Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The Mormon "Book of Abraham" by William Earl La Rue 1919
The Mormon "Book of Abraham" by William Earl La Rue 1919
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THIS sacred book of Mormonism has been freely accepted by the Utah Church as a book of God. The Reorganized Church, while being compelled to recognize it as a genuine production of the Prophet they adore, neither accept nor condemn it. The historical narrative concerning the origin of the book is as follows:
"On the 3rd day of July (1835) Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland to exhibit some Egyptian Mummies.
There were four human figures, together with some two or more rolls of papyrus covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices. As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate them, he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation, and like a gentleman, he gave me the following certificate:—
'Kirtland, July 6,1835.
This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jr., in. deciphering the ancient 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, Jr., to correspond in the most minute matters.
Michael H. Chandler, Travelling with and Proprietor of Egyptian Mummies.'
. . . Soon after this some of the saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus (a description of which will appear hereafter) and I, with W. W. Phelps and 0. Cowdery as scribes, commenced 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 their 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."
The complete translation of the book together with the fac-similes was published in the official Mormon Paper by the Prophet himself, in the issues of March 1st and 15th and May 16, 1842. This paper is called The Times and Seasons. As we have observed, the Utah Church regards this book as a work of inspiration. Indeed, it would be inconsistent for them to do otherwise. It is likewise inconsistent for any believer in Smith's supernatural powers to reject this book which is his product as surely as is the "Book of Mormon." In the history published by the Reorganized Church the whole matter is passed over with this statement:
"The Church has never to our knowledge taken any action on this work, either to endorse or condemn; so it cannot be said to be a Church publication; nor can the Church be held to answer for the correctness of its teachings. Joseph Smith, as translator is committed of course to the correctness of the translation, but not necessarily to the endorsement of its historical or doctrinal contents."
This is a clever statement, evidently made for the purpose of diverting the attention of the reader from a deep consideration of the matter. What matters whether the Church takes a vote on the thing or not? If the Church had taken a vote on the "Book of Mormon" would that have determined its truth or falsity? The Reorganized Church would be slow to endorse this book with its polytheistic teachings, and yet, to condemn it would be a serious thing to do, since that would cast an unfavorable reflection upon the Prophet. It should be remembered that Smith claimed to be a divinely appointed Translator, as well as a Prophet. In his translation of the Golden Plates from whence he claimed to have made the "Book of Mormon," no one could say whether the translation was correct or not. No scientific examination was ever made of the inscription and comparison made with the translation. In the case of the "Book of Abraham," the original inscription and the translation appear together. This gives the linguist an opportunity to determine the correctness of the translation, as well as the ability of the translator. That Smith claimed the translation to be a revelation from God is evident from the statement he makes in connection with the discovery of the mummies and papyrus, "Truly the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth." In his description of some of the characters it clearly appears that he regarded the matter as direct revelation. To quote:
"Figure 8. Contains writing that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.
Figure 9. Ought not to be revealed at the present time.
Figure 10. Also.
Figure 11. Also,—if the world can find out these numbers, So let it be. Amen.
Figures 12-21 will be given in the own due time of the Lord, The above translation is given as far as we have any right to give, at the present time."
It will be noted that the translation was bound up with the ceremonies of the Temple that was being erected at Nauvoo; that parts of the translation were deferred to be given by revelation at a later time. Accepting the opportunity to give the inspirational powers of Smith, as a translator, a scientific test, the Rt. Rev. F. S. Spalding, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, issued a pamphlet entitled, "Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator," November 1, 1912.
The Bishop presented to several scholars the copies of the characters together with Smith's translations. We quote from this pamphlet some of the opinions given by Egyptologists consulted. The following is from Dr. A. H. Sayce of Oxford:
"It is difficult to deal seriously with Joseph Smith's impudent fraud. His fac-simile from the Book of Abraham No. 2, is an ordinary hypocephalus, but like the hieroglyphics have been copied so ignorantly that hardly one of them is correct. I need scarce say that Kolob, etc., are unknown to the Egyptian language. No. 3 is a representation of the goddess Maat leading Pharaoh before Osiris behind whom stands the goddess Isis. Smith has turned the goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham."
Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie of London University says:
"To any one with knowledge of the large class of funeral documents, to which these belong, 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.
If any one wishes to verify the matter, they have only to ask any of the curators of Egyptian Museums . . . none but the ignorant could possibly be imposed upon by such ludicrous blunders."
Dr. J. H. Breasted, University of Chicago, says:
"In 1822 Champollion published the first successful steps in the decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphics. It was only very gradually after this that he gained the ability to read the simpler and clearer sentences in the hieroglyphic records.
Little of the language, comparatively speaking, was understood when he died in 1832. He left in manuscript an elementary grammar, which was published by the government beginning in 1836 and reaching completion in 1841.
It would have been impossible for any American scholar to have known enough about Egyptian Inscriptions to read them before the publication of Champollion's Grammar . . .
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.
Joseph Smith's interpretation of them as a part of a unique revelation through Abraham therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was wholly unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.
Not to repeat it too often, the point I wish to make is, that Joseph Smith represents as portions of a unique revelation through Abraham, things which were common-places and to be found by many thousands in the every day life of the Egyptians.
We orientalists could publish scores of these 'Facsimiles taken from the Book of Abraham' taken from other sources."
Dr. Arthur Mace, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, says:
"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.'"
Bishop Spalding says of his work:
"My object in writing the pamphlet was not to inform the world that Joseph Smith's translations were inaccurate, and that therefore his claim to be a Prophet of God was invalid, but try to convince the Mormons themselves of those facts. The rest of the world has long ago made up its mind.
Writing and action, which can be described as attack, no more affects the Mormon in his belief than they affected the early Christians in theirs. The value of the pamphlet and the literature which may grow out of it is to be measured entirely by its effect upon the Latter Day Saints."
Upon the publication of the pamphlet it was soon discovered that the Bishop had struck a vital blow. The blow had been wisely aimed at the foundation of Mormon claims and it succeeded in arousing them to defense. The representatives of the Reorganized Church took refuge behind the false premise that they had not endorsed the "Book of Abraham." The Utah Church sought to throw discredit upon the scholars, charging them with "unfair reasoning" and they tried to point out "discrepancies in the testimony of the scholars" and asserted that "the scholars disagree." Joseph F. Smith, then President of the Utah Church, concludes the defense by saying:
"We believe it clearly shown that this argument, in the first place is misleading if not fallacious; that the savants consulted may have been prejudiced before hand, and made no real scientific investigation of the translations of the Prophet; that they differ from each other in their conclusions; that upon investigation the translation of the Prophet agrees with, rather than differs from, the most modern and reliable information that can be obtained; and that therefore Joseph Smith was inspired in the translation of the fac-similes from the 'Book of Abraham.'"
Most of the Mormons declare that they have a testimony "that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God," therefore they will not readily accept any argument tending to overthrow the claims he made for himself. They generally look upon any effort to expose his false positions as malicious persecution. Few of them will consider an adverse criticism of their cherished belief.
No attempt will be made here to reproduce and analyze the contents of this book. It is not worth while to do so. The suggestion that those who are interested visit some museum containing exhibits from Egypt and make a comparison between the fac-similes and the numerous duplicates' is timely, and those who do so will surely be convinced that the Prophet has given the world a sure evidence of his ignorance and also an example of his bold pretentions.
One of the immediate effects following the publication of the translation of this book is to be noted in the following charge made against Smith by some of his devotees:
"Inasmuch as they (Joseph and Hyrum Smith) have introduced false and damnable doctrines into the Church, such as plurality of Gods, above the God of this universe, and his liability to fall with all his creations; the plurality of wives for time and eternity ... we therefore are constrained to denounce them as apostates from the pure and holy doctrines of Jesus Christ."
The Utah Church has followed the leading of Smith in the matter of belief in many Gods, as well as many wives. The above charge made by the followers of Smith has been confirmed.
Is it not very inconsistent for the Reorganized Church to profess belief in Smith as a divinely appointed Translator, then to fail to approve his translation and denounce as apostates those who have done so?
An impartial investigation of the "Book of Abraham" ought to convince any fair-minded, or unprejudiced person of Christian belief, of the unworthiness of Joseph Smith as a religious leader and of the fraudulent character of Mormonism.
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