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Book of Mormon on the Baja Peninsula?

I’d like to introduce David Rosenvall.  He’s a name you may not be familiar with.  He has a few claims to fame:  1) He was a witness to the bomb blast that injured Mark Hofmann back in 1985.  (We played an excerpt of his interview with Curt Bench.)  2) He is the person who put together the scriptures on https://scriptures.lds.org!  3) While putting that project together, he and his father came up with a new Book of Mormon geography theory on the Baja Peninsula.    Let’s get acquainted with him.

David:  When I returned home from my mission in 1987, my father at the time was showing me something called hypertext.  It was a new technology on our little Macintosh computer.  He showed how he had the text of the scriptures, put it in and he was linking verses to footnotes.  At the time, boy, that was kind of interesting and neat way of reading the scriptures.  The scriptures at that time really weren’t in a hypertext format.

So we have an electronic version of the scriptures, probably the first one.  In fact I know it was the first one. The church didn’t even have one.  It had the footnotes and everything.  It was about the year 2000, we had been maintaining this, that we donated all of this text, all linked up in a format that the internet could use.  In 2000 that became https://scriptures.lds.org .

For about 10 years we maintained that for the church and did about 22 languages for them.  We got very intimate with the scriptures.  We got a really great understanding of them, just the linking and how they all went together.

His father is a geographer at the University of Calgary.

he picked up the scriptures and started going through them, and just trying to think as a geographer would think.  He says he remembers reading a scripture where it talks about the seeds.  The seeds from Jerusalem were taken with them to the new land and wherever they went, it said they grew exceedingly.  He said at that point he said, “I know right where this is.”

Because as a geographer he taught it for many, many years: seeds only grow in certain climates as you’re moving around the world.  He said, wait a second.  The climate of Jerusalem, it’s got to be California or Baja California, one of those Californias.  So that’s when he phoned me.  From then on, we spent the next two weeks combing the entire text in our search system trying to find things, so that’s how it started, kind of out of a phone call and a question.  We’re trying to disprove it to be honest with you.  That’s kind of been our approach from the beginning.  How do we disprove the Baja?  We keep getting deeper and deeper trying to disprove it.

What do you think?  Is this a plausible location for the Book of Mormon lands?  Check out our conversation in the audio above or video below…

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Did Hales Write the Gospel Topics Essays?

Yes & No.  There are the three Gospel Topics essays on LDS.org that deal with the topic of polygamy.  It probably won’t surprise you that Brian Hales played a significant role in this.  However, there are two other authors who played a very significant role in the other two essays!  Who are these women?

That was the first thing that was asked of me on the topic of polyandry.  Then I just sent them some general stuff, and I don’t know how many iterations it went through there.  Again I was excited to contribute to that.  I only looked at the Nauvoo material.  I know they had Kathryn Daines help out, and Kathleen Flake I think also are the other two that did the input on plural marriage.  I hope they don’t mind me saying that but they wanted outsiders to critique it.  If there were problems, they wanted to know about them before they published it.

Are you surprised who wrote these other essays?

I also asked Brian if he ward members know about his expertise on polygamy?

You know most of them don’t know.  We were at a ward party one time and we were sitting by some younger couples that I didn’t know because they had just split our ward, or rearranged the ward boundaries and there was a young gal sitting right across from me and she was, “Wait, you’re Brian Hales!”

Does he talk to people about polygamy?

Some of them come with faith and we can give answers, and then they go away happier.  I mean it isn’t an easy click your fingers, I’m doing better thing.  But we always tell people, just keep learning.  Be transparent.  Learn everything.  Don’t give up until you’ve learned.  You don’t have to give up faith today.  Find out what’s going on.  You can read the anti’s but read the answers.  Read the responses.

Other times when Laura and I meet with people, it’s just I think a box that they have to check as they’re on their way out of the church.  “Oh yeah I met with the Hales.  They didn’t help.”  So they’ve kind of already given up their faith.

The only thing I would say is if you’ve got questions, dive in.  I believe there’s somebody in the church who knows more about it than the person who wrote whatever you’re reading on the internet and they still believe.  With respect to plural marriage, we certainly have read a lot.  It strengthened my belief in Joseph.  It didn’t make me like polygamy.  I don’t.  I never want to do it, but my belief in him as a true prophet has just been strengthened.

Is he working on any other projects?

