DISCLAIMER: IF YOU ARE A MEMBER OF THE LDS CHURCH AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW DIFFICULT INFORMATION ABOUT THE CHURCH, PLEASE DON’T READ THIS POST
Just as a reminder, as in the last post, don’t read this if you don’t want to know or believe your life would be significantly negatively impacted by a faith crisis or faith transition. If you do read on, do so with your spouse. If you look up information, either on the Gospel Topics Essays, at Fair Mormon, or outside sources, take the journey with your spouse. I will also ask the same question as I did in the last post: If the church is not true, would you actually and honestly want to know?
Before I get into this post, I want to dispel some myths about why people choose to leave the church or no longer believe. There was an amazing study completed in 2012 at the following website that delineates many of the reasons:
This study asked more than three thousand people who used to believe the LDS church was the one true church on the earth but no longer held this belief a series of questions. The study is a fairly long read but I will summarize some of the findings. The significant majority of respondents were long-term members who had previously held leadership and other callings. Members in faith crisis tend to be married, more educated than average, and earn higher than average incomes. A little less than half of these disbelievers continue to attend church (I personally know quite a few who attend but quietly no longer believe). The majority of those who left did so relatively recently (since 2005). Among historical issues, the Book of Abraham and Polygamy/Polyandry were the most significant factors to loss of belief. The exposure to several factors (historical and social) collectively led to their disbelief. Members who continue to attend church regularly (as opposed to those that stop attending) tend to suffer the most mental anguish. For many, faith crisis extracts an extremely high cost in spousal and familial relationships. A strong sense of betrayal often accompanies a member’s loss of faith. Only one in six people that go through a serious faith crisis remain LDS in belief, although often their faith does not remain the same as that which is taught by the leaders of the church.
It is interesting that the two factors that contributed to disbelief that were rated the lowest were being offended and wanting to engage in behaviours viewed as sinful by the church, which is often the cultural belief behind why people stop attending. After decades of faithful activity in the church, individuals almost never leave because of negative actions by other members or being rebellious. The top reasons for faith transitions were listed as ceasing to believe in the church’s doctrine/theology and studying church history. These are the things that I will go on to discuss in this second part of church acknowledged issues.
To recap, the church acknowledged issues that were discussed in the last post were:
1. Kinderhook Plates
2. Masonry and the Temple
3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon
4. Book of Mormon Translation, Geography, Lamanite Identity, and DNA
5. Problems with the First Vision
The church acknowledged issues that I will be discussing in this post are:
7. Race and the Priesthood Ban
8. Book of Abraham Historicity
There are several essays on the lds.org website dealing with polygamy. It is difficult to find all of them but I will summarize them the best I can. The church’s argument is that there were times where polygamy was practiced in the Bible. Joseph Smith was commanded by God to reinstitute the practice of polygamy. The church acknowledges that the reasons why God commanded this are not known except possibly to increase the number of children born, or in other words to raise up seed unto the Lord. The article acknowledges that polygamy was illegal in the U.S. at the time. It is claimed that the revelation came in 1831, but for some reason was not written down until 1843, as part of a restoration of all important doctrines of the ancient church. The revelation to restore polygamy was also comingled with the revelation that members could be married to their spouse(s) for all eternity. The crux of the church’s argument is that God revealed only parts of how to practice polygamy, allowing the possibility for leaders to make mistakes. The article states that those that practiced polygamy kept it “confidential” and that leaders of the church would offer “carefully worded denials” when asked about polygamy. The church acknowledges that Joseph told others that an angel with a drawn sword came to compel him to take on extra wives under the threat of death. Joseph’s first polygamous wife was Fanny Alger in 1833, a 16-year-old girl living in his home at the time. The priesthood keys required to seal marriages for eternity were not given until 1836. The article relates the doctrine of eternal procreation, that women will continue to have children forever in the afterlife.
When speaking further about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, the church article acknowledges that Joseph did have sexual relationships with at least some of his 30-40 wives (although the number of his wives is hidden in the footnotes of the article and not expressly stated). The church also states that Joseph’s youngest polygamous wife was 14 years old. The article explains that Joseph married women that were already married to other men (defined as polyandry). A possible reason given was that it could be a way to link families together. Joseph is described as reluctant to enter polygamy due to the negative effects it would have on his wife Emma, who the article acknowledges did not know about all of Josephs wives. The article quotes Zina Huntington Jacobs, saying that she obtained a testimony through prayer that she should marry Joseph, even though she did not want to engage in being a polygamous wife. The article concludes with the doctrine that polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife, as men who are married but have a spouse die can be remarried and sealed to more than one woman.
