BoA Smackdown Pt. 1

Smackdown

Posted August 24th, 2014

Bob, Glenn, Jake, Randy, and Scott discuss another review of another essay from LDS.org. This time on THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, released in two parts, cuz we pick apart every. single. word. Enjoy.

  • Darth Bill

    Great show guys! Waiting for part 2.
    I was involved with FAIR for over a decade and I purposefully avoided any BoA stuff because those that left the church said that it was completely unsupportable. I still found use in the church. When I finally needed to know, I found they were right. I was out.

  • Pink-lead

    Thanks for the laughs gents. Brother Jake, your anger phase is at a hard boil. Raw nerves? Loved your commencement speech BTW.

    • Brother Jake

      Yeah, I feel a bit sheepish about that, lol. Apologetics that obfuscate such clear-cut empirical issues (like the BoA) just get under my skin in a special way. I wailed and gnashed a bit on this one 🙂

  • Johnnie

    Anybody interested in this subject should check out Professor Ritner’s response to the church BoA essay, published on the Signature books website and available at Mormonthink.com.

    For years apologists have been denying (unconvincingly) that Joseph Smith had an active role in creating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers/Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar. The church essay throws them all under the bus by acknowledging Joseph Smith’s involvement. This acknowledgment by the church seems like a bigger deal to me than the level of attention that it’s received. The KEP connect the BoA to the Breathing Permit of Hor. My question, however, is, why would Joseph Smith create the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar? Did he actually believe that he could translate Egyptian? Or was it to provide verisimilitude for his scribes and associates? Or did he just enjoy playing a role in a game? I don’t really understand it.

    • Randy_Snyder

      We talk about this in Part 2. Stay tuned. 🙂

  • JT

    Close your eyes and listen for the real BoA “smack down.”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et4_3bFnOTc

    Wait … wait … there it is!

    • Glenn

      I don’t get it. You mean becuase of the old man dry mouth smacking? Please don’t tell me I sat through a16 min conference talk just for that.

      • JBW

        Turn up the volume young man – I smacked ’em just a wee bit at 37 seconds. The Biotene that Dr. Snyder recommended didn’t quite get’r done.

      • JT

        Sorry Glenn – should have made that … smack, smack … clearer.

  • JT

    I noticed this “hedge” inserted in paragraph 2

    “… Only small
    fragments of the long papyrus scrolls once in Joseph Smith’s possession
    exist today.”

    Sounds like a desperate gap-cracking hypotheshit

    I’ve heard this claim somewhere before … I think I also remember it being refuted … can anyone save me the look-up effort?

  • Bob

    I’m becoming suspicious that the Book of Abraham was produced more by the polygamous Apostles editing the Times and Seasons paper in 1842, and not so much by Joseph Smith. Smith probably dabbled in Egyptian stuff earlier, but the BoA itself smells more like Taylor/Woodruff/Young et al than it does Smith. It seems common that the Times and Seasons would print stuff under Smith’s name as editor that Smith knew nothing about. I suspect Smith may have gotten his Twitter feed hijacked in Nauvoo.

    • Glenn

      Why do you think that, Bob?

      • Bob

        Why? Based on no evidence. Just the date the BoA was first published and the names of the people working at the Times and Seasons when it was published. And also the general content of the BoA doctrines.

        I’ve come to see Mormon history/scripture/doctrine as kind of a large oil painting on canvas. Large patches of it were painted at diffent times by different people. Some people painted over the top of earlier work with their own pictures, obscuring the original images. It’s fascinating to try to peel off the layers and see what was originally underneath, and to try to figure out who painted over what and when. And why.

        I see the Book of Mormon as an example of this. Maybe it started as a manuscript by Solomon Spaulding. Layer 1. Then Sidney Rigdon added a layer of his own. Then maybe Joseph Smith added some here and there, and maybe some brush work by Oliver Cowdery or others. I’ve seen a number of attempts by different people to examine the book and speculate who wrote the different parts of it etc. You can never know for certain, of course.

        Church history is another example. After Smith’s death, Young et al went to considerable effort to touch up the picture with just the right shades. It can be challenging to see what was original and what was added later. I personally see Section 132 and polygamy as part of a layer added by Young that covers and obscures an earlier layer. And Young’s brushwork has in turn been painted over by those who came after, covering up a lot of what he did.

        I don’t think the visit of Elijah in Kirtland Temple existed on that orignal layer. I think that was painted in later. Same with the King Follet discourse. I think Joseph never painted those pictures.

