I am very excited to share my interview with Dr. Brian Hales! I was surprised to learn that Brian was recently called as an expert witness in a Canadian polygamy case. Canadian officials wanted to learn more about Mormon fundamentalists in order to decide whether the Canadian law prohibiting polygamy was constitutional. It was ruled that the law was constitutional. It does bring up a few questions. Do you think polygamy ought to be legalized? Brian had an interesting point of view when combining polygamy with gay marriage.
…personally I don’t think that we should allow polygamy either in Canada or the United States, but my reason might be a little surprising to you, because in a country or government that allows same-sex marriage, and again I’m not speaking for or against that, but if we allow same-sex marriage and we allow polygamy, you could have networks of people, hundreds of people all married to each other in a variety of ways.
If the government privileged marriage, in other words if a married man and a married woman, whatever kind of marriage it is, if they have a privilege a single person doesn’t have, then everybody’s going to want to be married in some way. I think it would force the government to basically get out of the marrying business and leave it as a social construct or a religious agreement. But in doing that it would also take away any privilege for marriage which I think could harm the family. So that’s my reasoning for saying I don’t think we should have legal polygamy. I think a society can absorb polygamy on a small scale. It obviously can’t be practiced widely because of the differences in people, male and female, the gendered differences of being born, but I don’t think a society can absorb both of the expansions or marriage at the same time. I mean you can do same-sex marriage, or you can do polygamy. I don’t think it’s good for the family to do both.
I can’t help but think that early Mormon polygamists would have disagreed with Brian. I don’t think early Mormon polygamists would have called polygamy “anti-family.” I also remember an episode from Sister Wives in which Kody Brown and his wives supported gay marriage. What do you think?
In our 3rd episode, we talked about the earliest polygamy rumors in Kirtland. Brian noted that there were some allegations of polygamy as early as 1831, but he discounted those rumors.
The first accusation against the Latter-day Saints, they weren’t called that then, against the Mormons, the Mormonites, that they had embraced some alternate form of marriage, came in 1831. It was in conjunction with the Law of Consecration and it was basically not only do they share everything, they share wives. That was the accusation that came up.
Of course it’s easily refuted. There’s nothing to support that it was even thought of or discussed. So when people say they were talking about polygamy in Kirtland, I would really like to see the data on that, that this was really a response to polygamy because my research shows that there was, with respect to Joseph and Fanny Alger, discussion of adultery and that was the claim that everybody was worried about. I don’t find anybody discussing polygamy during that period.
Dr. Mark Staker noted that the Declaration on Marriage in 1835 prohibited polygamy, and may have been written by Oliver Cowdery. Brian didn’t seem to think that polygamy was an issue, despite its mention in the Declaration on Marriage.
They had published we think most of the book up to section 101, which is the Article on Marriage and that they’re having piles of all these papers around the printing office. So we think, or at least I think and I think Michael [Marquardt] agrees that the driver at that point was really that they just wanted to get official approval so that they could finish publishing the Doctrine & Covenants and so I don’t think that they were trying to do something backhanded with Joseph.
When Joseph came back there’s no evidence that he really disapproved of what had happened. In fact he quotes or refers to the Article on Marriage two or three times later when he is performing marriages. He said this declares our church’s belief which they had to have in writing in order for the elders of the church to be authorized by the state to perform state recognized marriages, so there were a number of things….
GT interrupts: So whether Oliver may have authored it or not, it didn’t seem like it bothered Joseph at all and he was fine with it. Is that safe to say?
Brian: I believe so. I’d have to refresh my memory, but what we do know is he could have had it rescinded but he also quoted it as authoritative and Michael Marquardt pointed this out to me I think he’s even published that somewhere that Joseph did consider it after the fact to be the official declaration of the church at that time.
But the real question I had dealt with possible discrepancies between D&C 132 and JST Genesis. The heading for D&C 132 says parts of the polygamy revelation may have been received as early as 1831 while Joseph was translating the Bible. D&C 132 says God commanded Abraham to take a polygamist wife Hagar. However, if it’s true that Joseph was retransling the bible to look for polygamy, doesn’t it seem strange that Joseph left the Bible story unchanged? The biblical account says Sarah was the driver of the marriage to Hagar, rather than God? How does Brian explain that discrepancy?
Brian: So for me to see the JST Genesis and that it doesn’t necessarily say what comes in 1843 doesn’t surprise me because of the line upon line, precept upon precept process.
Does it bother you that the biblical account doesn’t seem to agree with D&C 132? When do you think polygamy first started in Kirtland?