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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Truer Than Ever: The Book of Abraham

One of the biggest challenges to my personal testimony of the reality of the Restoration came when I was serving as Bishop years ago. I was exploring one of the issues that had affected some local people in the past, namely, the anti-Mormon attacks on the Book of Abraham. I went to a popular anti-Mormon website and read their pitch against the Book of Abraham. Whoa, what a powerful, clear-cut, rock-solid indictment of the Book of Abraham. How more obvious could the problem be? The papyrus fragments that Joseph translated as the Book of Mormon were found recently, and now scholars can translate them and see that they have no connection to Abraham. The book is a total fraud. Slam dunk. That's the pitch, anyway.

When I faced that evidence, not yet knowing that the real fraud was in the evidence that was being withheld to make the anti-Mormon case, I was deeply troubled. I was troubled enough to go to the Lord in prayer and explain that while I had a deep testimony of the Book of Mormon and accepted it as scripture, I had to ask what went wrong with the Book of Abraham? Did Joseph just blow it? The response I got was not an answer to my question, but a sense that I needed to put this issue on hold and do more homework, patiently. I know, some of you will say that was a total cop-out and the only ethical thing to do would have been to resign from the Church. But patience was what I needed.

I studied the issue more carefully. While reading a basic book on the history of the Book of Abraham from H. Donl Peterson, I learned that the primary anti-Mormon argument relied on deception, not just a weak argument, but deliberate deception. The authors of the site that had so troubled me surely knew and had been told dozens of times that the tiny collection of fragments found in 1967 was only a small fraction of the scrolls that Joseph had, and that the bulk of the collection had been sold to a museum by Joseph's widow and eventually shipped to Chicago where they apparently burned in the great fire of 1871. The critics also ought to know that numerous eye-witnesses had described the scrolls Joseph had been translating as the Book of Abraham, and their descriptions don't accurately match the fragments that were recovered. Mormons scholars and non-LDS scholars both agree that the fragments we have are not the text of the Book of Abraham. The critics desperately need those fragments to be the Book of Abraham, but they are not. There are still plenty of tough questions to ask and reasonable objections to make, as there is with almost anything in any religion, but I learned in that experience just how powerful and dangerous a well-crafted lie can be. I can sympathize with those who lost their testimonies over Book of Abraham attacks, but I'd like to urge you to come back and look at the exciting news that continues to be revealed about this majestic ancient test.

My little adventure led to several pages on my LDSFAQ area about the Book of Abraham and the growing evidence for its authenticity. These include "Questions About the Book of Abraham: Part One," "Questions About the Book of Abraham, Part 2: Evidences for Plausibility," and "Part 3: Ancient Records Offer New Support for the Book of Abraham."

A more recent source you'll want to consider is the new DVD, A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Looks fascinating--this just came out. I'm ordering one and haven't seen it yet. You can also hear
podcast about the DVD at the FAIR Blog.

There have been some exciting discoveries since I wrote my LDSFAQ pages on the Book of Abraham and I'm in the process of adding some updates. Some of the most significant ones are mentioned by Dr. John Gee, one of a few scholars deeply familiar with the Egyptian texts potentially relevant to the Book of Abraham. Dr. Gee has some valuable insight into how modern scholarship is helping to better place the Book of Abraham in history. However, before I share some news from Dr. Gee, let me remind you of some of the controversy over the location of the Book of Abraham. This background will help you better appreciate Dr. Gee's additional insights. So first, here is a background passage from Daniel C. Peterson's article, "News from Antiquity," in the January 1994 issue of the Ensign, available online (for the footnotes omitted below, see the related quote on Part 2 of my Book of Abraham LDS FAQ page):
The book begins with Abraham "in the land of Ur, of Chaldea." (Abr. 1:20.) It is obvious that this "Chaldea" was a place under strong Egyptian influence. It was there that Abraham's own fathers turned aside from worship of the true God to the service of "the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt." (Abr. 1:6; facsimile 1, fig. 9.) Apart from a passing reference in Joshua 24:2 [Josh. 24:2], the Bible does not tell of the idolatry of Abraham's ancestors. However, their worship of false gods and Abraham's faithfulness in worshipping the true God, as well as his attempts to convert his family, are common themes of many very old Jewish and Christian stories. [2]

Where was Ur of the Chaldees? Since the nineteenth century, most authorities have identified it with the modern Tell al-Muqayyar, a site in southern Iraq. However, certain elements of the book of Abraham do not seem to fit well in southern Iraq; in particular, Egyptian influences appear to be lacking there during the time of Abraham (traditionally placed around 2000 B.C.). It is thus interesting to note that some recent reevaluations of the question locate Ur in the area known anciently as Aram-Naharaim, or northwestern Mesopotamia (northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey, in terms of modern geography). This was a region under Egyptian influence at the time of Abraham.[3] The book of Abraham mentions a place it calls "the plain of Olishem" (Abr. 1:10), which was apparently part of the land of Chaldea. No such place is mentioned in the Bible, but the name does occur in an inscription of the Akkadian ruler Naram Sin, dating to about 2250 B.C. Remarkably, it refers to a place located precisely in northwestern Syria.[4]
Yes, it's cool that there is new evidence from an ancient text for the plains of Olishem in the Book of Abraham, but the real purpose of this passage is to remind you that modern LDS scholarship points to Ur of the Chaldees and the initial setting for the Book of Abraham as being in the north, perhaps in Syria, not in southern Iraq. Now we turn to Dr. Gree for an update included in his presentation at the Eleventh Annual FAIR Conference, August 6, 2009 entitled "The Larger Issue."
For years the critics have noted that the Book of Abraham has Egyptians up in Abraham's homeland in Abraham's day. This is something that they see as problematic. In the 1960s Georges Posener first suggested that there was an Egyptian empire in Syria in those days, but most scholars rejected it. There simply was not enough archaeological evidence for it in their opinion. Two articles last year change the picture. One was the publication by the President of the International Association of Egyptologists of a new autobiographical text from the Middle Kingdom. It details how this Egyptian led an expedition to Byblos and while there became involved in a military altercation between Byblos and Ullaza and ended up taking over both. This became the beginning of Egyptian involvement in northern Syria in the Middle Kingdom. Confirmation of the story comes from Byblos were the former kings are replaced by Egyptian appointed governors who began recording their titles in Egyptians. The second article came out in the premier peer-reviewed Egyptological journal in North America and detailed how a careful examination of the textual and archaeological sources indicates that Egypt had a presence in the northern Levant only during the reigns of two pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom: Sesostris III and Amenemhet III.

These articles point to a specific historical scenario for the Book of Abraham. The first chapter of Abraham takes place when Egypt controls Abraham's homeland in northern Syria, and this can only be during a short, sixty year time period, about 1860-1800 BC. We know from archaeological evidence of that time period that Egyptian gods were worshiped at Ebla, and that Ebla is mentioned in Egyptian texts of the time. We also know that Egyptian sphinxes inscribed for monarchs of the time were found at Aleppo and Ugarit. This gives us an idea of the area under the Egyptian monarchs Sesostris III and Amenemhet III. It also explains Abraham's travel route. He crosses the Euphrates to Harran, outside the Egyptian sphere of influence and stays a few years, during which time the Egyptian empire of the Middle Kingdom collapses making it safe for him to return to formerly Egyptian held territory.

Unfortunately, the time period when Abraham lived is almost unknown to Egyptology even today. The debates among Kim Ryholt, Manfred Beitak, Jim and Susan Allen, Daphna Ben Tor, and Chris Bennett about this time period shows how much is up in the air even today.

It might come as some surprise to some that Abraham is in the area of northern Mesopotamia and Syria. The term Chaldean did not mean the same in Joseph Smith's day as it does now. In the present day, the Chaldeans are equated only with the tribes of the Kaldu that lived in the Iron Age in southern Mesopotamia. In Joseph Smith's day it referred to the language that we call Aramaic and especially the Aramaic dialect that we call Syriac. It also referred to those who spoke that language (which originated in northern Syria). It also referred to the general area of greater Mesopotamia. Additionally, it was used as a term for superstitious.

The Chaldeans do not appear as such in the Hebrew Bible. Abraham is said to be from Ur of the Kasdim, not the Chaldeans. Though Kasdim is translated as Chaldeans, that is no indication that the Kasdim are the Kaldu. Recent analysis of the names in the biblical account of Abraham indicates that all of them originate in northern Mesopotamia. The name Abram itself, is attested only in northern Mesopotamia. The name is also only attested at the time when the Book of Abraham predicts it. Several towns are named Ur in Mesopotamia, that is the reason why it must be qualified as the Ur of the Kasdim.

Another example of how the Book of Abraham matches its day is the mention in the Book of Abraham of human sacrifice after the manner of the Egyptians. We know from archaeological evidence that the Egyptians practiced human sacrifice at that time, in areas that they dominated outside of Egypt. This archaeological evidence corresponds in practice to later ritual texts that describe how do human sacrifice. It also corresponds to historical records from Egypt that detail the circumstances under which human sacrifice occurred in Abraham's day. Almost none of this material was available even to Nibley. This shows how much the picture can change in a few years. We also know the type of people targeted for human sacrifice: sbi, rebels or apostates (the term is used for both). Abraham says that his "fathers . . . utterly refused to hearken to my voice" (Abraham 1:5) when he condemned them for "having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given them , unto the worship of the gods of the heathen" (Abraham 1:5), instead they "endeavored to take away my life" (Abraham 1:7). There was no separation of church and state in ancient Egypt and the Pharaoh was the head of both. So to revolt against his authority, whether religious or political, made someone a rebel and subject to a ritualized death penalty. Archaeological evidence for this practice was first discovered about fifty years ago, but more archaeological evidence has appeared in the last ten years.
Read that passage again--there are a large number of interesting new twists in the unfolding story of one of the most remarkable ancient scriptural texts, the Book of Abraham. Like the Book of Mormon, the evidence for the plausibility of the Book of Abraham continues to increase, making it, in a sense, "truer than ever." This is an exciting time to be LDS!

So much has changed in the few years since Hugh Nibley took up the defense of the Book of Abraham. He clearly got some things wrong. That's life and that's scholarship. He sometimes said that anything he wrote more than 3 years ago shouldn't be held against him because things change so quickly. Well, they do. The vector of change, though, is in a direction I like. Some issues that were quite problematic are being resolved with evidence that just wasn't available in Nibley's day and certainly not Joseph Smith's. Some huge discoveries in the past few years have helped us better appreciate the text of the Book of Abraham in several ways. I'll say it again: like the Book of Mormon, it's a text that is becoming truer than ever, in spite of human influence (yeah, human influences like the ancient geocentric model of the cosmos embedded in the Book of Abraham--something for another post, another day).

Patience--that was the answer I needed in the 1990s when I had my own little crisis of faith. I'm glad I pressed forward and continued to study, ponder, pray, and finally see past the deception that had so bothered me. I felt really cheated when I saw the sleight of hand that the critics used, and I've seen crooked antics of that nature frequently since then. I still have some major issues on hold, waiting for further light and knowledge, interested in the truth but willing to wait for answers. Meanwhile, the journey is a rewarding and joyous one. The Church is true, in spite of some gaps, and the Gospel is true, in spite of human weakness in others and my own failure in understanding and faith. I look forward to learning and experiencing more.

Update: A great resource that calmly spells out the major arguments against the Book of Abraham and then refutes them is "Criticisms of Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham" at the the Book of Abraham Project website. URL is http://www.boap.org/LDS/BOAP/SecondEd/Draft-copy/AppendixV-JS-Commentary-on-BOA.pdf.

148 comments:

Sunshine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. The process you describe of searching for answers - a way to reconcile the 'obvious' conclusions of critics with your own past experiences with these scriptures - hit home. A loved one recently lost his testimony due to this and other related 'facts' and I am working to strengthen my foundation. Keeping my head in the sand won't work any more.

I look forward to reading the references you have provided here.

Anonymous said...

The critics have decent reasons for thinking that the papyri that we have were used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Abraham. Facsimiles 1 and 3 both occur in the Book of Breathings and in the Book of Abraham. The "Kirtland Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar" shows characters from the scrolls that we have side by side with phrases from the Book of Abraham. I'm familiar with the apologetic responses to these difficulties-that Joseph combined facsimiles 1 and 3 from different scrolls, that Joseph wasn't responsible for the translations in the Alphabet and Grammar, etc.-but simply to dismiss the criticism as "sleight of hand" is unfair.

Part of your argument that there were other scrolls used to translate the Book of Abraham depends on eyewitness accounts suggesting that the Book of Abraham scrolls were in better condition than the papyri that we now have. Let me just point out that more than a hundred years transpired between the translation of the Book of Abraham and the recovery of the papyri, and the scrolls may not have been preserved very carefully during that time.

Apologists have trumpeted the fact that some things in the Book of Abraham have been found in other ancient books that Joseph Smith could not have been familiar with. That may be, but much of the nonbiblical stuff in the Book of Abraham can be found in the Book of Jasher and in Josephus's Antiquities of the Jews. According to H. Donl Peterson, Joseph Smith was familiar with the Book of Jasher, and it's likely that he was aware of Josephus. Oliver Cowdery had a copy, I think. These sources say that Abraham's father was an idolater and servant to Nimrod, that they tried to sacrifice Abraham, and that Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians.

Some other difficulties with the Book of Abraham include the anachronistic use of "Egyptus" and "Pharaoh" as names of the mother and son who founded Egypt. The word "Pharaoh" wasn't applied to Egypt's ruler until after the time that Abraham allegedly lived. Egypt obviously wasn't called "Egypt" by the ancient Egyptians, so suggesting that it was named after "Egyptus" is ahistorical. True, the Nile overflows its banks periodically, but Egypt was never underwater during human history. The Egyptian civilization predates any supposed daughter of Noah, so she and her sons could not have established its "first government."

Jeff Lindsay: said...

What many antis have done with their arguments truly is sleight of hand. They left out critically important information that greatly weakened the argument. The claim is still made "the original text used to translated the Book of Abraham has been found" without explaining that there were other scrolls and much more text no longer part of the collection. Most of the other issues you raise have been addressed on my pages and elsewhere.

A general point, though: Historical inaccuracies in texts like Genesis, Exodus, and the Book of Abraham do not mean that they are not authentic ancient texts, nor do such imperfections in either the understanding of Moses, Abraham, or later editors of the text destroy the authenticity or sacred value of the text. Likewise, the ancient geocentric astronomy in Abraham is technically incorrect--though a plausible way for an ancient writer to describe or comprehend inspired insights about the heavens.

No, I don't expect perfection in scripture and am not prepared to fall apart because Moses thought a bat is a bird or because Abraham of a later editor the Egyptian text related to Abraham possibly passed on errant technical or historical information from even more ancient stories.

But the case for the Book of Abraham as an ancient text, delivered to us only through divine assistance in modern days, warts and all, is increasingly "interesting". Really, doesn't something like the multiple bulls eyes such as properly identifying the sons of Horus as representing the four corners of the earth at least raise your eyebrows and perhaps your curiosity? Or is a list of complaints from an anti-Mormon website enough to close your mind to the interesting possibilities this marvelous text raises?

Anonymous said...

Jeff,

The historical inaccuracies that I mentioned above are much more likely to have been inserted into the text by Joseph Smith than by Abraham. The names "Egyptus" and "Pharaoh" were related to words with which Joseph Smith was familiar, but not Abraham. Regardless, let's say for the sake of argument that the historical and astronomical inaccuracies are due to Abraham rather than Joseph Smith. What we're doing is undermining Abraham's reliability in order to save Joseph Smith's. Sure, Joseph Smith was a true prophet, but what else did Abraham get wrong? The bit about Ham's lineage being cursed? That's fairly consequential. If Joseph Smith was a true seer because he could accurately restore Abraham's writings, that's great, but I don't know what good it does if Abraham's writings were so unreliable as sources of truth.

As for the sons of Horus, yes it does raise an eyebrow. I think you overstate the case by calling it a bull's eye, however. The four sons of Horus were associated with the four cardinal directions; that's not exactly equal to the four corners of the earth. I'd score that one a partial hit. But again, for the sake of argument, let's say that he did get that one right. There are others that he clearly got wrong. What are we supposed to do with partially reliable revelation? If we have to wait for science to tell us which parts of the scriptures are true and which parts need to be reinterpreted, what is the incremental value of revelation over science?

I fully agree with you that imperfections in the record do not destroy a text's sacred value, but I disagree that they don't impact its authenticity.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, let's not focus so much on the trees that we lose sight of the forest. There are very compelling reasons to reject the authenticity of the B of A that have nothing to do with the status of the fragments you mention. Foremost among those reasons is the simple fact that once again we are being asked to believe in a translation of a text without the opportunity to examine an original, which, we are told, really really did exist but (gosh darn it) is no longer available for our inspection--rather like the Golden Plates. Surely you can understand how suspicious this looks to the non-believer, especially given the powerful historical evidence for the fertility of Joseph Smith's imagination (e.g., Zelph the White Lamanite, Jackson County as the site of Eden and the altar used by Abraham himself).

