The Book of Abraham:
"Except for Those Willfully
Blind, the Case is Closed"
Jeremy Runnells' Response and Rebuttal to
Brian M. Hauglid's Rational Faiths Essay:
Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham
Read Text Here
Before addressing Mr. Hauglid's essay, I would like to note here that I appreciate Mr. Hauglid's overall respectful tone and approach. Unlike controversial and less respected Mormon apologists, Mr. Hauglid has acknowledged that most of my concerns and questions presented in the Book of Abraham section of the CES Letter are legitimate questions and concerns. Mr. Hauglid is one of the better apologists that I've come across and I appreciate his honesty and frankness on several points.
Turning to the Book of Abraham itself, LDS historian, General Authority and scholar B.H. Roberts wrote of the significance of the Book of Abraham translation:
"If Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon, and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught."
- Elder B.H. Roberts, LDS Scholar and General Authority, Comprehensive History of the Church 2:138
Church leadership and Mormon apologists understand this. This is why the recent Church essay Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham and Hauglid attempt to shift the focus of the Book of Abraham discussion away from an objective physical analysis of the translation of the papyri to a more subjective spiritual analysis of the value of the book. Some examples from each include:
"The veracity and value of the Book of Abraham cannot be settled by scholarly debate concerning the book's translation and historicity." - LDS Essay
"A careful study of the book of Abraham provides a better measure of the book's merits than any hypothesis that treats the text as a conventional translation." - LDS Essay
"The truth of the book of Abraham is ultimately found through careful study of its teachings, sincere prayer, and the confirmation of the Spirit." - LDS Essay
"One thing I have tried to do all along in this important research is to make sure my focus on academic results does not in any way get tangled up with my spiritual witness of the Book of Abraham." - Brian M. Hauglid
"As far as what to do with the Book of Abraham it needs to be clearly stated that no theory about the Book of Abraham can account for all the evidence. When it comes to questions regarding translation, historicity, 19th century influence, etc. nothing is certain. This leaves it open enough for people to study it out in their own minds and come to their own conclusions." - Brian M. Hauglid
Contrary to Hauglid's claim that "no theory about the Book of Abraham can account for all the evidence," nothing could be further from the truth. There is no need for "theories" regarding the Book of Abraham. It is a demonstrably proven fraud. The physical, historical and Egyptological evidence against the Book of Abraham is so damning that the Church and Mormon apologists have been forced to "move the goal posts."
We're hearing more subjective claims that the truth and legitimacy of the Book of Abraham can "only be found through prayer," "the veracity of the book cannot be found in scholarly debate," and that Joseph may have used the papyri as "catalyst for revelation" instead.
In other words, "translation" doesn't really mean translation, "the writings of Abraham...written by his own hand, upon papyrus" doesn't really mean just that, Joseph didn't really translate from the papyri but it was instead a catalyst for revelation, and don't let the physical and historical evidence get in the way of the only real way to know the truth about the Book of Abraham: "pray about it." Your "spiritual experience" is to trump and override all evidence against the veracity and authenticity of the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith's claims of its origins.
In addition to making statements and claims like the above, the Church and Mormon apologists are doing everything they can to move the physical into the metaphysical and history into spirituality.
An important component of Hauglid's essay is his disclaimer:
"Suffice it to say, this will not be an exhaustive treatment of Book of Abraham issues, nor will it settle any issues one way or the other."
Hauglid certainly did not settle any issues nor has he made any real inroads into thinking rationally about the Book of Abraham discussion.
Hauglid surprisingly cites Michael Rhodes, John Gee, William J. Hamblin, Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson as credible sources for supporting the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. These men are not credible sources. They're Mormon apologists whose life mission is to defend Mormonism at all costs. Credible sources would be non-Mormon Egyptologists - free of confirmation bias and Church paychecks - confirming Joseph Smith's translations. The fact remains that there is not one single respected non-Mormon Egyptologist - past or present - who confirms Joseph Smith's translations and/or confirms the Church's truth claims on the Book of Abraham.
