In 2013 Gary Bergera was kind enough to read and to write a review of my three volume set, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2013) that was published in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. (Gary Bergera, “Book Review of Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology,” The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, 2013, Fall/Winter 33, no. 2: 184-192.) Normally authors (like me) need to take their lumps and criticisms, especially if the observations are valid. No book or publication is perfect and reviewers are generally compelled to point out weaknesses to their audiences in order to assist them in understanding the newly published volume’s contributions or the lack thereof.
For a variety of reasons, I felt Gary’s book review was inadequate, so I responded in a short essay entitled “Stretching to Find the Negative: Gary Bergera’s Review of Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology” published online by The Interpreter. Responding to critical reviews is not new. For example, in 2009 I wrote a review (Brian C. Hales,“The Latest Word,” Review of “George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage.” (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 42 (Winter 2009): 213-35.) outlining many of the weakness of George D. Smith’s, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage,” (George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage” (Salt Lake City: Signature Books), 2008.)) and he responded in a subsequent issue of Dialogue. (George D. Smith, “George D. Smith Responds,” Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought 43. no. 2 (Summer 2010): v-vii.) It is all part of the process through which valid interpretations become more available to researchers and other observers. Those interested can find a link to The Interpreter below:
More recently, Gary and I have published alternate views of the year for Joseph Smith’s first plural sealings in Nauvoo: