How is lying an improvement?

Book of Mormon God's Favorite Musical

In case you haven’t heard, LDS Inc has updated their scriptures.  Most of the changes are cosmetic, apparently, but Peggy Fletcher Stack notes some that aren’t so cosmetic: changes that reflect views on race and polygamy.  But what’s confusing me is the spin that’s going on with these changes.  In Stack’s article, almost everyone she interviews talks about how refreshing and helpful these changes are.  Yet, some of them are lies and half-truths.  Take the change in the heading to Official Declaration 2:

The Book of Mormon teaches that “all are alike unto God,” including “black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Nephi 26:33). Throughout the history of the Church, people of every race and ethnicity in many countries have been baptized and have lived as faithful members of the Church. During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the Church were ordained to the priesthood. Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice. Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. The revelation removed all restrictions with regard to race that once applied to the priesthood.

Okay, yeah, that’s a quote from the BofM, but the BofM also says dark skin is a curse from god.  But the big whopper is this line, “Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.”  Really?  That’s the best you can do?  So, the idea that blacks were less worthy in the pre-existence that was taught from the pulpit, was pervasive in the teachings of numerous prophets, and was largely considered doctrine, doesn’t count.  Huh?  That’s funny.

Now, I get that it’s not entirely clear why a formal policy was developed disallowing blacks from the priesthood right around the time Joseph Smith died.  But the justification that arose to defend the policy was everywhere, and there isn’t a hint of admission or recognition of or apology for that racist doctrine in this supposedly refreshing and “modern” version of the scriptures.

Another change appears to be a “victory” for reason and evidence, but it’s actually just an under-handed compromise.  The new introduction to the Pearl of Great Price now calls it “an inspired translation,” code for those in the know that it is really “completely fabricated and indefensible.”  This is a great compromise.  For the people in the pews who don’t know any better, they won’t catch the difference and will be none the wiser.  But for those who do know better, now they can say, “See, the church doesn’t claim Joseph was making a literal translation either.”  Ignoring the fact that all the evidence suggests he thought he was.

I’m sure some people are going to get on my case for criticizing these efforts.  They’ll say things like, “Come on, they’re making efforts.  Can’t you give them some credit?”  To those people I say, “No.  These aren’t efforts to be more open and honest.  These are efforts to cover their asses and more carefully hide the truth.  I’ll give them credit when they say, “The Pearl of Great Price was just made up by Joseph Smith.  It wasn’t any more a translation than the Book of Mormon the musical is a translation of the sealed portion of the golden plates” or when they say, “We used to teach really racist things.  We’re sorry.  The people who taught that obviously were not inspired or they would have known better.  We don’t speak with god any more than anyone else does.  We’re a bunch of old, white men running a corporation and carrying on a charade.”  When they say those things, then I’ll give them props.  No props for lies and half truths.

141 thoughts on “How is lying an improvement?

  1. Oh please.
    “In fact, the entire Book of Abraham demonstrates the sort of mastery of ancient Canaanite religion, cosmology and narrative that no man alive in Joseph Smith’s day possessed.”
    LDS Apologetics are the ones who make things up. And they make up some whoppers. If it wasn’t for the Word of Wisdom, I’d think they’d be drinking.

  2. Seth @50:

    Because no one is talking about making up anything.

    Actually, Seth, MOST people here are talking about how Joseph Smith made stuff up.

    The fact that YOU are not “talking about making up anything” doesn’t mean that “NO ONE is talking about making up anything.”

    Oh, and this:

    Which is why – on the evidence – I find the “he made it up” explanation improbable. He didn’t have the education to do so – no one alive on the planet in his day did.

    check it out:

    Joseph Smith had all the education he needed, including a general understanding of astrology as it was understood in the early 19th century and so forth, to make up the absolutely crazy shit in the Book of Abraham.

    Basically accuracy, Seth. Basic accuracy and a grasp of what is actually going on in the conversation–they would really help right now.

  3. Incidentally, if you stop trying to read the Facsimiles in an Egyptian context, but rather in a context of ancient Canaanite theology – Joseph’s interpretation is downright uncanny in its accuracy.

    You seem to believe that ancient Egyptian is some sort of mystery, and that modern people haven’t actually succeeded in learning this language and how it is written.