Fortunately, we no longer have to go to or rely upon Mormon apologists like Brian M. Hauglid, Michael Rhodes, John Gee, William Hamblin, Paul Hoskisson, and Daniel C. Peterson for answers on the problems of the Book of Abraham. The Church took away their personal megaphones and personal theories and made them obsolete with its July 8, 2014 lds.org essay Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham.
World renowned and respected Egyptologist Dr. Robert Ritner of University of Chicago published his professional response to the Church's new Book of Abraham essay and claims. I highly recommend reading this response. Dr. Ritner's response highlights some of the weaknesses in the Church's essay far better than I ever could. Suffice it to write here that Dr. Ritner concludes:
"With the Book of Abraham now confirmed as a perhaps well-meaning, but erroneous invention by Joseph Smith, the LDS Church may well devote some reflection to the status of the text. The former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, since 2001 renamed Community of Christ, avoids this issue by treating the Book of Abraham as speculative writing by Smith, not as a document of historical truth. In this decision they are clearly correct. Despite its inauthenticity as a genuine historical narrative, the Book of Abraham remains a valuable witness to early American religious history and to the recourse to ancient texts as sources of modern religious faith and speculation. The book still has its uses and significance, but not for the ancient world of Egypt and Abraham."
In addition to Dr. Ritner, the following unbiased experts have reached the following conclusions regarding the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith's claims:
"The Book of Abraham, it is hardly necessary to say, is a pure fabrication. Cuts 1 and 3 are inaccurate copies of well-known scenes on funeral papyri, and cut 2 is a copy of one of the magical discs which in the late Egyptian period were placed under the heads of mummies. There were about forty of these latter known in museums and they are all very similar in character. Joseph Smith's interpretation of these cuts is a farrago of nonsense from beginning to end. Egyptian characters can now be read almost as easily as Greek, and five minutes' study in an Egyptian gallery of any museum should be enough to convince any educated man of the clumsiness of the imposture." (F.S. Spalding, Joseph Smith Jr., As a Translator, 1912, p. 27)
- Dr. Arthur Mace, Assistant Curator for the Department of Egyptian Art of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York"
"It is difficult to deal seriously with Joseph Smith's impudent fraud. The fac simile from the Book of Abraham No. 2 is an ordinary hypocephalus, but the hieroglyphics upon it have been copied so ignorantly that hardly one of them is correct. I need scarcely say that Kolob, &c., are unknown to the Egyptian language. Smith has turned the goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham."
- Dr. A. H. Sayce from Oxford, England
"They are copies of Egyptian subjects of which I have seen dozens of examples. They are centuries later than Abraham. The attempts to guess a meaning for them in the professed explanations are too absurd to be noticed. It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations." (Ibid., p. 24)
- Dr. Flinders Petrie of London University
"It will be seen, then, that if Joseph Smith could read ancient Egyptian writing, his ability to do so had no connection with the decipherment of hieroglyphics by European scholars...The three fac-similes in question represent equipment which will be and has been found in unnumbered thousands of Egyptian graves...The point, then, is that in publishing these fac-similes of Egyptian documents as part of an unique revelation to Abraham, Joseph Smith was attributing to Abraham not three unique documents of which no other copies exist, but was attributing to Abraham a series of documents which were the common property of a whole nation of people who employed them in every human burial, which they prepared..."
- Dr. James H. Breasted of the Haskell Oriental Museum, University of Chicago
There is no excuse for 21st century Latter-day Saints to remain ignorant, unclear or confused on the facts and problems of the Book of Abraham. We now have the Church's official answers and we now have one of the world's most respected Egyptologist's direct response to the Church's new answers. Latter-day Saints can learn more accurate and pertinent data and information in 2 hours of reading both the Church's Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay and Dr. Robert K. Ritner's direct response than they would in several weeks of mining through obfuscated unofficial Mormon apologetic materials.
In addition to these two pieces, I would refer the reader to just one additional source. The following video is perhaps the best currently available in objectively outlining and explaining the facts on the Book of Abraham, its origins, its contents and the arguments for and against it:
In this response, I do not intend to address the details on the Book of Abraham (again) or the Church's essay on that subject, as Dr. Ritner's paper and the above video more than adequately do this. Rather, I will quickly respond directly to several of Hauglid's claims and statements.
