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.


  1. I want to hug your blog! Thank you so much for this. I look forward to part 2.

    1. Hahaha hug a post. Funny👍

  2. Great analysis, David. Keep it coming!! The only reason I hate reading these analyses is because I know that I can't put them in front of my deeply believing children! I can only save them and hope for sometime in the future.

  3. The greatest insights in history have come from not repeating what was already tradition. Joseph Smith was way ahead of his time. You're measuring him against 170 years of futurity. I doubt you'll fare the same 170 years from now.

    1. "You're measuring him against 170 years of futurity" ??

      So basically you're saying that this shit was a lot easier to believe back when Joseph was conning all his followers.

      Wake up buddy!

    2. If Joseph interpretted the future in his 19th century language as he saw in vision, then we need to be less judgmental.

    3. "If Joseph interpretted the future in his 19th century language as he saw in vision, then we need to be less judgmental."

      But in this situation JS was 'attempting' to interprett the past - the Egyptian past -- and God either directed him as a prophet or God did not and JS is no prophet. Which follows that either way it's a huge deceptive problem for mormonism in that 1) the Mormon God is not omniscient and cannot give accurate information through a prophet and 2) Joseph Smith isn't a prophet.

  4. Mr. Twede, you are wrong. The translation in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar of the Sensen Papyrus will be vindicated eventually.

    1. Well Mr. Hodge, then I suggest that you falsify the research on the blog that was pointed out above and we shall see who's claim is the unlikely one.

  5. Searching for the deeper meanings in the shallow waters of Mormonism is not unique to the followers of Smith. Since all religion and revelation is as useless at tits on a pumpkin, it's all that any of the 'faithful' really have to hang their hats on. #funwithatheism Enjoy.

  6. Thanks Dave. The Book of Abraham is the only scripture in all of the Christian faiths that has canonized the idea of Cain's descendants being Black.

    The case of the Book of Abraham is certainly tied to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Both reflect popular 19th century ideas, one about Blacks, the other about American Indians.

    If nothing else, the essays do reinforce the LDS church's position that their racist scriptures are still doctrine.

    1. LDS is not a Christian faith. Christianity is monotheist while LDS is polytheist with their multiple gods ever increasing number of gods with the doctrine of one becoming a god in the afterlife. LDS is as far from Christianity as one can get as it can't even agree on the most basic tenets of Christianity, the number of gods that exists.

  7. Abraham1 verse 12 Blows the LDS article out of the water for me as it says:
    “And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.”
    This is a very clear statement that the papyri that has the picture of the alter contains the beginning of the Abraham writings.

  8. Great work as always. When you do the second part, please focus on footnote 30 and the surrounding paragraph. I had a hard time not laughing at the absurdity of point these fraudsters are trying to make - that language essentially cannot be trusted. It may seem to say one thing but have an entirely hidden meaning that only Joseph Smith could decipher (make up). So when I say that the Mormon Church is a fraud, really what I must mean is that it is the truest thing ever! Also, when I say that Joseph Smith was a con man what I really mean is that he was a superhero with secret hidden powers that unfortunately we did not see due to his untimely death.


  9. 1) And why did they charge people to come and see some common Egptian papyri if they didn't believe and insinuate that these were actually the writings of Abraham?

    2) And why did they show off the BoA but the BoM was sooooooo precious that no one else could even properly see it?

  10. "c. Joseph’s translation was not a literal rendering of the papyri as a conventional translation would be. Rather, the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection, and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri."

    Good thing Joe received a revelation telling him not to spend a boatload of money on a simple catalyst.

    Oh wait...they DID spend a boatload of money on something that wasn't even required for "translation". Well, I'm sure they made back some of their money by charging people to see the mummies, and that Joe gave that money to people that had pooled their money to buy the crap.

  11. I guess my thought is, "Who cares?" I understand the personal quest for truth, understanding, or peace for individuals, but how does that extend to uncovering the deceit of the Mormon church? Isn't it just enough to say, "Meh, not for me" and move on? For example, I pretty much dismiss Scientology wholesale, but I do myself no favors by continuing to read about WHY it's false (or rather, why others believe it to be false). Just my two cents.

    1. Why people join cancer association after surviving the condition?
      Why people create peace movements during and after a war?

      Why they care? Why they don't just let it be and move on?