There's more to say here, but I might not be able to get to it until tomorrow.

-- Eveningsun

Paul 2 said...

Here's the source for the first of the two articles Gee mentioned, but neglected to cite.

James P. Allen: The Historical Inscription of Khnumhotep at Dahshur: Preliminary Report, In: Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 352 (November 2008), p. 29-39

I coun't figure out what the other source was. The missing article is more relevant to the case Gee is trying to make.

mkprr said...

Eveningsun

You said: "once again we are being asked to believe in a translation of a text without the opportunity to examine an original, which, we are told, really really did exist but (gosh darn it) is no longer available for our inspection"

Granted, we are being asked to believe that by many apologists but this isn't what Joseph Smith had in mind.

If the historical records are at all accurate, Joseph Smith proudly displayed these during his lifetime for all to see and they were then sold to a museum after his death. He was hardly trying to keep them from being discovered.

Huston said...

Over the summer, I noted a couple of other authentic hits in the Book of Abraham:

http://gentlyhewstone.com/2011/08/29/two-things-joseph-smith-got-right-about-the-book-of-abraham-facsimiles/

mkprr said...

In 1998 there was an interesting round table discussion done at BYU on the facsimiles. They talk in some length about the issue of these scrolls if anyone is interested. Again this is pretty old but it's fun to listen to

http://media.byub.org/mp3/scripturediscussions/721/721-202.mp3

Anonymous said...

mkprr,

Of course. But that doesn't change the fact that the documents are not around today to be examined by a competent modern Egyptologist, and that the Church is asking us to accept Joseph's translation of them anyway.

If the documents were still around, I suspect the Church would not be treating them as canonical, and apologists like Jeff would be singing quite a different tune about them.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

" I was troubled enough to go to the Lord in prayer and explain that while I had a deep testimony of the Book of Mormon and accepted it as scripture, I had to ask what went wrong with the Book of Abraham? Did Joseph just blow it? The response I got was not an answer to my question, but a sense that I needed to put this issue on hold and do more homework, patiently."

That's excellent, sir. I had a similar experience in my youth regarding the Word of Wisdom. When the temptation to disobey it was gaining strength in my heart, I took the matter to the Lord. He answered my prayer and I gained much strength to to forever choose to obey that doctrinal standard. Always take you troubles before the Lord in earnest prayer.

The scientific evidence regarding the authenticity of the Book of Abraham has aumented much in recent years. Things like the location of (Abraham's) Ur and Abraham's faithfulness to the Lord despite his persecutors, even his own family, are "proven" so autentic that only a prophet of God could have translated it.

But, as with all divine truth, one must rely upn the Holy Ghost. Personally I've always liked not just the Book of Abraham but the Pearl of Great Price in general. I like the doctrines of intelligences and of the creation. In fact, I find the Pearl of Great Price's creation account clearly more compelling and settling than that of Genesis. To me it flows better and explains the nature ofthe creation much better than that of Genesis. By the Spirit, I know it's a book of God and thus I do get excited about science "catching up" to the Spirit.

Darren said...

"Of course. But that doesn't change the fact that the documents are not around today to be examined by a competent modern Egyptologist, and that the Church is asking us to accept Joseph's translation of them anyway."

There's no original record of any ancient scripture, biblical or extra biblical.

"If the documents were still around, I suspect the Church would not be treating them as canonical, and apologists like Jeff would be singing quite a different tune about them."

Not only are you wrong inthat but you'd also be wrong that the enemies ofthe Church would cease or ease up their attacks if they existed. Ultimately it is by the spirit of God that one learns of His truths.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff:

Thanks for your post. I'm an active member trying to work my way through this (and other similar) issues. I appreciate you taking the time to offer your POV.

One question on the BofA... How do you (or other apologists) explain the facsimile drawings within the Book of Abraham? I've read a couple of articles from experts in the fields of Egyptology. The both said Joseph was WAY off on translating these. Are the experts wrong in this assertion? If not, how do you reconcile this?

Thanks.

Openminded said...

Patience, Jeff. That's the answer to this lack-of-faith-crisis crisis you're going through ;)

Anyways. There's a pretty good non-Mormon scholar i follow when I look at the non-Mormon side of the argument. chriscarrollsmith.blogspot.com is his website, he does a lot of thorough research (And isn't just some anti-mormon or apologetic/critic type).

I miss the days when I took part in these debates :(
BoA was way too fun

Darren said...

Anonymous;

I too was wondering how to answering the accusation that Joseph Smith got the fascimilies wrong. I went to Lindsay's website for explaining Mormonism and was referred to the Book of Abraham Project (BOAP) as well as an excellent article called Criticisms of Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham which is linked from the BOAP webpage.

The criticism article article reasonably and soundly argues that the papari found was not the papari Joseph Smith used to translate the text of the Book of Abraham. It also demonstrates how the fascimiles from which Joseph Smith used may not have been with the text he used for the Book of Abraham's tranlsation.

Lindsay also recommends, as do I (highly so), reading The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources by Kevin L. Barney. This article blew my mind and filled my heart with excitement. This article shows how the Semitic peoples of old would take stories, particularly for the article, Egyptian stories, and achange them to tell an Semitic story. Therefore, if Joseph Smith aquired papari which used Egyptian hieroglyphics and told an Egyptian story but at one time this said papari was altered to tell the story of Abraham then to the Egyptologists such papari would tell an Egyptian story, especially since the only recovered papri was not used by Smith to translate but before the beholder of said papri, one would have a semitic story. While it is not believed that the papari was not autographical (it was not written by Abraham himself), Smith, as a prophet of God, determined that the message was authentic.

The "Semitic Lense" article shows how recovered texts, such as The Apocolypse of Abraham was foreign originally (I think Slovic) but altered somewhere in history to tell a Semitic story. And that the manuscripts used for the Apocalypse of abraham dates right about the same time as Smith's papri. "Semitc Lense" also cites Hogo Gressman who argued that the story of Lazarus (the parable) was originally Egyptian as well as Psalms (I think). It was frankly difficult to find biographical nformation of Hugo Gressman for me but one thing for sure, he was a theologian who made a significant impact on how the Bible should be studied. He was German and so probably Lutheran.

Tim said...

The point of Jeff's post is that evidence is slowly surmounting in favor of the Book of Abraham. There are plenty of difficult issues to deal with in regards to the BoA, but over time what seemed to be obvious problems with the BoA are slowly becoming supportive of the BoA, Olishem for example.

Arguments regarding anachronisms and the like are simply speculative. We don't know what Joseph actually translated because he was virtually silent in the written record regarding such. What if these anachronisms were introduced by a copyist and the papyri translated by JS dated to Ptolemaic times (the more likely scenario anyways, considering the dating of the facsimiles)?

The main 'problem' with Book of Abraham criticism is all of the assumptions made by critics, rather than dealing with what is known. Assertions regarding the Alphabet and Grammar are purely speculative, and Nibley and Schryver have provided sound explanations indicating that it was not a tool in translating the text.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to give my own perspective, as a proudly liberal 21st-century Jew, on the Pearl of Great Price. I don't offer this as an argument, really, more as an invitation to view things from a different perspective.

As you know, Abraham and Moses are two of the greatest heroes of the Jewish scriptures. They are as important to the Torah and to Jews as, say, Nephi and Alma the Elder are to the Book of Mormon and to Mormons.

Now think of the two LDS texts named after and attributed to those Jewish heroes: the Book of Moses and the Book of Abraham.

In the Book of Moses, we see the Genesis story rewritten in such a way that (among other things) Adam acquires Christian beliefs which any Jew would insist are wholly absent from the Book of Genesis.

In the Book of Abraham we see the 19th-century "Hamitic theory" of racial origins taken out of the mouths of slaveholders and portrayed as the word of God himself.

Now, it's a free country, and I'd be the last to deny anyone's right to do whatever they want with another religion's scriptures.

But still... Imagine how you would feel about me if I claimed that the Book of Mormon had sadly been corrupted over the years, but that I had discovered a document, the Lost Gospel of Nephi, written in a lost language on plates of platinum, which plates were indisputably of ancient origin but are sadly unavailable for anyone's inspection because they were taken up into heaven (and if you don't believe me, it's only because you haven't prayed about it sincerely enough).

Imagine further that I claimed that this Lost Gospel of Nephi contained the true, uncorrupted text of the Book of Mormon's accounts of Nephi, and that, in my spiritually assisted translation, the text depicted Nephi as a 21st-century feminist and global-warming alarmist.

Let's say I also produced something I called the Book of Alma the Elder, in which, with spiritual guidance, I revised the LDS Books of Mosiah and Alma in a way that turned God into an advocate of socialism and gay marriage.

(Just for fun, let's say also that I quickly gained enough followers to found a church. If L. Ron Hubbard could do it, so could I. To round out the picture, let's say I had a revelation instructing me to appoint Joanna Brooks as High Priestess.)

How would you feel about such claims? That is to say, how would you feel if I revised the Mormon scriptures as radically as the Mormon scriptures have revised the Hebrew scriptures?

I know that we're all good Americans here, and that everyone here would agree to my right to hold and to propagate my own religious beliefs.

I'm also sure you would accord the same right to my followers. But would you think twice before voting for one of them for president?

And if you did think twice about it, would that make you a bigot?

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

So it's come down to this: people are starting to blame Book of Abraham difficulties on a later copyist. Well, that's at least a tacit admission that there are problems. Those darn copyists. First they adulterated the Book of Abraham. Then they corrupted the Bible. It's a good thing that Joseph Smith was around to fix the Bible with his own translation. Too bad he couldn't do the same for the Book of Abraham.

Let's think this through. By the power of God, Joseph Smith accurately translates the errors introduced into the Book of Abraham by a later copyist. He doesn't correct them. He just translates them. The result? Mormons deny the priesthood to Blacks. Other Mormons lose their testimonies because of obviously ahistorical claims in the record itself. But hey, at least Joseph Smith is a true prophet because he can tell us that canopic jars represent the earth in its four corners.

Darren said...

"In the Book of Moses, we see the Genesis story rewritten in such a way that (among other things) Adam acquires Christian beliefs which any Jew would insist are wholly absent from the Book of Genesis."

I recommend Margaret Barker's works. Here's a sample:

Many of the old certainties have been destroyed by new knowledge. What has become clear to me time and time again is that the evidence indicates that pre-Christian Judaism was not monotheistic in the sense that we use that word. Many in first century Palestine retained a world view derived from the more ancient religion of Israel, in which there was a High God and several Sons of God, one of whom was Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. Yahweh the Lord could be manifested on earth in human form, as an angel, or in the Davidic king. It was as a manifestation of Yahweh, the Son of God, that Jesus was acknowledged as Son of God, Messiah and Lord.

Barker shows how the surviving Masoretic texts of Deuteronomy as carried throughout the generations and found in the King James Bible as well (they are in the Vulgate as well according to my knowledge) there was delibrate a conflation between Elohim and YWHY. That originally these two deities were treated as separate but along came the "Deuteronomists" and conflated the two names in an attempt to present a strictly monotheistic view of the heavens and the eternities. So, likewise, why could not Genesis have taught of more than one deity? In fact, God says, "Let us make man in our image". And if I'm not mistaken, the reading of Genbesis in the Hebrew, there is a distinction between Elohim and YWHY. At least, that ias a legitimate manner to view the reading.

"But still... Imagine how you would feel about me if I claimed that the Book of Mormon had sadly been corrupted over the years"

That's done all the time.

"but that I had discovered a document, the Lost Gospel of Nephi, written in a lost language on plates of platinum, which plates were indisputably of ancient origin but are sadly unavailable for anyone's inspection because they were taken up into heaven"

Well, along side the pile of the Voree and Kinderhok plates, I guess we'll just add the Eveningsun Anonymous Plates plates. If no one could inspect them then the only way to know of their veracity would be to read the translation and pray about it.

"(and if you don't believe me, it's only because you haven't prayed about it sincerely enough)"

Have you pread the Book of mormon and sincerely prayed about it? If you have and honestly declare that you have not recieved a confirmation of its truthfulness then I would not in any way despise or despair yu for it. I do know, however, that I have read the Book of Mormon and sincerely prayed about it and the Spirit ogf the Lord has made known to me that they are true. And that has been repeated many times in my life. Even in moments of doubt, that reconfirmation is clear and present.

"Imagine further that I claimed that this Lost Gospel of Nephi contained the true, uncorrupted text of the Book of Mormon's accounts of Nephi, and that, in my spiritually assisted translation, the text depicted Nephi as a 21st-century feminist and global-warming alarmist."

Then Al Gore would be your first recruit.

"Let's say I also produced something I called the Book of Alma the Elder, in which, with spiritual guidance, I revised the LDS Books of Mosiah and Alma in a way that turned God into an advocate of socialism and gay marriage."

Then start preaching to Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker. He may join your church.

Darren said...

"let's say I had a revelation instructing me to appoint Joanna Brooks as High Priestess."

She may not accept that calling. Folks like Ron Hubbard may be more to your curch's liking.

"How would you feel about such claims? That is to say, how would you feel if I revised the Mormon scriptures as radically as the Mormon scriptures have revised the Hebrew scriptures?"

I'd be curious to say the least.

"But would you think twice before voting for one of them for president?"

Nope. The more Conservative, the more likely I'd vote for him. The more Liberal he is, the less likely I'd vote for him. Religion is not a determining factor for me.

"And if you did think twice about it, would that make you a bigot?"

Sure would but there's nothing inherently wrong with bigortry in politics. We should remain civil and respectful but unbigotted I don't think is possible in politics.

Tim said...

Evening Sun -
Accusing Mormons of tampering with Hebrew scriptures is a bit of a stretch. If you are concerned about tampering, then the documentary hypothesis and redactionist evidence should be much more alarming and upsetting to you. Most Biblical scholars reject Mosaic authorship, and claim that the Pentateuch was written by various authors (not to mention Isaiah), and was redacted by multiple editors. Jews and Christians alike have accepted the hypothesis and redactionist evidence. Do you really think that having a separate set of scriptures outside of Jerusalem is offensive? There are more tribes than just Judah. God isn't God only over the Jews. Mormons and the issue of priesthood limitation is no different than restricting the Levitical priesthood to Levites.
If you want to critique Mormonism, you have to bring something worthwhile to the table.

Darren said...

Anonymous (Eveningsun ?)

"It's a good thing that Joseph Smith was around to fix the Bible with his own translation."

All translators tried to "fix" the Bible when they made their translations. Joseph Smith did so divinely and wit hthe gift and power of God.

"Too bad he couldn't do the same for the Book of Abraham."

I've no idea what you mean by this.

"Let's think this through. By the power of God, Joseph Smith accurately translates the errors introduced into the Book of Abraham by a later copyist."

Who said that?

"He doesn't correct them. He just translates them. The result? Mormons deny the priesthood to Blacks."

Huh? Joseph Smith ordained blacks to the priesthood.

I recommend Blacklds.org. specifically, you can view Black History Timeline.

"But hey, at least Joseph Smith is a true prophet because he can tell us that canopic jars represent the earth in its four corners."

You're just being silly. you rebel you. ;>)

Tim said...

"So its come down to this.."
I would guess that you are not current on Book of Abraham scholarship. People aren't jst now starting to blame copyists. Where do we have any original autographs of any scripture? All extant texts are generally centuries removed at best. Why would we assume the BoA to be much different. Since the facsimiles date to the Ptolemaic period, it makes most sense that a copy of the Book of Abraham (corrupted or un-corrupted) would be most reasonable.
It isn't a "tacit admission" that there are problems, it is a "tactit admission" that there is much unknown, and the subject is full of speculation (including my own). Not sure why you are assuming that Joseph translated things incorrectly, but again there is an assumption that you think a Prophet should know everything and never make a mistake (assuming that any mistakes were even made). I would refer you to Van Hale's "Could a Prophet..." Again, your discounting of Olishem (by ignoring it), and belittling the Sons of Horus is an admission that you are unwilling to consider any evidence that might support the Book of Abraham, or Joseph's explanations and translations. Simplifying things and sarcasm is a poor argument.

Tim said...

"So it's come down to this"
Simplifying everything and being sarcastic doesn't provide a meaningful contribution. People haven't just now started attributing the text to copyists; James E. Talmage suggested as much in December 1912. It makes most sense considering the facsimiles date to the Ptolemaic period. The assumption that Joseph translated things incorrectly, first of all, is an assumption, second of all, the idea that a Prophet knows everything, can translate everything perfectly, and could never do anything incorrectly, is a false doctrine and a double standard which critics love to try and hold Latter-day Saints too. Mormons have always held that Jesus Christ was the only perfect person. I'm not discounting the prophet, and I accept his translation as being inspired, but I don't hold Joseph or any other prophet to the same standard as the Savior, as much as critics would like to think we do.
I recommend Van Hale's "Could a Prophet..." as well as catching up on current Book of Abraham scholarship.

Rusty Southwick said...