    This is a little bit like if someone who didn’t speak any French found a copy of “Le Petit Prince” and claimed it was a tale of Thor, written by Norse scribes around 50 AD — and reproduced a few pages accurately and lost the rest. Then, when someone who speaks French says “Actually, that’s Le Petit Prince, and you mistranslated the writing the you copied from it.” Your argument is equivalent to saying, “Of course his translation seems wrong if you ask someone who speaks French to translate it — what you really need is to have it translated by an expert in Old Norse!”

  4. Chanson, you’re talking about two separate issues.

    I was talking about the reading of the imagery in the Facsimiles. I wasn’t talking about the Egyptian text portions that have been dealt with.

  5. I was talking about the reading of the imagery in the Facsimiles. I wasn’t talking about the Egyptian text portions that have been dealt with.

    Except of course that the facsimiles are Egyptian.

    This is like looking at the illustrations in “Green Eggs and Ham” and saying, “You can’t judge them by American culture or modern English. You have to go back and interpret them according to the beliefs and languages of the Anglo-Saxons.”

  6. I wasn’t talking about the Egyptian text portions that have been dealt with.

    I was talking about the Egyptian text even if you weren’t.

    There are quite a number of places in the Facsimiles where JS specifically indicates a portion of Egyptian text and writes his translation of that portion of text. And the thing is that even the Mormon Egyptologists don’t claim that his translations of the texts are accurate.

    For example, turn to Facsimile #3. It says “Prince of Pharoah, King of Egypt, as written above his hand.” OK, take the characters above his hand. They say something. Do they say “Prince of Pharoah, King of Egypt” or not? It’s not a complicated or ambiguous question.

    Similarly the one mentioned earlier: “Shulem, one of the King’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.” Do you have an example of an Egyptologist who positively affirms: “Yes, that’s what those characters say!”…? “Here, this group of characters says ‘waiter’ and this is the part that says ‘Shulem.'” I have my Egyptian dictionary handy, to follow the translation.

  7. RE: #50

    In fact, the entire Book of Abraham demonstrates the sort of mastery of ancient Canaanite religion, cosmology, and narrative that no man alive in Joseph Smith’s day possessed.

    Except, Thomas Dick? Theologian Thomas Dick was basically spouting similar ideas to those that Joseph Smith incorporated into the Book of Abraham, and it’s not improbable that Smith was familiar with Dick’s ideas. So, again, which is more likely: that some Canaanite redactor placed the Book of Abraham in with a Breathing Permit and that part was conveniently burned or that Joseph Smith made it up, all the while cribbing Thomas Dick?

    I’ll put my money on Joseph cribbing Dick!

    (And, yes, that’s a great sentence.)

  8. What similar ideas?

    Look, I’m all for another good Spaulding conspiracy theory – but you’ll have to be specific.

  9. Dick never mentions the word “Kolob” – the closest he gets is mentioning the “throne of God.” It’s not completely implausible that Joseph came into contact with Dick’s book in the library at Manchester. But really, Joseph’s own theology in Abraham contradicts Dick on a lot of crucial points. It’s hard to believe he was using Dick as a model.

    For one thing Joseph flatly denies Dick’s assertions of creation ex nihilo. Dick also stated that God existed alone and needed no inferior intelligences – that God was perfectly happy in his own solitary glory without need of us. Something that couldn’t be more antithetical to Joseph’s core theology.

    Also Dick declared that God was a spirit without physical form and that we will never understand God, ever. All of which Joseph flatly refutes. I can’t see Dick really appealing to Joseph’s theological views – even if we grant for the sake of argument they were Joseph’s own creation.

    I realize Brodie was a fan of this concept – but she didn’t really do much to solidify the connection beyond vague circumstantial inferences. This was always Brodie’s problem. She was eager to find a reason, ANY plausible reason for Joseph’s work other than the explanation Joseph offered. So really, all a connection had to be for her was theoretically possible for it to be good enough for her to use – even if it was unlikely.

  10. I’m not suggesting it is perfect, but even the “throne of god” idea made it’s way into Joseph’s writings, a la:

    Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.

    From Facsimile 2.
    https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-2?lang=eng

  11. profxm – the “throne of God” is also in the Bible.

    Isn’t that a more likely spot for Joseph to borrow the imagery from than an contemporary theologian with whom Joseph fundamentally disagreed on many points?

  12. But really, Joseph’s own theology in Abraham contradicts Dick on a lot of crucial points. It’s hard to believe he was using Dick as a model.

    Why? The fact that he didn’t slavishly reproduce every single idea of a model means that he couldn’t have read, reacted to, and based many of his own ideas on another text?