        And then I think of the Book of Abraham. Who actually wrote it? I suspect it was a collaboration, driven perhaps by the actual working editor of the Times and Seasons, hungry for content to serialize in the paper. Maybe the Egyptian stuff is Joseph’s contribution, but I suspect the cosmology, the priesthood stuff, the doctrinal departures, probably don’t come from Smith. It sounds more like those who would come later with different pictures to paint. People with Adam-God theories. John Taylor. Wilford Woodruff. Willard Richards maybe. I don’t really know. But maybe they merged the edges into the orignal canvas by linking to Joseph’s famous mummy collection. A clumsy, awkward link.

        I have a I hard time picturing Smith producing the BoA all by himself – even if he drove the doctrinal ideas, which I doubt. The image of him locking up in a room and emerging with a manuscript out of his head? No. There had to be collaboration with someone. But with who, and how much?

        • Glenn

          And I think that if it were anyone other than Joseph Smith creating “scripture” then it would have continued after his death and we would have the Book of Joseph (of Egypt), and more sections of the D&C, and maybe a few other pseudopigraphical books from Adam, or Enoch, or Noah, or the Three Nephites, etc etc — especially if Taylor/Woodruff/Young had been involved. They would have simply carried that along with the rest of their “prophetic” mantles. But they didn’t. Cuz the source of all of that was dead.

          • Bob

            Does it seem plausible that the BoA came out of Smiths head without any collaboration? A solo project? Surely Taylor or someone helped with it in some way?

            Plus, stuff didn’t stop getting added just because Smith died. We did get more sections of the D&C. Section 132. Section 110. And stuff like the King Follet discourse. Smith wasn’t involved in those. If Willard Richards hadn’t died in 1854, who knows what else Smith would have written in his journal. They focused their creative efforts on tying everything to Smith, I assume to validate their legal claims to church property. There was no value in a Book of Joseph if it didn’t support Young’s succession claims. But a little entry in discovered in Smith’s journal validating Young’s claims to hold sealing keys from Elijah himself – now that was golden. So that’s what they produced. Lots of it.

            I just suspect, without any solid evidence, that they were doing it earlier than I thought. Maybe in 1842 and maybe they influenced the BoA. Maybe something significant happened when the polygamous apostles took over at the Times and Seasons. Maybe not. I don’t know. I’m just suspicious and kind of questioning assumptions.

          • Matt

            Wait, what? On what do you base your claim that Joseph wasn’t involved in the King Follett Discourse? Me thinks thy may have jumpedeth the Shark . . . eth.

          • Bob

            I know of these sources for that King Follet sermon:

            William Clayton
            Thomas Bullock
            Willard Richards
            Wilford Woodruff
            George Laub

            George Laub also provides an early account of the “transfiguration” of Brigham Young. So, we may want to set his account aside, depending on if you find that credible or not.

            The Willard Richards and Wilford Woodruff accounts only became known after the sermon had been printed in the newspaper. So, swearsies, they wrote it before. Credible? Not to me.

            We are left with the William Clayton and Thomas Bullock accounts, which were the sources for what was printed in the paper in August after Smith’s death and in the heat of a succession crisis. (Brigham had done his transfiguring only one week before.)

            Any incentive during a succession crisis to put words in the mouth of the martyred prophet that might support your side’s succession claims? Nah, probably not. Crazy talk.

            There were reportedly 10,000 to 20,000 people in town for conference when the Sermon was (allegedly) given. I don’t know of anyone else who mentioned it at the time. Do you? Let me know. It might change my mind

          • Findfaultwiththis

            Bob, The Nauvoo Expositor bitched about some of the stuff in the King Follett, and sect 132 and tied it to Joseph not Brigham. Sub heading Resolved 2 list 4 doctrinal complaints.
            – Plural Gods above our God
            – God’s liability to fall into his creations (foundation of Adam/God)
            – Plural Marriage
            – Unconditional sealing up to salvation (2nd Anointing)

            Young took Joseph’s ideas and ran with them, he didn’t invent them…

          • Bob

            The Nauvoo Expositor came first, complaining about the things that were taught in the church. The “King Follet” sermon was invented later that summer to hard-code those teachings as coming out of Smith’s mouth. Section 132 was created later still, building off the Nauvoo Expositor as a source document. And the story of Young being transfigured to look like Smith came along eventually from basically the same people who produced the other fairy tales.

          • Findfaultwiththis

            So you’re a basically saying that Brigham picked up a copy of the Expositor said to himself, “Holy shit let’s incorporate the complaints of an apostate into the doctrine of the church”. For what purpose?

