Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Book of fAbricam

This is part one of my rebuttal(s) to the long essay at the LDS Topic site, called "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham".  I am extremely busy at the moment, so please be patient with further responses.  (Part two is now here.)

I follow my earlier format of claims first, and then the facts.

Essay Claim:  “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the book of Abraham as scripture.”

Facts:  In the beginning line, we have a definitive statement that will likely haunt the LDS Church for decades to come.  They reaffirm the book of Abraham (BoA) is indeed “embraced” as scripture.  Yet, when was the last time they spent much time discussing it in their general conference?  Since I no longer attend, I can’t say for sure, but my intuition tells me they have disregarded it as scripture by omission for a decade.

Essay Claim: “The book originated with Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith translated beginning in 1835.”

Facts: The claim is that Smith “translated” it but the word translate is never nailed down in definition.   The essay moves from “Joseph Smith claimed no expertise in any language” to “The Lord did not require Joseph Smith to have knowledge of Egyptian.”  They leave it as a mystery how Joseph Smith “translated” the BoA.  They take at his word that he did it by “the gift and power of God” requiring extreme faith because of the facts that have followed over the century and a half since.   At one point later in the essay, they try to compare the process to how Cowdery was supposed to attempt translating the Book of Mormon from a stone in a hat with the plates removed from his possession (see the "Mad Hatter Translation" blog here) and imagine (i.e., study) the plates and translation of them in his mind:

“Neither the Lord nor Joseph Smith explained the process of translation of the book of Abraham, but some insight can be gained from the Lord’s instructions to Joseph regarding translation. In April 1829, Joseph received a revelation for Oliver Cowdery that taught that both intellectual work and revelation were essential to translating sacred records. It was necessary to “study it out in your mind” and then seek spiritual confirmation. Records indicate that Joseph and others studied the papyri and that close observers also believed that the translation came by revelation.” (from the essay)

However, Smith’s (and his scribes) wrote in his own words, specifics about the “translation” process that contradict the latest topic essay, including (emphasis added): 

“I commence the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 236 – July 1835).

“[July, 1835] -- The remainder of this month I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 238).

“October 1 [, 1835] -- This afternoon labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers O. Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham...” (Ibid, p. 286)

“November 17, 1835 -- Exhibited the alphabet of the ancient records, to Mr. Holmes, and some others” (Ibid, p. 316).

“The record of Abraham and Joseph, found with the mummies, is beautifully written upon papyrus, with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 348—possibly attributed to Cowdery).

Clearly the writers of the latest topic essay have either ignorantly left out or purposely hid Smith’s own words about the translation process, saying there are no eyewitness to the mysterious process.  Joseph Smith, in whom they place the gift of God said some fairly precise statements about the process.  These words lead us to conclude that at the very least Smith believed he was translating in a usual process through alphabets, grammar and writing upon papyrus.   If he believed he was performing this kind of literal translation from the papyrus written upon by the hand of Abraham then either he was duped by himself or by God as to what was happening.  Either way, this opens some serious questions about trustworthiness in the process and 'translator'.

Essay Claim: “It is likely futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession... Since only fragments survive, it is likely that much of the papyri accessible to Joseph when he translated the book of Abraham is not among these fragments.”

Facts: This statement is very suspect.  They claim that we have only a fraction with only one statement from unnamed “eyewitnesses” who said he saw it unrolled on the floor.  In actuality, the eyewitness (from note 32) is actually a story attributed to Joseph F. Smith.  But this quote is known only from a casual comment by Hugh Nibley, who heard it from Preston Nibley, who heard it from President Smith, who was recalling a time when he was five years old or younger.  Hearsay.  I dare the LDS Church to show us otherwise.

Furthermore other studies have shown that we likely have the larger portion of the papyri.  For example, the following Dialogue (a journal written by scholarly Mormons) article goes into complex mathematical calculations in order to accurately estimate the total length of the original papyri using the recovered papyri and markings on the papyri. This winding analysis indicates how big of a scroll the papyri were originally rolled into when they were put in with the mummies. This way they can estimate how much papyri can possibly be missing from the papyri.  

