So much wind.

For more than three years I have voiced my opinions regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to my church member family and friends. They cannot see what is patently obvious to any objective observer. My words just drift off with the wind.

So much wind.

My efforts have engendered the backfire effect, for sure. I knew they would but I kept throwing those words into the wind, nonetheless. The passion driving the words overcame my normally judicious nature, unfortunately. Now my family members, at least a couple, admit they choose faith in the face of contrary evidence.

Reading recent studies regarding specific testing during “spiritual” moments leads me to understand the basis for them lies in the brain. The science is new as are the discoveries. I look forward to what comes next, with great anticipation.

Yet, despite my passion, objectivity remains my domain alone. Familial cognitive dissonance dissuades the use of objectivity. Their confirmation bias ensures what is observed and accepted is only what confirms beliefs. This situation (belief) can even damage the ability to think rationally (modern studies suggest). So, they will continue to believe.

In spite of evidence.

How can they be so blind?

Then I remember. I was blind, too. Off and on (mostly on) for 61 years I believed.

In spite of evidence.

You see, my preference now is for objectivity. And in the presence of familial declarations based in faith, the onus is on them to provide the evidence and the reason the evidence is evidence. Extraordinary claims (the supernatural, aka the “spiritual”) require extraordinary evidence.

I’ll wait for that evidence and fewer will be the words I toss into the wind…

Just note that wind storms pop up occasionally. 😁

Eyes wide shut

Humans. Fascinating, aren’t we? I think so. Particularly the human mind.

The human mind is not a computer. It can do math, yes, but what it is, though, is a powerful pattern recognition machine and “crystal ball” with memory, wrapped into a 3 pound mass of convolutions.

Add hormones and emotions and you might get a hot mess. Add cognitive biases and…

Eyes wide shut.

After being excommunicated from the Mormon Church, I spent the next three years pointing out the fallacies of the Church. They are patently obvious to me and very plentiful. To my believing family, not so much.

Faith is an effective blinder. Choosing faith means my family chooses to be blind.

And there’s nothing I can do!

So nothing is what I’ll now do, and not worry about it. I’ll chalk the last three years up to experience.

And that, ultimately, is the hardest thing about my excommunication.

New Year Post Mortem

My last post showed my level of frustration after just shy of three years since my “fatal” (LDS Church membership-wise) Facebook post January 31, 2016, wherein I declared Joseph Smith, Jr. was a fraud. He was a fraud! It’s more clear to me now than ever before! It’s still not a concept my family is willing to entertain, though.

My studies in recent advancements in cognitive and neurological science have broadened my understanding of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Along with the backfire effect, I should have known better than to post as I did on Facebook! I should know by now that I cannot convince my family to think for themselves. They have drunk too deeply the Kool-aid of Mormonism.

I should have known, and I did know! But my hubris overcame common sense and I posted. Stupidly.

My bad!

So I had to apologise and suck up my pride. I will now act as if I was wrong, which I was, in a way. Too much hubris!

Never again.

My religious posts will remain here, on my blog.

With you, dear reader! Thank you for spending time with me and my rants and thoughts. This whole process serves to help me grow and mature, as a person and a writer.

Happy New Year!

The Book of Abraham

Sometime around the year 2012, the LDS Church began adding to the Gospel Topics pages of lds dot org. As they were “fleshed out”, they existed among the Topics but were hard to find. I believe in 2014 they were linked to from their own landing page, along with a video by the Church Historian, Elder Steven E. Snow. In this video, he exhorts Church members to study Church history and these “essays” (the term by which the new Topics were to become known) and laments the lack of knowledge Church members actually have about the Church’s own history.

In February 2016, Elder Ballard made several statements of interest to this topic. The summary of his talk can be found here. Among several key points he made are these:

“Gone are the days when a student asked an honest question and a teacher responded, ‘Don’t worry about it!’ Gone are the days when a student raised a sincere concern and a teacher bore his or her testimony as a response intended to avoid the issue. Gone are the days when students were protected from people who attacked the Church.”

“Church leaders today are fully conscious of the unlimited access to information, and we are making extraordinary efforts to provide accurate context and understanding of the teachings of the Restoration,” *Note: This refers in part to the writing of the “essays”. The Church’s point of view is that they provide this “accurate context and understanding”.

Using the 11 Gospel Topics essays available on LDS.org as an example, Elder Ballard said it is crucial that teachers “know the content in these essays like you know the back of your hand.” *Note: The Church acknowledges many Bishops and Stake Presidents have never read these “essays”. Ask your own leadership about these essays, about their contents. Test them. Don’t be surprised if they are unaware of them or, if aware, are unfamiliar with their contents.

To summarize, the Church wants the membership to do more than just read the “essays’, but to know them, like the back of their hand! That’s a bold move, in my opinion. But here’s the thing, even knowing these “essays”, just how much content is actually “accurate”? Let’s explore one such “essay”.

Here is the link to the landing page of the “essays”. This is the link to the “essay” on the Book of Abraham. Please, click my link to the “essay” and keep that window open for reference, if you wish.

We begin. From the “essay”:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embraces the book of Abraham as scripture.”

“The book of Abraham was first published in 1842 and was canonized as part of the Pearl of Great Price in 1880. The book originated with Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith translated beginning in 1835. Many people saw the papyri, but no eyewitness account of the translation survives, making it impossible to reconstruct the process. Only small fragments of the long papyrus scrolls once in Joseph Smith’s possession exist today. The relationship between those fragments and the text we have today is largely a matter of conjecture.”

Interesting. “Conjecture.” Really?

