Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More Connection Between FAIR and LDS Corporation

Almost a year ago, Sept 2013, I disclosed that the More Good Foundation received money directly from LDS owned organizations and apparently funneled money to the apologetic organization FAIR.  The charter at FAIR states that they are a separate, unaffiliated organization from the LDS church and corporations.

However, some new evidence comes to light showing links.  In an email sent by Steve Densley, VP at FAIR, in July to advertise their upcoming FAIRMormon conference (Held the first week in Aug), he explained:

"The Church will also be creating a webpage for seminary and institute teachers that includes a link to the FairMormon website. Furthermore, the Church has notified all seminary and institute teachers of the FairMormon conference, the Church is giving them a vacation day in order to attend and FairMormon is waiving the fee for seminary and institute teachers."
This appears a fairly substantial backing by the LDS church of the FAIR organization and their apologetic conference.  While they didn't directly fund FAIR, they support FAIR to waive conference fees for their employees.  And even more, the LDS Church is paying the educators on church salary for a day's time to attend.


To wit, here is the email FAIR sent out.



---


From:  Steve Densley <sdensley@g***.com>
Sent: Sunday,  Jul 6, 2014, at 9:02 AM
Subject:  FairMormon Conference


As most of you all know, I am the vice president of FairMormon, a group that exists in order to respond to criticisms of the Church and to help people to resolve their doubts. As I have been involved in FairMormon, one of the most frustrating things is to find people who have left the Church due to questions or concerns they had about Church history or doctrine, when there are good answers to those questions. However, once they have committed themselves to leaving, they are not as open to considering the answer we offer. It seems that we would be much more effective if people were aware of us earlier.

The Church has started to address some of the big issues that cause concern for many people by posting articles on LDS.org in the Gospel Topics section. The Church will also be creating a webpage for seminary and institute teachers that includes a link to the FairMormon website. Furthermore, the Church has notified all seminary and institute teachers of the FairMormon conference, the Church is giving them a vacation day in order to attend and FairMormon is waiving the fee for seminary and institute teachers.

Bishops, stake presidents and relief society presidents also sometimes find themselves in circumstances where they are counseling with members who have questions, concerns and doubts. Therefore, we at FairMormon also want to extend an invitation to stake presidents, bishops and relief society presidents to attend the FairMormon Conference for free.

The conference is on August 7 & 8 at the Utah Valley Convention Center in Provo. If you are unable to attend in person, you can also listen to a live steam of the conference over the internet, and the stream will be available for a few weeks afterward, so you can still listen even if you were not able to on August 7 & 8.

We have a special link for Church leaders to use to sign up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/12HsX8kZfDuW1dF1bSvjKfDQYHocw32f_QeSvnE9QoaQ/viewform

For more information about the conference, you can contact me, or visit this page: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2014-fairmormon-conference

For more information about FairMormon in general, you can review the following article in the Church News and the subsequent links to the FairMormon website:





I hope you can join us in Provo on August 7 & 8, and if not, I hope you will find time to listen to the conference on line and explore the resources FairMormon has to offer.

Steve Densley
Vice President
FairMormon


---


Unfortunately, I received this email after the conference and was unable to directly access the google doc to acquire the form the LDS church leaders used to pay for their attendance fees at FAIR.  I would ask Steve Densley to confirm or deny this is accurate.

What does this mean?  FAIR seems to get more direct support from the LDS Church than either the church or the apologists would like to admit.



The connection may not be black and white, but it's still quite clear.





Monday, September 15, 2014

Articles of Incorporation Archive


I have obtained scans of the LDS Articles of Incorporation. For more information about these, see this blog post and this blog post.

Interestingly, there are several new amendments made by Monson, about ten in all from 2009 - 2014.   These amendments are the first ones since the 1973 amendment made by Harold Lee.  The 2014 amendment, given below, is essentially the same as most of them, with the exception of the June 2013 amendment (shown also below).


To wit, here are the scans for posterity. Click on any image to get the large view.

November 1923 original articles of incorporation:
1923, p1

1923, p2

The second article is most interesting.  It allows LDS inc to give property to any member they wish.

"The object of this corporation shall be to acquire, hold and dispose of such real and personal property as may be conveyed to or acquired by said corporation for the benefit of the members ...this corporation shall have power, without any authority or authorization from the members of said Church or religious society, to grant, sell, convey, rent, mortgage, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any part or all of such property."

Did you catch that?  The sole owner can convey in any manner they want any of the property or wealth held by the LDS corporation sole.  



June 1940, fourth article:
1940

This article mostly ensures the continuance of the ownership at the death of the current president.



