Subject: Official Church Response to Book of Abraham Problems
Date: Aug 09 11:17
Author: Deconstructor
Mail Address:

This Ensign article is the closest thing to an official response to the problems with the Book of Abraham.

Below is a summary of quotes from the article, with my comments in parenthesis:

Ensign, July 1988, Page 51:

"Why doesn't the translation of the Egyptian papyri found in 1967 match the text of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price?"
(Great question!)

"The papyri in question are a part of the collection of Egyptian mummies and papyri that the Prophet Joseph Smith bought from Michael Chandler in 1835. After the Prophet's death, the papyri were lost to the Church. But in 1966, Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Utah, discovered some twenty-two separate papyri fragments in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which were clearly part of Joseph Smith's original collection. The papyri were acquired by the Church, and they are now located at Brigham Young University." (The Church has always admitted that the rediscovered papyri is the same one Smith had.)

"..some people have concluded that this Book of Breathings must be the text Joseph Smith used in his translation of the book of Abraham." (This "some people" includes the Mormon Church, which under the direction of Apostle N. Eldon Tanner, sent out for the translation, expecting it to prove Smith's true translation abilities.)

"However, there are some serious problems associated with this assumption. First of all, from paleographic and historical considerations, the Book of Breathings papyrus can reliably be dated to around A.D. 60-much too late for Abraham to have written it. Of course, it could be a copy-or a copy of a copy-of the original written by Abraham. However, a second problem arises when one compares the text of the book of Abraham with a translation of the Book of Breathings; they clearly are not the same..." (Wow, they admit the two damning facts. How are they gonna squirm out of this?)

"Actually, there are two possible explanations why the text of the recently discovered papyri does not match the text in the Pearl of Great Price." (There are actually THREE possibilities.)

"One explanation is that it may have been taken from a different portion of the papyrus rolls in Joseph Smith's possession." (This has been proven false since the release of Smith's translation dictionary. Characters from the existing fragments match those in Smiths notes that he attributes to the BoA.)

"A second explanation takes into consideration what Joseph Smith meant by the word translation. While translating the Book of Mormon, he used the Urim and Thummim rather than dictionaries and grammars of the language. Translating with the Urim and Thummim is evidently a much different process than using the tools of scholarly research." (According to Church History, the angel Moroni had already permanently taken back the Urim and Thummin years earlier. The Book of Commandments, Smith's Journal and William Clayton's Journal all say Smith used his brown peep stone for the Book of Abraham translation. Later, the D&C changed all references to the peep stone to urim and thummim.)

"Instead of making a literal translation, as scholars would use the term, he used the Urim and Thummim as a means of receiving revelation." (You mean his brown peep stone, the same rock-in-the-hat trick he used to dictate all of the Book of Mormon)

" Joseph Smith used the word, he could have received the meaning, or subject-matter content of the original text, as he did in his translation of the Bible. This explanation would mean that Joseph Smith received the text of our present book of Abraham the same way he received the translation of the parchment of John the Revelator-he did not even need the actual text in front of him." (So then why did he even have the papyri? This explanation is completely bogus because the Book of Abraham contains Smith's "translations" of facsimile drawings included in the papyri. If it wasn't a literal translation, why does the BoA today show the facsimile drawings? Besides, didn't Smith tell everyone he used the papyri as the source? That's what it still says in the introduction to the BoA in the scriptures.)

"His translation of the Bible, parts of which are in the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, was also done without having the original text before him." (Sounds familiar. According to Official Church History and eyewitnesses, Smith dictated whole sections of the Book of Mormon while the gold plates were hidden in the woods or under the bed.)

"In reality, the actual method Joseph Smith used is far less important than the resulting book of scripture he produced." (Oh uh, let's throw out reason now. You mean, ignore the facts and evidence in front of you.)

"In the final analysis, however, the proof of the truth of the book of Abraham does not come by human means." (What does "human means" mean? Why can't a real translation verify Smith's translation claims?)

"I have studied the book of Abraham, and the truth of it has been made known to me in a way I can't deny. I know that anyone who earnestly wants to know if the book of Abraham is true can also receive this same witness and knowledge from God." (The Glory of God is intelligence! Use your intelligence. You mock God by ignoring the evidence right in front of you. The third possibility they chose to ignore is that the translation is a hoax. Based on the facts, which of the three possibilities is most likely to be correct?)

Read the entire article HERE

Politicians love to describe a problem and then give their constituents an artificially limited set of "solutions" to choose from.

Sometimes all of the choices in the artificial set are things that the politician wanted to do all along (regardless of the so-called problem that they are supposed to solve).