The scholars using mathematics conclude: 

“...no more than 56 cm of papyrus can be missing from the scroll’s interior.  Shortly after the papyri were recovered by the LDS Church, Klaus Baer estimated the original length of the Hôr scroll to have been 150–155 cm. He arrived at this estimate by comparing the text to other copies of the Document of Breathing, particularly Papyrus Louvre... Baer’s estimate for the length of papyrus missing from the scroll’s interior, starting from the left edge of the innermost extant fragment, is 14+35+0.5+16+0.5=59 cm. This agrees remarkably well with the 56 cm obtained from our winding analysis. … The ultimate success of any existing or future theory will depend on its ability to account for all of the evidence, including the fact that there was simply no room on the papyrus for anything besides the Breathing text.”

The upshot of this is, we have about two-thirds of the completed scroll, of which never mentions Abraham, and whose translation is determined by dozens of scholars as the traditional, well know Egyptian Document of the Breathing.  The missing portion of scroll is very well accounted in missing portion of the traditional Breathing which leads scholars to conclude “the fact that there was simply no room on the papyrus for anything besides the Breathing text.”

When the essay says “fraction” they imply a tiny portion such that the remainder would have the actual source of the BoA. But scholars have mathematically measured the scroll and found this claim wholly wrong.  The LDS Church ignorantly or deliberately leaves this information out of the essay.

Essay Claim: “The loss of a significant portion of the papyri means the relationship of the papyri to the published text cannot be settled conclusively by reference to the papyri.”

Facts: Bullshit. And they know it.  They contradicted themselves elsewhere in their own essay.  Quote: "The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1."  They claim first we cannot test the translation because we have none of the actual fragments Smith used.  Then they claim it is "included" and "appears" in the BoA fascimile 1 (and we know #2 and #3 as well).

 We have literal translations of each facsimile which are printed in every copy of the BoA in the Pearl of Great Price.  If Smith translated these directly, as the notations provide in each member’s copy, and they almost entirely do not match scholarly translations, then the essay is wrong.  We can test the translation against the published text because a direct relationship between them exists. 

To wit, I will use Bart Pascoal’s wonderful infographics to illustrate:

Click on each above graphic to read the small text in larger size.  For an extremely thorough discussion of these and more issues about the book of Abraham, please visit this Mormonthink page

The upshot is, Smith attempted to claim he was translating directly from the characters on the pictorials of the facsimiles.  This direct relationship to the text (found in the surviving 2/3rds of papyri) show a complete failure at translating.  How then can one have faith that the rest of the text is correct?  Furthermore, if it’s shown with little doubt that Joseph Smith could not translate regular Egyptian in the papyri we do have, then how can we trust he translated something called “reformed Egyptian” on gold plates we don’t have?

The case of the Book of Abraham is tied to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.  The essay writers plainly said so when they compared the translation methods between the two (quoted above) and left Smith hung out to dry.  He couldn’t translate Egyptian, reformed Egyptian or anything else except his own imagination.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Founding Fathers Would Jeer at Utah on this 4th

In past 4th's of July I would've wanted to raise a respectable mug of homemade root beer to the Doctrine and Covenants for giving me a civics lesson.  Discussing religious freedom and liberty, it reads in Section 101, verse 80:  
"I [the Lord] established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose..."

God said he raised up wise men to establish the constitution, so that "every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency." (v. 78)

What were the morals, doctrines and principles of these wise men of Constitution establishment? 

According to Kevin Bleyer at the Daily Beast:  
"Our Constitution was written by men who owned breweries and imported whiskey—fine businesses both—but also imbibed those products to an astounding degree, and then humped cows in the streets. The amount of staggering was staggering."  (Life, Liberty and the Founding Father's Pursuit of Hoppiness)

Many of us have heard several of the founders had problems keeping it in their pants. In the book, The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers, author Thomas Fleming details infidelities by George Washington, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison.  Franklin, for example, led a polygamous life with  two "wives," -- one in London and one in Philadelphia. Washington carried a secret with Sally Cary Fairfax behind Martha's back. Hamilton and Jefferson had adulterous relationships, the latter with his black slave Sally Hemings.

