Free Book, or What I learned at MHA

RP 160627 CoverI had a delightful time at the Mormon History Association Conference this past weekend. I met scores of individuals, many of whom I had only read about. They were uniformly gracious in person, including those with whom I have sparred online.

But I realized the road to being accepted by some in this community is paved by scholarly papers.

As I evaluated why I have written this book, I realized I simply want this version of Joseph Smith to be available to a large number of people as soon as possible. So I am making the pdf version of the book available to anyone who wants to download it. Just click on the cover image in this post.

If you really want a physical copy of the book, it is being carried by Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City and you can get the book from Amazon. Even though I’m now giving away the pdf, I still think the nicest format is Kindle, making it trivially easy to access the footnotes. The version currently available via these sellers has the old cover and doesn’t include the updates based on Ugo Perego’s latest DNA analysis. The updated version represented by the pdf will be published on June 27th.

And there’s more… hello audio book

I’m working on an audio book version of Reluctant Polygamist. I’ve currently identified my main reader (who will also read Joseph Smith’s words), as well as readers for Joseph Smith Sr., Jane Manning, Eliza R. Snow, and William Clayton. If you would like to be a part of the audio book, e-mail me. Let me know who you’d like to read, why, what your past vocal experience is, and where you live. I strongly prefer working with those who are either near DC or in the Salt Lake/Provo area. Compensation will be commensurate with standard industry rates. I’ll add a table of possible parts later today.

Se Habla Español? Parlez-vous français?

A beauty of making the pdf widely available is making it possible for those who don’t speak English to grab the book and translate it into their own language. If you would like to do that and make it available to others, just let me know. I’ll dust off the Reluctant Polygamist website and we’ll post the translations over there.

Planned Scholarly Papers

So, even though I haven’t submitted any scholarly papers yet, I have every intention of paving that paper-lined road to scholarly acceptance. First on the docket is an examination of the Joseph Ellis Johnson testimony, explaining why scholars should consider that the “Joseph” who frigged Mary Heron may have been Joseph Kelly.

Shout out to fans

I want to thank those who have enjoyed the book or the original Faithful Joseph series and reached out to thank me. You are amazing. I’ve loved talking to some of you in person and via e-mail. This past week my husband told me of two individuals who approached him who had read the book and hoped to meet me.

So even though I’m mostly surrounded by people who don’t care, you who have liked what I’ve been saying and writing are a source of sweetness. Please know how much you are appreciated.

 

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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.

28 thoughts on “Free Book, or What I learned at MHA

  1. Thank you! I enjoyed the series you posted here, and I look forward to reading the book.

  2. Interesting.

    So here’s the thing. Folks have a range of reasons for believing the current paradigm. And they’ll say that it’s because it’s the truth.

    It is no longer tenable for folks to believe that Joseph never covenanted with other women. It’s not even particularly tenable to maintain that he never consummated any of his covenants, with Emily Partridge’s Temple Lot testimony being a rather solid bit of first hand non-physical evidence.

    The current paradigm, where Joseph was sexually intimate with many of his wives, despite the lack of provable offspring with plural wives, has such a hold that it’s difficult to get folks committed to that view to admit there might be room for alternate interpretations. They will claim that what I’ve said is [insert synonym for bogus], but they don’t point out how some fact of which they are in possession is in conflict with what I’m saying.

    They will invent strawmen that they claim I propose, then tear down those strawmen.

    What has been fascinating is to see how virulently opposed some TBMs are to the idea that Joseph might not have consummated his relationships with various wives. In particular, many appear to be certain that Joseph did have sex with Syvlia Sessions [Lyon] even though the DNA evidence has come up proving that Joseph was not the biological father.

  3. Here’s a discussion about your book on MD&D (that Meg started):
    http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/67741-reluctant-polygamist-preface/

    I thought many here might be interested in reading through what you’ve written and the comments from others in response. It seems you aren’t able to supply sources to back up your opinions, Meg, and you’ve had to back down from most of your claims about the women in Nauvoo during the time Joseph and other lived polygamy.

  4. Meg stated:
    “What has been fascinating is to see how virulently opposed some TBMs are to the idea that Joseph might not have consummated his relationships with various wives. In particular, many appear to be certain that Joseph did have sex with Syvlia Sessions [Lyon] even though the DNA evidence has come up proving that Joseph was not the biological father.”

    The DNA evidence doesn’t prove anything about whether or not Joseph consummatied his marriage with Sylvia, only that he is not Josephine’s biological father.

