Commentary on the Hales’ Critiques

Meg-croppedI was delighted to see a formal response from Laura and Brian Hales regarding my writings about Joseph Smith and others who lived in Nauvoo in the 1840s.

Laura Hales’ Introduction

Laura did not engage me on details, and I agree with most of the points she makes. I agree that if one is obsessing about things that damage faith, that “immersing oneself in persistent doubt, fueled by answers from the faithless and the unfaithful, weakens one’s faith.”

As I discussed in my post titled Give Joseph Smith a Break, those immersed in persistent doubt are often disinclined to heed counsel to “Settle this in your mind and move forward!” Thus I reiterated my viewpoint regarding what was occurring in Nauvoo, in hopes that this revisiting of the topic might prove timely for someone who needed to be able to doubt their doubts based on my doubts of the “facts” that had caused them to doubt.

There was one section of Laura’s post where I feel a need to correct misunderstandings she appears to have developed of my motives:

As I have studied the lives of Joseph Smith’s wives, I have developed compassion for them. When I read Meg Stout’s blog, “Give Brigham a Break!” it pained me to see their moral character sacrificed in order to support a novel version of what occurred in Nauvoo in the 1840s. I don’t consider these women fair game for virtual voyeurism.

But in retrospect, I should have shared my thoughts with Meg privately.

The Millennial Star asked my husband and me to respond to Meg Stout’s blog. Though we usually heed the advice to avoid dueling with a writer who buys ink by the barrel, there were some statements that we felt needed to be addressed.

Laura appears to be persuaded that I have sacrificed the moral character of honored individuals *in order to support a novel version*. While I have been intrigued by overturning rocks and have considered a fictional treatment of this history, my motivation has been discovering a possible reality that is consistent with all documented history. Whether I end up writing novels set in Nauvoo remains to be seen.

For what it’s worth, it is not clear that Laura was necessarily referring to me when talking about “a writer who buys ink by the barrel…” This phrase is often attributed to Mark Twain, though the earliest citation I have found is attributed to Former Congressman Charles Brownson (1914-1988), Indianapolis Republican, who used to say, “I never quarrel with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

It is true that when I assembled an updated draft of my Faithful Joseph posts with the intent to make a pdf available, the document clocked in at over 100,000 words, roughly the size of a 400 page book. Apparently I shared this information with Laura at some point.

Brian Hales’ 14 page Rebuttal

I am honored that Brian took the time to rebut what he finds to be the errors of my writings.

I would tweak Brian’s first paragraphs, if I were writing a brief summary of my post Give Brigham Young a Break:

“Meg Stout portrays Joseph Smith as attempting to establish plural marriage as an accepted form of marriage, but claims most of his “marriages” were intended to protect and save those who were at risk due to John Bennett’s heretical teachings regarding “spiritual wifery.” Given that William Smith was documented to have been involved in promoting Bennett’s heresy, Stout postulates that other apostles, such as Brigham Young and Heber Kimball, might have been initially persuaded that it was right to ask women to accept their protection within the “Spiritual-wife System.”

“Brigham Young’s embrace of openly-acknowledged conjugal covenant marriages eventually killed all practice of “spiritual wifery” among Mormons. Brigham’s success was so complete that some modern researchers don’t realize spiritual wifery is not synonymous with plural marriage in the New and Everlasting Covenant. Likewise, the undeniably conjugal nature of Mormon polygamy as practiced by Brigham Young has created the impression that Joseph Smith necessarily practiced conjugal polygamy, despite lack of conclusive evidence of such conjugal behavior on the part of Smith.”

Though there are minor differences, Brian in his attempt to summarize my Give Brigham Young a Break post gets most of the broad strokes right.

Meg as Fiction Writer Doing Violence to Transparency

Brian asserts early on that “Writers like Meg…[do] not inform their audiences of the literary license they have claimed.” Comments that I have hidden the “midrashic” journey that informed my non-conventional viewpoint are repeated throughout the rebuttal, including a thorough outing of my fiction-informed process in the summary section, titled “Even if Fiction.”

I have never hidden the journey that led to my viewpoint. As an illustration, Brian takes the title of his concluding section from what I wrote in an interview with Ralph Hancock for Meridian Magazine.