Interesting scenario, Eveningsun. Probably some fundamental differences within the analogy to make it break down, but it's interesting to think about. You suggested the retranslated Book of Mormon would contain permissiveness in areas once condemned as sinful. I don't think this applies to what we see in the evolution of a religion as prescribed by Christ. God is unchanging in the basics of what is right and wrong. If there are exceptions, they are temporary and don't change the basic tenet. As to what things do change over time, it's more along the lines of incidental practices instead of core doctrine. I'm interested in what you see the books of Moses and Abraham might have altered in terms of core Biblical doctrine. And remember also that having a separate interpretation of the same general principle wouldn't be the same as an alteration.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

Perhaps you are unaware that the passage in the Book of Abraham about the Hamitic curse was used by leaders of the Church after the time of Joseph Smith to deny the priesthood to Blacks. Try to keep up.

Tim,

Thanks for pointing out what Talmage said about copyists. Was he using copyists as the patsy for errors in the Book of Abraham? Because that's what you suggested, and that's what I was referring to. You: "What if these anachronisms were introduced by a copyist..." Is this an admission (tacit or otherwise) that there are anachronisms? Or are you playing this game of saying that there aren't any, but if there are, they're the fault of later copyists. I never suggested that Joseph Smith should be perfect or that he translated anything incorrectly. I was merely saying that if there are copyist errors in the Book of Abraham, how unfortunate it is that Joseph could correct copyist errors in the Bible but not in the Book of Abraham.

Tell me about Olishem. Are there any non-Mormon references to it? I'm absolutely willing to consider evidence of the Book of Abraham's authenticity. I'm also willing to consider contrary evidence. Unfortunately, the contrary evidence is much more accessible to the layman. In order to acquire the confirmatory evidence, you need to go to Mormon egyptologists (or attorneys or chemical engineers). Non-Mormon egyptologists don't seem to have this confirmatory evidence.

Anonymous said...

Rusty writes, "You suggested the retranslated Book of Mormon would contain permissiveness in areas once condemned as sinful. I don't think this applies to what we see in the evolution of a religion as prescribed by Christ. God is unchanging in the basics of what is right and wrong."

That's flat-out wrong. Look at polygamy: sometimes right, sometimes wrong. Look at the mass slaughter of women and children, as depicted in the Bible: right, or wrong? Right when God tells you to do it, but otherwise wrong? Look at abortion: right when it's supervised by a priest and performed on behalf of a jealous husband, as in the Book of Numbers?

This whole notion of God as the ground of absolute morality is patently false to anyone who is honestly reading the scriptures (as opposed to reading them selectively in search of a justification for their human moral and political beliefs).

-- Eveningsun

Kevin Christensen said...

Regarding the cultural background of the Hamitic theory of race origins and its influence on readers of the Book of Abraham, see Stirling Adams, here:

http://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=7582

Regarding the actual content of the Book of Abraham in contrast to the Hamitic theory, see Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, "A Pioneer Mother"

4. Pharaoh's claim to the priesthood was invalid, because he insisted with great force that it was the patriarchal priesthood of Noah, received through the line of Ham (Abraham 1:25—27). His earthly rule was blessed (Abraham 1:26), but he could not, of course, claim patriarchal lineage through his mother. There is an interesting parallel here with the case of Job, who, according to a newly found Testament of Job, though the most righteous of men and a direct descendant of Jacob or Israel, cannot claim a place among the patriarchs of the line because it is through his mother that he relates to Jacob, while his father's line, through Esau, was invalid because Esau had forfeited the priesthood.415 Pharoah finds himself in exactly that situation: The male line of Ham had become rebellious, while the female line was not patriarchal.

...
Question: But why the curse on the land? (Abraham 1:24).

Answer: It means, exactly as in the Book of Mormon, that those who dwell in the land will be cursed if they do not follow God's counsels and blessed if they do...

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 [the pawt], 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. 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 (Abraham 1:26—27).

Question: Why could they not have it?

Answer: Because, as noted, it came through a matriarchal succession, the first pharaoh being "the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal" (Abraham 1:25). Pharaoh was of a more righteous line than the sons of Ham, but daughters do not transmit patriarchal succession. In all of this, please note, there is no word of race or color, though that has been the main point of attack on the Book of Abraham by the enemies of the Prophet."

Kevin Christensen
Pittsburgh, PA

Anonymous said...

Kevin C.: The Testament of Job is to the Book of Job as Demi Moore's Scarlet Letter film is to Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel.

Two things bother me here. First is the uncritical acceptance of obviously inferior commentaries on or revisions of biblical masterpieces (whether it's the Testament of Job or the Book of Moses). Second is this habit of reading what are obviously literary works as if they were instruction manuals.

Each of these habits is a form of illiteracy.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

No, Eveningsun, illiteracy is disagreeing with me, not you. Just wamt to keep that clear.

Anonymous said...

OK, I deserved that. I apologize for the "illiteracy" crack.

It's true that two readers can legitimately disagree on a text's meaning. But if someone is reading a literary narrative as if it were an instruction manual, they don't even have a chance of understanding what it means. That was the point I was trying to make.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

"In all of this, please note, there is no word of race or color, though that has been the main point of attack on the Book of Abraham by the enemies of the Prophet."

Come on. Not just an attack by the prophets enemies. The prophet's successors and other leaders of the Church used a racial interpretation.

Darren said...

"Perhaps you are unaware that the passage in the Book of Abraham about the Hamitic curse was used by leaders of the Church after the time of Joseph Smith to deny the priesthood to Blacks. Try to keep up."

Here's what you said: "By the power of God, Joseph Smith accurately translates the errors introduced into the Book of Abraham by a later copyist. He doesn't correct them. He just translates them. The result? Mormons deny the priesthood to Blacks."

That has a direct connotation that *because* of the Book of Abraham, blacks did not recieve the priesthood. If that were true than the author of the translation of the Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith Jr., would not have ordained blacks to the priesthood. But he did. It was latter late 19th century/20th century policy which did not allow blacks to recieve the priesthood. Anyone who said it was because of the Book of Abraham were only speculating. The fact of the matter is that nobody knows why God was silent regarding blacks and the priesthood; just that He was.

Here's the original "curse upon Cain by which the "Hamitic curse" derives: "39 Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the Lord, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that he that findeth me will slay me, because of mine iniquities, for these things are not hid from the Lord. 40 And I the Lord said unto him: Whosoever slayeth thee, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And I the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." (Moses 5). Note that the "mark" fowas for Cain's protection.

And the curse of Ham as found in Egypt is in Abraham 1. You can read it over and over again and not find where blacks cannot have the prieshood because of it.

The Book of Abraham is not the cause of the blacks not recieving the priesthood. If you read the links I provided, you'd notice that blacks under Joseph Smith recieved the priesthood but after moving to utah there was cofusion as to whether or not Smith rescinded the priesthood from blacks. The LDS Church leaders took the matter to the Lord but the Lord was silent on the matter. As a matter of policy the LDS Church did not ordain blacks to the priesthood. More on this later.

(Did I keep up pretty good?)

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

"This whole notion of God as the ground of absolute morality is patently false to anyone who is honestly reading the scriptures (as opposed to reading them selectively in search of a justification for their human moral and political beliefs)."

Man, Eveningsun, if that's what you think than you're not just a mere liberal Jew but a VERY liberal Jew. If God says anything is OK, then it's OK. Period.

Anonymous said...

not just a mere liberal Jew but a VERY liberal Jew.

Thanks for the compliment. If you're gonna be a Jew, why not be the best kind?

Anyway, where do the Hebrew scriptures portray God as the ground of an absolute morality? As opposed, of course, to a God who merely demands to be obeyed?

Maybe I should remind everyone of the whole Euthyphro thing, or a close cousin of it: Is something moral because God commands it, or does God command it because it is moral?

If we want to say that something is moral because God commands it, then we have to conclude that things like slaughtering Canaanite children are moral when God tells us to do it, and I'm sorry, but I refuse to go there. If I ever tell you that I have heard the voice of God and he has commanded me to shoot up a daycare center, please report me at once to the police.

FWIW, I should add here that in my own branch of Judaism it's most definitely OK to have one's quarrels with God. With us it's not like God is the Daddy and we are the children. We are expected to grow up and think for ourselves. I might also add that the scripture itself reminds us that even God can be wrong, and God can even admit to being wrong, e.g., after the Flood, when God repented of what he had done. As well he should have.

If we want to say that God commands something because it is moral, then there's a morality that stands independent from God, in which case it seems problematic to say that God is the ground of that morality.

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"13 Thou shalt not kill." (Exodus 20)

Now, what did Numbers say again regarding killing women and children? You yourself stated it earlier so refresh my memory. Point being, if God commands it, we should do it.

The Book of Mormon has a passage where Nephi killd Laban wityh Laban's own sword. This was while Laban was drunk and in no condition to fight. "18 Therefore I did obey the voice of the Spirit, and took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword." (1 Nephi). However, this set o scriputres gives some background as to the delima Nephi faced. The Lord told Nephi to slay Laban but Nephi, frankly, didn't want to. " 10 And it came to pass that I was aconstrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.". Nephi show great constraint to excecute (pardon the pun) such a horrendous commandment. It took the Spirit of the lord three times to tell Nephi to slay Laban before Nephi finally did as he was commanded. In ther words, Nephi had to know for ceetain that wha he was to do was from God. Once convinced that it was God's will, he followed through with it. Although we do not have the backgrounds available tfor us today, why not the same for the Isrealites or even Moses himself to kill? I'm sure they sought the assurance from God to kill when commanded. Especially prisioners or the Canaanites. and, not following the latter proved their eventual downfall.

"Is something moral because God commands it, or does God command it because it is moral?"

Dont know for sure. But one thing I've no doubt is that God understands morality far more perfectly than any mortal being. Therefore when He commands a thing of man, to do it, man is following perfect morality.

"then we have to conclude that things like slaughtering Canaanite children are moral when God tells us to do it, and I'm sorry, but I refuse to go there."

That such a commandment is brutal I empathize but nevertheless if God commands it than it is the correct course of action.

"If I ever tell you that I have heard the voice of God and he has commanded me to shoot up a daycare center, please report me at once to the police.
"

Deal!!!

" should add here that in my own branch of Judaism it's most definitely OK to have one's quarrels with God. With us it's not like God is the Daddy and we are the children. We are expected to grow up and think for ourselves."

Then you'd make a good Mormon.

"I might also add that the scripture itself reminds us that even God can be wrong, and God can even admit to being wrong, e.g., after the Flood, when God repented of what he had done. As well he should have."

I looked up "repent" in the Greek once (or maybe it was Hebrew). I remember that one tranlsation had something to do with having compassion. So God was not recognizing that He erred but showed compassion after justice. As we should as well.

My view is that had God not flooded the earth when He did than man (according ot the path he was on at the time) would have grown so bad and destroyed himself and you and I wouldn't be here today to blog about it. I hink God was thinking long term on the flood.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"Come on. Not just an attack by the prophets enemies. The prophet's successors and other leaders of the Church used a racial interpretation."

Kevin correctly pointed out that doctrinally, there is not mention of race. And LDS leader who said it was was only speculating.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

That's the spirit.

Read the statements of church leaders from the 20th century. Whether they were speculating or not, they used the Hamitic curse in Abraham as a reason not to give the priesthood to Blacks. It doesn't matter that the author Joseph Smith didn't follow the same policy. You see no mention of race, but church leaders didn't see it the way you do. God may have been silent, but church leaders weren't.

I don't think that the Hamitic curse (or anything else) in the Book of Abraham is attributable to later copyists. My comment was intended for people who do. You don't.

I do find Kevin Christensen's comments refreshingly interesting, though.

BTW, you're conflating the curse and mark of Cain with the Hamitic curse. They are not the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Darren, just FYI, the quote above ("Come on. Not just an attack...") was not mine.

-- Eveningsun

Tim said...

Earlier this day...
Talmage never suggested that a later copyist was a patsy, but he simply used the same logic that is being used today, which is, evidence seems to indicate that the papyri which Joseph Smith obtained dated to the Ptolemaic period. Since we have a testimony regarding its truthfulness, it is only logical, and consistent with virtually all extant scriptural texts, that the original autograph copies were not preserved. What Joseph translated PROBABLY was not the original document Abraham recorded. The idea that Joseph translated the Bible by correcting all errors is flawed as well. Where did he ever claim such a thing? Where did he ever claim that the JST was comprehensive? Again, you are making wild speculations, and building up straw man arguments. Further, your argument that only LDS have identified Olishem is irrelevant. Does it make it untrue? Why would other Egyptologist's even care? How is it relevant to them? See One Eternal Round pg 172-173. Discounting an assertion simply because it is Mormon, is absurd. It is a double standard (another form of a logical fallacy you are using). Critics arguments should all likewise be discounted because they are biased. Come on, don't be naieve.
I think you are being dishonest, and that you are uninterested in hearing anything but the Non-Mormon side of things.

Tim said...

Evening Sun -
You didn't respond to my comment on the documentary hypothesis. If you are a liberal Jew, than this hypothesis should be right up your alley, and Mosaic authorship is thrown out the window. This should be a bit more offensive than additional scripture being introduced, since it effectively removes the very existence of the patriarchs, rather than simply documenting that there is more scripture outside the Biblical record (and in many cases consistent with apocryphal, pseudopigraphical, and midrashic texts).

Anonymous (why are you still anonymous?)
"In order to acquire the confirmatory evidence, you need to go to Mormon egyptologists (or attorneys or chemical engineers)."
Or accountants, or historians, or doctors, or teachers.... what in the world difference does this make??? Are you going to keep discounting it because it doesn't fit your little mold of who should be preaching it? Paraphrasing Nibley, "what in the world does a man's credentials have to do with whether the thing is true or not?"

John M. Lundquist, “Was Abraham at Ebla? A Cultural Background of the Book of Abraham,” in Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson, eds., Studies in Scripture (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 225-37. The citation of Ú-li-si-imki looks rather removed in Narâm-Sin b
5.2.13 (= UET I 275.2.13), but this is only because Lundquist, following Hans Hirsch (“Die Inschriften der Könige von Agade,” Archiv für Orientforschung 20 [1963]: 74), has transliterated the signs without taking into regard the fact that for the place and time the si sign should be read s"é
(Wolfram von Soden, Das akkadische Syllabar [Rome: Pontificium
Institutum Biblicum, 1948], 43; the im sign can also be read em; ibid., 73), leaving the reading as Ú-li-s"é-em. The area is also particularly prone to the
Canaanite shift, which would render the name as “Olishem.” To Lundquist’s citation of E. Kautsch and A. E. Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Clarendon, 1910), 48-49, add Sabatino Moscati et al., An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages: Phonology and Morphology (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1980), 48-49.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

If we're going to appeal to authority, and those of us who don't speak ancient semitic languages must rely on authority for some of these questions, then it's reasonable to take an authority's bias into account. That's why a claim made by a Mormon apologist would carry more weight if it could be confirmed by a non-Mormon authority. The word "Ú-li-si-imki" does not look like "Olishem" to a layman. I'll need more than the assurance of a Mormon apologist to convince me that they are the same word. Improper appeal to authority is a fallacy; proper appeal is not.

I never claimed that Joseph Smith is supposed to have corrected "all" biblical errors. That's a strawman on your part.

I'm well aware of the idea that the scrolls that Joseph Smith translated are copies of an earlier work. I wasn't really talking about that when I said, "It's come down to this." What I was talking about is your suggestion that anachronisms in the BoA are the fault of copyists. Could you give an example?

Anonymous said...

Tim writes, "If you are concerned about tampering, then the documentary hypothesis and redactionist evidence should be much more alarming and upsetting to you. Most Biblical scholars reject Mosaic authorship, and claim that the Pentateuch was written by various authors (not to mention Isaiah), and was redacted by multiple editors. Jews and Christians alike have accepted the hypothesis and redactionist evidence."

Why should I be alarmed? This is just Bible 101. I reject Mosaic authorship. I accept that Moses might not have been any more of a historical figure than King Arthur. And I agree with the Documentary Hypothesis. (I would add that the reason that "Jews and Christians alike have accepted the hypothesis" is because it's backed by such strong evidence. Why is it that ONLY Mormons accept the ancient origins of the Mormon scriptures?)

The only ones who would be alarmed are those with beliefs running counter to the evidence.

Anyway, I agree with the biblical scolarship showing that the Hebrew scriptures were created and stitched together by human beings in ways that reflected the political, ideological, and theological beliefs of those people's own times, just as I believe (on the basis of very strong evidence) that the LDS scriptures were created in the 19th century and reflect the political, ideological, and theological beliefs of Joseph Smith's time.

How about you?

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

"Read the statements of church leaders from the 20th century. Whether they were speculating or not, they used the Hamitic curse in Abraham as a reason not to give the priesthood to Blacks."

No, they were trying to rationalize why the blacks could not have the priesthood. Doctrinally-speaking, there is no background for it. The LDS Church never declared why the blacks could not have the priesthood. Personally I think it has a lot to do with the racial elements of its members than anything else. And such peole, like myself, will have to accout their actions before the Lord.

"BTW, you're conflating the curse and mark of Cain with the Hamitic curse. They are not the same thing."