November 1973, fifth article (on the dissolution of the LDS corporation):
1973, p1

1973, p2

Here's the pertinent quote:
"Upon the winding up and dissolution of this corporation, after paying or adequately providing for the debts and obligations of the corporation, the remaining assets shall be distributed to a nonprofit fund, foundation or corporation, which is organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, or religious and/or scientific purposes and which has established its tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

The LDS Corporate Sole considerable wealth, property and ownership of businesses could be disposed of to any  non-profit "fund" in the form of a "corporation" organized for "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes". That covers a lot of possibilities.


EDIT: A corporate lawyer (friend), informs me that this fifth article is a standard provision required by IRS Publication 557 to appear in any 501(c)(3) non-profit to maintain its charter, to ensure that the organization assets are "permanently dedicated to an exempt purpose" in case of dissolution.  

Perhaps not nefarious, but it sure is to the advantage of LDS Inc. either way.  The "charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes" seems to have widen the door the IRS opened for them.


Amendment in June 2013, giving designee Robert W. Cantwell a lot of powers to administer to the LDS Corporate Sole:
2013

July 2014, amendment giving deisgnees Robert Cantwell, Douglas Martin and Steven Penrose powers to execute stock and establish trading accounts:
2014




There's a possible big red flag here.  Robert Cantwell, now CFO for the LDS Church, has been the church auditor for years.  I'm investigating it.  Although, according to Cantwell's linked in bio, he stopped acting as the managing director of auditing in June 2013.  Then again, the IRS might find it interesting too that a former auditor goes to managing the funds he formerly audited. (IRS Whistleblower page)

For more info on the other two, see Doug Martin the treasurer at LDS Church and Steve Penrose, the Global Financial Reporting Manager at LDS Church. (Kevin Jergensen is the new managing auditor.)

See these images:


What is interesting here is how many (10) amendments have been made recently.  It could reflect a change in Utah law, requiring designees assigned each year and a change in the presidency (Hinckley to Monson in 2009).  However, I wonder if there isn't something strange afoot with regard to the significant change in designees in 2014.  

Could it be Monson's health is failing?  Could it be the LDS corporations are about to exercise the fifth article of the dissolution and are preparing all necessary powers and accounts?  Or it just could be standard operating principles.  However, there hasn't been an amendment filed like these for previous administrations.  Before Monson, there hasn't been an amendment filed since 1973, that I can find.  I can't understand why, if it is just standard operation to name your designees and officers. 



Now all that said, a little tongue-n-cheek bit:  The IRS Warned us about "Corporate Soles" being a tax evasion shelter.
These corporate vehicles are used by individuals to get exemption from federal income taxes as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3).  

"This scheme shamelessly tries to take advantage of special tax benefits available to legitimate religious groups and church leaders," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.  The IRS also warned that "the scam could be starting to spread with multiple cases seen recently in states such as Utah and Washington."

UTAH!!!

Of course, the LDS Church was there first.  The LDS Church holds 501(c)(3) status AND owns a big chunk of the fashionable City Creek Center (even if it is paying taxes on its profits) I think its legitimacy as a church and "charity" are questionable.  But again, it was there first! UTAH!!!  This is the most prophetic thing to come out of Mormonism ever.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Untold Plates



It’s been almost 9 months since the LDS History Dept released the topic essay on the Book of Mormon Translation, in which they admit that "Joseph placed the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument."   I joked at the time that God made “Reformed English” appear from the “Reformed Egytpian” written on the plates because the original manuscript was so chock-a-block with mistakes (4000+) that God needs remedial lessons in the English language.  

Little did I know that Daniel C Peterson would take that “Reformed English” idea so serious.  Peterson  claimed and quoted others that the Book of Mormon doesn’t use “the Modern English that we typically use today… It clearly draws on a wide array of … language forms and syntax from the Early Modern English period, some of them obscure and inaccessible to virtually everyone 200 years ago.” And, "The original English Book of Mormon is... “in large part” an Early Modern English text, “even reaching back in time to the transition period” from late Middle English into Early Modern English."

Apparently there is growing consensus in what critics have been claiming for decades:  The gold plates were not needed at all to produce the Early Modern (or late Middle) English text of the Book of Mormon.  It all appeared in a vision (or the mind) of Joseph Smith when he stared into darkness. Amazing? Probably not as much as Peterson would like.

Still Will Hamblin, another regarded LDS Apologist, released photos on his blog recently showing gold plates that existed in ancient Italy (ca. 2500 years ago) that resemble the descriptions Joseph Smith gave. 



Witnesses, Smith’s wife and a few others still contended that there were actual plates, even if Smith did not need them proximate to envision the Book of Mormon words floating inside a hat.  

So, were there plates or not? 

Some thoughtful analysis says no way, because gold plates of the size he claimed would have weighed perhaps over 100 lbs--enough that his story of running with them under arm, fending off would be thieves, could not have happen. 

Apologists have re-countered saying that the plates were not pure gold, just golden in appearance.  They find in South America evidence that Amerindians worked in a gold alloy called Tumbaga, which is primarily copper with some gold mixed in.  

