Ep 100 – BoA Smackdown Pt. 2


Posted August 25th, 2014

Bob, Glenn, Jake, Randy, and Scott continue their review of THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM essay from LDS.org. This is part 2. (That’s what Pt. 2 means).

  • JT

    Now, if Abraham was mythical in the first place ….

    From the Wiki article on Historicity:

    “By the beginning of the 21st century… archaeologists had ‘given up hope of recovering any context that would make Abraham, Isaac or Jacob credible ‘historical figures'”

    (Dever, William G. (2002). What Did the Biblical Writers Know, and when Did They Know It?: What Archaeology Can Tell Us about the Reality of Ancient Israel.)

    Thanks Guys, I enjoyed this.

  • alta_parent

    double-down on the believer….
    nice distillation.

  • MormonDubs

    This was EPIC. Thank you for a captivating and eloquent discussion. Also – Thank you for not waiting a week between posting the respective parts of this Podcast. Waiting to hear the conclusion for a whole 7 days would have been torturous.

    • Glenn

      Well, we were going to just post it as a single 3+ hour episode, but we all felt pretty exhausted after listening to it that way, so we broke it up for ease-of-digestion — not for egregious torture. We save that for our Psychic episodes. πŸ˜‰

      • Both approaches (ease-of-digestion & not-waiting-a-whole-week-between-postings) are very much appreciated πŸ™‚

    • Polly Anna

      I’m also really glad they didn’t wait a week. I’m to impatient. I need my IOT fix.

  • Polly Anna

    What I’m hearing from Glenn is a championing for a sort of cultural relativism when evaluating the actions of the church. I hear him saying, “Stop holding the church to your standards. They need to be measured by their own standards and ethos.”

    But what I hear Jake saying is, “There is a demonstrative reality about the Book of Abraham, and it’s ridiculous to baby the church and pretend that their perceptive is anything short of deceptive and delusional.”

    Hmm…. I really see both perspective and I don’t know where I come down on this.

    But I think Glenn should lay off Jake. Whether or not they are acting exactly how you’d expect, that doesn’t make it any less infuriating.

    • Glenn

      Not necessarily that they need to be measured by their own standards and ethos, or be babied in any way. Just accept the church for what it is, and don’t be surprised or upset when it isn’t something different.

      • Polly Anna

        Okay, well on second though I guess I’m not on board with that. So, the church behaves how you’d expect, so what? Why can’t we judge an organization for behaving badly. Can you say “Well, Jonestown is what is is, so don’t be angry at them for doing what they do and poisoning babies. I mean that’s a little reductio ad absurdium (Is that the right fallacy? IDK). πŸ˜‰ But I don’t see how just because an organization is in keeping with their patterns it means we shouldn’t scrutinize of criticized. That point doesn’t seems as impressive as the one I tried to put in your mouth. πŸ˜‰ I just feel like if that was the standard there would never be any advancement of anything. You got to be able to call them on their bull shit. What are you trying to say? Just that it’s fruitless? I don’t think that is true. If criticism is fruitless these articles never would have been published on the site in the first place.

        • Careful, Polly Anna, you are dangerously close to agreeing with me for once… And I’m not sure the universe can handle us being on the same side in a conversation. πŸ˜‰

          But yeah, I’m not sure I like the “accept it for what it is” approach either… because, in this case especially, that would be accepting disingenuous obfuscation mingled with pseudo-science. I think calling it out is a much better approach as compared to accepting it.

          • Polly Anna

            Well, we both believe the church is not what it claims, so we got that. πŸ˜‰

          • Yup, and we’re probably more alike on many things than we realize when most our interactions revolve around our disagreements. πŸ™‚

          • Polly Anna

            Probably, but you are the infant I love to hate. πŸ™‚

          • Glenn

            Bob, you can both accept the church for what it is and call it out for what it is. Accepting that the church bases their arguments on pseudo science is not accepting that pseudo science is an empirically legitimate approach. My point is to tone down the shock and outrage that it is something other than what it is, even though it is totally acceptable (and so much fun) to call them out on their own bullshit when they claim to be something they are not.

