Who’s the Real Amateur?

Pictured: Brian C. Hales, a rank amateur who doesn’t know the first thing about Joseph Smith’s plural marriage.

Jeremy Runnells, author of the popular anti-Mormon tract “Letter to a CES Director,” is upset. He’s upset that Brian Hales, one of the foremost authorities on Joseph Smith’s plural marriage, would dare challenge him and his accusations against Joseph Smith. On his website he pouts that Hales is nothing more than an “amateur apologist” who has authored a “hit piece” against him.

Screen shot of Runnells’ website taken on July 16, 2014.

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that “hit piece” these days seems to be little more than a buzzword used by ex-/anti-Mormons for “anything that uses data and my own words to critique what I say,” I find it rather amusing that Runnells would call Hales an “amateur.”

Here is a list of Hales’ publications on the topic of Joseph Smith’s plural marriage (and related topics in Mormon history) that have appeared in peer reviewed journals.

  • “Joseph Smith’s Plural Wives after the Martyrdom,” Mormon Historical Studies, vol. 13, no. 2. Fall 2012, 255-69.

  • ”‘A Continuation of the Seeds’: Joseph Smith and Spirit Birth.” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 4 (Fall 2012): 105–30.

  • Review of Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Journals, Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843.  Vol. 2 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers.  Journal of Mormon History, 38, no. 3 (Summer 2012): 236-53.

  • “Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy,” Journal of Mormon History, vol. 38 (Spring 2012) no. 2, pp. 163-228.

  • “Encouraging Joseph Smith to Practice Plural Marriage: The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword,” Mormon Historical Studies vol. 11, no. 2, Fall 2010, 23-39.

  • “The Latest Word,” Review of “George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “… but we called it celestial marriage.” (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2008). Dialogue, Winter, 2009, 42 (Winter 2009) 213-35.

  • “Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation,” Journal of Mormon History, 35 (Fall 2009) 4: 112-90.

  • “Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, and the Reported Incident on the Stairs,” Mormon Historical Studies, vol. 10, no. 2, Fall 2009, 63-75.

  • “’Guilty of Such Folly?’: Accusations of Adultery and Polygamy Against Oliver Cowdery,” Mormon Historical Studies vol. 9, no. 2, Fall 2008, 41-57.

  • “The Joseph Smith – Sylvia Sessions Plural Sealings: Polyandry or Polygyny,” Mormon Historical Studies vol. 9, no. 1, Spring 2008, 19-28.

This list, of course, is not counting his 3 volume work Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology or his essays that have appeared in the Persistence of Polygamy series published by John Whitmer Books.

I’m curious to know exactly how many articles Runnells has published in peer reviewed journals. And how many of those articles were on the topic of plural marriage specifically?

Of course, just having published in peer reviewed journals doesn’t make Hales automatically correct in all of his interpretations. But it does show that he’s anything but an “amateur.”

If Runnells, whose singular achievement in the field of Mormon historiography is having written a self-published, non-peer reviewed online tract that is only given credence on message boards or Internet sites inhabited chiefly by anonymous and overly self-confident ex-Mormons, wants to be taken seriously at all, and doesn’t want to appear as obliviously suffering from an amusingly ironic case of psychological projection, I’d recommend he put his money where his mouth is and at least match Hales’ prodigious publication output in reputable journals. Then, and only then, could he possibly with a straight face get away with calling Hales an “amateur.”

And no, Jeremy, I’m afraid that John Dehlin’s podcast doesn’t count.

16 thoughts on “Who’s the Real Amateur?

  1. Let us not forget that Hales has *paid money to Don Bradley to research primary sources* for him.

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Jeremy, than are dreamed of in your perfunctory googling and ex-mo forums.

  2. 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.

    • Jeremy,

      I don't even know where to begin in deconstructing this comment of yours. Let's just start at the beginning, shall we?

      "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."

