Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fall of the Book of Abraham

The following is the text of the tract, Fall of the Book of Abraham, produced by the Utah Lighthouse Ministry, who gave me their gracious permission to publish it here.


According to Mormon writers, the "Book of Abraham" was supposed to have been written on papyrus by Abraham about 4,000 years ago. This very same papyrus, it is claimed, was acquired by Joseph Smith in 1835. Smith translated the papyrus and published it under the title, "The Book of Abraham." It was accepted by the Mormon Church as Scripture and is now published as part of the Pearl of Great Price - one of the four standard works of the church.

For many years Joseph Smith's collection of papyri was lost, but on Nov. 27, 1967, the Mormon-owned Deseret News announced that the "collection of pa[p]yrus manuscripts, long believed to have been destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871, was presented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints here Monday by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

The importance of this find cannot be overemphasized, for now Joseph Smith's ability as a translator of ancient Egyptian writing can be put to an absolute test. When the papyri were located many members of the church felt that Joseph Smith's work would be vindicated. As it turned out, however, within six months from the time the Metropolitan Museum gave the papyri to the church, the Book of Abraham had been proven untrue! The fall of the Book of Abraham was brought about by the identification of the actual fragment of papyrus from which Joseph Smith 'translated" the Book of Abraham. This was made possible by comparing it with the handwritten manuscripts. Dr. James R Clark, of Brigham Young University, gave this information: "...there are in existence today in the Church Historian's Office what seem to be two separate manuscripts of Joseph Smith's translations from the papyrus rolls... One manuscript is the Alphabet and Grammar.... Within this Alphabet and Grammar there is a copy of the characters, together with their translation of Abraham 1:4-28..." (The Story of the Pearl of Great Price, 1962, pp. 172-73) In the publication, Pearl of Great Price Conference, Dec. 10, 1960, 1964 ed., pp. 60-61, Dr. Clark referred to a longer manuscript: "I have in my possession a photostatic copy of the manuscript of the Prophet Joseph Smith's translation of Abraham 1:1 to 2:18.... The characters from which our present book of Abraham was translated are down the left-hand column and Joseph Smith's translation opposite, so we know approximately how much material was translated from each character."

All of the first two rows of characters on the papyrus fragment can he found in the manuscript of the Book of Abraham that is published in Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar. On the cover of this tract is a photograph of the original fragment of papyrus from which Joseph Smith was supposed to have translated the Book of Abraham. A careful examination of the original manuscripts in the handwriting of Joseph Smith's scribes reveals that Smith used less than four lines from this papyrus to make forty-nine verses in the book of Abraham. These forty-nine verses are composed of more than 2,000 English words. 

Klaus Baer, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago, concluded concerning the "Sensen" fragment: "Joseph Smith thought that this papyrus contained the Book of Abraham." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1968, p. 111) Although the noted Mormon apologist Dr. Hugh Nibley later proposed some fantastic theories in an attempt to divorce the Egyptian papyri from the Book of Abraham, at a meeting held at the University of Utah on May 20, 1968, he frankly spoke of "the fact that, the very definite fact that, one of the fragments seemed to supply all of the symbols for the Book of Abraham." This was the little 'Sensen' scroll. Here are the symbols. The symbols are arranged here, and the interpretation goes along here and this interpretation turns out to be the Book of Abraham.”

When Egyptologists translated this piece of papyrus, they found that it contained absolutely nothing concerning Abraham. Instead, it turned out to be a pagan funerary text known as the "Book of Breathings," a work which actually evolved from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The Book of Breathings did not come into existence until the later stages of Egyptian history - just a few centuries before the time of Christ. Like the Book of the Dead, it was buried with those who died in ancient Egypt. It is filled with magic and pagan gods. It was obviously written by a very superstitious people, and is quite different from the religion taught in the Bible.

The fact that the papyrus Joseph Smith used as the basis for his Book of Abraham is in reality the Book of Breathings cannot be disputed because the name "Book of Breathings" appears clearly on the fourth line of the fragment. In 1968 two Egyptologists from the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, Professors John A. Wilson and Klaus Baer, identified the papyrus as the "Book of Breathings." A translation by Klaus Baer was printed in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1968, pp. 119-20. Professor Richard A Parker, Chairman of the Department of Egyptology at Brown University also translated the papyrus. Professor Hugh Nibley stated that "Parker is the best man in America for this particular period and style of writing." Professor Parker's translation reads as follows:

1. [........] this great pool of Khonsu

2. [Osiris Hor, justified], born of Taykhebyt, a man likewise.