      For the very same reasons some people are vocal against such frauds like the LDS church. We've suffered it, why would we want to let it abuse anyone else any further?

    2. No it is not enough because the Mormon Church has a very active missionary program designed to spread their deceptions. We can hide or we can counter. Truth hid is truth unknown.

  12. JustJon,

    Because they HAVE to, it is written in LDS scriptures that when someone leaves the church, after knowing at one point that the church is true, they will forever feel the need to prove it is wrong. It is quite hilarious actually, because the more they feel that need, the more the prove it is the true church!

    1. JustJon, Does that mean all the people that can't leave The Church of Scientology alone (including the media) prove that it is the true church? No wait, what about the Community of Christ (RLDS) church--they have the same scripture. So that must mean they are the true church!

  13. Antti Ateisti,

    Who are you or anyone else that feels they are qualified to determine the definition of a Christian? In fact the actual definition of a Christian is someone who believes in Christ. That means people of the LDS faith are Christians..but people like you will come along and say something as ridiculous like, but they don't believe in the same God...scholars is what started the mess of three in one god/s!

    1. No Anonymous, Mormons are not christian. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus did away with the Letter of the Law and replaced it with a higher law, which was love. Belief in Him moves the believer to commit acts of love, although those acts cannot "save" the person. Christ's atonement saves the believer. Mormons gospel brings back the Letter of the Law by drawing on OT practices, such as temple worship and other legalistic means to secure salvation in the Celestial Kingdom. Mormons say you are saved by obedience. Jesus says you are saved by love and his atonement. Hope this explanation helps.-- Morning Glory

    2. Morning Glory,

      I came from mainstream Christian religion, so I've been where you are at and know what they believe. Your "brand," of being Christian means anyone that has not heard of Christ will end up in hell. Your brand of being Christian means you can sin and sin and sin, but as long as you ask for forgiveness you're okay. Your brand clearly doesn't understand Christ, because he said he came not to take the law away, not one tittle.

    3. Anonymous--
      I get what you are saying.
      And you brand of Christianity says you not only have to believe in Christ, but you have to first get saving ordinances of baptizm and laying on of hands for gift of the HG, attend all sacrament meetings, and then secondly get the exalting ordinances of temple endowment and initiatory. Thats a hell of alot of hoops to jump through, dont you think? And for the record, I offer my definition of christianity as one for the debate. I am no longer by definition even a Christian and have no dog in this fight. But it still does irk me that Mormons call themselves Christians when, in my view, if Christ were alive today he wouldnt even understand what in the world you Mormons have done with his teachings and would not recognize them.

      I agree with you, i find having to believe in Christ as the only means of salvation as pretty narrow, leaving the "poor kids in Africa to go to hell becuase they died with out knowing" is a pretty sick idea to me.

      And did you not read the part where I said belief in Christ is the motivator to commit acts of LOVE? Where did I say it was okay to sin? Be present with my actual words and dont put your dogma on top of them.

      ==Morning GLory
      --Morning Glory

    4. I would like to add, Anonymous, that I know plenty of Mormons who "sin and sin and sin" and then go attend their meetings and think they are okay. It can go both ways.

      And, from a debate point of view, again, the Mormon brand of Christianity completely denies the power of Christ's atonement by placing the work of salvation on the sinner. As if jumping through all the hoops could save him. I find that backwards.

      Come to think of it, I personally dont know any people who openly call themselves Christian who "sin and sin and sin" and then ask for forgiveness. I just dont see it. I know complete assholes that do that, but they dont call themselves Christians.

      Dont wrest Bible versus to make your obscure points, it wont work with me.

      --Morning Glory

  14. Anti Ateisti, Here is one definition:
    [kris-chuhn] Show IPA
    of, pertaining to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings: a Christian faith.
    of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Spain is a Christian country.
    of or pertaining to Christians: many Christian deaths in the Crusades.
    exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ; Christlike: She displayed true Christian charity.
    decent; respectable: They gave him a good Christian burial.

    Sorry you are so closed mind as to not realize that the original definition was as stated above and still is in many dictionaries. People that want the exclusive right to the name, "Christian," will keep redefining it. However, just keep in mind that there was no such definition of monotheistic, polytheistic or henotheistic. This only came after the various councils on the scriptures and which books would be allowed in the cannon which is now called the Bible. I find it amusing that you apparently are not aware of this. And if you were familiar with the Bible you will see that there is references to the "Gods," and use of words like they, them etc. Which, in case you don't understand that, would indicate more than one, "God." Sorry to burst your bubble.