"CES Letter is Just That - a Letter"
Brian M. Hauglid says...
In reading Runnells's section on the Book of Abraham (pp. 24-30) I quickly realized that this letter is just that-a letter, and not (meant to be) a fair and balanced essay or treatise that offers differing viewpoints of the issues presented. Those well versed in Book of Abraham issues will readily see Runnells' reliance on others, especially in his use of graphics. Runnells's points are primarily short one-sided sound bites with little or no background, context, counterpoint, or elaboration.
I stated the following on page 5 in the letter I sent to the CES Director:
I'm interested in your thoughts and answers as I have been unable to find official answers from the Church for most of these issues. I'm hoping you're going to have better answers than many of the ones given by unofficial apologists such as FAIR and Neal A. Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS).
Later in the conclusion section of the CES Letter, I stated the following:
I then went to FairMormon and Neal A. Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS).
FairMormon and these unofficial apologists have done more to destroy my testimony than any anti-Mormon source ever could. I found their version of Mormonism to be alien and foreign to the Chapel Mormonism that I grew up in attending Church, Seminary, reading Scriptures, General Conferences, EFY, mission, and BYU. Their answers are not only contradictory to the scriptures and teachings I learned through correlated Mormonism...they're truly bizarre.
I did not write the CES Letter to be a comprehensive thesis analysis into the contradictory and unofficial pet theories and opinions of unofficial Mormon apologetics. It was simply a letter to a CES Director seeking official answers to the serious problematic challenges to the LDS Church's foundational truth claims. I already knew what FairMormon and other unofficial Mormon apologist's answers to these issues were and it was their answers that pushed me further down my faith crisis. It was the reasoning, logic, and answers given me by these unofficial apologists that contributed to my desire to write and ask the CES Director for official answers to the problems. Indeed, as I mentioned in Debunking FairMormon's Debunking:
I really did seek a lifeline in FairMormon in the desperate days of my faith crisis. Instead of being the lifeline that kept me afloat, FairMormon and their answers were instead weights that drowned whatever I had left of a testimony.
Internal Discrepancies, Inconsistencies and Anachronisms in BOA Translation
Brian M. Hauglid says...
In his letter Runnells identifies, in my view, the two most troublesome arguments against the Book of Abraham: (1) the discrepancy between Joseph Smith's explanation/translation of the facsimiles and the translation of the facsimiles by Egyptologists, and (2) internal problems with the Abraham text (anachronisms, 19th century influences, etc.). Much ink has been spilled on arguing either a direct translation from the papyri or offering up some other kind of scenario, such as the catalyst theory put forth recently in the Gospel Topics essay. Yet the facsimiles, particularly Facsimile 3, and internal textual inconsistencies bear most directly on Joseph Smith as a translator.
I take my hat off to Hauglid for his honesty here.
I also very much appreciate Brian's transparency in sharing the Church's new Book of Abraham essay link as well.
Kirtland Egyptian Papers
Brian M. Hauglid says...
This could explain why Runnells focuses on the facsimiles but spends no time on the so-called Kirtland Egyptian Papers. These papers are very difficult to sort out in terms of their dating, their relationship to each other, and to the Book of Abraham. Or, perhaps, Runnells was just not aware of the papers.
I stated the following in the CES Letter:
Egyptologists state that Joseph Smith's translation of the papyri and facsimiles are gibberish and have absolutely nothing to do with what the papyri and facsimiles actually are and what they actually say.
I find it odd that Hauglid would note my lack of focus in the CES Letter on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, given that it's unanimous among both LDS and non-LDS Egyptologists that Joseph Smith's translations in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are nonsense gibberish. Indeed, one of the reasons that the Egyptologists know that Joseph Smith's translations of the papyri are gibberish is precisely because of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.
Hauglid fails to mention my work in Debunking FairMormon's Debunking (about 900 pages of content!), which is an extension and expansion of the CES Letter, in which I go into meticulous detail where I couldn't in the CES Letter. I discuss the Kirtland Egyptian Papers extensively in Debunking FairMormon's Debunking here but Hauglid's readers would never know this from reading Hauglid's essay.
