Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, August 08, 2005

All Lies? My Experience with the Book of Abraham

A number of years ago a member of our ward left the Church and started a popular anti-Mormon Website. When I went to his Website to learn of his story, it appeared that losing his testimony over the Book of Abraham was what drove him out of the Church. After reading the critiques on the BOA from anti-Mormon publications, he became convinced that Joseph Smith lied about his ability to translate with the power of God. He and his family soon left the Church. I can sympathize with his initial reaction (but not with his later pursuit of full-blown anti-Mormonism) because it almost happened to me, too.

I think it was early 1995 when I seriously read and pondered some of the Book of Abraham attacks published by a Utah anti-Mormon ministry. I had experienced anti-Mormon rhetoric and thought it would be easy to see through the attacks they offered - but this was different than the typical anti brochure. A seemingly clear and convincing case was presented: (1) Joseph had some papyrus documents that he "translated" as the Book of Abraham; (2) those documents were lost for many years but have now been found; (3) scholars who now can translate Egyptian confirm that THE PAPYRUS SCROLLS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ABRAHAM. It was all a fraud. Ouch!!

I was very troubled by the evidence and was unprepared to deal with it. Could it be that Joseph just got it all wrong with the Book of Abraham? It sure seemed that way - but that created a real puzzle because there was no doubt in my mind, intellectually and spiritually, on the basis of extensive evidence and experience and powerful personal revelation, that the Book of Mormon was an authentic, divine work. Could he have gotten the Book of Mormon right and then fell as a prophet to mess up the Book of Abraham completely? I went to the Lord in prayer and asked for guidance, and explained that I sincerely wanted to know the truth, wanted to be able to bear testimony honestly of what was really true and needed to know if the Book of Abraham was divine or not. After this prayer, I simply felt that I needed to study more and be patient.

As I started digging up information on the Book of Abraham to understand the issues raised by critics, I soon felt CHEATED AND BETRAYED. Not by Joseph Smith, but by the anti-Mormons who had conveniently left out some of the most important information about the Book of Abraham. The anti-Mormon critiques I had read left the reader without the slightest hint that the Joseph Smith papyri - the fragments that were found in 1967 - were remnants of a much larger collection of scrolls, and that these remnants DO NOT MATCH the multiple physical descriptions of the scroll Joseph Smith translated as the Book of Abraham. That scroll appears to have been in the collection that was sold to sold to a St. Louis museum in 1856 and then later sent to a Chicago museum, where it appears to have burned in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The critics almost universally assert that the Book of Abraham scroll has been found, not allowing the reader to know the gaps in their argument. To inform people that some of the OTHER related documents in the Joseph Smith collection do not deal with Abraham is just not faith shattering enough, I guess - but even that does raise some legitimate questions, especially since some of the figures that are included with the Book of Abraham were attached to some of the other documents. But now the debate is of quite a different flavor. The results of my investigation, and the evidence that the anti-Mormons left out, are given in my LDSFAQ page, "The Truth about the Book of Abraham, Part 1."

Now in my recent post about lies, I made a comment about the "direct hits" I see in the Book of Abraham, and was asked for specifics. I go into these in some detail in my LDSFAQ page, "The Book of Abraham, Part 2 - Evidence that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and in "Part 3: Ancient Records Offer New Support for the Book of Abraham."

Here's one sample issue: Figure 6 in Facsimile 2, said by Joseph Smith AND modern scholars to represent "the four quarters of the earth." Bullseye. Just a lucky guess? Here's an excerpt from my page ("Part 2") that deals with the direct hits:
Figure 6 is the same as the four canopic figures under the lion couch of Facs. 1 and is said by Joseph to represent "this earth in its four quarters." How many farmers would have guessed that four little statues represented such a thing? But it is an entirely plausible explanation based on a modern understanding of Egyptian, and fits nicely into the themes of the hypocephalus. E. Wallis Budge explained, "These jars were under the protection of Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Serqet, and represented the south, north, east, and west respectively" [Budge, 1904, 1:210]. In the forward to Budge's translation of the Book of the Dead, Budge wrote that the four "children of Horus" were each "supposed to be lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points" [Budge, 1967, p. cxxiv, emphasis mine]. Joseph was absolutely correct.

According to John Gee [Gee, 1991], the four canopic vessels represent the four Sons of Horus, each of which has its own unique name, its own animal head, and its own cardinal direction. The link between the Sons of Horus and the cardinal directions was first established in 1857 [Brugsch, 1857], so Joseph could not have drawn upon scholarly knowledge in saying that they represented the four quarters of the earth. Indeed, there was essentially no valid knowledge of Egyptian to draw upon in 1842 when the Book of Abraham was published.

Stephen E. Thompson criticizes Joseph Smith's interpretation of Figure 4 [Thompson, 1995]. Concerning the claim of LDS scholars that the fours sons of Horus represent the four quarters of the earth, Thompson objects:
"As far as ancient Egypt is concerned, there is no evidence currently available to support this claim. There is only one context in which the sons of Horus are associated with the cardinal directions, i.e., 'the earth in its four quarters.' They were sent out, in the form of birds, as heralds of the king's coronation....I must emphasize that it is only in this context, and in the form of birds, that these gods were associated with the cardinal points. In the funerary context no such relationship is evident. Furthermore, the fact that these gods are sent to the four quarters of the earth does not mean that the Egyptians equated them with these directions. There is no evidence that they did so."

Thompson's approach fascinates me. Instead of marveling at how Joseph could have guessed even a remotely plausible meaning for the canopic figures, he quibbles. After flatly stating that there is no evidence for a link to the four quarters of the earth, then he admits that there is only one context - coronations - in which such a link exists. He then denies the relevance of that link, alleging that Facsimile 2 is only a funerary scene. I wonder if he is unaware of what Hugh Nibley has been writing about Facsimile 2 for many years: that it is centers around the concept of the endowment, which is the "coronation" of the resurrected soul in the kingdom of God. Indeed, non-LDS scholars acknowledge that figures of this type (the hypocephalus) are concerned with the life after, with a triumphant resurrection and entrance into eternity. It seems entirely reasonable to me to place Facsimile 2 into the context of a coronation scene, the one scene for which Thompson says the sons of Horus are linked to the four quarters of the earth. But Thompson can allow no room for plausibility in anything Joseph says.
I also disagree with Thompson's stance that only one context permits a relationship between the sons of Horus and the cardinal directions. John Gee provides others in his article. For example, in the Pyramid Texts, "the Sons of Horus are associated with the orientation of the four corners of the earth and used to orient the Pyramid" [Gee, 1991, p. 38]. They are also connected to winds from the four corners of the sky.
I feel that identifying the "four quarters" with the sons of Horus in Figure 6 is especially appropriate, since the four legs of the adjacent cow, Hathor = 'house of Horus', have a similar meaning mentioned in the quote from Campbell above.

Still puzzled about Thompson's allegation, I borrowed a copy of Richard W. Wilkinson's Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art [Wilkinson, 1994] from our local library. The discussion of the Sons of Horus in Wilkinson clearly links them to the four quarters of the earth or the four cardinal directions, with no hint at all that this connection only occurred during coronation ceremonies. For example, Wilkinson's glossary entry for the Sons of Horus explains that they "were four genii or minor deities connected with the cardinal points and which guarded the viscera of the deceased. Originally human-headed, they were regularly portrayed with the heads of different creatures: Imsety, human-headed (south); Duamutef, jackal-headed (east); Hapy, ape-headed (north); Qebesenuef, falcon-headed (west)" (p. 213). His section on the meaning of the number four notes that the four Sons of Horus were one of several groups of four commonly found in Egyptian art. Then he writes, "Frequently the number [four] appears to connote totality and completeness and is tied to the four cardinal points...The four cardinal points are certainly an ancient concept.... Usually ... the four areas represent the four quarters of the earth alone. This is the case in most religious rituals which find representational expressions" [Wilkinson, 1994, pp. 133-134, emphasis mine]. He does cite the coronation of the king as well as the jubilee ceremony as examples involving the cardinal directions, but there is no hint that the connection between the four Sons of Horus and the four quarters of the earth only occurs in a narrow and limited context.

Page 145 of Wilkinson shows a photograph of canopic jars (shaped as the Sons of Horus, containing human viscera) in a decorated chest (22nd Dynasty). Each side of the chest also has one of the four Sons of Horus on it, being protected by the goddesses Isis, Nephthys, Neith, and Selket. This concept is discussed on pages 70-71 in the context of placement of coffins, which were sometimes oriented with the cardinal directions (head to the north, with the body sideways facing east). The four Sons of Horus were sometimes placed on the long sides of the coffin, with two on the west side and two on the east. Wilkinson then notes that the Son of Horus are sometimes represented on the four sides of the chests in which canopic jars were stored. Again, the Sons of Horus are linked to directions in a context other than coronation rites alone. Joseph's "four quarters of the earth" remains a "direct hit," in my eyes. Now how can the critics explain that? If Joseph were a fraud, why the direct hits?




