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

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"A Crooked, Broken, Scattered and Imperfect Language": Dealing with the Limitations of Revelation to Mortals

One of the valuable contributions from the scholarship in the Joseph Smith Papers (see JosephSmithPapers.org) is an enhanced understanding of the revelatory process that we have before us in the papers of Joseph Smith. Some Latter-day Saints might be surprised to find that their imagined views of revelation are challenged. Much of what was revealed through Joseph Smith did not come as complete and perfect dictation from God, but often required revisions. It's a reminder of the limitations of revelation to mortals, in which God comes down to our level and works with mortals in their language, with their limitations in understanding. What mortals put into writing can be incomplete or even inaccurate on several levels, requiring subsequent correction or revised interpretation in the future. As Joseph Smith once put it, "Oh Lord God, deliver us from this prison, almost as it were, of paper, pen and ink, and of a crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language" (letter to William W. Phelps, Nov. 27, 1832).

This quote was used recently in a MormonTimes article, "Scribes Recorded Prophet's 'Crooked, Broken Language.'" This discusses Joseph's reluctance to write and his reliance on scribes. Here's an excerpt:
Mark Ashurst-McGee, coeditor of the JSP's Journals series, added that the Prophet understood the need for record keeping, but fully understood the limitations of his meager childhood education.

Nothing illustrates that better than a letter written on Nov. 27, 1832, to William W. Phelps, the church printer in Missouri. In it, the Prophet writes, "Oh Lord God, deliver us from this prison, almost as it were, of paper, pen and ink, and of a crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language."

"That's great writing," Ashurst-McGee said. "But at the same time he's writing well, he's saying, 'I hate this'."

According to the Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1, Joseph wrote in a journal for nine days, then not again for 10 months.

"He understands the importance of record keeping, feels strongly about it, and understands its part of the mission of the church, but he doesn't love it," Ashurst-McGee said. "And that's why he starts getting scribes to help him. He's so busy. And (having scribes) builds up more and more in the history of the early church, so that by the time he dies, he has an office staff."
Joseph's discomfort in writing fits the LDS view on the origins of the Book of Mormon, where Joseph was the overwhelmed translator, not a dazzlingly brilliant author. Further, the abundance of records showing the process in which scripture was born, including the original and printer's manuscripts of the Book of Mormon and the manuscripts behind the Doctrine and Covenants, show that Joseph Smith was not in the business of covering up his tracks as part of a massive fraud. We can see the details of the translation process for the Book of Mormon and the details of the processes for later revelations. Now massive efforts are underway to help make all of this more visible for the world through the Joseph Smith Papers project. We'll have much to learn and many assumptions to update as we digest all the information. It's part of a healthy journey in world where we can never fully escape from the limitations of a "crooked, broken, scattered and imperfect language."



Update, July 12, 2010: We agree with Moses in Deut. 4:2 and with John in Rev. 22:18-19 that no man should add to or subtract from the text given to us by prophets of God. But God can speak and add all He wants, working through His mortal servants the prophets, and thus Moses and other prophets kept on writing as God kept on revealing or as sacred history kept on being recorded.

Were the words of Moses and the other prophets of the Bible complete and inerrant when first penned? Was there never any revision or need for later correction?

While we do not have ANY of the original texts that led to the Bible, and do not have the luxury of looking over the Isaiah papers or Moses papers, for example, to see how they recorded and prepared their documents, we do have a few hints suggesting that revisions may have occurred. For example, consider the writings of Jeremiah as recorded by Jeremiah's scribe, Baruch. See Jeremiah 36, where we learn that Baruch wrote all the words from Jeremiah that were recorded in a book (vss. 4, 17, 18) Unfortunately, King Jehoiakim of Judah burned the book that contained the words of Jeremiah (vss. 21-25). The Lord commanded Jeremiah to prepare his document again, writing "all the former words that were in the first roll" (vs. 28). In verse 32, Jeremiah then commanded his scribe, Baruch, to write on another roll the words of Jeremiah, "and there were added besides unto them many like words." Many like words added? This doesn't sound like original dictation straight from the mouth of God, perfectly preserved and unchangeable. Prophets speak or dictate by inspiration, but there can be later changes and additions.

A few years ago Robert Boylan kindly sent me further information on this topic:
You might also like to know that Jeremiah 36:32 is not the only example of prophets revising their prior revelations. Moses revised the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), as seen when one examines Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. In addition, Isaiah 36-39 is a revision of 2 Kings 18:13 - 20:19, and Jeremiah 52 is a revision of 2 Kings 24-25. Joseph Smith's actions, contra critics ... are entirely consistent with the actions of Biblical Prophets.
As I understand it, scripture is inherently affected by human limitations. These limitations arise in receiving divine knowledge in the first place, then putting that knowledge into writing, followed by the tasks of preserving the text, translating the text, and publishing the text. Human limitations become especially severe when it comes to interpreting the text. Opportunities for error exist at every step. The original authors or even subsequent prophets may have occasional needs to revise or clarify what once was penned. None of this should shock us.

Some think of scripture as spoken directly by God with every letter and nuance perfectly captured. The conceit behind the easily refuted Bible Code, in which secret messages from God can be found by formatting the Torah into various grids and looking for secret word-puzzle messages, goes beyond that and envisions a Hebrew text that has preserved every letter since the beginning. This idealistic view is easily shattered. We work with texts that may have had many limitations from the beginning, and that were often imperfectly preserved over the centuries, resulting in many competing variants, occasional gaps or lacunae, and some obvious difficulties. It's just one more reason why we need ongoing revelation to guide us. We rely on written revelation and faithful latter-day Saints turn to it daily and use it to gain guidance and revelation for our lives, but we should be emotionally prepared to occasionally recognize that past assumptions and knowledge may need to be updated, and that some things we think we have drawn from scripture may be imperfect and incomplete, in need of revision. Whether it's the age of the earth, the geographical extent of the Flood, the details of the Creation, the value of pi (implicitly 3.0 in 1 Kings 7:23: "ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, . . . and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about"), the settling of the Americas, or all many of historical and doctrinal issues, we must always understand that our knowledge may be more limited than we think, partly because revelation comes though human tools struggling with imperfect language and imperfect understanding in the first place, not to mention all the other challenges that can arise in going from the pen of the author to printed translations much later.

91 comments:

Michael Paul Bailey said...

Something I find really annoying, but also a bit humorous, about Mormon apologetics is how everything is interpreted as positive. For example, most intelligent people would take the fact that Joseph had to edit his revelations as a sign that they were contrived. After all, think about it. If he had made them up himself, we would have most definitely done revisions, correct? So, the events fit perfectly with a non-divine hypothesis. Nevertheless, apologists find a way to twist the events so that they are somehow faith-affirming.

The biggest problem with this is that it provides no way to examine a religious event scientifically or intellectually. If I present a scientific theory, say evolution, I can (and must) provide ways in which this theory can be disproven. Then, as subsequent evidence starts pouring in, we can examine the nature of said evidence based upon my invalidation criteria. If we find evidence that runs contrary to my theory, then we can safely dismiss the theory.

Unfortunately, religion plays by a completely different set of rules. When religion puts for a theory, there is no invalidation criteria ever provided. In fact, even worse, every outcome can be seen as validation of the theory. In other words, no matter what happens, the evidence can be twisted to point to God and a divine source.

For example, let's say that I pray for safety before leaving on a trip. Now let's say I come close to an accident. If I narrowly miss the accident, then I praise God, claiming that I was saved by divine intervention. Now imagine I don't miss the accident. I speak of how grateful I am that God saved me from dying. Now imagine I die in the accident. My family bares their testimony about how I returned safely back to God in heaven. You see? No possible outcome invalidates the original theory. With religion, all roads lead to Rome, regardless of whether they actually do or not.

Bookslinger said...

Michael "Che" Bailey:

That's why it's called FAITH.

id said...

Haha, yea. I was blessed with the opportunity to watch an Apostle visit one of the local wards, and his response to someone asking "why don't women have the priesthood?" was: "they don't need it." He put a very positive spin on it after the laughter subsided (not in reaction, of course) by saying they're so pure that they don't need it.

I'm too universalist to worry if a Mormon is going to hell, so I really appreciate the beautiful spots of rhetoric I hear every now and then.

There are some areas in Mormonism where critical evaluation make a difference, however. Like textual criticism with the bible, the scholarship points toward a much different view than the raging fundamentalists who typically bash Mormons for scriptural misapplication (you know, saved by faith and etc., yet they don't understand or just flat out reject the scholarship pointing towards a more liberal view of the idea that the Bible is more so a collection of people inspired by God rather than "God breathed" itself). The Book of Abraham is becoming the subject where, now that we know we have the original text (see my post in "All lies? The Book of Abraham" at the bottom), we can tell that anything but a liberal approach to this Mormon scripture is incorrect. I believe the current (liberal) thinking is that Smith had no idea what he was doing at all, but the shapes inspired him to write actual scripture.

Charisma led his followers to believe it was actually the text of Abraham, and it wouldn't surprise me if a few other "revelations" were really just his imagination.

Take polygamy for example. If you actively disagreed with it, you were kicked out of the church and had your own printing press destroyed! Now that's a bit of a generalization, but Smith was The Man. Who dare defy him, and if they dare, who won in the end? (evidence points to Smith winning, if this dare was ever taken on)

In regards to the post, I hope this kind of thinking eventually perpetuates through the church. It would be nice if there was an "NIV" version of the Book of Mormon. I've picked the BoM up again (trying to finish it finally), and due to my rejection of it as scripture, the wordiness of it all does not appeal to me. My skeptical mind tells me that this is what happens when someone is orating a text to a scribe and is making things up on the go, and the flip side of me is wondering if "and it came to pass" is a Hebraism.

John said...

I think Michael Bailey makes a great point. Religious people do interpret everything that happens to them in such a way that they can preserve their belief in God. This is the same thing as burying your talent in the sand to keep it safe. "My little bit of faith in God is so precious, I need to hide it away and not allow it to be subjected to any potentially destructive influences." I'd rather test my faith against the harsh realities of mortality. Maybe then it might actually grow.

Bookslinger, it is called faith, but if that is the case, then we religious people need to stay out of the "proof" business.

Bookslinger said...

Who's in the "proof" business?

I'm not. And Br. Lindsay has often gone to great pains explaining that he's not either.

It's a gross mischaracterization of people such as MPB who comment on this blog when they accuse Jeff of trying to "prove" the LDS gospel.

I don't think other serious LDS apologists are trying to prove anything either.

I think Jeff explained it well when he called it creating "room for faith" or emphasizing that there is plenty of evidence of _plausibility_.

Plausibility is a good word, and I think it very appropriate.

The nay-sayers like to claim that the LDS version of things _can't_ be true. As I see it, the goal of apologists is not to prove the LDS version of things, but to illustrate that the facts show it is _plausible_.

Those who see label Jeff's (or other apologists') efforts at illustrating plausible as attempts of proving something are either being dishonest, or are failing to comprehend his theses (that's the plural of thesis).

LuckyMatt said...

Nicely said, Bookslinger.

In reality, *everyone* chooses what to believe. It is not possible to "prove" any belief system based on logic and physical evidence alone (including the athiest faith). Even rejecting spirituality altogether is a faith-based position because spiritual things cannot be "proved" away. There can be explanations offered to imply plausibility of a position, but nothing can ultimately be proved.

It's the classical logical fallacy of Korihor in Alma chapter 30, where he makes the claim that "Behold, ye cannot know of things which ye do not see" (v. 15) and then contradicts himself by asserting that God is "a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be" (v. 28). After all these years, the logic of the non-beleiver hasn't advanced past this obvious fallacy. Proving the non-existence of something is much harder than proving its existence, and thus the non-believer is backed up to a wall of faith just as big as the believer.

The bottom line is that someone who wants to believe a certain way always has the option of closing their eyes to all evidence (physical and spiritual) and cannot be swayed. Ultimate truth can *only* be discerned spiritually (and I know, the truth of that statement falls on deaf ears from those who don't want to believe it).

LuckyMatt said...

And a thought on the actual topic of this post: I appreciate that quote from the Joseph Smith letter. It reminds me of Moroni's similar lamentation in Ether 12:23-24:

"Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them; And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands."

