What do specialists think of Mormonism’s claims?

On August 11th, 2013 I posted a compilation on the exmormon subreddit. I worked every day for many hours during a 3-4 week period. The compilation consisted of responses from university professors who specialize in the fields of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica Archaeology, Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica Anthropology, and Egyptology. Their responses were directed towards my letter asking their opinion on the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon and/or the Book of Abraham. I acquired their emails from their university’s website. I emailed a total of sixty professors and received responses from twenty-five of them. Out of those twenty-five, fourteen allowed me to share their names and responses online.

Here is the template email I sent to the Mesoamerica professors, and here is the letter to the Egyptology professors.

I usually added something to the letter that was specific to the receiver like their work in a specific country, or their particular field of work.

Without further ado, here are the responses.

I hope everyone found the responses as insightful as I did. In my short seventeen years I find this compilation to be one of my favorite experiences. The professors were kind and generous enough to share their knowledge with an interested stranger.

Best Wishes. Zachary (a.k.a cagelessbird)

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Rewriting the Scriptures Edition!!

If you haven’t heard, the CoJCoL-dS decided to dust off the old scriptures, polish ’em up, and give them a slightly different meaning. A bit of additional hedging. The most dramatic change was to shy away from the claim that the Book of Abraham was translated from the papyrus in Joseph Smith’s possession — a controversial idea, as we learned here at MSP!! Many of the faithful applaud this change for obvious reasons, and some are even presenting the old “translating from the papyrus” claim as a straw-man.

Of course, it’s not the first time they’ve changed the BoA’s explanatory intro — see this this history — and it’s not the only part that was changed. (Actually, it’s interesting to note how much Mormon temples changed in purpose during the early days of the church.) The colorful BoA has distracted us from the interesting racial re-explaining plus some interesting polygamy whitewash!

The briefs are mounting for the Supreme Court case against DOMA, and Utah reaffirmed non-discrimination for sexual orientation, with help from some faithful Latter-day Saints who are living in the future.

In the same vein as the breastfeeding in church controversy, excluding half the people from the authority they need to do their jobs doesn’t work. Not Mormon-related, but this is my favorite reaction to the endless refrain that women “can’t have it all”:

Did you notice that somebody’s missing from this story? Somebody else who could have gone to the birthday assembly? Somebody with a penis?

You read articles like this all the time, usually under some heading that says, in many words or few, “Women can’t have it all.” But what these articles call “having it all” and treat as an impossible fantasy – being a good, loving parent without sacrificing work ambition — is what men call “daily life.”

But let’s not just dump on Mormonism. It has its strange bits that even the faithful don’t agree on, but some items encouraged by Mormonism are cool — like this for example! Also, tattoos can be cool — Mormon and otherwise.

I discussion topics, Andrew S has an interesting take on post-Mormon morality — just look at the helpful moral instruction offered by Mormonism! Another person has noticed the frog-in-a-pot/milk-before-meat parallel.

There were quite a number of faith journeys this past week! An apologist figured out that the Mormon Interpreter is not a real academic journal, the last debate before leaving Christianity, a video on gaining perspective, an explanation for joining the church in the first place, embracing asexuality, following in the footsteps of an ancestor, feeling the spirit as evidence it’s not real, keeping the church experience after dumping the myth, and a whole new Mormon-to-atheist blog!!

Also, this humor site looks like a good opportunity to share your talents!

Sorry for the lateness of this post! The good news is that (as of today) there are no more unsorted boxes left in my apartment!!! They’re all in the basement now, and most of them are even sorted!! Oh, and what do you think of our shiny new domain name “mainstreetplaza.com”? Pretty cool, huh?

And…The Book of Abraham is de-canonized

When I was growing up, I had a triple combination. This was a copy of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Abraham in one book. We studied the Book of Abraham in seminary, the same year as the Old Testament. I remember my seminary teacher actually built a cardboard replica of Urim and Thummim breastplate (and glasses) to bring to our class.

So I was shocked to read the other day that the Book of Abraham is now an “esoteric” work. I know some faithful mormons who would also find that surprising. It’s true, I don’t remember the Book of Abraham being discussed all that often (much like D&C section 132 about celestial marriage/polygamy). But it was still included as scripture, revealed (restored) to Joseph Smith by God.

If it is de-canonized, that certainly makes things easier to explain for LDS leadership and apologists. The Community of Christ (formerly RLDS) doesn’t consider it to be a religious text. The Egyptian from the facsimile and papyri do not translate into the text in the Book of Abraham.

I just think the process of determining what is LDS doctrine is fraught with peril. It would be nice if the LDS church would have a Vatican council (like the Roman Catholic church did) to better define what is and what is not scripture. Until that time, I suppose answers from a public relations specialist for a national news program will have to do (much like “I don’t know that we believe that” about eternal progression with Larry King Live.)

BBC’s This World: The Mormon Candidate

Finally, a Mormon documentary for the rest of us.

Hailed by the creator of the I am an Ex Mormon video series as “my favorite video about Mormonism I have ever seen.”

Part 1: Mitt Romney

Part 2: Mormons

Part 3: Exmormons

Part 4: Prophets

Part 5: Park

Part 6: Pundits

After I get done watching, it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast John Sweeney’s approach with that of Helen Whitney in her earlier PBS documentary The Mormons.

Come to think of it, I’m also going to revisit that France 24 report from a few weeks back:

Exmos popping up everywhere these days, even in Provo, with French cameras rolling! :-)

Oh, and others are discussing Sweeney’s documentary here and I particularly liked the comment over there that begins:

“The thing that makes this documentary amazing isnt the amount it relied on ex-members, but the amount it relied on the LDS Church to be embarrassed about its past, to lie about its past and then finally to admit the claims that were being made.”

Your Sunday School Lesson: The First Vision

According to the philosopher Mircea Eliade, of whose work I learned at BYU, every community, tribe, or nation requires an origin myth. The account of a community’s or practice’s origin has far reaching consequences because it implies how they relate to the cosmos, which is necessary for human beings to imbue their world with shared meaning. Mormonism’s origin myth is the first vision.
Continue reading “Your Sunday School Lesson: The First Vision”

Doomed Unrequited Love and a Very Special Hieroglyph

The next morning over breakfast we compared notes on the dance. This didn’t take too long since no one had really met any serious prospects. The ones that were closest to finding a romance were Amy with Greg and her sister Alexandra with this guy Matt who was from Ely. But neither one of these was particularly promising since Greg was a non-member and Matt lived way on the other side of creation where Alexandra could hardly hope to see much of him. Plus he seemed like a bit of a hayseed. So when they had finished their stories, I recounted to them the whole situation with Tom and how Lara was leading him on just to get him to join the church. Read the rest of the story »