78 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kerry Shirts new BoA DVD's are very good. I've seen the one from his Sunstone symposium.

Dan the Man said...

Hugh Nibley has written many great books on The Book of Abraham, my favorite being "Abraham in Egypt."

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting pattern: that which is weak is made strong. The Book of Abraham appeared to be a laughable weakness in the armor of the Church for a while, but further research has shown that it's one of the strongest witnesses that Joseph was a real prophet. The evidence from other ancient documents is really interesting!

Anonymous said...

I can't find any information on the Kerry Shirts DVD.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the DVD is all about, but with Google I found this transcript of something Kerry presented: http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/lostbook.htm.

Anonymous said...

Kerry's DVD's are new. they should be available from the FAIR bookstore, or from him directly. He's "scripturelover" on the fairboards, www.fairlds.org

Bill said...

Interesting post. Grant Palmer, LDS CES Director, comes to a different conclusion (pg. 36 of "Insider's View...)

"My conclusion is that a large body of evidence demonstrates that Joseph mistranslated a number of documents. I know of no substantial evidence to support his claim to have ever literally translated any document...I harbor the suspicion that they (BofM, BoA) represent a nineteenth-century encounter with God rather than an ancient epic. This is enlightening on a spiritual level but of no value in trying to learn more about ancient America or the MIddle East."

Anonymous said...

Haha wow sounds like Bro. palmer needs to read Jeff's FAQ. It's so hard to believe the CES director does not agree with joseph smith's statement that he translated the book of mormon from an ancient record. I guess everyone is entitlted to their own opinions, but his certainly fall far from the tree. i'd hate to have him teaching my kids

Mike Parker said...

Bill, quoting Palmer: "My conclusion is that a large body of evidence demonstrates that Joseph mistranslated a number of documents. I know of no substantial evidence to support his claim to have ever literally translated any document...."

If Palmer truly believes this (and I think he does), it is not because there is no evidence, but because he has failed to interact with it.

Palmer's Insider's View is an irresponsible book written by an unbelieving CES employee who wouldn't come clean for 20 years, but instead waited for his pension to kick in before declaring his unfaith.

Jesso said...

Bill said: Grant Palmer, LDS CES Director

Makes him sound like the head of CES, however in truth, an LDS Institute director in Los Angeles, northern California and at the Utah State Prison. It sounds like there are a LOT of CES Directors

Bookslinger said...

Yes, there are a lot of regional or local directors in CES. I don't know the exact title.

It is a paid position of CES "Church Education System", which is some kind of subsidiary of the church, or a corporation that is owned by the church.

Our local director, here in central Indiana, supervises about 40 teachers of seminary and institute.

As I understand it, the teachers are unpaid positions, but I might be wrong.

Our local CES director has a secretary, but that is a part-time position.

Anonymous said...

i believe that, because of the amount of work that institute and seminary teachers are expected to put in, they do get paid, though it's not nearly enough to get rich on.

Dan the Man said...

Also see the great, great book,

"The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri."

Very in depth, very well documented, and the best scientific backing for the Book of Abraham I have ever read.

ESO said...

Early morning/home study Seminary and evening Institute teachers are NOT paid, it is volunteer work.

Bookslinger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bookslinger said...

ESO: Careful now. The RfM'ers might jump down your throat for calling it "volunteer" when they are "called" to the position. <wink>

Anonymous said...

If your evidence of the BOA is so convincing why doesn't the Church endorse it on their website and use as a missionary tool instead of having all the members sort through all the other theories explaining the BOA?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

If your evidence of the BOA is so convincing why doesn't the Church endorse it on their website and use as a missionary tool instead of having all the members sort through all the other theories explaining the BOA?

Because the Church does not want us to rely on physical evidence but on spiritual confirmations that the scriptures are true.

Anonymous said...

Book of Abraham - a different perspective

The knowledge of the Egyptian language among Egyptian scholars in the 1830's was in its infancy. Six years prior to acquiring the Egyptian mummies and papyri, Joseph had completed the translation the Book of Mormon which was reportedly inscribed with strange characters called "altered Egyptian." His natural curiosity for understanding and translating strange and ancient languages must have been peaked. This was also to include a period of time in Kirtland when the church hired a Jewish Rabbi to teach the Hebrew language to interested church members.

On July 3,1835 some of the saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus [from a Mr. Chandler], and I [Joseph, Smith, Jr.], with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc. a more full account of which will appear in their place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly can we say, The Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth. [LDS Church History, vol 2, pp 235-236; RLDS Church History, vol 1, pp 568-569]

From 1835-1836, Joseph occasionally mentions in his diary working with his scribes to create a grammar of the Egyptian language as an aid in translating the papyri, working on the translation and displaying the mummies and papyri to interested parties.

JOSEPH SMITH APPEARED TO HAVE HIS OWN DOUBTS

During the entire process of translation of the Book of Abraham, Joseph never claimed direct inspiration of God. Apparently it was produced through application of his acquired knowledge, rather than with any claim to extraordinary [divine] assistance. [C. Webb, Joseph Smith as a Translator (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1936), p.73]

Although at times Joseph referred to the ancient records as "sacred", he never referred to the Book of Abraham as scripture. In the Doctrine and Covenants, there are many references to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. There was no reference in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants to the Book of Abraham even though the Book of Abraham had been purchased 9 years prior and had been published 2 years before the death of Joseph Smith.

The first part of the translation of the Book of Abraham was finally published in Times and Seasons [vol 3, No.9 (March 1,1842), pg 703-706]. The title and preface read as follows: "Of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catacombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus." The use of the words "purporting to be" would seem to indicate at least some degree of doubt on the part of Joseph Smith, Jr. regarding its authenticity. This same preface as written above is repeated verbatim in the LDS History, vol 4, p 524. The original 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great

Price carried the same inscription. In the later editions of the Pearl of Great Price, as published by the LDS Church, the preface is also given, however, without the words, "purporting to be."

The same edition of the Times and Seasons that carried the first portion of the Book of Abraham, is also found the "Wentworth Letter" in which Joseph outlined the beliefs of the church. In the outline, Joseph stated, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Even though the first installment of the Book of Abraham was being published, Joseph neglects to mention it as part of the beliefs of the Church.

Two months prior to Joseph Smith's death, an article was published in the Times and Seasons which stated, "If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an impostor." [Times and Seasons, vol 5, No.7 (April 1,1844), pg 490] What is interesting is that there is no mention of the Book of Abraham, even though it had been published two years prior while Joseph was the editor of the Times and Seasons.

If Joseph Smith was responsible for both the Inspired Translation of the Bible (Inspired Version) and the Book of Abraham AND IF he considered both scriptural, why didn't he modify both to teach the same thing ( either a monotheistic God or plurality of Gods. The abrupt difference would suggest that his translation of the Book of Abraham was simply an honest human effort by one interested in ancient languages. Because his perceptions of the Egyptian alphabet gave rise to the translation that discusses plural gods it does not necessarily endorse that belief. Compare KJV Genesis 1:1-5 with the Inspired Version Genesis 1:3-8 which inidcate monotheism and the Book of Abraham 4:1-5 which inidicates polytheism.

I seem to recall that in the Hebrew language, the plural form of a word is sometimes used only to emphasize the importance of the subject, not to be taken as literally plural. Recall those Hebrew classes in which Joseph was a student? Might it also be that references to "Gods" may really mean that there is only one but a very important God?

PAPYRI LOST?

It is thought by some that Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the prophet, had been instrumental in the original purchase of the mummies and papyri. This might explain why she was able to gain custody of the Egyptian artifacts after the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. When she died in May 1855, Emma Smith, Joseph's wife, took custody. A little over a year later, Emma sold the mummies and papyri to Mr. A. Combs. For many years, it was presumed that the mummies and the papyri were eventually taken to Chicago for museum display. After the great Chicago fire of 1871, it was believed that all had been destroyed. However, the records were no longer to be found. Consequently, Joseph's translation would have to stand unchallenged for many years to come - accepted only on faith.

CANONIZED

During the 1880 semiannual conference of the LDS Church, the Pearl of Great Price was accepted as one of their standard books of scripture. Along with it, the Book of Abraham was elevated to scriptural status. As canonized scripture, the LDS Church committed itself to the accuracy and validity of the book.

PAPYRI REDISCOVERED?