Again, I find it strange that Hauglid would bring up the Kirtland Egyptian Papers to use against me, because the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are actually critical to linking to the papyri and demonstrating Joseph Smith's fraudulent claim of translating Egyptian. Despite Hauglid's attempt to mystify and complicate the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, there is no confusion or complexity among respected Egyptian scholars. It's clear that Joseph's "translations" in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is complete nonsense. The Church admitted as much in its new essay:
"Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book [Kirtland Egyptian Papers] correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today." - LDS Book of Abraham essay
Facsimile Explanations do not Match Current Egyptology
Brian M. Hauglid says...
Although Runnells emphasizes that the facsimile explanations do not match current Egyptology, LDS Egyptologist Michael Rhodes has written an article, which argues that Smith's explanations to Facsimile 2 do correspond to meanings found in Egyptology. However, it should be noted that Egyptologist Robert K. Ritner does not agree with Rhodes's arguments and conclusions. Interestingly, both Rhodes and Ritner agree on the translation of characters in Facsimile 3.
Hauglid's "it should be noted that Egyptologist Robert K. Ritner does not agree with Rhodes's arguments and conclusions" is an understatement. Kudos to Hauglid for acknowledging Dr. Ritner's disagreement with Rhodes' arguments and conclusions.
Rhodes, Dr. Ritner agrees, did great work in translating Egyptian but Rhodes spoils his good work by manufacturing nonsensical symbolism between the confirmed pagan Egyptian details and the fraudulent Smith "translation" so as to "explain" hieroglyphs. The following are some of Rhodes' rationalizations of Joseph's incorrect Facsimile 2 claims:
Joseph Smith says that this is "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." This agrees well with the Egyptian symbolism of god endowed with the primeval creative force seated at the center of the universe. The name Kolob is right at home in this context. The word most likely derives from the common Semitic root QLB, which has the basic meaning of "heart, center, middle" (Arabic qalb "heart, center"; Hebrew qereb "middle, midst", qurab "to draw near"; Egyptian m-q3b "in the midst of"). In fact, qalb forms part of the Arabic names of several of the brightest stars in the sky, including Antares, Regulus, and Canopus.
The apes can represent Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom, as well as the moon, but due to their curious habit of holding up their hands to receive the first warming rays of the sun after the cold desert night as if worshiping the sun at its rising, they are often found in connection with the sun. Besides these solar and lunar associations, apes are also found associated with stars and constellations. Joseph Smith says they are stars receiving light from Kolob, which is in harmony with our understanding of their symbolism in Egyptian.
In his explanation of figure 1, Joseph Smith says that the earth is called Jah-oh-eh by the Egyptians. In Times and Seasons he defined Jah-oh-eh as "O Earth." This would be reasonable rendering of the Egyptian i 3h.t, "O Earth" (assuming that Joseph used the biblical convention of rendering a Semitic yod with an English J. - Rhodes: The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus, Seventeen Years Later, emphasis added.
It is difficult to take any of this seriously. Joseph Smith's ideas do not "agree well with Egyptian symbolism". "Kolob" is not at home here (or anywhere else for that matter), it is a word that Joseph made up. To Joseph, the apes are stars, which Rhodes somehow rationalizes as "in harmony" with "their symbolism in Egyptian". Nothing is in harmony, any more than anything is "a reasonable rendering of the Egyptian". Rhodes' rationalization of Joseph's "Jah-oh-eh" is preposterous. It is not an Egyptian word, any more than Oliblish; Enish-go-on-dosh; Kae-e-vanrash; Floeese; Kli-flos-is-es; or Hah-ko-kau-beam.
As Dr. Ritner explains in his The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri:
VI. In the central field, a seated figure of Re-Atum (originally with four ram heads and complex crown and scepters)  is worshipped by two apes crowned by lunar disks (Smith's Figs. 1, 22 and 23). A snake appears to the left of Re-Atum, and a slight trace in the upper left may be the remains of the standard legend: [dw ? ntr] p[n]"[Worshipping] th[ is god.]" The earlier copy in "Valuable Discovery," p. 13, is damaged at this location, and Smith simply copied the heads and shoulders (with jackal extensions) of the double-headed god in the upper register (his fig. 2). In addition, garbled traces of rn n ntr pf ?? ("the name of that great god") were wrongly duplicated between figs. 1 and 22 of the revised Facsimile 2 published in the Book of Abraham. The central figure is not Kolob in Egyptian terms, nor is he the "first creation, nearest to the celestial, or residence of God." Rather, the image is the creator god himself, not simply a figure near god. The equation of a day to a cubit is specious, and the Egyptian terms for "earth" do not include the barbaric Jah-oh-eh.  Smith discussed Figures 22 and 23 within the explanation of Figure 5: "Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob." As elsewhere, these outlandish names are not Egyptian.
