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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

That New Anti-Mormon DVD: the FAIRMormon Reponse

There's a new anti-Mormon DVD being circulated that (no surprise) contains a rehashing of the standard old arguments against the Church. Helpfully, the good folks at FAIRLDS.org have put together a response to the "Search for the Truth" DVD. For example, they have a section responding to some common attacks on the Book of Abraham, where I found one section to be especially useful. It's the part dealing with the question about why the Book of Abraham would have been included with a pagan Egyptian text. Here is an excerpt:
The issues surrounding the translation of the Egyptian papyri that resulted in the Book of Abraham are much more complex than critics would like us to believe. Foremost, it is significant to realize that we don't have all the papyri that were originally owned by Joseph. Of the five scrolls originally owned by Joseph, only eleven fragments of two scrolls have survived--one of which is an Egyptian Sensen text containing the vignette for Facsimile 1 from the LDS Book of Abraham. Basically, we don't know exactly what was missing, so we can't say for certain that Joseph Smith's papyri collection didn't contain a document that could translate into the Book of Abraham.

But why, some might ask, would a Book of Abraham be present among ancient Egyptian funerary scrolls? We know from other ancient documents that sometimes scrolls with different material were attached together. Some ancient copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, have been found to contain a variety of other non-funerary texts including stories similar to the sacrifice of Abraham (involving different personalities), temple rituals, and more. Yale-trained, professional Egyptologist Dr. John Gee estimates that about 40% of known Sensen texts have other texts attached to them.

Some Egyptian papyri, for example, contain Egyptian instructions on one side and Semitic writings on the back side--in one case Psalms chapters 20-55. One Egyptian temple archive (with an extensive collection of Egyptian rituals), provides an early copy of the "Prayer of Jacob" and two copies of the "Eight Book of Moses" with a discussion of the initiation into the temple at Jerusalem. Both Moses and Abraham are mentioned in this collection and the most commonly invoked deity is Jehovah.

Finally, we know that ancient Israelites sometimes used Egyptian symbols to convey religious teachings. Many Biblical scholars, for instance, believe that an ancient Egyptian book--the Instructions of Amenemope--may have been the source for portions of the biblical book of Proverbs. An ancient Testament of Abraham also seems to have a connection to the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

It is not unlikely--in fact it seems plausible in light of other documentary discoveries--that an ancient Book of Abraham was attached to the Egyptian papyri owned by Joseph Smith. Properly interpreting the Egyptian elements in the Facsimiles may well require that we understand how Jewish authors understood and adapted such elements.

21 comments:

BRoz said...
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BRoz said...

Joseph Smith's studies inspired him to ask the right questions. It could be that if we had the actual papyrus that the Book of Abraham was translated from, it may not translate exactly into what is recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Because, Joseph would have focused on what what was originally recorded and not what was actually recorded on the papyrus. Either way, I know its scripture when I read it because of how it tastes. It tastes like the word of God.

M&M said...

Either way, I know its scripture when I read it because of how it tastes. It tastes like the word of God.

Love it! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Joseph would have focused on what what was originally recorded and not what was actually recorded on the papyrus.

I'm sorry -- this is probably one my slow days -- but what does that mean? I'm not sure what the difference is between what was originally recorded versus what was actually recorded.

Drew said...

Well put.

BRoz said...
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BRoz said...

What I ment is, I doubt the papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate the BoA was actually written by Abrahma himself. When a scholar translates something he wants to be true to the original document for historical interests. However, when a prophet, seer, and revelator translates a document, he is focused on what actually should be on the document more than what is actually written.

Danyeal De La Luna said...

Here's a brief news flash: The Book of Mormon, regardless of how many people that it seems to resonate with, is based on a revisionist history and fabrications by Joseph Smith. In that, it is no different from the Bible in that many stories, including, but not limited to, the story of Noah. The original story was the Epic of Gilgamesh. This doesn't discount the spiritual value of the Book of Mormon, but to base your perceptions of reality on a fiction is just limiting. Yes, the more we learn about the distant past, the more we find that the stories that we thought began in one place and time, actually were around for thousands of years before.

Danyeal De La Luna said...

"However, when a prophet, seer, and revelator translates a document, he is focused on what actually should be on the document more than what is actually written"

This is a flawed and very dangerous statement. What should be and what is are rarely the same things. Does that mean that what Joseph did write and what he should have written are different too? No. What is written has to be maintained as a fact as the writer percieves it.
Case in point: God says "Thou shalt not kill" when the listener translates what he thinks God should have said "Thou shalt not torture small furry creatures". This is flawed logic.

