Brian Hales Polygamy: His Continued Misuse of Sources

I am continually amazed when I read anything written by Brian Hales about Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. And that is not a good thing, for he continues to be completely dishonest in his use of sources in an effort to convince others of his invented polygamy narrative, in this instance, the interpretation of Doctrine & Covenants, Section 132.

I admit, I’m just getting sick and tired of reading his articles and in this case “review”, because he continues to knowingly omit crucial details when he quotes sources, leaving out information that radically changes the meaning of what he is quoting. I will give a few examples below.

Brian’s latest foray into Smith’s polygamy is a “review” of the bookThe Plural Marriage Revelation, part of a series on “Textual Studies of the Doctrine and Covenants” published by Greg Kofford Books and written by William Victor Smith.

Now, I don’t know William Victor Smith, nor have I read his book, I have only read Hales’ “review”, which is not really a review of the book at all. Hales writes a few general comments about the book, (mostly negative), and then takes a few examples of what he claims are “several significant topics mentioned in the revelation which TPMR seems to ignore or discuss incompletely.”

Being intimately familiar with Hales irrational views about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, I understand completely his M.O. when he writes anything about it and therefore wasn’t surprised to find him sticking to that M.O. in this “review”. The first thing that Hales does is try to vilify any “critics” of Joseph Smith. Here is what he wrote concerning them:

Critics too will enjoy an interpretation that alleges that all Church members today are going to be damned because they are monogamists.

So Brian thinks that all critics will enjoy the thought that post Manifesto Mormons are all going to be damned? Where does he get such irrational thinking from I wonder?

I know there are many critics who have Mormon friends and family, and the thought of them suffering with such a burden would not be enjoyable to say the least. And is a serious book review the place to even make such derogatory comments? What should it matter what critics think about certain aspects of Joseph’s polygamy in this context? But it does matter to Mormon Apologists, which Hales claims that he is.

In his section titled “Nauvoo Teachings of Eternal Marriage Without Plural Marriage”, Hales writes,

While available accounts of Joseph Smith’s discourses contain few references to eternal marriage, a January 5, 1844, letter from Nauvoo Church member Jacob Scott to his daughter Mary Warnock indicates that such doctrines were known by rank-and-file members in late 1843. Scott wrote, “Several Revelations of great utility, & uncommon interest have been lately communicated to Joseph & the Church; but where you are you cannot obey them; one Tis that all Marriage contracts or Covenants are to be ‘Everlasting[‘], that is: The parties (if the[y] belong to the Church) and will obey the will of God in this relationship to each other; are to be married for both Time and Eternity.” He then discusses proxy marital sealing ordinances:

And as respects those whose partners were dead, before this Revelation was given to the Church; they have the privilege to be married to their deceased husbands, or wives (as the case may be) for eternity, and if it is a man who desires to be married to his deceased wife; a Sister in the Church stands as Proxy, or as a representative of the deceased in attending to the marriage ceremony; and so in the case of a widow who desires to be joined in a everlasting covenant to her dead husband.

Next, paraphrasing the information found in verses 16‒17, Scott explained to his daughter, “if they are not thus married for Eternity, they must remain in a state of Celebacy [sic], & be as the angels, ministering spirits, r [are] servants to the married to all eternity, and can never rise to any greater degree of Glory.”

Remarkably, Scott then described how the teaching and practice were expanding and how he anticipated his “second nuptials”: “Many members of the Church have already availed themselves of this privilege, & have been married to their deceased partners … & I intend to be married to the wife of my youth before I go to Ireland, I would be unspeakably glad to have you all here to witness our Second Nuptials. The work of Generation is not to cease for ever with the Saints in this present life.”

Jacob Scott lived outside of Nauvoo’s polygamy insider circle, but according to this letter, he possessed a working understanding of eternal marriage ceremonies while making no mention of a connection to plural marriage or a need to engage in polygamy in order to be eternally sealed.

TPMR, quoting briefly from Scott’s letter (citing it from a secondary source), concludes: “Scott’s remarks reflect public explanations in the face of the rumored revelation” (60fn56). A full examination of the letter indicates that the “public explanations” were rather detailed concerning eternal marriage and proxy sealings without tying them to plural marriage.