In 1967, what some claim to be Joseph’s papyri were rediscovered in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artifacts even included the bill of sale, signed by Emma Smith Bidamon. According to Dr. Hugh Nibley the documents were not the source material for the Book of Abraham. Among other things, the papyri of Joseph Smith's day specifically mentioned a small amount of red ink. There was no red ink to be found on the recently acquired documents. Dr. Nibley identified the papyri as the "Book of Breathings." There are certain similarities, however, between Joseph Smith1s still existent Egyptian alphabet and some of the newly discovered papyri. Some feel certain that certain portions of these papyri were in fact used by Joseph when he wrote the Book of Abraham. However, current translations have no similarity to Joseph's translation but are in fact pages from the Book of the Dead belonging to the lady Ta-shert-Min, daughter of Nes-Khensu and from the Book of the Dead belonging to lady Amon-Re Neferirnub. The facsimiles, as published in the Pearl of Great Price, are identical to those found with the papyri, and are consistent with the Egyptian Book of Breathings. Those who are dedicated to the authenticity of the Book of Abraham are not in agreement regarding how to explain the inconsistencies from the analysis of these "new" papyri.

In an interesting comparison, the BOM had two sets of witnesses. The group of three witnesses testify of being shown the plates by the gift and power of God. The group of eight witnesses testify of physically being shown the plates by Joseph Smith and handling the plates. The two groups together indicate the physical existance of the plates and the divine authority and protection.

If the Book of Abraham is an inaccurate translation of a BoB or a BOD, then Joseph's translation of the BOM could be brought into question. I see the translation of the BOM by Joseph Smith as being through the gift and power of God. I see the translation of the BoA by Joseph Smith as being a human effort alone, without the assistance of God. By accepting the BOM as scripture and not accepting the BoA as scripture, I am not condemning Joseph Smith's efforts. I see Joseph Smith as very human, and when acting on his own was lousy at translating ancient languages. I consider the translation of the BoA to be considered solely the human effort of a very human Joseph Smith. I am, instead, praising the handiwork of God. The importance of the BoA is to prove to the world that it was God who preserved and provided us with the BOM, not Joseph Smith. As more and more evidences are found to support the Book of Mormon, it is not Joseph Smith that is vindicated but Almighty God, Himself.

I am RLDS, hence a different perspective. goirish2@cox.net

Them Mormons said...

If what you say is true about Joseph having "doubts," and him not translating it with the divine power he used to translate the Book of Mormon, it would not seem weird. Considering the fact that Joseph didn't translate the Book of Abraham the same way as the Book of Mormon, one would be worried that he didn't do it correctly. Nevertheless, Joseph still had the BoA published.

Dirk said...

I haven't studied super-extensively into this topic, but I can relate to Jeff, in that when I exposed to it, it gave rise to certain questions in my own mind.
I had of course encountered the allegations against the Book of Abraham sometime over my mission (which, btw, I served in Wisconsin&the UP of Michigan), maybe some before, and was placated by the explanation that not all the papyrus was recovered, and the red-ink thing, etc. However, I came across some evidence on an atheist web-site which led me to a bit of further research, and I discovered a paper by John Tvedtnes, transcribed by Kerry Shirts, called "Mnemonic Device of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Egyptian Alphabet & Grammar & the Book of Abraham." In there it puts forth an explanation concerning what Hugh Nibley referred to as the Hor Sen-Sen Papyrus, and it being a Mnemonic Device, or super-crypto-gram, for the message of the Book of Abraham, also speaking of its relationship to Joseph Smith's "Egyptian Alphabet & Grammar." It seems to be a reasonable explanation, but it is from 1968.

My question is to Jeff: Have you seen this, and do you think it is still a viable option after about 40 years? Also, did you receive a more definitive answer to your prayers on the matter, other than the physical information you found?

I got my copy of the text from http://www2.ida.net/graphics/shirtail/mnemonic.htm

As I side note, I would like to mention that my testimony of the restored Gospel is not based on these bits of information and insights to Church History. Mine is not an intellectual testimony only, but is in fact based more on prayer and fasting. Sometimes our intellect can be fooled. Sometimes history can really get messed with. I read the book on Mark Hoffman's case, and it opened my eyes to things as far as forgeries go too. Anyhow, I know the truth of the gospel. I was raised as a non-Christian (non-religious), have been an atheist, and agnostic. In my later teens I thought a lot more about what is truth in this world, and though I had rejected the Bible and Christians, (in part because of 'Christians' I had met), I came to believe in Christ thru the Book of Mormon, and thru prayer and communication with God. I am an intellectual person, and find myself interested in many of these periphery things, like some of the issues of Church history, etc.

-Dirk

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the greatest witness to the authenticity of the BoA and Joseph Smith's calling as the Prophet of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times is the temple. I find fascinating the many references to temple concepts in the BoA including:

- A desire by a man to become a "rightful heir" and to hold the "right of the firstborn" (Abraham 1:1-4);

- Evidence that the curse was continued in the land, and in that day and age (patriarchy vs. matriarchy; Abraham 1:21-24);

- An imitation of the holy order (Abraham 1:25-28);

- The sacrifice at an altar (Facsimile 1);

- An arrested sacrifice and a substitute provided (Abraham 1:20);

- The promise of eternal seed and priesthood (Abraham 2:6-11);

- Seeking and finding the Lord (Abraham 2:12);

- The testing of a man and his wife to their covenants with the Lord, and with each other (Abraham 2:22-25);

- A seer stone or Urim and Thummim that provides knowledge of a "higher order of kingdoms" (Abraham 3:1f; cf. D&C 130:10);

- A vision of the cosmos and one's place in it (Abraham 3:2f; cf. 2 Nephi 27:7);

- A vision given in a "circle" (Facsimile 2); and,

- A coronation scene of a righteous priesthood holder sitting on the throne "by politeness of the king" (Facsimile 3).

Without the temple and the BoA, it would be difficult to comprehend why the saints would be told to "do the works of Abraham" (D&C 132:32).

Anonymous said...

Note some of the temple paralles in the "Papyrus of Ani Eqyptian Book of the Dead" translated by E.A. Wallis Budge. I don't know what this means but if you have been to the temple you can see some of the elementshttp://evans-experientialism.freewebspace.com/egyptian_bookofdead03.htm.

Anonymous said...

If you want to understand the parallels between Egyptian practices and the temple, read Hugh Nibley's "Temple and Cosmos." It's fascinating and very clear and straightforward.


RLDS Guy:

"Oliver Cowdery spoke of volumes that would be necessary to contain it." Other people expressed the same opinion of the lengthy nature of the Book of Abraham in its entirety. This might explain why Joseph Smith did not include it with the other scriptures as you mentioned. That might also explain why it was not canonized immediately, since it was apparently regarded as an unfinished work, like the so-called Inspired Version of the KJV Bible, which was later included as the Joseph Smith Translation.

President Joseph Fielding Smith said:

“Now, do you think that these discoveries and inventions … have come just because these men have been sitting down and concentrating their minds upon these matters and have discovered them though their thought or accidentally? Not in the least, but the Spirit of the Lord, the Light of Christ, has been back of it. … We are ready for these discoveries, these inventions, and they all have a bearing upon the restoration of the gospel and preparation for the time which is yet future, but which is shortly to come, when Christ shall reign on the earth, and for a thousand years peace shall be established.”

With all of the evidences for the truth of the Book of Abraham, particularly in the wording and representation of things, it would certainly be a stretch to say that Joseph Smith translated the BoA merely by means of his own intellect.

You seem to suggest that the BoA may have been an attempt to translate a Book of the Dead. You have obviously not read Hugh Nibley's extensive works on this subject. Here are a few suggestions:

Abraham's Temple Drama

The Facsimiles in the Book of Abraham

Abraham in Egypt



[Source of quotations: Andrew Skinner, “The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book,” Ensign, Mar 1997, 16].

SteSmo said...

Dear RDLS friend,

I looked over your comments. They were thought provoking, but you are not correct in your idea that Joseph had "doubt" over the Book of Abraham because "During the entire process of translation of the Book of Abraham, Joseph never claimed direct inspiration of God.Apparently it was produced through application of his acquired knowledge, rather than with any claim to extraordinary [divine] assistance."

This is not the case.

Warren Parrish noted,

"I have set [sic] by his, Joseph Smith's side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics [sic] as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration from heaven." (Letter from Warren Parrish, Kirtland Ohio, Feb. 5, 1838; "Painsville Republican", Vol. 2, nos. 14,15; Feb. 15, 1838, whole # 67)

Joseph DID claim to recieve direct revelation concerning the text of the Book of Abraham, so your claim that he must have had doubts over the Book of Abraham because of this factor is not in harmony with the historical record. But not that I am trying to argue anything with you, just to inform you that Joseph did recieve revelation on the Book of Abraham.