Brian could have quoted my inaugural Faithful Joseph post of December 17, 2013:

“In 2006 I decided to approach the story in novel form.”

Last night I reviewed my enthusiastic 9000 word follow-up to Brian in September 2013, where I blathered on about the novel plot I had come up with between 2006 and 2013 as I bounced against all the data I could find. There wasn’t a single footnote in my e-mail, because at the time I wasn’t collecting that kind of evidence. Rather, I was cateloguing everything I read in my head, stored in the mind palace story that ensconced each fact I did know in its respective place related to the story.

Now that I know more, I can see that certain parts of my mind palace story as expressd to Brian in Sepember 2013 were in error. Other parts of the story relate to things that are not knowable. But mingled in amidst these are elements that are thoroughly based on fact. Alas, what I had done was wholly foreign to Brian’s process and I had not in any way in that treatment called out which elements of the story I felt were critical (and solid) facts.

What Brian does not emphasize is the rest of the “even if fiction” sentence, which reads:

“One of my main principles was that my writing… needed to be absolutely consistent with all the documented history.”

I suspect Brian is responding to those who accept my M* posts as historical narratives. I suggest they do so because they have read me carefully and note that in the posts I do include references that support my hypotheses. Since I introduced Brian to my writings as pure fiction without any trappings to emphasize their historical merit, he believes anyone who gives heed to my writings to be akin to those who wonder where the Steed family lived. 1

The blog posts here at M* are part of the historical record regarding what I knew and when I knew it. I may someday post updated versions of those posts to correct errors I discovered later, but I will leave the original posts in place without edits in the interest of transparency.

If anyone is strongly interested in seeing the 2013 synopsis of my midrash (with notes on where I’ve found it to be in error), feel free to add a comment to that effect in this post.

Did I Mention that I Adore Brian (and Laura) Hales?

As late as the summer of 2013 I had despaired of ever approaching my understanding of Joseph Smith’s final years as anything other than fiction. I knew that to fully illuminate why my narrative fit all the data would have required me to meticulously document everything known regarding Joseph Smith and his male and female contemporaries. I would have to engage in dialogue with people who hadn’t read the reams of accounts, and I would be open to criticism that I am not “a historian.”

I had despaired of even writing my “fictional” account because the history I felt fit the data was so different from the standard narrative that readers would not be able to “suspend disbelief” unless they were completely ignorant of the traditional LDS view of 1840s Nauvoo.

Enter Brian Hales’ volumes on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. I was not initially excited to learn there were 1500 pages of additional reading I had to do. But as I began to read, I realized that Brian Hales had done what I had given up on doing. He has meticulously assembled information about almost everything I had ever read about polygamy, including gems I never anticipated.

I don’t agree with Brian on certain details of interpretation, but I will forever be grateful to him for both his meticulous documentation and his fabulous decision to make all public information available at his website. Laura is also fabulous for turning the bachelor version of Brian’s website into a thing of art and beauty, as well as producing a concise version of Brian’s massive Joseph Smith’s Polygamy for a popular audience.

I should not neglect to give praise also to Don Bradley, who is an amazing researcher and was a key participant in Brian’s journey.

The Midrash

As I recall, the main point of dispute between Brian and me regarding my writings involved the timing of the possible fall Eliza took down the stairs, extensively rumored to have occurred in Nauvoo while Eliza was allegedly pregnant.

Brian argued long and hard that it was not credible that the fall could have happened in March 1843 when, per my initial hypothesis, Eliza could have been 40 weeks along. I finally yielded to Brian’s argument, which sent me to Eliza’s poetry for another possible timeframe for the rumored fall. That is when I found the November 1842 poems that convinced me it was more than merely plausible that Eliza had been seduced.

The day I published my first Faithful Joseph post, segments of the internet blew up with chaff, such as this comment: “I think she wrote a book on how Joseph did not use seer stones when translating the Book of Mormon, and another on how the Earth was created 13,000 years ago.”

Brian gallantly responded “I’ve exchanged some emails with Meg Stout – never met her. She seems to have done some useful research, but I couldn’t follow a lot of her reasoning and historical interpretation. Perhaps if I took a little more time, it would make sense, but I don’t know.”

But I will suggest that the point in time when Brian’s viewpoint relative to me began to shift was December 2013, when he saw how virulently his peers reacted to the mere possibility of a blogger who used the title “A Faithful Joseph.”