Ham wsa descendent of Cain. Thus the curse.

Darren said...

Sorry, that would be Ham's wife being a decendent of Cain.

Tim said...

An example of an anachronism might be the name/title Pharoah. I believe you brought up this very example earlier. Although I'm not convinced that it is an anachronism, but if it were written this way by a Ptolemaic-period Egyptian priest, it would make perfect sense. The assumption that Joseph would have or should have corrected all errors in translating the BoA, (for the sake of argument, assuming this is even an error), is superficial.

Tim said...

As far as the documentary hypothesis, I believe that the hypothesis has too many problems to be accepted in entirety. What I do believe, however, is that Moses and Abraham were actually people and actually lived. I don't think enough attention has been given to the Quelle source idea for J,E,P, and D to have derived from. I believe Latter-day scriptures (should that be any surprise?), and I accept, as in the Book of Moses, that Moses actually viewed the creation and documented it. I don't have a problem with our current Pentateuch and other Biblical scriptures being the work of later redactionists. In other words, I accept Moses as the original author of the Pentateuch, but not necessarily the Pentateuch we have in the KJV Bible.
I also find it interesting that noncanonical texts provide some support for Joseph Smith's revelations in the Book of Moses, Abraham, and of course, the Book of Mormon.

Bookslinger said...

Upon reading the title, before even seeing the total number of comments, I knew this post was going to draw out the nattering nabobs of negativism.

Anonymous said...

"The assumption that Joseph would have or should have corrected all errors in translating the BoA, (for the sake of argument, assuming this is even an error), is superficial."

Nobody's assuming anything. If the name "Pharaoh" is a copyist insertion not corrected by Joseph Smith, then what about the story involving Pharaoh? It's a slippery slope. We can attribute anything in Abraham to a copyist when it suits us.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

You don't have to convince me. It's your word against the earlier church leaders. Tell them when you see them.

Ham was cursed because his wife was a descendant of Cain? Where do you get that from?

Darren said...

"Ham was cursed because his wife was a descendant of Cain? Where do you get that from?"

No, his children, their children, their children, etc were, not Ham.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the "nattering nabobs of negativism." Takes me back to the good old days. William Safire was a genius in his own way. Too bad he wasted so much of his talent shilling for crooks.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

Darren,

What I mean is, where do you get the idea that Ham's children were cursed because Ham's wife was descended from Cain? We're talking specifically about the curse "pertaining to the Priesthood."

Lamdaddy said...

"Let's think this through. By the power of God, Joseph Smith accurately translates the errors introduced into the Book of Abraham by a later copyist. He doesn't correct them. He just translates them. The result? Mormons deny the priesthood to Blacks."

I don't really believe that anybody could attribute this to a an "error" either on translation or from a copyist. The error is in human judgment and interpretation. From what I understand, the curse of Ham/Cain was even a cultural understanding found in other sects of Christianity. I think that this carried over into Mormonism and interpreted to expand priesthood limitations.

Anonymous said...

Lamdaddy,

You are 100% correct. That's why the whole Hamitic curse thing is most likely an anachronism. It shows evidence of 19th century Protestant American authorship.

GB said...

The antis argument simplified.

A) The scraps of papyrus ARE THE SOURCE FOR THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, because blah blah blah.

B) The scraps of papyrus are NOT the source for the Book of Abraham, because blah blah blah.

C) Therefore Joseph Smith was a false prophet.

Anonymous said...

GB, my own reasons for disbelieving the authenticity of the BoA have little to do with the papyrus scraps, and everything to do with the fact that the BoA contains what strike me as 1.) patent absurdities (e.g., Kolob somehow "governing" the other heavenly bodies) and 2.) clear anachronisms (e.g., the Hamitic theory).

For me, starting from the position of someone who doesn't already believe, the burden of proof is on the apologists. And, to put it mildly, I have yet to be persuaded.

It seems to me that BoA apologetics really has two goals: 1.) To persuade nonbelieving skeptics, and 2.) to keep wavering believers in the fold. The first of these is very, very difficult. The second is much easier, because in this situation the burden of proof is on the skeptics, and all that is needed is to obfuscate or cast doubt on their claims.

-- Eveningsun

Lamdaddy said...

Anon,

Except that Noah cursing Ham is in the Bible as well. Also, as it has been explained, the priesthood ban for dark skin is not actually in the book of Abraham or Moses. Because of those two facts, I do not see an anachronism.

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of examples of what I mean by patent absurdities in the BoA:

If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam [stars] that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. (BoA 3:16)

What kind of reasoning is this? If this is meant to be some kind of syllogism, it does not compute. It's a total non sequitur. Ditto for this:

Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it. (BoA 3:17)

Again, non sequitur. In addition, it contains what certainly appears to be an equivocation on the word "above." In 3:16, and in the first sentence of 3:17, "above" is being used in a clearly metaphorical rather than physical sense to mean "greater than." But in the second sentence of 3:17 it must mean "above" in the physical sense, because that is the only sense in which we can truthfully say that the moon is above the earth. I mean, does it make sense to say the moon is greater than the earth? No.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

Lamdaddy,

The biblical version of the curse is restricted to Ham's descendant Canaan. The more generalized "Hamitic" version (all of Ham's posterity) is 19th century (and earlier, but not going back to biblical times) and in the BoA. Hence the anachronism.

The racial interpretation can't be gleaned from BoA alone, but taken together with the comments about skin color in the Book of Moses, one can see how Mormon leaders in the 19th and 20th centuries came to apply the priesthood curse racially. Yes, their reasoning was fallacious, but it did not occur in a scriptural vacuum.

Papa D said...

Interesting, again, that the comments generally don't address the core point of the post itself.

I have no desire to participate in a fistfight over things the post doesn't address. It is interesting to me that, as Jeff says, many of the central arguments against the BofA from former times now are being shown to be inaccurate and that many new discoveries support the BofA in some way.

Does that prove anything with regard to authenticity? No. Should it, at the very least, give people who reject it cause to back up a bit and at least admit that it might not be as cut and dried, simple as it's been presented to be. Yes.

That's what I take the central message of the post to be - and I think it's hard to argue against that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

I take that back. It looks like the BoA doesn't support a generalized Hamitic curse.

Anonymous said...

Placing the Moon above (or "greater" than) the Earth metaphorically is the only reasonable way to interpret the text. I don't think those ancient folks knew the Moon was only a quarter the diameter of the earth. In fact, if it read the other way around then we'd see some real presentism there. But as it stands, it reads as an old text -- and those particular verses are really more about what Abraham was given to communicate to the Egyptians than anything else. They were obsessed with cosmology and this was an opportunity for God to show them something about his purposes by means of such imagery.

Jack

Anonymous said...

Writes Jack: I don't think those ancient folks knew the Moon was only a quarter the diameter of the earth. In fact, if it read the other way around then we'd see some real presentism there. But as it stands, it reads as an old text -- and those particular verses are really more about what Abraham was given to communicate to the Egyptians than anything else.

Here's the thing, Jack: The idea that the moon is greater than the earth is NOT TRUE, yet here's the BoA telling us that God said it WAS TRUE.

Does your God say things that are false?

It's true that people in ancient times, and in Joseph Smith's time, didn't know the moon was smaller than the earth. But in ancient times God WOULD know, so here's a perfect opportunity for the text to demonstrate its authenticity by revealing something that only a divinely-instructed author would have known. What a wasted opportunity....

-- Eveningsun

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"What I mean is, where do you get the idea that Ham's children were cursed because Ham's wife was descended from Cain? We're talking specifically about the curse "pertaining to the Priesthood.""

My understanding is that not all Ham's children were restricted from the preisthood; only those who cane from Egyptus who was a decendent of Cain. I'll have to look into this to confirm it but I'm pretty sure that's the case.

As for anachronisms in the Book of Abraham and the Hamitic curse being racial, it's just not the case. I referenced Abraham 1 and ponted out that there is no racial message in it. It is the latter 19th and 20th century interpretations of the scriptures which introduced the racial tone of the message, not the message itself.

Darren said...

eveningsun;

Her'es vierse 15 of the Book of Abraham:

15 And the Lord said unto me: Abraham, I ashow these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.

Could it be that the Lord was preparing Abraham to teach the Egyptians His word according to the understanding of the Egyptians?

Darren said...

UPDATE: It should read "here's verse 15 of the Book of Abraham, (chapter 3)

Darren said...

"Here's the thing, Jack: The idea that the moon is greater than the earth is NOT TRUE, yet here's the BoA telling us that God said it WAS TRUE."

Where did God say "this is true"? I fail to find it or any conjugation of the infinitve to be.

Anonymous said...

Where did God say "this is true"?

Darren, I have to say you've got me there.

According to the BoA, God said the moon is greater than the earth, but you're right: God didn't say, "The moon is greater than the earth, and this is true."

I'd have thought that the absence of those three little words would not matter to the believer, because before encountering you I had thought that believers believed in God as an oracle of truth. But apparently not all believers think that the words issuing from God's mouth need to be true.

This is truly astounding to me.

I'm trying to think of how this idea might play out in a contemporary court of law. Suppose I am on trial for slander because I have falsely said my neighbor Mr. Jones raped his 3-year old daughter. Suppose I attempt to defend myself by telling the jury:

"Yes, I know that my neighbor did not rape his daughter. And I admit that I nonetheless said 'Mr. Jones raped his daughter.' But even though I said 'Mr. Jones raped his daughter,' I never said 'This is true.' Ergo, I didn't lie."

Here's hoping I have a dozen Darrens on the jury.

For us ordinary mortals, the default assumption is that the words we utter are supposed to be true, without our appending to them the words "This is true." But maybe the standard is lower for God.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

Eveningsun, I'm going to say this very directly and bluntly, because I can't think of any other way to say what I need to say and make it clear:

1) Mormonism doesn't teach scriptural infallibility - even with the Book of Mormon (which says in the text itself, multiple times, that there are mistakes in it). Sure, there too many members who personally seem to believe in scriptural infallibility outside of the Bible, but they're wrong - plain and simple. It's not a Mormon principle, so it's really weak to critique Mormon scriptures as if they have to be Absolute Truth statements directly from God's mouth to man's ear to the written page.

2) Ancient peoples had varying meanings for symbolic terms - and "greater" could have meant any number of things, including multiple things. **We do that ALL the time in our own use of words, so why in the world is it a problem for one word to have two meanings in consecutive verses?** Seriously, that argument is about as flimsy as it gets. ("It's patently absurd that one word can have two meanings." If I didn't know you were being completely serious, I'd think you were making a rhetorical joke or something.)

3) Look at the context of the chapter from which you've wrested those two verses (1:16-17). It is obvious that "greater" and "above" are dealing with the idea that the earth is not the "greatest" or "highest" thing in the universe, and that earth-centric myopia was a very common belief anciently (and not so long ago, actually). It would be perfectly reasonable for an ancient prophet to make the point made in that chapter using the logic presented in that chapter - and it is patently OBVIOUS that, to someone standing on the earth, the moon is "greater" in that sense and "above" the earth. It appeared to every single person anciently that the moon was closer to God than the earth was, since God was believed to be in Heaven and the moon was seen as being nearer to Heaven than the earth. That is such an omni-present statement in ancient records that it would baffle me totally why you are so hung up on it if I didn't know the reason so clearly.

Fwiw, I think this line of reasoning you are espousing says far more about you and your willingness to grab onto anything whatsoever that can be presented, somehow, in negative terms than it does about the text. Those verses in that chapter shouldn't be a problem at all for anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of ancient history, religion and cosmology - but they have become undeniable proof to you that the BofA is rubbish.

Honestly, you're too intelligent to let something like that happen (and I mean that sincerely, from reading so many of your comments here on this blog), so the only logical conclusion is that your biases have colored your perception of things like this so thoroughly that you've become blinded to the absurdity of this particular argument.

It's a total non-starter (the whole BofA 1:16-17 argument), and you do yourself a greater disservice by advancing it than by just about anything else you could argue.

Papa D said...

I forgot to add at the end of my first point in the last comment something that is critical to that point:

**Mormonism teaches pretty plainly that God speaks to people in their own languages and in a way that they can understand.** That alone mitigates against scriptural infallibility and adds all kinds of room for prophets to be conveying their knowledge in the best way they know how without having every single word or even concept be Total and Absolute Truth. Thus, prophets can reveal partial truths in idiomatic language that might or might not resonate with future people - and if anyone can't accept that as I just stated, think of Isaiah or Ezekial or John, the Revelator.

Biblical scholars and translators change wording all the time in order to try to make things understandable to "modern" people - which, even for those who teach Biblical inerrancy, says they don't believe the words came in purest form straight from God's mouth to the Prophets ears to the written record. If that's true of those who espouse scriptural inerrancy, it's doubly true of Mormonism.

So, charges that God had to be lying if Abraham recorded something that was factually incorrect simply is absurd on its face, given Mormonism's actual teachings about prophetic fallibility - some members' extreme extrapolations notwithstanding. In this case, the absurdity is compounded by a weak argument about the words that constitute a divine lie - which is what my other points addressed.

Darren said...

"Here's hoping I have a dozen Darrens on the jury."

Oh, I don't think you want that.

"I'd have thought that the absence of those three little words would not matter to the believer, because before encountering you I had thought that believers believed in God as an oracle of truth. But apparently not all believers think that the words issuing from God's mouth need to be true."

You're missing the context of perhaps *why* God said what He said. He was instructing Abraham as what to say n preparaton to go into Egypt. It's very plausible to interpret this as preparing Abraham to teach the Egyptians according to their understanding. If God wanted Abraham to get into a scientific debate with the Egyptians I guess God could have instructed Abraham differently according to your understanding of those scriptures but what would the purpose of debating science be? God doesn't care what man believes regarding his own science. God does care, however, that His word is spread. The purpose in preparing Abraham is to declare God or the things of God being above all. the lack of declaration from God along the lines f, "I tell thee, Abraham, that these things are true" does not support your claim of knowing the meaning of the Book of Abraham.

(The purpose of your example in court in baring false witness would be to lie in order to get someone in trouble)

Anonymous said...

PapaD, I appreciate your forthrightness. But I am not at all convinced.

You might want to think about whether your argument winds up throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For one thing, you've told me that I can't trust what vast numbers of good, believing Mormons have firmly and sincerely believed. According to you and many others with whom I've engaged in these sorts of discussions, I can't trust the words of Joseph Smith; I can't trust the words of Brigham Young; I can't trust the words of Bruce McConkie....

Now I'm being told that I can't trust the words of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham, etc., whenever they say something that seems on its face to be ludicrous. How exactly am I to figure out what Mormons believe? I guess I'm supposed to trust you. At least, I'm supposed to trust what you tell me today. Tomorrow you might have to do a U-turn like McConkie had to do about the curse of Ham.

And how can I ever persuade you of anything, if you believe from the get-go that the scriptures (and the words of generation after generation of prophets) are so untrustworthy?

Well, you might say, I might not be able to trust the scriptures and the prophets on the little stuff, but I can trust them on the big stuff.

Well, I don't buy that. Here's why.

Your argument hinges on the idea that God can say things that are not true if he does so in order to communicate better to an ignorant audience. The idea seems to be that we can rely on the truth of the "larger message," but not necessarily on the truth of the specific claims made in the course of conveying that larger message.

If you tuly believed that, then it seems to me you would be the first to tell FAIR and FARMS to abandon their search for Zarahemla, the "narrow neck of land," and all the rest. Why? For the simple reason that you have a MUCH better way to account for the specific geographical and historical claims of the Book of Mormon. You can simply say that those claims are not to be taken as literally true; they were simply God's way of conveying larger theological truths using concepts accessible to 19th-century white Americans.

Problem solved! At one stroke the anti-Mormons will have been robbed of one of their most potent weapons, and all the apologists over at FARMS will be able to get real jobs doing real research.

Of course, there'd be a price to pay. You'd basically find yourself to be a theologically liberal Mormon. All that biblical stuff about patriarchy? Not guidelines for us to follow; just God speaking to a patriarchal audience in terms it could understand. Ditto for adultery, homosexuality....

Were the Church to take your approach to reading scripture seriously and apply it consistently, it might have to jettison the purported scriptural foundations of its cultural conservativism. Maybe in time it will do just that. Maybe in time it will admit that it was just as wrong aboout Proposition 8 and the ERA. Why not?

Note that we now have at least three ways of approaching any particular bit scripture:

1.) We can take it literally as factual truth.

2.) We can take it figuratively (or analogically, or whatever) as expressive of a larger truth, but reject its specific empirical-factual claims.

3.) We can reject it as mistaken.

With so many options leaving so many hermeneutical holes big enough to drive so many trucks through, its no wonder that fundamental LDS doctrine has changed so radically over the years (plural marriage has gone from a commandment to an embarrassment; black males are in, then out, then once again in the priesthood; the Church of the Devil refers specifically to the Catholic Church, then it doesn't; exaltation is becoming a god, exaltation is becoming like God; there are many gods, or maybe there aren't; etc.).

"All kinds of room," indeed.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

PapaD P.S.