Doug Forbes said...

When someone lies to me or repeatedly makes misleading statements, I soon begin to discount anything they say. The anti-Mormon Book of Abraham argument is a classic example of this. Their story leaves out known facts that challenge their conclusions. These facts are as follows:
1. The sale of the entire collection by Emma Smith to Able Combs is well documented by a bill of sale published in the newspaper "New Democrat".
2. The sale of a large portion of the collection by Able Combs to the Saint Louis Museum is well documented by advertisements in the same newspaper, the "New Democrat".
3. The fragments claimed by anti-Mormons to be the entire collection came into the possession of the New York Museum of Metropolitan Art (NYMMA) via the widower of a woman who was the daughter of the housekeeper of Able Combs.

These facts beg the question. If the NYMMA fragments were the whole collection, how did they get from the possesion of the Saint Louis Museum into the possession of Able Comb's houskeeper or her daughter? The most likely answer is, of course, they didn't.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Joseph Smith lie to create the Mormon faith to begin with?
Seems strange that you would complain about something as trivial as this.

Russell said...

Nice try at provoking, anonymous. Just know that no one worth their intellectual salt will legitimize your drive-by attacks.

Anonymous said...

Russell, here is an exerpt from the Wikipedia on Mormon:

Today the term Mormon is accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, it was first used in the 1830s as a pejorative to describe those who believed that Joseph Smith, Jr. had been called as a prophet of God, and who accepted the Book of Mormon as scripture. By the 1970s, "Mormon" had become so common that the LDS Church began to use the term in its radio and television Public Service Announcements which ended: "A message from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: the Mormons."

According to Latter Day Saint theology, the term "Mormon" also refers to a prophet who lived in the Americas in the 4th century A.D. He is believed to have been called by God to abridge and compile the records of his people and their dealings with God into a single book. His son, Moroni, buried the record, and more than 1400 years later he led Joseph Smith to the burial place. Joseph Smith translated it into English from Reformed Egyptian, and it is now recognized as the Book of Mormon.

Because many people think Mormons are not Christian, leaders of the Mormon church have often encouraged members to use the church's full name to emphasize the church's focus on Jesus Christ.[3] However, while the Church does prefer the use of its full name, use of the term LDS or Mormon is not considered offensive or incorrect when referring to members.[4]


Now, what I have to tell you is this; the concept of a 4th century prophet (as far as I know a European) in the Americas is far fetched enough, since the Vikings couldn't leave writings that survived and they arrived later than the 4th Century. It's a rediculous notion and one that sets the Mormon church up to be little more than a Christian based cult. The real reasons for Smith establishing the Mormon church was to populate the 'west' when most of the men died on the journey. Smith was also a bit of a control freak and spirituality is a fast track to power.

All that being said, the Mormon faith is not to be invalidated because of its origins, since many have found that it provides answers and comfort to them, but most have used it as an excuse for not seeking scientific knowledge and comming up with their own truths.

Russell said...

Anon:

Talk about a simplistic attack on the Mormon faith (and really on all faiths given that all have "ridiculous" notions such as the virgin birth--physically impossible--and the resurrection--the product of the frenzied minds of gullible fishermen). These faiths have just be "legitimized" by centuries of accepted dogma. If you're going to criticize, at least be egalitarian about it.

The simple problem with your approach is that, as Chesterton writes, you're accepting dogmas without knowing it. "Coming up with their own truths" is itself based on the dogma that there is indeed no truth. What a provincial world to live in. Chesterton further notes that if one's "own truths" were the real truth, then they are not much of a truth.

Furthermore, none of the claims you cite really hold water in terms of the evidence. The Viking claim fails I would refer you to the Vinland map--a detailed report can be found on http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/vinland/vinland.htm)
The most relevant sentence is the final. Your claims about Joseph Smith are based on scanty evidence. In fact, James Arlington Bennet and John C. Bennett sounded more like the western empire-mongers than Joseph Smith (who wanted the center of all the nations to be in Nauvoo).

No, Anon. I am disappointed by your wholesale dismissal of both relevant literature and your BONDAGE to secularist dogmas. Mormonism can offer comfort, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Can your "own truths" do that?

Anonymous said...

That was a fantastic and well thought out response. I commend your respectful and detailed post. Thank you!