“I couldn’t follow a lot of her reasoning and historical interpretation”

Throughout the rebuttal, Brian shows that he has not understood whatever excerpts he’s looked at. I agree with much of what Brian writes with respect to history, but since he often misunderstands what I am saying, his rebuttal doesn’t address what I was saying. In other cases the rebuttal would have been improved by time and some peer review.

The 1831 Revelation [pp. 2-3] Brian questions my assertion that  the initial revelation occurred prior to March 7, 1831. It happens that several other historians date the initial revelation to early 1831, months before the  revelation W. W. Phelps wrote about.

D&C 45 (received March 7, 1831) is the first recorded revelation to discuss God’s covenant, and is the revelation where Joseph is told to stop translating Genesis and find the answer in the New Testament. I wrote about the logic for this timing and provided the references to the History of the Church where this timing is provided in my post The 1831 Revelation Regarding Plural Marriage. Footnote 2 specifies “Multiple early historians suggest this timing, including B. H. Roberts (History of the Church V:XXIX), Joseph F. Smith (1882 funeral address), and Hubert Howe Bancroft (1889, History of Utah).”

I think this is merely a case where Brian hasn’t paid much attention to the timing of the earliest revelation, and doesn’t know what other historians have said. The timing is related to Joseph’s efforts related to the inspired updates to the KJV.

Bennett as Right Hand Man [pp. 3-4] Brian quibbles with my assertion that Bennett was Joseph’s right hand man, and discovered to still be married in March 1842. 2 I think Brian is absolutely correct that Bennett was never an insider when it came to the Church itself.

That said, Bennett was clearly involved in the civic and militia efforts close to Joseph’s heart. Bennett’s earliest known activity in Nauvoo shows him watching over the Smith family when Joseph’s father was dying in September 1840, as related in unabridged versions of Lucy Smith’s History. Though Bennett’s time as Assistant President of the Church in place of Sidney Rigdon was not extended, it was he that Joseph called to pinch hit in that position during the absence of the apostles.

Brian is right that Joseph first began to suspect Bennett had a shady past before March. I cited March merely because that is the date when George Miller wrote his letter confirming Bennett was a scoundrel in his prior life. Joseph had become concerned about Bennett’s past in January/February. It certainly seems unlikely that Joseph had heard the rumor prior to January 19, 1841, when Joseph mentions both Bennett and George Miller in D&C 124. Brian includes footnotes to papers that led him to the same conclusion I had reached. I assume these papers include more granular information about when Miller departed Nauvoo in his search of the truth about Bennett’s past.

Bennett as Letch [p. 3-4] Brian points out the damning summary Mary Barker [Bennett] gave of her husbands alleged infidelities. Brian does not, however,  address my commentary on the standard treatments doctors specializing in women’s health would have engaged in for millennia prior to 1910. Thus he takes Mary’s accusations at face value, as relayed in Miller’s letter.

I have been divorced and have various friends who have gone through the dissolution of a marriage. Sometimes the things that people believe are in error. At other times, people make accusations that are less true than might be desired. Given that Bennett, as a medical doctor of that era specializing in women’s reproductive health, would necessarily have been routinely touching women’s private areas, I have merely pointed out that there are relatively innocent causes for the letchery of which Mary Barker [Bennett] accuses her husband.

Brian, lacking any reason to question Mary’s account, takes the position that Bennett was an extreme and acknowledged letch. Brian proceeds to argue that no one could have been persuaded to yield to his arguments.

Except that some demonstrably were taken in by the “teaching” that illicit intercourse was acceptable, to read the Nauvoo High Council Minutes and the extreme language Emma and others used with the Relief Society in early 1842.

Apostles and Other Respected People Believing Bennett’s Heresy [p. 5] Brian questions whether William Smith or any other apostle would have listened to Bennett regarding extra-marital sex being okay if kept secret.

Brian is absolutely right that none of the leaders explicitly claimed they had been duped by Bennett or one of Bennett’s followers. But if what I say is true, this is not something people would ever have admitted to, once they were persuaded to re-think/repent and forsake the error.

Regarding my suspicion that Eliza had been persuaded, I do urge people to read her November 1842 poem, where she herself wrote about the vile wretch who spoke words of fond fidelity.