Sometimes one unappealing choice (what the politician wants to do) is placed in the artificial set with other choices that are so bad that the politician's desired outcome is seen as the lesser of evils and supported on that basis.

The Mormon apologists use this same method here and in many problem areas of Mormon history and doctrine. They provide either a falsely limited set of solutions that are all faith-promoting. Or they contrast a feeble faith promoting solution with clearly preposterous solutions. TBMs are so dependent on guidance from official and quasi-official Church sources that they will not ask the fundamental question: "Are the explanations being offered here (e.g., in this Ensign article) the only possible explanations?"

Subject: revisionism
Date: Aug 09 11:29
Author: blabbermeister
Mail Address:

Great stuf!

but as this is ONLY in the Ensign, truly official doctrine is not bound by it (you did say "the closest thing"), neither in 1988 or now or in the future. I think they do this on purpose - to avoid ever being wrong.

The methods of protection of the church can change at any time, and likely will. The dancing around the real issue will continue for a long time, but it will always come down to what the author said:

> "In the final analysis, however, the proof of the truth of the book of Abraham does not come by human means."

If so, then why have millions and millions of tithing dollars been spent over the past half-century trying to find physical evidence for mormon bullshit? If anyone is not convinced that the mormon church is hypocritical, look no further than this very costly failure to practice what they preach.

Subject: Re: Right on, Decon...
Date: Aug 09 12:48
Author: SD
Mail Address:

You should change your name to "Decontaminator" because no one can cut through the BS like you do.

Subject: Re: Official Church Response to Book of Abraham Problems
Date: Aug 09 13:58
Author: Beag
Mail Address:

" Joseph Smith used the word, he could have received the meaning, or subject-matter content of the original text, as he did in his translation of the Bible. This explanation would mean that Joseph Smith received the text of our present book of Abraham the same way he received the translation of the parchment of John the Revelator-he did not even need the actual text in front of him."

This is NOT what the term 'translate' means and twisting the definition is only intended to deceive.

"In reality, the actual method Joseph Smith used is far less important than the resulting book of scripture he produced."

REALLY!! 'The end justifies the means' except the end is only presumed perfect when in fact the means undermines the validity of the end (and Thank God it does!) and that is the issue that the article intended to address.

Subject: What is inspired in the Book of Abraham?
Date: Aug 09 16:20
Author: Rusty
Mail Address:

It looks like a basic nutcase document to me. Kolob indeed.
I'm supposed to believe it's inspired by just reading it? If it's not a translation of something ancient it loses any credibility at all.

Subject: Deconstructor--great post.
Date: Aug 09 14:40
Author: ALifeExamined

I suspect like many who post on this board, problems with the Book of Abraham was the straw that broke the camels back. As I explained to my Bishop several years ago, for years I engaged in the exercise of placing issues I didn't understand on a mental shelf so they wouldn't interfere with the things of a spiritual nature that I did understand. With the Book of Abraham problems, the shelf fell finally and swiftly off the wall.

As a true believer, I had read Nibley's "The Joseph Smith Papyri" and "Abraham in Egypt." Many of the problems addressed in these books were not entirely clear until I read Tom Ferguson's biography and "By His Own Hand." Then I understood. Nibley had deliberately obscured the arguments.

Subject: Re: Official Church Response to Book of Abraham Problems
Date: Aug 09 17:46
Author: Sophocles
Mail Address:

The double standard the Church applies to evidence is so obvious in the BoA problem. It reminds me of the mentality among witch-hunters back in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Some of the evidence they used to convict an accused witch was a confession or a lack thereof. If she confesses, she's obviously a witch; if she denies it, then obviously she is lying, because witches lie. Or if she is afraid, then she is obviously guilty, and her conscience is convicting her; but if she is not afraid, then she is obviously guilty because witches are deceptive. The mockery of logic is sickening.

One wonders why the Church even sent for a translation of the papri in the first place--everyone knows that no matter what the results, they would be seen as proof that JS was a prophet. (Another question is why our own SEER--David O. MaKay--didn't just translate them himself.)

Funny how all this stuff about translation perhaps not being literal only came up AFTER it was shown that the text of the papyri did not match the BoA. Would the Church have even suggested that the translation was anything other than literal if the text had matched? Not a chance!

If the church is growing fast, that's because it's true...

If the church is losing lots of members and gaining lots of enemies, that's because it's true...

It never ends.