          • I see what you’re getting at… And I’ll just let the others here take over for me. πŸ˜‰

        • Glenn

          Of course criticize, and examine, and scrutinize, and learn. And learn. And learn learn learn. But once you know something is a scorpion, stop being surprised that it’s a scorpion. And don’t expect it to act like a puppy, and then get upset that it isn’t a puppy. That is fruitless wasted outrage.

          Or more specifically, once you know that the church’s go-to answer to nearly everything is a dualist “ignore scholarly learning, just pray and listen for the still small voice of confirmation” then stop expecting them to act like a materialist scholarly empirically measured and empirically supported organization. That is wasted fruitless outrage.

          Got it?

          • Brother Jake

            I dunno, Glenn. I think you’re conflating upset-ness with an expectation for the Church to be something other than what it is (i.e. dualist, ignore scholarly learning, etc.), and I think you’re wrong about that.

            True, this topic ended up being a sore spot for me (a fact that actually surprised me–I guess I’d never really talked with other people about the issue this in-depth before), but I wouldn’t say that was because I expected anything different from the Church. This essay was exactly what I’d expected. What bothered me about it was the pseudo-science and deliberate obfuscation of obvious conclusions–because even if I expect them from a certain source, I still think those things are harmful and shitty.

            Is that anger fruitless? Probably. It isn’t going to change anything, and anger is often corrosive. I’m not advocating it. But I think responding to an angry reaction to these type of things with “if you just stopped expecting things to be other than what they are and reached a zen state of understanding/acceptance, then you wouldn’t be angry” is a bit condescending (and in some ways more cynical than the anger itself).

          • Polly Anna

            It is condescending, Jake. It’s like saying “Well, you knew that snake was gonna bite, so don’t be mad at it.” That doesn’t make it hurt any less. There is a reflexive emotional reaction to pain and feelings of betrayal. Just because it’s in their nature doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

            It does appear to be deceptive and full of trickery. That warrants outrage in my book. Especially from an organization that claims to have such a devotion to knowledge and truth.

            This is a sore subject for me too. BoA is the issue that put the nail in the coffin for me, and made me stop trying to make it work. I know some people say there is no smoking gun, but this kinda seems like a smoking gun to me. But what do I know?

          • Polly Anna

            So, you’re just giving push back to the outrage and not the critiquing? I’m not sure about that. It’s not like they are an isolated culture we are talking about. Presumably, their PR people have taken or at least heard of rhetoric. There is a sense that they do and should know better. It’s not like they don’t have access to scholar technique or that they can not understand them. I mean I know what it’s like to talk to someone who just doesn’t get it and doesn’t have the skill set to get it, but certainly that is not the PR department. They get it. There is some level of deception, and that is outrageous.

  • Cylon

    Ah, this was a great discussion. You guys killed it. Lots of great points, and I got a kick out of the “TBM-whisperer.”

    However, Glenn, I do think you were a bit too hard on the rest of the crew. You said that they were too far removed from their believer mindsets to really understand this essay from the TBM point of view, but I have a different take on it. I think it’s quite possible that they were just more fundamentalist in their beliefs than you ever were, and that’s where the disconnect comes from.

    To elaborate, lets take the example of Mike Tannehill’s reaction to the church’s essay on Blacks and the Priesthood. That essay was quite similar to this one and all the other ones in that it did admit certain things that it absolutely had to that were different from the previous party line, but it avoided giving a solid or coherent explanation for how it all fits together. So did Mike accept that as the new revealed truth from today’s prophets and apostles? Hell, no! He already knew the truth, and anything that contradicted the Gospel of McConkie was obviously wrong and he was willing to take it as far up the chain as he could to prove it.