William Smith. Oh my goodness, where to begin? I first learned William Smith existed from reading Mormon Polygamy: A History [Richard S. Van Wagoner], where Van Wagoner asserted that William had actually bedded Catherine Fuller. 3 That was years ago.

The first major revision in my understanding of William’s involvement came from reading the manuscripts of the Women’s testimonies before the Nauvoo High Council, which Brian provided to me in 2014, and which he so helpfully cites in the footnotes to his rebuttal of my perceived errors. William’s role in encouraging individuals to yield to Bennett’s heresy is obvious in the Dinger edition of the Nauvoo City Council and High Council Minutes, where comparison of multiple sources made clear William Smith was the person being referred to in instances where the manuscript I had access to wasn’t clear.

Even in the manuscript Brian provided me in 2014, it is clear that William’s name was mentioned in connection with the seductions, but someone had lined though that part of the text, which is consistent with Joseph’s defense of his brother as described in my Give Brigham Young a Break post. That is to say I don’t doubt William had done what Catherine Fuller alleged he had done. Just that this was expunged by Joseph in an attempt to save his brother from suffering because of Bennett’s deception.

Martha Brotherton’s Alleged Interaction with Brigham Young [pp. 6-8] I agree with Brian that Martha Brotherton likely did have an interview with Brigham Young where Brigham proposed to be her protector.

Brian portrays the July 1842 letter attributed to Martha as an accurate description of what actually occurred. Brian appears to see the interview as occurring in early 1842 as a “legitimate” proposal within the context of the New and Everlasting Covenant. Brian denigrates my argument inasmuch as it contradicts a verbatim reading of the July Brotheton account. Given how many people testified the letter was a lie and the fact that it was published by Bennett expressly to destroy Joseph, I think it curious that Brian puts so much stock in the letter text as a verbatim account of what occurred with Martha Brotherton.

I am delighted with the information that Martha arrived in America with Joseph Fielding’s company in November 1841, however I find no mention of the Brothertons in Andrew Ehat’s transcription of Brother Fielding’s diary, which Brian cited in his footnotes. If there is other information confirming the Brothertons were in the Fielding Company, I would be delighted to know it. The reported timing of the Fielding Company does not controvert my hypothesis, despite Brian’s assertion that “it is much more probable that the Young-Brotherton interactions occurred well after [January 6, 1842].” 4

Timing of Heber Kimball’s Marriage to Sarah Peak [Noon] [p. 8] Brian appears to have miscopied my text regarding Sarah Peak Noon. But this is not terribly important. I do not disagree that Sarah Peak became Heber’s wife or that Sarah was sheltered by the Kimball family during her 1842 pregnancy.

Brian indicates the Kimball-Noon marriage pre-dated the conception of Adelbert Kimball, the child that was born to Sarah Peak [Noon Kimball] in “late 1842 or early 1843…” Aside from this unquestioned assumption, nothing Brian mentions controverts the possibility that some man other than Heber Kimball had engendered Adelbert Kimball. I need go no further than my former husband to find an instance of a child named after the man a woman married, even though court testimony (bolstered by pictoral evidence) asserted the child had been engendered by another.

I will point out that Heber Kimball never provided dates for any of the significant developments in his embrace of the New and Everlasting Covenant. The order of such developments as his sealing to Vilate and the marriage to Sarah Peak [Noon] are also never provided by Heber. Thus most discussion of when things occurred is based on speculation. I would also add that in record-keeping obsessed Mormondom, the lack of details for someone as prominent as Heber is, in itself, interesting data.

William Marks’ Memory of Joseph Rejecting Polygamy/Spiritual-wife System [p. 9] When William Marks brought forward his recollection of Joseph’s condemnation of polygamy, he did so expressly to refute the public moves both Brigham Young and James Strang had made in acknowledging polygamy as a practice amongst their respective peoples. I agree with Brian that William Marks overstated the breadth of Joseph’s condemnation, portraying it as a complete repudiation of all forms of polygamy. I agree with Brian that Joseph almost certainly didn’t mean all that Marks inferred.

Brian falls within the LDS tradition of wholly rejecting William Marks’ account of Joseph Smith’s alleged comments condemning “this doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife System, that has been taught and practiced among us.” He points to ten pages of his book as his rationale.

