Joseph Smith Polygamy: Tough Polygamy Questions with Dr. Brian Hales (Part 5)

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Scott Woodward:
Okay, Brian, one last question, and you’ve already begun to answer this for us. After having thoroughly and profoundly studied about Joseph Smith polygamy, you are clearly still a believer. Why? What makes Brian Hales a believer in the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith and the core truth claims of the restoration?

Brian Hales:
You know, I would say that the reasons that I have my faith are both natural and supernatural. And I don’t know what your experience is, but I’ve had some dear friends leave the church in the last few years.
And almost all of them not only leave our church, but they leave supernaturalism altogether. They dive into the natural world.
And whatever pleasures and things can be discovered there.

And they forget any kind of a supernatural experience that they had, and they just basically deny that the supernatural is real.
And what I found, not through my study of polygamy so much as—although there were lots of coincidences and things about how things unfolded and how Don found things and stuff, that I think were beyond coincidence, but there’s always ambiguity in these kind of tender mercy moments, you know?
And I was—don’t know that there were any miracles, that I would say it was that clear, but as I studied the Book of Mormon, you come to understand that Joseph Smith’s natural skillset was just simply inadequate. No matter what the critics want to attribute him with, you know the critics today treat him like a superhero, and they give him any literary superpower he needs to be able to complete the Book of Mormon, but there’s not a single person who knew Joseph who thought he was the author.
That he could be the source of those words. So there’s a paradox there. But my point is that as I’ve studied the Book of Mormon and how complex it is, and this will all be out in my book in October.

I’ve come to a natural understanding of the Book of Mormon as natural evidence of the existence of the supernatural. And so Joseph couldn’t have done it without supernatural help. And of course we know that’s the gift and power of God as he translated it or revealed it.

And so my testimony is based not only on supernatural things, but the natural existence of the Book of Mormon to me is beyond the ability of the critics to explain, and I’ve accumulated eight theories, and anyway, that’s another discussion point, but none of them even come close to explaining how Joseph could have done it. It’s a pretty solid evidence of the reality of the supernatural, and I believe its content describes that supernatural and what we need to do here on earth and the purpose of life and the reality of God.

Scott Woodward:
Wow. So for you, it’s not ‘polygamy’ or, ‘Joseph Smith polygamy’, it’s the Book of Mormon.

Brian Hales:
Sorry, sorry. Shifting topics again, but— It’s a lot more fun to talk about Book of Mormon than polygamy.

Scott Woodward:
Well, agreed. But I will also say this has been fun. This has been fun today, Brian, to talk about polygamy with you. And we’ve talked about questions that trouble people, questions that really matter. I mean, ultimately, I think we both agree what matters is whether or not we keep our covenants with Jesus Christ.

But sometimes questions like we’ve discussed today get in the way for some people. They’ll stumble because a question that they can’t find a good, solid answer to causes them to lose confidence in the prophet Joseph Smith and therefore the entire work of the Restoration, and therefore, of course, to question their covenants and the validity of those. And so thank you for all you’ve done to help us get resolution to the kinds of questions that can trip people up and keep them from keeping their covenants.

God bless. Thank you for listening to this episode of Church History Matters. This concludes our series on plural marriage. For more of Dr. Brian Hales’ scholarship on plural marriage, we highly recommend beginning with his website,, then leveling up to his book, co-authored with his wife Laura Hales, entitled Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding. And then, if you’re still hungry for more, we heartily encourage you to tackle Brian’s trilogy on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. 

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.To listen to the full podcast episode, visit

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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