    Likewise, when I was a believer (and I assume this is true for some of the other Infants, as well), I knew that the Book of Abraham was translated directly from the papyri Joseph got from Chandler, and that every word of it was both accurately transcribed from the Egyptian and factually true. When I found out that the papyri had been found and translated for real, it threw me for a loop. Now, if I were a true 100% fundamentalist, I would have just rejected the science like young earth creationists do. But during my Mormon upbringing, along with my literalistic beliefs about the scriptures, I also had truly internalized the message that Mormonism encompasses all truths, and that science really was part of God’s plan. So in the end verifiable reality won out over fundamentalist belief for me.

    But even if belief had won out, I don’t think I ever would have accepted this essay as anything authoritative. It’s too wishy-washy and not near Mormony enough. There’s no “thus saith the Lord” or even a coherent opinion presented. And even as a believer I would have had a big problem with that. That’s why I can empathize with Jake and the others. It’s not so much that I don’t remember what it was like to be a believer who would go along with anything the brethren said on the basis of faith. It’s that I do remember what it was like to be a believer and some things were sacred and unchangeable. To my believer self, this essay would have been heresy.

  • mindog

    For me, like others, the BoA was that big glaring bit of real evidence. Unlike some of the other areas of criticism, it was impossible to couch the apologetics of this in the fog of history. Even if we don’t have the entire funerary document, even if this were transcribed from other documents, and even if there were some other intervening method, we do have what we have. I remember being fascinated by these documents as a child and as a missionary. It never even occurred to me that these were in regular Egyptian and could be translated through quotidian means. The fact is, in the facsimiles presented in the canonized scripture there are translations of specific areas of the papyri and they are all wrong. The closest thing they can come to is the four cardinal points being symbolized by those jars, and even that’s wrong, since…they were quarters of the earth…not the cardinal points. The bits of the papyri they do have only demonstrate that prior assessments of the facsimiles were correct and they also show how JSjr was willing to manipulate what was there to match his own imagination. This also really helped me see how apologists manipulate and redirect the attention of the information, which demonstrably shows just how dishonest they are in defense of the kingdom… The BoM may be the keystone, but the BoA is a great wedge to dislodge the whole structure.

  • tapirweiner

    You may have addressed this, but the real question is, “exactly how much did Jake have to drink during tjos cast?”

  • Heather_ME

    Sometimes when I listen I become convinced you blokes hate one another. ;^)

    • Lol, that’s just love in the form of banter.

      • Heather_ME

        A quote I picked up somewhere: When men bond, they insult one another. But they don’t really mean it. When women bond they compliment one another. But they don’t really mean it, either. :^)

        • jeanbodie

          Heather ME, you are awesome and I do really mean that.
          I think you guys need to cut back on your fucking swearing.
          The last paragraph of the essay is the most laughable isn’t it?
          What sacred truths are revealed in the B of A?
          False information on how black people got to be black. Origins of the name Egypt?
          Give me a fucking break, especially on the language.

          • Heather_ME

            You’re fucking awesome, too, Jean Bodie. ;^)

  • Don

    If Joseph started his “Translation” of the Book of Abraham in 1835, that was 9 years before his death in 1844. I know that being a Prophet, Mayor of Nauvoo, General of the Nauvoo Legion and candidate for the US Presidency (not to mention all those wives that he didn’t have) kept him pretty busy. But I have always wondered what happened to translating the companion scroll which supposedly contained the Book of Joseph? I would think that if he really believed that is what he had that he would have been anxious to learn of it’s content also. But Nada. It is almost as though after a time Joseph lost interest in the scrolls. Why hasn’t one of the “direct line of Prophets” since Joseph been given the content of the Book of Joseph, since source material such as scrolls (or golden plates) are apparently not needed to produce such revelation?

    The essay on the “Race and the Priesthood” was what broke my shelf when I first read it back in February of this year. The song and dance that LDS.org does with the BofA essay is similar to that in it’s absurd and blatantly false statements. Now that I have cleared out the fog of 54 years of cognitive bias, it is amazing to me the size of balls the leadership of the LDS Church must have to expect membership to toe the line with such ridiculous explanations as these.