Okay, so there is a lot to unpack here. The article states that God commanded polygamy in the Bible. This is untrue. Nowhere is it stated that this was a command from God. For example, it is actually Sarah who gives Hagar to Abraham when she had not had children and was aging. Bible scholars today agree that polygamy in the Bible was a cultural practice of the time that was allowed by God to occur rather than being a command. If you read closely, nothing positive comes out of any polygamous relationship in the Bible. For example, in the case of Abraham, Ishmael (Hagar’s son with Abraham) was essentially kicked out of the house. Ishmael’s descendants lived by thievery and plunder. What could possibly be the purpose of God allowing Abraham to have a second wife when his first wife ended up having a child. It was Sarah’s child Isaac that was the child of promise, where the blessings God promised to Abraham were fulfilled. Ishmael did not fulfill any purpose except to create a wandering people that lived by theft.
The argument that polygamy was restored by Joseph Smith for the purpose of raising up seed is also faulty. Joseph Smith did not have any children with any of his 30+ wives. Wouldn’t God have known that there would be no offspring from these relationships? There has also been research on the early Saints that shows that polygamous marriages had fewer children per woman than did monogamous marriages. God would have known this, so why command polygamy when it goes against the stated purpose of raising up seed to God? An example of this is Brigham Young. He had 55 wives and 56 children. From what I understand, only 16 of his wives had children with him. That’s between 3-4 children per wife. This was lower than the average number of children for that time. If each of these women would have had their own husband, they would have had more than 3-4 children each on average. Another study on 19th century Mormon families compared relatively wealthy polygamous families with relatively poor monogamous families. The study found that the children of the monogamous, poor families had a greater chance of surviving to the age of 15.
Another argument for polygamy is that these men took polygamous wives due to LDS men being killed due to the persecutions and wars that the Saints had endured. Census data of Utah show that there were actually more men than women in every single decade that polygamy was practiced. And for every woman who was in a polygamous marriage there was a man that did not have a wife, considering the vast majority of people living in Utah at the time were members of the church. And men marrying widows is not actually what happened. Apostle Heber C. Kimball stated “Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake.” Heber C. Kimball also stated that he thought no more of taking another wife than he did purchasing a cow. There are documents that state in some areas there could not be a girl found that was 14 or older that was unmarried.
The article claims that Joseph may have begun teaching about polygamy as soon as 1831. This is important for the church to try to justify because Joseph’s first polygamous wife was Fanny Alger in 1833. The earliest documented mention of this 1831 revelation is by W.W. Phelps, writing to Brigham Young in 1861, a full 30 years after the supposed revelation occurred. The revelation was apparently given before Elders were going to preach the gospel to the Native Americans. Phelps stated the words of the revelation, given through Joseph Smith, were: “For it is my will, that in time, ye should take unto you wives of the Lamanites and Nephites [Native Americans], that their posterity may become white, delightsome and Just, for even now their females are more virtuous than the gentiles.” Phelps is said to have asked “how 'we,' that were mentioned in the revelation could take wives from the "natives"—as we were all married men?” To which Joseph replied “In th[e] same manner that Abraham took Hagar…” Considering these statements are horribly racist it is not hard to see why they would be left out of the article. But the church needs there to be a revelation before 1833, as this was when Joseph was caught with Fanny Alger. There is documentation that Joseph and Fanny were caught together in a barn, “in the transaction,” and that after Emma found out, Fanny was kicked out of the house. Oliver Cowdery had this to say about Joseph and Fanny, that it was a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair/scrape of his [Joseph] and Fanny Alger’s…in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in the matter.” Oliver Cowdery was excommunicated at least partially for refusing to back down on his conviction that Joseph and Fanny had an affair. There was no documentation for any marriage for decades until a second-hand account was related, which contained several discrepancies. Also, the sealing power was not restored until 1836, which was 3 years after Joseph was discovered with Fanny. How could he possibly have sealed himself to Fanny when the authority to do so was not restored for another three years?