3. After (his) two arms are [fast]ened to his breast, one wraps the Book of Breathings, which is

4. with writing both inside and outside of it, with royal linen, it being placed (at) his left arm

5. near his heart, this having been done at his

6. wrapping and outside it. If this book be recited for him, then

7. he will breath like the soul[s of the gods] for ever and

8. ever. (Dialogue A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1968, p.98)

Except for a few minor variations, other renditions of the text are in agreement with Professor Parker's. The Book of Abraham, therefore, has been proven to be a spurious translation. Egyptologists find no mention of either Abraham or his religion in this text. The average number of words that the Egyptologist used to convey the message in this text is eighty-seven, whereas Joseph Smith's rendition contains thousands of words. In one Case Joseph Smith derived 177 English words out of the word "Khons" - the name of an Egyptian moon god! It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the Book of Abraham is a product of Joseph Smith's imagination.

Since the original papyrus contains nothing about Abraham, some Mormon apologists have suggested that Joseph Smith may have obtained the Book of Abraham by way of direct revelation and not from the papyrus. Those who try to use this escape will find themselves trapped by the words of Joseph Smith himself. At the beginning of the handwritten manuscript, Joseph Smith asserted that it was a "Translation of the Book of Abraham written by his own hand upon papyrus and found in the catacombs of Egypt." The introduction to the Book of Abraham still maintains that it was "Translated From The Papyrus, By Joseph Smith" (Pearl of Great Price, The Book of Abraham, Introduction). If the Book of Abraham is not an actual translation of the papyrus, then it is obvious that the introduction to it that appears in the Pearl of Great Price is a complete misrepresentation. Joseph Smith not only claimed that he translated it from the papyrus, but according to the History of the Church, vol.2, p. 351, he affirmed that it was "a correct translation.”

The contents of the Book of Breathings are certainly foreign to the teachings concerning Abraham found in the Bible. The Bible says he rejected paganism, whereas the Book of Breathings is filled with pagan gods and practices. The names of at least fifteen Egyptian gods or goddesses are mentioned on the "Sensen" papyri which Joseph Smith had in his possession, but there is not one word about Abraham.

The Mormon leaders face a serious dilemma. They cannot repudiate the Book of Abraham without raising the question of Joseph Smith's ability to "translate" the Book of Mormon.

For more information on the Book of Abraham and many other subjects see the book, Major Problems of Mormonism, available for $6.95 from Utah Lighthouse Ministry.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Transgression or Sin?

Because the LDS Church views the fall of Adam as a positive event (for without it procreation would not be possible), it has been careful to avoid calling this act a sin.  Instead, it refers to the partaking of the tree of knowledge as a transgression.  Tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The ‘fall’ of Adam and Eve was not a sin but an essential act upon which mortality depends” (Answers to Gospel Questions 5:15).  Page 29 in the 2009 edition of the church manual Gospel Principles also tends to give this impression.

However, on page 116 of this same manual, the following insertion is made linking transgression with sin.  “The Lord said, ‘If thou wilt turn unto me, and . . . repent of all thy transgressions [sins], and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, . . .  Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost’ (Moses 6:52).”

Though the bracketed word “sin” is not found in Moses 6:52 (in the Pearl of Great Price), it appears in every edition of Gospel Principles, going clear back to the first edition in 1978.

Mormonism Research Ministry Update, April 2015

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Isaac Hale Affidavit

Mormonism Research Ministry’s April 2015 issue of the MRM Update was mostly the affidavit given by Joseph Smith’s father-in-law in regards to his knowledge about Smith and the origin of the Book of Mormon.  I have previously read this affidavit in several publications, so I was familiar with it.  I decided to post it on my blog so that it could get more public viewing.  To make things simple, I copied the following from the site, Mormon Origins.  It is a very good reference site.  The two informational paragraphs are from the Mormon Origins page.


Affidavit of Isaac Hale, father-in-law of Joseph Smith, Jr., given at Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania on 20 March 1834.

Source: "Mormonism," Susquehanna Register, and Northern Pennsylvanian 9 (1 May 1834):1, Montrose, Pennsylvania, emphasis omitted. Paragraphs are shortened for easier reading.

I first became acquainted with Joseph Smith, Jr. in November, 1825. He was at that time in the employ of a set of men who were called "money-diggers;" and his occupation was that of seeing, or pretending to see by means of a stone placed in his hat, and his hat closed over his face. In this way he pretended to discover minerals and hidden treasure. His appearance at this time, was that of a careless young man - not very well educated, and very saucy and insolent to his father.

Smith, and his father, with several other 'money-diggers' boarded at my house while they were employed in digging for a mine that they supposed had been opened and worked by the Spaniards, many years since. Young Smith gave the 'money-diggers' great encouragement, at first, but when they had arrived in digging, to near the place where he had stated an immense treasure would be found - he said the enchantment was so powerful that he could not see. They then became discouraged, and soon after dispersed. This took place about the 17th of November, 1825; and one of the company gave me his note for $12[.]68 for his board, which is still unpaid.

