimed that he spent “near four and twenty hours in close application with Smith and his followers,” and spoke to Smith alone for “several hours”, so neither Smith nor any who followed him could give Bauder a “Christian experience” for Joseph Smith in his youth.
Reddit is simply a discussion forum. So why doesn’t Smoot want Mormons to visit these places on the internet? Does Smoot think Mormons will go to reddit specifically to find out about Mormon History? I’ll leave that up to you, readers, to figure out.
Smoot also talks about memes. Yet, FAIRMORMON takes the memes from Jeremy’s CES Letter and employs them to foist their own agenda on the public! Here is a screenshot of one of the pages on their new website devoted to demonizing Jeremy and his work:
Notice their own “selected details” and the claim that Hales makes about Ruth Vose Sayers which I’ve shown to be riddled with problems here. Jeremy is simply boiled down to a thrower of tantrums by Smoot. And of course, “Satan” is behind it all! Now here we are four months later and Smoot is at it again here.
So why is Smoot bringing this up again and again ad nauseum? It seems that Brian Hales has a few pages of contribution included in a new book published by the John Whitmer Historical Association in addition to his other many books and articles on the subject. Well, we all know that Hales has published a lot on polygamy. We know that he considers himself an amateur historian. So what is Smoot’s point here? Simply to use any excuse to scapegoat Jeremy:
Readers of my blog will recall that some time ago Jeremy Runnells amusingly accused Brian C. Hales (undoubtedly one of the finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage) of being a “Mormon amateur apologist.” At the time I responded by mentioning the number of respected academic peer reviewed venues Brian’s work had appeared in… I’m sure that if Jeremy ever decides to take a sabbatical from teaching at the prestigious University of Reddit (I hear UoR is almost as high as the University of Phoenix in Princeton’s ranking) and venture forth into academia he can be invited by Brian to present his work at next year’s JWHA conference. ~Stephen Smoot
Again, all of the publications listed by Smoot don’t change that fact that Brian Hales himself admitted to being an amateur historian. What is interesting is Smoot’s defense of Hales in the comments to this article:
Finally, is Brian an apologist as well? Sure he is, in that he is defending a specific interpretation of the historical data. Scholars do this all the time, and the rhetorical tricks of Runnells and his followers notwithstanding, there’s nothing inherently shameful in being an “apologist” for a position or idea if you’re being such in good faith.
Now we are getting to it. I think Jeremy could have chosen his words more wisely in giving Hales amateur status, (even though Hales calls himself one) but Jeremy has a point about Hales being an “expert”, because some of the claims that Hales does make are amateurish. He jumps to conclusions, makes outlandish assumptions, and presents the evidence in a one sided way. This is not good apologia, nor good scholarship. Here are some of the many problems that Mike Quinn detailed about Hales’ methods:
Quinn accuses Hales of “citing an easily refutable claim” (pg. 6), quotes secondary sources over primary sources (page 6), Quinn also writes that “The best evidence is the original record of sealing, not someone’s century later commentary about it” which Hales quoted instead of the original record. He states that Hales “brushes off the significance of some of the evidence he has cited,” (page 11), makes contradictory assertions (page 11), conveniently shifts his standards of evidentiary analysis in his own direction (page 18), that Hales “apologetical observations contradict evidence (page 23), uses a red herring, (page 25), makes claims that have no basis whatever (page 27), strains credulity (page 27), uses “presentist bias” (page 33), of “misrepresentation” (page 64), of not consulting original sources (page 66), that Hales had an “academic obligation” to reveal certain information which he did not (page 66), of using a “vacuous red-herring when Hales does not quote a single exception from the “original records” about which he writes” (page 69), that Hales would not acknowledge crucial evidence that undermined his narrative (page 70 n. 46), which was that Joseph Smith forbid the practice of polygamy in Oct. 1843, (ibid), citing a source critical to his argument without a page number (page 72), uses flawed methodology and closed system of logic (page 73), worse (Quinn’s word) he has failed to acknowledge several of the contrary evidences in publications he has cited, (ibid), he makes “perplexing gaffes” in his use of evidence (page 73-74), he repeatedly questions the memory/accuracy of faithful Mormon witnesses that Hales disagrees with (page 74), does not use equal standards for evidence (page 74), of making “apologetical claims” knowing they were “improbable” (page 75), that he did not acknowledge critical evidence until forced to by Quinn (page 78), gave “anachronistic assessment”, and “a fallacy of irrelevant proof”, and “chronologically false” assessments (page 80), he overstates problem in proving a negative, (Hales – “You can’t prove a negative”) to which Quinn writes, “for example it is possible to prove that someone didn’t die on a particular date” (page 82), falsely accusing Quinn of stealing documents (84), another red herring (87), absurdity (87), claimed that Quinn said