Hales is trying to claim that Scott did not comprehend that this was polygamy. And reading what Hales quoted, one may even come to that conclusion. Except that Hales didn’t fully quote Scott’s letter. He left something out. Notice Hales’ ellipses? Scott explains to his daughter,

“Many members of the Church have already availed themselves of this privilege, & have been married to their deceased partners …

He then writes (which Hales conveniently leaves out):

& in some cases where a Man has been married to 2 or three wives, and they are dead he has been married to them all; in the Order in which he was married to them while living & also widows have been married to their dead husbands [several words crossed out and the following inserted at the same writing, and in the same hand] but only to ONE husband. & I intend to be married to the wife of my youth… (emphasis mine)

If that isn’t polygamy, then I don’t know what is. Why would Hales just leave this out of his quote? Because it would destroy his irrational interpretation of D&C 132. A few months later, Hyrum Smith taught at Conference that this kind of Spiritual Wifeism [polygamy] was what converted him to the principle:

The idea of marrying for eternity is the seal of the covenant, and is easily understood; and as to speaking of it, I could make all the world believe it, for it is noble and grand; it is necessary in consequence of the broken covenants in the world. I never saw any scripture but what was written by Prophet to instruct and prepare mankind for eternity. I read that what God joins together, let no man put asunder. I see magistrates and Priests in the world, but not one who is empowered to join together by the authority of God. Nor yet have I seen any priest that dare say that he has the authority of God; there is not a sectarian Priest in Christendom that dare say he has the authority by direct revelation from God. When I look at the seal of the new Covenant and reflect that all the covenants made by the authority of man are only made to be in force during the natural life and end there, I rejoice that what is the consideration of the Almighty God, everything rightfully and lawfully belongs to man if he fulfills the stipulated conditions; and if a thing belongs to me legally, it cannot belong to any one else.

I married me a wife, and I am the only one who had any right to her. We had five children, the covenant was made four our lives. She fell into the grave before God showed us his order. God has shown me that the covenant is dead, and had no force, neither could I have her in the resurrection, but we should be as the angels–it troubled me. President Joseph said you can have her sealed to you upon the same principles as you can be baptized for the dead. I enquired what can I do for any second wife? You can also make a covenant with her for eternity and have her sealed to you by the authority of the priesthood.

I named the subject to my present wife, and she said, “I will act as proxy for your wife that is dead, and I will be sealed to you for eternity myself for I never had any other husband. I love you and I do not want to be separate from you nor be forever alone in the world to come.” If there is any man that has no more sense, and will make a base story of such a fact, his name shall be published. What honest man or woman can find fault with such a doctrine as this? None. It is a doctrine not to be preached to the world; but to the Saints who have obeyed the gospel and gathered to Zion. It is glad tiding of great joy.

The Lord has given Joseph the power to seal on earth and in heaven [for] those who are found worthy; having the Spirit of Elijah and Elias, he has power to seal with a seal that shall never be broken, and it shall be in force in the morn of the resurrection. Talk about spiritual wives! One that is dead and gone is spiritual. We will come up in the morn of the resurrection; and every soul that is saved will receive an eternal increase of glory. Will you believe this, (loud shouts of aye).

Every great and good principle should be taught to the Saints, but some must not be taught to the world; until they are prepared to receive them; it would be like casting pearls before swine. No man must attempt to preach them.

I believe every good man should have one wife in this life, and I know if I had two I should not know what to do with them; they might quarrel about me, and I might get a whipping. One is enough, and I warn all of you not to attempt it; if a man should begin to find out, you would get into some cell in Alton. (Hyrum Smith, Conference Address, April 8. 1844).

What they were teaching was that polygamy wasn’t to be practiced on earth, but that it was practiced in the afterlife, exactly what Scott writes months earlier. Hyrum, of course was lying, he had more than one wife on earth when he gave this address. What is interesting about what Scott wrote, is that he included this that Hales also forgot to mention:

there are many things connected with this subject which I am not at liberty to communicate to you, where you are living which would make the matter plainer to your minds & more satisfactory therefore, beware how you treat this subject for no doubt it is of God.

So Jacob told his daughter that there were “many things” he could not tell her that were “connected to this subject,”. Could one be that they were indeed practicing polygamy in this life also? We don’t know, but Hales simply leaves out this possibility, instead claiming that Scott makes “no mention of a connection to plural marriage or a need to engage in polygamy in order to be eternally sealed.”