Footnote 35, Dr. Ritner writes:
Apologists Michael Rhodes and John Gee have sought to defend Smith's explanation of "Jah-oh-eh" as "O the earth" (? ??.t), although this is impossible both by phonetics (with three hs) and sense (? ?.t "arable field" is not used to indicate the whole earth), contra Gee 1992, p. 114, n. 58; and Rhodes 1997, p. 8. Smith vacillated slightly on this interpretation, as noted in Rhodes 1997, p. 8. His statement in Facsimile 2 that the Egyptians name the earth Jah -oh-eh would preclude the vocative "O" that he had once suggested in Times and Seasons 4 (13 November 1843), p. 373. In any case, the proposed Egyptian etymology is impossible.
Apologist Rhodes cemented his status as more Mormon apologist than Egyptologist, when he made the following claim:
"Moreover, the Prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practices." - Michael Rhodes, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 136-137, emphasis added.
So, what do Rhodes and Ritner agree on the translation of characters in Facsimile 3? Dr. Ritner explains in his essay response to the Church's new Book of Abraham essay:
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 head," as even 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!
So yes, Rhodes and Ritner agree on Facsimile 3. They both agree that Joseph Smith was wrong. Not exactly a good thing for the Church's or Joseph Smith's translation/Book of Abraham claims.
The following graphic shows Joseph Smith's translations vs. Egyptological translations of Facsimile 3:
Book of Abraham Astronomy and Physics
Brian M. Hauglid says...
Runnells points out in his letter that the physics in Abraham 3 is outdated. Some LDS scholars have noticed this as well. John Gee, William J. Hamblin, and Daniel C. Peterson have argued that the geocentric universe described in Abraham 3 can be explained on the basis that Abraham is describing the visible heavens and not the entire universe.5 Astronomers Michael D. Rhodes and J. Ward Moody, on the other hand, suggest that there is harmony between the astronomy in Abraham 3 and modern heliocentric astronomy. I don't know of any non-LDS astronomers weighing in on this issue.
"...visible heavens and not the entire universe" is Mormon apologetic spin that does not match and align to the evidence. The Book of Abraham clearly reaches beyond the "visible heavens" and into the universe beyond with verses like:
"And I saw the stars...that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones which were near unto it;" - Book of Abraham 3:2
"These are the governing ones [stars]; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me..." - Book of Abraham 3:3
"...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."
- Book of Abraham 3:4
"...reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord's time...to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." - Book of Abraham 3:9
Hauglid provides a short list of what his favorite fellow Mormon apologists' theories and claims are but fails to mention what other Mormon scholars have to say about the subject:
"It is no longer possible to pretend there is no conflict...Scientific cosmology began its leap forward just when Mormon doctrine was becoming stabilized. The revolution in twentieth-century physics precipitated by Einstein dethroned Newtonian physics as the ultimate explanation of the way the universe works. Relativity theory and quantum mechanics, combined with advances in astronomy, have established a vastly different picture of how the universe began, how it is structured and operates, and the nature of matter and energy...This new scientific cosmology pose[s] a serious challenge to the Mormon version of the universe." - Keith E. Norman, Mormon Cosmology: Can It Survive the Big Bang?, Sunstone 10 (1986), p. 19-23
"According to the Book of Abraham, the patriarch had a knowledge of the times of various planets, "until thou come nigh unto Kolob which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord's time; which 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." One revolution of Kolob "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." God's time thus conformed perfectly to the laws of Galilean relativity and Newtonian mechanics." - Klaus J. Hansen, Mormonism and the American Experience, p. 79-80, 110
The Book of Abraham clearly reflects a Newtonian world concept. The Catholic church's Ptolemaic cosmology was displaced by the new Copernican and Newtonian world model, just as the nineteenth-century, canonized, Newtonian world view is challenged by Einstein's twentieth-century science.