What some of you may not have known are the excesses in drinking that raged at Constitutional Hall.  Bleyer states there is evidence that:
 "Almost all the Framers imbibed. Most didn’t just drink beer...the fact remains, they drank beer for breakfast. While writing the Constitution.  Don’t believe any claims they weren’t binge-drinkers and were just letting off a little steam—again, and I can’t stress this enough, they did so while delicately crafting our basic system of laws. After they finished the four months of drunken civic-mindedness, the 55 men who were about to sign the document piled into Philadelphia’s City Tavern on Friday, September 14, 1787 and guzzled enough booze to fell a stack of elephants: 60 bottles of claret, 54 bottles of Madeira, 50 bottles of “old stock,” vats of porter, cider, and beer, and what has been described as “some” bowls of rum punch. So raucous did the celebration get that City Tavern took the unusual step of sending along a bill for “breakage.” "

When God said he raised wise men for the purpose of framing the US Constitution, I think of God winking at us to raise a pint to and with the writers.  These guys would outdo most frat parties, by the sound of it.  Perhaps God likes him some partying.

So celebrate your 4th of July like the founders did if you will.  It's okay if you Mormons raise a mug of root beer, but the framers would laugh at you.

“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” 
--1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by Founding Father John Adams

Thursday, July 3, 2014

$4+ Billion Free in Labor

Veilware--the new product of Wallstreet. 

Recently, the Deseret News accounted the LDS missionary sales force to peak at 88,000 missionaries. These missionaries work labor-free, at least 50 hours (more likely 60-80 hours) per week when you include weekends.  The larger percent of them pay for their own living costs, to the tune of (I believe) $450 per month, and are now asked, according to the Dnews, to pay for their own iPads at $400 each.

That's 88,000 missionaries working 50+ hours per week -- a total of 228,800,000 hours of free annual labor.

It's interesting that the DNews article mentioned iPads.  In 2012 I compared the LDS Corporation with Apple Inc, concluding that:  "LDSinc is a mind-boggling large, enormously well-fed, tax-exempt privately held company that seems to dwarf Apple Computer. "

I gave more numbers in that 2012 blog to show that, financially, LDS corp has asset holdings and liquid cash estimated to rival Apple Inc.  What the LDS corporation has that Apple doesn't shouldn't surprise you:  LDS Inc has $4+ Billion in free sales-force labor, if you consider each salesman is about the same age and competency as an Apple Inc store salesman.

How did I get that $4 Billion number?

...88,000 missionaries
x 50 hours per week
x 52 weeks per year
x 2 years per mission
x $10/hour wage

Each of these missionaries is hoping to hook new converts that will donate 10% of their lifetime income to the LDS corporation. In the USA, per convert that could total six-figures of donations over a couple decades, not to mention free labor of service by cleaning buildings, selling the gospel for free to new converts and counting the monies in the ward clerk offices.  Missionary free labor is still just a drop in the multi-billion dollar bucket when you include all the time individual members give to the promotion and up-keep of the LDS corporation.   

Apple wets their collective pants wishing for so much revenue per new customer with all the donated free labor.  They might net a few thousand dollars in sold products.  Tangible products that the customer can actually hold in their secular hands.  LDS products?  Mostly beyond the vaporous veil.

An insider at the COB has recently recounted to me that the LDS Corporation has about $15 Billion in liquid cash, not tied in assets, companies or properties.  That's a lot of cash to purchase new assets.  And they have mostly free labor to provide accounting and upkeep on the ecclesiastical (or sales) arm of the corporation.

Labor is the most expensive outlay for most corporations that produce tangible products.  For a corporation selling vaporous veilware, its labor is ... well, it's free.  They have nearly zero raw materials to buy in producing their doctrinal product.  And they pay no taxes on the promotion, sales and donations received for their veilware.

So where does all the money go?

The old Ogden Temple, torn down because it wasn't pretty enough.  Where does that money go?