The church does not include in the article that polygamy and celestial marriage were one and the same when these revelations were given. The secrecy of the temple ceremonies was due to keeping polygamy a secret from even the membership of the church as a whole. The body of the church were not taught about polygamy until after Joseph Smith’s death. Almost all early sealings were reserved for polygamous marriages, and not even active members that were civilly married were sealed to their (one) wife. Joseph was actually sealed to 27 women before he was sealed to his initial wife, Emma, and he never was sealed to his children, parents, or siblings.
There are numerous statements given by leaders of the church at the time that polygamy was essential to salvation. In 1891, after the Manifesto that slowed polygamy, the First Presidency and Apostles of the LDS Church made the following statement in a petition to the President of the United States: "We formerly taught to our people that polygamy or celestial marriage as commanded by God through Joseph Smith was right; that it was a necessity to man's highest exaltation in the life to come." (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, page 18). Brigham Young stated: "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory and may even be permitted to come into the presence of the Father and the Son; but they cannot reign as kings in glory..." (Journal of Discourses, Vol 11, p. 269). There are many quotes like this from early leaders describing how polygamy was required for salvation and how monogamy was a broken system of marriage that created whoredoms and weak men.
The idea that God did not explain clearly how to engage in polygamy is also false. In Doctrine and Covenants 132, there are very clear rules given, and Joseph and other leaders broke them. The purpose of polygamy is set out, to multiply and replenish the earth. As discussed earlier, Joseph had no children with his over 30 polygamous wives. And those leaders that did have children had less per wife than if these women were in a monogamous relationship and children of polygamous unions were less likely to survive to age 15. In D&C 132 there was a command to gain consent from the first wife. Joseph’s wife Emma did not even learn about polygamy until at earliest 1842, a full 9 years after his first polygamous relationship. Joseph did not give Emma the chance to consent for almost a decade and he married close to a dozen women before Emma learned about what was happening. Another piece of instruction was that every extra wife was to be a virgin. Joseph married 11 women that were already married to other men, some of these men being active members of the church, meaning he broke yet another rule given. To say that Joseph had little instruction in how to engage in polygamy, when in sacrament meeting God requires the prayers over the bread and water to be recited exactly, makes no sense. How could God leave any room for error with polygamy when in the church we are taught that sexual sin is the sin next to murder?
Another aspect of polygamy that the church doesn’t teach is about Joseph’s coercion. He promised numerous girls that if they would marry him, he would guarantee not only their salvation but that of her family as well. In the church it is taught that we all work out our own salvation and it is not guaranteed until we have endured to the end (until death). If the girls were hesitant or refused, he would say that an angel with a drawn sword would destroy him if they did not marry him. How could they chance the death of their prophet by refusing his advances? If they still refused, there is significant evidence that Joseph would threaten to destroy their character. And there is documentation that he did accuse certain women that turned him down of being adulterers, among other horrible things. On at least two occasions, Joseph would send men on missions and while they were away, he would marry their wives without the husband’s consent. This occurred with church apostle Orson Hyde. What could possibly be the point of God requiring Joseph to marry active members wives?
Joseph also made numerous advances towards Zina Huntington Jacobs…while she was pregnant with her husband Henry’s child. Joseph was courting Zina at the same time as Henry, but Henry won Zina’s hand. Joseph was supposed to officiate their wedding but because she refused his advances, Joseph didn’t show up. Her husband was sent on eight missions for the church and Joseph was eventually able to convince Zina to marry him. Then after Joseph died, Brigham Young told Henry "it was time for men who were walking in other men's shoes to step out of them. Brother Jacobs, the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit." After Zina went to live with Brigham, Henry wrote her letters about his love for her. On 2 September 1852 he wrote: "O how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little children, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." "I am unhappy," Henry continued, "there is no peace for poor me, my pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished.... O Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the question please." In an undated Valentine he added: “Zina my mind never will change from Worlds without Ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own. I feel like a lamb without a mother, I do not blame any person or persons, no--May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all purtains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our god..." Henry felt trapped. He believed in the church but two presidents of the church had essentially stolen his wife from him even after he had married her and had children. The relationship between Brigham and Zina was clearly a sexual relationship as she had two children after she began living with him while Henry was in a different state. Brigham Young taught, “If a woman can find a man holding the keys of the priesthood with higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her, he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is.”
