Apologist Van Hale Denies
Book of Mormon Historicity
Van Hale hosts his own Salt Lake area radio program called "Mormon Miscellaneous"
On February 6th, 2005 Mr. Hale's guest was Simon Southerton, author
a Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church".
the two-hour radio broadcast, Van Hale issued a public statement, in
which he declared that he could not accept the Book of Mormon is real
history about real people.
Van Hale's position
on the Book of Mormon is similar to that of Brent Metcalfe's - and Metcalfe was
excommunicated in 1993 for publicizing his belief that the Book of Mormon
was "inspired fiction." So, why shouldn't Van Hale be excommunicated
for believing pretty much the same as Metcalfe?
I got a kick out of Hale's
"I view the Book
of Mormon as a lengthy extended use of a well-known and widely used
literary form. That literary form is the use of a seeming historical
narrative to teach a religious principle. The use of a literary form
does not constitute a lie. Mankind throughout history, now more than
ever, has been inundated with messages clothed with some literary
form. We do not call this a lie."
Hmmmm, what Hale describes
here is pretty much what Paul H. Dunn was doing with his "inspirational
fiction parable" personal stories he repeated for decades---and
Dunn was "retired" and disgraced for his actions. And yet,
here many years later, is the pro-Mormon Hale viewing the Book of Mormon as being
similar to Dunn's tall tales.
Trouble is, as every one
knows, LDS Church leaders, and FARMS apologists, have maintained that
the Book of Mormon is a literal history of a real people who sailed
from the Middle East and lived in the Americas for more than a thousand
years. For people like Hale to admit that the Book of Mormon is not
authentic history, while still maintaining that it's "inspired,"
is the height of cognitive dissonance.
His attitude makes real the
satirical line in the Mormon-based movie "Plan 10 From Outer Space":
"Just because he made it up, doesn't mean it isn't true!"
And they wonder why Utah
is called "the scam capital of the world."
Oh, well. At least Hale's
position is helpful to the Ex-Mormon cause in that he's yet another
influential Mormon who admits that the Book of Mormon isn't literal
history. True Believing Mormons can't honestly call him a "bitter
lying apostate sinner" to refute him---at least, not until FARMS
or some other Mormons launch a campaign against him, like
they did Grant Palmer, to silence him or censure him in some way.
Van Hale responds:
The fact is that I have never
considered the Book of Mormon "inspired fiction." I have given my statement
of belief. When you claim to state what Van Hale believes, do you not
think that you have the ethical obligation to be accurate? When you
present something as a quote from me, do you not have the ethical obligation
to present my words rather than you own fabrication of my belief?
I have always stated as my
belief that the Book of Mormon is an authentic Divinely inspired book of scripture.
Further, I have always maintained that its purpose is religious and
everything else is incidental. I contend that it has been remarkably
successful in doing that for which it was written. It has been the primary
missionary tool of the Church effecting a great change in the life of
millions and serving as the keystone of our Church. This was the purpose
of its publication.
I insist that the question
of its historicity is incidental. If you were to read my actual statement
you would find that I no where refer to the Book of Mormon as "inspired fiction."
I see it as far more than that. Joseph Smith claimed the Book of Mormon was of Divine
origin. Further, he declined giving the full details of its production,
and the very core of his teaching was that there was much that God had
not revealed to him, much that God had revealed to him which he had
not divulged to the Church, and some that, if he did teach it, even
the faithful members, in their current state, would would be startled
to the point of violent reaction.
I believe the Book of Mormon is of Divine
origin and have so declared that belief many times publicly. There could
be nothing more mainstream in Mormon belief than my position on this
question, "Did the Book of Mormon come from God?"
I have no problem with your
disagreeing with me or taking issue with anything that I have said.
But, you should attempt to represent my views accurately and when in
doubt, you could ask me directly. Fairness appeals to me. If it has
any appeal to you, you might consider a dialogue with me rather than
hiding behind the exmormon.org curtain where anyone can say anything
about Van Hale, except Van Hale.
Randy Jordan Replies
to Van Hale:
Van Hale: The fact is
that I have never considered the Book of Mormon "inspired fiction."
Randy: Perhaps not in those
exact words, but you're merely arguing semantics here. From the transcripts
of your radio comments, your position is that the Book of Mormon is both "divinely
inspired" and not "literal history." So the term "inspired
fiction" is a perfectly valid description of your own stated position.
If the Book of Mormon is not literal history, then it is by default fiction.
Van Hale: I have always
stated as my belief that the Book of Mormon is an authentic Divinely inspired book
of scripture. Further, I have always maintained that its purpose is
religious and everything else is incidental.
Randy: But, as several posters
here have documented, many LDS church leaders have clearly stated that
if the Book of Mormon is not literal history just as Joseph Smith claimed it was,
then it should be condemned as a fraud, and Mormonism has no right to
exist. (I will re-post more of my comments on this from a prior post
at the bottom of this post.)
Van Hale: I contend that
it has been remarkably successful in doing that for which it was written.
It has been the primary missionary tool of the Church effecting a great
change in the life of millions and serving as the keystone of our Church.
Randy: One could say the
same thing about the Koran, The Communist Manifesto, "Mein Kampf."