I would guess that anyone who is trying to describe or express something truly great (such as the gospel of Jesus Christ) can relate just a little. I know that sometimes when I attempt to put things that are most precious to me into words, they come out rather jumbled and unorderly. I believe that's more of a reflection of the weakness of the thinker, than the thoughts themselves.

Bookslinger said...

Lucky matt: I think anyone who has experienced personal spritual-based revelation, regardless of their religious affiliation, would recognize the truth in Joseph Smith's words.

Granted, God _does_ have the ability to deliver a message to a human in a word-for-word verbatim manner in whatever earthly language He wants (after all, He's all-knowing and all-powerfull).

And He's powerful enough to make such a word-by-word message perfectly clear to the human recipient. But the vast majority of the time, communication from God to man is in the form of feelings, hints, whisperings, that we call "promptings" and "impressions." And it is usually only with humility, faith, and devotion to righteousness does a human then progressively develop the ability to more clearly understand those messages of "feeling."

Joseph Smith even called them "strokes of ideas."

LuckyMatt said...

Bookslinger, I may misunderstand you, but it sounds like you think we disagree. I believe we are in complete agreement. I probably didn't express myself clearly (this crooked, broken language of ours), so let me try again:

Spiritual things cannot ever be "proven" using only logic and physical evidence. Spiritual things can only be proven through a spiritual sense--through the feelings the Holy Ghost brings. God can send messages to a person, plain as day, and he will not notice or understand them without the confirming witness and understanding given by the Holy Ghost.

1 Corinthians 2:13-14: "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Thus, someone whose heart is hardened against the Spirit can never be persuaded to believe in spiritual truths using logic, reason, or physical evidence. It just won't work. They have chosen not to believe, and they are putting their faith in their non-belief, because they cannot "prove" the falsehood of spiritual things using logic and natural evidence, any more than we can "prove" the truth of spiritual things using the same.

I remember an experience from my mission where a preacher from another church was arguing with me about the validity of the Book of Mormon, mocking my testimony that was based on a sure witness of the Spirit, and not physical evidence. I asked him how he knew Jesus Christ was the savior, if not from the Spirit. His reply? "Because the tomb was empty." That was his "evidence." His response showed what to me seemed an astonishing lack of understanding for a "spiritual leader." I tried to explain to him that all the stories in the Bible could have been made up. Being old and widely believed doesn't equate to being true. The only way to discern truth is through the Spirit.

So my point is simply agreeing with your earlier point: religious apologetics (using logic and natural evidence) can only show that there is a "plausible" case for the truth of spiritual things; to a reasonable, open-minded person it can effectively shoot down those who, like Korihor, claim to "know" that spiritual things are false. The honest person who exclusively relies on his own brain and physical senses must admit that he either doesn't know the truth or falsehood of spiritual things (an agnostic view), or they are choosing to believe one way or the other. The only *real* proof of spiritual things comes from the Holy Ghost, and in no other way.

LuckyMatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LuckyMatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LuckyMatt said...

Sorry, weird browser issues caused multiple postings of my comment, which I deleted.

Stephen said...

I've always enjoyed Brigham Young and Joseph Smith's discussions on this point, about how weak and imperfect language was and how it was a struggle to fit revelation into human language and the inaccuracy that resulted.

Bookslinger said...

Lucky M,

I didn't (and don't) think we disagree either. I was just restating some points. I'm sorry for creating any impression of opposition to what you said.

jackg said...

Jeff,

I think you make a good argument for why there was and is no need for a restoration. God chose to work through a fallen humanity when He gave us the biblical text. The Bible is indeed inerrant regarding salvation history, which means that any and everything we need to know about our relationship with God and the road to redemption can be found within its pages. What I struggle to understand is that you use your argument to defend the BOM but not to uphold the Bible. It leaves me scratching my head...

Bookslinger,

I have to disagree with your comment: "But the vast majority of the time, communication from God to man is in the form of feelings, hints, whisperings, that we call "promptings" and "impressions." The reality is that the vast majority of the time God speaks to us through His word, which is found in the Biblical text. To assert that "feelings, hints, whisperings" are the norm is not to understand how God communicates. You see, one cannot forget that there are false spirits leading good people to hell by giving them impressions and such. That's why it's vital that one test any impressions and such against the Bible. It is the measuring stick. The problem I have is the emphasis on "personal" revelation over God's Word. When mildly questioned, it is clear to see that the teachings of JS contradict the Bible or are founded on principles not found in the Bible (such as the teaching that God merely organized matter that somehow predated Him as opposed to creating everything, including matter itself). If I were to get a feeling or impression that such a doctrine was true, an appeal to the Bible would straighten me out right away.

Taking Jeff's post as a springboard, I again ask how can one deny the validity and authority of God's revealed Word in the Bible? Again, I am scratching my head...

The argument Jeff presents is solid. The problem I find is in its application which, to me, seems to be applied only when talking about the writings of JS.

AN ASIDE FOR JEFF: My daughter will be attending a NON-BLOCK school next year. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I really appreciate it.

Peace...

LuckyMatt said...

Bookslinger: our conversation is a good example of how the written word can be so easily misinterpreted. The same phenomenon has been discussed about e-mail communication: how the missing "tone" of comments in writing can cause confusion about the intentions of the writer. So yes, we are in complete agreement.

Jackg: Not sure how you are interpreting Jeff's post to "not uphold the Bible." On the contrary, he is holding up the Bible as the accepted standard, showing how Joseph Smith's revelations are like those in the Bible.

And this may be a little off topic, but since you brought it up, will you please show me where in the Bible it says that everything God needs to say to His children here on earth is contained within the Bible, and that He will never say any more?

On the contrary, the Bible looks forward to future prophets receiving revelation, and has close to 2 dozen references to other scripture that was around at the time the Bible was being written (over thousands of years) but is not contained in the Bible in it's current state (see Lost Books). Remember, the Bible wasn't delivered to man as a complete, perfect package. The currently accepted canon was compiled over hundreds of years, amidst controversy about what should be included, left out, what was scripture, what wasn't, etc., by people who were not prophets and did not have authority to speak the will of God regarding His word (for example, read the section in Wikipedia's article about the canonization of the Book of Revelation.)

The Bible that we have is a miracle and a precious gem. It's testimony of the Savior especially is priceless. But it certainly never claims to be all that God ever said or will say throught he medium of prophets or scripture.

Anonymous said...

re id: who won in the end? (evidence points to Smith winning, if this dare was ever taken on)...

Interesting question. I'd say that in many ways, at least looking at where things stand right now, Smith lost bigtime. Or at best one can say, Maybe he won, maybe he lost; it's complicated, and we can't really know for sure.

First, of course, there's the fact that Smith was murdered. Second, though he remains the titular founder of the "religions of Joseph Smith," most of those religions have taken pains to distance themselves from Smith's most distinctive and controversial doctrines. E.g., both the LDS Church and the Community of Christ (the two largest of Smith's legacies) have distanced themselves from notions like the Israelite origins of Native America (and dark skin as a "curse"), the Kolob-centered cosmos, the idea that Abraham et al are now full-fledged Gods in a polytheistic universe.... and of course have also repudiated polygamy. (True, one of Smith's other legacies, the FLDS Church, continues to honor this most distinctively Smithian doctrine, but is widely reviled by the culture at large.)

The LDS Church has grown tremendously since Smith's death, but one can't cite that as evidence that "Smith won" for the simple reason that one can't be sure that Smith himself would have preferred the LDS over, say, the FLDS (widely reviled and still being persecuted) or the Strangites (barely hanging on). Maybe Smith would have been happy at all with what the LDS Church has become.

The one sense in which Smith did ultimately "win" is that he started something big and important. But did he "win" in the sense that what he started has grown into what he wanted? Hard to say.

jackg said...

Lucky Matt,

The reason I wrote what I did is that Mormons argue that the Bible is insufficient because of evil and wicked men taking out precious doctrines from it. Jeff's well-written post applies the reality of God working through a fallen humanity prone to errors to defend the writings of JS, but does not apply it to the biblical text. The reason I say this is because if one actually applied the principles Jeff is espousing to the biblical text, then one can't help but argue that the Bible is inerrant regarding salvation history. I hope this answers your question.

Regarding your challenge to show you where in the Bible it says that God won't speak to could be considered a trap since we all know that such a statement cannot be found in the Bible. I could challenge you to show me where it says the BOM would be brought into the world because the Bible doesn't have what we need to understand God and salvation. You couldn't show me that verse, either. The Bible is complete regarding what we need to know about God, us, and our relationship with Him, which is that we are fallen and separated from Him, doomed to eternal separation from Him, and cannot come into His Holy Presence on our own merits, which is why He sent Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins. That's the gospel message. Anything more is not biblical but the product of men and false teachings.

I stated that God generally speaks to us through His Word, which is good enough. We are too fallen to think that our antennae are so accurate that we don't misinterpret what God would be saying to us through emotions and feelings. But, His Word is right there plain as day to guide us, to give us hope, and reveal His love for us.

Yes, God speaks to us. He reveals things to us through human beings. What I don't believe is that He spoke through JS to teach the world things that are not congruent with the biblical text. You think such teachings are in alignment with the Bible. So, I challenge you to show me where in the Bible it teaches that God lived on an earth as we do, and that there are other gods beside Him. You see, we can dance that dance all night long, but it doesn't really settle anything. I still maintain that the Bible is not authoritative for the LDS Church, which means that it is not the absolute measuring stick, but that other writings and feelings are. That's all.

Blessings...

LuckyMatt said...

jackg, we have no disagreement that scripture trumps personal revelation--like you said, the canon is the measuring stick to judge all things against. If a person feels "inspired" with ideas that are not in harmony with scripture, he had better reconsider.

I also agree that the writings in the Bible are inspired, true, and authoritative. No disagreement there.

And yes, the challenge for you to show me where the Bible says there won't be additional scripture outside the Bible was a trap of sorts--a request that I knew you could not deliver on because, as you admit, it is *not* a Biblical teaching. Therefore, by applying your own criteria, you must reject it.

The Bible clearly indicates the existence of additional scripture outside itself. The Book of Mormon is part of that extra-Biblical scripture, as are the other revelations of ancient and modern-day prophets.

id said...

thank you for your reply, anonymous.

What I meant by winning probably wasn't clear enough when I wrote my post, though I always love to think along those lines (as in, would Jesus shake the church up if He returned? I think so. Smith? He'd be in for a culture shock, as would anybody coming from his time).

Anyways, my definition of winning was more important than "did Smith give way to a successful church?" Rather, it was a very specific win--winning the argument. Is polygamy a God-breathed doctrine? Is the Book of Abraham written by Abraham himself? Are Lamanites Native Americans?

Does nobody recall that Smith received the knowledge about Indians in the BoM through an angel? (I'll pull out the quote later if anyone would like a confirmation).

Yet regardless of where Smith got this idea from, let us note the absolute conformity to this idea! There was no question among the First Presidency that the Lamanites were Indians. This belief was propagated by Smith, and no one questioned it.

Win.

Polygamy?

Win.

We can become gods?

Win.

Smith could've told everyone that some random dead body was an ancient warrior from the Book of Mormon times, and they would've believed him! LGT apologists would've disagreed, of course, but there was no disagreement on what Smith "felt" from the Spirit/preached among his people at the time.

Those who did disagree defected, were highly ridiculed, and now we have the famous compartmentalization line: "he's hate-filled, never had a real testimony, and obviously anti-Mormon."

Absolute, undeniable win for Joseph Smith.

That's why, although I should be too universalist to care, that I put a lot of emphasis on Smith's handling of polygamy. He took advantage of a lot of people and got away with it, which is very apparent in the way he coaxed teenage girls' parents into allowing him to marry their young daughter by promising them eternal life.

If someone can't see through that, then how is a body of Latter-Day Saint Apostles supposed to tell the difference between speculation and scripture? If someone wholeheartedly believes Smith when he says that Indians are descendants of the Lamanites, like the entire First Presidency did back in his time, how can we trust them to know "revelation" from "lie"?

id said...

As for the conversation going on among jackg, luckymatt, and bookslinger, I'd like to ask a question about the reliability of feeling for revelation.

Has there ever been an answer you received through prayer that ended up being wrong once compared to, say, history or the bible?
I was reading the replies to a blog post one day on this other site, and someone came in bashing people for believing Smith secretly practiced polygamy. He said he knew because the Spirit told him so, and that we should check out FAIR and FARMS (which made me wonder if he was actually some anti-mormon trying to have fun).

