[This post was originally written by Brian Hales and is cross posted from his blog at Joseph Smith’s Polygamy.]
The Book of Mormon prophet Samuel prophesied that five years from the time of his preaching, Christ would be born, and “a new star [would] arise” in their heavens (Hel. 14:5). As predicted, the star arose, which might have validated Samuel as a true prophet in the eyes of the people. Instead, “it came to pass that from this time forth there began to be lyings sent forth among the people, by Satan, to harden their hearts, to the intent that they might not believe in those signs and wonders which they had seen” (3 Ne. 1:22).
The sending forth of “lyings” is not a new phenomenon. It began with the first generation of this earth: “And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters. And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not” (Moses 5:12–13).
Recently Jeremy Runnells wrote two articles, “Letter to a CES Director: Why I Lost My Testimony” and “Debunking FAIR’s Debunking,” where he outlines his reasons for his current disbelief. I analyzed his statements regarding plural marriage in a short essay entitled “Jeremy Runnells—the New Expert on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy?” There I examine his primary claims and methodology, of which I am quite critical. Jeremy responded on a blog:
Hales is not a scholar. He’s an anesthesiologist who hired Don Bradley to do his research for him. He then wrote 3 books using his employee’s homework.
Author? Sure. Apologist? Yes. Amateur? Yes. Scholar? No. He’s an apologist disguising himself as a scholar. The real scholars in the field of polygamy have issues with many of Hales’ conclusions and interpretations.
Anyone with big bucks and writing skills can do what Brian did. All you have to do is hire guys like Don Bradley to do all the work for you and then you throw the stuff in a nice hardcover book with your name on it.
I never claimed to be a scholar or expert or that my letter is an academic paper. This is the false assumption that Brian makes in his hit piece.
I wrote in response:
Runnells is correct that I am an amateur historian. I do not have a PhD in history and so will never be a professional historian. In fact, I tell people my books are part of my “full anesthesia services.”
It is true that Don Bradley did most of the field research. In addition, he contributed to the overall interpretations in the book, but I alone am responsible for what is written. Don was living with my family at the time [I was writing and compiling] and we had so many conversations regarding the evidences, that I ultimately listed him as an assistant, a title he clearly deserved. For clarification, I did all the writing, except for a few excerpts from emails Don sent to me that are all plainly identified and footnoted. Don did a great job and I’m grateful for his help. The three volumes could not have been written without his contribution. . . .
Over the past few years I’ve tried to view every known document dealing with polygamy. As a consequence of that effort, my belief in Joseph as a true prophet, a reluctant polygamist, and a man who tried sincerely to live his teachings, has been strengthened. It is quite a different story than the fraud, hypocrite, and adulterer portrayed by Jeremy. I believe that when all of the evidence is available, Joseph does just fine.
At this point, perhaps a primary concern is Jeremy’s admission that his Letter to a CES Director was not an “academic paper,” and he is not “a scholar or expert.” It seems he is saying he has not really researched the accuracy of the things he has published on the Internet. If his writings on plural marriage are any indication, then it is obvious to me that he has not. In addition, if scholarship is not the primary goal, then what motivates Jeremy Runnells to expend so much energy portraying Joseph Smith as a false prophet?
Throughout history, opposition has always accompanied the expansion of truth (see 2 Nephi 2:11). Christ told his disciples: “It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18:7). Jeremy Runnells reflects confidence in his interpretations and satisfaction in his aggressive antagonism of the Church and its teachings. He is obviously entitled to his own opinions and to believe whatever voices he chooses to believe. However, it may be possible to see in him and in his actions, a process as old as Adam and as predictable as the sunset turning into the blackness of night.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s observed in 1996:
Church members will live in this wheat-and-tares situation until the Millennium. Some real tares even masquerade as wheat, including the few eager individuals who lecture the rest of us about Church doctrines in which they no longer believe. They criticize the use of Church resources to which they no longer contribute. They condescendingly seek to counsel the Brethren whom they no longer sustain. Confrontive, except of themselves, of course, they leave the Church, but they cannot leave the Church alone. Like the throng on the ramparts of the “great and spacious building,” they are intensely and busily preoccupied, pointing fingers of scorn at the steadfast iron-rodders (1 Ne. 8:26–28, 33). Considering their ceaseless preoccupation, one wonders, “Is there no diversionary activity available to them, especially in such a large building—like a bowling alley?” Perhaps in their mockings and beneath the stir are repressed doubts of their doubts. In any case, given the perils of popularity, Brigham Young advised that this “people must be kept where the finger of scorn can be pointed at them.”
When lyings gain traction in the media, sometimes due to the efforts of individuals like Jeremy, Latter-day Saints are saddened, but not surprised.
: Neal A. Maxwell, “Becometh as a Child,” Ensign, May 1996, accessed July 29, 2014, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/05/becometh-as-a-child?lang=eng.