Friday, September 05, 2008

Translation Strike 2

I previously wrote about what I consider pretty strong evidence that the Mormon church is not, as it claims, the only true church on the face of the earth. It seems that the church and its apologists and historians agree that Joseph Smith used his treasure hunting seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon even though most members don't seem to know it. I simply don't believe it for the same reason that I don't believe he could find treasure with it.

Now I'm going to give the next piece of evidence against the church's divinity that I find very nearly indisputable. The fact that the church doesn't have an official response to this issue and the fact that its apologists have so many competing explanations and have written so much about it should give an idea about how difficult the issue is to explain away.

I'll be brief about it because the issue is actually quite simple. Joseph Smith and the church purchased some mummies and papyri after Joseph revealed that the papyri actually contained the ancient writings of no less than Abraham and Joseph of biblical fame. Since he'd translated the Book of Mormon and since at the time no one could read ancient Egyptian he proceeded in fits and starts to translate the Book of Abraham which is canonized scripture in the Mormon church.

Two unexpected things happened. First, after centuries of trying scholars deciphered Egyptian. Was the Book of Abraham and the papyri the Rosetta Stone that broke the code? Well, no, actually it was the Rosetta Stone. Second, after being lost for many years fragments of the Joseph Smith papyri were found.

The undisputed facts of the matter are that the papyri are common funerary texts that are part of something called the Book of the Dead and that the Book of Abraham has absolutely no relationship whatsoever to the discovered fragments.

Church leaders were initially excited that they would finally have concrete, irrefutable evidence of Joseph Smith's ability to translate, but that excitement quickly turned to dread when their own scholars translated the papyri and discovered that they didn't contain the Book of Abraham.

Game over, right? Well, over the years Joseph's defenders have put forward many explanations the most plausible of which is that only a portion of the papyri have been found so the missing parts must contain the Book of Abraham. That is a reasonable and plausible explanation that is, I suspect, what allows most Mormons who know of the papyri to continue believing. However, other evidence exists that seems to refute the explanation. Most notably, the church also has in its possession an Egyptian alphabet and grammar that was an attempt to use the Book of Abraham in the same way the Rosetta Stone was used to decipher the hieroglyphs. It contains the translation with the glyphs written beside the text. Guess where those glyphs are found? Right on the papyri that the church has in its possession which indicates that whoever created the grammar believed that those glyphs were the source of the Book of Abraham.

Since that is obviously not the case, the apologists claim that the grammar was not written by Joseph Smith and therefore it must have been an uninformed and mislead attempt. However, to accept this you must accept that Joseph Smith's scribes and confidantes didn't get any help from Joseph in matching glyphs to translation. Again, this seem highly unlikely to me.

Apparently to at least some of the apologists too because they've produced even more unlikely explanations that include the possibility that even if we had all of the papyri and they still didn't contain the Book of Abraham then it still doesn't mean anything because the papyri may have just been the inspiration that caused Joseph Smith to receive a revelation that he believed was a translation but actually wasn't. I shit you not.

In other words, the refuse to consider the most likely explanation: Joseph Smith couldn't and didn't translate.

The issue is really quite simple to anyone who doesn't already have a great emotional and spiritual investment in believing. It only gets complicated when you are put in a position of trying to refute the known physical evidence and its most straightforward interpretation.

I actually learned about this in BYU and read the apologetic material and believed it at the time. Unfortunately, I assumed that since the church was true and it had nothing to hide that the material I read was accurate and completely represented the facts. I've since changed my mind.

I think that you can find the church's side of the story represented on the FARMS web site. If you are unfamiliar I actually encourage you to start there. Then I'd encourage you to read the following book: By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri. It's only $12 on Amazon and it's worth the price for the color photos of the papyri alone.

For me this is solid, nearly irrefutable, evidence that Joseph Smith couldn't translate. If he couldn't translate the Book of Abraham then it adds further evidence against his ability to translate the Book of Mormon.


C. L. Hanson said...

Yeah, this one is the real smoking gun. It was a huge factor for me in my deconversion, as I wrote here.

Even if you imagine that somehow the grammar wasn't written by Joseph Smith or used for his translation of the Book of Abraham, the facsimiles are right there, printed in the Pearl of Great Price, with the Egyptian characters alongside their wrong translations. I got a FARMS book translating the facsimiles when I was at BYU, and it was interesting because it was clear from this book that J.S.'s translation was wrong. (It may have also included some apologetic rationalizations for why that's OK.) The most hilarious detail I learned from that book found its way into my novel here. ;^)

Anonymous said...

It is so hard to face the facts, that I bought all the lies by apologists explaning away the obvious - That Joseph Smith was a fraud who did not know how to translate anything Egyptian. If the Golden Plates were "Reformed Egyptian" as claimed and he testified in court that he was lying about his seerstones, then I find it totally unacceptaple that he could use them to translate the Golden Plates into the BOM. In Institute I remember that the word for word copycating of passages from the Bible was evidence that the BOM was true. Now I tend to think that it was evidence that the BOM was just fiction, put together from many sources by a man with a very questionable reputation. All the later rewritings of the first vision, his revelation about polygamy justifying his aldultery and later attempts to explain away that polygamy was needed since so many could not find a husband, since there was a surplus of women, when facts show that this was just opposite. My faith has imploded - and it seems that Church Leaders (The Lords Second anointed) call facts and truths for lies and Anti-mormon. And all the lies, rewrites and doctrinal changes and Apologists is the truth and faithful mormons. Boyd KKKilljoy PeckerS "lying for the Lord" has certainly been obeyed by faithfull members. I can not believe I was so gullible and stupid to believe all these lies and the pat answers. Today I am actually happy about the pat answers - since I could research myself and see that everybody in TSCC was - Lying for the Lord or perhaps just the Lords (Second) annointed.

Bull said...

I guess some of us just really, really wanted to believe. And of course, the church tends to reveal and go on about the things it thinks it can explain, even tenously. However, as CL states, the facsmiles are in the scriptures and are as fantastically and completely wrong as the rest.

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