      Do you honestly mean to say that Brian just passively sat back and let Don do all of the work? That he had no input or exercised no critical evaluation of the sources Don uncovered? That's quite a claim. Certainly Don had a very important hand in helping Brian. But to say Brian just threw around some money to have Don "do his research for him" and then took all the credit? Well, that's something else altogether. Could you explain exactly how you know this? Perhaps this is what Brian told you personally? Or maybe Don? Because I got a much different impression when they told me what went into the writing of Hales' books.

      "The real scholars in the field of polygamy have issues with many of Hales' conclusions and interpretations."

      Of whom do you speak, Jeremy? Quinn? Vogel? Compton? Who? And where have they published their rebuttals of Hales? I'd like to read them. I'm aware of Bergera's review in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal, but not much else.

      Or perhaps you mean yourself?

      "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."

      In other words, you can't refute Hales, so you immediately launch into a flagrant ad hominem attack such as this.

      Ironic coming from you especially, since you and your fanbase at the ex-Mormon subreddit are constantly whining about how mean and nasty apologist are, and how they do nothing but deal in ad hominem attacks against those with whom they disagree.

      Answer truthfully, Jeremy. How might you react if an apologist, lets say Hales himself, had said this about you, or maybe someone else like Quinn or Vogel? Would you let this kind of thing fly? If not, then why is it that you suppose its okay for you to do 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."

      So . . . am I to understand that it's a "false assumption" to assume you meant your letter to be an academic paper? And also that your readers should not assume that you are a scholar of any sort? Really? That's a fairly remarkable admission to make, Jeremy. But hey, if you say so!

      In the end, Jeremy, if you're so convinced that Hales is an amateur, a pseudo-scholar hiding behind his money, and that the real experts find his work just laughable, I have no doubt that you should be able to publish an academic, peer reviewed paper or two demonstrating such in the Journal of Mormon History or Mormon Historical Studies. You can start with Brian's first article published back in 2008, and systematically go through and refute each and every one of his arguments. Shouldn't be too hard for you, right? Go ahead. Give it a try. Tell me how it turns out for you.

    • I'm very curious to know how Mr. Runnells defines the word "scholar." His definition is clearly different than the one found in dictionaries of the English language:

      "A learned or erudite person, especially one who has profound knowledge of a particular subject." (Dictionary.com)

      "A person who has studied a subject for a long time and knows a lot about it: an intelligent and well-educated person who knows a particular subject very well." (Merriam-Webster.com)

      "A specialist in a particular branch of knowledge. A learned person; a bookman." (Wiktionary.com)

      Perhaps Mr. Runnells is incorrectly conflating "scholar" with "professor," one who teaches at a university. Yet he seems to accept evidence from scholars who have never been professors, including Fawn Brodie and George D. Smith.

      It seems more likely that Mr. Runnells prefers to dismiss Brian Hales and his work by calling him an "apologist," while reserving the title "scholar" for people who agree with him.

      Perhaps he can tell us who these "real scholars in the field of polygamy" are, and what qualifies them as "real scholars" in his mind.

    • Oh, wait: Maybe I misunderstood. Mr. Runnells' complaint is that Brian Hales isn't a scholar because he "hired Don Bradley to do his research for him
      [and] then wrote 3 books using his employee's homework."

      So we've identified the REAL scholar here, and it's Don Bradley. The same Don Bradley who had his name removed from Church records years ago, but who, after completing his research for that hack apologist Brian Hales, asked to be rebaptized and was just recently married in the Salt Lake Temple to a lovely LDS woman.

      But if Don Bradley is the real scholar here, how come he doesn't "have issues with many of Hales' conclusions and interpretations"?

      Or maybe Don Bradley ISN'T a real scholar after all, despite the enormous amount of research he did on Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Perhaps he, too, is simply an "apologist" like Hales. Even though he wasn't a believing Mormon when he started his research.

      No, wait…that's no clearer either….

    • Brian Hales's admission in a Facebook group:

      "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.”

      As for Stephen's other nonsense statements and claims will be addressed in my upcoming rebuttal of Hales' hit piece. Stay tuned.