Other critics believe Joseph Smith made mock plates, perhaps of tin, because he wasn't rich enough to own any gold.  Let’s assess the data…
  
If the plates actually existed, then they weighed around 50-60lbs according to those that hefted them (in the box or under cloth). The dimensions that "witnesses" offer of the box or the plates under the cloth, of 6x8x6 inches (or just under 300 cubic inches in volume).  The plates were about as thin as "common tin" or ~0.5-1mm thick. See this wiki entry.  Apologists agree with these values.  (See https://www.lds.org/ensign/1986/12/i-have-a-question  for example.)

If these are accepted, then pure gold plates would have a weight of between 100-210lbs (the upper weight if the volume were pure gold without spaces), more than double what witnesses claim.  (The calculation is based on gold's density of 0.7 lbs/cubed-inch X 300 cubed-inches ~= 210lbs solid mass, and 100 lbs for 50% empty space.)

Critics have contended that if he had actual plates (a big question) they were likely tin, because that would be financially accessible and workable by frontier folk like Smith.  http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no105.htm

I doubt either gold or tin.  Tin is not the right color. Though, it has a density of 0.26 lbs/cubed-inch and as such would have a volume weight for the plates around 40-80lbs.  Tumbaga, as apologists claim, of mostly copper would fit the story if the plates had been from ancient American sources.  Still, copper is about the right weight, with a density of 0.32 lbs/cubed-inch giving it a volume weight of around 50-90lbs.

My proposal is that IF the plates ever existed, we can assume that Smith simply thought of a book, but knowing paper couldn't endure thousands of years, proposed the ear-catching golden plates.  And he could have easily made a forgery set of plates from brass-plated copper.  It would be cheap, engravable, the correct weight and gold in color.  Copper plates were used regularly (and for hundreds of years before Smith) by printshops. Most cheap copper plates were right around 1mm thick, though some expensive ones are thicker. Copper printing plates were tossed away or re-used.  Plates the size of a book page (6x8 inches) would be quite accessible in the bins outside a printshop.   


Historical copper plate

The only problem is, copper is not gold in color.  That is easily remedied by brass-plating them, which even a novice apprentice-blacksmith could do simply using zinc powder and lye (sodium hydroxide).  This trick is done in elementary school science classes, using pennies.  

  
Interestingly, Oliver Cowdery had apprenticed as a blacksmith and was adequately good at it before turning to teaching.  See the 1890 (google scanned) book History of Utah: 1540-1886 By Hubert Howe Bancroft, Alfred Bates




Also this 1884 book.  


And this 1913 book.


Once you have gold-colored plates, all that was needed was to scratch some "caractors" (characters that may have come from the Detroit manuscript with latin short-hand script) into the surface of the plates (engraving copper plates are made just for that purpose).


 

One can also imagine that it's far too much work to scratch a whole novel of made-up "caractors" into dozens of plates.  Used printer plates would have engravings on at least one side and it would be apparent what they were on very close inspection.  Cursory glances of a few unused blank plates ontop and used plates under them would suffice to "prove" the claims Smith made.  The rest of the throw-away printer-engraven plates could be fastened together in a sealed portion, to make it look much more involved and real, without the risk of exposing the trick.  Hence the sealed portion. And the reason the plates were not needed for translation, nor allowed to be seen except by a few witnesses who were family and already believers. 

Of course, even at 50-60lbs, running with these fabricated plates would still prove very challenging, as exhibited by this fun test.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08wRRff8x0k

The LDS History dept and apologists are the ones who are running with a heavy burden.  They are burdened with an antiquated story full of holes about the founding of their religious organization.  The Apostles are out of breath, Running with the Olden Plates


Interestingly, Joseph Smith may have conned others with forged plates, but he himself was conned with other forged plates.  These are the famed Kinderhook plates, which scientist analyzed and found to be 19th century forgeries.  Plate forgery in the mid 19th century was easy enough and fooled many, at least good enough to trick the LDS church into the 20th century (~1980).  Faithful frontier witnesses of plates surely were as gullible.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Solely a Psychopathic Corporation

In the late 19th century the US supreme court was asked to apply the 14th Amendment to corporations and define them as individuals with all the same rights individual persons have. The court agreed. It was but a few decades later that the LDS church transitioned from a nominal corporation to a Corporation Sole. (See this for the official registry.  )

I detailed the LDS corporation sole in a very early blog including how it might end up dissolving. (See this blog.)

Under a common definition, a corporation sole consists of one person only, and the successors of that person in some particular station or office. (See this definition.)


The LDS corporation is treated not only like an individual under US law, but is actually literally an individual (as held by its office of President).


So, if the LDS corporation sole is legally and to some degree literally an individual with all the rights, issues and factors of other individuals, I wondered...