I have read Brian’s book, and I don’t see that these “multiple evidences” are sufficient to reject as implausible William Marks’ memory, though I do agree that William Marks’ interpretation of his memory was most certainly in error. In particular, I don’t think for a moment that Joseph Smith ever considered ending the New and Everlasting Covenant, with its allowance for conjugal plural marriage.

Brigham’s Tight Control Over Marriage After Joseph’s Death [p. 9-10] This is a case where I don’t think Brian is informed of the marriage practices in Deseret/Utah. He doesn’t refute my evidence regarding the express permission DeLong had to obtain to marry outside of Salt Lake City, nor does Brian prove that there were not marriage parties that traveled as groups so couples could be married in Salt Lake City.

I think we both agree that the “Spiritual-wife System” as practiced in Nauvoo by dissidents was never re-established in Utah under Brigham.

I see this as a result of Brigham’s policies and intentional vigilence. Brian does not see this purification of the Mormon people from Spiritual-wifery and prostitution to have been the express purpose of Brigham’s policies. Having failed to follow, Brian proclaims that my essay “is probably best characterized as a continuation of her midrashic fiction.”

I do love stories about how my ancestors met and became married. But that doesn’t make these stories fiction.

Joseph Smith and Conjugal Relations within Plural Marriage [pp. 10-11] Brian and I both agree that Joseph would have had a legitimate right to engage in conjugal relations with the women he covenanted with.

Here I would put forward the distinction that I am persuaded Joseph might have refrained from conjugal activity with plural wives out of respect for Emma’s clear discomfort with the situation. I prefer this to a stance where Joseph deceived Emma and engaged in conjugal relations wih plural wives behind her back and in her house. In either case, we can’t point to any DNA evidence that confirms a child born to a plural wife was engendered by Joseph.

Brian affirms that Joseph had sex with at least some of his wives by laying before us the testimonies given at the Temple Lot trial in 1893, when the witnesses felt they had to “prove” Joseph was a practicing polygamist to save the Missouri Temple Lot from falling into the hands of Joseph’s non-believing sons. Brian does not question why a woman, in that position, might have been under pressure to swear that sex had happened. In fact, we only see one of the women actually agree that carnal intercourse occurred.

Brian ignores my account regarding how hard Malissa Lott’s family tried later to get her to confirm that sex had occurred, without success. 5 I should reiterate here that it is not that I claim to know that Joseph didn’t have sex with his plural wives. It is merely that I remain unconvinced. And in fact, the essays at LDS.org never affirm that Joseph Smith necessarily had sex with any of his plural wives. I also never claim that, if refraining from consummating plural marriages, Joseph was acting entirely correctly. Thus, assertions that sex within polygamous marriages was encouraged in order to “multiply and replenish the earth,” don’t address my argument.

Identity of the Young Woman Bennett was courting circa March 1841 [p. 12] Brian and I agee that Eliza Snow was unlikely to have been the “young woman” Bennett was courting.

Brian is under the mistaken impression that I attest the young lady mentioned in Joseph Smith’s 1842 exposé of Bennett refers to Eliza Snow. This is odd since I’m sure I clarified in our 2013 correspondence that he was misunderstanding me on this point. In my post Eliza and the Stairs, I wrote “I propose the “young” woman Bennett loved was Elvira Annie Cowles.”

Pregnancy of Eliza Snow [p. 12-13] Brian and I agree that Eliza Snow was not pregnant while she was teaching school at the Masonic Hall between December 1842 and March 1843. And I have Brian to thank for persuading me that my prior hypothesis was untenable.

In Brian’s rebuttal, he misrepresents my proposed timeline for a possibly pregnant Eliza. Having cast my assertions in the timeline developed by other scholars prior to the discovery of Eliza’s Nauvoo journal, Brian then proceeds to dismantle it. But my posts have never claimed Eliza was pregnant after December 1842, when she started teaching school in the Masonic Hall. Brian might be arguing based on his memory of our 2013 discussions, but even then, his persuasive point was that a largely pregnant Eliza couldn’t have credibly been traipsing around Nauvoo after Bennett’s public accusations without someone in addition to Charles C. Rich commenting on her “large with child” state. 6

Young Woman Harbored by Vilate Kimball [p. 13] Neither Brian nor I think the young woman harbored by Vilate Kimball was Eliza Snow.