May I ask you to reconsider your mischaracterization of my argument where you said that I said, "It's patently absurd that one word can have two meanings"? You know perfectly well the difference between mere ambiguity and the logical fallacy of equivocation. If you want to think I'm being stupid or disingenuous, please do so a bit more fairly than this.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

"According to you and many others with whom I've engaged in these sorts of discussions, I can't trust the words of Joseph Smith; I can't trust the words of Brigham Young; I can't trust the words of Bruce McConkie...."

That's right, you can't - at least, not at face value as the inerranct word of God. Even though I accept them as prophets and apostles, I think all three of those men taught things that aren't correct, and the modern LDS Church appears to agree - since it doesn't teach some of their teachings any more. (and I don't think ANY LDS member who has a decent grasp of history would argue with me - or even most others, if I had a chance to explain what I mean directly to them) That fact bolsters what I said in my previous comment.

As to the rest of your comment, it doesn't address what I actually said. It's a caricature, and it's why I generally have stopped trying to engage you. As I said in a different comment, I honestly don't think you know how to engage someone like me (or Jeff), since your automatic MO is colored by your inability to understand and stick to what we actually say.

For example, I never said that the scriptures are "untrustworthy". That's your description and not a word I would use. I think they can be trusted - but not as the inerrant word of God. I think they can be trusted to be the best expressions of understanding from people who were believed to be prophets in their day - and I even can accept them as inspired in their time but not completely accurate for our day.

Now, if by "untrustworthy" you mean "inerrant" - yeah, in that case I can accept the word "untrustworthy". However, I have a hard time believing you think the scriptures are inerrant, so why would I take your concern seriously? If you don't believe the scriptures are inerrant - and if I don't believe the scriptures are inerrant - and if the LDS Church doesn't teach that the scriptures are inerrant - but if too many members of the LDS Church DO seem to think the non-Biblical scriptures ARE inerrant . . . then isn't your argument with LDS members who believe that and NOT with Jeff and me?

If that's the case, why are you here arguing about inerrancy with people who don't believe in it?

This is Jeff's site, and Jeff makes it clear that the opinions expressed here are his own. I do the same, but we both use examples of things that the LDS Church itself teaches that some (many) members don't seem to believe. There's a HUGE difference there, but you are arguing a position that requires inerrancy to people who don't believe in it.

That's my point. It's a distortion of the LDS Church's official position and the comments of many of us here that you're attacking - and you're doing so with a very bad, very weak argument in the case of Abraham 1:16-17. (which, I note, you didn't address at all in your comment)

We're spinning our wheels once again. I really am sorry I came back into this discussion if all it did was produce more of the same old, same old - and I include my own comments in that category, not just yours.

Papa D said...

"You know perfectly well the difference between mere ambiguity and the logical fallacy of equivocation."

Yes, I do - and after revisiting my description of your argument, I wouldn't change a word of it, except perhaps in the following way:

Your argument in this particular case is ridiculous and smacks of a kind of amateurish butchering of simple language constructs that, if I had not known how intelligent you are already, would have made me think it was written or parroted by a high school student who had picked it up from someone who who wasn't interested at all in educational rigor and serious scholarship.

Sorry I wasn't as clear initially as I could have been - and I now will stop indulging my natural tendency toward sarcasm and go back to striving for more charity in how I treat my fellow man. I recognize my failure in this case, which probably makes this comment even worse than yours from a moral standpoint, but sometimes manure ought to be called by its accurate, common term. I'll refrain from doing so here, since some people are offended by the words I heard all the time growing up in farm and dairy country - so "manure" will have to do.

Sorry, Jeff - seriously. I shouldn't have responded in the first place, knowing full well where it would go.

Anonymous said...

Darren: It's always possible to argue that a passage could have meant this or that by inventing a suitable context and purpose. In this case, you're asking me to believe that God was not instructing Abraham in truths for his own benefit, but in falsehoods for the purpose of better schooling the Egyptians. But if this kind of interpretive method is allowed, then why can't we say that when God told the Jews that bit about man lying with man as with woman, he didn't mean that gay sex was wrong, but was merely preparing the Jews to preach among homophobic peoples? I'm sorry, but your Invent-a-Context method seems to completely vitiate scripture as a source of truth. It makes pretty much every passage susceptible to the wildest of interpretations.

PapaD: A rose by any other name, and all that. (FWIW, I can smell manure right now!) If we can give each other the benefit of the doubt for a moment, perhaps we can simply marvel at the gulf between skepticism and faith. Beyond that, may the reader judge between me and thee.

-- Eveningsun

Papa D said...

"If we can give each other the benefit of the doubt for a moment, perhaps we can simply marvel at the gulf between skepticism and faith. Beyond that, may the reader judge between me and thee."

Well said.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

"My understanding is that not all Ham's children were restricted from the preisthood; only those who cane from Egyptus who was a decendent of Cain. I'll have to look into this to confirm it but I'm pretty sure that's the case."

You won't find that in any of the LDS standard works.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

I struggle with the objection to the BOA's discussion of the moon. Yes, from our modern heliocentric perspective, it makes no sense and it's pushing it to think that Joseph Smith would write that by drawing upon his environment and his vast frontier library. But for a text drafted in the ancient world with a geocentric model of the cosmos, being "greater" than the earth makes sense since it's time or set time is greater--it's 28 day cycle is greater than that of the earth. It's slower so it's greater. Unnatural for us, unnatural for Joseph Smith, natural for Abraham and the later editors of the text.

Sure, the Lord could have communicated with Abraham in more accurate technical terms and perhaps gone ahead and revealed quantum chemistry and relativity as well. And maybe He did. But Abraham had the task of sharing information with a world stuck with a limited geocentric model. So they way the grandeur and order of the heavens is expressed is a reasonable way to convey basic information that was appropriate for that time. Confusing for our day, but as an authentic ancient document, it makes sense. Much about the Book of Abraham makes much more sense when we realize it's an ancient document and not a modern fabrication. That's something we would all be wise to realize.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"You won't find that in any of the LDS standard works."

I think you may be right about that but that seems to be the main viewpoint of biblical scholars. And in the standard works it was only Egypt's inhabitants mentioned who were probited to have the priesthood.

Darren said...

Jeff;

I'm looking at the Book of Abraham's instructions from the Lord to Abraham from a missionary lense. If Abraham were to speak about a heliocentric viewpoint of the cosmos in ancient Egypt then he'd very likely get bogged down in scientific deate rather than teaching the word of God. In God's wisdom, He wants His word preached first and foremost to the inhabitants of the earth, ancient Egypt included. Just like today there are LDS missionary standards to avoid usless discussions, why not for prophets and missionaries from ancient times? It seems much more efficient to teach the word of God to a people according to their understanding than to correct their science in an attempt to teach the word.

Anonymous said...

"I think you may be right about that but that seems to be the main viewpoint of biblical scholars."

Like who?

Quantumleap42 said...

Jeff,

I was scanning over the comments when I got to yours where you mentioned the issue with the moon being "greater" than the earth and how this implies that the author was using a geocentric model to the universe. As an astronomer I thought I could offer a little insight into that topic.

When I read your comment I had to pause and go look up in the Book of Abraham where this comes up, because it was something that I had never fixated on before. The reason why I never paused and considered Abraham 3:17 as being problematic is because for me, as an astronomer, it made perfect sense. Also when I went back through the comments and read the interchange between Papa D and Eveningsun they brought up the argument over the definition of "above" that I had never had the impetus to consider, mostly because the way I view the verse as an astronomer made the argument over "above" in that verse is inconsequential and trivial.

In terms of the heliocentric vs. geocentric world views, our modern culture has conditioned us to automatically react with horror to anything that smacks of being remotely geocentric. So it may come as a surprise that all modern astronomers still use a geocentric model of the universe when they do their work. (Though is you ask them if they still use a geocentric model the vast majority will look at you funny and wonder where you have been for the last 400 years. But all you have to do is say "Right ascension, declination and redshift" and they will probably look at you and say, "Oh yeah. I guess we do use a geocentric model." So despite what you have learned from elementary school, middle school, high school, college (including you astronomy classes), Wikipedia, TV, the media and your mom (sorry I couldn't resist, I know "yo mamma" jokes are so middle school) the geocentric model is still alive and kicking and will be used until we have a viable method of interstellar travel.)

In the language of astronomers (and scientists in general) it comes down to a choice in coordinate systems. The preference for one coordinate system over another merely depends on how easy it is to keep track of everything. How things are measured and observed in one coordinate system does not invalidate the same measurement or observation in a different coordinate system.

As astronomers we easily move between the geocentric model to the heliocentric to the general relativistic model and back, or even use two or more at the same time, without any problem. It only depends on which model (coordinate system) is most convenient at the time.

So my point is, for Abraham, or even God, to use the geocentric model of the universe in explaining something should not be thought of as inferior, or wrong, or "limited", or "having to deal with the fact that the poor unfortunate souls living at that time were unprepared to deal with the obviously 'higher' and 'superior' heliocentric model of the universe.", but should be considered as a simple attempt to explain a simple concept. The model (coordinate system) that made that most convenient would work just fine.

Quantumleap42 said...

For the too long didn't read version of my above comment:

An astronomer looked at the Abraham 3:17 issue and couldn't find anything wrong with it. It makes perfect sense.

Mormography said...

Typical Mormanity. The Critics presented the forest as it is, but because they did not scourer the forest for the one tree that might look different (do his job for him) they are the fraudsters. Mormanity the great Accuser.

The Chicago fire was an act God, why doesn’t Mormanity sue God? Let’s see, God creates the historical conditions (Rosetta stone, Chicago fire, Facsimiles from the book of Breathings, remnants in a Museum with parts of parts of the English BoA on it, etc) to make the papyri used appear to be the Book Of Breathings. That fraudster.

Anonymous said...

If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. (BoA 3:16)

Quantumleap42, this strikes me as illogical on its face. It's a non sequitur. The "then" part simply does not follow from the "if" part.

Anyway, I re-read this passage after your little astronomical disquisition and got to thinking that we're not dealing here with either a heliocentirc or a geocentric model, but a Mormon-God-centric model. Kolob is the "greatest," and the reason it is greatest has nothing to do with its position relative to the sun or the earth but to God: "Kolob is the greatest...because it is nearest unto me."

The problem is not that the BoA is being read as heliocentric when in fact it is geocentric; the problem is that it's a mish-mash. Is there a non-LDS astronomer who thinks that this stuff makes sense? Is there some astronomical theory out there that ranks the greatness of stars by virtue of their proximity to God?

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

"But for a text drafted in the ancient world with a geocentric model of the cosmos, being "greater" than the earth makes sense since it's time or set time is greater--it's 28 day cycle is greater than that of the earth."

The astronomy in Abraham 3 can't be a geocentric model for one big reason: in a geocentric model, the earth doesn't move. It's been suggested that the "set time" refers to the time of some sort of revolution, but the earth has one as well (verse 6). Abraham 3:5 says that the moon "moveth in order more slow." More slow than what? The earth. But in a geocentric model, nothing moves more slowly than the earth since the earth doesn't move at all.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous just above: Another point I'd make is that the cosmic model given to us in the six-day creation account is based on the Babylonian creation myth of the taming of the waters. Everything is a watery chaos, and then God separates the waters above from the waters below; the waters above are held back by the "firmament," which is considered to be not empty space but a solid shell. Ditto for the ground beneath. The sun and moon and stars are thought of as having been "placed in" this firmament (not as astronomical distances away in space).

It's all very colorful, and great poetry, and great mythology, but it's not anything even remotely resembling a heliocentric or geocentric model. It doesn't have any sense of the earth as a separate planet at all. The earth is just the dry ground; at the edges of the earth, somewhere way out there, are the foundations of the great solid dome of the firmament; above the firmament and beneath the dry earth is the primordial watery chaos. There's no room in the Genesis model for the BoA's claims about Kolob. (Of course, maybe Genesis is corrupt!)

FWIW, there are echoes of this ancient view of the cosmos in the Flood story. When the heavens above open up and the ground below is broken up, the primordial waters start rushing in. Bible readers who don't understand this are actally missing an important part of the story: it's not just about a lot of rain and a big flood, it's about God partially undoing creation itself, allowing chaos to threaten the fundamental order of creation. This is partly why we read that stuff about how, after God repents of what he did, he promises that henceforth the seasons will go around as before. This represents God's promise not to do anything as drastic as undoing the fundamental ordering of the cosmos.

Ditto for the Book of Job. When the Voice Out of the Whirlwind brags that only he is capable of defeating the water god Leviathan, he's basically saying that only he is capable of creating cosmos out of chaos.

Anyway, if we are to believe the Book of Genesis, then Copernicus and Galileo and the BoA are all wrong. (Of course, based on what I've been told repeatedly on this blog, hardly anyone believes very much in the scriptures anymore. Whenever a scripture says something unbelievable or untrue, it's either been corrupted, or it should be read figuratively, or it should be read as speaking to people in the false terms of their own times. With so many "outs," it's pretty easy for us to substitute our own beliefs for those expressed by scripture.)

Sorry for the length of my little disquisition on biblical cosmology. I just thought that, since we're really dealing with cosmic myth here, some background on cosmological myth made more sense than Quantumleap42's comment on astronomy. I now realize that to think of the BoA in terms of astronomy is to mistake its claims for empirical rather than mythic ones.

-- Eveningsun

Anonymous said...

You could argue that it's a geocentric model where the earth revolves on its axis, but then the "set time" would have to refer to the time of revolution on its axis. Verse 10 says that it's given to Abraham to know the set time of all the stars that are set to give light (a tall order, considering how many there are). This would make more sense if it were referring to the time it takes them to revolve through the sky since that's something that could be observed and used by ancient people. If it refers to revolutions on their individual axes, you have to wonder, why would the ancients care?

Anonymous said...

"With so many 'outs,' it's pretty easy for us to substitute our own beliefs for those expressed by scripture."

No argument there. And Abraham 3 does refer to the "firmament" (verse 13), so it's basically mixing elements from different cosmological models.

Anonymous said...

A sign of syncretism.

Anonymous said...

Explanation 5 from facsimile 2 says that the earth along with the moon and sun has an annual revolution. That pretty much kills the idea that Abrahamic astronomy is geocentric.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

Here's a short answer from the omniscient Wikipedia: According to Josephus, Noah did not curse Ham himself, “because of his nearness of kin, but his posterity.” Divine vengeance only pursued the children of Chanan, whereas his brothers, Ham’s other children, escaped the curse.[15] and David M. Goldenberg, a scholar in Jewish religion and thought, and author of “The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”,[18] postulates that it was not Ham whom Noah cursed, that the curse was clearly directed at Canaan. Goldenberg rejects any claims that the curse affected Ham or any of his other children.[19] Also, just to note for future references, whenever I say "biblical scholars", unless stated otherwise, I pretty much never mean all of them or even a clear majorty of them for amongst biblical scholars you'll find a wide range of arguments.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

That doesn't support your claim that Ham's descendants through Canaan were cursed because of descent from Cain through Ham's wife Egyptus. It has nothing to do with descent from Cain. Keep looking.

BTW, I'm not Eveningsun, although I agree with him 99% of the time.

Darren said...

Eveningsun;

"If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. (BoA 3:16)

Quantumleap42, this strikes me as illogical on its face. It's a non sequitur. The "then" part simply does not follow from the "if" part.
"

Why? "If two things exist, and there be one above the other," seems pretty clear. Thing 1 is above thing 2. Or vice-versa. "there shall be greater things above them," There is something above previous greater thing. In the specific reference it would mean God or the things of God being above the Moon which is in the heavens (from the perspective of viewing it from Earth).

"re-read this passage after your little astronomical disquisition and got to thinking that we're not dealing here with either a heliocentirc or a geocentric model, but a Mormon-God-centric model."

You might be onto something there.

"Is there some astronomical theory out there that ranks the greatness of stars by virtue of their proximity to God?'

Probably not in astronomy but in theology.

Darren said...

Anonynous;

'But in a geocentric model, nothing moves more slowly than the earth since the earth doesn't move at all."

Didn't the heliocentric model originally assume that the Sun didn't move at all?

Darren said...

Anonymous (not eveningsun);

Sorry for the mixup in names. :(

Anyhow, you asked what biblical scholar argued that only those in Egypt were cursed. In answering it I don't think I explained it thoroughly enough. You are right in that my response was incomplete. Here's some extra info:

Canaan = inhabitants of Palestine before arrival of the Semitic races. See also Abr. 1:21–27, where we learn among other things that Ham’s wife and daughter were named Egyptus, and that a portion of Ham’s descendants settled in Egypt. Cf.

From Bible Dictionary.

Psalms 78:52 - And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

Psalms 105:23 - Israel also came into Egypt; and Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.

Psalms 106:22 - 22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.

"BTW, I'm not Eveningsun, although I agree with him 99% of the time."

Good luck with that. ;)

Darren said...