“… with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, 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, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc. – a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.” (History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 236).

This seems to indicate a standard definition of “translate”, doesn’t it? It seems Joseph was evaluating each character in a small sample, right? It indicates that to fully translate, Joseph would be involved in examining or unfolding the scrolls, right?

That’s how it seems to me.

Further, the preface to the Book of Abraham declares:


“THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM

TRANSLATED FROM THE PAPYRUS, BY JOSEPH SMITH

A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. – The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”


It seems clear. “TRANSLATED FROM THE PAPYRUS, BY JOSEPH SMITH” and “written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” The indication is that the writings of Abraham existed physically ON THE PAPYRUS. That Joseph went through the exercise of translation character by character. Michael Chandler, the person from whom Joseph bought the mummies and papyrus scrolls, even gave Joseph a “certificate” as follows (recorded in the History of the Church):


“Kirtland, July 6, 1835.

This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and, from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I find that of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., to correspond in the most minute matters.”


A search of the History of the Church finds several entries regarding the translation process:


The remainder of this month [July 1835], 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.

October 1, 1835, This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter.

On October 7, 1835 …this afternoon I recommenced translating the ancient records.

November 19, 1835, I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records.

November 20, 1835, We spent the day in translating and made rapid progress.

February: Monday 22 Spent the afternoon translating with my scribe, Elder Warren Parrish, at his house.


The essay says, “We do know some things about the translation process. The word translation typically assumes an expert knowledge of multiple languages. Joseph Smith claimed no expertise in any language.”

And yet he did, certificate and all!

Joseph said he translated, and indications in his journal (which became entries in the History of the Church) are that he did it in the traditional sense. That is, interpreting the characters, even to the point of creating an alphabet and grammar!

Saying the method of translation is a matter of conjecture is dishonest, in my opinion! Why? Because it is misleading! The Church’s own definition of dishonesty includes being misleading.

Shame!

So we now come to the content of the book. The “essay” suggests, “The relationship between those fragments and the text we have today is largely a matter of conjecture.” Let’s check that out.

This is Facsimile 1. Also known as Figure 1 in the text. Abraham 1 sets a scene that matches the figure above. In fact, in the middle of the scene setting we are interrupted by this in verse 14, “That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies hieroglyphics.”

Check it out. Read the text. See how it matches with the facsimiles. THIS IS IMPORTANT. We can see directly, without the need for any papyrus extant, Joseph’s ability to translate. The text itself is represented by hieroglyphics, according to the self-same text. No translation by dreams. No translation by inspiration. It’s simply translation by normal means i.e. by someone who had a knowledge of two languages, one language into the other.

This blows up anything the “essay” has to say on the matter of translation. Moreover, with these three facsimiles, we have a method to check out Joseph’s ability as a translator of Egyptian hieroglyphics and the facsimiles matched with the text.

Egyptologists have weighed in on this topic, over the years.

One such, University of Chicago Egyptology Professor Robert K. Ritner, wrote:

“The published text of the Book of Abraham is accompanied by three woodcut ‘Facsimiles’ with explanations authored by Joseph Smith himself. The facsimiles are all based on ancient Egyptian documents, and the Egyptian texts of all three can now be deciphered. In addition, the representations on all three conform to well-known Egyptian models. Facsimiles 1 and 3 represent sections of one papyrus: the ‘Breathing Permit of Hôr’ (P. JS 1), part of the group of Egyptian texts purchased by Smith in 1835 and long thought lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. These papyri were rediscovered in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1967 and quickly transferred to the LDS church, which published the first photographs of the texts the next year in the church magazine The Improvement Era. Comparison of the surviving initial vignette of the Hôr papyrus with Facsimile 1 proves beyond doubt, as the LDS web post agrees, that it was ‘the vignette that became facsimile 1.’ However, neither Facsimile 1 nor 2 is a true copy, and both contain added forgeries, including the human-head and knife of the supposed ‘idolatrous priest of Elkenah’ (Fig. 3 on Facsimile 1) as can be seen in the crude pencil additions to the original papyrus sheet as mounted and ‘improved’ for publication by the LDS church in 1842. Facsimile 2 derives from a separate burial, for an individual named Sheshonq. Large portions of this published ‘facsimile’ were improperly inserted from unrelated papyri. All of Smith’s published ‘explanations’ are incorrect, including the lone example defended by the new web posting: the water in which a crocodile is swimming (Fig. 12 of Facsimile 1), supposedly a representation of ‘the firmament over our heads … but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to be to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens.’ Although Egyptians might place heavenly boats in the sky, that is not relevant ‘in this case’ where the water is placed below the figures and represents the Nile, not the sky. The selective defense of these explanations by the church is telling, and all other explanations are simply indefensible except by distorting Egyptian evidence. In Facsimile 3, Smith confuses human and animal heads and males with females. No amount of special pleading can change the female ‘Isis the great, the god’s mother’ (Facsimile 3, Fig. 2) into the male ‘King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his hand,’ as even the LDS author Michael D. Rhodes accepts. Here Smith also misunderstands ‘Pharaoh’ as a personal name rather than a title meaning ‘king,’ so he reads ‘king king’ for a goddess’s name that he claims to have understood on the papyrus!”

No. Joseph did not understand Egyptian hieroglyphics. No, he did not translate. As far as the Church fomenting the idea Joseph received the Book of Abraham as an inspired dream, I might agree that the whole was a product of his imagination! A fraud.

And we haven’t even discussed the absurd astronomical notions included in this book. If I could hie to Kolob…

Addendum:

abraham papyri cog dis

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.