However, that doesn't mean that we should follow the principles in any
of those works, or their authors. The fact that a work of fraud is successful
does not equate to it being beneficial to mankind; rather, it merely
demonstrates the gullibility of its adherents, and the deceitfulness
of its proponents.
Van Hale: This was the
purpose of its publication. I insist that the question of its historicity
Randy: To repeat, your own
church leaders vehemently disagree with you. If the Book of Mormon is
not literal history, then logic and reason dictate that we consider
alternative explanations for its origins. We must look closely at Joseph
Smith's 1820's occult folk-magical practices, wherein he used a "peep-stone
in a hat" to claim to "see" buried treasure. We must
consider his early attempts to make
money off the newly-published Book of Mormon by sending agents to
Canada to sell the book's copyright for $5000. And we must look closely
at Smith's lifelong career of deceit, criminal acts, sexual
infidelity, etc., which church leaders and apologists try desperately
to cover up or deny.
Van Hale: Joseph Smith
claimed the Book of Mormon was of Divine origin. Further, he declined giving the
full details of its production.
Randy: That's true, but numerous
eyewitnesses stated that he "translated the golden plates"
by placing his "seer stone" into his hat, burying his fact
in the hat, and the words on the plates would appear on the stone in
English, which Smith would then dictate to a scribe. Read my documentation
and comments on this at
Van Hale: There could
be nothing more mainstream in Mormon belief than my position on this
question, "Did the Book of Mormon come from God?"
Randy: Mr. Hale, you're
only fooling yourself. Your position that the Book of Mormon is not literal history
cannot be considered "mainstream in Mormon belief" by any
stretch of the imagination.
Van Hale: If it has any
appeal to you, you might consider a dialogue with me rather than hiding
behind the exmormon.org curtain where anyone can say anything about
Van Hale, except Van Hale.
Randy: Well, your post to
which I am responding has been up for almost an hour, and it hasn't
been deleted yet. I hope that the admins will allow this discussion
to continue, because frankly, your views come just as close to "apostasy"
as they do to "defending the faith." Perhaps one day soon
you'll take that final step and admit that since the Book of Mormon is not literal
history, then Mormonism cannot possibly be "true."
Below are my comments from
an earlier post. You were quoted as saying on your radio show:
have that great commitment in our LDS faith to history anyway."
To which I replied:
Yes, that statement is nonsensical,
seeing as how the LDS church has spent untold millions of dollars on
buying up sites where incidents in Mormon history occurred, regardless
of how trivial, and they put up historical markers noting every tiny
event they can recall. Also, the church has collected and maintained
many thousands of historical documents including personal pioneer journals
etc. So, although the church works mightily to prevent negative aspects
of its history from being dispensed, they nevertheless have a "commitment
to history" like few other organizations do.
The very reason David O.
McKay provided $250,000 in seed money to fund Thomas Ferguson's New
World Archaelogical Foundation (the precursor to FARMS) back in the
1950s was to try to locate and identify data which would verify the
Book of Mormon's historicity.
Another of Van Hale's silly
"There is room for
Latter Day Saints to believe that the Book of Mormon is an authentic
divinely inspired book of scripture without making a commitment that
it is a um… a translation of ancient history."
And he says this, while being
well aware that Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni told him
that the golden plates (real objects, not "special effects"),
contained "an account of the former inhabitants of this continent,
and the source from which they sprang."
The Book of Mormon itself claims that
real, living people (the Jaredites and Lehites) emigrated from real
places (the Middle East, and Jerusalem specifically), to another real
place (which can only be identified as the American continent, since
the Book of Mormon "prophesies" of its future "discovery" by
The Book of Mormon also claims that
the "restored gospel" will be preached to the descendants
of the "Lamanites" in these "Latter Days." Pray
tell, how can the gospel be taken to an imaginary people?
If the Book of Mormon is not a real
history of people who actually lived in ancient America, then since
Joseph Smith claimed it was, it is a fraud, and should be condemned
As two Church Apologists
"There are those who
say, 'I believe that doctrine is all that is important in the Book of
Mormon. We do not need to worry about its history.' We are faced, however,
with the fact that most of the Book of Mormon IS history.....The history
is a convincer of the authenticity of the book as much as the doctrine
"The historicity of
the Book of Mormon is crucial. We cannot exercise faith in that which
is untrue, nor can 'doctrinal fiction' have normative value in our lives."
-----Robert L. Millett
I predict that if opinions
of the Book of Mormon like Van Hale's are becoming widespread in the church, then
Mormonism will begin to fall like a house of cards in just a few more
years. Hale's position reminds me of LBJ's comment after Walter Cronkite
went to Vietnam, came back, and suggested that the U.S. pull out: "If
I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the whole country." Similarly, if
high-profile, supposed pro-Mormons like Hale are admitting that the
Book of Mormon isn't literal history, then the church cannot long hold its grip
on the general membership.
Eleven years ago, the church
excommunicated Brent Metcalfe for voicing such heresy. A few months
ago, they merely disfellowshipped Grant Palmer for publishing similar
views. So, will church leaders take no action against Van Hale? Remember
Hinckley's comments in one of his interviews, that church members are
free to hold dissenting views as long as they keep them to themselves---but
"when they speak out, we move in" (to censure or punish them.)
These are interesting times.