The thing that I would add as a response to your question, Rick, is that I’ve never been really been comfortable with the naturalist’s explanation of the text of the Book of Mormon.  If you can see up here, maybe you can’t but there’s all these versions of the Book of Mormon up here, the different printings year by year and if you look at the naturalist view, it’s just that Joseph got up one day and started to dictate this text, the 116 pages.  Then there’s a pause and we go to Oliver Cowdery shows up and then over a period of just a few weeks, he dictates 273,725 words by my count of the Book of Mormon text; that’s the 1830 version.

I’ve just never been comfortable that Joseph could have dictated that and so I’ve been investigating the different theories about that.  I’ve written an article I hope to have published.  In this article, what I did is I compared Joseph to other 24 year old or younger authors who wrote big books and I compared their education.  I compared their word counts and the complexity of their books.  When you line them all up, 24 years and older—Joseph was 23 when he dictated it but it was published a year later when he was 24.  I have to use the publishing dates of these other books because they are obviously written before.  The biggest book written by anybody 24 or younger is about 180,000.  Joseph’s book is almost 50% longer.

Look for Brian’s future essays on the topic of the Book of Mormon!  (Don’t forget to listen to our other conversations, from Canadian polygamy, to polyandry, to teen brides, to monogamy, to Fanny Alger, to justifications for polygamy!)

Check out our conversation!  There’s a video below and a transcript!

Brian Hales Role in Gospel Topics Essays

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Did Emma Deny Joseph Practiced Polygamy?

The RLDS Church was founded on the claim that Joseph Smith never practiced polygamy.  Even on her death bed, Emma Smith made the startling claim to some that Joseph never practiced polygamy.  Conservative bloggers such as Rock Waterman (see his post here) and even Denver Snuffer have made the claim that Joseph Smith was a monogamist.  However, current RLDS Church prophet/president Stephen Veazey has made the claim that historical records show that Joseph Smith did practice polygamy.  What does Dr. Brian Hales believe about these allegations about monogamy and Joseph Smith?

I have an article that I have been pitching to different people to publish on the denials.  To be quite honest with you, there are at least two other denials that clearly were not senility, were clearly not specially phrased questions where Emma just comes right out and they’re fairly well documented, said “Joseph did not practice polygamy.”

How do I deal with that?  I don’t know.  I do not have a good explanation.  I think Emma was an amazing woman.  I look forward to meeting her someday.  You know in our theology that’s a possibility.  She had the worst row to hoe of all the polygamist wives in my view.  She did remarkably well.  She stumbled, but I believe there’s plenty of forgiveness on these things for her, but I honestly don’t know how she was able to say these things that she said.  Hopefully these will be published. I’ve put them together, I just haven’t got them published yet.  It’s pretty clear that she just denied it flat out.  I don’t know how she made that work for her, but they’re there.

I also asked Brian how he deals with the idea that Joseph practiced only monogamy.

Brian:  You know it’s interesting, Rick, that you would bring that up because by the time this interview is aired, The Interpreter {a Mormon history journal} will have published a very long article that I have written where I don’t just give evidence that Joseph did it, but I actually attack the arguments by, I mention Rock Waterman, I mention the Prices, and then Denver Snuffer who is in my view just the latest false prophet.  Remember I started looking at Mormon fundamentalism and I documented and wrote articles on men or came as great leaders who came for this reason or that reason and then they just fall by the wayside.  There’s a number of these that I talk about in my book.  I think Denver is just the latest in all of this type of a pattern.

For those who have questions, the easiest way probably to detect Denver is he said Joseph didn’t practice polygamy, and then just look at the evidence.  I outline it all here.  It is true that most of the evidence that Joseph practiced plural marriage is from late sources, but not all of it.  The Nauvoo Expositor states right in there that Joseph Smith had a revelation.  It was read to the high council.  We’ve got testimonials from William Law and Jane Law saying that Joseph was teaching polygamy.  These are contemporaneous.  There are entries in William Clayton’s journal.  John C. Bennett clearly had heard some rumors.  I don’t know that he was ever in confidence of Joseph with it.  But to say that it’s all old is not true.  There are some very important contemporaneous sources.

What do you think of the arguments Brian makes against monogamy?  (As a reminder, this is part 10 of our conversation with Brian.  Check out parts 19 to learn the facts behind polygamy.)  Look below for a video and transcript.

Emma Denied Joseph Practiced Polygamy?