    Thanks to all the infants for inviting us along for the ride. The depth and variety of thought put forth by the quorum is always enlightening and entertaining. Oh that Elders and High Priest Quorums throughout the Church would encourage such discussions!

    In closing I do offer one piece of feedback for your consideration. I would guess that the sheer exhaustion of having been at this for 3 hours was a factor in what I perceived as an attempt by you all to “out Fuck” each other by an increase in frequency of your use of the word and its derivatives during the last 30 minutes or so of the discussion. I have long ago given up pious shock at the occasional well placed dropping of an F-Bomb. However, the number of “explosions” during the final portion of this podcast actually became a distraction from the content for me.

  • MajorPowell

    Burning bush! I think to the church, the Book of Abraham is a burning bush. Think about how they say it doesn’t really matter what Egyptologists think, it’s from god regardless! It’s like they would say “you wouldn’t consult a horticulturists and a pyrotechnician to establish the veracity of Moses’ burning bush, right? So why the hell would you care what Egyptologists think about the book of Abraham!” Don’t question god’s methods, damnit, like man could even understand and comprehend anyway, just embrace his word!

  • Zelph’s Siberian DNA

    These essays, BOA included, are reactive, non-prophetic, unsigned, dateless, cowardly pieces of absolute nonsense. For those who wondered why the LDS church outsourced apologetics to FARMS/Maxwell Institute, the answer is found in the pathetic nature of these essays. The local high school debate team could likely craft a better reasoned article.

    BOA content contains racism (curse of cain), elitism (noble and great ones), and sexism (I’m sure it’s in there somewhere). It is also rife with anachronisms. One facsimile has a seated guy sporting a boner. This is laughable.

    The essay seems to dismiss a literal translation model, but attempts to leave this possibility open if the entire collection of scrolls were available.

    Excellent analysis guys.

  • Vic Ferrari

    Another great episode, guys. One observation … when did Jake become the fucking language king up in this motherfucker? He curses more than all other Infants combined. Randy is practically Puritan by comparison. I will say, though, that he does so with aplomb. Unlike some other formerly-Mormon podcasters, whose cursing is as well-constructed as a 3-year-old’s Lego spaceship, Jake lays it out there quite well. I wouldn’t know from listening that he’s only been in the “fuck” business for, what … less than 2 years? Well done, Jake.

  • Brandon

    How late were you guys up recording this? Started to sound like Bob’s use of word “sloshed” around 1:23 could apply to Jake πŸ™‚
    Great discussion. I am still amazed that so many view the LDS experience from a utility aspect vs a validity aspect. When I show someone w/ a utility viewpoint who is otherwise happy w/ church all the evidence showing invalidity, it doesn’t really phase them. Amazing to me that the utility view persists in a church that focuses so much on the one truth paradigm.
    The BoA is just another example of outright fraud by the LDS church. While it doesn’t surprise me to see that organization to continue to do what the laws of the land allow them to do (defraud people for the org’s benefit), I don’t think it’s ok and it still makes me really upset. For my part, I lost enough $ to send my 4 children to college to say nothing of damage to relationships and lost opportunities.

  • treadmillfan

    In my very humble opinion, there is way too much swearing. If I ever got my very intelligent but TBM husband to listen to this, he would just say, look what leaving the church does to people, it makes them coarse, crude and profane. He wouldn’t even listen to the very intelligent points you make. Why do you feel you must swear? To me, it seems like the kids in 7th grade who wanted to show how cool they were by swearing. It’s a little immature, but once again that’s just my very humble opinion.

  • Ryan

    As Glenn said, the BOA essay was a safe place for believing members to visit. The scholarly stuff is just there to provide comfort and reassurance so that the believing member, who heard rumors but is afraid to look at non-approved sources, reads the last paragraph and is willing to again rely solely on prayer and good feelings. “Book of Abraham? … Nothing to see here! Move along.”