Brian suggests my proposed history of Eliza Snow equates her with the young woman Joseph Smith advised Vilate Kimball to grant harbor to in March 1841. I never stated that I thought Eliza Snow was that woman, not even in our private correspondence.

Secrecy Of Nauvoo Plural Marriages [pp. 13-14] Brian and I agree that plural marriage, as taught by Joseph in Nauvoo, was rarely discussed.

Brian asserts that no one knew of Eliza’s marriage to Joseph for an extended period of time after the June 1842 ceremony, though admitting that the “two years” alleged in an August 1887 article is “too long.” This ignores the affidavit where Eliza claimed Sarah Cleveland had been present when Eliza covenanted with Joseph. 7

I would go further than Brian and assert that those who were open about non-monogamous “marriage” and sex can, by this very lack of secrecy, be identified as candidate participants in illicit intercourse for having been at the very least so incredibly indiscreet.

Summary

Brian Hales has honored me with a detailed critique of my writings. Alas, his substantial rebuttals to my position do not actually respond to what I have written, but to what Brian has misunderstood me to have written.

Given the nature of the vehement reactions some had to my initial 2013 post and the number of misunderstandings included in Brian’s painstaking rebuttal, it appears that the mythos of Meg Stout and her writings as chatted about amongst some Mormon scholars is substantially different from the actual Meg Stout and her writings.

As mentioned from time to time, I am an engineer and scientist. I have seen time and again how new concepts are rejected because some aspect of the proposed paradigm contradicts the belief system of a key member of the current establishment, despite whether the concept has merit. And these have been instances where it was possible to determine the validity of the new concepts through physical examination and testing.

It would be helpful for the discussion to move forward if Brian or some other person who disagrees with me could use their establishment worldview to explore select historical artifacts, for instance:

  • Why did Orange Wight write that girls called themselves “spirituals” in the summer of 1841, after he learned of polygamy from noticing that the uncle of Chauncy Higbee had more than one wife?
  • Why did Eliza Snow modify her September 1842 poem, Conjugal?
  • Who was “Gustin” Brooks, and why did he include a greeting to Elvira Holmes in his November 1842 report, published in the Times and Seasons?
  • What could explain Sylvia Lyon’s deathbed statement to her daughter in light of the surprising DNA evidence regarding Josephine’s paternity? 8

My fact-based paradigm admits explanations for each of these questions. 9

Is the establishment viewpoint sufficient to explain these questions, or is the establishment content to assert there can never be answers, and all matters related to this period must be accepted or shelved as people “move forward?”

Notes:

  1. In Gerald Lund’s historical fiction, the Steed family were invented characters who permit Lund to explore Mormon history without being constrained by inconvenient facts regarding real people. I haven’t read The Work and the Glory series, but understand that it entirely avoids the subject of polygamy.
  2. I had meant March 1841 – this was a typo on my part.
  3. Van Wagoner appears to have been incorrect in saying William Smith actually bedded Catherine. William pressed his suit mightily, but it appears none of the testimony actually confirms that he participated in the illicit intercourse he persuaded others to embrace.
  4. I wonder if Fielding might have been referring to the Brothertons when he wrote, “Here [in St. Louis] we saw some poor faithless Saints, something like spider webs set to catch flies. They came to us with fair words as our best friends, but their council was that of enemies.” See Joseph Fielding, Diary (1843-1846), Church Archives in “They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet”–The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding,” transcribed and edited by Andrew F. Ehat, BYU Studies 19 (Winter 1979), available online at http://www.boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/JFielding.html. Obviously if it can be shown that the Brothertons traveled with Fielding, my “wondering” is refuted.
  5. The story was told me by my stake patriarch, whose grandmother had been the grandchild present when the family attempted to get “Grandma” to positively explain what had happened in the marriage between herself and Joseph.
  6. I currently live with a woman who is five months pregnant. She is “large with child” yet able to pass as someone who isn’t pregnant when carefully dressed. Also, corsets are amazing, both comfortable for a pregnant woman and able to hide early stages of pregnancy.
  7. See Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, p. 313, with the reference section specifying this comes from Eliza Snow Affidavit, SAB 1:25, #55 Bachman; HR 6:233; BFR 68.
  8. The DNA evidence is consistent with common ancestry between Josephine’s descendants and Joseph’s ancestors, as was known from the written genealogies. The DNA evidence falls far short of confirming Joseph as Josephine’s father.
  9. I would still love to know more about the background behind the “Gustin” Brooks letter.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

14 thoughts on “Commentary on the Hales’ Critiques

  1. Just wanted to express my thanks for the astounding amount of work and thought Sister Meg Stout has put into bringing new information and ideas to light.