Anonymous;

You know what,I do believe I failed (miserably) to show that Egyptus being a descendent of Cain is an idea and not doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

I never asked what biblical scholar argued that only those in Egypt were cursed. I asked what biblical scholar said that the curse on Ham's descendants was due to their descent from Cain. Nothing you've quoted so far indicates that the curse had anything to do with descent from Cain. I'm sorry, but you're being dense.

Yes, the original heliocentric model assumed that the sun didn't move. Now we know that the sun also isn't the center of the universe, so we don't use a true heliocentric model anymore.

Darren said...

"Yes, the original heliocentric model assumed that the sun didn't move. Now we know that the sun also isn't the center of the universe, so we don't use a true heliocentric model anymore."

Yes we do. We use the geocentric as well according to Quantumleap.

"Although its progress was slow, the heliocentric model eventually replaced the geocentric model. As new evidence appeared though, some began to question whether the Sun was actually the center of the universe. The Sun is not the geometric center of the planets’ orbits, and the center of gravity of the Solar System is not quite at the center of the Sun. What this means is that although children are taught in schools that heliocentrism is the correct model of the universe, astronomers use either view of the universe depending on what they are studying, and what theory makes their calculations easier."

http://www.universetoday.com/33113/heliocentric-model/

So if the heliocentric and geocentric models are subject to relativism, then why should be accept a strict interpretation of the geocentric model having to mean that the earth is the fixed center of the universe?

"Nothing you've quoted so far indicates that the curse had anything to do with descent from Cain. I'm sorry, but you're being dense."

It's actually a mixture of density and bad blogging.

"Here's the original "curse upon Cain by which the "Hamitic curse" derives: "

When I posted that I had in mind the fact that many in the LDS faith argued this connection. you correctly stated that this is not found in any LDS doctrine. You also correctly stated that it was the Hamitic curse which LDS leaders used to justify blacks not having the Priesthood.

I agreed with you on both accounts: "Anyone who said it was because of the Book of Abraham were only speculating," (@3:16 on 12/01). That was in reference to those who used the BoA to justify blacks not recieveing the Priesthood. @4:02 12/02 you wrote to "Lamdaddy", "The biblical version of the curse is restricted to Ham's descendant Canaan. The more generalized "Hamitic" version (all of Ham's posterity) is 19th century (and earlier, but not going back to biblical times) and in the BoA. Hence the anachronism." My previous speculation comment referred precisely to that. There is no racial reference in the BoA. By 4:18, you seemed to have agreed, "I take that back. It looks like the BoA doesn't support a generalized Hamitic curse." but later to GB you noted one of your disbeliefs in the Boa was, 'patent absurdities (e.g., Kolob somehow "governing" the other heavenly bodies) and 2.) clear anachronisms (e.g., the Hamitic theory).' Well, the BoA doesn't teach racial reasons for blacks not having the Priesthood. doesn't say it anywhere. So it's no anachronism, only false theories of man. The LDS Church never officially declared why the blacks couldfd not have the Priesthood.

Later you replied to my, "My understanding is that not all Ham's children were restricted from the preisthood; only those who cane from Egyptus who was a decendent of Cain. I'll have to look into this to confirm it but I'm pretty sure that's the case,"' saying, "you won't find that in any of the LDS standard works." I then posted, " Thinking you were Eveningsun I replied, "I think you may be right about that but that seems to be the main viewpoint of biblical scholars." There I agreed with you. The following statement was, "and in the standard works it was only Egypt's inhabitants mentioned who were probited to have the priesthood." This is correct. Where I failed, I think, was to clearly state that the teaching of Egyptus being a descendent of Cain is an idea, not doctrine. Notice I said,’my understanding,”? That was a self-admission of doubt. I just didn’t make it clear.

Darren said...

"So if the heliocentric and geocentric models are subject to relativism, then why should be accept a strict interpretation of the geocentric model having to mean that the earth is the fixed center of the universe?"

By that i meant to ask, if scientists today use a Geocentric model for specific purposes and do so without any belief that Earth is a fix center of the universe, than why do we have to view Abraham's belief in a geocentric model (if that's what he believed in) under the strict interpretation that by so doing he believed that Earth was the fixed center ofthe universe?

Anonymous said...

Darren,

"why do we have to view Abraham's belief in a geocentric model (if that's what he believed in) under the strict interpretation that by so doing he believed that Earth was the fixed center ofthe universe?"

Based on BoA, we don't. The BoA doesn't use a geocentric, heliocentric, or any other coherent model.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

Regarding your 9:29PM comment above, you're still mixing me up with Eveningsun at times. As I said above, one can't derive a racial interpretation on the priesthood ban from BoA alone. The BoA indicates that the Canaanites couldn't have the priesthood. Who are the Canaanites? They could be a) the descendants of Ham's son Canaan, b) the Canaanites mentioned in the Book of Moses who preceded the flood, or c) people who lived in the land of Canaan before the Israelites. I take no position on this because I don't think that any of it is actually historical, but leaders of the church reasoned that black people couldn't have the priesthood because 1. according to the BoA, people like Pharaoh who "partook" of the blood of the Canaanites couldn't have the priesthood despite being righteous, 2. the Book of Moses says that the Canaanites were black. Therefore, they reasoned, black people shouldn't have the priesthood. Is this a theory of men? Definitely. Was it ever "official church doctrine?" I don't even know what that means. The church behaved as though it was doctrine whether they declared it to be such or not. Was it fallacious thinking? Absolutely. If descendants of Cain are black, it does not necessarily follow that all black people are descended from Cain. However, if you have a world view that all human ancestry is traceable exclusively to the 8 people that lived on the ark, then you feel compelled to somehow explain the existence of different races. So you assume that black people come from one of Noah's daughters-in-law. Given that the descendants of Cain were said to be black in the Book of Moses, you might infer that one of Noah's daughters-in-law was a descendant of Cain. That's what people thought. Now you know where your "idea" comes from.

Your statement that "we don't know why" blacks couldn't have the priesthood presupposes that there was some other reason. In the absence of any other explanation, the reasoning given by people in the church that I outlined above was quite popular. As a matter of fact, it still is. In 2005 I had a friend who was black take the missionary discussions in my home. She of course knew about the history of the priesthood ban. When she asked the missionaries why it occurred, they referred her to the Pearl of Great Price. At that point, I jumped into the discussion to argue as you do that the Pearl of Great Price doesn't necessitate a racial interpretation of the priesthood ban. The missionaries got very angry with me after that. They all but lost interest in teaching her the rest of the discussions. For some reason, she got baptized anyway. There was another time in 2007 when I was in Sunday School that the subject came up as it does every four years in gospel doctrine (New Testament lesson 30). One of the class members again referred to the P of GP to explain the reason for the ban. I hate to publicly correct people, but I pointed out as you do that the P of GP doesn't require that interpretation. He argued with me initially, but to his credit he at least considered it.

So it may not be "official church doctrine," but that doesn't stop church members from believing it. And why shouldn't they, since the church doesn't officially repudiate it either? In fact, there is very little that one can point to and say, "There! That's official church doctrine!" The standard works? They're wide open to interpretation.

Jeff Lindsay: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Lindsay: said...

Eveningsun said: "There are very compelling reasons to reject the authenticity of the B of A that have nothing to do with the status of the fragments you mention. Foremost among those reasons is the simple fact that once again we are being asked to believe in a translation of a text without the opportunity to examine an original, which, we are told, really really did exist but (gosh darn it) is no longer available for our inspection--rather like the Golden Plates. "

Yes, there may be a pattern there. But it's not fair to blame Joseph Smith for this. He sought and obtained permission to show multiple witnesses the plates but was ultimately required to hand them back in for now, requiring the rest of us to have to exercise at least a little faith.

Then with the scrolls that included the Book of Abraham, Joseph opened them up to the world and invited numerous witnesses to see them (providing valuable evidence now that the fragments preserved were not the BOA scroll) and kept them in his possession until his enemies killed him. His widow sent them off to a museum in St. Louis--not the best place to put a text you want to hide from the world if you have something to hide.

It was neither her nor Joseph's fault that the scrolls (the majority of them, anyway, save for the few fragments we still have today) were sent to a museum in Chicago and that this museum burned in 1871.

The Church had nothing to hide. But if the Lord wants to hide plates and remove original texts so that we are required to exercise some degree of faith, that's His business. In fact, that does seem to be His business. The miracle usually comes after faith is exercised. Even the cool "direct hits" should never be sufficient to "prove" the Gospel is true or that Joseph was a prophet, but may be ways to bless and fortify those who already have learned to exercise a basic degree of faith. God's plan requires that we trust him and learn, not that we demand solid evidence before we begin to trust and follow.

So, yes, I think there is a suspicious pattern here. Joseph wanted the world to see what he had, but Someone Else put a lid on the evidence for now--though the texts themselves, if read with a modicum of faith and open-mindedness, provide powerful evidence for Christ and the reality of the Restoration.

Darren said...

Anonymous (not Eveningsun);

"Your statement that "we don't know why" blacks couldn't have the priesthood presupposes that there was some other reason. In the absence of any other explanation, the reasoning given by people in the church that I outlined above was quite popular. As a matter of fact, it still is."

First, I presuppose the possibility that there may be "some other reason" why blacks could not have the Priesthood. Perhaps it is because of wha the Pearl of Great Price says, I don't think so. I think it had much more to do wt hthe racial bias of the collective LDS membership of the Church but I could be wrong. The fact of the matter is that we do not know and it is important thast people understand that thnobody knows for sure why blacks could not have the Priesthood. Historically we know when ordaining them to the Priesthoood more or pretty much stopped. We also know that much of it had to do with confusion between LDS leaders if Joseph Smith rescinded the Priesthood to blacks after ordaining them to the Priesthood. We also know that the Lord was silent. No reason given to continue to ordain them. Obiously there is/are a reason/reasons for this.

As you pointed out, many believed, and still do, that it was the curse of Cain as well as the prohibition for Egyptians to have the Priesthood for the reason American blacks could not have the Priesthood. Many also supposed, and still do, that blacks were somehow "idle" in the pre-mortal existence. But when one reason LDS history as well as the doctrines of the Priesthood, they will find no such delcarations in any official capacity. When I can, I have two great links regarding these suppositions. One link is already posted on this thread. @12:12 on 12/01 I posted ta "timeline" for blacks recieving the Priesthood. I'll repost that as well as create one or two others when I can.

Whenever people say, the "missionaries got mad when..." I always take it skeptically though I'll take you word for it. In thissituation I think if you simply say "this is a possible reason why blacks could not have the Priesthood but nobody really knows why for sure" then I think the missionaries won't "get mad" and turn into "angry birds" (and launch themselves into attack mode destroying walls in their path).

"Was it ever "official church doctrine?" I don't even know what that means. "

In the most basic terms, it's when a declared statement goes through a specific process and voted upon by LDS leaders and the general membership of the Church. It's part of the "sustaining vote" I'm sure you're familiar with in Sacrament Meeting.

"the Book of Moses says that the Canaanites were black. Therefore, they reasoned, black people shouldn't have the priesthood."

I don't think the Book of Moses says anything of the Canaanites though I could be wrong. All doctrines that I know of regarding the Canaanites are in ancient scripture. In the Pearl of Great Price, it is found in Abraham 1 and, as already pointed out, there are no racial declarations in it.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

"I don't think the Book of Moses says anything of the Canaanites though I could be wrong."

Moses 7, multiple verses.

"In thissituation I think if you simply say "this is a possible reason why blacks could not have the Priesthood but nobody really knows why for sure"

I thought we were in agreement that the P of GP is not a possible (valid) reason for the Blacks not receiving the priesthood. So why should I say that it's a possible reason? To further the misconception? Because it could be an invalid reason? I did say that nobody knows for sure. Hopefully you can understand why "nobody knows" is not a satisfying answer to black investigators. It shouldn't be satisfying to white members, either.

Where does your criterion for what's "doctrine" come from? Is it something that a general authority said? Is the criterion "doctrinal" by its own standard?

"Obiously there is/are a reason/reasons for this."

Obviously. What matters is whether the Lord commanded it. Did the Lord give the leaders of the church a secret revelation saying that black people shouldn't have the priesthood? By your criterion, that revelation wouldn't be doctrinal whether it occurred or not. If that never happened (and obviously I don't think it did), then the reason was "of men." If the reason is of men, why not the reason that most members long thought, that the P of GP indicates it? Scriptural misinterpretation is a more benign reason than generalized racism. Why do you attribute such incriminating motives to the members of the church?

Most members of the church in the early 1970's who believed that black people shouldn't have the priesthood thought that it was God's will. Why? No revelation to that effect was ever given, certainly not a "doctrinal" one. The only thing they had to go on was the P of GP. You're dismissing the reason that most people held to for decades in favor of racism. Most LDS people I know are better than that.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

7 And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan; 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)

Sure enough, it's there. Thanks for pointing that out.

"I thought we were in agreement that the P of GP is not a possible (valid) reason for the Blacks not receiving the priesthood. "

Doctrinally-speaking, yes, we are in agreement. Blacks were not prohibited to recieve the Priesthood *because* of the Book of Abraham. Nor were they prohibited *because* of the Book of Moses. These books were used to *justify* the prohibition or toe *make sense* of it; but the LDS Church never declared the reason, or any reason as to why the blacks could not recieve the Priesthood. The way I "make sense" of the matter without interpreting doctrine which, as you and I well know, can create a false perception of dcotrine, is that the prohibition of the Piesthood has much more to do with racial bias of the collective Church membership of the time than aything else. But that's my idea and not official; especially not doctrinal.

I did not oppose your interjecting your insights ito the BoA when the missionaries met with your friend. The only thing I wonder, since you said they got angry with your interjection, is how you may have interjected. Despite being skeptical, I do take your word for it regarding missionaries getting angry with you. My sole reason to "council" you is to suggest ways to present Church doctrines and to "correct" false doctrines taught. I've worked directly with missionaries (as well as used to being one myself) and it is my experience that generally they have no objection to doctrines being corrected. It could be that you simply had a bad set of missionaries to deal with but i express this with a high doseage of skepticism.

"So why should I say that it's a possible reason?"

Because it could be. But you previously said connotated that it was *because of* the translation of the BoA that blacks could not recieve the Priesthood.

"Hopefully you can understand why "nobody knows" is not a satisfying answer to black investigators. It shouldn't be satisfying to white members, either. "

But what is a more correct answer than "nobody knows"? It's the truth, pure and simple. If you "force" yourself to gvie a "satisfactory" answer on a doctrine where nobody knows for sure you run the risk of doing exactly what you correctly say happens to LDS Churhc members: they believe and preach doctrines which are not doctrines. So, I find it prudent, and correct to say, "nobody knows but this is a possible reason..."

Anonymous said...

Darren,

Do you think that it was God's will that black people not receive the priesthood until 1978? If the answer is no, then we can say that nobody knows why it happened, but we have a pretty good idea. Scriptural misinterpretation. If the answer is yes, then God is arbitrary and a respecter of persons. And don't bother showing me the biblical precedents for hereditary priesthood restriction. Well aware. I have no more reason to believe that priesthood restriction in the Bible came from God than I do that priesthood restriction in the Mormon church came from God.

" I've worked directly with missionaries (as well as used to being one myself) and it is my experience that generally they have no objection to doctrines being corrected. It could be that you simply had a bad set of missionaries to deal with but i express this with a high doseage of skepticism"

I was one as well. FWIW, the missionary who got angry didn't get along with anyone in the ward and was eventually transferred with an apology, but that isn't really the point. My point was simply that the belief that the priesthood ban is derivable from the scriptures is still widespread. Missionaries sometimes teach it to investigators.

Darren said...

Anonmynous;

"Where does your criterion for what's "doctrine" come from? Is it something that a general authority said? Is the criterion "doctrinal" by its own standard?"

Here's how the LDS works in extablishing doctrine. When a revelation is given to the Church (via the prophet) it is then presented to the entire membership of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This must recieve a unaminous vote at this point in order for further procedures to ensue.

After this first vote the declaration is then presented to the general Priesthood leadership ofthe Church for a sustaining vote. after this it is presented before the entire membership of The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for a sustaining vote. After this it is added as official doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As you know, the LDS has a nopen cannon for doctrine meaning that revelations can be recieved and be considered just as divine as the standards works. The Proclamation to the World is a perfect example of the procedure I just described. It went through the process and thus it is doctrine. The vast majority of delcarations the apostles and prophets give do not go through this process and thus are not doctrine. councel? Yes. Wise? Yes (though you may not agree with all of it and that's fine). But doctrine? No. So things we find in, let's say, Journal of Discourse, are not doctrinal but ideas specific LDS leaders had on specific topics.

here's what I really like about the process. It opens up all people to the heavens and allows personal confirmation of the Holy Ghost as to he veracity of the declarations of living prophets and apostles. It is the Holy Ghost which confirms truth, and we, as children of God Most High, are recipients to its promptings. The more we strive to live according to the will of God and to seek His will, the more the Holy Ghost will "prick" our hearts to know truth and to live according to it. Listening to the words of the prophets, past and present, gives each and every one of us the oportunity ot hear God's own voice I our souls to tell us what is true and to follow it.