something he did not say (90), of another fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 90), that Hales wrongly corrected an accurate page citation by Quinn (page 91), of knowing of evidence but ignoring it to support his conclusions (page 94), claimed no documentation existed when it did (page 95), of not acknowledging evidence (page 98)making claims that were wrong (page 98), raising an apologetical smoke-screen by questioning well known facts (page 101), making ridiculous assertions about conspiracies (page 101), of fallacy of irrelevant proof (page 102), that Hales is an unreasonable researcher (page 102), of using “multiple fallacies” (page 104), the purposeful absence of references (page 105), purposeful non-inclusion of first-person sources that contradict his argument (page 108), using “imprecise and less detailed” evidence to support his argument (page 108), exclusion of evidence (page 108), claims there is no “specific documentation” when Quinn provided it (page 110), wrongly stated something Quinn did not say (page 113) which was a “Stunning gaffe”, again a red herring (page 113), another red herring (page 115), irrelevant statements (page 115) “frequent use of polemical red-herrings to undermine historical evidence he dislikes” (page 115), On page 118 Quinn writes, “NOTHING (Caps in original) can satisfy Brian Hales’ calculatedly stringent requirements that are impossible to achieve, unless he finds a Victorian American woman who said, wrote, or testified that she (as a devout Mormon) alternated sexual intercourse with two husbands during a period of time” [This speaks for itself], Also includes Hales in using the “double standard of LDS apologists who narrowly define acceptable evidence for unpleasant realities” (page 118), of denying and ignoring evidence (pg. 123), using a closed system of logic (God knew Smith would be obedient so he was), On page 124, Quinn compares Hales to Joseph Smith III, who refused to believe evidence he did not like, (page 124), accuses Hales of playing “a skillful shell game in which premises for judgment are conveniently shifted so that the conclusion is always the same” (page 125), ignores contradictions and other problems in evidence (page 126), omits significant facts (page 127), another wrong claim (page 127), does not cite sources he knows of (page 128), makes unqualified conclusions (page 128). (“Evidence for the Sexual Side of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”, D. Michael Quinn, (expanded-finalized, 31 December 2012; circulated in mid-2013), pages cited in text).
Hales responded to those who would quote Mike Quinn in the comments of his hit piece on Jeremy by stating,
I appreciate the references to Mike Quinn’s work. Most historians at some time have benefited from his research and footnotes. However, I would feel much better about your criticism if you instead were not quoting Quinn, but quoting some Nauvoo polygamist or other historical figure who was there. Quoting secondary sources may create the illusion that some scholarly opinion is documented history. (This applies to me as well as Mike.) (Comment made on July 15, 2014).
The person that made the comment to Hales (UtahHiker801) simply stated that others (like Mike Quinn and Richard Bushman) disagreed with Hales’ conclusions. He did not “quote” anyone. Quinn’s (and Richard Bushman’s) conclusions are based on the evidence that they quote in their various books and articles. This seems lost on Hales who doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a quotation and a general statement. Hales also does not keep his own advice about “secondary sources” as Mike Quinn documents above.
I would say that I’m pretty much as familiar with all of the documents that Hales is, and I’m an amateur historian at this point, because I’m still learning the trade of being a historian even though I’ve been at it non stop for about 8 years and have been on research trips with Historians like Mike Marquardt.
One Mormon (an Oxford grad) called me a “Hobbyist” historian in an effort to denigrate me, and I don’t take exception to him doing so. You have to learn, don’t you? Why be embarrassed about that? I’m not and neither is Jeremy Runnells. A better question might be why do those who call others these names do so, and can they back up their claims with evidence? Is this just a diversion from the real issues? Why are all the “experts” and “scholars” at FAIRMORMON so concerned about the hobbyist Jeremy Runnells? Why would Brian Hales claim that Jeremy indicated in some way that he was an “expert” on Mormon Polyamy, when he knew that Jeremy made no such claim?
We all learn and make mistakes. I know, Jeremy and I spent a year together on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and traded literally thousands of emails discussing it and we have an Essay finished about it. In Jeremy’s case his claim was in response to Hales’ false assertion that Jeremy claimed he was an expert. Funny thing is, it was Hales that started all this, not Jeremy. How would you react to being called a sock puppet of Satan and a liar who claims expertise when you absolutely didn’t do so? Jeremy is none of these things and didn’t claim to be an expert, but Stephen Smoot doesn’t address those issues, only Jeremy’s angry retort at Hales which was factually correct. Even Hales admitted it was and that:
I am an apologist at heart, but had hoped to be more of an “objective researcher” in my writings. While I’m not big on labels, “believer” could be applied so perhaps “apologist” is unavoidable.