... Shouldn't the "individual" be tested for mental disorders, such as psychopathy?

I want to make it very clear-- First, I am not evaluating whether members of the church are psychopaths. Not at all.  The members are generally good-hearted, hard-working, loving people caught in a corporate sole that is, I opine, the opposite. Second, I realize psychologists would not like this, but I find it educational to consider something outside the box. While the LDS Corporation may not be a single mind (despite being a sole-owned corporation of the prophet), if legally it can be considered equivalent to an individual then it could be assessed as such for interest. I admit I am an amateur here, just stretching the analysis.

So how does the LDS Corporation Sole stack up?

One of the most accepted psychopathy checklists is the Hare list.(see the Hare list here. )


The primary list of Factor 1 on Hare's criteria is summarized as "Aggressive narcissism" and includes:


1- Glibness/superficial charm

2- Grandiose sense of self-worth
3- Pathological lying
4- Cunning/manipulative
5- Lack of remorse or guilt
6- Shallow affect (genuine emotion is short-lived and egocentric)
7- Callousness; lack of empathy
8- Failure to accept responsibility for own actions



In my estimation, the LDS corporation rarely if ever issues an "apology" or admission of error, even lying/covering up to hide their issues (Hare factors 3,5 & 8).  Even when issuing an essay about how the LDS church practiced racism for over 130 years, well past the US civil rights acts, they couldn't take full responsibility.  Not once has the LDS Church issued a single apology to those they banned from their priesthood, saying instead that they don't precisely know why, how, or when this racism  began but they are glad it ended decades ago. 

When members approach LDS scholars with  their doubts, they are often chided for not having learned beyond the correlated lessons of structured church organizations.  They are told that had they done their homework, they would have known the answers to their doubts.  This blaming the doubter is turning into attacking the questioner, and is classic fulfillment of Hare factors 3 & 8.

If that arrogance isn't enough, they believe they are the one and only true organization from the supreme intelligence (Hare factors 1 & 2). Monson, their current sole-owner prophet, feels so elite that he decried "so-called science" to belittle evolution and cosmology which counters his "truth" of a literal creation. Russel M Nelson, heart surgeon and apostle, glibly said of the human body, '
some people erroneously think that these marvelous physical attributes happened by chance or resulted from a big bang somewhere. Ask yourself, “Could an explosion in a printing shop produce a dictionary?” ' This is a strawman argument said from extreme pride to counter science.

They use tactics which are prototypical manipulations of individuals and of the public (one face for the media, another for members) (Hare factors 4 & 6).  Apostle Dallin Oaks, a former judge who understands the ethics of tampering with witnesses through manipulation, applies these very abusive practices in his general conference talks. (see * below for examples).  


The LDS Church hits the mark on Hare factors 6 & 7.  While they speak of empathy and charity, they give far less than even for-profit Target corporation to humanitarian aid.  Their words call for love, but their policies show no empathy.  They divide families against each other, and ensure through their temple requirements that worthy members denounce and do not associate with family who have doubts or have left the church.  They have used electroshock aversion therapies at BYU with gays.  In fact they brag that they expect, in the words of Joseph Smith, that as the one-and-only true church with the power to save others, the organization must "require the sacrifice of all things" from its members.  They will require tithing from impoverished members who can't afford to pay rent.  All while the corporation sole won't sacrifice profits behind billion-dollar malls, their Polynesian theme parks and the up-coming Philly 32-story condo highrise.


There is little to no correcting mechanism at LDS Inc that isn't completely outside the member's purvey. You can't vote, you can't have a union, you can't disagree. The leaders with that much power, love having that much power. It's all about power and control of people and money.


Factor 2 of Hare's criteria, includes:

  • Parasitic lifestyle (LDS church living off the member's donations and service)
  • Irresponsibility (not owning up to its behavior that ruins the lives of others)
  • Criminal versatility (well...perhaps one day we will have the evidence)


Summing up, LDS inc as a corporation individual would indeed classify positive under at least Factor 1 of the Hare list for psychopathy.




The LDS church skulking in 
the shadows of psychological abuse



* Dallin Oaks quotes showing psychological manipulation and abuse, include as some examples in one talk alone:
  • Insufficient Justification effect (psychological brainwashing) -- "We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it. Someone even suggested that some testimonies are better gained on the feet bearing them than on the knees praying for them."
  • Stereotyping and judgementalism (i.e., atheist are insincere, unlike believers)  -- "Though some profess atheism, there are many who are open to additional truths about God. To these sincere seekers, we need to affirm the existence of God."
  • Ego identity bias and brainwashing -- "We should also strengthen our children by encouraging them to define themselves by their growing testimonies."
  • Encouraging victimhood over mere disagreement -- "When he was persecuted for telling people about his vision, he likened his circumstance to the Apostle Paul, who was ridiculed and reviled ... We live in a time when some misrepresent the beliefs of those they call Mormons and even revile us because of them."