I would like to discuss your views in more detail later.(You have sparked my curiosity.) But I do not have time now. There is so much more that needs to be taken into consideration, I believe, but it would take too much time for me to explain them in full detail. Later, perhaps.

Anonymous said...

This is the same Warren Parrish that, in the summer of 1837, arrayed with several others against Joseph Smith, Jr. After Joseph's return from Jackson County in 1837, Joseph wrote: "During my absence Warren Parrish, John F. Boynton, Luke Johnson, Joseph Coe, and some others united together for the overthrow of the church. Note that Joseph lists poor Warren first in his list.

Ten days before the quote that you mention, there is another quote from Warren in the same publication: -- February 5, 1838 Warren writes in the Painesville Republican that Joseph said "that the audible voice of God instructed him to establish a Banking-Anti-Banking Institution, which, like Aaron's rod, should swallow up all other banks … and grow and flourish and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins." We both know that the Banking-Anit-Banking situation failed.

If you wish to represent Warren Parrish as a creditable source of information, I will pray for you.

RLDS friend

Anonymous said...

mr rlds said... (or rather copy and pasted)

If Joseph Smith was responsible for both the Inspired Translation of the Bible (Inspired Version) and the Book of Abraham AND IF he considered both scriptural, why didn't he modify both to teach the same thing ( either a monotheistic God or plurality of Gods. The abrupt difference would suggest that his translation of the Book of Abraham was simply an honest human effort by one interested in ancient languages. Because his perceptions of the Egyptian alphabet gave rise to the translation that discusses plural gods it does not necessarily endorse that belief. Compare KJV Genesis 1:1-5 with the Inspired Version Genesis 1:3-8 which inidcate monotheism and the Book of Abraham 4:1-5 which inidicates polytheism.

he wasn't out to "modify" it that's not what translation is...

both viws in both books are completely true...

Anonymous said...

who cares what the rlds have to say! their views are off-kilter anyway... ... it's like they're looking at the gospel through a kolidescope... wouldn't you think they'd be on the same side as us?... notice no one cares to attack them...

Anonymous said...

about multiple gods... maybe there are multiple gods?... who's to say god didn't have a god... to not aknowledge such a possiblity is a narrow minded sectarian view...

god is the one and only god that we worship... but who's to say he's the only god that ever existed?

"the absence of evidence is not the proof of non existence... "
MP

Anonymous said...

It is absolutely uncontroverted that Joseph's published Egyptian alphabet and the translation of the 3 facsimiles are all entirely incorrect.

The fact the Joseph used language of the 4 corners of earth is also of no surprise. The fact that he used this phrase (ie got only one thing right) does not prove anything. The phrase "four corners of the earth" besides being generally masonic in origin, was one of Joseph's favorite phrases. Search the Book of Mormon, D&C and History of the Church for the phrase; you will find that the use of the phrase by Joseph or "the Lord" is abnormally frequent. The fact that it is included in Joseph's "translation" of BOA more likely proves that he was using his own words.

Does not any one see that you can argue about each and every little dispute of truth in the mormon church until you blue in the face. But when looking at the discrepancy in evidence that hurts the church's claim to true (ie first vision, treasure digging, 3 & 8 Witnesses, error in the B of M, no evidence of B of M, or nephites, no box on the hill cumorah where the plates where kept, polygamy, the many discrepancy in doctrine ect. . .) in the totality, that the church in all probability and likelihood is false. I would not bet my salvation upon a "spiritual" feeling that the church is true, especially when it was my "heart felt" desire that it be true.

It is not likely that God setup all the evidentiary obstacles to the claim that the church was true, so that those of us who are rational, objective and logical would fail in the grand scheme.

Fig-bearing Thistle said...

Argue you can. And argue people do. One can find reason to believe or disbelieve just about anything, and justify their belief quite reasonably.

When you mention all the evidences that you claim are against the Church being true, why didn't you mention the evidences that verify its truth? To deny their existence would be purely an emotional response.

We just don't know all things, like God does. And our intellects are incapable of knowing all things, like God does. That simple, yet profound fact, illustrates the absolute essentiality the Holy Ghost, and of communion with the Almighty in our pursuit of truth.

If satan can appear as an angel of light, fooling the physical senses, imagine how he can fool the intellect which derives all it knows through the pysical senses alone.

WillowTheWhisp said...

Intellectual argument can be disputed by intellectual argument but the witness of the Holy Ghost cannot be argued away by the opinions of others.

Anonymous said...

"It is absolutely uncontroverted that Joseph's published Egyptian alphabet and the translation of the 3 facsimiles are all entirely incorrect."

But John A. Wilson an Egyptologist out of Chicago, who was well qualified
to caution critics, noted that scholarship requires a more responsible
analysis than "a lot of indignant snorts" ("Thousands of Years: An
Archaeologists Search For Ancient Egypt", p. 176) Wilson added that
"the Mormons will survive this criticism because: Egyptologists can claim
no inspiration. We can only scrape the surface meaning. If Joseph Smith
was a prophet, he was an instrument of divine authority, so that he
might find the deepest meaning." (Wilson, "Ibid"., p.174, 176).


We must becareful not to judge something to harshly that we do not understand.

Anonymous said...

"It is not likely that God setup all the evidentiary obstacles to the claim that the church was true, so that those of us who are rational, objective and logical would fail in the grand scheme."


Ancient Parallels With the Book of Abraham
And of course, still more showing us just how far we have to get to in order
to start drawing hard and fast negative conclusions against Joseph Smith.
The critics want fast, pat answers, as long as they end up negative. But the
information available demonstrate there is more to this than meets the eye.


In the Apocalypse of Abraham, Abraham is
carried aloft to heaven to view the wonders of the universe. The Lord
tells Abraham that He [the Lord] would "show [him] that which is in
heaven, and upon the earth, and in the sea, and in the abysses, in the
underworld, and in the Garden of Eden and its rivers, and in the fullness
of the circuit of the whole world; for you shall behold all." Daniel C. Peterson points out that the above quotation "is almost an exact translation of the Egyptian words in the left middle portion
of Fac. #2 of the Book of Abraham. (figures 9 and 10). "News From
Antiquity," Ensign, Jan. 1994, p. 19.

The hypocephalus is a cosmic map so to speak. The Apocalypse of
Abraham definitely has this conception of the circular heavens with
all the animals, people and wars, peace, etc. Abraham is given a
guided tour.

Note the idea of preexistence and ruling spirits above others and
being called with a holy calling, etc. All this is ALSO in our Book of Abra-
ham, but NOT in the Bible, but now known to be authentic. Joseph Smith
was exactly correct in his text. This does seem to be an authentic
ancient book.

In fact when we look further in James H. Charlesworth's incredible texts,
"The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha," Vol. 1, pp. 694-701, we find that
the Apocalypse of Abraham states that Abraham beheld the "hosts of
stars, and the orders they were commanded to carry out, and the elements
of the earth obeying them."


God will set up stumbling blocks so unless you humble yourself you can not see what He has for you.

Anonymous said...

Ancient sources now verify that Abraham was also almost sacrificed, al-
though in the Bible we only have the almost sacrifice of Isaac, in the
BofA, Smith also noted that Abraham was sacrificed. This used to be
thought a blatant bungle of Smith's supposedly showing he was too
stupid to read the Bible carefully and confused Isaac's sacrifice with
Abraham's, but now the fuller picture is out and Smith is verified to the T.



In the Book of Jasher, chapter 12 we find the attempted killing of
Abraham and his deliverance through divine intervention.
In the "Pseudo-Philo" we read of the arch-rival of Abraham, Nimrod and
his followers trying to dispose of Abraham in the furnace of fire, but
through divine intervention, Abraham is saved. ("O.T. Pseudepigrapha,"
Vol. 2, pp. 310-312)

Anonymous said...

Some critics have blindly insisted that each figure in each facsimile
can have only one meaning, and hence that Joseph Smith was incorrect in
each and every instance.

For instance, Bishop Spaulding in 1912 said that
Smith's explanations are obviously nothing more than "fraud" and
"fabrication." For instance, the figure on the lion couch cannot be
Abraham as Smith insisted, but it is Osiris, and hence Smith was wrong.
But this exclusiveness is now known to be incorrect, with the Egyptians
having many meanings in EACH figure. Smith was correct in this, his critics were not. The Egyptians did not think Aristotilean terms, such as since A is A, it cannot be B. But to the Egyptians, they thought
in multiplicity of meanings for each figure. If the figure on the lion
couch is Osiris, it can also be Abraham, or Anubis, or anyone who they
could get to be on the lion couch! This has only been discovered since
the 1950's. The Egyptians are always sur-
prising us, but not more so than here with their multiple meanings to
one figure and multiple meanings to another figure, and to every figure
in the facsimiles.