Still, I can't help but wonder how you judge the worthiness of the answers you receive through prayer, and if there have been any contradicting answers, how you uphold the integrity of this method.

I'd also like to comment on this quote from earlier: "Ultimate truth can *only* be discerned spiritually (and I know, the truth of that statement falls on deaf ears from those who don't want to believe it)."

What about spiritual truths that have physical implications? For example: We know that, since Jesus died on the cross, that there must have been an execution method involving crosses back in His time--and there were, whereas the complete absence of that method, alongside contradicting evidence that, say, the universal practice was to throw people off a cliff, would be reason to doubt that He died on the cross. If this was supposed to be taken literally because of spiritual discernment, then what of spiritual discernment being the *ultimate* truth?

Bookslinger made a case for LDS apologists only making Mormonism to be plausible, but they're doing so in the face of very contradicting evidence that, if factual, is proof that Mormonism is false. And factual is an attainable thing, believe it or not. I'm actually more prone to believe the facts against the church because I had a very genuine spiritual encounter through prayer that told me the Book of Mormon and LDS church are false.

LuckyMatt said...

Re "id": I'll qualify my statement about ultimate truth: ultimate *spiritual* truth can only be discerned spiritually. But to me, spiritual truths--such as whether there is a God, what He is like, the origin, purpose, and destiny of man, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the validity of prophetic callings and the truthfulness of their words, etc--are the ones that matter most, by far.

Other truths such as "grass is green," or "gravity is real," or "Hitler waged a war" certainly don't require a spiritual manifestation to know. But this conversation is about spiritual things and that's what I meant by my statement.

Someone rejecting spiritual evidence will never come to know the truth of spiritual things. Take the birth of Jesus. By all logic and reason, *by far* the most reasonable conclusion is that Mary had an illegitimate child and she and Joseph made up a wild story about angels and a divine conception to the attempt to cover it up. And the shepherds who saw the child in the stable and reported angelic visits were certainly accomplices to the fraud or deluded. You will never convince a skeptic otherwise, and indeed, out of a nation of skeptics came a mob who worked for the crucifixion of Jesus.

The only way to know that the "wild stories" about his miraculous conception and birth are true (and they are true) is through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. There are plenty of practicing Christians today who reject these types of supernatural occurances and believe Jesus was simply a normal man with a great social message. These same Christians reject the Spirit of God. These spiritual things will, as Paul says, always sound like "foolishness" to the natural man. It's just the way things are.

And as for people getting false spiritual answers, that also happens. Satan and his minions try to confuse us at every turn and can put all sorts of crazy ideas in people's heads. I have no doubt that people get confused all the time by mistaking false spirits for the Holy Spirit. That's one reason why the scriptural canon is so essential, and is the bedrock of our faith, and helps us discern between the two. Prophets are (usually) better at receiving communication from God than the rest of us. It goes with the calling and flows from the way they live their lives. Therefore, their words can help us discern truth from error. I have no doubt that some of those who believed Mary's "wild story" about Jesus' conception took comfort in the prophecies such as Isaiah's, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son...."

But having a supporting scripture is not enough--the personal witness of the Holy Ghost that the scripture applied to *this instance* of their life's experience (aka personal revelation) would have been essential to sort out truth from fraud. It's the same story with every controversial religious figure: Jesus, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, and yes, Joseph Smith and his successors in the latter days.

jackg said...

Lucky Matt,

I guess we will always disagree on the writings of JS. So, it's kind of pointless to reiterate the same arguments we have already done on previous posts. We both know where the other stands. Have a blessed day!

Peace...

id said...

thanks for your reply, luckymatt.

I figured you meant more spiritual things such as "is there a God?" and so on. I was just thinking more along the lines of "if the Book of Mormon is true and is to be taken as a literal, historical record, there wouldn't be so much evidence against it." If I didn't receive the No in my prayer, I wouldn't be able to take the book literally (like Dan Vogel? Is that the Mormon apologist who doesn't take the BoM literally?).

As for spiritual discernment and getting answers from Satan, how can anything at all in the Mormon religion be taken seriously if this is true? The BoM prayer is rendered a 50/50 shot, same with the truthfulness of the church (at least, 50/50 based on spiritual evidence). Furthermore, I could prove to anyone that there were major times when Joseph Smith had no idea what he was talking about (the Book of Abraham, Lamanites as Indian ancestors, BoM geography, and how his followers blindly believed every word of it or else they went through apostasy), and so, out of sake of someone else's personal comfort, am I supposed to disregard the evidence proving my spiritual experience and instead accept the complete lack of evidence and entirely speculative plausibility that comes with the answer I didn't receive spiritually?

Patrick said...

Joseph was an imperfect man trying to deliver inprecisely delivered revelation. What we got is a book full of grammatical errors, inadequate wording, and limited communication. If you search hard enough you'll find the divine. For me the greatest divine nugget in the Book of Mormon is the clarification of what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, best summarized in 2 Nephi 31:10-21 and futher expounded upon in Doctrine and Covenants 20:17-29 and 76:40-42,50-53. When I say I believe the Gospel is true I am testifying to the truthfulness of those verses.

The imprecise delivery of revelation that gave us the Bible gave us a book full of grammatical errors, inadequate wording, and limited communication. The divine Gospel nuggets found in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are in there too. Unfortunately the corrective process of continued revelation was interrupted for a time and the patina of human intellect sans divine assistance tarnished the brilliance of the Bible gems.

id said...

Patrick,
Hey, I just read the end of 2nd Nephi not too long ago.

I don't mean to agitate you, but I feel like I could write a whole lot of nonsense, throw my version of the Gospel of Christ in it, and call it another testimony to Christ's divinity.

It's a nice divine nugget for sure, but it could very easily have been borrowed from some 19th century Methodist priest and whatever influence he had on Smith's theology.

jackg said...

Patrick,

I have to step in and say that I don't see where your comments have any grounding in biblical truth. When you start off by admitting JS was an imperfect man and that "If you search hard enough you'll find the divine" made me immediately think that the Bible reveals its divine nature the moment one reads it. When I think of the BOM and other literary comparisons, I think about Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. One can certainly find divine gems throughout that writing, but it doesn't make it scripture. So, even if one could argue that you can find divine gems in the BOM, it doesn't make it scripture.

Blessings...

Patrick said...

id,

Your's is a plausible explanation for the Book of Mormon. I love that word, plausible. The only thing I'll say I know for certain is that I have a Heavenly Father. Beyond that the best I can do is say, "I believe." I've spent too much time on the net reading the opinions and beliefs of others, and enjoying friends with different belief systems, that I dare not say they have no value.

I recognize the subjectivity of labeling what is spiritual, what is divine, what is beautiful, and what is inspired. My conclusions have formed within the internal universe known as Patrick. I try to expose that internal universe through external action; action that I hope respects others and their belief systems.

Many in the world believe the argument is won through popular vote (whose church has the most members), or through overwhelming debate skills. I don’t think the argument can ever be won. Arrival at truth is an individual one on one process with our Heavenly Father which culminates with us standing before Him. My journey has been facilitated by good imperfect parents and loving, imperfect church members from Adam to the present.

I’m willing to dig up the list of evidence proving plausibility for my beliefs, I just don’t see the use. Jeff has already done that. What I would prefer is to invite you over for a hamburger, help you with whatever is bugging you, and talk you into a mountain bike ride on the High Desert Trail.

So what am I doing here? Sharing an opinion, nothing more. A plausible subjective opinion that is all mine. I may take an occasional swing at this whole apologetics activity but I’m just no good at debate. I’m glad Jeff is here providing this service. Too many members are feeling overwhelmed with everyone else’s explanations of why the LDS belief system is not plausible. Someone needed to show them that their contributions to the world have value, and their beliefs are plausible.

Patrick said...

jackg,

First let me say that the invite for a hamburger extends to you too. Lately I’ve noticed a greater civility in your responses to people on this site so that I don’t fear an invite for a hamburger would culminate in a fist fight (HA-HA).

Read my response to id about what I find to be the subjective nature of spiritual truth and spiritual experience. As individuals we assign levels of value to spiritual stuff and then hold those out as the standard by which all others must measure their spiritual stuff.

I’ll have to disagree with you when you say that my comments have no grounding in biblical truth. Our rulers are different and my ruler has biblical written all over it. The same goes for my “divine nature” ruler. Oh, and my “scripture” thermometer reads a temperature when I place it next to the Book of Mormon, the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Peal of Great Price.

I believe the process that gave us the Bible is the same process that gave us the Book of Mormon. That process being imperfect men receiving revelation through the imprecise receiver of human senses. An imperfect Joseph Smith receiving revelation is no less biblical than an imperfect Moses commanding the Isrealites not to eat shellfish.

id said...

Patrick,
wish I could take you up on that hamburger some time!

Back when I was a fundamentalist in regards to the Bible, I read entire books each night as I scrounged the entire NT for anything related to Mormonism (I found that reading with such purpose opened my eyes a lot more than my own church did. That's probably not saying much since it's an Evvie church and tends to flip on the relevancy switch, but still. It got me into reading my Bible).

As I've been reading the Book of Mormon lately, my scripture "thermometer" rises fairly high sometimes as well. And usually, when I check the cross-reference provided at the bottom of the page, I see why: there's a lot of references to the New Testament. I could list tons of them, but just last night, I read the longest exposition on grafted olive branches (yep, Jacob 5). It sounded like a combination of a few of the parables of Jesus and the olive tree of Romans 11, strung out into 70 paragraph-verses.

Also, I'm supposing you meant something more general when you said the Bible and the BoM were made from the same process.

Golden plates vs. the rise of the books in the bible (each book in the Bible having a story of its own, almost) are not very similar, unless you mean to say that Smith was receiving revelation rather than translating from the golden plates themselves.

I'm curious, is there any book of the Bible that said it was written because God commanded it to be written? God, according to the BoM, was fairly specific when telling Nephi (et al) which plates were to be about what.

Anonymous said...

I suggest that the BOM was "made" by a very different process than the Bible, starting with the fact that when the Bible was made the Bible itself did not exist to be used as a model and to be plagiarized (if that's the right word).

Another key difference is that the BOM, quite unlike the Bible, opens in a decidedly ego-centric first-person narration. The very first word is "I." The second is the narrator's name, "Nephi." The narrator goes on to use some form of the first-person personal pronoun no fewer than seven times in the first sentence and 15 times in the first three sentences.

I'm not sure what to make of this, but it seems utterly unlike anything in the Bible, with one exception: the Revelation of John (starting at 1:9). My own sense is that the BOM is very much the product of Joseph Smith's own scripture-saturated mind.

RWW said...

Much of the Book of Mormon is written in the third-person (as if that's somehow relevant).

jackg said...

Patrick

A hamburger sounds pretty good!

Here's my issue with your line of reasoning: if in fact you truly believed the Bible was revealed to us by God through a broken humanity, and that despite a broken humanity and the problems of language and interpretation, etc., it would stand to reason that what God intended for us to receive as truth and knowledge is intact--despite the frailties of humans. That's the piece that I am struggling to understand.

As I said at the outset, I think Jeff did a great job to show why the Bible is inerrant in its message of salvation despite the fact that God chose to reveal His word to us through humans. Once Jeff's reasoning is applied to the Bible, it renders the rest of the LDS canon unnecessary. Can you see where I'm coming from with my reasoning?

Blessings...

Patrick said...

Id and Anonymous,

I too see the possibility that the Book of Mormon is nothing more than a product of Joseph’s creative mind. However, I believe the book is what he says it is. I believe the Book of Mormon is an actual history of a people that lived in the Americas. The translation of the book from a language that Joseph did not know into English is for me revelation. I don’t believe the translation and transcribing process went off without error.

Today I took a look at the Bible to see what point of view the books are written in. I find it interesting that the first five books were written by Moses and relate Moses’ history, yet the book is written in the third person. Is this an indication that we don’t have the original text, but a reworking by someone unknown? I would hate to think of Moses working in the third person just like LeBron James after the “Decision”. After all, “LeBron has to do what’s best for LeBron.”

Nearly all of Psalms is written in the first person. I don’t find David’s use of the first person to be offensive. In the Book of Jeremiah, the Prophet or his scribe, write as God in the first person. If I weren’t a supporter of Jeremiah as a Prophet I might get bent out of shape about that. Isaiah has the same feel as Jeremiah when it comes to the use of the first person voice for God.