I could go on and on about how polygamy just doesn’t work in any way, shape, or form but if I did that this post would be dozens of pages long. The last thing that I will add is to discuss the idea that Joseph married other men’s wives in order to create a link or bond between families. This also does not make sense as Joseph married several sets of sisters as well as one mother-daughter pair. He would only have had to marry one sister or either the mother or daughter in order to create this link between families. But he didn’t, he married both.
In the end, after months of research, there is no way that God would have commanded Joseph Smith to engage in polygamy. He married seven girls younger than 18 years old. He married 11 women who were already married, some to active members of the church. He married three sets of sisters and one mother-daughter pair. Every single possible reason that the article gives for why polygamy was okay is easily refuted. The fact that men can still be sealed to other women after a first wife dies shows that polygamy will be occurring in the afterlife, at least as far as the LDS church believes. I find the entire subject of polygamy repugnant and there is no evidence whatsoever that there was a legitimate purpose other than for men in the church to engage in dominion over others due to their own desires.
7. Race and the Priesthood Ban
The article spends time describing how the church currently teaches that all races are equal before God. To quote the article, “Despite this modern reality, for much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances.” The article states that it was common among churches of the day to discriminate due to race. Joseph Smith allowed two black men to be ordained to the priesthood, while Brigham Young and every leader of the church between the early 1850s to 1978 did not allow black men to receive these blessings. The article claims that Brigham Young said that one day black people would have all the privileges enjoyed by other members. One possible reason for the priesthood ban being implemented is the belief that black people were descended from Cain and were cursed with black skin as a punishment. Another reason put forward in the article was that black people were said to have been less valiant in the premortal battle against Lucifer and, as a consequence, were restricted from priesthood and temple blessings. In 1975, the church announced that a Temple would be built in Brazil. The church realized that many black Brazilians had volunteered time and money to the building of the temple and would not be allowed inside. Soon after, in 1978, the leaders of the church stated they received revelation that all worthy members may receive temple ordinances and all worthy men could hold the priesthood, ending the ban on black people. To quote the article, “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects unrighteous actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.” The article concludes with this: “The teachings of the Church in relation to God’s children are epitomized by a verse in the second book of Nephi: “[The Lord] denieth none that cometh unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
I suppose one of the main problems I have with this whole issue is that you have to make an assumption here. Either you have to assume that God is racist or you have to assume that the early prophets were racist. If God commanded the prophets to not allow black people the blessings of being sealed to their families forever, I’m sorry to say but that’s not a God I want to follow. It runs counter to scripture that God is capable of changing His mind as God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But either way, it means that either God was or God is racist. Since this makes no sense whatsoever, I will throw out the idea that God commanded the leaders of the church to deny black people these blessings.
That means the alternative must be true, and this is what the article argues for, that the prophets were like others of that time and were extremely racist. The early leaders of the church were also pro-slavery but we don’t need to get into this too deeply here. The crux of my argument is that if God leads the LDS church through prophets, how is it remotely possible that he allowed them to deny blessings to an entire race of people for more than one hundred years? At any time, God could have and should have intervened to fix or prevent this from occurring. But He didn’t. Which suggests to me that God does not lead these men. If He did, the church would be decades ahead of social issues rather than decades behind like it has been. The LDS church should have been different from every other church of the day if it was actually led by God. These issues from the past should not be present if God was giving these men revelation as His mouthpieces on the earth. But this was not the case. In order to believe that God leads the church, you have to believe that prophets can make mistakes. And not only small ones, but extremely large mistakes that have far reaching consequences. I don’t believe that God would allow prophets to make these errors if he was leading the church.
Joseph did ordain two black men to the priesthood. But if God is at the head of the church, why did He allow Brigham Young to lead the church astray with false doctrine that black people were not valiant in the war in heaven or that they were descended from Cain and cursed? Was Brigham any less of a prophet than Joseph, or are all prophets considered equal and are the only men on earth able to receive revelation for the world? These teachings should have been consistent if God was directing these men.