I am a heathen, a Pagan, and more accurately, a seeker. I have read and attended many services of many religions, including Catholic, Protestant (all but Mormon and Jahovah's Witness), Hindu, Muslim, and as many as I have been allowed to attend. I have read as much as I have been able to, although again, I only know a little about Mormonism. Most of what I know of your religion is based on the accounts of friends who were raised in Mormon communities that supported multiple wives. I won't get into that since I understand that most Mormons don't believe in that. I have come under fire on many occasions by followers of your religion knocking on my door.

I am here for exactly what you gave me, an passionate and educated response.

Again, thank you.

Russell said...

No problem, Anon. While I bemoan the intellectual laziness of some of my fellow members, I think that the laziness is, in the words of one church leader, local rather than institutional in nature.

I commend you also on your search for truth. Predictably, I would encourage searching the REAL Mormon literature--the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants. The key to the Book of Mormon is not always the words themselves (though they too are powerful in concept) but rather, the words become vehicles through which more knowledge can be obtained. It has all the joys of postmodernism without the often attendant paralysis of thought.

And you are right on your assessment of your acquaintances in those communities. I don't care who you talked to about Mormonism; you've apparently received some bad intel.

ruadamu2 said...

Much of what anon states is flawed, no doubt due to innaccurate information recieved from colleages. His main premise, however, is nonetheless valid...Mormonism is founded on the fictional meanderings of a power hungry man, namely Joseph Smith.

The BofA has facimiles that have been translated by true egyptian scholars and found to be in total conflict with the BofA. It doesn't matter if some of the fragments or scrolls are missing. The facsimiles are in the book and can be translated. Joseph's translation is wrong. Case Closed.

Even if JS did translate the scroll correctly, it would prove nothing. The words in the "BofA" are merely plagarized from another faulty text...the book of Genesis.

Would God be wrong in both books? Of course not. Both books are fiction. This has been proven. There was no Adam and Eve 6,000 years ago. There was no flood that covered the earth. God did not create the earth in 6 days, etc. etc. If you read the accounts carefully, (both the BofG and BofA) you will realize that certain events happened out of possible sequence.

The book of Genesis is fiction. The book of Abraham is fiction. Joseph Smith is a fraud. I have watched the DVD in question. Everything stated in the DVD with regards to the LDS church is true. If you don't believe it, look it up yourself like I did. Don't take any online bozo's word for it. DO THE RESEARCH YOURSELF. You might just be surprised at what you discover.

Russell said...

I'm afraid I've DONE THE RESEARCH MYSELF, and unless you're some kind of scholar going incognito, I'm pretty sure that I've done more research than you. You're not pronouncing some unknown mystery nor are you enlightening some benighted blogger. I knew about the alleged "plaigirism" long before I saw it here. I'm not keen on blowing my own trumpet, but it is true nonetheless. You're dealing in old, hackneyed news.

Educated Mormons know about the Book of Breathings, they know about Klaus Baer declaring it to be an average funery text. But you (and numerous MOrmons to be sure) have made certain assumptions about what the Book of Abraham translation was. We can re-evaluate those assumptions without throwing out the BoA. You think that we are being side-winded by these allegations, but you are--quite simply--wrong.

Look at Jeff's treatment of this on the website, as we need not burden this thread with a regurgitation of the obvious. You'll see that your arguments resemble (to the outside reader anyway) blurts of frustration rather than sustained criticial analysis.

Anonymous said...

You guys are sad people believing in what you believe , i almost look at your as a blinded sheep that is in their own circle of sheep and can't see anything pass thems selfes. You want break free for a moment to get away from all the mormon propaganda fed to you since you born or since you join. Everything is anti to you everything is Against you unless it is your mormon friends. Even Mormons split now. Lol

Chad said...

Missing pieces of a this common funerary document are not an excuse to dismiss the wrongly translated faxsimiles that can be found in the Pearl of Great Price. You are correct in saying that this is an old attack on the LDS faith. It is quite different than the ever changing apologetic responses to the same issue. Apologetic responses always seem to change in light of indisputable evidence that arduously makes its way through.

Anonymous said...

I saw a Utah news story about the forward to the Mormon bible changing a word.

prior to change:

lamenites are the "principal" ancestors of the American Indians.

It was changed to:

Lamenites are "among" the ancestors of the American Indians.

Mormon apologists will continue to be backed into corners as time goes by.