Monday, September 1, 2014

Ignorance Catastrophe


Rise of the internet has led to a number of books, speeches and proclamations that there is an End of Faith, Modern Apostasy, Crucible of Doubt, and many versions of faith crisis” all around.  The phrase faith crisis is probably the most commonly used to express a concern that a lot of people currently face doubts about their faith (or their family religion) after viewing contrary information online.  Almost all world religions face this so-called crisis lately, mostly because the internet has made available vast libraries, history and discussions amongst doubters to members of almost all modern religions (those which have not been successful in shutting out the internet from their patrons).

But what, really, is a faith crisis? 

Let’s take the definitions.  Faith, in the religious context, is strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on inward (spiritual) apprehension rather than external evidence.  In fact, most Christians and Mormons define it as “hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” And how do they know it is not true if it is not seen or measured in some valid manner?  They rely on inward belief of what they feel inside is true.  They cannot have evidence and call it faith, “for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” (Alma 32:18)  

In fact, LDS prophets speak frequently about keeping the faith and enduring to the end.  As one BYU professor explained it: 
“I strongly suspect that this is exactly where the evidentiary situation is divinely intended to remain, pending Judgment Day. If the evidence for those claims were as conclusive as a proof in geometry, no meaningful intellectual freedom would remain to us.”

Never mind how ridiculous are his thoughts on "intellectual freedom", clergy say that without faith there would be no test, and the plan of God would be frustrated.  Because faith is the first principle of most churches, then lacking evidence is necessary to God’s plan.  

I want to explain that in another way so it’s clear what we’re reading. Let me use arithmetic:   
Faith = no evidence + belief
AND,  No evidence = no facts  
ALSO,  No facts = ignorance  

THUS, by the associative law our final answer is:  
Faith = ignorance + belief.

Now onto the second word of the phrase: Crisis.  By definition, a crisis is a time of intense difficulty.  A synonym is Catastrophe, such that:

 Faith Crisis = Ignorance Catastrophe.

I understand that the people raising the alarm of a faith crisis will not like my equating it to an Ignorance Catastrophe.  Is it a catastrophe?  Yes, for those in the faith business, it really is. Their bread and butter of tithing, devotion, voluntary hours, praise, adoration, book sells and more are threatened by diminishing ignorance as the internet floods their members with actual facts and rational thinking.  The ignorance smashing has reached such a level it is looking to them like a crisis or a catastrophe.

How dare others remove the ignorance of their members and cause these difficulties in their power position within the religions?

On the other hand, expats of the faith industry are enjoy the opposite of a catastrophe, once they work through their own religious self-identity crisis[1].   Former members of most religions enjoy extra time, extra money, more freedom of choice, and less guilt about not believing or following rituals on ignorance.  They’re not having a faith crisis anymore.  Quite the opposite, they are often having a fact advantage or even a knowledge breakthrough.

Sure some people live in such conditions of poverty or depression that they need to feel a higher power has a plan for them.  Yes, we all enjoy a social network and community like those found within religions. But why must the impoverished and depressed be subjected to so much guilt, tithing and hours of praising leaders and God in order to get a lift out of that depression or have a social community?  Is ignorance+belief really the most effective “crutch” we can come up with?  The LDS corporation has probably over $60 Billion in assets and liquid cash on hand.  How are they really helping the impoverished and depressed in ways found in a true charity devoted to helping the despairing among us?

If religions were to actually sit down with the ex-members who’ve left, would they find most of them with their lives in crisis?  Well, they might if they’re a cult and they caused the crisis by pitting other members and even the family of that “faithless” ex-member against them.  How can I be sure?  I can’t be absolutely sure in every case but if you look at examples of people the world over without faith, religion or mystical belief and compare them to those with high degree of faith and belief, you won’t find the non-believers in any bigger crisis or life problems. Except, perhaps, for the prejudice against atheist that believers have.

The faith crisis is not a crisis that most ex-members believe in.  They have personal evidence against this so-called crisis; evidence they can count directly in their increased bank account, their higher number of free hours, their lower need for anti-depression meds and more.

The evidence tells us that the Ignorance Catastrophe only truly affects those who believe in it.


In the middle of the night, I go walking in my sleep, through the desert of truth.


[1] Religious Self Identity Crisis is a phrase I use to describe the effects of removing yourself from your religion when its leaders have encouraged you to define yourself by the beliefs they teach you.  It is an insidious practice.  Dallin Oaks, apostle, lawyer and former judge who should know from all those years in law school and sitting on the bench that manipulation is psychologically damaging, practices a form of psychological abuse in speeches, such as this one at general conference, in which he says:
"We should also strengthen our children by encouraging them to define themselves by their growing testimonies."
Once that child finds out they can no longer remain in the LDS church and have integrity of truth, what happens to their cult-induced religious self-identity?  It is in crisis.  Leaving the church is the psychological equivalent of cutting off an arm.

