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Reviewing Polygamy Criticisms (Part 1 of 6 Brian Hales)

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.

GT: Wow.

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?  Check out our conversation….

Brian Hales looks back on the 8 years his polygamy books have been published.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Brian!

053: Did Hales Write the Gospel Topics Essays?

052: Emma Denied Joseph Practiced Polygamy?

051: Polygamy & the Temple Lot Case

049: Mormon Polyandry:  More Than One Husband?

050: Joseph’s Youngest Teen Brides

048: What are the Theological Justifications of Polygamy?

047: Fanny Alger Part 2:  Marriage or Adultery?

046: 1st Plural Wife Fanny Alger: Time or Eternity Polygamy?

045: Polygamy Rumors – Declaration on Marriage

044: Does D&C 132 Conflict with Genesis?

043: Canadian Polygamy – Should it be Legal?

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LDS Church in Pacific (Part 3 of 3 Devan Jensen)

Micronesia, Guam, Truk. You may have heard of these islands, but what do you really know about them? Devan Jensen is writing an LDS History about these islands and will give us a sneak peek into his upcoming book.  We’re getting an early preview.

Devan:  It turned out there was a topic. They were coming up with a book on the Pacific, and I said, “Well, I was a missionary, in one of the most remote areas of the world. It’s an area called Pohnpei.” It literally means, “on the altar.”  It’s a very Christian nation now, about 30,000 people.  I was there in Guam, where the temple is going to be built in Yigo, and I was there in Palm Bay. Those were my two areas that I was a missionary. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to collect some of those conversion stories and some of the early pioneering members?” So, I wrote that into a chapter and that was published in the book. A few years later, I realized, “That is a really important story,” that for some–well, I understand why people aren’t writing about it, because it’s so remote.

Devan:  I’ll give you a give you a visual. So, imagine flying out to Hawaii, now flying out to the Philippines, halfway between there, approximately, is Guam and the Micronesia-Guam mission. So, it’s really out in the Pacific. I was a missionary there in Guam and Pohnpei. I decided I would be very interested in interviewing some of the other folks out there. So, I went out to the island of Chuuk. Chuuk is one of the–it used to be called Truk. Some of your listeners will know that. They’ll know that from World War II, because a lot of battles were there. Essentially, what happened, where we know about this story is, is after Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had their fleet in the Chuuk Lagoon because it was a beautiful, big lagoon. It was a place where it was naturally protected. I can’t remember. It seems like it’s about 1000 square miles. So, it’s a huge lagoon, surrounded by volcanic islands. Basically, they were waiting there, and the U.S. forces made their way west and then they just bombed the Japanese in that lagoon. There are so many ships at the bottom of that lagoon, to this day. There are actual skeletons, there are artifacts, like gas masks.

GT:  This was kind of a reverse Pearl Harbor.

Devan:  Yes, it was a reverse Pearl Harbor.  Being sensitive to the Japanese, this was sort of the payback for the Pearl Harbor, and it was very devastating attack on them. So, basically, I thought, “I’d like to go out there and interview some people.” So, I applied for funding and got some funding to fly out there. I recorded about—I’m trying to think how many [interviews] I did.  I think I did about six or 10 oral history interviews. I submitted those to the Church Archives, and so those interviews now exists there, and they will be donated to BYU as well, when I’m done with them. I’m not quite done, but really close. So, as a result of this, I decided to gather all these into a book. Now we have, we’re getting ready to submit this book for publication. It’s going to be called something along the lines of, From Battlefields to Temple Grounds. It’s going to be the Latter-day Saints in Guam and Micronesia, something along those lines.

Check out our conversation….

Devan Jensen served a mission in Guam & Micronesia and is writing a Church history book about the region.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Devan!

570: Improving Conversation on Divisive Topics

569: LDS Publishing & Media Assoc

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Improving Conversation on Divisive Topics (Part 2 of 3 Devan Jensen)

It’s incredibly easy to get into arguments on social media on topics like masks, vaccines, immigration, guns, politics.  How do we talk to those with whom we disagree? Devan Jensen had some ideas, on how we can use more charity in difficult conversations.

GT:  Of course, we have almost 100 years of fighting with them. Now, we seem to get along with them pretty well. How do we [talk about divisive topics?] Even in our political discourse, I mean, even in church, should you wear a mask? Should you not wear a mask, vaccine, anti-vaccine? How do we develop that spirit of brotherhood where we’re listening to each other and not fighting with each other?

Devan:  What a tremendous question. If I could answer that very decisively, you can make a million bucks off it, so, I’m going to only just touch on the surface of it. But I have had some engagements like this recently, where I’ve said, “Okay, tell me a little bit where you are, where you’re coming from,” and I’ve listened on social media, that’s my main platform.

GT:  That’s the worst place to be.

Devan:  It is the worst place to be having dialogue.  It’s much better to get in person. So, first of all, if you can get in person and talk with a person. Second of all, if you can express your love and concern, and third, if you can say, “Tell me your story. Tell me why you’ve arrived at this.”  For example, let’s just talk about the mask situation for a minute. What happens is people often go to a place of, “Well, it’s my right, it’s my constitutional right,” and they say…

Devan:  Right, exactly. So, I would probably start with something like this, “Okay, I understand, generally, that you’re concerned about our constitution, and you’re focused on our freedoms, and you don’t want our freedoms to be taken away.”  So, that would be–that’s common ground, we both share. I feel very much the same way. So, can you tell me how wearing a mask takes away your freedom in some way?”  So, maybe we’d start with that.

So, they could kind of kind of articulate, “Well, this is what I’m feeling, this is why I feel this way.”  It almost always goes to the core thing, which is, well, “I’m concerned about my rights in some other area other than masks, and so I’m transferring my concern about the freedoms into the mask thing.”

“Okay, I understand,” or shots or vaccines.

I had a good friend who’s strongly conservative, who said it this way, and I’m quoting him anonymously, because I didn’t ask his permission. But he said, “I am concerned about my freedoms being eroded in a lot of–in some area, but I don’t think masks are an area where my freedoms are being eroded.”

GT:  I don’t think masks were in the constitution.

Devan:  I thought, “That’s pretty, that’s pretty good reasoning.” He thought that through. He thought, “My community well-being is more important than the temporary discomfort I am feeling by putting this mask on or getting a shot in the arm.”  So, I think that he arrived at some good reasoning to help him to sort out those two things and separate them in a way that that didn’t feel threatening to him. So, that’s the kind of dialogue I think we can have with our friends who may be a little bit right or left from where we are.  We all are on some spectrum, and maybe on a spectrum on specific issues, even., there might be.  So, I think it’s helpful to recognize that that we do exist somewhere on a spectrum of political and religious beliefs. If we start there and start having people engage with us and tell their story, it will help us.

GT:  I feel like we’re in a little bit of a minefield here. But, I think these are the kinds of conversations we need to have.  Some other political minefields: immigration, LGBTQ.  Even within the Church, I think racism is a big problem, still. How do we–can you talk about how can we be more charitable for those with whom we disagree?

Devan:  I do like this quote, if I could share this. I kind of prepared some notes ahead of time. Above all, Be Kind. This is from Seven Keys to Successful Conversations, published some years ago by the Church. “Above all, be kind, show Christ-like love.”

Find out what else Devan said.  Do you have any ideas on improving conversation on divisive topics?  Check out our conversation….

Devan Jensen gives advice on how to improve conversation on divisive topics.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Devan!

569: LDS Publishing & Media Assoc