  2. I appreciate Meg’s efforts. History cannot be reserved to acknowledge academically-trained historians — they have their place, and it is important. But there is room for non-historians to ask questions and re-look at “facts” — and there is room for the holy spirit to nudge and prompt. I have never liked the way so many want to insist, even demand, that Joseph’s plural marriage was exactly like Brigham’s, and Joseph’s United Order was exactly like Brigham’s, and so forth. They weren’t the same.

  3. So you are the “writer who buys ink by the barrel”.
    How interesting….
    🙂

  4. Count me as one who’d like to see the 2013 synopsis (to the extent that it reflects your current thinking).

    Also, FWIW, polygamy is a major element of Volume 6 of The Work and the Glory; though as I recall, none of the fictional Steeds actually engage in the practice.

  5. Hi JimD,

    Thank you for correcting my error regarding the polygamy content of TW&TG. Is there anyone who might be willing to summarize what that content was?

    TW&TG is one of the books where I’ve exercised the caution in my patriarchal blessing to be careful about the books I read and the other media I consume…

  6. As I read TWATG I began to think that the author had used the Steeds as stand-ins for a number of my ancestors in some situations. Knowing what I do of the Smith’s home life, I found the lack of Elvira and Jonathan interesting. It is very important to remember the fictional nature of the work while reading it. Like the movie ‘Brigham Young’ (1940) it swerves clear of much mention of polygamy. The star power of the film was impressive with Tyrone Power as the protagonist, Dean Jagger, who later joined the Church, as Brigham young, and Vincent Price as Joseph Smith. Price gives a very sympathetic reading to the role even though he was later known for his portrayal of film villains.

  7. Meg, my memory’s hazy; but as I recall it actually gets into quite a lot. One of the adult sisters in the family has some sort of health issue and goes to see the new doctor in town, John C. Bennett; and basically concludes from the encounter that he’s a creep. Several of the men in the family appoint themselves as a committee to investigate Bennett as well as these strange rumors surrounding spirit wivery and, after looking into a number of stories (I remember the Martha Brotherton tale being covered), conclude that while some stories are greatly exaggerated it does seem like Joseph Smith may be practicing polygamy. A couple of family members eventually approach Joseph about it and get first-hand explanations; another turns to sources like the Higbee brothers and is nearly recruited into their group.

  8. Meg, I recently stumbled upon your Faithful Joseph Series. Polygamy is something I have been trying to comprehend and understand for quite some time. After reading your series, I finally get it. Thank-you!!! I am not a scholar in anyway, just a faithful Latter-Day-Saint woman seeking light and truth.

    p.s. Valerie Hudson’s Cassler’s article, “Polygamy” in the on-line Square Two Journal http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPolygamy.html, was also very helpful and enlightening to me.

  9. Hi mmmr,

    Thank you for that.

    I did pop over to the Cassler article, and I think it does a good job of laying out the challenge and doctrine of why plural marriage within the context of the New and Everlasting Covenant. What it doesn’t do (which I attempt to do) is explain why Joseph covenanted with so very many women, and why 1800s Mormon polygamy was more than just allowing the extra woman in a dozen to have a way to be in a conjugal marriage.

    By the way, I put together a digest version for people who you might want to refer to the posts but who wouldn’t necessarily want to read all 100,000 words across the dozens of posts.

  10. Hi JimD,

    I’ve copied my 2013 midrash summary over to a google doc, which you can view by clicking this link.

    The two major differences are how Bennett got involved in teaching spiritual wifery and when Eliza Snow may have miscarried her child, if she was pregnant as many alleged.

    The “true” stuff is highlighted in yellow. The stuff I now know is wrong is in red text. The stuff that is just in black is the kind of stuff that might have happened, but for which there is no firm documentation or evidence.

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