The multiple meanings of Egyptian symbols is nowhere more perfectly
exemplified than in Richard H. Wilkinson's book "Symbol & Magic in Egyptian
Art," Thames & Hudson, 1994. He notes that even the Egyptian Hieroglyphics
have two types of information embedded in them, (p. 155). Egyptian art, oh
much of the art is designed to work on a number of different levels
according to Wilkinson, p. 183. In fact, form symbolism can have HUNDREDS of
different meanings and contexts! P. 16. If Joseph Smith says its Abraham and the Egypt-
ologists say its Osiris, that isn't a necessary contradiction at all.

Anonymous said...

Ancient texts support Joseph Smith in claiming these represented these
concepts. Smith said that the strange vertical lines at the bottom of
Fac. #1 (Fig. 11) are identified as "designed to represent the pillars
of heaven, as understood by the Egyptians." This phrase occurs several
times in Egyptian literature. Adriaan De Buck, "The Egyptian Coffin
Texts," 61 I 263




Remember, in the book of Abraham, Abraham is not
propounding his own religion, but is telling about the ancient Egyptian
thinking in religious terms, ideas, and philosophy. We are now learning
that in ancient Egypt were the same terms in and of religion as in Joseph
Smith's Book of Abraham.




Joseph Smith claimed that the earth was created out of already existing
matter, such as the ancient Egyptians taught. They taught that "Nun was
chaos, or the primordial waste of waters in which all creation was
imminent." The ancient Egyptians copied the ancient gospel from the
patriarchs. (see Veronica Ions, "Egyptian Mythology, N.Y.: Peter Bedrick
Books, 1986], p. 34; E.A.E. Raymond, "The Mystical Origin of the Egyptian
Temple," Manchester Univ. Press, 1969, p. 187; Cf. Hugh Nibley, "Timely
and the Timeless," 1978, pp. 57fff.



And so it goes. Once one begins an honest exporation into the ancient
Egyptian ideas, one sees all sorts of relevant information for the study of
the Joseph Smith interpretations of the Facsimiles in the Book of Abraham.
But one MUST look.

Anonymous said...

To those amateurs that call Joseph Smith a fraud show how little they know about how complex the code breaking of the earliest ancient Semitic languages are or they just have preconceived prejudices and will not admit to them. So if Joseph Smith's work is such affront to you then why don't you take the time to become a expert in all the early ancient Semitic languages and gather all the scrolls that Joseph Smith used to produce the BofA and get back with us in about 30 years? If you could be honest with yourselves or us you would have to admit that if some Egyptologist was to confirm anything of Joseph Smiths work they would be at most confirming his prophetic calling and at least be putting their career and standing in their field in jepority.
The German Egyptologist Adolf Erman “pointed out in a systematic manner the details of Egyptian grammar that have their counterparts in the Semitic languages” as well as vocabulary (op cit., p. lxvii), although Erman’s work was highly incomplete. Budge attempted to further comment on this relationship, although he acknowledges that his own knowledge of the Semitic languages is limited. From Wallis Budge’s time to Cyrus Gordon’s, few steps had been taken to remedy this deficiency.

As Cyrus Gordon came very close to saying, knowledge of Sumerian (the earliest cuneiform language, non-Semitic) and Akkadian cuneiform (Semitic) are necessary to understand Egyptian, and vice versa. Yet as both Gordon and Budge acknowledged, practically no one in the world is simultaneously skilled in these languages. Knowledge of a great many languages is essential to the restoration of the earliest forms of both Egyptian and Sumerian.

Scholars simply do not know that the much richer language, Sanskrit, is the direct descendant of ancient Egyptian hieratic, let alone becoming familiar with what it has to contribute. Languages change over time. Egyptologists extrapolate the sounds and meanings of hieroglyphs of late Ptolemaic Egyptian onto writings dating nearly 2000 years earlier without accounting for linguistic change.

I noted this once again as I was recently perusing an Egyptologist’s analysis of Facsimile Nº 2. He stated that the four baboons were lifting up their hands basking in the radiance of the sunlight. I have yet to find a single Egyptologist over the last two hundred years who has a clue as to the correct meaning of this hieroglyph.

John A. Wilson an Egyptologist out of Chicago states "Egyptologists can claim no inspiration. We can only scrape the surface meaning. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, he was an instrument of divine authority, so that he might find the deepest meaning."

RainyPM said...

I was so glad to find this post. It's been at least 10 years since I first heard of the controversy over the BoA. I was fresh off my mission and pretty susceptible. The more I searched, the more damning the evidence and when I asked parents and leaders for some guidance I was just told to pray about it. Alas, I was too smart for my own good, and I stopped going to church for a few years. Coming back was hard and I've felt like I needed to avoid the Joseph Smith topic because I couldn't say with surety that I knew anything.

I was doing some research tonight for my primary lesson and stumbled on your blog, then stumbled on this thread with its comments. I understand that we need to walk by faith, but I sure wish I'd read this 10 years ago. Thanks to all for the insights.

Anonymous said...

"I was doing some research tonight for my primary lesson and stumbled on your blog, then stumbled on this thread with its comments. I understand that we need to walk by faith, but I sure wish I'd read this 10 years ago. Thanks to all for the insights."

I am glad you are back!

Anonymous said...

If I may be permitted to stir the pot a bit here, I'll suggest that it is definitely time for a full evaluation of the text and images from the Facsimiles. Over the past 100 years significant progress has been made in cataloging and interpreting hieroglyphics, to the point that you can buy books to teach yourself to read them which have been written by very reputable authors. In addition, very high quality images of the Times and Seasons imprints are available that show in detail what Reuben Headlock engraved for printing. By referring to these images and a couple of very reputable books on Egyptian Grammar and a few more on Egyptian Gods, I've been able to tickle out of the images some additional details that are very interesting. For example; Khnum Ra was referred to as the BA of RA. The BA was the spiritual force of the deceased. So, if you look at the name glyph for Figure 1, from Fac. 2, which is three ripples of water, the pennant (ntr) and a diagonal slash or ray of light, symbolically, you get; the spirit (BA) of God (ntr- ray) rippling the waters - which compares nicely to Genesis 1:2. Also the god Min is typically depicted with his arm raised in the "sign of protection", something hardly obvious from the very schematic representation in Fac. 2. There is definately more there than meets the casual eye. Unfortunately, non LDS Egyptologists don't seem to see much value in an in depth analysis and LDS Egyptologists may be hesitant to weigh in concerning matters so closely linked with the temple, yet Joseph Smith himself explained that some of these images have to do with the Grand Key-words of the Priesthood. Need we sit in silence? - D. Wm. Francis

Anonymous said...

Joseph smith was a fake and he will pay for leading so many to the gates of hell

erelis said...

Joseph smith was a fake and he will pay for leading so many to the gates of hell

I love browsing a thread where deep insight and fruit of personal study can be shared (by those on both sides of the coin), and then coming upon a gem of a contribution like this one! :)

Anonymous said...

At 9:28 PM, November 11, 2007, Anonymous said...
“It is not likely that God setup all the evidentiary obstacles to the claim that the church was true, so that those of us who are rational, objective and logical would fail in the grand scheme.”

You have hit right the nose. I have seen this pointed out several times on this blog and have yet to find Mormanity’s response.

The FAQ is classic grasping at straws mentality. Whether you are Mormon, Jehovah Witness, etc. and force to defend glaringly obvious problems and inconsistency you can sift through tomes on any subject to find any arcane reference and apply it as aloe to the burning cognitive dissonance. However, in reality all the straw grasper has done is suggested a minute probability of plausibility, not soundly defeated the experts. In the social sciences in general, the data contains so much noise just about any theory has a minute probability of plausibility.

It is understandable though. The mental gymnastics is an easier path than accepting that a life time of escalating investment could be for naught. My question for the straw graspers: Why would God go to such lengths to make so many LDS claims appear less and less plausible as time passes? Is the idea that as we get closer to the end (second coming?) it will require more and more mental energy to defend the faith?

Steve Smoot said...

"Why would God go to such lengths to make so many LDS claims appear less and less plausible as time passes?"

This begs the question that such is happening. I see just the opposite happening today. Every year, as new research is coming forth, we see the Church vindicated on several grounds. Take, for example, cement in the Book of Mormon. Long have the critics been harping on this as an anachronism for the Book of Mormon. However, Time has vindicated the Prophets, and cement is confirmed in ancient America. The same goes for the Book of Abraham. In Joseph Smith's day there were no ancient texts that gave us light on the life of Abraham. Now fast-forward to 2001, when FARMS released "Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham" and documents over 35 unique elements in the Book of Abraham not found in the Bible but found in other ancient texts.