The next point I will make shows how dishonest the Gospel Topics Essays of the church can be. This is why it is so important to read the source material rather than just take what is said at face value. This put an extreme amount of weight on my shelf. And it came from the official church website. Anyway, the article states that Brigham Young taught that one day black people would have all the privileges enjoyed by other members. Except the actual quote from the source material that is cited is, “What is that mark [black skin]? you will see it on the countenance of every African you ever did see upon the face of the earth, or ever will see. Now I tell you what I know; when the mark was put upon Cain…the Lord told Cain that he should not receive the blessings of the preisthood nor his seed, until the last of the posterity of Abel had received the preisthood, until the redemtion of the earth. If there never was a prophet, or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain. I know they are, I know that they cannot bear rule in the preisthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them, until the resedue of the posterity of Michal [Adam] and his wife receive the blessings, the seed of Cain would have received had they not been cursed; and hold the keys of the preisthood, until the times of the restitution shall come, and the curse be wiped off from the earth, and from michals seed” (emphasis mine). Brigham Young himself, as well as numerous other prophets after him, preached openly these racist theories that the church now disavows. Brigham Young also taught that people that were in mixed race marriages or had mixed race children should be killed in order to appease God. Another of Brigham’s teachings was that the only way black people could make it to the highest degree of heaven was as a servant. But I digress. In the source the article cites, Brigham states that black people can only have the same blessings as white people until every other child of Adam and Eve received it, and this would not be until the redemption of the earth. So, Brigham actually taught that black people would not receive all the blessings of white people until every single white person that ever would live would have those blessings first, and it would not be until the end of the world. Insinuating that Brigham taught that black people would one day, presumably much before the end of the world, receive all blessings that white people could receive is extremely disingenuous.
In reality, the matter of race and the priesthood was on the minds of the leaders of the church because of the social pressure due to the Brazil temple. There was not any easy way to tell which people with black skin were descended from African people and which were not, in racially diverse Brazil. And to prevent black people from attending after they spent time and money on the temple would have been horrible. It would have been a public relations nightmare. So, the leaders talked and prayed and felt it was time to change the doctrine. Which really shouldn’t have been the case if God was leading these men. Either the ban should never have happened in the first place or it should have continued forever if that was correct doctrine given from God. On August 17, 1949 the First Presidency made the following statement: “The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization…” (emphasis mine). The prophet of the church and his two counsellors specifically stated that the priesthood ban was not policy but was a direct commandment from the Lord. They go on to say that doctrine is founded upon these direct commandments from the Lord. I find it interesting that eternal truth and doctrine can and does change based on the social climate of the day.
The final thing that I will say about this issue is that the Book of Mormon had to be changed due to racist language within it. When the people of the Book of Mormon travelled from Jerusalem to the American continent, they were considered white. Over time, a portion of them became wicked and broke off from the righteous group (descendants of Nephi, or Nephites). The Book of Mormon teaches that God cursed the wicked ones (descendants of Laman, or Lamanites) with black skin to differentiate them from the righteous and to make them less beautiful to them. There were times where this “curse” of black skin was removed from people due to personal righteousness, and they became white. In 2 Nephi 30:6 it used to say “…their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people.” In 1981 the Book of Mormon was changed to say “…they shall be a pure and delightsome people.” It is interesting that the book that Joseph Smith called “the most correct of any book on earth” had to be changed to become less racist, although many racist themes remain.
Again, there is no way that God should have allowed the prophets of his church to teach false doctrine that black people were any less than white people. And to allow it for more than 100 years! This makes no sense whatsoever. I have heard some say that the church would have been destroyed by persecution if black people were allowed all blessings that white people had. But somehow polygamy did not destroy the church, so how would allowing black people to hold the priesthood? There were other churches, including some new religions and some break off LDS sects, that allowed black people all the benefits that white people had. And these religions were not destroyed. God did not command prophets to ban black people from the priesthood. And if God was directly guiding the leaders of the LDS church, there is no way He would have allowed these racist doctrines to occur.
8. Historicity of the Book of Abraham
This is an issue that as a believing member of the church I had never heard before; it was completely new to me and a huge shock. This was probably the main issue that led to my disbelief that the LDS church was the one true church, as there is concrete evidence that disproves Joseph’s claims to revelation from God.