    It’s like that super weird passage in the short book of Mormon, about infant baptism. It so obviously doesn’t belong there in terms of the narrative; it’s so clearly an addendum. That to me was always evidence that the book was a 19th century creation, because that was a 19th century debate.

    It seems extremely likely that Joseph went through Dick’s various ideas, adopting the ones he liked, discarding the ones he didn’t. That’s evidence of influence, not evidence of lack of influence, especially given how anxious Joseph appears to correct what he apparently perceived as Dick’s errors.

    In any event, it’s clear that your earlier assertion that “no man alive in Joseph Smith’s day possessed” this supposedly special “sort of mastery of ancient Canaanite religion” you claim Joseph Smith’s translation demonstrates is utterly wrong and without merit.

  13. the “throne of God” is also in the Bible.

    So is most of the stuff in the Book of Abraham. You previously argued that all that stuff reflected some sort of special knowledge. Now you’re saying anyone could have come up with it, because it’s in the bible?

  14. RE: #62

    But the reference to the throne of god combined with god living on another planet, both of which are ideas that could have been cribbed from Dick, are in the Book of Abraham. It could be coincidence, but it could also be influence.

    And, returning to something I’ve repeated several times, we can think about this probabilistically: Which is more likely, that Joseph was sent divine knowledge while receiving an “inspired translation” of Egyptian papyrii or that he borrowed some ideas from a book he was reading and incorporated them into a new bit of writing that he claimed was based on some papyrii he had recently purchased? My money is on the latter.

  15. @38 chanson,

    Oh, well, if there’s already an explanation for that, then I’m satisfied.

    chanson, you haven’t listened to the rules very well. I am not convincing you, you are convincing me. I want a smoking gun. Give me a smoking gun. Give me all the levels of Egyptian translation that proves that what Joseph wrote was incorrect. If you cannot prove him wrong by providing the correct translation of all the levels of Egyptian meaning, then you have only proved your ignorance of Egyptian and that you believe (have faith) that he is wrong. That’s not good enough. All that shows is that he still may be wrong or he still may be right.

    I say he is right in his interpretation on one of those levels. So it is up to you to prove him wrong. I will accept all concrete evidence to the contrary. I am open to the evidence, but it must show indisputably that the interpretation is wrong for every level. The Shulem character criticism doesn’t work because on one of those levels the representation of the characters actually does show a high-ranking butler, just as Joseph said that they did in the characters above his hand. Dumb luck on Joseph’s part, I’m sure, right?

    Let’s just brush that lucky guess aside and move onto another that you mentioned here, the prince of Pharaoh. Was Pharaoh, King of Egypt written above his hand? On one level, yes it was. Can we really call this dumb luck, chanson, and still consider ourselves intelligent people? Why not take a person who has never seen the facsimiles and ask them to do an interpretation without them seeing what Joseph came up with? How much dumb luck do you think the average person would have in guessing correctly any of these characters and figures? How much dumb luck should we ascribe to Joseph? At what point in all our insistence at ascribing dumb luck to Joseph’s correct interpretations do we ourselves begin to look like stubborn, dumb asses? At what point do we begin to make asses of ourselves, chanson?

    So, please provide me the correct interpretation of all levels of the Egyptian characters so that I can see why you disbelieve the interpretation Joseph gave. Give me the smoking gun. If you cannot do that, (and that goes for anyone else,) then please be intellectually honest with me and admit that Joseph’s interpretation may have been correct on one of those levels. If you cannot admit that, then you are being dishonest.

    Now, I ascribe Joseph’s correct interpretation to the power of God in him. You can disbelieve that if you will and still retain intellectual honesty. But what is easier to believe, that Joseph guessed all this stuff correctly or that God revealed it to him? Guessing is preposterous to me. Revelation is preposterous to you. But guessing is also preposterous to you. So, how does your mind deal with this? He had no way of learning this stuff during his time, for this knowledge was not available at that time. So, if he didn’t guess it, study it, or have it revealed by God, how is Joseph getting these interpretations correct? Aliens?

    Again, I look forward to all the new Egyptian discoveries and scholarly works of antiquity. I predict that as we learn more about the past, Joseph will increasingly be vindicated. But you will still stay in your stubborn beliefs, won’t you?

  16. So, let me get this straight, LDS Anarchist, you are claiming:
    1) Every Egyptian heiroglyphic has 4 levels of meaning, according to you.
    2) chanson would have to prove that Joseph got everything wrong on every level of meaning.