    Also, you seem to have a difficult using the word “marriages” (when describing Joseph’s relationship with his plural wives) and you continue to just use the words “covenanted with” instead of “married to”. Why is that?

    I think if you can start considering them to be marriages, you’ll stop having such a difficult time accepting that Joseph most likely did consummate at least some of his marriages and that there is nothing wrong with him doing this since they were his wives.

  5. Gwen wrote: ‘Also, you seem to have a difficult using the word “marriages” (when describing Joseph’s relationship with his plural wives) and you continue to just use the words “covenanted with” instead of “married to”. Why is that? ‘

    It appears to me that you’re one of those erecting strawmen to tear down. Or… either you are not familiar with some of the facts, or you haven’t finished reading Meg’s book.

    For the others who are reading this, here is the answer: Meg uses “covenanted” to indicate an eternity-only sealing to women who were married for time-only to other men.

    The used of “married” and “marriage” can be confusing because if you use those words, it makes it look like JS married women who were already married to other men. It makes it look like polyandry was the order of the day. Meg’s use of “covenanted”, if you actually read her blog post series or book, goes a long way to clarify what went on.

    Emma’s assertion that there was no church-sanctioned polygamy going on now makes sense to me when I realized that she thought that all of JS’s “covenants/marraiges” (other than with her) were for _eternity only_, and didn’t take effect until after the resurrection, or at least until after the death of the parties. (Meg allows that some of Joseph’s marriages were both time and eternity.)

    Another reason Meg uses “covenanted” is to distinguish God-commanded polygamy and authorized sealings (whether time+eternity or eternity-only) from the “spiritual wifery” that Bennet and the “Striker” sex ring were doing.

    Bennet and the Strikers claimed they were only doing what Joseph taught. But they weren’t. They were committing adultery, or “swinging” in modern terms. When they were caught, they, like most all adulterers, made the excuse and counter-claim “well, you’re doing it too!”

    Those counter-claims, once publicized, made authorized polygamy and “eternity only” sealings seem like common adultery and “marrying other men’s wives” in the public’s mind.

    Meg’s separation or distinguishing of time-only marriage from eternity-only sealings finally clarified for me his relationship with Zina D Huntington Jacobs. Realizing that he “covenanted” with Zina for eternity-only while she was married for time-only to Jacobs clarifies the whole thing for me. Then, she finally divorced Jacobs and _married_ Brigham.

    Because of the terminology and misdirection and rationale that Bennet and the Strikers introduced as part of tricking women to have sex with them, authorized polygamy and eternity-only sealings got conflated with plain old adultery with multiple partners. Meg’s book spends plenty of ink explaining how Joseph and Emma and Brigham went to great pains to put an end to Bennet’s “spiritual wifery” business, while at the same time protecting, and healing the broken hearts of the women who were seduced by Bennet’s group.

    The only major mistake I’ve seen in Meg’s book is that she doesn’t adequately explain her theses (plural) up front before illustrating her points. So that readers who are firmly “married” to different interpretations/understandings of historical events don’t see _why_ she is connecting the dots to form a picture that is different from what they already have in their minds. That is the only way I can see how a reader can honestly misunderstand her, otherwise they are purposely erecting strawmen.

    As a believer in the Restoration, BoM, JS as prophet, etc., I had to put Nauvoo polygamy, “spiritual wifery”, the messy claims and counter-claims, and Joseph “marrying” the already married Zina “on the shelf” so to speak. After reading Meg’s blog post series, I was finally able to take all that off the shelf and put it to bed.

    Meg’s connecting the dots makes a picture that, to me at least, explains it all, and puts a proper context to the shift from Joseph’s polygamy to Brigham’s polygamy. Joseph’s (admitted) procrastination of the implementation of polygamy (he procrastinated until threatened by the angel with the sword), his love for Emma (not wanting to do “full” polygamy), his half-measures (eternity-only sealings semi-covered up by the fact that most of those women also already had time-only marriages), the mess/conflation with Bennet’s adultery thing, Brigham not being ham-strung by a need to avoid offending Emma, the conspirators in JS’s assassination being members of the sex-ring…. It all makes sense now.

  6. ji,

    So do I 🙂

    It’s a fascinating discussion going on over there and it couldn’t be taking place without her!

  7. Hi Gwen,

    If Bookslinger goes over there (I wouldn’t mind if he did), he will find that I am being asked to provide detailed references that prove things that can’t be proved.