    • I am a research assistant for two (soon to be three) Ph.D. Psychology professors. I will tell you, as a RA I do a LOT of literature reviews, and reading of source material. I sift through hundreds of relevant articles and make reports as to what these articles convey and which ones are important, relevant, or interesting. In fact, I perform experiments for them and even write whole sections of papers that will be published in academic journals. Does this negate the scholastic value of these professors? Am I the "real" scholar in this partnership?

      If this is the case, there is a widespread pandemic in academia. Every good scholar has RA's behind them sifting through the material and doing a lot of the "grunt" work. Many have a veritable army of RA’s shackled to their computers.

      I will call on RA's around the globe to rise against their tyrannical, so-called, "researchers". We will overthrow these despots and place ourselves anew on their throne of ineptitude and indolence! In the name of Jeremy Runnells!!

      p.s. Jeremy, I'm not trying to be offensive. I hope your don't take it that way. Just a little light-hearted banter 🙂

  3. Jeremy–good grief, I brought up Hales' hiring Bradley because it supports the proposition that he is a serious scholar, yet you assert the opposite! Scholars use research assistants. It lets them find even more valuable sources. That Hales used his own money to broaden his research shows just how thorough and serious he is.

  4. Hales still is alone among scholars on the subject of sexual polyandry, the sexual blessings of an ordained King and founder of the quorum of anointed, and the role of concubinage in the early church. For Joseph a legal marriage by the state could be circumvented by his priesthood authority in the church. Hales disagrees with Brigham Young, i.e. that "if the woman preferred a man higher in authority, and he is willing to take her and her husband gives her up-there is no Bill of divorce required". As a case in point, Brigham's marriage to Zina was higher in authority than that of her marriage to Henry. Henry believed that "whatever the Prophet did was right," and this included sexual license. Same with Sylvia Sessions. Windsor did not legally divorce Sylvia when excommunicated. Joseph had priesthood authority over Windsor, which included sexual license to Sylvia. Josephine likely carries joseph's nuclear dna. Then there is Mary Heron, Joseph received the blessings from the Lord to enjoy "frigging" her and there is no evidence of a legal divorce between Mary and her husband John occurring first, before this license was given.

  5. Someone like Runnells and Dehlin fling ad hominem attacks all day long at people who do not agree with them. Then when someone intelligently gives a rebuttal to what Runnells and Dehlin write it is a "hit piece". They can dish it out but can't take it. Dehlin and Runnells cry foul when they are challenged.

  6. Hello, I am trying to find the original quote for your statement above that Jeremy Runnells said 'Hales is nothing more than an "amateur apologist" who has authored a "hit piece" against [me].'. can you point me to the original statement? thanks.

    • Actually, since in your post you said, "On his website he pouts that Hales is nothing more than an "amateur apologist" who has authored a "hit piece" against him, " can you be more specific about the location of your reference for that sentence? I would like to read the original as well.

  7. The difference in research quality between Hales and Runnels is so blatantly obvious to any reasonable reader that anyone favoring Runnels' over Hales is hardly worth the time reasoning with. They're not interested in finding the truth.

    Hales nails it here:

    "The reason this might be important to you is that when I hired Don Bradley to do research for me, he was out of the Church. He had asked to have his name removed a couple of years earlier. He worked for me for two years locating every known document on polygamy from all sources. Then six months after we were done, he was rebaptized. Here’s a guy who has seen all known documents about polygamy and he was getting back into the Church."

    "Perhaps the primary difference between Jeremy Runnells and Don Bradley is the sources they consulted as they researched. I know Don looked at primary manuscripts and documents that were untainted by the opinions of apologists and antagonists. I do not know what Jeremy read."

    Hales is being very kind here: "I don't know what Jeremy read." Hales demonstrates that Runnels pretends to use a primary source, but really misquotes it inaccurately from a secondary source.

    In school, we called that plagiarism and expected an automatic "F."

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