    Yet, you give one source for their being 4 levels of meaning, and we don’t know how credible that source is. Also, you are making a supernatural claim, which means the burden of proof falls on you, not chanson, to prove that he was correct on at least one level, not on chanson to disprove the supernatural abilities of Smith. So, LDS Anarchist, I reject your assumption and your premise.

    Go ahead and prove how he got everything right!

  17. LDS Anarchist @66

    chanson, you haven’t listened to the rules very well.

    Does this pompous nozzle really think he gets to establish rules for how things happen on MSP and how chanson has to interact with him?

    Wow. That just might take the mansplaining cake.

  18. Anarchist never go onto an atheist forum and try to claim they have the burden of proof.

    Ever.

    About anything.

    You’ll discover a whole new world of hurtful words.

  19. That said Anarchist, I think you’re being a bit unreasonable in your proof demands here.

  20. @71:

    Never tell an anarchist not to do something.

    Good thing then that you’ve shown that you’re not a real anarchist. As you’ve demonstrated so thoroughly by writing something like “chanson, you haven’t listened to the rules very well,” you have the utmost allegiance to rules. You formulate them, announce them, and expect to see them followed. You care nothing for and know nothing of anarchy.

    Perhaps spellcheck screwed up on your name? Perhaps you mean to call yourself lds antichrist? It would fit.

  21. One more thing, Seth.

    “The burden of proof” is on the shoulders of the non-religious quarter. People of faith do not have to prove anything. We rely on religious testimony, belief and faith.

    I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I say that the Holy Ghost manifested this information to me and now I’m telling you. I don’t have to prove anything, merely to testify to what was manifested to me.

    The unbeliever, on the other hand, must furnish proof, for he cannot rely on mere religious testimony, belief and faith. He says, “Joseph Smith didn’t translate the Book of Abraham correctly.” I say, “Prove he didn’t.” And he must, otherwise he shows himself as much a man of faith as me.

    So, no, Seth, I am not being unreasonable in my proof demands.

  22. Well, best of luck pursuing your argument then.

    As for who this community is for – you can draw your own conclusions about that from your own reception. I’ve certainly drawn my own.

  23. Thanks for the pat on the back. I figure this forum is for me, since I’m someone interested in Mormonism. Based on the warm welcome I have received, I’m seriously considering taking up a permanent residency here.

  24. Anarchist, I see you’d like to turn this into a battle of “my experts vs. your experts”, but the point is that this is a question where anyone reading this can check the experts’ work.

    To illustrate what I mean by that, have a look at this page that I scanned at random from “Egyptian Language, Easy Lessons in Egyptian Hieroglyphics,” by Sir E. A. Wallis Budge:

    Now, I am willing to grant Seth’s argument that the parts that are just pictures might mean different things to different people. I am only talking about the parts where Joseph Smith claims to translate texts written in Ancient Egyptian language which are visible on the Facsimile (namely much of Facsimile #3 and almost all of the translated portion of Facsimile #2).

    Do you have an example of someone who knows how to read and translate Ancient Egyptian writing who claims that Joseph Smith’s translations of those texts are accurate?

    If so, did that person produce an explanation of the translation (like the page from Budge above) so that we can see that the translations are accurate?

    As far as I’ve seen from the apologetic literature, even the Mormons who can read ancient Egyptian don’t claim that the text portions of the facsimiles are translated accurately. But if you can produce one who does make that claim, let’s have a look.

  25. chanson, we seem to be talking past each. I’ll try to put this in the simplest possible of terms and maybe then you will understand what is necessary. This is not a battle of “my experts vs. your experts.” I’ll accept all the experts, yours and mine, as telling the facts. But as we are dealing with a multi-leveled language (Egyptian), to make an accurate assessment of Joseph’s wrongness, I’ll need to know all the possible meanings of the characters, both the basic, literal translation as well all the possible high-level symbolism.

    I tried to use Hebrew as an example of a multi-leveled language, but apparently you (and others) didn’t get my drift. So let’s use a language a little closer to home as an example, say, English. Let’s take the double entendre.

    A sign reads:

    We stand behind every bed we sell.

    You might wonder if you’ll see the salesman who sold you your bed waiting patiently behind it come nightfall to see if you truly enjoy your new sleep experience. (Now this might be termed the basic, literal translation.)

    Or you may just believe that the store that sold you the bed feels so strongly about their beds that they are guaranteeing your comfort. (This might be termed a high-level symbolic meaning.)