Ask: How could God have inspired it?


All Mormon children one time or another get this lesson. As you read the Book of Mormon, ask yourself: How could an uneducated young man, practically a boy, have written the Book of Mormon? 

Then they are given something like this list:

  • 1. Could an uneducated boy come up with 531 pages in a few short months?
  • 2. Could that boy understand ancient Hebrew literary writing styles?
  • 3. Could that boy know so much about the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula?
  • 4. Could that boy come up with about 180 new names in the Book of Mormon?
  • 5. Could a boy be deceived by the Devil to write a volume that inspires morality?
  • 6. Could that boy have accounted for the “Lost Sheep” mentioned in the bible?
  • 7. How could that boy know decades before that non-LDS scholars would agree that Christ visited America?
  • 8. Could that boy have accounted for the “sticks” referenced in Ezekiel 37:15-20?
  • 9. Why would the other 12 witnesses of the gold plates lie or be part of an uncovered conspiracy?
  • 10. Could that boy write a complex volume that doesn’t ever contradict itself?
  • 11. Could a boy have conceived of the marvelous Moroni 10 promise?
  • 12. Would tens of thousands of learned intellectuals follow the book written by that boy?
  • 13. Could that boy have convinced an older man to finance the printing of that book?
  • 14. Why would that boy, as a man, suffer persecution and eventually die for the book?

These questions give the illusion that Joseph Smith couldn't have written the Book of Mormon by himself without inspiration or God's help, therefore you are constrained to accept that it is a miracle and given by God.

Lists like this have been floating around Mormondom for decades or longer.  You can find arguments like these on many blogs (like this, or this).

Most of these are answered in one place; all of them have been addressed in various places.



I want to turn the tables on this Go-Fish game.

How could the supreme intelligence, God, have inspired prophets to write something as erroneous the Book of Mormon? 

If it were actually God-inspired, consider the following:

  • 1. Would God have inspired ancient writers to waste so many engravings of 1,381 “it came to pass” phrases and other wordy words on gold plates swelling the book well past 500 pages when the main part of the story would actually fit in about 60-70% that space if edited by skilled or thoughtful editors, redactors and writers?








  • 5. Would God have inspired ancient writers of 3 Nephi to contradict so much archaeology yet to be discovered (but known by God), leaving no evidence of the 3-day darkness, and the deaths of so many with the destruction of dozens of cities that God angrily smashed, drowned or burned when his son Jesus was crucified an ocean away?


  • 6. Would God have inspired ancient writers to confuse the meaning of ‘horse’, ‘sheep’, ‘wheat’, ‘barely’, ‘elephants’, ‘cow/cattle’, ‘goats’, ‘honey bees’, ‘steel’, ‘coins’, the ‘wheel’, ‘silk’, ‘chariots’, ‘cimeters’, ‘bellows’,  and more from 2000 years ago in America?






  • 9. Would God have inspired ancient writers to put so many erroneous claims, anachronistic mistakes, and miscalculations about ancient America that dozens of Mesoamerican and Amerindian scholars come forward to witness that it is just imaginative fiction with no basis in real science?




  • 11. Would God have inspired ancient writers to introduce so many linguistic issues into an ancient America text, including adding Deutero and Trito Isaiah texts into plates purported to be about 2600 years old, when the Deutero and Trito Isaiah texts weren’t actually written until 100-200 years later (2400y.a. (trito) or 2500y.a. (deutero))?


  • 12. Would God have inspired ancient writers to create an ancient American work so dull that one of modern America’s foremost writers (Mark Twain) would call it “chloroform in print”?


  • 13. Would God have inspired the “translator” of the ancient record to endeavor to sell its copyright and all rights to the book in Canada, yet fail to get anyone truly interested in the book because it was fraught with grammar issues and boring stories?




Anyone giving me their list of "Could a boy have written it" needs to explain away my list.

You can also ask, how could an educated person have made so many mistakes writing the Book of Mormon and attempt to pass it off as a true history?


And so the argument falls...







Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Putting on the Ritner



I promised over a month ago to provide a second blog reply to the LDS essay on the Book of Abraham Translation. Since my first reply, Dr. Robert Ritner, Professor of Egyptology in the Oriental Institute, housed at the University of Chicago, has given such a thorough smashing of the essay, I can hardly add to it. 

Instead, I will try to briefly outline the wonderful response Dr. Ritner gave.  If you can wade into it and read it, I think you will find satisfaction that many of the LDS claims bubbling up from their internally funded “Egyptologists” are answered by Ritner.

