I’m excited to have Dr. Brian Hales back on the show. It was 8 years ago that Brian Hales published his 3-volume set on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. How has that held up? How does Brian address critics of his work?
Brian: You know, there’s always critics. But, recently, my friend Larry Foster, and others
have said that the three volumes that Don Bradley and I put together in 2013–they’re eight
years old now.
Brian: They do contain, really, transcripts or references to all of the pertinent documents
to the topic. I remember Don and I speaking that when we brought these out in 2013, that if in
10 years, we could look back and say we had found 90%, we’d feel pretty good about it. Well, I
honestly think we’ve got the DNA issue. Then, there’s this issue about Eliza R. Snow, perhaps
being raped in Missouri. There’s two or three kind of important things that would have been
included in the volumes, if we had had that data.
GT: Well, let me ask you this, because I know this did come up on the Facebook group.
One of the criticisms is that you will dismiss certain arguments if they’re too late in the record.
But, if they support your arguments, then you’ll accept those arguments because they support
your interpretation. There seems to be an inconsistency on whether something is an early
record or a late record, as to how you would interpret it. Do you think that’s a fair criticism?
Brian: I’m an amateur historian, trying to become a professional historian. There’s one thing that historians do, and it’s critical source analysis; [is it] late and early? Is it firsthand, secondhand, thirdhand? When was it recorded after it occurred? All of these are factors that historians have to look at to weigh the value. There’s contradictory evidence. Absolutely, there is. But, again, I assert that the interpretations I have taken is because you have to drive a pathway through the contradictory evidences, through the ambiguities that are there and come up with an interpretation, which you think is the most valid. It’s also the same interpretation that the Church has kind of solidified in the Saints, and in the Gospel Topic essay. You’ll find there’s no contradiction in my three volumes and the material that they’re presenting in those sources, but those are from believers. When you look at people who think Joseph was a fraud, and an adulterer, they’re going to interpret the data differently, not because they’re looking at different data, it’s just they’re going in with different biases. So, it’s not necessarily what the evidence says, as much as the person’s a priori beliefs before they see the data. I don’t know how you get past that. That’s just human nature.
Do you agree?
Ever since the Book of Mormon was first published, critics have tried to figure out its authorship. Did Joseph Smith plagiarize the book from other sources, such as Solomon Spaulding or other collaborators? Dr. Brian Hales tells more about these collaborator theories for Book of Mormon authorship.
Brian: I’ve isolated eight different theories that people have promoted, naturalists, as possibly explaining how Joseph created the Book of Mormon. We’ve heard about the Solomon Spalding theory. In 1812, a guy named Solomon Spalding wrote a manuscript, and he shared it with his friends and neighbors. He died two years later. Then, the Book of Mormon comes out in 1830. Well, some of those friends and neighbors said, “Hey, I remember this is the same story that Solomon Spalding told me.” Well, the manuscript was lost, so you couldn’t check the two. You had the Book of Mormon in your hand, but you only had the memory of these people. So, everybody jumped on this bandwagon. For 50 years, it was by far and away the most popular theory. But, then in 1884, they found the manuscript and compared the two.
GT: [They found it] in Hawaii, of all places.
Brian: Right. Well, they had it in 1834, but it wasn’t similar to the Book of Mormon.
GT: It was E.D. Howe that had it.
Brian: Right, and he knew there was huge dissimilarities, but it didn’t go along with the theory that he was promoting in his book. So, they just deep-sixed the thing, and it emerged 50 years later in Hawaii. I don’t know, I’m sure somebody has probably tried to trace that. It’s probably not too big a mystery.
GT: From what I understand, there was a newspaper in Pittsburgh, and then the assets got sold and it ended up in Hawaii, which is just a weird, weird story.
Brian: Well, I haven’t looked at it, but in 1884, when you compare the two, the names are different. There are some very general similarities on the fact that it’s a lost manuscript that’s found and there’s some talk about the origin of the Indians. But it’s about 50,000-51,000 words. The Book of Mormon is nearly 270,000. So, even if Joseph plagiarized every word, he’d still have to come up with 220,000 words on his own. So, to use it as a theory isn’t a real strong, real convincing interpretation.
GT: Well, I’d like to go in there because I do have a lot of very vocal people who still believe the Spalding manuscript is a legit theory. My response is, “Read it.”
Brian: Yeah, good point.
GT: It’s so stereotypically Indian. We talk about wigwams, and squaws, and delawanucks, and just very stereotypically Indian. Plus, it takes place, I believe, in the time of Constantine. So it’s off by about 1000 years, just the story plot. It begins when the Book of Mormon ends, basically. I’ve read it. It’s actually I think, unintentionally funny. It’s kind of like Gilligan’s Island version of the Book of Mormon, if you ask me.
Have you read “Manuscript Found”? Do you think that Joseph collaborated with others to produce the Book of Mormon?