"What matters is whether the Lord commanded it. Did the Lord give the leaders of the church a secret revelation saying that black people shouldn't have the priesthood?"

If He did, then how can we know? But, since we don't know, I say, absolutely not. (Though I could be wrong, I'm 99.99999999% I'm not worng). we simply do not know what the Lord's desires were. I imagine it had to do, at least in general, for preparing the right time for the blacks (all worthy male members) to recieve the Priesthood and to reveal to the world, via His chosen servants the prophets, that such is His will.

"By your criterion, that revelation wouldn't be doctrinal whether it occurred or not."

Correct, it wouldn't be.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"If that never happened (and obviously I don't think it did), then the reason was "of men.""

As I said, I think it had much, if not most, to do with the racial bias of the collective Church membership. If I'm correct, then, yes, it would be of men. but i do need to express the fact that church leaders *did indeed* ask the Lord to exted the Priesthood to the blacks but no revelation was given so church policy remained constant in not giving it to blacks. On thing I highly recommend is to read a first-hand account of when the revelation was actually given to extend the Priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church. It was perhaps one of the most dramatic moments of revelation the LDS Church ever had. I'll give a link when I can. Actually, this was the link I thought of previously in my other post.

"You're dismissing the reason that most people held to for decades in favor of racism."

No, I am not. I just wanted to make clear that it is not, nor has it ever been, *because* of the Pearl of Great Price, or, as you put it, the Book of Abraham, that blacks did not recieve the Pristhood. I was used as an "excuse", if you will; but it was never "the reason". Especially not for The Church.

I do not understand why not all worhy males in thr Old Testament; nor do I understand why this did not happen in recent history. Frankly, I do not fuly understand why women do not recieve it (I'm not at all agaist it and I know it's by God's design but I just do not understad it) and I'd be fool to claim I did understand such things. In the end though it's God's priesthood and He can designate who gets it and who does not. He can also remain silent about any particular people recieving it.

Darren said...

"If the answer is no, then we can say that nobody knows why it happened, but we have a pretty good idea. Scriptural misinterpretation. If the answer is yes, then God is arbitrary and a respecter of persons. And don't bother showing me the biblical precedents for hereditary priesthood restriction. "

I think that if God wanted blacks to have the Priesthod, He would have revealed as much to the prophets. I als think that scriptural misinterpretation contributed to the issue of blacks and the Priesthood though the gist was racial bias. The LDS Church, soo before its sel exile to the god-forsaken lands in the West, had large numbers of baptism from the South. The LDS Church had already ordained blacks to the Priesthood but after the exile some leaders, for whatever reason which is not extant today thought that Joseph Smith had rescinded that Priesthod to blacks. This tells me that a) it was NOT from anything in the Pearl of Great Price which was the basis for blacks not having the Priesthood or Joseph Smith would very likely not have ordained blacks to the Priesthood in the first place and b) we see that it was not scriptures as the source of justifying prohibiting the blacks recieving the Priesthood. The only other reason I can think of is hearsay. And why the hearsay? I think it was racial bias from members and certain leaders. Now, the accusation that this came from Joseph Smith had power behind it. The matter was taken to the Lord and it was not made known what to do. Nothing for, nor against, blacks recieving the Priesthood. This tells me that the Lord did not desire for blacks to recieved the Priesthood by default that had the Lord wanted to, He would have revealed His will to His servants. But He did not. Offically, we do not know why. Because of this, man, even leaders of the Church, began to try and make sense of this. Here scriptures were used to justify blacks not receiving the Priesthood. Here is when the Pearl of Great Price is first known to be used to justify that blacks should not have the Priesthood. The hamitic curse is cited as justification.

"If the answer is yes, then God is arbitrary and a respecter of persons."

In regards to the Priesthood, God's always been a respecter of persons, no. Where He is not a respecter of persons is in gaining wisdom / personal revelation and in eternal salvation with all its blessings. When anyone does his or her part, God will always do His.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

I asked you where your criterion for what is doctrinal comes from, and instead of telling me where, you told me more what. Was the criterion itself submitted for a sustaining vote? No. So it's not doctrinal. So why should we believe it?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but here's what you're telling me. The Lord never commanded leaders of the church not to give black people the priesthood. The ban started due to some sort of misunderstanding. This misunderstanding was not a misunderstanding of the P of GP but something more obscure. Later generations of leaders and members would incorrectly use the P of GP to justify the ban which was really due to an earlier misunderstanding which is now lost to our collective memory. When church leaders asked the Lord to clear up this misunderstanding, he was silent. The reason that he was silent is that the general membership of the church contained too much racism. In 1978, the level of racism in the Church had decreased to a level such that the Lord could now tell the Church that it's OK for black people to receive the priesthood. Which part did I get wrong?

This argument is just an attempt to exonerate church leaders by indicting the general membership of the church. It's not convincing because there is plenty of racism toward other races which were not excluded from receiving the priesthood. The priesthood ban actually caused racism. Clearing it up with a revelation would have reduced racism, as it did in 1978.

"Where He is not a respecter of persons is in gaining wisdom / personal revelation and in eternal salvation with all its blessings."

How can that be? In order to get eternal salvation with all its blessings, you need to go through the temple endowment. Black people couldn't do that until 1978.

Darren said...

anonmynous;

Frankly, I read the process from Jeff Lindsay on his Mormon FAQ site as well as from Mike R. Ash from his Mormon Fortress site. I've no idea where in the Church this is stated but the manner by which I described the process is accurate. Don't you recall raising your hand in sustaining statements made in General Conference and in letters from Salt Lake given to bishops to read to their congregations? It's rare but there have been times where we've done this in order to create new official doctrine for the Church.

"So why should we believe it?"

If it's not doctrine, you don't have to believe it. There's statements from LDS leaders I find simply wrong. And in every case, they have never been made doctrine. Prophets are also human and thus subject to human fallibility and other respective limitations. You do not even have to read very far in Joseph Smith's own writings to see that he erred. He admitted as much. But we are promised that the prophets will not lead us astray. The process I described helps to fulfill that promise.

Here's my response to your summary of what I've said.

1) Initial denial of the Priesthood to blacks had to do with not knowing whether or not Joseph Smith rescinded the Priesthood from blacks. It was claimed he did but no one knew for sure.

2) The matter was taken tothe Lord but no response was given.

3) I *think* that racism was a significant reason for the claim that blacks who had the Priesthood were later to be denied it (taken away from them). "Think" is my own insertion because I really do not know of any certainty what caused this claim in the first place. Being racially biased seems the best plausible answer to me. I am open to the possibility that there may have been an ancient curse to fulfill but this seems extremely dubious to me. I also *think* that the Lord was preparing for His gospel to spread throughout the world and that to do so the Priesthood would be needed. Blacks not having the Priesthood hampers that.

4) I think the Lord in His own due time, for whatever reasons, not necessarily just to wait for the level of racism to dwindle, to allow all worthy males to recieve the Priesthood.

Anonymous said...

"Don't you recall raising your hand in sustaining statements made in General Conference and in letters from Salt Lake given to bishops to read to their congregations?"

Of course, but never to sustain a process for determining doctrine. There are no "doctrinal" criteria for determining doctrine, so the discussion about what is or isn't doctrine is moot.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. "

http://newsroom.lds.org/article/approaching-mormon-doctrine

Just from that alone, you can conclude that statements made by "individuals" regarding blacks andthe Preisthood are not doctrinal but their personal views.

The Standard Works and all respective delcarations, like "A Proclamation to the World" as well as "Offical Delcaration - 1" and "Official Declaration - 2" all went through the sustaining process as I described. s there any official doctrine you can think of that has not?

Also:

"Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together. "

And I 100% agree.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

This is good:

An example of this process was in 1880 when President George Q. Cannon presented the Pearl of Great Price and 32 additional sections of the Doctrine and Covenants;


I hold in my hand the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and also the book, The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the conference, to see whether the conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church.3


http://www.staylds.com/docs/WhatIsOfficialMormonDoctrine.html

Anonymous said...

Hi Darren,

The quote that you give from the LDS newsroom is itself the statement of an individual, not canonized, and so one can reject it as nondoctrinal.

"The Standard Works and all respective delcarations, like "A Proclamation to the World" as well as "Offical Delcaration - 1" and "Official Declaration - 2" all went through the sustaining process as I described. s there any official doctrine you can think of that has not? "

I can't think of any official doctrine. Period. "Doctrine" is an empty category as far as I'm concerned. The books and documents you referred to have been accepted by common consent, but their contents are wide open to interpretation, so the question of what is doctrinal can't be settled by appealing to them. I've even had faithful church members disagree with me as to whether the bodily sonship of Jesus Christ is doctrinal. That seems like one of the most basic doctrines to me, but some still disagree.

""Individual members are encouraged to independently strive to receive their own spiritual confirmation of the truthfulness of Church doctrine. Moreover, the Church exhorts all people to approach the gospel not only intellectually but with the intellect and the spirit, a process in which reason and faith work together. "

And I 100% agree."

I do as well.

Even if something is accepted by a sustaining vote of the church, it can later be rejected as doctrine. When Pres. Cannon presented the Doctrine and Covenants for a sustaining vote in 1880, it included what we now recognize as "Lectures on Faith." As you may know, in the lectures, God the Father is said to have a body of spirit in contrast with the Son who has a body of flesh and bone. This appears to be in conflict with D&C 130. The lectures were removed from the canon in 1921. They were accepted as the "Doctrine" portion of the Doctrine and Covenants in a general conference in 1835. So that's at least two occasions where they were accepted by a sustaining vote of the church.

So defining what is or isn't doctrine just seems futile to me. I don't appeal to the doctrinality of anything to settle a question.

Papa D said...

If anyone is interested at this late a time in this discussion, I helped raise a couple of black sons, and the whole Priesthood ban issue is something about which I care deeply.

I am going to provide links to three posts I've written, among others, about the general issue - one by one in separate comments, since I don't know how Jeff's spam filter works with multiple links.

The first one is about a Sunday School lesson in 1935 that simply is amazing, given the time and circumstances in the Church:

"An Amazing Lesson on Race: Oh, That We Had Understood and Followed"

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/04/amazing-lesson-on-race-oh-that-we-had.html

Papa D said...

I'm not formatting the links properly, so I'll go ahead and include both of the other posts in this comment. They are my own reflections on the topic, although the first one includes multiple quotes from apostles, Prophets and General Authorities since the lifting of the ban:

"Repuditating Racist Justifications Once and For All"

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/04/repudiating-racist-justifications-once.html

and

"Reflections from a Mixed-Race Family"

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007/09/reflections-from-mixed-race-family.html

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"The quote that you give from the LDS newsroom is itself the statement of an individual, not canonized, and so one can reject it as nondoctrinal. "

As far as I know, you're correct. It is canonized not but it reflects the standard procedures the LDS Church has followed since its inception.

"I can't think of any official doctrine. Period. "Doctrine" is an empty category as far as I'm concerned."

'Doctrine' in an of itself is an empty word in that it simply means "teaching". Therefore if something is "taught ", it is, strictly speaking, "doctrine". That is why I was careful, and forgive me if I did not do this 100% ofthe time, to declare "official" doctrine of the *Church*. An announcement by the First Presidency, fr example, is nothing more (and ,yes, it carries a ot of weight) an announcement of what the First Presidency believes. It only becomes official doctrine of the Church after it is presented and unamnously supported by the Quorum ofthe Twelve Apostles, the general priesthood leadership of the Church, and then sustained by the general membership of the Church. Then and only then is it "official" doctrine ofthe *Church*. Though the First Presidency may very well speak on behalf of the Church, members have always had a say in the for of sustaining votes in what becomes official Church doctrine.

"The books and documents you referred to have been accepted by common consent, but their contents are wide open to interpretation, so the question of what is doctrinal can't be settled by appealing to them."

Pretty much all official doctrines are "wide open" to interpretation. The LDS Church is one that offers lots of liberty to its members. And I was not appealingto them to make strict delcarations on this thread. I was only pointing out what was neverofficial Church doctrine: blacks not receiving the priesthood because of the Book of Abraham or because of the makr of Cain or curse of Ham.

"I've even had faithful church members disagree with me as to whether the bodily sonship of Jesus Christ is doctrinal. That seems like one of the most basic doctrines to me, but some still disagree. "

I'm with you obn that one though I refute the notion that anyone knows or has declared what the mechanics by which Jesus received his corporal sonship from the Father are.

"Even if something is accepted by a sustaining vote of the church, it can later be rejected as doctrine. "

You're absolutely correct. The LDS Church has always been open to living revelation. It's the only Christian church I know of that has an open canon for doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

You said, "I was only pointing out what was neverofficial Church doctrine: blacks not receiving the priesthood because of the Book of Abraham or because of the makr of Cain or curse of Ham."

OK, not official. It doesn't matter. Since it was taught, it was unofficial doctrine. Brigham Young and others used this unofficial doctrine as a reason not to give the priesthood to Blacks. Brigham Young:

"Any man having one drop of the seed of Cain in him cannot hold the Priesthood, and if no other Prophet ever spake it before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ." (Wilford Woodruff, Deseret News Press, 1909, p.351)

"The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race-that they should be the "servant of servants;" and they will be, until that curse is removed; and the Abolitionists cannot help it, nor in the least alter that decree. How long is that race to endure the dreadful curse that is upon them? That curse will remain upon them, and they never can hold the Priesthood or share in it until all the other descendants of Adam have received the promises and enjoyed the blessings of the Priesthood and the keys thereof. Until the last ones of the residue of Adam's children are brought up to that favorable position, the children of Cain cannot receive the first ordinances of the Priesthood. They were the first that were cursed, and they will be the last from whom the curse will be removed. When the residue of the family of Adam come up and receive their blessings, then the curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will receive blessings in like proportion." Journal of Discourses 7:282.

Brigham Young started the priesthood ban. He gives his reasons in the quotations above. Why not take him at his word? It's not "official" doctrine by your definition, but what difference does that make? Early church leaders didn't distinguish between "doctrine" and "official doctrine."

A glimpse of how mainstream Mormons interpreted this unofficial doctrine circa 1958, Bruce McConkie in (Unofficial) Mormon Doctrine:

"Those who were less valiant in the pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions imposed upon them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain, the mark put upon him for his rebellion against God and his murder of Abel being a black skin.... Noah's son Ham married Egyptus, a descendant of Cain, thus preserving the negro lineage through the flood....The negroes are not equal with other races when the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned, particularly the priesthood and the temple blessings that flow therefrom, but this inequality is not of man's origin. It is the Lord's doing, based on His eternal laws of justice, and grows out of the lack of spiritual valiance of those concerned in their first estate."

Thank goodness none of this was official. How might things have been different if it were official?

Papa D said...

Anonymous is correct, in all practical terms that matter, on this one. Something that might not be considered doctrine now certainly functioned as doctrine if it was taught enough to be believed by most members.

The distinction between officially accepted, "by common consent approved" doctrine and unofficial, "accepted by default because it was taught emphatically by most leaders" doctrine is important to me - but we can't hide behind those distinctions when dealing with issues like this. Our practical doctrine was terribly racist and wrong, imo, during this time period - partly because it was so different than what was taught and practiced by Joseph Smith during his lifetime.

We need to admit that openly, even if I don't think we need to apologize for others' inability to accept and practice the ideal that should have been practiced. Saying it was wrong and changing it is enough of an apology, and the leadership has done that - as shown in the quotes in the first post in my second comment. They might not be as forceful as I'd like them to be, but they are clear, nonetheless.

In this instance, we were wrong - and it's counter-productive and misplaced, imo, to try to reason otehrwise.

I'm not castigating those who believed it in saying this; I have no idea if I would feel the same way I do now if I had lived then. They did the best they could, given their own blind spots - just like we do now. They just were badly wrong in this case.

Anonymous said...

My hat's off to you, Papa D.

Darren said...

"Early church leaders didn't distinguish between "doctrine" and "official doctrine.""

Yes, they did. that's why they had a procedure to cestablish official doctrine and Journal of Discourse never made it through that procedure. In fact, only a small minute portion of the words of the prophets ever make it through. Therefore, it is nt wrong to doubt their words, nor even believe they are true.

Brigham Young did start the priesthood ban and used the very reasons you cited from him to justify it. But the fact of the matter is that we do not know the source of that ban, nor for his knowledge he relied upon to make his justification. All were know is that God never told anyone to lift the ban until President Kimball.

My whole point in this dialogue of official doctrine is that it was not *because* of the Book of Abraham that blacks did not receive the preisthood. In fact, I do not think the Book of Abraham and the curse of Ham was used until B.H.Roberts somne 40 years after the ban was set in motion.

you're also right about McConkie and growing up I beilieved things as doctrine until I realized that Mormon Doctrine wasn't necessarily Mormon doctrine. His book had great things to say and expain so many points of doctrine quite nicely, nor do I doubt McConkie's eternal blessings for his service to the Lord while in mortality. This was a learning lesson for me to study the words of the LDS leaders, especially the prophets and apostles and to learn from where they come from. In the end you don't have to push any envelope to say McConkie was wrong regarding the blacks not having the priesthood. He pretty much admitted as much himself. In fact, I do believe Brigham Young explicitly denounced the idea tha blacks were neutral in the pre-mortal existence and I think he even denounced the idea that they were somehow less valiant.