Anonymous mentions that the Book of Revelation has a similar style to the Book of 1 Nephi in the use of the first person. I think the book of Ecclesiastes has a similar feel also.

Id- Thanks for pointing out the similarity of Romans 11 with Jacob 5. When you read Jacob 5 remember why it was related by Jacob to his congregation. The key is Jacob 4:13-18. How can the Jews be turned to believe in Christ as their Savior after they have rejected him? Jacob 5 is the answer. I feel Jacob 5 gives me additional understanding of what Paul was teaching in Romans.

LuckyMatt said...

jackg, I admire your zeal. I hope that someday we do see eye to eye on the writings of the prophet Joseph Smith. You would be a great asset to have back on our side.

id, if you think you have "proof" that Joseph Smith is a fraud, you are severely mistaken. Please take the time to read some of the great stuff Jeff and others have written. As Bookslinger first said (and I agreed with) on this thread, apologetics will never "prove" to a skeptic's satisfaction the truthfulness of spiritual things--only the Spirit of the Lord can do that. But apologetics can be very effective at shooting down the arguments against the truth; most of them don't hold up at all under scrutiny, and the extreme positions of those attacking the truth ("I can prove this is false") can be disproved easily using reason and logic alone.

There are reams of answers to all the criticisms of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and other parts of Christ's restored church for someone who sincerely wants to get closer to the truth. Jeff's contributions are a great place to start for the honest seeker of answers.

Patrick said...

jackg,

I referenced a group of scriptures earlier that for me summarize perfectly the Gospel. I believe the Bible teaches exactly the Gospel as explained by those earlier references. Everything I believe the Gospel to be is in the Bible.

So why is the Book of Mormon necessary?

What hasn't happened is a unity of belief among those who call themselves Christian. Our Father is facilitating a clearing of the air by providing additional scripture.

If the Book of Mormon is scripture, then it's teachings will clear up points that we like to argue among ourselves.

"I believe the Book of Mormon to be scripture.", says the believer. "Why do you believe it to be scripture?", asks the skeptic. " Because it teaches correctly the Gospel of Jesus Christ.", answers the believer. "How do you know it teaches correctly the Gospel of Jesus Christ?", asks the skeptic. "Because it is scripture.", answers the believer. Round and round we go until the believer recieves a personal witness and breaks the cycle of circular reasoning.

id said...

Disagreements aside, I enjoy the tone of this dialogue as opposed to other ones I've been a part of!

Someone mentioned point-of-view, and as I read through the BoM, I definitely see a lot of first person narrative. The bible is a collection of 80+ books vs. the many many less the BoM has. The BoM seems more focused, as well, if that makes sense. I've read up to the Word of Mormon (right?) and have only encountered narrative, save for the Isaiah chapters.

Someone also pointed out how the Pentateuch has a third person point of view. Yes, this has been noticed in the scholarly field and is one of the reasons why Moses (very) likely didn't write it/the version we have today. Like the first 11 chapters of Genesis, it's more of a reflection of theology than historicity, though anything beyond Gen 11 is possibly historical.

I think the term "mythopoetic" was coined to describe the literary expression of Israel's theology in especially Gen 1-11. Many people are uncomfortable putting it in such a light, though.

If you'd like to look more into that area, I recommend the Oxford Bible Commentary and, of course, Google.

id said...

LuckyMatt,
Proving Smith is a fraud is more a matter of perspective, of course. One could either see through or take to heart Jeff's response to criticism, and I think he does a good job of responding to it. But like I said, it's a matter of perspective.

How much can someone get away with before they're denounced as a fraud? It's different for different people, and sometimes, peoples' response to contradictory facts is a paradoxically bolstered faith (read an article about it, and I'm very sure I've done that myself).

For me, I can tell someone is a fraud when they claim to have something (like the truth or maybe some sort of object), and then they are shown to not know what they're talking about. That's a little vague, but it definitely knocks out, say, those Armageddon cults who wrongly predicted the end of the world.

Proving Smith didn't know what he's talking about is difficult. It takes a comparison to what something actually is vs. what Smith said something is. Aside from the Missouri Temple Prophecy, which utterly failed, we have the Book of Abraham. It was falsely translated, falsely ascribed to Abraham (purported or not, Smith has multiple witnesses claiming he pointed to Abraham's signature on a papyrus), the facsimiles are hit-and-miss, and furthermore, we have a journal showing how Smith translated each character. He ascribed entire paragraphs to a single glyph!

Now, according to my definition of fraud, Smith comes out as one in that situation. However, some people don't mind that he had absolutely no clue what he was doing and take a more liberal view of the matter. That's fine. He's not a fraud to them due somewhat to redefinition. That's just their perspective, and I have little proof that Smith was a fraud if they don't think cluelessness after proclaimed truthfulness is proof.

I meant to get more specific earlier about perspective, though. Fraud is fairly broad, but finding proof against claims such as historicity and Egyptian translating skills is less so. I remember my gradual transition from inerrantist to liberal. I didn't lose my faith over it, but my views on it such as biblical authorship were proven false with, well, proof.

Jeff Lindsay said...

ID, you're way off on the Book of Abraham. The real question here is how much can he get right before people start to realize that something other than dumb luck is involved.

He did not assign whole paragraphs to a single character - that was the work of scribes after the fact adding some characters to the margin of the already completed translation, not the working papers of Smith's translation.

The fragments we have don't match the physical description of the Book of Abraham scroll, which was part of the larger collection sent to St. Louis and then Chicago, where it apparently burned in the Great Chicago Fire. What we do have for scholarly contemplation is the contents of the text and his comments on the Facsimiles. There we have numerous "direct hits" that demand a little attention, such as identifying the association of the four sons of Horus with the four quarters of the earth and numerous other issues. Far from the weak underbelly of Mormonism, the Book of Abraham increasingly demands respect as potential evidence for Joseph Smith's calling as a prophet.

Some details are on my LDSFAQ pages on the Book of Abraham, beginning with jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_Abraham.shtml (Book of Abraham LDSFAQ, pt. 1). Don't miss Part 3 on links between the Book of Abraham and other ancient texts.

Anonymous said...

For me, the problem with the Book of Abraham is not any of the questions that have been raised here so far. The problem is its thinly veiled retelling of the once-popular "Hamitic theory" of the origin of black people, a "theory" commonly used to justify slavery.

For most 18th- and 19th-century Christians who bought into this theory, it always had the status of a (racist and self-serving) interpretation of the biblical stories involving Cain and Ham. But in the Pearl of Great Price Smith elevated what was hitherto an interpretation to the level of scripture itself.

Thus, in my view, other branches of Christianity can now look back at the Hamitic theory and say, "Oh, that was just a silly misinterpretation of scripture that for obvious reasons appealed to our racist forebears, but if you read the Bible itself you can see that the theory was never actually scriptural." Mormons can't do that, because for Mormons the theory is scriptural. Except, of course, for those Mormons who interpret their scriptures rather less literally than the church does.

Anonymous said...

Before you paint too broad of a stroke, here is the scriptural reference from the Book of Abraham, Chapter 1:
--------------------------
25 Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.
26 Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;
--------------------------
It says descendents of Ham could not have the priesthood. The word black is not found in the Book of Abraham.

id said...

Jeff,
I apologize for not reviewing your sources before making my statement. I went to FAIR to catch the other side of the argument, and their take on the matter of Smith's translations of the facsimiles is this:
"Papyri
In the Book of Abraham, Joseph included three facsimiles of illustrations from the papyri, along with commentary about what the images and their individual parts represented. Some of Joseph's interpretations are similar to those of trained Egyptologists, but but most are not. "

There were also restorations of the papyri conducted either by Smith or someone else, and then we read this: "non-LDS Egyptologists do not recognize these restorations as accurate."
(http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/Joseph_Smith_Papyri)

I imagine FAIR would rather not make that statement, but they do a good job of qualifying Smith's prophetic calling while recognizing the reality of the situation rather than distorting it to their preferences (not that you have done so).

As for the missing papyri theory you mentioned, eyewitnesses testify to the translation taking place through use of the fragments. I stated them on another section of your blog, so I'll just copy and paste what I said:
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.)

(cont...)

id said...

"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.)

Now, a few of my earlier points are easily substantiated by this and what we get from FAIR.
Namely,
1) Joseph Smith ascribed this document to Abraham (even by going so far as saying it was his handwriting, and
2) the facsimiles were hit-and-miss, with more misses than hits according to FAIR.

(cont...)

id said...

(continued from above...Blogger doesn't like big comments)
I'll have to back off on the Joseph Smith's journal until I receive further information. However there's enough proof already, from the quotes I just mentioned themselves, that Smith had no idea what he was doing, be it receiving revelation from God or translating the papyri from Egyptian into English. He was either totally unaware of how God was using him or he was just doing something he had no idea how to do. He definitely believed he could do it, as I'm sure, by then, he probably felt like he was an actual prophet! This happens to many "psychics" who are so impressed with their ability to "read palms" that they really think they have actual psychic powers (Subjective Validation).

And so, in the sense that Joseph Smith claimed things were true while in reality he was clueless as to what he was talking about, Smith is a proven fraud.

But again, many are okay with that and claim the papyri was just inspiration for further revelation. I definitely recommend that route for people who aren't comfortable with Smith's claims being proven untrue.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous (four posts above) wrote that the Book of Abraham says only that the descendants of Ham could not have the priesthood. The word black is not found in the Book of Abraham.

Look. I'm not such an idiot as to buy such shoddy apologetics. The fact is that the word black is not contained in the 1787 United States Constitution, either, yet everyone agrees that phrases like "all other persons" referred precisely to black people, and that such language was deliberately euphemistic.

In the 19th century it was commonplace to refer to black people as the "descendants of Ham." The phrase is simply and undeniably part of the racist discourse of the period.

And for more than a century, every Mormon knew exactly who it was that, solely because of their lineage, could not have the priesthood: black men.

The idea that the Book of Abraham is not racist merely because it doesn't mention the word black is ludicrous. Is it too much to ask for a little less evasion, a little more honesty?

Americans have managed by and large to move past racism while still acknowledging that racism was bundled up with its founding document. I would say that acknowledging the racism of our past is itself a crucial part of moving beyond racism. Denial is no help at all, but rather part of the problem. Before repentance there must be acknowledgment of sin.

Surely by now the LDS Church is honest enough and mature enough to deal honestly with its own past. Right?

Bookslinger said...

jackg: the Bible doesn't say that God created the earth (or the universe) out of nothingness.

In fact, the Hebrew verb used in Genesis 1:1, bereshit, is more correctly translated as "organized" not "created".

And, the word for God, "Elohim" , is itself plural in the Hebrew.

"Creation ex nihilo" (creation out of nothingness) is not a universally accepted concept in Judeo-Christian religions.

On another point, I'll grant you, that the scriptures often do contain more revelation from God to man than personal revelation. But, personal revelation can be customized by God to the invidivual. The scriptures have revelation that is both generic to all (or to most) and revelation that was given to specific individuals for circumstances

id said...

As an aside, Jeff, I read over the majority of your work concerning parallels to ancient texts concerning Abraham.

I think another reason the analysis by Nibley on the Apocolypse of Abraham and other pseudepigrapha is largely because a lot of the works you mentioned, for instance, were written in AD as opposed to Abraham's speculated lifetime--somewhere between 2200 BC and 1500 BC. I'm sure you meant for this to mean that the story was transmitted throughout the centuries rather than being an accurate portrayal of Abraham, something not possible due to anachronisms such as the Chaldeans and others.

As sort of another aside, a 13th century AD document written about Abraham you mentioned in Issue #18: The famine in Chaldea is about as unsubstantive in terms of historical reliability, transmission of mythology, and outright timeframe difference as it gets. To say this played an important role in the story of Abraham is to put the story of Abraham in as likely of a historical context as the Iliad.

Maybe not quite that bad, though.

I think something originating more around Abraham's timeframe would be helpful, though that's probably an unrealistic request. I didn't background-check all of the books you referenced, but it seems that Abraham is a pretty big character whose history has likely been morphed into whatever story people can come up with.

I'd rather not distract from my previous post, though. Discussing pseudepigrapha is more speculative than quotes that show that the fragments were used during the translation of the Book of Abraham and the implications behind Smith not knowing what he was talking about.