Then it is put on the critic to explain this. And here is where the critic has to deal with cognitive dissonance. He creates scenarios and rationalizations to explain how an uneducated farm boy was able to produce texts with ancient convergences and evidences. After all, it is easier to do those sort of mental gymnastics than to humble oneself and grant for one moment that maybe Joseph Smith was telling the truth and maybe there really is a God who has called forth modern Prophets. Take, for example, this gem from Dale Morgan:

"With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith's story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church."

See, don't ever grant the possibility that Joseph Smith was right, because this creates cognitive dissonance on the part of the critics. Notice especialy how our paragon of objectivity states that he cannot believe the arguments of Mormons "be they however so convincing". His mind is made up, and no amount of evidence could change it.

Professor James E. Taylor in Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment, has nicely summed up my view on the whole issue of apologetics, evidence, reason vs. faith, etc:

"I have not discovered in these materials any proofs or demonstrations that would compel all rational people to believe that God exists or that Christianity is true. Instead, I have encountered arguments and evidences that have reassured me that it is at least not irrational to be a Christian and, even more, that the Christian worldview is more reasonable than its competitors."

Substitute "Mormon" and "Mormonism" for "Christian" and "Christianity" and you get my position.

Mormography said...

Steve Smoot,

Your cement reference is yet another example of applying a single arcane reference as opposed to analyzing the bulk of the data as a whole. Whether you are a Mormon trying to prove the Book of Mormon’s theory of the Western Hemisphere or Ignatius Donnelly trying to prove the Atlantis theory of the Western Hemisphere, a hundred years from now both theories can expect to see an increase in arcane references in favor of their claims. However, proper analysis will need to take into account references against their claims as well, and weigh the bulk of the evidence according.

Ignatius Donnelly was prolific in his ability to find evidence of his Atlantis theory, and if he was alive today he probably being using your cement reference in favor of his own theory. However, in the last hundred years the bulk of modern understanding has pointed away from the Atlantis theory, not towards it.

Jewish professor Joshua Seixas is usually the answer to the question you brought up about the supposedly uneducated Joseph Smith not being aware of the Midrashim teachings of Abraham. However, in general the discovery of the papyri relating to the Book of Abraham is a great example of the original point. Before the papyri discovery, what would the iconoclast expect and what would apologist expect to happen if discovered? What happened is more in line with what the iconoclast expected. This is true of Bainbridge Examination, the Book of Abraham, DNA, archeology, polygamy, etc.

Your introduction of the Dale Morgan quote is a form of straw man rhetoric.

Mormanity said...

Note: The person who shared his email address as goirish2@cox.net has made a change: It is now RLDSGuy at verizon.net. He also has updated his post, as follows:

Book of Abraham - a different perspective

The knowledge of the Egyptian language among Egyptian scholars in the 1830's was in its infancy. Six years prior to acquiring the Egyptian mummies and papyri, Joseph had completed the translation the Book of Mormon which was reportedly inscribed with strange characters called "altered Egyptian." His natural curiosity for understanding and translating strange and ancient languages must have been peaked. This was also to include a period of time in Kirtland when the church hired a Jewish Rabbi to teach the Hebrew language to interested church members.

On July 3,1835 some of the saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus [from a Mr. Chandler], and I [Joseph, Smith, Jr.], with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc. a more full account of which will appear in their place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly can we say, The Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth. [LDS Church History, vol 2, pp 235-236; RLDS Church History, Vol. 1, pp 568-569]



From 1835-1836, Joseph occasionally mentions in his diary working with his scribes to create a grammar of the Egyptian language as an aid in translating the papyri, working on the translation and displaying the mummies and papyri to interested parties.



JOSEPH SMITH APPEARED TO HAVE HIS OWN DOUBTS



During the entire process of translation of the Book of Abraham, Joseph never claimed direct inspiration of God. Apparently it was produced through application of his acquired knowledge, rather than with any claim to extraordinary [divine] assistance. [C. Webb, Joseph Smith as a Translator (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1936), p.73]



Although at times Joseph referred to the ancient records as "sacred", he never referred to the Book of Abraham as scripture. In the Doctrine and Covenants, there are many references to the Bible and the Book of Mormon. There was no reference in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants to the Book of Abraham even though the Book of Abraham had been purchased 9 years prior and had been published 2 years before the death of Joseph Smith.



The first part of the translation of the Book of Abraham was finally published in Times and Seasons [vol 3, No.9 (March 1,1842), pg 703-706]. The title and preface read as follows: "Of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catacombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus." The use of the words "purporting to be" would seem to indicate at least some degree of doubt on the part of Joseph Smith, Jr. regarding its authenticity. This same preface as written above is repeated verbatim in the LDS History, vol 4, p 524. The original 1851 edition of the Pearl of Great

 Price carried the same inscription. In the later editions of the Pearl of Great Price, as published by the LDS Church, the preface is also given, however, without the words, "purporting to be."



The same edition of the Times and Seasons that carried the first portion of the Book of Abraham, is also found the "Wentworth Letter" in which Joseph outlined the beliefs of the church. In the outline, Joseph stated, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." Even though the first installment of the Book of Abraham was being published, Joseph neglects to mention it as part of the beliefs of the Church.



Two months prior to Joseph Smith's death, an article was published in the Times and Seasons which stated, "If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an impostor." [Times and Seasons, vol 5, No.7 (April 1,1844), pg 490] What is interesting is that there is no mention of the Book of Abraham, even though it had been published two years prior while Joseph was the editor of the Times and Seasons.



If Joseph Smith was responsible for both the Inspired Translation of the Bible (Inspired Version) and the Book of Abraham AND IF he considered both scriptural, why didn't he modify both to teach the same thing ( either a monotheistic God or plurality of Gods. The abrupt difference would suggest that his translation of the Book of Abraham was simply an honest human effort by one interested in ancient languages. Because his perceptions of the Egyptian alphabet gave rise to the translation that discusses plural gods it does not necessarily endorse that belief. Compare KJV Genesis 1:1-5 with the Inspired Version Genesis 1:3-8 which inidcate monotheism and the Book of Abraham 4:1-5 which inidicates polytheism.



I seem to recall that in the Hebrew language, the plural form of a word is sometimes used only to emphasize the importance of the subject, not to be taken as literally plural. Recall those Hebrew classes in which Joseph was a student? Might it also be that references to "Gods" may really mean that there is only one but a very important God?



PAPYRI LOST?



It is thought by some that Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the prophet, had been instrumental in the original purchase of the mummies and papyri. This might explain why she was able to gain custody of the Egyptian artifacts after the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. When she died in May 1855, Emma Smith, Joseph's wife, took custody. A little over a year later, Emma sold the mummies and papyri to Mr. A. Combs. For many years, it was presumed that the mummies and the papyri were eventually taken to Chicago for museum display. After the great Chicago fire of 1871, it was believed that all had been destroyed. However, the records were no longer to be found. Consequently, Joseph's translation would have to stand unchallenged for many years to come - accepted only on faith.



CANONIZED



During the 1880 semiannual conference of the LDS Church, the Pearl of Great Price was accepted as one of their standard books of scripture. Along with it, the Book of Abraham was elevated to scriptural status. As canonized scripture, the LDS Church committed itself to the accuracy and validity of the book.



PAPYRI REDISCOVERED?



In 1967, what some claim to be Joseph’s papyri were rediscovered in the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artifacts even included the bill of sale, signed by Emma Smith Bidamon. According to Dr. Hugh Nibley the documents were not the source material for the Book of Abraham. Among other things, the papyri of Joseph Smith's day specifically mentioned a small amount of red ink. There was no red ink to be found on the recently acquired documents. Dr. Nibley identified the papyri as the "Book of Breathings." There are certain similarities, however, between Joseph Smith1s still existent Egyptian alphabet and some of the newly discovered papyri. Some feel certain that certain portions of these papyri were in fact used by Joseph when he wrote the Book of Abraham. However, current translations have no similarity to Joseph's translation but are in fact pages from the Book of the Dead belonging to the lady Ta-shert-Min, daughter of Nes-Khensu and from the Book of the Dead belonging to lady Amon-Re Neferirnub. The facsimiles, as published in the Pearl of Great Price, are identical to those found with the papyri, and are consistent with the Egyptian Book of Breathings. Those who are dedicated to the authenticity of the Book of Abraham are not in agreement regarding how to explain the inconsistencies from the analysis of these "new" papyri.