As we have seen from Mike Quinn’s critique of Hales work above, he has failed miserably at being an “objective researcher”.
I don’t mind being called a “Hobbyist”, but you had better be prepared to back up your assertions (if you think that it matters) with evidence when it comes to the topics at hand or you could look pretty stupid being debunked by those you are calling amateurs or hobbyists. Jeremy presented evidence, good evidence that he can now back up with Hales’ own research, as can I. Notice that Stephen Smoot doesn’t address any of that, he simply plays his one string banjo over and over again.
Does it take a degree to make one a professional Historian? Perhaps, (to be factually correct) but there are those like Mike Marquardt and Dan Vogel who I would call professionals who don’t have degrees in Historical studies. Mike and Dan (same as Hales) have been writing books about Mormon History for decades. But that is about all they do. Brian doesn’t do this full time, he is a dentist. Therefore, the moniker hobbyist could apply to him as well. In the case of Dan and Mike, would the validation of a degree make a bit of difference? No. They are masters at their trade here. A piece of paper isn’t going to add much to that. They have done the research, put in the time, and have a body of work to rival any thesis that would give them a doctorate. So why all the fuss and bother about Hales? Because Mormon apologists don’t like the fact that Jeremy deigned to criticize Hales with his own words. Get over it.
The difference between Mike M., Dan Vogel and Hales though, is that Mike and Dan don’t have an agenda either way concerning Joseph Smith while Hales does, and Hales lets that agenda dictate his conclusions. Their conclusions challenge the “faithful Mormon” historical narrative that Hales embraces and often invents. Mike M. is on the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History where Hales has published and even helped Hales with his Fanny Alger article. Even Mike Quinn said that Hales used questionable methods though he strangely called Hales an “honest” historian. I can show that he is not when it comes to the way he uses polygamy sources.
What really matters, is what you produce and can it stand up to scrutiny. I recently wrote an article on Sylvia Lyon and the 1869 Utah Affidavits where I go through many of Hales’ foundational claims in relation to sexual polyandry and some of his methods in arriving at the conclusions he does.
See for example the problem that Hales had with the evidence that Hales claims is about Ruth Vose Sayers that Don Bradley gave him, that Hales never presented to the public in his books, his articles, or on his website (He only presented small out of context snippets from the document, never displayed the document, and never fully explained it even when Don (he told me so) gave him a copy of the document and Mike Quinn (in 2012) gave him the info about it): (Note 14)
I even do a handwriting analysis that shows that Mike’s initial conclusion that it is not “sayers” but “sagers” was correct. Hales also manipulates evidence in the case of Eliza Snow and her letter to Daniel Munns which I discuss here.
Hales manipulation of the evidence here is astounding. He also looks quite foolish when he questions Alex Beam’s use of a “cast of characters” in the beginning of his book. Hales claimed that ,
The book begins with a “Cast of Characters” similar to what you would find in a play, which is a departure from what you would typically find in a scholarly work of historical nonfiction. In fact, listing a “Cast of Characters” may intuitively call the nonfiction element of the book into question simply because nonfiction is about real people and real events not characters.
Yet I show that one of the most famous historical non fiction books of all time, “All The President’s Men” used the same literary device at the beginning of that book and Woodward and Bernstein were lauded for doing so. Did it call any of the nonfiction element of their book into question? I think history has answered that. Is that an amateurish claim? Would a professional make that claim? And why could a mere “hobbyist” quickly find a case where other authors did so successfully and Hales could not? So what the hell is an “expert”? This is a silly argument started by Hales himself when he sarcastically called Jeremy the “new expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy”.
Remember too, that Stephen Smoot is a FAIRMORMON employee/volunteer? and they have a vested interest in propping up Hales and his point of view. The recent website they created to attack Jeremy and try to rebut the CES Letter is just another example of the shoddy scholarship they employ. See my thread here for examples.
Addendum: Smoot explains his modus operandi:
Show each other respect and courtesy? Who attacked who first, Jeremy or Smoot? Did Jeremy ever attack Smoot, or simply defend himself against FAIRMORMON attacks?
He shows us his true colors with this line,
“It’s a troll or be trolled world out there…”
Very Christlike, indeed. Justification of his trolling people. Nice. And for all his disparagement of Reddit, seems like Smoot can’t get enough of it. This stuff is just hilarious. If he wasn’t so vindictive, I might just feel sorry for him.
Does being called an “expert” or having familiarity with documents or published material about polygamy make one a good historian or one of the “finest living authorities on the topic of the history of Mormon plural marriage” when presenting on the subject? Time will tell in relation to Brian Hales, and the clock is ticking.