My First Weighty Shelf Item

Shelf. A place to put things.

Mental Shelf. A place to put things to be dealt with later.

Cracked shelf. A shelf with too many things on it to deal with or one holding very weighty items.

Crashed or broken shelf. A shelf destroyed by the number of things and/or the weight it held.

It is common in the ExMormon world to describe a broken shelf incident or incidents. A broken shelf is a destroyer of testimony.

There are things that are put off for later that demand attention due to their sheer number or their heavy weight. If not dealt with soon enough or sufficiently enough, the shelf breaks. A cascading event then takes place that usually involves, eventually, each of the related shelf items. Testimony is lost.

My very first major shelf item was the Book of Abraham. I have written about this before but I will retell the story. Picture it:…no, wait, that’s Sophia’s (think “The Golden Girls”) storytelling setup! I’d better tell it my way.

We lived in Birmingham, Alabama from 1966-1968 (I think that’s the range!). In November of 1967, I would turn 13 years of age. I seem to remember it was about this time that it was announced the Church would be publishing a special edition of the Church’s magazine, “The Improvement Era”, soon due to the recent re-discovery of some papyri fragments associated with the Book of Abraham, which is in one of the Church’s “Standard Works” called the Pearl of Great Price.

I had previously become fascinated by both the Book of Abraham and the Book of Moses. With the Book of Moses, we had Joseph seeing and repeating a vision given to Moses. With the Book of Abraham, Joseph translated Egyptian papyri that came with some mummies the Church purchased from one Michael Chandler. Read the story, under the section heading “Origin of the Book of Abraham”, here.

With this announcement of the found papyri fragments, I eagerly awaited that upcoming magazine issue! Why? The Book of Abraham is unique among Mormon scripture in that there are these three drawings, called “facsimiles” that were part of the scrolls Joseph translated. These facsimiles had translations themselves, apart from the text of the Book of Abraham but were, at the same time, referenced in the book’s text. In effect, the text had places where it had a sort of “see reference 2” or “see Table 1” convention that referred to the facsimiles. See Abraham 1:12, particularly, “I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.”

What, though, got me so excited? The rediscovery of these fragments would show the world that Joseph could translate Egyptian and we could, therefore, rely on his ability to have translated the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon came and, ultimately, would prove Joseph could do what he said he could and was who he said he was: a prophet, seer, and revelator. Wouldn’t this excite you if you were a Mormon?

January 1968 saw the arrival of the anticipated issue of “The Improvement Era”! It did, indeed, dedicate itself completely to Egypt and the papyri fragments and their rediscovery.

But I was sorely disappointed to find there was no concrete confirmation that Joseph could translate Egyptian. Instead, the papyri were discovered to be nothing more than common funerary text.

“CRACK!” went my shelf.

It held, though. For many years.

After reading the “History of the Church” in 2013-14, particularly volume 6, I discovered Joseph really did pretend to translate, with “translate” carrying the meaning as commonly used. He worked on translating characters. He worked on the grammar of the Egyptians. This took months. He received a certificate from Michael Chandler, from whom he (um, “the Church”) had purchased the papyri and mummies, declaring Joseph very capable of translating Egyptian. Remember, the Rosetta Stone existed but had yet to be deciphered at this time. Joseph allowed this certificate to be published in the Church newspaper, he being the Editor, but he never really declared that he knew how to translate Egyptian, himself. Others had spread that rumor and Michael Chandler added his certification, true or not!

So, even though Joseph professed to work on translation, he was rumored to be a translator, and Michael Chandler certified Joseph to be a translator, the translation is totally wrong.

Modern apologists excuse this. The link above to the Church’s essay on the subject confirms Joseph obtained what is written in the Book of Abraham in an unknown way, not necessarily by direct translation.

But in Joseph’s day, Joseph allowed the impression that he was translating in the manner commonly understood to be an actual translation. Not some vision. Not some dream. This took months. He worked on it.

Worse, the text in the Book of Abraham refers to the facsimiles. The facsimiles have translated portions. All of it is wrong. Totally wrong.

Even worse than that, the principles of astronomy contained in the book are 19th-century ideas and are now known to be completely bogus.

My shelf lay in fragments, like the papyri.

But don’t take my word for it. Study it yourself.

Nuanced Mormonism

Today there are a number of Mormons with a nuanced view of beliefs. In years past they were sometimes referred to as “Cafeteria Mormons” who selected what appealed to them and set aside what did not. With internet access, information formerly available only in books, sometimes hard to find, is only a few clicks and keystrokes away. The trick is figuring out what is factual and what is not. Research, more than just looking up stuff, is required.

As an additional and side note, today’s Millenials are seemingly less religious than their ancestors. (See this article, this article, and this article)

Are we tiring of authoritarianism and strict obedience?

This Mormon Discussion Podcast has quite a few references and is an interesting read, regarding this topic.

Let me know what you think, how you would answer my question above. I look forward to your comments and your questions!

Your turn

I tire. Researching religious topics to inspire family and friends to dig deeper, think more openly is exhausting. My research will now be performed for my own benefit. I don’t mean to sound irked, petulant, bothered, angry, or anything else but tired. Tired is it!

But never too tired to help a family member or friend when these kinds of questions arise. They might arise when I post something (no, I won’t stop posting but will continue as ideas occur or interesting articles need sharing). Whatever the cause, I will be here. Feel free.

Don’t be surprised, though, when I turn the table and ask you for proof, for evidence. You see, even though I cannot prove there is no god, you will have to prove there is, that prayer works, that spirits are real, that…well, whatever it is that you claim.

So, why DO you believe? (Remember, I was a believer once, too)

Oh, and as with all my posts, “you don’t have to take my word for it” because it is all researchable! Do.Your.Homework!

Why couldn’t I have found this earlier?

Watch this YouTube video by Seth Andrews, “The Thinking Atheist”. If you are part of the extended family to which I belong, please watch. If you are an LDS friend, please watch. All else are certainly welcome to watch but I love and care about my family and friends and the better we understand one another, the stronger our relationships can be.

Don’t go into this with assumptions. Just watch. Trust me, it is worth it.

Letter to a Christian spouse

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)

It has been a journey! Begun in 2013 as a means of solidifying my knowledge of LDS Church history, my forced departure (excommunication) has inspired the name of this blog, Mental Whirlwind.

But I am more than that. Several months before my Mom passed away, my parents and I had a very vocal and emotional discussion regarding my newfound unbelief. My excommunication had not yet occurred because I was yet to make that fateful Facebook post that set that process in motion. But we were able to conquer the emotions and arrive at a point of respect for one another’s position and, of course, reaffirm our mutual love. After the discussion, my Dad noted that I am a man of deep emotion.

Indeed I am!

As much as I value intellectual study, I am a man of deep emotion. It is seldom overtly displayed but it is felt. It can cloud my intellectual pursuits but I am learning to study with more clarity. Critical thinking will become my course of study for the rest of my life. It will take that long to gain results!

So, for those who have been offended by my religious posts on Facebook you, too, must be of deep feeling. I apologize for offending your sensibilities but do not apologize for attempting to inspire critical thought! You, too, can overcome the deep emotions that can make us irrational. We have developed our intelligence over eons, but the last centuries have been astounding when it comes to innovation, scientific discoveries, and technological advances.

Religion is a remnant of times long past. My condition has been checked and found to be headed in the direction for which I hope. That being discarding the superstitious and magical for the wonders of scientific and technological discoveries.

And finally (for now, anyway)…