In an interesting comparison, the BofM had two sets of witnesses. The group of three witnesses testify of being shown the plates by the gift and power of God. The group of eight witnesses testify of physically being shown the plates by Joseph Smith and handling the plates. The two groups together indicate the physical existance of the plates and the divine authority and protection.

If the Book of Abraham is an inaccurate translation of a Book of Breathings or a Book of the Dead, then Joseph's translation of the BofM could be brought into question.

After the “discovery” of the Kinderhook Plates in 1843, they were shown to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith’s scribe wrote: “Prest J. has translated a portion and says they contain the history of the person with whom they were found and he was a descendant of Ham through the loins of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth." [William Clayton's Journal, May 1, 1843, as cited in Trials of Discipleship - The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon, p. 117] Years later, the Kinderhook Plates were admitted to be and proven to be a fraud with the apparent intention of tricking Joseph Smith. That he could be tricked just says again that he was human. Note that Joseph did not claim any divine assistance in translating the Kinderhook Plates — in the same fashion that he also did not claim any divine assistance in translating the Book of Abraham.

I see the translation of the BofM by Joseph Smith as being through the gift and power of God. I see the translation of the BofA by Joseph Smith as being a human effort alone, without the assistance of God. By accepting the BofM as scripture and not accepting the BofA as scripture, I am not condemning Joseph Smith's efforts. I see Joseph Smith as very human, and when acting on his own was lousy at translating ancient languages. I consider the translation of the BofA to be considered solely the human effort of a very human Joseph Smith. I am, instead, praising the handiwork of God. The importance of the BofA is to prove to the world that it was God who preserved and provided us with the BofM, not Joseph Smith. As more and more evidences are found to support the Book of Mormon, it is not Joseph Smith that is vindicated but Almighty God, Himself.



I am RLDS, hence a different perspective. RLDSGuy at verizon.net

Amy said...

Mormonism is just wrong. There were over 500 errors in the first edition of the book of mormon, is my God not perfect enough to make sure his appointed translators and scribes get it rigth? If God died for my sins, why must I still pay for them? It is by His grace through my faith that I am saved, it is a gift from Him, I cannot be saved of myself lest I boast (Eph 2:8-9) Joseph was a liar, a cheat, and a polygamist. The three books from mormonism come after that the last sentence of Revelations which says there are no more books. Joseph copied many scriptures from the bible and used them as his own scriptures. You should all do more research, and start with his New Hieroglyphics, a language that has NEVER existed. Then research his prophesies, especially the ones that didn't come true while he was a live and which caused a 65,000 item revision of the Pearl of Great Price. There is so much more, but most of all, find out about God being a man who used to live on the moon. What an imagination this man had. Check it out.

AMY said...

By the way, Jesus is God...

Anonymous said...

translate = to change the form, condition, nature, etc., of; transform; convert. Could Joseph have not merely changed the form of ordinary burial drawings and writings into a valuable piece of revelation, expounding on our earthly existence? I don't care that the tools he used are interpreted by the minds of the world to mean one thing. The translation was of the things of God, and the papyri were merely the catalyst and tool which inspired Joseph to act within his prophetic calling.

Joe said...

Joseph had no "doubt" about the translation of the BoA.
He knew it was false.
Using the LDS methodology for verification of truth, given enough prayer and "self convincing" the Lord of the Rings could be taken as "scripture" if the right spin was put on it, such as another testament of Jesus Christ (as Gandolf) on some planet (possibly close to Kolob).
Keep swallowing the "blue" pills.

Bill Thompson said...

Isn't it uncontrovertable that Smith could not translate Egyptian?

Joe said...

I don't think Joey could even translate English to Mormonese.
The man was a sham, but there's a sucker born every minute, as proven by the existence of the LDS corporation and financial institution.

Bill Thompson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

In any case what Joey did was "create" a very poorly written book of imaginary tales.
He may have had more success "selling" it (remember he failed to sell the book initially) if he had listed it properly under fiction, and removed all the "and it came to pass" phrases, but then it would only have been a pamphlet, as Samuel Clemens said.

Bill Thompson said...

I mean, translate does NOT mean to change the form, condition, or nature. It does NOT MEAN to transform or convert. The act of translation retains the meaning of the text while only changing the language used to present it. Smith could not translate Egyptian.

Joe said...

Reformed or otherwise. :)

Bill Thompson said...

The original blogger does not have an email address nor does he respond to these posts. Is he saying that Smith COULD translate Egyptian?

For his sake, I hope he has worked out that he definately could and is willing to defend such a fact. I mean, otherwise he is guilty of filling his kids and grandkids heads with lies. I cannot imagine a more damaging form of child abuse.

Joe said...

If Jeff Lindsay was told by the LDS leadership that the moon was inhabited by rock people and Cureloms, he would defend it completely, logic and evidence be damned.

id said...

If one were to take RLDS Guy's view that the BoA isn't scripture, it'd be strong evidence that the LDS church suffers from uninspiration when standardizing its doctrine.

I want to point out to the poster who cited an Old Testament pseudepigrapha (The Apacolypse of Abraham) that citing pseudepigrapha to support scripture is like quoting mythology to support the Word of God--it's not substantive. That book isn't canonized. That Smith's translation matched parts of the Apocolypse of Abraham just shows that Smith's translation matches up with mythology. This poster made a poor assumption and proceeded to make apologetic points on a flawed assumption.

Anyways, I haven't looked extensively into the BoA. FAIR seems to be downplaying its importance (or at least, they're minimalizing part of it and highlighting what it's actually good for), and I've yet to find a response to this powerful testament to the fraudulence of the BoA as scripture:
http://vintage.aomin.org/Mintract.html.

As for those Mormons who are offended by the comments made by Joe (and other comments like his), keep in mind that actions and attitude doesn't reflect the truthfulness of anything. If that were the case, neither LDS nor non-LDS would be living by the Truth.

Joe said...

The frustrating part of any discussion with a TBM is that on one side, established facts are presented and the response is most often conjecture, wishful thinking, straw grasping, and "Just pray about it."
The results of banging one's head against a stone wall are more fruitful then any attempt at intellectual discussion with a TBM, problem being that there is just no concrete evidence or confirmation of anything that JS said, wrote, published or translated is factual.
At least L Ron Hubbard lived to enjoy some of the fruits of his scheme.

id said...

"Praying about it" is definitely the foundation to this faith.

With the assumption that it works held firmly in place, everything else is subject to that test.
Unless, of course, there's not an answer.
Or unless it isn't accompanied by the "fruits of the spirit".
Also unless it turns out that the devil was behind the answer; let's keep in mind he can appear to be an angel.
And let's not forget that anyone who gets a No about the BoM is entirely insincere, even though they may have been completely sincere.

I was asking a Mormon missionary about his experience with praying for answers. He told me about an experience in his life he had in high school when he prayed about bringing cookies to a girl who was going through a rough time. He consistently got a no. Consistently.
He went to her house anyways, and the girl felt better.

What an untrustworthy method.

Do Mormons even stop to consider it? What if someone else's prayer contradicts their own? Who's right? And what about all the other RLDS, Fundamentalist LDS, etc. who thrive off the same way of praying?

I say this as an argument against praying for answers; but the truth is, even if I was convinced otherwise, that just lends credibility to the No I received to the BoM.
The research I did into Mormonism after my prayer was credibility enough, however. And yes, I reconciled with FAIR, Jeff, and even the sources that so-called anti-Mormons quote from.

The usual response to everything I just said is "hey, that's okay. These things happen. But I just want to let you know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true, and I know this."

That's great and everything, but how do you "know"? Through prayer?

Joe said...

Exactly. If you pray and the answer is anything other than the accepted LDS answer then the fault lies with you. You are insincere, unworthy or whatever.
What was that definition of insanity? Repeating the exact same action and expecting a different result. Speaks volumes for the credibility of the "truth" finding mechanisms of the LDS.

id said...

Here's a blow to everyone's truth-finding methods: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/06/23/confirmation-bias/.

Now unless eyewitness accounts are unreliable (and if they are, what of the long scrolls?), here are some quotes "which indicate that both the mounted fragments and the intact portion of the scroll were identified as an Abrahamic record, and in fact the "deciphered" portion of the record was among the fragments" (Chris Smith):

"[Joseph Smith] then walked to a secretary, on the opposite side of the room, and drew out several frames, covered with glass, under which were numerous fragments of Egyptian papyrus, on which, as usual, a great variety of hieroglyphical characters had been imprinted. . . . There, said he, pointing to a particular character, that is the signature of the patriarch Abraham."
(“A Glance at the Mormons,” The Friend; a Religious and Literary Journal 13, no. 43 [July 25, 1840]: 342–43.)

"Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us. They were preserved under glass and handled with great respect. 'That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful,' said the prophet."
(Josiah Quincy, Figures of the Past: From the Leaves of Old Journals, (Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, 1883), 386.)

"From this he drew forth a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics. These had been unrolled from four mummies, which the prophet had purchased at a cost of twenty-four hundred dollars. By some inexplicable mode, as the storekeeper informed me, Mr. Smith had discovered that these sheets contained the writings of Abraham, written with his own hand while in Egypt."
(Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons, or Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842, 2nd rev. and enl. ed. [London: J.G.F. & J. Rivington, 1843], 22.)

"[Lucy Mack Smith] produced a black looking roll (which she told us was papyrus) found on the breast of the King, part of which the prophet had unrolled and read; and she had pasted the deciphered sheets on the leaves of a book which she showed us."
(M. to Friends’ Weekly Intelligencer, September 1846, in Friends’ Weekly Intelligencer 3, no. 27 [October 3, 1846]: 211-12.)

id said...

Cont...

The evidence is conclusive that the BoA was translated from PSJ 11, which can be found at the bottom of this link: http://www.bookofabraham.com/short6.html. As Chris Smith informs, (see earlier link), PSJ 11 is "the "instructions" column of the Document of Breathing," and the book of Abraham was derived from this column.

As an aside: you may notice, from the bookofabraham.com link, that an entire paragraph of words was derived from a single Egyptian hieroglyph. It was a pretty common belief back in the day about Egyptian hieroglyphics that they were symbolic rather than phonetic (as the word "tree" is phonetic and has a short definition whereas a symbolic "tree", in this case, could be understood as a short creation story).

Joe said...

The whole argument about the BoA revolves around a nasty joke played on people by one of the greatest con artists of all times.
Where ever JS is right now, if he's not frying like a slab of bacon, he's likely laughing his butt off at the sheer number of suckers that bought into his little quest for power.

Anonymous said...

if you the Smithsonian Institute or any of the archeological experts can aunthenticate the book of abraham then i will join your church, but so far evidence points to fraud...

Anonymous said...

http://sofismaslm.blogspot.com/

http://sofismaslm.blogspot.com/


http://sofismaslm.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

It is most heart breaking to read what is written here. To want to believe in something so strongly that one will believe in almost anything. Take the chance and step away from the mormon explaination. Look at the true evidence, not through rose-colored glasses. Enough with the name calling,("anti-mormon"). We are pro-Christ. Not even interested in "bashing" someone. How interesting to note that it's okay for the mormons to do it to other's,(stop with the party line of "we don't do that"). When was the last time the young men stopped by your door and tried to tell you about the "one true church"? Our Father will always be our father, He has always been and will never change nor stop being who He is. There was no restoration to a church that needed restoring. Aren't the words of our Creator good enough for you? Is the desire to believe something so unbelieveable that everything is thrown out when it does not agree with you? Does your own church history not good enough? The men who started this church LOVED t have their words recorded EXACTLY as they said them. Isn't the BOM the MOST true book on this earth yet changes are always made so that the REAL intent of Joseph is no longer known to the average church goer? Go to SLC, ask them to open the vaults and SHOW you what they are withholding from you? See it with your own eyes. Search out for explainations to things you question. You will not turn into stone and go to Hell. Ask God to show you the truth. Not a burning, but something real.

Joe said...

It is because of the LDS obsession with documentation that many of those who are allowed to view the archives fall away from the organization.
When one can see the whole picture and not just the sanitized parts, it becomes clear that it is a control organization and has nothing to do with religion.

Psachno said...

The truth is that NOTHING is, or ever could be, a problem for a huge segment of believers of religion. For the "true believer" there can be no such thing as "disconfirming evidence" because his "true belief" was never based on evidence in the first place.

Having been born and raised LDS in a staunch and respected LDS family, and having witnessed the changes, that the church said never would be changed, having been told one version of LDS beliefs and church history and then, voila, seeing all the historical revisionist backtracking (experiencing one disturbing and confusing shock after another), having read the BoM (the "most perfect" book ever written) only to find it, for the most part, incredibly repetitive and boring and sometimes disturbing, having lived all the commandments to the best of my ability and having prayed and fasted and studied, and studied, and studied, having been told that "the truth" not being made "known" to me was somehow my own fault, having cognitive dissonance about the church since I was 13 and yet trying to ignore it and go along with "the Mormon" game plan, way of life, having grave doubts at 17 of the truthfulness of the church after studying at BYU and seeing the culture that the church has created, after being treated like a 2nd class member (being female) and realizing how authoritarian and judgmental the church is, after going out into the world and opening up my mind and finding out that I had been living a very narrow existence with little understanding of the world...and after many testimony crushing experiences, I could go on and on...

...I finally found my answers through critical thinking, through education, and through slowly deprogramming myself from the brainwashing and cult-like religion that is Mormonism.

That is my testimony: that the Mormon church is predicated on false prophets and teachings; that the church cares more about tithing and their corporation than helping others, that its teachings are so often contradictory and based on lies, and that the "burning in the bosom" is the result of emotions created by the thoughts we have in our heads.

I feel so much freer having extricated myself from this deceptively toxic and controlling church! And I grieve for my family and friends who are still staunch TBM's. To know that your loved ones are duped by illusion and wishful thinking and conditioning and fear is a very sad experience for me.

Psachno said...

All this argument over the BoA, church history, the nature of Jesus and of God, doctrine, etc., etc. seems like a waste of effort and a fallen house of cards if you check into the history of religion and begin to learn that Jesus probably did not exist (there is absolutely no proof), and that Bible stories can be traced back to ancient myths and beliefs.

I suggest reading some books written by D.M. Murdock, starting with "Jesus Christ, the Greatest Story Ever Sold." The church says that the glory of God is intelligence, so use your minds and read and study--and NOT just the propaganda of the LDS church! Trying reading another point of view; I did, and I am so glad I did. I now have a much broader and better understanding of the history of Christianity and its many twists and turn, and the Bible with all its astro-theological explanations. I now know better how ancient history and beliefs developed to create the many religions that existed and still exist. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together in an amazingly logical and digestible way. Do you "believers" have the courage to take steps to study anti-Mormon, anti-Christian information? If you don't then, ask yourself why. It is probably fear. Ask yourself how much fear controls your life. Is that really how you want to live; is that really how you think God wants you to live?

In my opinion, you cannot really know "the truth" without studying precisely the information that the Church discourages you from reading. (Why would they discourage it, if they are so sure they have the truth and that the Holy Ghost will manifest "the truth" to you?)

Once you understand that Jesus and the history of Christianity is a revisionist mythical phenomenon, the authenticity of the BoA, the BoM, Joseph Smith and all other churches becomes moot. The entire "house of cards" come crashing down.

Psachno said...

By the way, if you are interested, D.M. Murdock's website is: truthbeknown.com. She also goes by Acharya S. There are many articles that can give you a start to a new perspective on life and religion. D.M. Murdock belongs to no church or organization. Neither do I. As far as God goes, I'm still an agnostic, yet I try to live by universal truths and principles found in most cultures, including loving, being compassionate, truthful, charitable and other ways of living that I believe are conducive to achieving peace and enlightenment with others living on this planet. It is from those types of principles that I derive good feelings and happiness. And I don't need a church to experience those feelings!

Psachno said...

"With so much of our global social structure based on holy writ of some sort or another, it is imperative that we examine thoroughly our sacred cows and not shirk from exposing them to the bright sunlight." D.M. Murdock

Psachno said...

This post is for "Anonymous" who wrote: "Aren't the words of our Creator good enough for you?" If you are depending on only the Bible for "the truth", you are in worse shape than Mormons, I think!

Read the first pages of the KJV of the Bible where the translators explain all the problems they had and how even they aren't sure what is true or not!

And if you don't believe in the KJV and some other translation, then ask yourself how many translations of the Bible are there? And how do you know which one is correct? Through Prayer? If it is prayer, you are again on a slippery slope. At any rate, ALL translations have glaring contradictions!

Why would God make it so difficult for people to really know the truthfulness of our existence, of our purpose, of what is right, of what is good?

This was Bertrand Russell's reply when asked what he would say if he died and found himself confronted by God, demanding to know why Russell had not believed in him:

"Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence."

Amen!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mark MUNRO said...

New publication by Sheets "Book of Mormon Book of Lies" Nov 2012 groundbreaking discovery By a Lawyer compares page for page the source and plagiarism of The Book of Mormon.
A work started by Joseph Smith Senior & later Joseph Smith Junior. Conclusive evidence. A must read for anyone interested in Mormonism.

Bill Thompson said...

what about the web site, skepticsannotatedbible.com that already has some discussion and examination of plagiarism on this page http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/BOM/plag/long.html ?