J said...

Statement by id: I'm curious, is there any book of the Bible that said it was written because God commanded it to be written? God, according to the BoM, was fairly specific when telling Nephi (et al) which plates were to be about what.

I can think of one example in the Bible where this occurs.

You have to understand that Only God can edit the scriptures and that it is authorized under the direction of the Lord himself through prophets.

For example, King Jehoiakim had "taken away" from the scripture by burning a roll written by Jeremiah . Yet, the Lord instructed him to rewrite the words that were destroyed. (See Jeremiah 36: 27-28).

We see clearly that the King had "taken away" from the Bible, and yet, the Lord told Jeremiah to "add" to the scriptures by restoring what the King had destroyed. Not only did God have Jeremiah to restore what was lost but the Lord told him add upon what was restored by telling him there were more things to write!

The Lost 116 pages would be closest example to what occurs in Jeremiah chapter 36 in which God, foreknowing that Joseph Smith would lose 116 pages of translation of the Book of Mormon, inspired Mormon to include the small plates with the other golden plates. Once Joseph Smith lost the manuscript, the Lord simply restored that which was lost by instructed Joseph to translate those small plates since it had the same period of time as contained in the lost manuscript.

mkprr said...

To Id

If those accounts are accurate and Joseph did think Abraham wrote those in his own hand writing it proves that Joseph Smith can easily jump to conclusions but it would be a stretch to state that he is a proven fraud. What about the direct hits? Jeff brings up some reasonable explanations for the misses. The reasons he provides may or may not be in reality what actually happened but until we know for sure, they are reasonable none the less. A reasonable person will hold to a scientific theory even if it contains puzzling aspects. As long as the hits are consistent and numerous he can be somewhat confident that the puzzles will eventually be solved (although there may be numerous adjustments that need to be made to the original hypotheses) . When disproving a theory the hits of a theory need to be explained in light of a new theory that BETTER explains both the problems of the first theory AND the all the direct hits of the first theory.
Jeffs hypothesis that the BOA is actually a translation, not just scripture inspired by ancient looking documents seems to hold unless all the hits that support his theory are found to fit better in a different more verifiable hypothesis. To prove Joseph a fraud you have to have a strong hypothesis that stands up against all of the hits that Joseph made in the BOA, BOM and every other prophecy he made. I am not saying it can’t be done but I haven’t seen one presented that adequately accounts for the hits and that has any sort of consistent evidence to back it up.

mkprr said...

To Jackg, I would stay in a similar vein of thought. If I don’t really belong to the Kingdom of God because I have been fooled by Joseph Smith, show me how to really enter it. Show me what the real gift of the Holy Ghost is like and how to obtain it, show me what God is really doing to fulfill all the promises he made concerning the gathering of Isreal in the last days and the restoration of all things. My allegiance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is nothing more than an extension of my allegiance to Jesus Christ and if belonging to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints is hindering my relationship with God and His Son I wouldn’t want to be tied to it. I hear reasons from well intentioned Christians to doubt Joseph Smith but I have never been offered anything better than what I have with God and this Church that I believe to be His. If I am in darkness fooled by a devil or charlatan, show me the light that awaits me if I step away from the LDS church and I’d be glad to walk away.
And by the way, thanks for your defense of the Bible, I think a lot of LDS don’t realize how strong the Bible is and how well it holds up to scrutiny without any help from modern revelation. It’s an incredible book and a life time of study wouldn’t be enough to understand how truly complex and solid of a witness it is for Christ and for the existence of God. On the other hand, we have the Bible because God speaks to people. That is also why we have the BOM and modern prophets. I don’t think God spoke to Joseph Smith because the Bible wasn’t a good enough witness, He spoke because he had something important to say and found some people ready and able to listen and obey.

jackg said...

bookslinger,

I would agree to a certain point that personal revelation is customized, but such customization won't contradict what has already been revealed in the biblical text. As far as creation ex nihilo, one has to work from the presupposition that God has always existed, has always been God, and that nothing predates Him--not even matter.

mkprr,

The basic question would be what Jesus asked His disciples when he said: "Who do you say that I am?" This question is answered differently by Mormons than Christians. I have to say that my response is now different than when I was a Mormon. I think that's the essence of coming to Christ--knowing that He is God and created all things. But, this will only get us into the discussion of the Trinity and the Mormon teaching that Jesus and Satan are brothers, which are probably more appropriate for other threads. Besides, I think we've drifted from the core of this thread, which is the issue of language and God revealing Himself to us through fallen and broken human beings. I think the most important thing about this discussion is that God is able to reveal the Truth about Himself despite choosing to work through such a frail humanity. My point, with regard to this specific thread, is that if Jeff wants to use the reasoning to defend the writings of JS, then he must apply it to the Bible. When that is done, then one must deny the "need" for new revelation to compensate for what Mormons seem to think is a compromised text. When applying Jeff's reasoning to the Bible, then one can be assured that it's not compromised and all we need to know about our human condition and salvation through Jesus Christ is found within its pages.

Peace and blessings...

jackg said...

Patrick,

Been there, done that. ;)

Peace...

jackg said...

OOPS, My last response should have been to Lucky Matt. ;)
Peace...

jackg said...

Patrick

Just want you to know that jumping off the merry go round of circular reasoning is a safe landing. It doesn't hurt at all. ;)

Peace...

Anonymous said...

@ anon 10:51 AM, July 21, 2010

Yes, you will find shoddy apologetics on a blog from an anonymous poster, no argument from me on that one.

In the Bible, the curse was on Canaan and his descendants. In the Book of Abraham, the curse was on Ham and his descendants. The gist of my post was the interpretation as to who were the descendants of Canaan or Ham. You can equally apply racism to both references or not. If you take the stance that Joseph was a fraud, then the natural conclusion is that Joseph wrote down the prevailing theory of the day (the Hamitic theory) and applied it to blacks. If he were a prophet, then the story in Abraham is a slightly different retelling of what is in the Bible.

In all of this, let's not forget Elijah Abel, a black man to whom Joseph gave the priesthood in 1836, a year after the Book of Abraham: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah_Abel

I will still conceded to shoddy apologetics but it is not a very strong argument to make that Joseph was a racist if he is giving the priesthood to a black man a year after the Book of Abraham was translated.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:59 AM, July 22, 2010

I never argued that Joseph Smith was a racist. You're engaging in a straw man. Why not respond to what I actually wrote?

FWIW, the fact that giving the priesthood to a black man does not at all mean that Smith could not be a racist. It merely means he was inconsistent. There are many racists who like certain black individuals even as they diss black people in general. Happens all the time.

Anonymous said...

Here is a portion of what you wrote:

"For most 18th- and 19th-century Christians who bought into this theory, it always had the status of a (racist and self-serving) interpretation of the biblical stories involving Cain and Ham. But in the Pearl of Great Price Smith elevated what was hitherto an interpretation to the level of scripture itself.

Thus, in my view, other branches of Christianity can now look back at the Hamitic theory and say, "Oh, that was just a silly misinterpretation of scripture that for obvious reasons appealed to our racist forebears, but if you read the Bible itself you can see that the theory was never actually scriptural." Mormons can't do that, because for Mormons the theory is scriptural. Except, of course, for those Mormons who interpret their scriptures rather less literally than the church does."

Could you clarify what point you are making? I guess I assumed that I knew what you are talking about.

- I mentioned that the Book of Abraham did not mention black but only talked about the descendants of Ham (like the Bbile talks about the descendants of Canaan)
- You said that you don't have to mention black to know that black people is what was meant
- I then said that the same interpration / misinterpretation can be equally applied to the Bible as it can to the Book of Abraham and that Joseph gave the priesthood to at least one black man
- You said that I was setting up a straw man stating the Joseph was racist and if anything it shows that Joseph was inconsistent

What else was I supposed to do from your line of reasoning? What exactly are you driving at? Explain it to me in a way that a shoddy apologist can understand it.

Anonymous said...

I've just re-read my post and don't think any clarification is necessary. I will, however, respond to this claim of yours:

You can equally apply racism to both references or not.

No you can't. Why not? Because there's no historical reason for anyone to think that, when the ancient writers of the Bible mentioned the descendants of Canaan (or anyone else), those writers were referring to black people. There's nothing about that time or place to warrant such an interpretation.

In Smith's case things are quite otherwise. In Smith's time and place, every two-bit Southern theologian (and many other lay people as well) was reading "black people" into the Bible. They were making exactly the same argument that is implicit in the Pearl of Great Price, an argument about a curse that alighted first upon Cain, that survived the big genealogical purge of the flood by way of Ham, and that then found its way into Africa by way of Egypt.

Such arguments were everywhere in Smith's time and place. They were nowhere to be found in the time and place of the ancient writers of the Bible.

(Ditto, BTW, for the question of the origin of Native Americans. That was certainly not any part of the discourse of ancient Israel, but it was talked about and written about a great deal in Smith's time and place. Even the poet William Cullen Bryant got into the act, writing a poem, "The Prairies," about a tribe that was civilized enough to build an impressive burial mound but was subsequently wiped out by a more savage tribe. The BOM's basic subject matter is not exactly what you would call original.)

Of course, the whole problem disappears if you take a liberal rather than a literal approach to understanding the Mormon scriptures. If you understand them as the writings of a sincere and powerfully spiritual man trying to grapple with the divine, but doing so within the conceptual limitations of early 19th-century America, it all makes sense. If you understand those scriptures literally, ya got problems that can only be solved by appealing to subjective personal "testimony," which is to say, the same procedure by which Muslims "know" the truth of Islam.

Chris said...

The Book of Abraham's comments about Ham should probably be read in light of the Book of Moses.

Moses 7:8: "For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people."

Moses 7:22: "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them."

Thus although the Book of Abraham doesn't mention skin color, both Joseph's 19th century context and his earlier Bible revision would seem to point toward a racial interpretation.

Having said that, Joseph was not unreservedly racist. Ham's descendants were "blessed ... with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed ... as pertaining to the Priesthood." The Alphabet and Grammar clarifies that this lineage was blessed with a "Kingly blessing". Thus the curse with respect to spiritual power would seem to be offset by a blessing with respect to temporal power. Pharaoh is also portrayed in the BoA as being a sincere religious seeker.

In the explanation to Facsimile 3, produced some 7 years after Abraham 1 was translated, Pharaoh's blackness seems to have been entirely forgotten. Here Pharaoh and his entourage are clearly white-skinned, except of course for the black bodied Anubis, who is identified as a slave named Shulem. This illustration undermines the racial interpretation of the BoA text, but obviously still reflects the prejudicial assumption that blacks' role in society is forced servitude.

IMO, Joseph's racial theories and attitudes were a decidedly inconsistent hodgepodge, some of it reflecting the prejudices of his day, and some of it surprisingly innovative and progressive.

id said...

J,
thanks for the info! Reflecting more on it, the OT has God commanding people to speak more than write. I guess that may have something to do with the oral tradition behind almost every book in the Bible.

mkprr,
For one, if these accounts are valid, then it shows that Smith translated from the Book of Breathings/the fragments that are anything but missing. For two, if they're valid, then the evidence does show that Smith can easily jump to conclusions. With the definition of fraud that I gave, making a truth claim while the person making the claim has no clue what they're talking about, then after Smith pointing to the papyrus and claiming to be pointing out the handwriting of Abraham, we can see that he makes truth claims while having no clue what he's talking about. By my definition of fraud, then he is a proven fraud. If yours is a little more liberal, that's okay, but it still shows that Smith does stuff like that.

Like I said earlier, charisma led his followers to believe it was actually the text of Abraham, and it wouldn't surprise me if a few other "revelations" were really just his imagination.

Take polygamy for example. If you actively disagreed with it, you were kicked out of the church and had your own printing press destroyed!

Now that's a bit of a generalization, but Smith was The Man. Who dare defy him, and if they dare, who won in the end? (evidence points to Smith winning if this dare was ever taken on, as people still esteem him to be a prophet)

You attempt to make a case for the BoA, citing the direct hits (I'm not qualified to verify them, so I'll go with it), but there are direct misses, too. How do we uphold that the BoA is an accurate translation considering the direct misses? How do we hold to Smith knowing what he was talking about if he called the papyri the handwriting of Abraham? Since he didn't know what he was talking about, then according to my definition, he is a proven fraud.

