Friday, April 10, 2015

The Best Information on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: A Review Round-up

Today, Interpreter published three reviews of the soon-to-be released book on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding.  The first review, written by Gregory L. Smith, the author or co-author of a smattering of articles on Joseph Smith’s polygamy, concludes, “[Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding] is warmly recommended for anyone who wants to learn more about Joseph’s plural marriages but particularly to those just venturing into its sometimes choppy waters. Were I not vulnerable to the sin of envy, I’d wish I had written it.”

The second review, written by Suzanne Long Foster, the direct descendant of one of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, “I enjoyed this book and found it very helpful. … the book did help to place a lot of the information into a coherent timeline that allowed me to understand the relationships between events more clearly than I have before. I found the book to be faith-affirming and a further testimony of Joseph Smith’s life as a prophet of God. I would recommend it for those struggling with the topic as well as those who want to know more so they can be prepared for questions from others.”

Finally, the third review by Craig L. Foster, the co-editor and contributor to The Persistence of Polygamy trilogy, “Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding is an excellent and essential volume that will not only answer questions and offer solace to “truth seekers [who] may encounter details that are uncomfortable when studying early polygamy” but will also be a useful and interesting volume for those who have spent years studying the subject. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all.”

Given the background of each of these reviewers—two of them seasoned scholars of Joseph Smith’s practice of plural marriage—these are some weighty recommendations. While I grant that I do not carry half the credentials that these writers do, I would just like to add my own voice these reviewers in recommending this handy volume. Questions continue to swirl around Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and no one is better positioned to answer those questions than Brian C. Hales. Forgot whatever you heard about Brian C. Hales being an “apologist” or whatever—apologist or not, he has done more extensive research than anyone else. His unwillingness to simply accept the theses and assumptions offered by previous researchers on certain topics (such as polyandry) also means he offers the most thorough analysis of the many of the primary sources than ever before.  His wife Laura adds important perspective in this volume: not only is she a women, which is an important perspective to consider when tackling polygamy topics, but she this information is relatively new to her, thus enabling her to relate to readers who are also learning these details for the first time.


Odds are that you or someone you know has had or will have questions on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Having this summary of the latest thinking on the matter will go a long way in answering your questions, or helping you address the questions of those you know. You can pre-order from FairMormon for a discounted price. Or, get it for FREE with the purchase of Brian C. Hales comprehensive 3-volume set, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology, and thus have access to the research that supports the conclusions laid out in the new volume. 

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