Personally, I think the idea that something happened in the pre-mortal existence for blacks in our time in the New World as well as for people in ancient times in the Old World which justified them not having the priesthood. But I want to stress that if it was for something of the pre-mortal existence, we do not know wha it is and t is volatile to speculate. I say "volatile" since it is not inherently wrong to speculate but it must be done in a manner where the speculator makes other know it is only his/her ideas. Otherwise people can wind up believing things which are not true. Who knows, maybe blacks did something really good before te Lord to not have the priesthood on earth for a time.

Go figure.

Darren said...

PapaD;

When I set links correctly I set another blogsite with a link button which is compatible to this website's software and then copy and paste it here. Someday I'll get smart and copy and paste the formulation on Word or something so that I do not need to go to that site all the time.

"Something that might not be considered doctrine now certainly functioned as doctrine if it was taught enough to be believed by most members."

I totally agree with you. My position was to make clear that such doctrines were not official doctrines of the LDS Church. anonymous' summarization made it sound as it *officially* the Book of Abraham was the reason that blacks were denied the priesthood. yes, it was used, and yes, many believed it so but no, it was not an official doctrine of the Church.

"The distinction between officially accepted, "by common consent approved" doctrine and unofficial, "accepted by default because it was taught emphatically by most leaders" doctrine is important to me - but we can't hide behind those distinctions when dealing with issues like this."

First off, I'm completely with you on setting an importance of distiguishng between official and non-official doctrines of the Church. but I have to ask, who here is hiding behind that distinction? I do not think anyone here denied the racial ramifications of those doctrines.

"partly because it was so different than what was taught and practiced by Joseph Smith during his lifetime.'

That's exactly how I view it and I find it important to point that out as well.

"In this instance, we were wrong - and it's counter-productive and misplaced, imo, to try to reason otehrwise."

By any chance, is that what you think I did or tried to do?

"They just were badly wrong in this case."

As you showed, hindsight is always 20/20. I will not go so far as to say taty "they were badly wrong" in regards to blacks not havingthe priesthood. We simply do not know nearly enough to make that judgement call. They were, however, according to evidence available to us today, wrong about applying reasons of justification for denying the priesthood to blacks.

Anonymous said...

@ Darren

"They were, however, according to evidence available to us today, wrong about applying reasons of justification for denying the priesthood to blacks."

"Personally, I think the idea that something happened in the pre-mortal existence for blacks in our time in the New World as well as for people in ancient times in the Old World which justified them not having the priesthood."

So according to you, the priesthood ban was the right thing for the wrong reason. Brigham Young's clear explanation for the ban that he instituted isn't the real reason. This is the legacy of the church not explaining the ban to its members post 1978.

"Yes, they did. that's why they had a procedure to cestablish official doctrine and Journal of Discourse never made it through that procedure. "

Having a procedure for canonization does not mean that early church leaders distinguished between doctrine and official doctrine. Show me one example where an early church leader verbally makes the distinction.

Darren said...

"So according to you, the priesthood ban was the right thing for the wrong reason."

A possibility only. I think something *may* have happened in the pre-mortal exitence but man has not ever known what exactly happend if in deed it wasa pre-mortal event, or events, that ocurred which resulted in groups of people not having the priesthood. So, in declaring what may have happened, one would only be speculating. By speculating, one is open to erroniously interpreting what may have happened. So, yes, in it was because of pre-mortal events than humans could very much have erred in declaring exactly what those events were.

"Brigham Young's clear explanation for the ban that he instituted isn't the real reason."

Why should it be?

"Having a procedure for canonization does not mean that early church leaders distinguished between doctrine and official doctrine."

Yes, it does, or why else have the procedure?

"Show me one example where an early church leader verbally makes the distinction."

First off, I did not say that early church leaders made verbasl distinctions betwen official and non official doctrines. I said that the mere fact that a procedure exists to establish official doctrine naturally shows a distinction. Otherwise, why have the process? From the great omniscient oracle, Wikipedia:

During the life of Brigham Young, elements of the Adam–God doctrine were taught in LDS church meetings, sung in church hymns, and featured as part of the church's Endowment ceremony. However, the doctrine was startling to Mormons when it was introduced, and it remained controversial. Several other Mormon leaders, the most vocal being Orson Pratt, rejected the doctrine in favor of other theological ideas. Soon after Young's death in 1877, the Adam–God doctrine fell out of favor within mainstream Mormonism, and was replaced by a theology more similar to that of Orson Pratt, as codified by turn-of-the century Mormon theologians James E. Talmage, B. H. Roberts and John A. Widtsoe.

While this does not say, "this is not official doctrine of the Church," I ask, when was the Adam-God theory ever fully implemented into church teachings? What about people living on the Sun? These, at least to some extent, were taught by Brigham Young so why not fully taught in Sunday School by leaders of the Church? That's because by Brigham Young's day there was already ample official doctrines to teach from. The Book of Mormon, the Bible, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine of Covenants. All these doctrines were voted on and sustained by leaders and the general membership of the Church. If there were no distinction than why not teach everything equally in the Church? They weren't because there was a distinction between what was sustained and what was not. Even speeches in General Conference, though highly reliable, are not official doctrine. Only declarations which passed through a sustaining vote, which may ocurre in General Conference, are official doctrine. The mere fact that this process exists means there's a distinction between official and nonofficla doctrines in the LDS Church.

Now, you are correct in that there was not an explicit and affirmative distinction made between sermons and official doctrine that I'm aware of but there were disagreements all the time among church leaders regarding what is true and what is not. Not everybody accepted as truth everything spoken by church leaders. But it was pretty unaminous as to the veracity of the Standard Works, howbeit individual interpretations may varied and still vary. Why the difference, do you think?

Papa D said...

"I think something *may* have happened in the pre-mortal exitence"

Darren, what I'm saying is that our current leaders have said for at least three decades now that we should NOT perpetuate the previous justifications - and the quote above does exactly that, your use of the word "may" notwithstanding. In fact, the idea of something from the pre-existence contributing is one of the things that multiple apostles have addressed directly and unequivocally as what we need to stop perpetuating.

Please read one of the posts for which I gave the url earlier. I'll copy it again here. It's an abvreviated compilation of quotes regarding the justifications for the ban - not primarily my own words. The very first quote by Elder Jensen mentions the pre-existence speculation, and the others talk directly about perpetuating the mistaken ideas of the past:

http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2009/04/repudiating-racist-justifications-once.html

Papa D said...

The end of the url is: "repudiating-racist-justifications-once.html" - just in case it isn't clear.

Lamdaddy said...

Papa,

I like to use x.co to shorten URL's. Really quick.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

" 'Brigham Young's clear explanation for the ban that he instituted isn't the real reason.'

Why should it be?"

Why shouldn't it be? The burden of proof is on the person who claims that there is some other reason. Absent any evidence for that claim, the default position is to take Brigham Young's explanation for his own actions as authentic.

The distinction in the early church was between doctrine and nondoctrine, not between official and unofficial doctrine. There was a tradition of speculation among early church leaders. It was recognized as speculation, not "unofficial" doctrine.

Darren said...

PapaD;

With all do respect, how can I not mention the possibility of pre-mortal reasons for blacks not having the priesthood after you pretty much said it was all racism? I'm offering it as an idea and I've no desire to explore the idea. I've said that man has never known why blacks could not have the priesthood and that settles well with me. If in the future I'm aksed or challenged about it (and i'm sure I will as I blog regularly) I'll say as much again and not delve into details precisely because man does not know. I do not think "perpetuating" means, "never mentioning" lest the LDS Church's position is to "shut your mouths" about the issue. And such is NOT what they are asking to be done.

Darren said...

Lamdaddy;

I never used "x.co" but it is really efficient for those that do.

Darren said...

"The burden of proof is on the person who claims that there is some other reason."

Not regarding un-official LDS doctrine. Saying, "I don't think that's correct" is fine and leaves nothing inaccuratly characterized.

"Absent any evidence for that claim, the default position is to take Brigham Young's explanation for his own actions as authentic."

If you want to accept Brigham Young's explanation for whatever reason, fine. I don't fully. There's no reason why I should. There's a spitirual void in his words and I've learned in life to pay attention to that. I don't have to get worked up over it, nor necessarily burden myself with that, but it is there.

I will say this though, Brigham Young knew far more about the nature of God and the eternities during his mortal life then I ever have so far in mine. So if tfor that reason alone you fully accept his statment, then so be it. It doesn't bother me in the least tat you would.

Question: before LDS leaders explicitly denounced Adam-God theory as false, anyone who previously rejected that doctrine ("teaching") did they have to present evidence to counterdict Young's teaching that Adam was Heavenly Father other than the fact that such a teaching didn't seem right?

Darren said...

Anonymous;

"The distinction in the early church was between doctrine and nondoctrine, not between official and unofficial doctrine."

Anything that is "taught" is doctrine. the question is if it's official doctrine because then and *only* then is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints justifiably held accoutable for it before God and man.

Darren said...

And "speculating" by its nature is unofficial doctrine.

Darren said...

Anonymous;

Here's dallin H. Oaks from PapaD's link:

"And I didn’t understand why; I couldn’t identify with any of the explanations that were given. Yet I sustained the action; I was confident that in the time of the Lord I would know more about it, so I went along on faith. "

Sounds like he didn't agree with Brigham Young either.

Anonymous said...

Darren,

"Not regarding un-official LDS doctrine."

Special pleading. Whether the doctrine was official or unofficial, Brigham Young himself stated why he didn't think that Blacks should have the priesthood, and he instituted the priesthood ban. Absent any other evidence, this is evidence for his motivation. By the way, was there ever a sustaining vote for the priesthood ban? If not, then does that make it an "unofficial" policy? If the ban itself was unofficial, why do we need to find an "official" reason for it? An "unofficial" one should do just fine.

"Question: before LDS leaders explicitly denounced Adam-God theory as false, anyone who previously rejected that doctrine ("teaching") did they have to present evidence to counterdict Young's teaching that Adam was Heavenly Father other than the fact that such a teaching didn't seem right?"

You're confused. We're not searching for a reason for the priesthood ban that we agree with; we're just searching for the reason that Brigham Young enacted it. If Brigham Young had enacted some policy which appeared to be motivated by the Adam-God theory, anyone who claims that the policy was in reality motivated by something else should supply evidence for that claim. Now do you understand?

"Anything that is "taught" is doctrine. the question is if it's official doctrine because then and *only* then is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints justifiably held accoutable for it before God and man."

This is wrong on so many levels. The "Church" as an abstract entity wouldn't be held accountable for anything. People are held accountable. If by "church" you mean the people in the church, they would not be excused for teaching false doctrine that causes others to err just because they did it without a sustaining vote. Give me a break. You're making up your own unofficial doctrine here.

"And "speculating" by its nature is unofficial doctrine."

Again, your category, not Brigham Young's.

Regarding Elder Oaks' (and Jensen's and Holland's) statements on Papa D's link, what's conspicuously absent from their comments is any repudiation of the priesthood ban itself. They condemn the reasons given for the ban without condemning what followed from those reasons. I'm sorry, but that's not good enough. Most any justification of a racist policy will itself be racist. They can't admit that Brigham Young just made a mistake by instituting the ban in the first place. Once you realize that the ban itself was a mistake, it's no great leap to conclude that Brigham's beliefs about the curse of Cain were the motivation for the ban. The only reason to dismiss that as his motivation is the faith-based desire for there to have been a "good" reason for the ban. There can't be a good reason for a bad policy.

Darren said...

"Whether the doctrine was official or unofficial, Brigham Young himself stated why he didn't think that Blacks should have the priesthood, and he instituted the priesthood ban."

I thought we were talng about how true his words were. Yes they naturally show his motivation according to his knowledge but I still disagree with it.

"By the way, was there ever a sustaining vote for the priesthood ban?"

Good question. I don't know of any but there's always a sustaining vote as to Brigham young andall succeeding presidents of the LDS Church to being prophet, seers, and revelators. This holds true despite being in err at times. But I know you'd agree to that.

"If not, then does that make it an "unofficial" policy? If the ban itself was unofficial, why do we need to find an "official" reason for it? An "unofficial" one should do just fine."

If this did not recieve a sustaining vote and furthermore I do believbe this wasa church policy, not a canonized part of doctrines. I don't think we sustain policy opposed to core doctrines.

"We're not searching for a reason for the priesthood ban that we agree with; we're just searching for the reason that Brigham Young enacted it."

It's easy to confuse me. As for the reason Young instituted the priesthooc ban, yes, hs words would sufficce. but, as I said before, I think he was wrong.

"The "Church" as an abstract entity wouldn't be held accountable for anything."

When one says, "Mormons believe..." and then fuill it in with something like, "that families can be together forever." This is holding the LDS Church accountable and in this case the presentation is correct. But when someone says, "Mormons believe that you can marry more than one wife," that too is holding the LDS Church accountable to a determined end and in this case, it is an incorrect presentation. In both cases, we look to official doctrines to acertain the accuracy of the presentation. Of course it is individuals that are held accountable ultimately but what do *you* believe "as a Mormon" is determined in significant part to what is official Church doctrine.

"They condemn the reasons given for the ban without condemning what followed from those reasons. I'm sorry, but that's not good enough. They can't admit that Brigham Young just made a mistake by instituting the ban in the first place."

OK. So, when did God say it was a mistake?

"Once you realize that the ban itself was a mistake, it's no great leap to conclude that Brigham's beliefs about the curse of Cain were the motivation for the ban."

Why? I don't say issuing the priesthood ban was a mistake yet I agree tha it was Brigham young's view that it was due to the curse of Cain. Now, would this mean that "Mormons believe" that the priesthood was prohibited to blacks because of the curse of cain? Would it be accurate to say that the Mormon Church "taught" that it was the curse of Cain?

KhyEllie said...

Jeff,

This is EXACTLY what I have been dealing with the last two days. Just last night I went to the Lord in prayer and allowed myself to gain faith when away from the bad influences...but I did not receive an answer, or any confirmations. I think you have become the Lord's channel to me! :)

Openminded said...

There's a highly acclaimed Chicago University Professor/scholar of Egyptology who released a book about the BoA. His name's Robert Ritner, and he did a full book over Joseph Smith's papyri (The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition). Said "except for those willfully blind, the case is closed." (http://signaturebooks.com/2012/02/scholar-says-mormon-scripture-not-an-egyptian-translation/

If I could shell out $80 and had the time, his book (which just came out January 22nd of this year) would be a really interesting read.

Honestly, it's about time a highly credible scholar on Egyptology addressed this more fully. He even provides the various interpretations to the Egyptian writings on top of his own original ones!

And really, check out that first link when you Google his name. Ridiculously involved in Egyptology (as, well, an Egyptian scholar probably should be. but seriously, he has over 100 publications on Egyptian religion alone)

Anonymous said...

It seems that the explanation here is that the Book of Abraham was translated from other missing Egyptian manuscripts, which were likely destroyed in the Chicago fire. I still haven't seen any explanation of why Joseph Smith failed to translate the Book of Breathings, since the manuscript obviously was in his possession. At the very least, Joseph could have mentioned that he was not supposed to translate that portion of the manuscript. After all, he did explain that quite clearly with the sealed portion of the Gold Plates.
Also, Joseph Smith's interpretation of the meaning of the facsimiles, which is provided right next to the copy of the facsimile, doesn't match the interpretation of the same facsimile copy by modern Egyptologists. I still haven't seen that fact explained by apologists, either.

Mormography said...

Anonymous –

FYI anonymous, Mormanity describes challenges to apologist reasoning as hostility and wishes not to promote links of such hostility (I think it has something to do with website rankings). Following the example of people like Jesus and Socrates, I fear no such promotion of dialogue whether it is deemed by some as hostile or not.

http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_Abraham2.shtml

To save you a long read, I would summarize the above link: Apologist suggest that the academics are wrong about the facsimiles and Joseph Smith was right. I am not sure why apologist do not say the same about the Book of Breathings.

http://www.jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/FQ_Abraham.shtml#attached

This one kind of does a shoulder shrug with regards to why the facsimile is attached to the Book of Breathings, but suggests the Book of Breathings must have just been an appendix reference to the Book of Abraham.

The links above further argue that the descriptions of the purchase were vast, hence the Book of Breathings must have been just one many things not translated or describe in detail.

You do not think God would go to such great lengths to make things appear as they are not? After all, even the Biblical God did go to great lengths to make it appear that Abraham was required to murder his own child.

Anonymous said...

> Anti-Mormon links are frowned upon.

Wow, if you're afraid of reviewing sources that are outside of/skeptical of your religion, it says something about your intellectual honesty.

Anyways, the fact that it's in the canonical BoM means that if it really isn't the correct papyri, then Smith wasn't wrong, but every prophet after him wasn't really led by God. Unless you're FLDS that really should be worrying.