Subject: Joseph's own words deflate the "inspiration" theory
Date: Aug 09 18:38
Author: nomomatt
Mail Address:

according to Josiah Quincy's account of his visit to Nauvoo, where he says Abraham's writing is on the papyrus. Joseph took his visitors to see the "curiosities" kept by his mother:
"These are mummies," said the exhibitor. "I want you to look at that little runt of a fellow over there. He was a great man in his day. Why, that was Pharaoh Necho, King of Egypt!" Some parchments inscribed with hieroglyphics were then offered us. They were preserved under glass and handled with great respect. "That is the handwriting of Abraham, the Father of the Faithful," said the prophet. "This is the autograph of Moses, and these lines were written by his brother Aaron. Here we have the earliest account of the creation, from which Moses composed the first book of Genesis." The parchment last referred to showed a rude drawing of a man and woman, and a serpent walking upon a pair of legs. I ventured to doubt the propriety of providing the reptile in question with this unusual means of locomotion.
"Why, that's as plain as a pikestaff," was the rejoinder. "Before the Fall snakes always went about on legs, just like chickens. They were deprived of them, in punishment for their agency in the ruin of man." We were further assured that the prophet was the only mortal who could translate these mysterious writings, and that his power was given by direct inspiration.

Full link to Josiah Quincy's trip to Nauvoo.

Subject: Re: Joseph's own words deflate the "inspiration" theory
Date: Aug 09 18:49
Author: mravel
Mail Address:

And his own journal entries said he was translating the writings of Abraham. It's very clear that's what Smith's associates and followers thought, too.

Subject: Inspired translation of the Ensign response by ME.
Date: Aug 09 19:08
Author: PRAVDA
Mail Address:

The Book of Abraham is an obvious hoax. However, those of us who earn a living working for the church would like to keep our jobs. Therefore we will gather up all the gull we can muster to lie right at your faces.

You know that when you joined the church we told you that Joseph translated the BOA from a papyrus written by Abraham himself. Well. Guess what. That was a "milk before meat" type of white lie. The truth is that he didn't do that. He just concentrated and the whole thing came to him (in other words he made it up).

Now you can apply that also to the Book of Mormon and pretty much every other bit of scripture he produced. However in parts where the BOM quotes the Bible, he got lazy and just read directly from the Bible, and that's why the errors got transcribed right into the BOM.

Don't pay attention to the fact that he kept on saying that his "translations" where the most correct writings ever, and directly from God, and that the papyrii were the handwriting of Abraham, and please don't notice that it even says so in the scriptures you carry with you to church every Sunday.

As a matter of fact, we give you free rein to rationalize away any possible discrepancies you may find in your life between the church and the truth. If you do so you will be blessed, amen.

Subject: Re: Official Church Response to Book of Abraham Problems
Date: Aug 09 19:30
Author: sarah
Mail Address:

Here is more from some byu brothers. Notice how they try to make it seem like all of the criticisms haven't changed since the BOA was first revealed.

Subject: When the BofA papyri were found I bet you could almost hear a massive, collective "Dammit!" at the COB.
Date: Aug 09 16:38
Author: Socrates
Mail Address:

I think the way various religions survive is because their claims CAN'T be proved wrong becaue they make no objectively provable claims. Is Christ the Son of God? Can't be proved one way or the other. Does Ganesh the Hindu elephant god exist? Who knows?

But here is hard-core proof that the BofA is false. No longer can the Church claim that the drawings in the BofA are unique or that they have ANYTHING to do with Abraham. As long as the actual papyri were missing then the Church could claim almost anything.

But not anymore. When the papyri were found I bet the Church collectively crapped their pants.

Subject: ROFL - oh man, that's a keeper
Date: Aug 09 17:47
Author: Makurosu

When I was at BYU 1989-93, religion professors were always passing out cryptic handouts about the Book of Abraham and worshipping the ground that Hugh Nibley trod upon. I just didn't get it. The handouts didn't make sense to me, because I didn't know their context. I hadn't heard the other side of the story.

So, when I was studying my way out of the Church and I came upon Charles M. Larson's book By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, which is absolutely devastating to the credibility of the LDS Church, I finally understood. I remember reaching a saturation point with the evidence and leaning back in my chair and realizing with a sigh, "Well, that's it then. The Church isn't true."

Yes, I'd say they probably crapped their pants in unison over there when the papyrus was discovered. What a nightmare for the Morg.

Subject: A correction. The Church didn't collectively crap their pants because few
Date: Aug 09 17:57
Author: Socrates
Mail Address:

TBMs then and even fewer now even know about it. But you can bet that the Church hierarchy sure did.

Everytime I look at that picture where the New York Museum is handing over the papyri to N. Eldon Tanner I keep thinking that in his mind he's thinking "Just turn those cameras off for about two minutes so I can throttle this guy and burn the papyri."