The Book of Abraham is considered modern scripture in the church, translated from Egyptian papyri, by the founder Joseph Smith. The header to the Book of Abraham as it is currently written states, “Translated from the papyrus, by Joseph Smith. A translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus” (emphasis mine). It will be important to remember this information going forward. The article on the official church website states that only small fragments of the papyrus that Joseph Smith used to translate still exist. The article states that Joseph didn’t have expert knowledge on languages but received revelation from God in order to translate. The main argument is that the authenticity of the Book of Abraham cannot be determined through physical evidence or archeology. The only way to know if it contains the Word of God is by faith and receiving a spiritual witness of the teachings contained in it through the Holy Ghost. The article explains that Joseph created a Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL) that included hieroglyphics with an English explanation beside them. To quote the article, “Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today.” The article goes on to say that the papyri were sold and later thought destroyed, although 10 fragments that Joseph Smith possessed were later found. To again quote the article, “None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham… Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.” This means that Joseph translated these documents incorrectly and it is acknowledged by the church. The article spends a lot of time trying to explain why Joseph translated incorrectly and why it might still be ok. It also goes to great lengths to explain that while the papyri could not have been “written by [Abraham’s] own hand,” it may still be authentic revelation. The article discussed a common LDS apologist theory that there are portions of the papyri that we no longer have and that they may have been what Joseph translated from. Finally, the church discusses research done by BYU and other LDS scholars that they claim supports the ancient origins within the Book of Abraham.
As this is a major issue for me, I do not believe I can do it justice within a page or two. I will include the best summary of the facts about the Book of Abraham that I have come across in my months of study.
It was written by Robert Ritner, who is one of the world’s leading Egyptologists. He does not have stake for or against the church. His only reason for writing his summary is academic integrity. He wants to relay truth and accurate information. If you want factual information without any mincing of words, this is the place to find it.
To summarize some of the issues raised, Joseph Smith claimed divine ability to translate ancient documents. In the case of the Book of Abraham, we have verifiable evidence that he was not able to translate correctly. The papyri were not written by the hand of Abraham as it is agreed upon by Mormon and non-Mormon scholars alike that the papyri were standard funerary texts that had nothing to do with Abraham. These were also written much later than Abraham was said to live. The argument that there are missing scrolls is also unfounded. Ritner shows that we do have all of the papyri Joseph used, and he proves it with evidence. Ritner had access to the specific papyri the church owns and included pictures of these papyri, which are shown in the link above.
On a related note, Brian Hauglid was a well-known Mormon apologist that has authored several books on difficult church topics. He is a professor at Brigham Young University and a visiting fellow at the Maxwell Institute. He also worked on the Joseph Smith papers project. He had agreed with many of the arguments contained in the church article on the Book of Abraham, until recently. In late 2018 he wrote the following: “For the record, I no longer hold the views that have been quoted from my 2010 book…I have moved on from my days as an “outrageous” apologist…I wholeheartedly agree with Dan’s [Vogel] excellent assessment of the Abraham/Egyptian documents…I now reject a missing Abraham manuscript…I no longer agree with Gee or Mulhestein. I find their apologetic “scholarship” on the BoA abhorrent.” So, Brian used to defend the church’s narrative about the Book of Abraham and how it could still be given by the divine while being an incorrect translation. He no longer holds his previous views, even though being public about it puts his job at the church owned BYU at severe risk. But his integrity was more important than his career. He specifically stated that the arguments offered by certain apologists are “abhorrent.”
Another point that I have issue with when speaking of the church’s characterization of the translation of the Book of Abraham is that regardless whether we have all fragments Joseph used to translate, we do have all three of the original facsimiles. We have Joseph’s translations of all three with nothing missing. These pictures continue to be displayed in many church scriptures. And Joseph got these translations completely wrong. There is no way to get around these facts. The Book of Abraham is another instance, as with the Kinderhook Plates, where there is physical, testable proof that Joseph lied about his claim to receive revelation from God to have the ability to translate. And why would God go to such lengths to ensure that Joseph wouldn’t be proven wrong with the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon then allow him to translate the Book of Abraham incorrectly. It makes no sense.
These three issues were some of the biggest problems for me in my faith journey. As soon as I began looking into polygamy and the priesthood ban, rather than continuing to just leave them on my shelf to be answered in the next life, I found that there actually were answers to these difficult questions. And I had never even heard of issues with Joseph Smith’s incorrect translation of the Book of Abraham. These problems led me to continue to ask difficult questions. In my next post I will continue to discuss my major concerns with the truth claims of the church. But this time I will include things that the church has not officially acknowledged. And since this post was a continuation of the last one, I will FINALLY include the meaning behind Tapir being in the name of this blog. After the next post, I will move back into discussing my experiences with learning these things. I will discuss my stages of grief, my letter to family that I no longer believed, and the outcomes of being public with my faith transition process.