09 July 2014

The Book of Abraham: The LDS church's latest embarrassment

The Mormon church has been apologizing a lot lately.

In 2007, it admitted that the Lamanites were not the principal ancestors of the Native Americans; in 2010, it removed some of the worst racist language from the Book of Mormon chapter introductions; in 2013, it admitted that it had been wrong about black people for nearly all of its existence; and earlier this year, it pretended to deny (but didn't) that Elder Price would get his own planet after he dies.

Now they are apologizing for the Book of Abraham.

The Book of Abraham was, according to the LDS church, written by the hand of Abraham on papyri while he was vacationing in Egypt. Joseph Smith happened to run across it in 1835 at a mummy exhibitionin Kirtland, Ohio, and immediately began to translate it from the original Egyptian hieroglyphics. It has since been adopted by the Mormon church as a part of its holy scripture in the collection that it calls the Pearl of Great Price.

All of the evidence indicates, of course, that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up. None of the fragments that remain agree with his translation. But since most of the original was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it's not possible to show that Joseph Smith concocted every single word in his translation. (Just all the words that still exist.)

So the Mormon church is finally admitting the obvious: Joseph Smith didn't translate the Egyptian papyri. It was just the occasion that God chose when revealing the words in the Book of Abraham to Joseph Smith. When God saw the mummy hieroglyphics, it got him in the mood to pour forth his Spirit upon Joseph Smith.

Here's how the Mormon church puts it:

Joseph’s translation was not a literal rendering of the papyri as a conventional translation would be. Rather, the physical artifacts provided an occasion for meditation, reflection, and revelation. They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri.

That's right. The mummy writing put Joseph Smith (and God) in the mood for meditation, relaxation, reflection, and revelation. It has the same effect on me sometimes.

But none of that is important, really. What's really important is what God revealed to Joseph Smith while he and God were meditating on the mummy scriptures.

For instance, did you know:

  • That the daughter of Ham discovered the land of Egypt?
    The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham.... Abraham 1:23
  • That the word "Egyptus" means "forbidden" in Chaldean?
    Egyptus which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden. Abraham 1:23
  • That the Pharaoh was a member of the race of Ham (a black man) and therefore could not receive the priesthood?
    From Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land. ... Noah, his [Pharaoh's] father ... cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood. Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry. Abraham 1:24-27
  • That God lives close to (or on) a star (or planet) named Kolob?
    And I saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God ... And the Lord said unto me: These are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God ... And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time, according to the reckoning of Kolob. ... Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest. ... Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. Abraham 3:2-16
  • That the correct name (the names that God uses) for the sun, moon, star, and stars are Shinehah, Olea, Kokob, and Koaubeam, respectively.
    And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star. And he said unto me: Olea, which is the moon. And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, which signifies stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven. Abraham 3:13
  • That there are two spirits, one more intelligent than the other, yet both are gnolaum.
    There be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. Abraham 3:18

Of course the LDS church didn't mention any of these things about the Book of Abraham in its most recent apology. I wonder why.

Maybe it is too embarrassed. Who wouldn't be?

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