What did I mean when I say “internally funded ‘Egyptologists’”?  Dr. Kara Cooney, a media darling and real Egyptologist at UCLA is quoted (by FAIR no less) as saying:  “Mormons are funding PhDs in Egyptology and Biblical Studies and then funding positions at BYU and elsewhere and passing these people off as experts, when they are only ideologically driven researchers, not experts interested in actual evidence.”


Hm.

If you read through the entire BoA LDS essay, you reach a point at the end where several very revolutionary (in the field of Egyptology) claims are made.  These include support for “human sacrifice” under Egyptian rule over offenses of not worshipping their idolatrous gods (notes 35-36); post Egyptian Coptic texts which connect Abraham to Egyptian history (so far, Abraham is not found in any ancient Egyptian papyri) (note 44); and Coptic texts stating that Abraham taught Pharaoh celestial astronomy (note 45).  Do these claims stack up to the actual evidence or are they ideologically driven by BYU researchers?

As a general summary to Dr. Ritner’s view of the LDS essay, he stated:  “the LDS paper attempts to engage in scholarly debate from a one-sided position, repeatedly citing in the footnotes the same limited set of apologists who are primarily church employees at BYU in Provo.” 

Hm.

He also concludes: 
"With the Book of Abraham now confirmed as a perhaps well-meaning, but erroneous invention by Joseph Smith, the LDS church may well devote some reflection to the status of the text..."

Ritner quickly puts the BoA facsimiles in their place.  His last facsimile comment is worth repeating: 
“Smith also misunderstands “Pharaoh” as a personal name rather than a title meaning “king,” so he reads “king king” for a goddess’s name that he claims to have understood on the papyrus!”  (Someone should let Daniel C Peterson in on yet another misuse of “Pharaoh” since he seems to believe its use in Facsimile 1 supports Smith’s translation claims.)

The body of the BoA poses similar problems for Ritner.  “The problems are by no means limited to the Facsimiles, since the text itself includes anachronistic and impossible expressions.”  These include (Ritner’s list):  “Potiphar’s Hill” (Abra. 1:10), Egyptian “human sacrifice” (Abra. 1:11-12), “Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham” (Abra. 1:25) [Pharaoh is a title, not a name, Egyptus is the primary temple in Memphis], and so on.  That’s just in the first chapter of Abraham.

The LDS essay uses its BYU and church funded Egyptologists like Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee to produce numerous articles littered with obfuscating language to purport support for the Smith translation of the papyrus into the BoA text.  These prolific experts tend to leave most faithful LDS members with the impression they are true “experts, when they are only ideologically driven researchers, not experts interested in actual evidence” (in the words of Dr. Cooney).  But Ritner cuts through their BS.

Probably the most significant claim by Muhlestein as cited in the LDS essay (notes 35-36) is that “People who challenged the standing religious order, either in Egypt or in the regions over which it had influence (such as Canaan), could and did suffer execution for their offenses.”  

In other words, evidence that the Egyptians practiced human sacrifice is shown in that they practiced capital punishment.  Ritner cuts this at the knees, stating that Muhlestein ‘intentionally avoids the term “human sacrifice” in favor of “sanctioned killing”.’  Ritner clarifies that ‘there is no parallel to the Book of Abraham’s intended “martyrdom” for refusing to worship the images of Egyptian gods. That would happen under Roman prosecution of Christians, but personal worship (or its refusal) was not a basic concern of the ancient Egyptian state.’

The LDS essay cites John Gee’s work (note 44) to show support that “A third-century papyrus from an Egyptian temple library connects Abraham with an illustration similar to facsimile 1 in the book of Abraham.”  

However, writes Ritner, “The text in question, a Leiden magical papyrus in Demotic Egyptian and Greek … does include a picture of a mummy attended by Anubis —mentioned by name— on a lion funerary couch (not an “altar”), but the text is a love compulsion spell intended to force a woman to submit to a male’s sexual lust, not a reflection of the Book of Abraham… there is no intent here to represent a sacrifice, just Osiris tended by Anubis, who are both invoked to inflame the libido of the female victim of the spell.” 

Did you see that?  We’ve seen over and over that Joseph Smith confused pictorials of females for males in the three facsimiles, but now John Gee is doing it too!  In true tradition of "Mormon Egyptology" (and their bias against ordaining women and gay rights) the LDS “experts” have a real problem with gender dysphoria.

The LDS essay cites another of Gee’s works (note 45) to claim that “A later Egyptian text, discovered in the 20th century, tells how the Pharaoh tried to sacrifice Abraham, only to be foiled when Abraham was delivered by an angel. Later, according to this text, Abraham taught members of the Pharaoh’s court through astronomy.”  