Jacob further explains,

Other revelations intimately connected with this momentous dispensation and which are almost ready to unfold themselves to us, I cannot communicate to you at present, altho’ I know them in part for you could not bear them now. If you were living with the Church, your Spiritual advantages would be much greater than they now are: but to inform you of all that is made known to the Church, here, yet would go abroad from you and likely cause you much persecution, at any rate much more than you have.

So Scott was purposefully not telling his daughter all that he knew. What could his daughter “not bear”? This gives us a more complete picture of what Scott wrote, but you don’t learn this from Hales, and he dishonestly leaves out that Scott knew that men could be sealed to more than one wife, which was polygamy!

In another section titled “TPMR’s Polygamy Tunnel Vision”, Hales writes,

Another discussion that seems to be missing from TPMR is the exploration of the different views regarding the importance of plural marriage in Joseph Smith’s overall cosmology. Instead, it consistently manifests a type of polygamy tunnel vision of a “seeming inseparability of polygamy and eternal sealing” (2). “So much of Mormon theology [is] centrally tied to plurality” (4). “The ability to retain or remit sins in the context of the revelation highlights the importance of plural marriage in Joseph Smith’s broader narrative of salvation and exaltation” (132).

Consistent with this view, TPMR refers to Section 132 as the “plural marriage revelation” 159 times and as the “polygamy revelation” three times. In contrast, it is referenced as the “celestial marriage revelation” or “eternal marriage revelation” zero times. These latter two labels could also be appropriately used, depending on context, but that context is generally absent in TPMR (see below).

This view is important, especially when interpreting the word “law” in verse 6: “And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.” What is this “law” that must be obeyed to avoid damnation?

TPMR offers an opinion: “The meaning of the word ‘law’ in this particular revelation was historically interpreted as referring to authorized polygamy” (37) and further explains: “The revelation [makes] clear that after receiving knowledge of the law of plural marriage, a failure to participate resulted in damnation (v. 4)” (86; emphasis added). This narrow interpretation is reflected elsewhere: “In order to be exalted in God’s presence one must fulfill all of the sacraments including, in this case, participation in polygamy” (35).

While LDS leaders and members in the past have used words like law, covenant, practice, principle, and commandment interchangeably, plural marriage was more commonly referred to as a doctrine, principle, or practice. A review of references to the practice in early general conference discourses shows that polygamy and plural marriage were seldom referred as a law.(See the summary in the table on the opposite page.)

In addition, it doesn’t appear that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor ever taught that polygamy was God’s law commanded of all peoples in all places and times.In 1883, President Taylor recognized a distinction between the “law of celestial marriage” and the “principle of plural marriage”: “He [God] has told us about our wives and our children being sealed to us, that we might have a claim on them in eternity. He has revealed unto us the law of celestial marriage, associated with which is the principle of plural marriage.”

Hales simply cherry picks what he wants from Taylor’s 1883 sermon. Doesn’t he realize that it is very easy to simply read the sermon to get the context of what Taylor meant? Hales simply quotes Taylor’s opening line, which is totally disingenuous. Taylor says this immediately after what Hales quoted:

I will speak a little upon this subject.

He then does so, at length. And what Taylor says is exactly the opposite of how Hales interprets his remarks:

It is very seldom that I refer to it, but there is need for it occasionally. I speak of it as that law given to us of God. I do not know, but I have been informed that there are those who seem to be opposed to this law in one or two places where we have been traveling. Now, I dare not oppose anything of the kind. I dare not violate any law of God.

Taylor here, refers to it as a LAW OF GOD. But is he talking about polygamy? Of course he is:

And I will tell you what Joseph Smith said upon the subject. He presented this principle to the Twelve, and called upon them to obey it, and said if they did not, the kingdom of God could not go one step further. Why could it not go one step further? Because we had a religion to live by, but none that placed our associations upon eternal principles or gave us a claim upon each other in the family relations in the eternal worlds. But through this principle we could be sealed to one another through time and eternity; we could prepare ourselves for an exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom of God. It is one of the greatest blessings that ever was conferred upon the human family. It is an eternal law which has always existed in other worlds as well as in this world. I will here call your attention to the revelation itself which reads:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines—“

“Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

“Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.”