    Now, let’s imagine that “We stand behind every bed we sell” is an Egyptian phrase and that Joseph Smith translates it into “We guarantee your comfort.” Then along comes an Egyptologist and he says, “This man Joseph Smith is a fool. This phrase has nothing to do with guarantees or comfort. The man is an obvious fraud! The characters are talking of standing and beds as anyone who has studied Egyptian knows!”

    Now, the expert is correct that the phrase is talking of beds and standing. That is technically correct, on a very basic level. But his assessment of Joseph’s translation is flat out wrong because Joseph’s translation was more advanced, giving the deep-level symbolism of the phrase. In other words, both the expert and Joseph are correct in their translations, but only the expert has shown himself as the ignorant fool.

    In like manner, for scholarship to prove Joseph wrong, it is not enough to give the basic level meanings. The deeper levels must also be brought out and shown to contradict what Joseph wrote.

    Remember, you are dealing with me, a believer, therefore, if there is any plausible high-level symbolism that can fit the characters and which match Joseph’s translation, you have failed to prove your case that Joseph’s translation is wrong. Good luck and Godspeed.

  26. Since I’m in the mood…

    All languages to some extent are multi-leveled. For example, take any person you want and teach them a written foreign language, say Spanish or French, or some other language that they don’t already know. Teach them enough vocabulary to be able to read, perhaps, a newspaper, but don’t teach them a single idiom. Now have them read a literary work filled with idioms and see how much they understand.

    Although they will understand the words on the page, the deep meanings of the idioms will entirely escape them. Every culture in the world develops idioms in their languages. It’s just human nature.

    From the Wikipedia:

    An idiom (Latin: idioma, “special property”, f. Greek: ἰδίωμα – idiōma, “special feature, special phrasing”, f. Greek: ἴδιος – idios, “one’s own”) is a rendition of a combination of words that have a figurative meaning. The figurative meaning is comprehended in regard to a common use of the expression that is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made.[1] Idioms are numerous and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.[2]

    So, do the Egyptologists, I wonder, know the Egyptian idioms?

  27. chanson, we seem to be talking past each. I’ll try to put this in the simplest possible of terms and maybe then you will understand what is necessary. This is not a battle of “my experts vs. your experts.” I’ll accept all the experts, yours and mine, as telling the facts. But as we are dealing with a multi-leveled language (Egyptian), to make an accurate assessment of Joseph’s wrongness, I’ll need to know all the possible meanings of the characters, both the basic, literal translation as well all the possible high-level symbolism.

    Before we begin “to make an accurate assessment of Joseph’s wrongness” let’s see if we can find any evidence of his rightness.

    I see before me a text, written in Ancient Egyptian, and beside it a translation written by Joseph Smith. A few seconds of Googling will turn up some translations of the texts by people who know Ancient Egyptian, and none of them match what Joseph Smith wrote.

    So my question is this:

    1. Are you claiming that Joseph Smith’s translations of the visible passages written in Ancient Egyptian are accurate? Yes or no?

    2. If yes, can you back this claim with a page (like the one @77) explaining the translation?

    I’m perfectly happy to discuss the finer points of Ancient Egyptian writing (Budge’s chapter 3 on “Hieroglyphs as Ideograms, Phonetics, and Determinatives” is quite interesting), but first we need to establish what question we’re even answering.

  28. An accurate assessment of rightness or wrongness (take your pick) requires the same thing. What is needed in this case are all the levels of possible meaning. The question to ask is not whether what you found on Google matched what Joseph wrote. The question to ask is whether what you found on Google (or in a book) covers all possible levels of meaning. If it does not, it is insufficient to make an assessment of either rightness or wrongness in Joseph’s case, because his translation is high-level symbolism.

    How do we know this? Because you gave two examples of his correct translations already: Shulem and Pharaoh. Neither translation works on the basic level (and so you thought they were incorrect because that is the only level you were looking at), but both are uncannily accurate on a highly symbolic level. (In the case of Shulem, identifying Osiris with a high-ranking butler is plausible in Egyptian lore. That’s high-level symbolism, baby! And the cross-dressing prince is 100% pure Egyptian. Totally plausible in Egyptian lore, very heady stuff and so deeply symbolic as to almost have been revealed by some divine source. Score two for Joseph. We better stop there. He’s beginning to make the intellectuals look like idiots.) Therefore we can assume that all his other translations work on this very deep level of understanding.