            You do know there is a contemporary account of the Brigham transfiguration. It came out after the Van Wagner research and predates the first general conference mention of it by a decade.

            http://boap.org/LDS/Early-Saints/SStoddard.html

          • Bob

            Help me understand where you are coming from… do you believe Brigham Young was actually transfigured?

            The story at your link is neither contemporary nor first hand. Is there a different account you are thinking of?

            Look up James Whitehead, one of Smith’s clerks, for an example of one person in attendance who never heard the plurality of gods taught in Smith’s “King Follet” sermon that day.

            Whitehead had to turn his clerk records over to the 12 who took them to Salt Lake. After leaving his possession, his records were used to show that Smith took polygamous wives. “There was no entry of that kind ever made on the books”, Whitehead testified at the Temple Lot Case. Either Whitehead lied under oath, or the Youngites falsified the historical record. If you believe Young was actually transfigured, you’ll probably also say the Youngite historical narrative is correct and accurate.

            The source of the teaching of plurality of gods and wives was Young and some of the 12 (and the Cochranites). It went on for years prior to Smith’s death. They were constantly trying to associate Smith with it, and Smith was constantly denying and pushing back. The Expositor complained because those things were being taught in the church. Just not by Smith.

            After Smith’s death the church split and there were legal disputes over the ownership of church property. Typically the branch with the doctrine most similar to the original church was given preference by the courts. Thus, great efforts were made to bring Smith’s teachings into alignment with the current Youngite doctrines. Section 132 and “King Follet” were part of that effort to rewrite the history. Young and Clayton made sure when writing Section 132 to include some of the particulars mentioned in the Expositor.

          • Findfaultwiththis

            I don’t give 2 shits if people saw Brigham Young or Anne Lee on the stand. The point was that there is a story put on paper in 1847 and refers to the transfiguration. Doesn’t need to be a first hand “I saw it” account. just a passing note that this is what my mother who I just buried believed.

            Look up Buckeye’s Lamentation published by Tom Sharpe. Wilson Law and Francis Higbee in innuendo names names (Knight, Snow and Partridge) of some of his plural conquests. They’re not pointing to Young they’re pointing to Smith and this is months before anyone is writing revisionist history.Sharpe’s paper is one of the ONLY publications that actually names plural wives by name. Even the Expositor doesn’t do that. William Law’s motives are quite clear, he’s drawing the doctrinal line in the sand by making a church called the TRUE church of … Saints. he’s telling all of Nauvoo he’s going to be loyal to the old doctrines and Joseph is preaching new doctrines behind the scene.

            How hard is it for people to grasp that a man that implements a secret orders of priesthood, with signs, tokens, penalties and then initiates people into that group is somehow then incapable of teaching that select few secret doctrine that is in paradox with the current??? I guess Brigham magically made 4-5 masonic lodges for the Mormon’s as well and magically gets everyone to use Masonry the same way the modern day Aaronic priesthood uses Scouting.

            How hard is it to freaking grasp that one of those select few initiates (Law) Exposes the entire thing, pins it on Joseph then by 1852 everything he exposes is out in the open being preached as gospel truth in Salt Lake.

            I guess William Law was the village idiot of Nauvoo maybe he got the image of Brigham crossed with Joseph, he wouldn’t be the only one that would claim that…

          • Bob

            BY’s transfiguration didn’t happen and there is no contemporary anything indicating it did. It’s all made up later. I’m not sure what the point is. That journal is dated 1847, I bet it was written later than that. Not that it matters.

            In 1842, Francis Higbee, Bennnett, and others were involved in “spiritual wiferery”. Higbee contracted a venereal disease. He confessed and promised to reform, but he held a grudge against Smith. After that, Higbee started making up tales about Smith’s polygamy. Is there any particular reason one should believe Higbee’s side of those tales? Just because someone published them?

            Law was no village idiot. But why would the Laws team up with guys like Francis Higbee? Did they believe Higbee’s stories? Did they have an economic interest in Nauvoo real estate and stand to benefit if a scandal took out Smith, their competition? Didn’t Law and Foster disagree with Smith over building finance? I think there’s more to the Law’s story than pure good intentions. And it’s probably as boring as financial interest.

            But you are correct. It is very, very simple to grasp the William Law story as you have explained it, as Brigham Young explained it, and as the LDS Church today explains it. Do you typically agree with both Brigham Young and the current LDS Church on these questions? Does that raise any red flags for you?