  15. Morning Glory,

    Let me repeat, I came from mainstream Christian religions, I know what they teach. They teach that Jesus Atonement covers every sin you commit past or present. They give believers the impression that they can live openly in sin, because Jesus forgives, they give the impression that you can have sex outside of marriage, and it is okay, as long as you ask Jesus to forgive you. In the LDS Church they do not teach it is okay to do these things. Although they do teach you can be forgiven and the atonement covers your sins.

    How do you know what Christ would or would not recognize? There were Temples in both the OT and the NT, Jesus himself was Baptized. Mormon's, unlike mainstream Christians are saying that the dead can receive the saving ordinances after death. Mainstream Christians are saying that if you don't know Christ and accept him before you die, you are going to Hell. The LDS faith is saying almost no one will end up in Hell. LDS say to receive the highest degree of Heavenly you have to become worthy of you. Ultimately that decision lies in the hand of our Heavenly Father, not prophets, preachers, teachers. politicians, priest etc. etc. etc.
    Of course while you are here on earth you have to follow the laws of the Lord, which happen to coincide with the laws of the universe. If you know what those laws are. Jesus wasn't all about only LOVE, he was about following the commandments too, as well as keeping covenants.

    Personally, I do know people both in the LDS faith and other Christian faiths that claim to be Christian, but sin, both openly and behind closed doors.

  16. Mormons add covenants that Christ never spoke of. THey were not included in the Book of Mormon, (or the NT) but were added later in the D&C. Mormonism is as much man-made and contrived as what mainstream Christianity has become. I know what you believe, I know why you believe it. Once you get your head around it, you will see it plays out just as ridiculously as other religions.

    For debate's sake, let's have you "win" the argument. Let's look at the idea that everyone gets into some kind of heaven. Looks like a good idea at first. In Mormonism a person gets to the highest level (Celestial) by practicing the "right" ordinances. However, if a person doesnt find the Mormon version of the Gospel in his/her lifetime, then, he/she has to wait to get the ordinances by proxy. Dont you find that as exclusive and snobbish as the Christians who say you have to accept Christ in order to be saved? Its the same kind of rule, basically, only obfuscated by a different set of surrounding facts. I dont buy the second explanation either whereby the millenium is used as time for "clean-up", so to speak, to do ordinances for the dead.

    Mormonism is poorly (bastardized)reconstructed Judaism. Take some time to talk to a jew about what old testament practices really were about and it might be enlightening. Alexander Niebauer was an early kabbalist convert to Mormonism, and what do you know? Soon there after, one starts seeing those ideas appear in Mormonism. Reforging OT practices into something new to keep practitioners tied in is a hallmark of a cult.

    I see nothing freeing or good news about any of that. I am in agreement to the love and commandments. But mormons put commandments and obedience over the top. I will say it again in a different way, serving others, loving others, living a moral life with integrity does not need religion. "Obedience" to those in and of themselves are the commandments. Why do you need to add ritual to this and call it the ticket to Heaven?

    Morning Glory

    Morning Glory

  17. I am late to this conversation, but have something to say to Morning Glory. It is the same thing some arrogant American preacher said to me on a dark night in the crowded neighborhoods of Okinawa, Japan. He said, "I want you boys to go home tonight and start reading John, Acts, and Romans. Don't tell your pastor you are doing this. Forget all you think you know about religion and just read those three books." I didn't do it. I was a Mormon snob at the time. But I've done it now, almost 20 years later. And I continued with Hebrews. Galatians. Ephesians. Forget John, Acts, and Romans - Hebrews, Galatians, and Ephesians alone destroy all that Mormonism is built upon. Priesthood? Gone. Temples? Gone. All of it...gone. The plain fact is this: Mormonism and the Bible cannot co-exist in their present forms. So, Mormonism has corrupted the Bible, and corrupted the minds of its members against the Bible. It is so ironic. The Bible, they say, has lost many plain and precious truths. So what does Mormonism do to fix it? They insert many false and erroneous teachings on top of the Bible.

    One final comment: seeing the thread of the Lord's teachings in each religion can lead you to another conclusion than the one you have drawn. If those common teachings are more or less than "love God and love your neighbor" it is always possible that all these religions have received these common teachings from a different source. "Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you?"