    Now, if you don’t want to make that assumption, then at the very least we must say that two sets of characters were translated on deeper…shall we call them idiomatic?…levels. The rest of the translations don’t work on the basic levels, so we can say they may or may not work on deeper “idiomatic” levels. Until scholarship gives us the deeper levels, we can’t say for sure one way or another that Joseph was wrong. You can choose to believe he was wrong, but that isn’t based on any facts or scholarship, because all you are working with is the basic level.

    Therefore, unless you know all the deeper levels, it is intellectually dishonest to say that Joseph’s translations are wrong. The most you can say is that they don’t work on a basic level, which does nothing to prove their rightness or wrongness.

    Now to answer your questions. 1, Yes. 2, I back everything up with my own personal revelations given to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. I am a man of faith. What the hell do I need a page in a book for to back up a religious claim? My claim that Joseph’s translations are accurate is not based on scholarship, but on the revelations of God to me. The Holy Ghost doesn’t work with a limited data set like scholars do. So when She says something’s true, I believe. But scholarship will eventually bear out everything he translated. The more information about the past they discover and the more they learn about these ancient languages, the clearer the picture everyone will get about just how right he was. But by then unbelievers will just ditch the scholars and think of some other reason not to believe Joseph’s testimony. I think the “alien theory” I mentioned above could be a good candidate.

  29. No one knows how Joseph translated the Book of Abraham. Did he use the Urim and Thummim? Did he just do it by revelation sans instruments? We call it a translation, but it has more of an interpretive feel to it, which makes me suspect the use of the Urim and Thummim (Nephite interpreters).

    From the Wikipedia:

    An interpreter is a person who converts a thought or expression in a source language into an expression with a comparable meaning in a target language either simultaneously in “real time” or consecutively after one party has finished speaking. The interpreter’s function is to convey every semantic element (tone and register) and every intention and feeling of the message that the source-language speaker is directing to target-language recipients.

    When we think of interpretation, we think of oral speech. But the Nephites called the Urim and Thummim interpreters because they enabled a person to convey the meaning of the person who wrote a written text as if they were there explaining what they meant to say. In other words, the devices allowed for exceptional accuracy. You weren’t working so much with the words on a page, which are quite easily misconstrued, as is so amply demonstrated by many of the comments of this blog, but with the thoughts and intentions and feelings of the original author. This understanding was then conveyed in the seer’s language, using whatever vocabulary he happened to have.

  30. @74 LDS anachrist:

    “The burden of proof” is on the shoulders of the non-religious quarter. People of faith do not have to prove anything. We rely on religious testimony, belief and faith.

    The non-religious quarter–or even the more reasonable religious quarter, since there are many religious people who know, quite fully, that claims like yours, LDSA, are false–has proven to the satisfaction of almost all reasonable people that Joseph Smith was an utter fraud.

    The fact that you “rely on religious testimony, belief and faith” for your ideas means that your demands that someone prove something to you is dishonest and disingenuous, since you have absolutely no intention of accepting any proof.

    In other words, you are a liar and a fraud, just like the false prophet whose lies you worship.

    But here’s the thing: I know Joseph Smith is a liar, a lecher and a fraud not only through intellectual means, but through faith. I am actually a religious person, though I choose not to discuss my faith here. But I do have a testimony of certain things, so I will bear it now, and you may then rely on it.

    I bear testimony that Joseph Smith was a liar, a lecher and a fraud. I know, through faith and prayer, that he was an agent of darkness who intentionally deceived as many people as he could. He did it because he desired the praise of men, the bodies of women, and wealth. I bear testimony that the church Joseph Smith founded is tainted by his greed, his lust, and his lies.

    This isn’t to say that the church never does any good, or that all who belong to it are as evil as its founder. No. It is not the whore of the earth, merely the whore of Joseph Smith. But even whores can do good things and bear good children.

    LDS Anarchist, LEAVE YOUR WHORE. CEASE YOUR ABOMINATIONS.

    God is not pleased with you.

  31. p.s. How many foreign languages do you speak? I”m guessing none, given how you discuss idioms and layers of language and so forth. If you do speak any, what are they and how did you learn them? How do you know when you speak a foreign language that you are saying what you think you’re saying? How do you trust the idioms?

  32. Every word is a symbol. That is words symbolize a concrete object or an abstract concept–“tree,” “love.” for example. A symbol can have more than a single symbolic meaning, but the context generally limits the range of meanings, which is certainly true of meanings, as in your example a merchant standing behind his/her product.

