-- Lindsay Van Allen
So, what do we, as a society and a culture assume about someone like this, someone who's abilities in one area outshine our own? Sometimes we assume that if they are a genius in one area, they must be outstanding in others, or we idolize them, or we put them up upon a pedestal, and assume that they can do no wrong.
This is a mistake. Genius' are human, like the rest of us. Worse, their abilities can potentially create in them a sense of entitlement, which can prove dangerous. Just because Bill Cosby was a brilliant comedian, must it then follow that he could not also be a deranged serial rapist and monster? Does his word become more trustworthy than that of others, just because he is rich? a celebrity?, or worse yet, just because he is a man?
It is a mistake to assume that if Bill Cosby was a comic genius, that he was incapable of being the monster depicted by these women's stories. Just as it is a mistake to assume that if he was a monster, then he could not (actually) have been all that funny back in the day. He was. And he is. And it's time to end the idol worship.
There are some pretty big names on the signature list, like Stuart Russell (Berkeley), Tom Mitchell (CMU), Stephen Hawking (all around cool dude who was on Star Trek that one time), James Lamond Carroll (crackpot), and Tony Stark (Avengers, IronMan, Member of AAAI, ACM, IEEE, CIS, IEEE CS, IEEE RAS).
So, if you haven't, go sign the open letter yourself!
Today is the day we Mormons celebrate the Mormon pioneers' illegal immigration into Mexico on July 24, 1847 (made illegal, ironically, by the "Law of April 6, 1830").
I'm grateful for my ancestors and friends who risked so much to immigrate unlawfully, have worked so hard to make something of their lives, and have blessed us all with their efforts.
I want to start out by saying that Kerry Muhlestein is an incredibly intelligent and a good person. In all my interactions with him (which were minimal, but not non-existent) he showed kindness, a high breadth and depth of knowledge, and intelligence.
He's also not wrong to suggest that our beginning assumptions color our conclusions. He is also right that “It’s not making assumptions that is problematic…We just have to test those assumptions."
So let's test his. He starts with the assumption that the scriptures in the LDS cannon are true. But that can be tested. He suggests that the assumption that the Book of Abraham was certain to have been translated from the papyri next to Facsimile #1 is flawed, because in Egyptian texts, the text describing a Facsimile is sometimes not next to the Facsimile illustrating that text. He's correct. HOWEVER, in Facsimile #3 we have Joseph pointing at specific text, and telling us what it says. He's wrong about what it says, and Muhlestein knows that. Further, he knows that Facsimile #3 goes with the Hor Book of Breathings.
So we already know from Facsimile #3 that Joseph can't translate Egyptian accurately. And now we come to the Kirtland papers Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar. These papers line up text from the Book of Abraham translation with text from the Hor scroll, next to facsimile #1. These texts are interpreted in many ways (there's those pesky assumptions again). Some say that they are a grammar that Joseph used in his "studying it out in his mind" as part of his translation process. But the favorite apologetic approach is to assume that they were actually used after the fact, to try and "crack" Egyptian, given Joseph's already inspired translation. But even if that were the case, the texts still show that whoever was doing this attempt at cracking Egyptian, THOUGHT that the text came from the scroll of the Hor Book of Breathings, from the characters next to Facsimile #1.
Joseph Smith's handwriting is not the most common one in these texts, but it DOES show up. So which Egyptian characters did Joseph Smith himself think he was translating? It would appear to have been the characters next to Facsimile #1. And that is true regardless of which interpretation of the Kirtland Alphabet and Grammar you start with.
But, of course, the discussion of which text Joseph used is irrelevant. We already know from Facsimile #3 that Joseph is wrong in his attempt to translate Egyptian characters.
So this "missing scroll" theory of the Book of Abraham is incompatible with Facsimile #3. But it's also incompatible with the fragments we already have. Some geometry and elementary calculus, together with the known thickness of the papyri fragments, lets us calculate the length of the original Hor roll before it was damaged. This work was done by Andrew Cook and Christopher C. Smith. They concluded that no more than 56 cm can be missing from the Hor roll! This means that there is no room on the Hor roll for the text of the Book of Abraham to have appeared at the end. See: https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/The-Original-Length-of-the-Scroll-of-Hor.pdf
While Muhlestein is correct that sometimes illustrations and the text describing them don't always go next to each other on a roll, it's much much harder to claim that they appeared on DIFFERENT rolls!
In my opinion, this means that the missing text hypothesis simply must be abandoned.
It seems to me that the only thing left for someone who wants to maintain a belief in the inspired nature of the Book of Abraham, would be to assume that the scrolls only loosely "inspired" the text of the Book of Abraham, but were actually unrelated to the text. When I presented this idea to John Gee, he suggested that he rejects it because Joseph told us that he was translating the Papyri, and that he thinks that we simply must believe Joseph about what he was doing, thus Gee's insistence on the missing scroll theory. But this doesn't help us with Facsimile #3, as I told John at the time!
Another middle road might be to assume that the Book of Abraham actually inspired Egyptian religion at some earlier point, and that Joseph WAS translating the text of the scroll, but he was "translating" it not into what it says now, but into the story that originally inspired it, complete with temple related imagery and theology. That has the advantage of the truth that the Hor book of Breathings is somewhat related to temple theology, at least in that it involves an initiation into the afterlife. But this theory still has to assume that Joseph himself didn't know what he was doing, or he would not have made the claims that the characters above the heads of the figures say what he claims they say.
Then, we have to struggle with the text of Abraham itself, that contains many an anachronism, and that borrows from Genesis 12, (even from presumably later versions of the Genesis 12 text, that could not have actually been written by Abraham). So even if one explains the translation away with one of the above two ideas, accepting the text of Abraham as authentic is an assumption that is still fraught with problem after problem.
Muhlestein is right, we have to "test [our] assumptions." The problem is that Muhlestein's don't seem to make any sense when they are tested.
- Brigham Young UniversityComputer ScienceBS, with minor in Ancient Near Eastern History, and served on the Ballroom Dance Team. followed by MS and PhD.
- Woods Cross High School
I attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I am culturally Mormon. And in belief I am a theist leaning possibilian transhumanist.
Politics: Moderate conservative
To the PR Department Regarding the Survey on Women's Issues Within the C...
To the PR department: A friend of mine received the survey you have sent out about women's issues within the Church, and she suggested that
Deification Banned "By Common Consent" | Lincoln Cannon
Deification Banned "By Common Consent". "By Common Consent" is a Mormon blog that has banned persons from affirming that