Subject: Re: When the BofA papyri were found I bet you could almost hear a massive, collective "Dammit!" at the COB.
Date: Aug 09 18:00
Author: Sophocles
Mail Address:

I agree that most religions survive because their claims cannot be proven or disproven. Consider the following account by scientist Carl Sagan of a conversation with the Dalai Lama (from The Demon-Haunted World):

"In theological discussion with religious leaders, I often ask what their response would be if a central tenet of their faith were disproved by science. When I put this question to the current, Fourteenth, Dalai Lama, he unhesitatingly replied as no conservative or fundamentalist religious leaders do: In such a case, he said, Tibetan Buddhism would have to change.

"Even, I asked, if it's a REALLY central tenet, like (I searched for an example) reincarnation?

"Even then, he answered.

"However--he added with a twinkle--it's going to be hard to disprove reincarnation."

Joseph Smith's problem was that he was so full of himself, he never stopped to think that someday, someone would be able to put his bogus translations to the test. But maybe he didn't even care.

Subject: Just the opposite is true..
Date: Aug 09 18:16
Author: Deconstructor
Mail Address:

When the papyri were rediscovered in 1967, the church's initial reaction was very positive. According to Stan Larson's book "Quest for the Gold Plates," Apostle N. Eldon Tanner was in charge of overseeing the papyri. Tanner seriously beleived that the discovery and a modern-day translation of the payri would "vindicate Joseph Smith as a translator."

If you recall, the church published full-color photographs of the entire papyri in the Church News and other church publications. BYU made enlarged microfilms of the scrolls available to scholars too. This shows church leaders had no initial fears of the papyri.

But that all changed when the first translation came back. A church member by the name of Dee Jay Nelson was the first to translate the papyri. From Larson's book:

"Since his translation did not support the Book of Abraham, [Elder N. Eldon] Tanner suggested to Nelson that it was his duty as an Elder in the Church to handle the matter in a way that would be sympathetic to LDS doctrine, but Nelson refused to make alterations to his translation."

It goes on to explain that Apostle N. Eldon Tanner went against his earlier plan and refused to publish Nelson's translation - the translation Tanner had requested.

Hugh Nibley was also disilusioned by the translation, which he had originally supported (he had written the introduction). At the time, Hugh Nibley said "it is doubtful whether any translation could do as much good as harm."

So it seems even the Mormon leaders and apologists thought at first that the translation would match Smith's.

You have to remember that this happened before the great Church Correlation that completely transformed the church into the corporate machine it is today. The Church naievely kept their archives opened until the 1980s and didn't start ex-communicating historians until the 1990s.

Subject: Very funny and insightful post :-)
Date: Aug 09 18:24
Author: mravel
Mail Address:

And with the correction Deconstructor supplied, the thoughts are essentially true. I especially agree with the idea of Mormonism being somewhat unique among religions becuase it makes bold assertions that are susceptible to objective analysis. And subjected to such an analysis, it is found sorely wanting.

Subject: Who are FARMS' worst enemies?
Date: Aug 09 18:43
Author: PRAVDA
Mail Address:

You got it: The prophets and apostles themselves. They are supposed to be "inspired" so any hypothesis or rationalizations to validate the LDS cannon must take into account the fact that it musn't contradict declarations by the modern prophets.

For example, former prophet Spencer W. Kimball and his solemn declarations that absolutely any native peoples of the Americas and the Pacific, from Eskimos to Polynesians are Lamanites, meaning direct and literal descentants of Lehi.

I feel sorry for the poor fellers.

Subject: Nope, The Dog Ate the Papyri...
Date: Aug 09 18:44
Author: going, going, gone
Mail Address:

I was reading on a link somewhere that at least one morg apologist is saying that the portion that JS translated is missing. The gist of the argument is that some of the papyri were found, but not all of them, and unfortunately the ones that were translated are lost.

So, the morg is turning more to the "you gotta have faith" approach.

Bullshit, pure and simple. Just like the angel taking back the golden plates from the BOM.

Next time something gets lost at my house, I'm going to claim that god took it back so we'd have an increase of faith.

Well, as long as it's not the remote control. Then it's an all out search.

Subject: This web page refutes ALL of the Mormon counterclaims...
Date: Aug 09 18:51
Author: Deconstructor
Mail Address:

For a complete list of Mormon defenses to the Book of Abraham and their faults, read this web page:

In particular, read the section titled "The 'Missing Black and Red Scroll' Theory." There is absolutely no validity to the claim that there were more scrolls than exist today.

Anyone discussing the BoA with Mormon apologists should read the above web page.