    For example, I have conjectured that Elvira Cowles did not have sex with either Joseph Smith or Jonathan Holmes, though she was technically “married” to them for long enough that conjugal relations should have produced a child with either of them. This reasonable conjecture is being dismissed using accusations that fall apart when one considers the reproductive history of her ancestors and her descendants. But those who wish to believe that she was having polyandrous sex (or even just sex with Joseph) will claim that there are environmental factors. They don’t explain why those environmental factors suddenly went away once Joseph was dead. In the terms used by the UK decision setting a legal bar for conscientious history, they are offering implausible explanations for dismissing a reasonable conjecture. This is lumped into the category of deceit and fraud in that decision.

    I remember Bruce’s 8 Dec 2014 post Why We Fight: The Bloggernacle and the Morality of Personal Attacks. At the time I read it and thought I had an understanding. But my understanding was only intellectual.

    I also remember a time in 2014 when I was always talking about schema, such as in this short post about Aphorisms, Schema, and teaching our Children. The idea is that once our schema is sufficiently set, we will be unable to remember or even perceive truths that do not fit that schema.

    I was told I was being discussed over at Mormon Dialogue. Intrigued, I popped over there. I do love their community interface, by the way. Seeing that I had been accused of being something unflattering, I dove in.

    I was a bit like Hyrum, certain that the history “is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity or heavenly origin.” But I had not realized that this is a group of people who discussed my writings in 2014 and decided I was ludicrously wrong. For this group, anything Meg Stout says is a priori wrong, stupid, ignorant, not literate, etc.

    The good for me is that I now have a better idea of why people who I had thought would be able to understand my research can’t.

    In the case of the folks at Mormon Dialogue, there are those who appear not to realize that the thing they are doing is not as innocuous as they seem to believe.

    But as I am committed to loving everyone, I will keep loving the folks at Mormon Dialogue. And I will keep responding patiently if I choose to continue participating there.

  8. That’s great, Meg! I hope you do continue participating. There’s a bit of a learning curve getting used to the forum and its rules over there, but there are some really wonderful people who are members on that board.
    You also have a lot of requests for references that you haven’t responded to yet and I look forward to seeing them!
    Take Care

  9. Most references are simply appeals to other peoples opinions. It becomes a sort of intellectual mob rule. For most of her life Meg has worked in fields where actual experiment and the results of the experience of reality are the only meaningful evidence. She is a natural mathematician and a physicist by training and has worked in designing military systems and growing systems based on experiments she supervised, closely observed or originated. If you meet Meg in person you may get the impression that she is somewhat vague, but make no mistake, she has a first rate intellect. Where she uses the writings of others it is not in an attempt to align herself with them for purposes of prestige, but as a means of gaining insights and additional information. I have ‘wrestled’ with Meg over various versions of the history of polygamy she has explored or advocated and have at times been a vigorous critic. I agree with Bookslinger that Meg should have provided an overview of her theses at the beginning because so much that she writes is unfamiliar. In the past year or so I have seen some of her ideas percolating through the Mormon history community although they do not attribute her for their ‘new’ insights. The recent publicity about Hugo Perego’s research demonstrates the trend. Unlike Meg whose training was primarily in the hard sciences, my training was primarily in the social sciences and I am aware of how very important references and burrowed prestige are in that community. I hope Meg keeps her focus on reason and available evidence, even when she is condemned for what seems to be speculation. Citing other experts to justify her ideas, except where they are actual scientists like Perego only dilutes the force of her arguments for those of similar intellectual strength.

  10. Meg, I’m just now getting caught up with the discussion over on the Mormon Dialogue board. I have to hand it to you for continuing to return and for admitting all your errors (such as there were no “strikers” associated with Bennett once you actually read what is written in the Expositor, no documentation to back up nearly all your claims about the wives and much more).
    Will you be correcting all of the errors that you’ve made? I know many will be watching to see if you do.
    Anyway, kudos for continuing to discuss over there.

  11. Hi Gwen,

    I am content to substitute “acolyte” where I had previously used “striker.”

    You are wrong to state that there is no documentation to back up my hypotheses about the rest.

    In retrospect, I lost interest in the Mormon Dialogue discussion when I realized John Williams had been in error regarding William Noon accompanying Sarah Peak Noon to America (John Williams stated William Noon had remained in England, but William Noon is clearly listed as one of the passengers on the Rochester which arrived in New York on April 20, 1841).

    I was also dismayed at how those commenting at Mormon Dialogue were willing to entirely dismiss the account of Dennison Harris, written down by Horace Cummings. There was no logical basis for discarding this account, or at least the objections stated were not logical.