After these occurrences, young Smith made several visits at my house, and at length asked my consent to his marrying my daughter Emma. This I refused, and gave him my reasons for so doing; some of which were, that he was a stranger, and followed a business that I could not approve; he then left the place. Not long after this, he returned, and while I was absent from home, carried off my daughter, into the state of New York, where they were married without my approbation or consent.

After they had arrived at Palmyra [Manchester] N.Y., Emma wrote to me inquiring whether she could have her property, consisting of clothing, furniture, cows, &c. I replied that her property was safe, and at her disposal. In short time they returned, bringing with them a Peter Ingersol[l], and subsequently came to the conclusion that they would move out, and resided upon a place near my residence.

Smith stated to me, that he had given up what he called "glass-looking," and that he expected to work hard for a living, and was willing to do so. He also made arrangements with my son Alva Hale, to go to Palmyra, and move his (Smith's) furniture &c. to this place. He then returned to Palmyra, and soon after, Alva, agreeable to the arrangement, went up and returned with Smith and his family.

Soon after this, I was informed they had brought a wonderful book of Plates down with them. I was shown a box in which it is said they were contained, which had, to all appearances, been used as a glass box of the common sized window-glass. I was allowed to feel the weight of the box, and they gave me to understand, that the book of plates was then in the box - into which, however, I was not allowed to look.

I inquired of Joseph Smith Jr., who was to be the first who would be allowed to see the Book of Plates? He said it was a young child. After this, I became dissatisfied, and informed him that if there was any thing in my house of that description, which I could not be allowed to see, he must take it away; if he did not, I was determined to see it. After that, the Plates were said to be hid in the woods.

About this time, Martin Harris made his appearance upon the stage; and Smith began to interpret the characters or hieroglyphics which he said were engraven upon the plates, while Harris wrote down the interpretation. It was said, that Harris wrote down one hundred and sixteen pages, and lost them.

Soon after this happened, Martin Harris informed me that he must have a greater witness, and said that he had talked with Joseph about it - Joseph informed him that he could not, or durst not show him the plates, but that he (Joseph) would go into the woods where the Book of Plates was, and that after he came back, Harris should follow his track in the snow, and find the Book, and examine it for himself. Harris informed me afterwards, that he followed Smith's directions, and could not find the Plates, and was still dissatisfied.

The next day after this happened, I went to the house where Joseph Smith Jr., lived, and where he and Harris were engaged in their translation of the Book. Each of them had a written piece of paper which they were comparing, and some of the words were "my servant seeketh a greater witness, but no greater witness can be given him." There was also something said about "three that were to see the thing" - meaning I supposed, the Book of Plates, and that "if the three did not go exactly according to orders, the thing would be taken from them." I enquired whose words they were, and was informed by Joseph or Emma, (I rather think it was the former) that they were the words of Jesus Christ. I told them then, that I considered the whole of it a delusion, and advised them to abandon it.

The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret, was the same as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, and his hat over his face, while the Book of Plates were at the same time in the woods!

After this, Martin Harris went away, and Oliver Cowd[e]ry came and wrote for Smith, while he interpreted as above described. This is the same Oliver Cowd[e]ry, whose name may be found in the Book of Mormon. Cowd[e]ry continued a scribe for Smith until the Book of Mormon was completed as I supposed, and understood.

Joseph Smith Jr. resided near me for some time after this, and I had a good opportunity of becoming acquainted with him, and somewhat acquainted with his associates, and I conscientiously believe from the facts I have detailed, and from many other circumstances, which I do not deem it necessary to relate, that the whole "Book of Mormon" (so called) is a silly fabrication of falsehood and wickedness, got up for speculation, and with a design to dupe the credulous and unwary - and in order that its fabricators might live upon the spoils of those who swallowed the deception.

Affirmed to and subscribed before me, March 20th, 1834.
CHARLES DIMON, J[ustice]. [of the] Peace.

Notice that Mr. Hale witnessed the same mode of “translating” the Book of Mormon as did David Whitmer:  The BOM plates were elsewhere while Smith had his face buried in his hat looking at a seer stone in the hat.  This occultic practice certainly didn’t come from God.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Round Up of Recent Mormon Coffee Articles

Mormon Coffee is my favorite blog about Mormonism because they often uncover some unique and very interesting information, and always have good commentaries.  (If Utah Lighthouse Ministry had a blog, I’m sure it would be just as good!) Here are links to their best stories (IMO) over the past several weeks.