But once again, this is all a perspective thing. Like I said earlier, 'How much can someone get away with before they're denounced as a fraud? It's different for different people.' If Smith can get away with making a truth claim and being proven false about it like he did by claiming to have papyri written by Abraham and claiming to accurately translate all that was on the papyri, then once again, Win. He could get away with anything he may have done, really. Just depends on your perspective.

Anonymous said...

id, I agree, though I would qualify your statement about Smith's "win" ("He could get away with anything he may have done"). He got away with it within the community of the Church, but not outside that community. The larger community called "Bullsh*t" and shot him.

id said...

Anon,
That is definitely true.

I was reading through the Book of Mormon last night when I came across the definition of a seer (in Mosiah 8). I tried to Google the verse (I don't remember the exact one!) and came across a lesson from lds.org on the Seer.

A quick excerpt that the lesson derived from the scripture:
"He not only can see the future, but also the past and hidden things with divine clarity ."

I think it's clear from Smith's work on the BoA and the evidence we have about what he thought about it that he did not have divine clarity to see in the past as a seer should.

I suppose he wasn't acting as a seer when he was translating the BoA.

mkprr said...

ID,
I might be missing part of your argument but I am not sure how you would conclude from the above eye witness accounts that the existing fragments are everything that Joseph had to translate from. One of the quotes you mentioned "M. to Friends’ Weekly Intelligencer", quotes Lucy Smith describing a black roll that as far as I understand, we don't have today. Also there is nothing in the other accounts that would suggest that they were only describing the fragments that we have today or that those were the only fragments Joseph used to translate the BOA.

I am not sure if you read Jeff's piece in the FAQ under "BOA Point 1" but he has put together some pretty solid evidence that the BOA was translated from a different scroll. The accounts there don't contradict the eye witness accounts you listed, but they are more detailed and provide further information.

Again to accurately state Joseph Smith is a "proven fraud" would require some solid evidence. Perhaps I have completely misunderstood the evidence you have presented but I don't see how it would contradict the missing scroll hypothesis that Jeff presents. Jeff and others that Jeff links to do a great job giving some possible explanations for the apparent "misses" in the BOA, what about all the direct hits Joseph makes?

Mormography said...

id,

Mormanity claims that “you're way off” when you presented the predominate understanding with regards to the BoA as opposed to his minority opinions. You did an excellent job correcting him and did not receive so much as a rejoinder, moderation of statement, or apology from him. It just goes to show that he is not interested in genuine dialogue or a search for truth, only deception and hostility. Kudos to you id.

There has been much conversation of plausibility and “direct hits”. Michael Paul Bailey correctly pointed out, that most of the time Mormanity’s strategy is to reconstruct Mormonism into arguments that lack the principle of falsifiability and that are valid regardless of the result. These arguments are tautologies and are true merely by definition. As such they can prove nothing, let alone plausibility.

As no doubt Mormanity is fully aware, ALL pet theories have direct hits. The fact is, data contains so much noise, information can be spun to much any theory, despite evidence to the contrary. The closest word that describes this phenomon is eisegesis.

Mohammed had direct hits. How did an illiterate boy give written detailed instruction of what modern science has confirmed to be the most humane way to sacrifice an animal? How did he know about the details of a city swallowed into the desert that modern satellites have confirmed? The Bible Codes are full of direct hits, yet in this very article Mormanity claims they are “easily refuted”.

Just what is it that Mormanity is supposedly trying to show plausibility for? The hostile, fantastic Mormon claim according to the Cannon is that all churches other than the LDS church are abominations and whores. Mormanity has failed to show plausibility for this.

If anything Mormanity’s “direct hits” prove that Mormonism is no better off than any other religion. However, given the recentness of the religion and the large data set to work off of, a much larger quantity of misses have been found with regards to Mormonism. So overall, Mormanity has failed to demonstrate plausibility of the fantastic Mormon claim.

id said...

Mormography,
thank you for the complement. There definitely is a lot of "noise" out there for nearly anything, and Islam's own "direct hits" is a wonderful way of showing it. I think the usual response from the Mormon side is to cite how the resurrection of Jesus is only plausible, and suggest that taking down the precepts of Mormonism means taking down Christianity with it.

If anyone would like to shed some more light on what the Book of Mormon meant by there only being the church of the Lamb and the whore of all the earth, please do. I had a hard time trying to qualify a different interpretation than a straightforward, black-and-white one.

mkprr,
the quotes actually provided more than one reason that Smith fit my definition of fraud. Also, I didn't find these quotes and suggest them myself, and so I'm not fully qualified to answer your response. Instead, I asked the source (Chris Smith), and you can read his response to your apologetic (and the original article) by clicking on this link.
There are also other articles on the BoA on his blog if you'd like to read them. He's a Christian pluralist who believes in universalism, and anything but a raging anti, which is a little refreshing (coming from my side. I like good arguments, not emotionally-charged and sometimes fabricated ones).

Here are the two points that still remain (that I can discuss):
1) Joseph Smith ascribed this document to Abraham (even by going so far as saying it was his handwriting), and
2) the facsimiles were hit-and-miss, with more misses than hits according to FAIR.

The first point has more than one source to be derived from, as seen in the quotes I provided.

That's enough to fit my definition of fraud and to show that Smith wasn't acting as a seer at the time, according to the BoM's definition of seer in Mosiah 8.

As for the "direct hits" in the BoA (which, once again, I'm not qualified to verify), there are definitely some direct misses (I'll provide sources if you wish). The resulting "hypothesis", if you will, would go more along the lines of "Joseph Smith gave us an imperfect translation of the Book of Abraham," which means we have an inaccurate BoA that is inaccurate because of faulty translation.

To reiterate the points I can discuss: he's a fraud (according to my definition) based on claiming the papyri contained the handwriting of Abraham and 2) claiming to translate the papyri, but failing to accurately do so. Furthermore, these points show that Smith wasn't (either at the time or at all) acting as a seer according to the definition in Mosiah 8.

Jeff Lindsay said...

ID and Mormography:
Neither I nor FAIR expect non-LDS scholars to agree with Joseph Smith. Even the direct hits will be resisted, as we've seen with obvious connections like the interpretation of the four sons of Horus. To acknowledge criticism of the interpretations is not to admit that they are bogus. But higher level interpretations such as the depth of meaning behind the wedjet eye and its plausibly excellent association with the keywords of the Priesthood make a great deal of sense, though one can debate both sides. But read One Eternal Round and tell me that there is any case for the numerous direct hits to be just random luck. Not a chance.

While one can debate details of interpretation, your sweeping arguments about fraud do not stand, and the quotes you provide don't prove your point. The document states that it was written by the "hand of Abraham," a Semitic phrase that means under the direction of Abraham. it declares authorship or responsibility for the original, not the copy itself. Such statements and insignia are preserved in copies and do not mean that Joseph taught that Abraham himself handled the physical papyrus. But even if he or others thought that, accurate and divine knowledge of the provenance of the documents is not required for a prophetic translation to be accurate.

William Gee has shown that the collection of documents Joseph had contained at least 5 scrolls, some quite lengthy, and that we only have a few fragments from some of them now. Physical descriptions of the longer scroll that was stated to be the source of the text for the Book of Abraham (not nec. the source of all the facsimiles) do not match the fragments and were presumably part of the collections of scrolls (perhaps mostly put onto glass as well) and mummies sent to St. Louis and from then to Chicago, to perish in the great fire of 1871. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that the few recovered fragments were the source of the Book of Abraham text.

mkprr said...

Id,
The “whore of the earth” question is a good example of the difficulties prophets have in trying to get their point across to people. As I understand it the “whore of the earth” statements in the BOM are simply a normal use of Jewish hyperbole that is common all throughout the old and new testament. Jewish writers used black and white exaggerated imagery often to emphasize a point. Jesus used hyperboloids on a regular basis, for example: “If any [man] come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” We know from everything else He taught that Jesus didn’t want hate filled followers.
Recognizing hyperbole where it is used doesn’t mean we can ignore what is said, after all, the reason it is used is to emphasize the point being made, but it does need to be understood in proper context. Dallin H Oaks in the last priesthood session quoted Moroni 10:7 in reference to the fact that members of the church aren’t the only Christians who enjoy gifts of the spirit. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other modern prophets clearly taught that in the millennium there will be any people belonging to many sects and even non Christian religions that God will save from destruction because of their righteousness who will eventually except the fullness of the gospel. The interesting thing about this is that before the return of Christ the gospel is supposed to have been preached to “all the world” which would suggest that God is excepting people who had the gospel preached to them but hadn’t yet responded to it.
In short, the context strongly suggests that exaggeration was used by the writer to make it stand out to his listeners.

mkprr said...

Back to BOA, Perhaps I should clarify. I don’t think that your conclusion that JS is a fraud is unreasonable at all. I do however find it to be only one of multiple reasonable conclusions and that the evidence provided is far from establishing him a “proven fraud.” Let’s take point number one for example. Assuming Joseph went around telling people the scrolls were written in Abraham’s handwriting (and it would seem that he did) it is reasonable to conclude that he is going to be just as wrong about everything else.
On the other hand another a reasonable conclusion might be that although he was wrong about Abrahams handwriting he still literally translated the text accurately. Early on in my mission where I was struggling to teach in the Finnish language, I experienced what I understand to be a manifestation of the gift of tongues and was able to speak Finnish with as much ease as English for about 20 minutes. Immediately when we knocked on the next door I was back to the same struggle of having to try to translate my English thoughts into broken Finnish. If God is no respecter of persons then I wouldn’t expect Joseph Smith to have the gift of a seer at all times and all moments. With this understanding it becomes very reasonable to conclude he likely had the gift of a seer during the translation but not when he was showing the slides to guests. In his excitement for what had been revealed to him it appears he jumped to false conclusions about the handwriting.
He did the same thing with the book of Mormon geography. It would seem from his earlier statements on the subject that he understood the land north to be North American and the land South to be south America. A close examination of the text itself however shows that the BOM consistently sets up a much smaller geography. It seems odd that if he was making up the BOM the geography would be consistently different from what he thought it was. This however, is exactly the kind of thing we could expect if he was translating, not writting the BOM. If he translated it he wouldn’t be expected to catch on to these subtle details any faster than anyone else.
The BOA, as I understand it, has plenty of apparent misses that are examined by Jeff and others in detail. They put forth some good explanations for the facsimile problems. As far as the actual text is concerned The missing scrolls might solve all the problems we now have if we had them, (I know it sounds like a cop out but from all the evidence provided it really does look like a lot of scroll is missing) From my point of view the reasons to believe overshadow the reasons to doubt but I can see where the critic is coming from. I haven’t had time to see all that Chris Smith has to say and I have heard faithful reasonable members of the church conclude that the BOA wasn’t a literal translation like JS thought it was.

mkprr said...

Back to BOA, Perhaps I should clarify. I don’t think that your conclusion that JS is a fraud is unreasonable at all. I do however find it to be only one of multiple reasonable conclusions and that the evidence provided is far from establishing him a “proven fraud.” Let’s take point number one for example. Assuming Joseph went around telling people the scrolls were written in Abraham’s handwriting (and it would seem that he did) it is reasonable to conclude that he is going to be just as wrong about everything else.
On the other hand another a reasonable conclusion might be that although he was wrong about Abrahams handwriting he still literally translated the text accurately. Early on in my mission where I was struggling to teach in the Finnish language, I experienced what I understand to be a manifestation of the gift of tongues and was able to speak Finnish with as much ease as English for about 20 minutes. Immediately when we knocked on the next door I was back to the same struggle of having to try to translate my English thoughts into broken Finnish. If God is no respecter of persons then I wouldn’t expect Joseph Smith to have the gift of a seer at all times and all moments. With this understanding it becomes very reasonable to conclude he likely had the gift of a seer during the translation but not when he was showing the slides to guests. In his excitement for what had been revealed to him it appears he jumped to false conclusions about the handwriting.
He did the same thing with the book of Mormon geography. It would seem from his earlier statements on the subject that he understood the land north to be North American and the land South to be south America. A close examination of the text itself however shows that the BOM consistently sets up a much smaller geography. It seems odd that if he was making up the BOM the geography would be consistently different from what he thought it was. This however, is exactly the kind of thing we could expect if he was translating, not writting the BOM. If he translated it he wouldn’t be expected to catch on to these subtle details any faster than anyone else.

mkprr said...

