005: Brian & Laura Hales—Single-volume Distillation of Three-volume History; Polygamy and Polyandry

Brian-and-Laura-HalesMy friends Laura and Brian Hales join me for an informed, candid interview about the practice of early Mormon polygamy. A catalyst for our discussion is their recently published Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding—a distillation of Brian’s three-volume magnum opus Joseph Smith’s Polygamy (Brian has generously uploaded most of his documentation to Mormon Polygamy Documents: A Research Database). Our conversation covers a range of issues from polyandry and polygamy to misfires in rolling out plural marriage to secrecy that attended Joseph Smith’s sealings.

Laura is copyeditor of Mormon Historical Studies, the journal of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. In a forthcoming edited anthology, she assembles a cadre of scholars who help readers navigate Mormonism’s more difficult historical terrain (Anchored in Truth: Faithful Answers to Sincere Questions, slated for release in spring 2016 under the imprints Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center). Brian is an accomplished anesthesiologist who works at Davis Hospital; he also volunteers for organizations such as Medical Reserve Corps and Utah Medical Outreach. He is the current president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and will deliver his presidential address at the 2016 JWHA conference in Kirtland, OH—and he has a message for listeners: “Attend or else!” (Okay, I just made that up… but you really should attend.)

Brian & Laura Hales trivia: Brian’s finely tuned vocal cords rocked the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, 1999–2013; Laura is a real-life grammar maven who has taught English on a college level.

(Intro and outro music: “History Song” performed by The Good, the Bad, & the Queen from their eponymous album.)


7 comments for “005: Brian & Laura Hales—Single-volume Distillation of Three-volume History; Polygamy and Polyandry

  1. December 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    A great, really interesting exchange of information and ideas. Thanks to Laura, Brian, and Brent.

  2. Mitch Leavitt
    December 11, 2015 at 1:57 am

    Great discussion. Keep up the good work Brent.

  3. January 28, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    Interesting podcast. Thanks to Brent and the Hales for sharing their ideas.

    I believe Todd Compton in ISL dates the sealing of Sylvia to Joseph Smith to February 8, 1842, 8+ months before Windsor was excommunicated. Also, I’ve seen claims that Windsor continued to live with Sylvia (and sources that seem to support this) after the sealing to Smith. How do the Hales deal with these items that seem to go against the idea that 1) Joseph married Sylvia after the excommunications and 2) that there was in reality any sort of divorce? Are there sources that make it clear the sealing was not in Feb. 1842 or is this extrapolated out Sylvia’s 1882 explanation to Josephine?


  4. Greg B
    April 19, 2016 at 11:10 pm

    Did the Hales really say “we take as true everything JS said happened”? Can they not see the problem with that?

  5. Phil McLemore
    October 25, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Love the series but was disappointed in the Hales. They avoided answering questions such as, “Leaving aside the sex question, why polyandry at all?”. Evidence is scant in many instances since this was done secretly but they use holes in the evidence profile to support their faith perspective and in my view disqualify themselves as pure scholars.

  6. Andie
    December 12, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    I enjoy listening to Brent Metcalfe’s smooth voice and reasonable questioning of the Hales theology. I am not a mormon scholar, just a mormon woman with a college education from California (thankfully not Utah). And the mental gymnastics of epic proportion that the Hales go through is excruciating! I have lost all interest in ever being counted among the “mormons” ever again. And, the more I listen to this effort and other apoligists, to justify the sexual and/or emotional abuse and mistreatment of these girls, the more disgusted I am with this religion. I found out about one year ago all of this historical information. I can honestly say that I was sadly and surprisingly well insulated from this stuff, even in California! I guess I was too busy raising 4 children, working in research, and getting them ready to be missionaries. This is the saddest thing to me, knowing that I have to explain this crap to my only daughter, so she understands why I will not stay in a theology that expects women to be (1) happy to be in a sexual arrangement with her husband and other women (oh yeah, the baloney that if we dont want to participate then we won’t have to – where is THAT written in the canon OR practiced by JS et al? (another verbal manipulation to make stupid women feel better about their husbands cheating) and (2) that her only real divine nature and use in the CK is as an eternal whore and perpetual uterus. No thanks. THAT is not the God that I can believe in, and the Holy Ghost HAS testified to me of that. My husband and kids aren’t far behind, and I can walk away as I will not be manipulated into believing such filth. But I.appreciate the continuing discussion as more and more people hear the ridiculousness of these posited “theories” such as the Law of Sarah and the.Babylonian Code of Hammurabi being the reason for forcing and threatening – by God no less, for Emma to accept her husband to have intimate relations with numerous women that are not his wife. Good luck to the Hales and keep up the good work. It has worked like a charm for me. The more I hear them speak, the more of a huge stretch it is and the more women (and men who care.about women) with self esteem and a backbone will say it like it is….. ” Thats bat@#$$ crazy and I will not be manipulated into believing a loving father would condone this”.

    PS- I always.notice.the preponderance of men’s names in the comments saying such positive things about the polygamy discussion and D &.C 132, and I believe its wishful thinking that eternal polygamy is really “a thing”. Even though these men (Brian Hales included), protest that they could NEVER do it- yeah right! Protest much?? Sorry but its not, and all the attractive and intelligent women will ” just say NO” and RUN! Sorry to burst the bubble for you guys !
    There’s plenty of great, caring non-mormon men out there who don’t think that this is ok in any theology ( except for maybe Larry Flints or High Hefner). The church needs to aggressively denounce this or more women and men will leave. But they can’t AND preserve JS as a prophet…….Or……heres an idea….lets let women ALSO marry other men whilst being married already and have eternal sex with those other husbands, in case The MAN is infertile. THAT is an idea I am sure the GAs couldn’t get behind, but if raising up eternal seed is of such importance……
    Just a thought.

  7. Kent
    February 2, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    While I don’t find polygamy divine or originating from God, I did find Brian’s and Laura’s comments informative. I’m glad Brent did the interview and am grateful to the Hales for publishing the source material that is available.

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