Mormonism and Its First Level Truths.  A central paragraph:  “And so, when a Mormon learns that Joseph Smith engaged in plural marriage practices that are clearly forbidden in the Bible (e.g., marrying mother/daughter and sister pairs); when they learn that his revelations failed (e.g., selling the Book of Mormon copyright); when they learn that the relating of his history — regarding his First Vision, his translation of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood, his translation of the Book of Abraham (“and on and on and on”) — are fraught with problems; when they learn that he borrowed heavily from Freemasonry for the temple endowment; when they learn that his understanding of the very nature of God changed and progressed over his lifetime; they rightfully wonder: Why should I believe the Mormon Church is true? Why should I believe my Church leaders are really hearing from God? Why should I believe anything promoted by my church since it all stems from what I now see as one polluted source?

The Continuing Call to Follow the Prophet.   An analysis of Ezra Taft Benson’s 1980 speech, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” and how the teachings in this speech have been handled since.

Joseph Smith’s Grandiloquent Assertion.  A good examination of Smith’s boast about keeping the “whole church together,” and demonstrating the many spit-offs that refute his boast.

Mormon Church does not require “bloodletting.”   Discussion about Utah bringing back the firing squad, and the connection it has with the Mormon doctrine of “Blood Atonement.”

The Virtue of Joseph Smith.  As if he had any virtue.  The article opens with:  Speaking at the general conference last October, Mormon Apostle Neil L. Andersen gave a talk simply titled “Joseph Smith.”  Toward the end of his message, Andersen said, “I give you my witness that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. He chose a holy man, a righteous man, to lead the Restoration of the fulness of His gospel. He chose Joseph Smith.” This phrase became the byline when his talk was reprinted in the conference edition of Ensign magazine (November 2014, pp. 28-31).  Of course anyone who knows anything about Smith certainly knows what an unholy man he was.  The article goes on to examine Mr. Anderson’s attacks on the character of ex-Mormons who dare to “malign” Smith, and he whining about information on the Internet.  Mormon Coffee had a good summation:  “The timing of Andersen’s talk is especially interesting. A few weeks after his message, the church released a Gospel Topics essay admitting how Smith had married as many as forty women, including ten with living husbands as well as another ten teenagers, one as young as fourteen. There is proof that Smith lied many times to his wife Emma about his polygamous affairs. This might be a good place to start if Smith’s credentials as a virtuous and holy man are to be honestly examined.”

Saving Mormonism: Divorcing Faith from Fact.  The LDS, as usual, wishes to concentrate more on the “faith” of their religion rather than the “facts” of the history of it.  “Dr. Flake wants to divorce faith from fact, and I think doubting Mormons will find comfort in following her lead. But faith divorced from fact is not really faith at all.”  I certainly have to agree, and the article continues in this vein exposing problems with the LDS ideology of shielding its people from unpleasant factual information.  The summary paragraph is right on the money:  “Conversely, if the facts of the real world do not fit Mormonism, Mormonism is shown to be untrue. And for those who cling to this hope against hope by continuing to place their faith in a false religious system — for those who will not act on what they’ve learned — devastatingly, their faith is in vain.”

This last item isn’t from Mormon Coffee, rather it is from Lutheran Satire.  But it is a good piece of humor in regards to problems in the LDS teachings!  Well worth the view.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Exclusive interview with Thomas S. Monson

Editor’s Note: Unlike his predecessor, sixteenth LDS Church president Thomas S. Monson has regularly declined to be interviewed by newspaper and television reporters during the time of his leadership. Recently, however, Mr. Monson provided access for FOX News correspondent Brian Williams to have an exclusive interview. The following is the transcript of this interview.
ThomasMonsonBW: First of all, thank you for allowing me to speak to you, Prophet Monson. People wonder what the life of a prophet is like. Do you mind telling us what you did yesterday?
TSM: “I officiated as grand chaplain at the installation of the Nauvoo Lodge of Free Masons, at the Grove near the Temple. Grand Master Jonas, of Columbus, being present, a large num­ber of people assembled on the occasion. The day was exceed­ingly fine; all things were done in order, and universal satisfaction was manifested. In the evening I received the first degree in Free Masonry in the Nauvoo Lodge, assembled in my general business office.”
BW: How about this morning?
TSM: “This morning, I read German and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that `a prophet is always a prophet’; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such.”
BW: Some people have questioned your position as prophet. What is your response?
TSM: “My enemies say that I have been a true prophet. Why, I had rather be a fallen true prophet than a false prophet. When a man goes about prophesying, and commands men to obey his teachings, he must either be a true or false prophet. False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones.”
Continue reading at Mormon Coffee.