    So, I agree with you that words have both connotative and denotative meanings. But what I hear you saying, and of course I am reading at a basic level and you may be writing at a deeply symbolic level (to use your words), which means that we cannot communicate–but I’m interpreting your words to say that Joseph used a word meaning that so called language experts have not yet discovered. Once they do Joseph will be vindicated.

    Is that what you are saying, or do you have specific examples that Joseph’s translation of certain words has been verified as an acceptable translation by language experts?

  33. How do we know this? Because you gave two examples of his correct translations already: Shulem and Pharaoh. Neither translation works on the basic level (and so you thought they were incorrect because that is the only level you were looking at), but both are uncannily accurate on a highly symbolic level. (In the case of Shulem, identifying Osiris with a high-ranking butler is plausible in Egyptian lore. That’s high-level symbolism, baby! And the cross-dressing prince is 100% pure Egyptian. Totally plausible in Egyptian lore, very heady stuff and so deeply symbolic as to almost have been revealed by some divine source. Score two for Joseph. We better stop there. He’s beginning to make the intellectuals look like idiots.) Therefore we can assume that all his other translations work on this very deep level of understanding.

    Plausible and correct are not automatically equal. The fact that some of translations are plausible does not mean that they are in fact accurate representations of the original text’s meaning.

    then at the very least we must say that two sets of characters were translated on deeper…shall we call them idiomatic?…levels.

    No, we don’t have to say that. All you even claim to have shown is that the translations are plausible. There is no idiomatic level on which “plausible” means “absolutely conclusive incontrovertible proof of an assertion.”

    People do translation all the time. Some do it for a living; some do it for necessity. Not just vocabulary but the art of translation can be taught and learned, without supernatural means. http://www.writinguniversity.org/department/translation-workshop

    We better stop there.

    No, you better keep going. Because finding out that you think “plausible” translations are proof of “correct” translations is pretty useful. Keep writing. Keep explaining. Keep show how weak the basis for your argument and your faith really is.

  34. I would join chanson’s religion in 78.

    Also, wanted to point out that we know what hieroglyphs mean because of the Rosetta Stone (not to be confused with the language learning software).

    I’ve actually seen the Rosetta Stone in person. On it, it has examples of ancient greek and egyptian. The stone hadn’t been found when the Book of Abraham was translated. No one at the time (JS translated the BofA) had any idea what hieroglyphs stood for.

    Of course, if you agree with LDS Anarchist’s explanation, the rosetta stone only explained one level of Ancient Egyptian.

  35. Oh, and this:

    A sign reads:

    We stand behind every bed we sell.

    You might wonder if you’ll see the salesman who sold you your bed waiting patiently behind it come nightfall to see if you truly enjoy your new sleep experience. (Now this might be termed the basic, literal translation.)

    Or you may just believe that the store that sold you the bed feels so strongly about their beds that they are guaranteeing your comfort. (This might be termed a high-level symbolic meaning.)

    Now, let’s imagine that “We stand behind every bed we sell” is an Egyptian phrase and that Joseph Smith translates it into “We guarantee your comfort.” Then along comes an Egyptologist and he says, “This man Joseph Smith is a fool. This phrase has nothing to do with guarantees or comfort. The man is an obvious fraud! The characters are talking of standing and beds as anyone who has studied Egyptian knows!”

    It’s actually a shitty translation, a bad freshman comp level paraphrase. To stand behind the quality of the beds you make and sell is not at all the same thing as guaranteeing the comfort of anyone who buys your bed. They might have back pain. They might discover, once they get the bed home and sleep on it, that the bed is actually too soft or too hard for their preference. Doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the bed–it might be the best-made bed in the world.

    But of course you haven’t guaranteed their comfort, only the quality and workmanship of the bed you sold them. Their comfort is out of your control.

    So only a fool would say that “We stand behind every bed we sell” is acceptably translated as “We guarantee your comfort.”

    and that has nothing to do with idiomatic constructions. That has to do with understanding the basic notion of a guarantee and what it is actually possible to guarantee. You have to be smart enough to understand that concept in the first place.

    And again, people who work in translation are aware of this stuff. The concept of idioms is a basic one for people who deal with translation on a regular basis. They account for this stuff in their work.

  36. The [Rosetta] stone hadn’t been found when the Book of Abraham was translated.

    Actually it was found in 1799, and, as the Greek was easily translated, work on deciphering the Egyptian began almost immediately. A full translation was announced in the 1820s. But most of the world didn’t pay attention or care that scholars were learning to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, and most of the world considered them indecipherable.