The BOA, as I understand it, has plenty of apparent misses that are examined by Jeff and others in detail. They put forth some good explanations for the facsimile problems. As far as the actual text is concerned The missing scrolls might solve all the problems we now have if we had them, (I know it sounds like a cop out but from all the evidence provided it really does look like a lot of scroll is missing) From my point of view the reasons to believe overshadow the reasons to doubt but I can see where the critic is coming from. I haven’t had time to see all that Chris Smith has to say and I have heard faithful reasonable members of the church conclude that the BOA wasn’t a literal translation like JS thought it was

mkprr said...

Mormography, to me your points about the direct hits of Mohammed and other religions adds to my reason for believing in the existence of supernatural powers at play in the world. From the tone of your post would I be correct to assume you are agnostic/atheist? How would you explain away the direct hits of Islam? I don’t know a lot about Islam but from what I understand, Mohammed doesn’t pass the test in 1st John 4 for being a prophet of Jesus Christ. Because I see substantial evidence for Jesus Christ being the Son of God I would have to reject his teachings as being of God but I wouldn’t be surprised to find he had supernatural abilities.
Anyways I have enjoyed this discussion and will continue to read this thread but I probably won’t reply again soon. I hope you don’t get the impression that I have dusted my feet off from the discussion but I’ve blabbed enough and after all I’m an active Mormon, I don’t have much free time.

Anonymous said...

How would you explain away the direct hits of Islam?

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Tony said...

Jeff's got a point. So Mohammed got a few hits. Even non-religious people can get those hits. No one is doubting that people can be inspired of the Lord and not be a member of the Church. Surely that is not the way to find out if Joseph was a true prophet, but rather that can only ultimately come through revelation. Of course, when those 'hits' for Joseph continue to pile up, and deal with more than just clean ways to sacrifice, and we find them surprisingly in line with early Christian and Jewish beliefs, it gets harder and harder to explain a way such a myriad of 'hits' as mere coincidences.

Oh, and Bookslinger, loved the "Che" thing. Not sure why anyone would want that murderous racist as their picture, but to each his own.

Also, I have to wonder what Jackg means when he says "salvation history". Seeing as how the meaning of scripture is quite connected to the actual words themselves, and given the ever increasing scholarship on the Biblical texts (I'm thinking Bart Ehrman here), to claim inerrancy is really not in keeping with the times. I don't think anyone is saying that one can't find much truth in the Bible, as we as LDS still use it, since, though in some ways things have been taken out and changed, or perhaps even put in, we can still be taught gospel truths from them and have other scripture and modern-day revelation to guide us in our understanding of the Biblical text.

Mormons are not arguing that the Bible has quite a few translation problems, therefore, you can't trust it. That would be a straw man argument if claimed. We realize that imperfect men, in less than perfect language, brought forth the scriptures. Revelation is line upon line, precept upon precept. So, I don't see how jackg's argument really holds water.

Anonymous said...

We realize that imperfect men, in less than perfect language, brought forth the scriptures.

Tony, have you ever read Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason? Paine argues in this book that the only true scripture is the creation itself, for only the creation is universally accessible, incapable of counterfeiting or corruption, error-proof and in need of no translation, adequate to the scope of any truly divine revelator, etc. If you want to know what God is, says Paine, don't look to texts like the Bible, Koran, and so on, which are at best incomplete, but look at and try to understand the universe itself.

Toward the end of his life, and despite his contributions to the American Revolution, Paine was reviled as an atheist, yet his arguments were not wholly anti-religious, for they acknowledged that various religions might have part of the truth. Anyway, agree with Paine or not, The Age of Reason is a great read.

Anonymous said...

In 1968 Hugh Nibley thought that the Book of Abraham came from the Book of Breathings. Although he later argued differently, the preponderance of evidence suggests that he was right. From Jeff Lindsay's website "LDSFAQ: The Book of Abraham Part 1," referring to the Kirtland Papers, Jeff says

"It appears that some of Joseph's associates were examining relationships between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text - after the translation of that first part of the book had been completed."

I agree with Jeff here (although it's possible that Joseph was more involved with the Kirtland Papers than Jeff suggests). Nevertheless, whether Joseph was closely involved with the Kirtland Papers or not, the question arises: why did some of Joseph's associates think that there was a relationship between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text? Since none of Joseph's associates knew how to read Egyptian, in order to know which of the fragments and/or scrolls Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham, they would have to be informed somehow by Joseph. It's pretty unlikely that Joseph's scribes would associate the Book of Breathings with the Book of Abraham without some indication from Joseph that such an association exists.

Also from Jeff's website, we have several early eyewitness accounts of the Egyptian scrolls/fragments, but there is only one eyewitness account (on Jeff's website at least) in which Joseph himself associates any of the scrolls/fragments with Abraham. This is the account written in the Quincy Whig which says that Joseph identified the signature of Abraham on one of the glass mounted fragments. The argument that the Book of Abraham doesn't come from the fragments currently in our possession rests upon the fact that there were other, better preserved scrolls that we don't now have. While that may be true, it's telling that Joseph identified Abraham's signature on a glass mounted fragment rather than an unfragmented scroll. In addition, just because the Book of Breathings didn't appear well preserved to Hugh Nibley in the 1960's doesn't mean that it wasn't better preserved when Joseph initially got hold of it more than 100 years earlier. Add to that, Joseph's scribes thought that the Book of Breathings was associated with the Book of Abraham. Add to that, Facsimile 1 occurs both at the beginning of the Book of Breathings and at the beginning of the Book of Abraham. The preponderance of evidence suggests that Joseph used the Book of Breathings as the inspiration for the Book of Abraham.

Is Joseph's translation of the 4 sons of Horus as "the earth" a direct hit? The basis for saying so is that each of the sons is associated with one of the four cardinal directions. If you believe that "the four cardinal directions" equals "the earth in its 4 quarters", and if you believe that depicting a son of Horus is the same as depicting the direction with which he is associated, then it would be a direct hit, however I don't think that "directions" equals "earth". Furthermore, depicting the earth (by itself not a complete idea) under a scene of human sacrifice is incoherent; depicting four canopic jars under an embalming scene is more coherent.

What about the content of the Book of Abraham? Was Egypt found underwater by a woman named Egyptus and her son named Pharaoh, after the Flood? Suffice it to say that these names are anachronistic and this foundation story of Egypt doesn't fit the archaeology.

Anonymous said...

In 1968 Hugh Nibley thought that the Book of Abraham came from the Book of Breathings. Although he later argued differently, the preponderance of evidence suggests that he was right. From Jeff Lindsay's website "LDSFAQ: The Book of Abraham Part 1," referring to the Kirtland Papers, Jeff says

"It appears that some of Joseph's associates were examining relationships between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text - after the translation of that first part of the book had been completed."

I agree with Jeff here (although it's possible that Joseph was more involved with the Kirtland Papers than Jeff suggests). Nevertheless, whether Joseph was closely involved with the Kirtland Papers or not, the question arises: why did some of Joseph's associates think that there was a relationship between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text? Since none of Joseph's associates knew how to read Egyptian, in order to know which of the fragments and/or scrolls Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham, they would have to be informed somehow by Joseph. It's pretty unlikely that Joseph's scribes would associate the Book of Breathings with the Book of Abraham without some indication from Joseph that such an association exists.

Also from Jeff's website, we have several early eyewitness accounts of the Egyptian scrolls/fragments, but there is only one eyewitness account (on Jeff's website at least) in which Joseph himself associates any of the scrolls/fragments with Abraham. This is the account written in the Quincy Whig which says that Joseph identified the signature of Abraham on one of the glass mounted fragments. The argument that the Book of Abraham doesn't come from the fragments currently in our possession rests upon the fact that there were other, better preserved scrolls that we don't now have. While that may be true, it's telling that Joseph identified Abraham's signature on a glass mounted fragment rather than an unfragmented scroll. In addition, just because the Book of Breathings didn't appear well preserved to Hugh Nibley in the 1960's doesn't mean that it wasn't better preserved when Joseph initially got hold of it more than 100 years earlier. Add to that, Joseph's scribes thought that the Book of Breathings was associated with the Book of Abraham. Add to that, Facsimile 1 occurs both at the beginning of the Book of Breathings and at the beginning of the Book of Abraham. The preponderance of evidence suggests that Joseph used the Book of Breathings as the inspiration for the Book of Abraham.

Is Joseph's translation of the 4 sons of Horus as "the earth" a direct hit? The basis for saying so is that each of the sons is associated with one of the four cardinal directions. If you believe that "the four cardinal directions" equals "the earth in its 4 quarters", and if you believe that depicting a son of Horus is the same as depicting the direction with which he is associated, then it would be a direct hit, however I don't think that "directions" equals "earth". Furthermore, depicting the earth (by itself not a complete idea) under a scene of human sacrifice is incoherent; depicting four canopic jars under an embalming scene is more coherent.

What about the content of the Book of Abraham? Was Egypt found underwater by a woman named Egyptus and her son named Pharaoh, after the Flood? Suffice it to say that these names are anachronistic and this foundation story of Egypt doesn't fit the archaeology.

Anonymous said...

In 1968 Hugh Nibley thought that the Book of Abraham came from the Book of Breathings. Although he later argued differently, the preponderance of evidence suggests that he was right. From Jeff Lindsay's website "LDSFAQ: The Book of Abraham Part 1," referring to the Kirtland Papers, Jeff says

"It appears that some of Joseph's associates were examining relationships between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text - after the translation of that first part of the book had been completed."

I agree with Jeff here (although it's possible that Joseph was more involved with the Kirtland Papers than Jeff suggests). Nevertheless, whether Joseph was closely involved with the Kirtland Papers or not, the question arises: why did some of Joseph's associates think that there was a relationship between Egyptian characters in the Book of Breathings and the Book of Abraham text? Since none of Joseph's associates knew how to read Egyptian, in order to know which of the fragments and/or scrolls Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham, they would have to be informed somehow by Joseph. It's pretty unlikely that Joseph's scribes would associate the Book of Breathings with the Book of Abraham without some indication from Joseph that such an association exists.

Anonymous said...

ID here. On vacation, be back in a few days to respond

jackg said...

Tony,

I haven't been to this site since my last entry, so I hope you're still reading the comments here.

I appreciate your comments, because they help me to see that I need to do a better job of expressing myself when using terms that might not be clear for everyone. When I speak about salvation history, and how the Bible is inerrant with regard to it, I am talking about the following:

1. Man's fallen condition.
2. Separation from God due to sinfulness and sins committed.
3. The need for a Savior.
4. Jesus Christ emptying Himself and dying for us a sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross.
5. Jesus' victory over death at the resurrection.
6. Man's response to God's grace and justification by faith.

I maintain that anything and everything we need to know about being saved into God's eternal presence is indeed found within the pages of the biblical text; therefore, the Bible is inerrant regarding salvation history. To believe in such inerrancy is not really out of step with the times; in fact, it is widely accepted by Christians.

To understand the statement I made about this, one needs to understand the premises from which Christians work. Concerning this topic of discussion, Christians work from the premise that God is able to preserve His Word despite the fact that He has chosen to work through a fallen and broken humanity. Because of this, one can say that there isn't a need for any other writing, as no other writing could enhance that which is already inerrant.

So, will one find errors in the Bible? Yes. Will such errors compromise the message of the Gospel and the salvation history the Bible unfolds for us? No.

I hope I have done a better job to explain my position.

Blessings...

openminded said...

(OpenID causes an error that won't let me post, so I'll be posting under my Blogger account--openminded--instead of under my openID name, id)
Jeff,
thanks for your reply.

The direct hits will be resisted, of course, by casting them aside as "luck" (or whatever excuses there are, I'm sure you know them better than I). As I'm sure the direct misses will be counted off as...? The sketchy nature of Egyptology?

Either way, I went to the Mormon Times to see if I could get a review, and it looks like Nibley definitely associated a lot of history with Facsimile 2: "The book's sweeping scope, its mining of sources — mathematics, Alexander the Great, Egyptian pharaohs, medieval Jewish Kabbala, ancient Hermeticism, Greek myths, Christian apocrypha, ancient Chinese jade disks, Aztec calendars, Egyptian mirrors, Hopi Indian ceremonies, Shaman drums and more, are all pure Nibley. And all of it is mustered to bring light to the round Egyptian hypocephalus known as Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham."