    So the term strikers will be removed as obscure and ambiguous, the Thomas Brotherton letter will be mentioned, I will confidently assert as fact that William Noon did travel to American with Sarah Peak Noon. Other than that, I do not see that my reasonable conjectures are in any way disproven by the hundreds of printed pages worth of commentary at Mormon Dialogue.

    All the sturm und drang at Mormon Dialogue has documented is the utter hostility some are willing to demonstrate towards a thesis that contradicts their worldview. But we already knew this from the rape, killing, and destruction of property suffered by our Mormon forebears at the hands of ostensibly Christian people in Missouri and Illinois.

  12. So, someone made one error over there and you throw all the rest of the help you received that IS supported by documentation and evidence? Ok (and, this still does not prove anything about Heber fathering Sarah Noon’s child or not). It’ll be interesting to see you attempt to publish anything for scholarly review (you got a taste of this already over on Mormon Dialogue where there are many very knowledgeable historians who post there and who systematically disproved one of hypotheses after another in just the introduction and first chapter of your book).

    I really don’t blame you for choosing to stay off of discussion boards that really examine your writings and prove them to be fiction. I do again have to say, that it’s admirable you even attempted to defend yourself over there.

    I would recommend anyone who believes all of Meg’s writings to take a look at what was written in the threads over there and see how much in error she is about most of her assumptions. Or at least dig a bit deeper yourself regarding church history and what took place in Nauvoo.

  13. Hi Gwen,

    I take it that you, like most of those commenting over at Mormon Dialogue, have never bothered actually reading my book.

    The folks here who have bothered reading my book or even reading all of my blog posts are aware that I started from the standpoint of assembling a plausible alternate history (the time up until summer 2014 when I would talk about midrash). At about my third of fourth post my husband’s request for footnotes persuaded me to reference what I was saying, which meant that each week I was taking what I had come to think was history and documenting it fresh from the sources that are plentifully available in original form or peer-reviewed papers on the Internet. When I got to the week prior to writing the post “Hunt in the City Beautiful” a fellow researcher sent me PDFs of the handwritten women’s testimonies given in 1842 as well as the handwritten High Council minutes. That is when I first knew that what I had was not merely a plausible alternate history, but a history that had been hidden and almost entirely ignored by mainstream historians.

    Yesterday my family enjoyed watching Joss Whedon’s Firefly series and the accompanying Serenity movie. I rather enjoyed one line from the movie:

    Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Half of writing history is hiding the truth.

    In the matter of Nauvoo history, we had the ecclesiastical history, which never likes to document publicly the sins of the fallen. We see that in our own day, where what we know about “high profile” excommunications comes almost exclusively from the excommunicates themselves.

    In Nauvoo, as now, the majority of words written on a subject come from those who have fallen away, from Austin Cowles and William Law and John C. Bennett.

    History is not like journalism, where there is often a mandate to give all sides credibility and equal time and space. In history there is one set of actual events that occurred. In proper and objective history, the goal should always be to determine what really happened, even if that reality can be subsequently interpreted through multiple lenses.

    You have a curious standard for proof, if you think the thousands of words cast against me at Mormon Dialogue constitutes proof that I am wrong. First, much of what they attacked was a cartoon of my actual hypotheses, drawn from my early 2014 posts. Second was the conflict where I attempted to suggest that there are multiple possibilities for the reports we have regarding Joseph’s conjugal behavior with plural wives, in light of the DNA evidence proving that children long-believed to be engendered by Joseph were actually engendered by their legal fathers.

    Calm (reportedly a key person in the FairMormon organization) is dedicated to the idea that Joseph participated in conjugal sexual activity with his plural wives, including those women who were legally married to other men where DNA evidence proves that the children born were fathered by the legal father. Calm stated they are suspicious of anyone who doesn’t accept that Joseph was engaged in sexual polyandry, setting that up as a shibboleth for determining whether someone is a credible historian. Calm also stated that anyone attempting to use my hypotheses as a starting point or reference for PhD level research should be strenuously corrected. Calm is the most reasonable and knowledgeable of those commenting on what I am saying, and Calm has been unable to get their PDF reader to work with the digital version of my book, so is going back to my early posts.

    The matter of William Noon is not merely an error on John’s part. It was a specific accusation leveled at me, supposedly a proof that I was wrong. It became a subject on which the chorus of same-thinking folks decided to deride me, for not knowing about the Rochester passenger list. Yet none of them had bothered looking at the list, taking John’s assertion as truth.