This you will see is strictly in accordance with what I have told you Joseph Smith told the Twelve—that if this law was not practiced, if they would not enter into this covenant, then the kingdom of God could not go one step further.

Taylor then explains that he and the Twelve did not want to prevent the kingdom of God from going forward, so they embraced the LAW:

The revelation, as you have heard, says that, “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” Now, that is not my word. I did not make it. It was the Prophet of God who revealed that to us in Nauvoo, and I bear witness of this solemn fact before God, that He did reveal this sacred principle to me and others of the Twelve, and in this revelation it is stated that it is the will and law of God that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.” And the revelation further says:

“For behold, I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned.” Think of that, will you. For it is further said: “no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”

There are many people who try to excuse themselves in this matter and who essay to do as they please, but as the Lord God liveth, He will not excuse them. He expects those who profess to be his people to carry out that law. The revelation continues to say:

“For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.”

“And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fullness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fullness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”

I thought I would have a little of this revelation read. The whole revelation is quite lengthy. But it goes to say that all covenants heretofore entered into amount to nothing, and that they will be of no benefit to people beyond the grave.

Now, as I have already said, the reason was very obvious why a law of this kind should be had. As a people we professed to be Latter-day Saints. We professed to be governed by the word, and will, and law of God. We had a religion that might do to live by, but we had none to die by. But this was a principle that God had revealed unto us, and it must be obeyed. I had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married man that this was to me, outside of this principle, an appalling thing to do.

The idea of my going and asking a young lady to be married to me, when I had already a wife! It was a thing calculated to stir up feelings from the innermost depth of the human soul. I had always entertained the strictest regard for chastity. I had never in my life seen the time when I have known man deceiving a woman—and it is often done in the world, where notwithstanding the crime, the man is received into society, and the poor woman is looked upon as a pariah and an outcast—I have always looked upon such a thing as infamous, and upon such a man as a villain, and I hold today the same ideas. Hence, with the feelings I had entertained, nothing but a knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth of them, could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this. We seemed to put off, as far as we could, what might be termed the evil day. Some time after these things were made known to us, I was riding out of Nauvoo on horseback, and met Joseph Smith coming in, he, too, being on horseback. Some of you who were acquainted with Nauvoo, know where the graveyard was. We met upon the road going on to the hill there. I bowed to Brother Joseph, and having done the same to me he said; “Stop;” and he looked at me very intently. “Look here,” said he, “those things that have been spoken of must be fulfilled, and if they are not entered into right away, the keys will be turned.” Well, what did I do? Did I feel to stand in the way of this great, eternal principle, and treat lightly the things of God? No. I replied: “Brother Joseph, I will try and carry these things out,” and I afterwards did, and I have done it more times than once…

It is obvious that Taylor is calling polygamy the law that they had to obey, not simply eternal marriage. Why would they object to simply practicing eternal marriage? It was polygamy Taylor was speaking of, that they had to practice, not just eternal marriage. And the definition of the word “principle”: is “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine or assumption”.

Three years later, Taylor wrote this revelation, which absolutely calls polygamy (the new and everlasting covenant) God’s LAW:

My son John, you have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant how far it is binding upon my people.
Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.
Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness—because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; even so, Amen. (Given to President John Taylor September 27, 1886).

Here Taylor calls polygamy the “New and Everlasting Covenant”. He wasn’t speaking of revoking eternal marriage, but POLYGAMY which he calls a new and everlasting covenant. Hales also makes this ridiculous assertion:

God states that he is revealing a new and everlasting covenant (vv. 4, 6); polygamy would not have been new to Joseph, who had been reading the Bible for many years.

And yet Joseph calls baptism a “new and everlasting covenant” in D&C 22:

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

Was baptism new to Joseph in 1830? Hales argument is simply irrational. Hales “review” of Smith’s commentary on D&C 132 is full of erroneous conclusions based on faulty interpretations which in turn are based on manipulating sources to suit his own end: to promote his invented polygamy narrative. This is Hales M.O., used in all of his commentary about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and I advise anyone reading anything written by Hales on this subject to beware, and to certainly check every source that he quotes.