Mormon apologist Daniel Peterson made similar claims in another attack against the CES Letter which I also address and respond to. You can read Peterson's claim and my response here.
Book of Abraham Anachronisms
Brian M. Hauglid says...
Runnells also picks up on the anachronistic terms "pharaoh" and "Chaldee" in the Book of Abraham as well as the usage of the term "intelligence" in both the Book of Abraham and Thomas Dick's The Philosophy of the Future State. For the anachronistic "Chaldee" one could go to Paul Y. Hoskisson's 1991 article, "Where was the Ur of Abraham?" I don't know of any scholarly treatment on the possible influence of Thomas Dick on the Book of Abraham (or Joseph Smith) other than the wiki article at FairMormon.
I was very surprised to see Hauglid pointing to Paul Y. Hoskisson's article. Hoskisson's article is a classic example of working backward on an issue. Hoskisson notes the trouble with locating the Genesis "Ur of the Chaldees" (which is argued to be anachronistic even at Moses' time) but then attempts to resolve it in novel fashion by citing the Book of Abraham:
First, the Book of Abraham is not the result of numerous transmissions, as is the Bible. Therefore, the term Chaldeans in the Book of Abraham is not likely to be out-of-place chronologically.
Hoskisson is making the explicit assumption that the Book of Abraham is authentic, and proceeds from there. Hoskisson's article isn't even apologetic, it's just speculative theological history. This is a terrible example for Hauglid to use and it almost appears as if Hauglid didn't even read Hoskisson's article.
If pointing to articles like Hoskisson's in defense of the Book of Abraham is among the best that Mormon apologists like Hauglid can do? It's bad. But when Hauglid thinks controversial and unofficial apologetic organization FairMormon and its Wiki article is a source for "scholarly treatment"? It's really bad.
Prophet, Seer, and Revelator Should Know More?
Brian M. Hauglid says...
I'm not sure what to do with Runnells's criticism of Elder Holland's saying he doesn't know how the Book of Abraham was translated. Runnells expects that a prophet, seer, and revelator should know more. In my view, that seems to be a subjective matter.
Why are we calling and sustaining these 15 men as "Prophets, Seers, and Revelators" when they're doing none of these things?
Elder Holland is sustained as a "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" and it is part of his "holy calling" and job description to understand the word of God. This is especially true when scripture such as the Book of Abraham is one of the chief faith-destroying stumbling blocks and primary reasons for so many members leaving the Church. So, "a prophet, seer, and revelator should know more"? Absolutely.
And if Holland doesn't "know more," he has the authority and obligation as a "revelator" to get answers from the Lord to such a serious faith destroying stumbling block as the Book of Abraham.
"No Theory About the Book of Abraham can Account for all the Evidence"
Brian M. Hauglid says...
As far as what to do with the Book of Abraham it needs to be clearly stated that no theory about the Book of Abraham can account for all the evidence. When it comes to questions regarding translation, historicity, 19th century influence, etc. nothing is certain. This leaves it open enough for people to study it out in their own minds and come to their own conclusions. Perhaps this is what Runnells has done. Whether he has thought through all the possibilities or not is not my place to judge. It's a personal decision.
This is false. The statements and claim that "no theory about the Book of Abraham can account for all the evidence" and "when it comes to questions regarding translation, historicity, 19th century influence, etc. nothing is certain" are incorrect statements and claims.
As mentioned previously, there is no need for theories to account for the Book of Abraham evidence. It is clear to everyone not ensnared in confirmation bias and deep personal investment into the Church's truth claims that the Book of Abraham is a demonstrably proven fraud.
The evidence points quite clearly to the Book of Abraham being a 19th century fabrication and fraud of Joseph Smith. The papyri-Kirtland Egyptian Papers connection, mistranslated and misidentified/incorrectly reconstructed figures facsimiles, Kirtland Egyptian Papers translation gibberish nonsense, obsolete Newtonian universe claims and obvious anachronisms all point to this.