    Those participating at Mormon Dialogue in the thread on Joseph Smith’s Polyandry style themselves as the cognoscienti, representative of all right-thinking academic historians. I submit that the extensive discussion on that thread demonstrates a clash of two worldviews, a clash wherein those who perceive themselves to have the upper hand have behaved in a triumphalist manner insufficiently supported by their claimed facts.

  14. Meg Stout stated:

    “Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: Half of writing history is hiding the truth.”

    Well, the academic historians over on the Mormon Dialogue & Discussion board will all agree that you at least know how do that!

    Again, I don’t blame you for cowering away from that board, as you were definitely schooled on the methods of good research and historical writing. As many stated, you’ve done much research, it’s just a shame you chose to spin it into fiction. No scholar will take your book or writings seriously. Only those who desperately want to hide their head in the sand and keep their fingers in their ears will follow you and believe what you write.

    Too bad you left over there without answering the great majority of requests for documentation or sources to back up all your claims. They’re left to assume you have none.

    And, about William Noon. You still have no evidence that he made it to Nauvoo or fathered Adelbert Kimball rather than her current husband, Heber C. Kimball being his father, just as you have no evidence to back up most of your assertions and theories. Heber and Sarah were MARRIED. What would be wrong with them having a child?

    Same with Joseph and his WIVES. What’s odd is that you have to make up fiction to prove that a husband did not have sex with his wife!!!

    Good luck to you, Meg. I look forward to you attempting to publish papers to be peer reviewed.

  15. Hi Gwen,

    I told the folks at Mormon Dialogue I would be back in a week.

    What I have written in my book is reasonable conjecture, not fiction.

    I never said Joseph Smith did not engage in conjugal relations with his wives. What I have done is call into question whether conjugal relations occurred as often people commonly assume. Specifically, I have stated that the data doesn’t fully persuaded me that conjugal relations occurred beyond a reasonable doubt in the case of Joseph Smith and his plural wives. The instances that are more likely than not occur at times when we see other men with plural wives engender children. And these were very limited periods of time.

    It cannot be proved who engendered Adelbert because he died as a child. I have no issue with the likelihood that Heber Kimball was the father of Sarah Peak Noon’s subsequent children.

  16. Meg,
    I’m glad you’ll be back over on MD&D. I hope you can then supply all the sources and documents that have been requested from you to back up your claims.

    Good for you for returning.

  17. I continue to be perplexed by the angst Meg has inspired with her series and book on Joseph Smith. Anybody who studies history knows that 1)history is always more complex than people think it is 2)new information is always coming out and 3)history is never “settled” or decided by a consensus and 4)historians make mistakes.

    Meg has come forward with a theory about Joseph Smith that may or may not be correct. In that sense, it is just like every other book ever written about the prophet. Is it better or worse than other histories? I would guess that it is probably not as good as many books written about Joseph Smith but probably better than some others. Her book almost certainly has some errors, just like every history book ever written.

    But I can’t see anything wrong with looking at Joseph Smith from another angle, which is what Meg does.

    And here is the interesting thing: recent DNA information shows Joseph Smith may not have fathered any children at all (except with Emma), which supports Meg’s theory. Yet instead of giving her credit, the “intellectuals” continue to deride her.

    If her book is that bad, then I have a suggestion for the naysayers: don’t read it. Ignore it. But you look foolish spending your time criticizing a book that is as bad as you claim it is. And you give her a lot more attention than she might deserve, which is very strange behavior if you really think the book is as bad as you say it is.

  18. Gwen’s post here come across more as status signalling than actual critique. Gwen seems to be here to feel good for attacking the heathen and to signal who is on the “correct” side of the issue.

    I don’t see much in the way of actual argumentation on Gwen’s part – just a few insults and some illogical reasoning based mostly on equivocation.

    And I have “issues” with Meg’s thesis, but I feel she’s acting in much better faith than nearly all her critics.

  19. Meg,

    My husband and I have been so grateful for your perspective and hard work. I hope you don’t get too discouraged by the negative press.

  20. Meg, looks like most everyone over on the Mormon discussion board has completely lost interest in this topic since you were so completely discredited.

    I still hope you will return and continue discussing as I found it interesting (especially all of the information that the academic historians presented in opposition to all your theories, as that was extremely fascinating information).

    I think it’s now up to you if you chose to return and attempt to provide any documentation that’s been requested by so many from you. Or you can stay here among your supporter who seem as uniformed about church history as you are.

    I sincerely wish you good luck and can tell you have a good heart and a desire to continue researching and helping others. Take Care!

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