            Brigham Young and his first cousin Heber Kimball both lived in Mendon, New York in the 1820’s. Heber was a Mason there as early as 1823. Brigham’s brothers Joseph and Phineas were lodge members there with Heber. Heber was an original petitioner for the Nauvoo lodge. So, yes, the Youngs/Kimballs seem to have been active in establishing Masonic lodges among the Mormons.

          • Findfaultwiththis

            Ironic that we’re arguing over Joseph’s credibility as being an honest guy in a Book of Abraham smackdown.

            I’m going to leave it at that LOL.

  • Eric

    Just a note about using assumptions. All research uses assumptions; usually these assumptions are supported by other research. The problem comes when you have a “conclusion” about the research before you begin to undertake it. You cannot “assume” that the BoA is accurate, then engage in research to find out if it is accurate. You withhold judgement until you’ve done the research. (Of course it’s necessary to assume that we can read Egyptian, the scrolls are the one’s Joseph translated, etc.).

    This is why apologetics is inherently unproductive. If you start with the conclusion, then you are no longer doing scientific research. But you can’t make any headway doing this. Saying that you assume JS translated the BoA, and then doing research in this vein does not lead to new knowledge. If there are any problems, it’s simply the “power of God” that we don’t understand.

    But these types of explanations aren’t helpful. You might as well assume that pink ferries from the planet Vulcan gave JS the translation. Each of the theories of the apologists are equally compatible with that idea.

    When you start with the conclusion you force yourself into crazy explanations. A few days ago our favorite apologist Dan Peterson posted a story that the BoM contained 14-16th century English (http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865609214/The-very-surprising-language-of-the-Book-of-Mormon.html). The theory the apologists are starting to offer is that 14-16th century Englishmen first translated the BoM plates and that JS then performed a second translation from Elizabethan English. Of course, this is batshit crazy. But if you start with the conclusion “God did it” you begin to adopt all sorts of crazy theories. On the other hand, if you withhold judge based on the preponderance of evidence, you might instead conclude that JS tried to make the BoM sound Bible-y.

    But hey, maybe Moroni transported the gold plates to Shakespeare who then sent JS a note in the box: “Hope you enjoy the plates…love Bill.”

  • Mike E

    I’m curious to know more about the money used to purchase the scrolls. Was is taken from existing church funds or was the money raised through church donations? This seems to follow the pattern of raising money on the speculation of magical treasure (scripture in this case). $2,400 seems like quite a chunk to pay for the dregs of a collection at that time. Has there been any discussion around the possibility that JS may have been in cahoots with Chandler to inflate the value of the artifacts, extract the funds from the saints and then share the gains with Chandler. Seems to me like the makings of a great con.

  • Capone

    What’s the name of the song in the intro. I want it. Cool as shit.

  • Hmmmm

    From the Joseph Smith Papers Project. God, himself, doesn’t know about DNA.

    “71 he said unto me I am a messenger sent from God, be faithful and keep his commandments in all things, he told me of a sacred record which was written on plates of gold, I saw in the vision the place where they were deposited, he said the indians, were the literal descendants of Abraham he explained many things of the prophesies to [p. 24]”

    http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/journal-1835-1836?p=24#!/paperSummary/journal-1835-1836&p=28

  • Holy Ghost

    Hey Randy,
    New IOT listener here, I am enjoying listening to older shows. Somethng you said in this episode caught my ear. I think you said Chinese, Korean and Japanese alphabets are related or similar? I’ve never heard or read that. Chinese characters are used in Korea and Japan, but they both have their own alphabets, and I’m not sure about Kanji, but the Korean alphabet is not ideographic. I know we all look the same to you guys but really Bob (Korean mission, right?) should have smacked you down with some righteous Hanguel knowledge.
    The spoken languages are not related either. Korean is considered either Altaic (closest relative, Turkish wtf!) or a language isolate. My Mike Tannehill theory is that none of the other “families” wanted to hang with us at the Tower of Babel because our kimchi stinks to high Kolob and God hadn’t blessed us with toothpaste yet.
    Love the show, keep up the good work.

    • Randy_Snyder

      I love love kimchi. And bulgogi and caibi (sp? on all of those). But I was speaking out of my ass. I assumed proximity bred commonality and yep, they all look equally weird to me so yes, touché my friend. Thanks for calling me out.

      One of my best friends growing up was John Kim (I know, I know the most common name for male Americanized Koreans) but he’s real and now a very successful Cardiologist. I’ve heard that Korean culture treats the elderly very very well. So his grandma, his hominy (sp? again) seemed to always be yelling at us. His mom and dad were very quiet and never bothered us but oh boy, hominy was all over us all the time.

      And Scott served in Korea so he’s the man whom should have known better. Do your research. 😉