In fact, the physical and historical evidence is so damning in pointing to this conclusion that the Church and Mormon apologists are now seriously using the bizarre "Catalyst Revelation Theory" in their attempt to move away from the solid physical evidence. However, even that theory collapses completely when you line it up with the physical and historical evidence, which are inescapable and conclusive that the Book of Abraham is a 19th century fabrication and fraud.
Brian M. Hauglid says...
Runnells states that the catalyst theory is a concession to his point that "Joseph's translations of the [Egyptian in the] papyri and the facsimiles do not match what's in the Book of Abraham" (p. 30).
I simply stated the following in the CES Letter:
The Church conceded in its July 2014 Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay that Joseph's translations of the papyri and the facsimiles do not match what's in the Book of Abraham.
I say nothing about the "catalyst theory" and I reject Hauglid's attempted framing of "Runnells states that the catalyst theory is a concession to his point..." I reject the catalyst theory 100% and I have never supported or believed that the catalyst theory has any credence or credibility. My above statement means exactly just that: Joseph's translations of the papyri and the facsimiles do not match what's in the Book of Abraham.
For those who are uninitiated, the "Catalyst Theory" as pertaining to the Book of Abraham is the theory that, as Mormon apologist William Hamblin explains:
- The Book of Abraham as we have it in the Pearl of Great Price was not found anywhere on any of the Joseph Smith Papyri, surviving or lost.
- Joseph Smith received the papyri, became interested in Abraham, etc. and...
- Thereupon received a unique revelation from God of the translation of an ancient authentic Abraham document = our Book of Abraham.
In other words, translation doesn't really mean translation. Joseph received a revelation instead after touching/feeling/seeing/being inspired by the papyri. This "revelation" = Book of Abraham. This is completely alien to what I was taught and what I taught others in the Church for 20 years on the Book of Abraham origins. This is completely alien to the physical and historical evidence which clearly shows the catalyst theory to be an unsupported theory and fantasy of those desperately grasping for anything in saving the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith's integrity and credibility.
The fact that the Church and its apologists are now moving away from its 180-year-old claim and teaching of a literal physical translation of the Book of Abraham over to a "it's really revelation instead" Catalyst Theory is a powerful testament indeed of just how damning the physical evidence is against the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith's claims.
Joseph Smith himself clearly and demonstrably claimed that the papyri contained the writings of Abraham, and that his translation really was a translation. Until very recently, the Church had taught as much for around 180 years. At the very minimum, the catalyst theory establishes that Joseph at times had no clue about what he was talking about, and that the Lord did nothing to prevent Joseph from misleading the members on this very important subject. Obviously, Joseph's credibility as a translator must be seriously questioned if one is to believe the catalyst theory. This theory is one example of what I mean by the Church and Mormon apologists' "moving the goal posts."
Finding the truth about the Book of Abraham is not mysterious, complicated or impossible. The damning evidence is there for anyone to evaluate. There is a reason why there is not one single respectable non-Mormon Egyptologist - past or present - who confirms Joseph Smith's translations of the papyri and facsimiles.
The ones who see the Book of Abraham for the fraud it is are the ones willing to put aside their Mormon confirmation bias and really look at and weigh all the evidence and facts. The ones who don't - the "willfully blind" as Dr. Ritner refers them - hold a mindset and worldview like Brian Hauglid's:
"One thing I have tried to do all along in this important research is to make sure my focus on academic results does not in any way get tangled up with my spiritual witness of the Book of Abraham."
Contrary to what some Mormon apologists want you to believe, you do not have to have a PhD in Egyptology to see the fraud for yourself. You have today all of the resources you need to see the damning evidence.
Below are additional resources and great places to start:
See the Book of Abraham chapter in the CES Letter.
See my line-by-line debunking of apologetics in the Book of Abraham section of Debunking FairMormon.
See MormonThink's thorough overview of the Book of Abraham.
Read respected and renowned Egyptologist Dr. Robert Ritner's epic takedown of the LDS Church's Book of Abraham essay.
Read this brief document that summarizes things in a way that anybody can understand: Problems with the Book of Abraham.
And of course, Brother Jake. Brother Jake will clear up all the confusion: