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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is Mormonism a Christian religion?

Utah mountains
Utah has great mountains. But maybe not such great theology.

Quite a lot of this in the news this week. Here, Baptist apologist Mike Licona talks about his investigations into the truth of Mormonism:

My second discovery was that the Book of Abraham, which is counted among the Mormon scriptures, discredits founder Joseph Smith as a true prophet. In 1835, Smith purchased some mummies that were accompanied by some ancient Egyptian papyri. Smith claimed to be able to translate the papyri because they were written in Egyptian, very similar to the "Reformed Egyptian," which Smith claimed was the language of the Book of Mormon. As he translated the manuscripts, he asserted it contained the Book of Abraham, a book written by Abraham himself.

The papyri for the Book of Abraham contained some drawings with Egyptian writing that were subsequently published in Times and Seasons, a Mormon newspaper. The papyri were lost after Smith's death in 1844 but were rediscovered in 1967 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who returned them to the Mormon church which in turn confirmed them to be the originals and published them for others to see. A Mormon academic journal named "Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought" asked three prominent Egyptologists to translate the papyri. If Joseph Smith was a true prophet, the contemporary translation would be very close to Smith's. The stakes were high, since the translations of the Egyptologists either could confirm Joseph Smith as a true prophet or expose him as a charlatan. For if Joseph Smith was terribly wrong in his translation of the Book of Abraham, it casts doubt on the Book of Mormon, too.

John Wilson and Klaus Baer, both professors of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, and Richard Parker, a professor of Egyptology at Brown University, were asked to do the task. The results were devastating. All concluded that the manuscript was a common Egyptian document buried with mummies for guidance in the afterlife and was not used until at least a thousand years after Abraham. They also concluded that Smith's translation did not bear the slightest resemblance to the actual translation. This is especially important when we consider that Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon was written in the same language. Since it can be demonstrated that Smith was gravely mistaken in his translation abilities when it came to the Book of Abraham, why should anything but the same conclusion be drawn pertaining to his ability allegedly to translate the Book of Mormon?

Read the rest here at Baptist Press.

Flickr photo by Katie; some rights reserved.


brenda said...

There is evidence that not all the papyri have been found. Some, possibly the source of the Book of Abraham, remain lost.

Nick said...

Any evidence for that? Besides which, I don't think there is any such a thing as "Reformed Egyptian," which makes things rather more difficult.

brenda said...

Here is a excerpt from the following link: He writes much more on the subject.

Were there only two scrolls? No. There were at least four scrolls and other documents as well, including the Papyrus of Hor, the Papyrus of Semminis, the Papyrus of Noufianoub, and the Papyrus of Amenophis (A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri by John Gee [Gee, 2000, pp. 10-13] - a key excerpt is available online). The surviving Joseph Smith papyri represent at most 13% of the original collection. The Joseph Smith papyri contain fragments from three of the scrolls; the Papyrus of Amenophis is known only from a partial copy [Gee, 2000,pp. 12].

One could conclude that there were only two scrolls based on a statement on page 349 of Volume 2 of the Doctrinal History of the Church (partly written by Joseph Smith, with some entries done later by scribes and historians, following unorthodox record keeping practices; the section referred to here was taken from a letter written by Oliver Cowdery, which I assume was incorporated into the History with Joseph's approval). The entry says that Mr. Chandler, who allegedly discovered the scrolls, found two scrolls and other small papyrus fragments inside the coffins he opened. On the other hand, a journal entry of June 25, 1835 (several months prior to the section taken from Oliver's writings) states that the Michael Chandler brought some mummies to Kirtland "together with some two or more rolls of papyrus covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices" [Nelson, 1979, p. 88]. By "two or more," did he mean that there were two "good" rolls or large rolls along with other papyri that could be called rolls but might also be called fragments? This possibility seems consistent with other evidence I discuss below. Apart from these brief statements, Joseph does not specify how many scrolls there were, to my knowledge.

Further evidence for two rolls, however, comes from W. W. Phelps, who was a scribe for Joseph. In a letter dated July 19-20, 1835 [Phelps, 1835], he wrote:

"The last of June, four Egyptian mummies were brought here; there were two papyrus rolls, besides some other ancient Egyptian writings with them. As no one could translate these writings, they were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said they, the "rolls of papyrus," contained the sacred record kept of Joseph in Pharaoh's court in Egypt, and the teachings of Father Abraham.
Since the existing fragments are from two different scrolls, the Book of Breathings and the Book of the Dead, it is easy to assume that our fragments are equivalent to the two scrolls Phelps and Cowdery mention. However, both also refer to other writings as well. Perhaps the existing fragments may be from those "other" writings and fragments. In any case, several accounts suggest that there were more papyrus documents (perhaps at least three scrolls) than the existing fragments from the Metropolitan Museum. Furthermore, in my opinion, physical descriptions (appearance, length, and state of preservation) of the two major scrolls that Joseph worked with (the Book of Abraham and Book of Joseph) rule out the Book of Breathings as the source of the Book of Abraham.

brenda said...

I'm having trouble posting and apologize if my post is doubled.
The following site has much information on the evidence.

Nick said...

Yes, but all of this is begging the question. Is there any such thing as Reformed Egyptian? No linguistic scholar has ever said so.

I'm sticking with the Apostle Paul,who said that even if he or an angel from heaven should preach any other gospel than what had been received he should be counted accursed. (Galatians 1)

brenda said...

I totally agree with the Apostle Paul. We stick with the original gospel taught by Christ, not the one formulated as the Nicean Creed of the 4th century.

brenda said...

Nick, Reformed Egyptian:

I will also stick with the Apostle Paul as he taught the original gospel of Jesus Christ, not the gospel of the Nicean Creed.

Nick said...

Hi Brenda,

While we're trading links:

Is there anything that's not from BYU or another LDS site that would back up what you're saying?

The Mormon history of North America is fabulous in the original sense of the word. No one has ever found anything resembling what Joseph Smith claimed was here in prehistory.

brenda said...

What do you have against BYU or LDS sites?
I've seen some of the ruins in Central America. There are some definate similarities in the religion of the ancients, and the doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon.

Nick said...

The same thing you have against the Council of Nicea. I think they are espousing a false religion.

brenda said...

Repeat: I've seen some of the ruins in Central America. There are some definate similarities in the religion of the ancients, and the doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon.

The above website is very credible, well researched and documented. (Its author is LDS, but the Church is not affiliated with it.) But if that means nothing to you, then I guess there's no point in conversing further.

Nick said...

What could be more vague than saying there are "similarities in the religion" of ancient Central Americans and the doctrines of the Book of Mormon? I could say that there are similarities in the religions of ancient Judea, Greece, and Rome because all had prophets. What does it prove? Nothing at all.

So what if there are ruins in Central America? There are ruins everywhere. What there isn't, is the remains of massive cities covering the North American landmass.

brenda said...

Nick, The above stated website addresses all of that, but unfortunately you only are interested in non-LDS sources. So, never mind.

Nick said...

Aren't there any non-LDS sources that would support the LDS view?