I'm sure, with such a sweeping backdrop of sources, that he did find numerous relationships that supported his position--though I'm curious to see what Chinese jade disks have to do with a purported record of Abraham. And Greek mythology. I'll have to read it some day.

As for the Semitic phrase, "hand of Abraham," I'll take it you're referring to the argument made by Nibley that when an ancient document claims to have been written by one's own hand, it isn't to be taken literally (in this case, stemming from Abraham rather than directly from Abraham).

However, applying this argument here is fallacious. The document indeed claims to be written by Abraham's hand, but that is, again, Joseph Smith making a false claim rather than the document itself making a claim.

(cont...)

openminded said...

(continued from above)
The point is more obvious when I point out the 1942 publication of the Book of Abraham's header:
"A TRANSLATION

Of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catecombs [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 Book of Abraham."


This was revealed to me from Chris Smith's post on this subject, and an apt description, given by Chris, of the phrase "hand of Abraham" is "editorial commentary," rather than the false "Semitic phrase" one.

In other words, Smith, who personally served as the editor for the 1942 publication, made the claim that Abraham wrote this by his own hand.

Your claim that my sweeping statements about fraud do not stand is not supported by your claims. Smith got away with making truth claims that are false, including the one that Abraham wrote, by his own hand, the papyri that he translated.

This shows that Smith walked around making claims that he had no clue about. Does that affect how accurate the translation was of the document? Well, that's not provable, if we reject the origin of the BoA to be at least partly from the Book of Breathings.

But my concern is more with Smith as a reliable person. Sounds a lot more like this guy wholeheartedly believed he was a prophet and was chosen of God. But if he also believed--and this is just one case--that a random guy selling some Egyptian papyri off of his mummy exhibition had sold him the very writings of Abraham himself, how credible are his beliefs?

How obvious is it that he could've duped the interested members of his church into believing this?

Once again, charisma led his followers to believe it was actually the text of Abraham, and it wouldn't surprise me if a few other "revelations" and truth claims were really just his imagination (like the one in the King Follet discourse when he said babies who die will be exalted as gods yet forever remain in their baby-form).

And as I showed, some of Smiths truth claims are proven to be a part of his imagination, which fits my definition of fraud.

openminded said...

mkprr,
thanks for your view on the whore of all the earth section. Coming from the perspective that this was written in the 19th century, I come to a different conclusion, but I see where you're coming from.

Anyways, there are definitely other conclusions that can be derived from my evidence that would make the evidence far from establishing him a “proven fraud” (though not according to my definition, which doesn't allow for Smith to get away with duping so many people into believing what he believes). My main argument, however, is that a literal approach to the word "translation" is not one of the conclusions that can escape the "proven fraud" title.

You said:
"On the other hand another a reasonable conclusion might be that although he was wrong about Abrahams handwriting he still literally translated the text accurately...In his excitement for what had been revealed to him it appears he jumped to false conclusions about the handwriting.
He did the same thing with the book of Mormon geography."

I would add that his excitement for a lot of things would've led him to believe, well, a lot of things. This fits in with the above post as we see even more of Smith's imaginations being proven false, albeit the geography one is probably more speculation. But then again, probably not. I really need to find that quote where he states an angel told him the story in the BoM was partly about the Indians.

But you claim we can expect Smith to be off on the geography if he was just a translator.
Yet if he was (oh Lord, I never thought I'd mention this phrase) just a farm boy from Palmyra with a lack of formal education (points for irony, here?), can we really expect Smith to keep up with all the details and their implications? He had enough trouble with King Benjamin being dead already, I don't expect he'd think a thorough analysis of his own words would lead to the limited geography the text implies (not that I've looked into the specfic verses very much).

As for an accurate literal translation, I'd accept the possiblity if the word "accurate" was removed. The facsimiles are hit and miss, and there are areas that Egyptology makes the miss a certainty. The example in that link is partly described as resting "on data that [is]undisputed on both sides of the fence." (Chris Smith, again).

Also, anonymous presents a good question (that I'll need to look in to) on the direct hit concerning the 4 quarters of the earth and the content of the BoA itself.

There are just too many holes to allow the BoA to hold to an accurate and literal translation (vs. a revelated text that's unrelated to the papyri or an inaccurate literal translation).

Mormography said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mormography said...

And a checkmate by openminded(id). If the translation claim was not bizarre enough, now the twist is added that Joseph Smith was apparently fluent in Egyptian/Reformed Egyptian only for a brief translation moment. Then his fluency vanish to such an extent that he himself did not recognize or understand the Semitic origins of what he had just translated, but were only later discovered by Mormon apologist over a hundred years later after his death. Wow. Is not it a marvelous work and wonder how Mormon critics only provide greater understanding to Mormons with every passing decade. The Mormons are truly blessed to have so many critics to help them expand on their doctrine precept upon precept. God gave them the milk and the critics gave them the meat.

Of course Bookslinger and Mormanity have created and participated on blogs such as this, because of the Mormon mythology of the pre-mortal war of words. It is only natural for them to feel the need to continue to fight such a war in this life.

What better battle ground then sites like Wikipedia, where things like verifiability are demanded and no side can successfully hit and run. At first Mormons flocked to Wikipedia in order to outlast and form a censorship cabal. However, overtime they struggled to understand the truth itself. Consequently they ran away to form they own websites such as FAIRWIKI where they could control who could challenge them and how. In like manner Mormanity did his FAQ where commenters are not allowed and his numerous errors in reason go unchecked.

Openminded fought valiantly for truth here on this thread. This thread is yet another example of how Mormons are depriving themselves of greater understanding and doctrinal meat by running away to sites where critics cannot respond.

Jeff Lindsay said...

A Mormon cabal trying to warp Wikipedia? Fleeing to our own wikis in desperation? Wow, Mormography, that's getting rather orbital, IMO.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Mormongraphy, as I've explained to you before, time does not permit me to respond to every question or challenge, and I especially feel no obligation when issues are off topic. However, as to the tangential issue of the Book of Abraham and the issue of it being written "by the hand" of Abraham, I'd like to open your mind on the issue. You claim that it's false to state that it was a Semitic practice to refer to copies of text as having been written by the hand of someone when it wasn't literally the hand of the scribe or engraver who prepared the document. For understanding of ancient Jewish and Egyptian practices practices in this regard, see http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Abraham/By_his_own_hand. There is certainly a case to be made.

That document considers two possibilities. The first is that "by his own hand" was on the text being translated as part of the title or as an indication or original authorship (not identifying the copyist of the original document). The other possibility is that Nibley was wrong with regard to the document in question, and that Joseph Smith or his scribes added the phrase "by his own hand" to reflect an errant assumption that the book was the original and not a much later copy of Abraham's text. If so, they made a logical error, but that would not be an error within the document itself or one that invalidates the translation. Prophets aren't omniscient, even when talking about texts they have translated with the power of God.

openminded said...

Actually, the header portion is not possibly translated from the document itself.

For one, comparing the header from lds.org:
"A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt.—The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus" to the one from 1842 (note: I made a typo when I introduced the 1842 (not 1942, as I wrote) edition).
This would be a bit of a scriptural change, but the intent of the header is obvious when it's italicized for us (just as much an editorial insertion as the chapter descriptions are in the BoA preceding each chapter).

Also, Smith was the personal editor for the 1842 edition. He knew and agreed to what the header said.

There's really no question to the matter.

However, I think Mosiah 8:13 provides some insight into what we can expect from the BoA.
When the king inquired Ammon about translating the records they found, Ammon mentioned the Seer: "Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer."

A verse later, he mentions that a seer is greater than a prophet.

Is there any evidence that 1) prophets can translate documents from foreign languages, and 2) that Smith was commanded of God to translate the document?

If there's no evidence of either, then there's no reason to accept the BoA as anything other than inspired revelation (as a Mormon, at least).

Mormography said...

Mormanity, as I've explained to you before, I do not appreciate you mis-stating my positions. Why can you not resist the impulse to misstate my positions? Please link/copy past/quote where I claimed “it's false to state that it was a Semitic practice to refer to copies of text as having been written by the hand of someone”. Unless of course you are just resorting to yet another straw man, then do not bother responding.

Mormanity, you are under no obligation to spend your limit time hosting a blog. In fact if you had faith you would not feel the need to run this website.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Mormography, my apologies. I mistook openminded for you when reading his comments about the Semitic claims being false. Very sorry! It was open minded whose mind I was trying to open.

Regarding openminded's concern over the "by his own hand" comments, any of the possibilities for what was meant in "by his own hand" are not valid reasons to reject Joseph Smith or the Book of Abraham. It could be an assumption and editorial insertion by Joseph Smith, which would be incorrect (yeah, we don't expect him to be infallible in his understanding and opinions), or it could be a reference to the authorship of the original document made either on the scroll or by Joseph. Whether that statement is part of a translated title or part of a translated description or an editorial insertion by Joseph making reference to original document or later copy, so what? It may be accurate and logical or a natural error (akin to thinking that the gold plates were gold when in fact they may have been a gold-copper alloy, far from pure gold). It's interesting, but far from a decisive issue, and not cut and dry. The capitalization in 1842 does point away from "by his own hand" being part of the title, but one can still imagine a document that had the "by his own hand" in the header consistent with Nibley's title hypothesis, but when translated not given the weight and typesetting of a title. It's not decisive.

openminded said...

Jeff,
I was wondering why that was aimed at Mormography!

Would've responded with more than I did. I fully understand the "semitic phrase" concept, it's just not applicable in this situation for the reasons I already mentioned. One can imagine dinosaur bones being planted in the Earth to fool us, and in the same manner, we can ignore the solid evidence that Smith claimed that Abraham wrote the BoA. That an official LDS site displaying the official church scriptures with the BoA header in italics, unlike the rest of the actual scripture portion, is not enough when put alongside the plentiful evidence supporting a contradictory view to Nibley, then cheers to wishful thinking.

To answer your "so what?" question, this is further evidence that Smith made truth claims that turned out to be false. There are many more examples of this that will very likely come up later in life as you continue to blog (and the community, discuss). The importance of this is that we don't know when this guy is coming up with something out of thin air ("here, this is the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand!" or even "thus saith the Lord"). There are some weak examples, like the one you cited (definitely a "so what?" issue), but stronger ones such as Smith claiming an angel telling him about the Indians being a part of the BoM (I'll find the quote soon, I think I read it on Runtu's Rincon) and also the BoA (the recent KEP discussions, papyri findings, the previous evidences i've mentioned, etc aren't pointing toward a literal and accurate translation that we would expect from a seer according to Mosiah 8).

This guy paints himself as a fraud. When he claims something is revelation, we take him at his provably fallible word.

Mormography said...

According to Mormanity nothing can reject Mormonism claims, because he said so. It gets so absurd, he even gets to essentially arguing that the Book Of Abraham facsimiles are not canon. The torn portions of the facsimiles wrongly recreated and translated ......... , that does not matter, either the LDS leadership or the printers made a valid mistake, not a contradiction to the LDS canon. A self declared successful rebuttal to critics.

For that matter, with Mormanity, one has to constantly ask what is canon. Anything particularly problematic quickly vanishes into the ether (no pun intended) as non-canon. Despite the balance of evidence suggesting that the translated papyri were not burned in the fire, Mormanity clutches a hold of minor evidence in favor the actual papyri having been destroyed. (A little convenient huh?). Given this why does Mormanity go off on the tangent of the in-his-hand Semitic phrase? Given his current theory the in-his-hand concern would be moot.

Has I have already pointed out and has gone un-rebutted, this in-his-hand tangent weakens the case for Smith as super-naturally empowered translator. This tangent argues that Smith was super-naturally empower to translate in a very limited, literal way. As soon as he was finished translating he lost any fluency in the translated language and no longer understood the true meaning of what he had just translated. It almost like Mormanity is positioning him self to defend yet undiscovered concerns with regards to the BoA.

At any rate this is the conversation stuck on repeat in Mormanity's head:

1. All faiths but the LDS faiths are rejected

1-1 No one knows why other religions also have an amazing number of direct hits, but these direct hits can not be used to accept those religions (see above)

1-2. Nothing can reject the LDS Faith because I said so (see above)

1-2-1. Anything that could reject the LDS faith would reject all other faiths, especially Evangelicals

Repeat