Ritner clarifies that, “The text that Gee presents is a Sahidic Coptic panegyric praising a Christian saint… recounts the attempted martyrdom of a saint, but not necessarily the patriarch, Abraham.”  Gee first got his genders confused, now his eras are confused.  What’s next?  Ritner continues, “Gee’s article is not honest in its title, its suppression of prior important scholarship, and its presentation of the principal actors. Gee never acknowledges that the Abraham of the text is not —or even that he might not be— the patriarch Abraham.” 

Dr. Ritner rightly suggests questioning Gee’s honesty.  Just as Dr.  Cooney had opined, these men are funded to acquire doctorates in Egyptology for positions at BYU campuses to support statements and footnotes in essays that obfuscate the true evidence in order to shield the doubts of common members.  What a sham.

(For a fun read, visit this Mormonthink page about "astronomy" in the Book of Abraham.)

The LDS Essay does admit the existence of the papyri, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar  guide created from the papryi (by Joseph Smith and his scribes), but they try to dismiss their connection to the translated work called The Book of Abraham, saying, "The relationship of these documents to the book of Abraham is not fully understood. Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today."


To those not familiar, my understanding is the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar book that Smith and his scribes created appears to have developed as Smith claims to translate the papyri.  He wrote an Egyptian character in the (I believe) left margin, and a sentence or whole paragraph of the translated meaning of the single glyph.  Critics (like Ritner) have said this is completely erroneous is both translation and even use of hieratic.  LDS Apologists (including the new LDS essay) have told members that the translation probably didn't use Smith's Grammar book, and that it was probably his scribes trying to reverse-engineer Smith's translation, not Smith's development of the translation.

Ritner contends: 
"[I]n contrast to the new LDS statement, it is not true that “no eyewitness account of the translation survives.” Smith’s secretary Warren Parrish wrote in an 1838 letter in the Painesville Republican: “I have set (sic) by his side and penned down the Egyptian hieroglyphicks (sic) as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration from heaven.” Smith’s “divine inspiration” was not, however, divorced from a direct attempt to translate the characters of the Egyptian papyrus, as is clear from surviving manuscript pages of the evolving text of the Book of Abraham. These pages, unmentioned in the new LDS church posting, were published in 1966 in microfilm reproductions and in transcription by Jerald Tanner as Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, Salt Lake City, Utah Lighthouse Ministry. These microfilm pages are the “smoking gun” evidence that resolves the history of the Book of Abraham translation process."

On the one hand the LDS Church wants to show you evidence from their experts while refusing to show the evidence (held in microfilm) that ties Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar guide to the translation he purported.  Honesty from Salt Lake?  Hm.

Will the LDS Church History department release the complete set of Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, as it was microfiched in about 1966 by Jerald Tanner?  This version is more complete than what the LDS Church has released so far, and the Tanner copy has evidence of the evolution of the Book of Abraham "translation".  The copy includes Egyptian script on the left corresponding to lengthy English on the right. The English is the text of the Book of Abraham as it was being modified and would be published, with obvious deletions and revisions in the handwritten English text.

If the LDS History dept wants to be honest, they would publish these and let all members decide for themselves once and for all about the source of the Book of Abraham.


In conclusion, let me just quote Dr. Ritner at length, because it is so choice (to quote Ferris Bueller, another fellow from Chicago). 
“Scholarly rejection of the authenticity of the Book of Abraham is not new and has continued unabated since the study by Jules Remy and Théodule Devéria in 1861, with multiple scholars (including A. H. Sayce, Arthur Mace, Flinders Petrie, and James H. Breasted) dismissing the book’s validity in 1912. With the rediscovery of the papyri at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1967, analysis by John Wilson, Richard Parker and Klaus Baer (all 1968), and even the LDS apologist Hugh Nibley (in 1975) disproved any possibility that the Book of Abraham could be an acceptable translation of the surviving Egyptian papyri. My own works on the papyri (in 2002, 2003, 2011 and 2013) showed the same result, as did the LDS-sponsored translations by Michael Rhodes (2002) and the 2005 revision of Nibley’s volume. Thus has arisen a host of alternative defenses for the Book of Abraham, questioning the meaning of the word “translation,” the length of the original papyri, the possibility of a now-lost section with the Abraham text, etc. Many of these defensive positions are referenced in the new LDS church posting. However, clear links between the papyri and the published woodcut illustrations of the Book of Abraham are unmistakable, and the woodcuts contain explicit “explanations” by Joseph Smith, as even the new LDS position paper acknowledges: “Facsimile 1 contains a crocodile deity swimming in what Joseph Smith called ‘the firmament over our heads’ (emphasis added).” Smith also explained the images on the published “Facsimile 2,” writing as follows: “The above translation is given as far as we have any right to give, at the present time” The Book of Abraham itself is specifically subtitled “translated from the papyrus, by Joseph Smith.”

In other words: Real scholars have studied the Book of Abraham and accompanying papyrus and found Joseph Smith to be a real fraud.