    In other words, Joseph could have learned, by reading better newspapers and/or asking God better questions, that people would someday be able to verify some of his translations. Or perhaps he did know that means of checking his translations were becoming available, but he was too much of an arrogant egomaniac to care. As LDS Anachrist keeps saying, you’d have to be intellectually dishonest not to admit this very real possibility.

  37. Did you hear the one about the psychiatrist at the mental hospital. He had three patients who each thought they were Jesus Christ. He put them in a room together to see the effect of meeting each other.
    They each remained supremely confident that that they were Jesus Christ.
    And all the kings egyptologists and all the kings near eastern archaeologists can not prove to those three, that they are not Jesus Christ.

  38. @91: Suzanne–maybe all three of them were Jesus Christ. If Christ can be everywhere at once, why shouldn’t he choose to live three simultaneous mortal lives? After all, in an infinite universe, it is possible that a dead Jewish guy would reincarnate in three guys at once. We’d be intellectually dishonest not to admit that this is so. Right? LDS Anachirst? You’ll admit that this is possible, right? You of course would not want to be intellectually dishonest.

  39. 1, Yes. 2, I back everything up with my own personal revelations given to me by the power of the Holy Ghost. I am a man of faith. What the hell do I need a page in a book for to back up a religious claim? My claim that Joseph’s translations are accurate is not based on scholarship, but on the revelations of God to me.

    OK, so you don’t claim that any of the people who have translated the visible ancient Egyptian texts written on the Facsimiles affirm that Joseph Smith’s translations of them are correct.

    To paraphrase your remarks @82 & @83, the reason Joseph Smith’s translations aren’t accurate literal translations is because he’s translating the ‘deeper “idiomatic” levels’ — but you don’t provide any link to any translation of the literal level, much less an explanation of how those literal sentences correspond to Joseph Smith’s translations on an idiomatic level.

    That’s all I wanted to establish. If you want to continue to have an apopgetico-philosophical discussion of what it means for a translation of a written text to be “right” or “wrong”, go ahead.

  40. Actually it was found in 1799, and, as the Greek was easily translated, work on deciphering the Egyptian began almost immediately. A full translation was announced in the 1820s. But most of the world didn’t pay attention or care that scholars were learning to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, and most of the world considered them indecipherable.

    News of scholarly discoveries probably didn’t travel fast in those days. I think Joseph Smith was aware that there was a lot of interest in translating Egyptian writing (but not how advanced it already was), and he was sincerely interested in trying his hand at deciphering it himself. That’s what his “Egyptian Grammar” would suggest.

  41. He also tried his hand at learning Hebrew and German. Though formally uneducated, he was a bright fellow.

  42. LDS Anachrist @80:

    Teach them enough vocabulary to be able to read, perhaps, a newspaper, but don’t teach them a single idiom.

    It’s impossible to teach someone enough vocabulary to be able to read a newspaper and not have them learn a great many idioms in the process.

    A case in point: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/us/politics/congress-ready-to-start-work-on-budget.html?hp&_r=0

    here’s the headline:

    Putting Rancor Aside, Congress Takes a Crack at a Budget

    Here’s a paragraph from the article:

    The House’s budget blueprint – the third under Budget Committee Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin – will not be formally released until next week. But already it is under fire for the promises it must keep and the deep cuts and profound changes it must make to keep those promises.

    Take a crack at and be under fire are idioms.

    More to the point, the first semester of any foreign language course is spent learning basic idioms. “How are you?” is, after all, an idiom. “What’s up?” is an idiom. “I need to use the bathroom” is an idiomatic euphemism for “I need to pee or shit.” “Everybody” is an idiomatic expression for “a lot of or all the people.” The translation is French is not “tous les corps” or “chaque corps,” but “tout le monde.” The translation in Chinese is not “mei yige shenti” but “da jya,” or “big family.” And yet, when we translate “da jya” into English, we don’t say “big family” but “everybody” or “everyone”–though not, for some reason, everysoul or everymind.

    In short, LDS Anachrist, you have no real idea what idioms truly are or how they function in language, in second-language acquisition, or in translation.

    therefore, nothing you say about idioms can be taken seriously.

  43. He also tried his hand at learning Hebrew and German. Though formally uneducated, he was a bright fellow.

    He was homeschooled, by relatives who worked as teachers.

    We recognize homeschooling today as an acceptable means of gaining a genuine education. I’ve had very bright, ambitious college students who were homeschooled. Why should people 200 years ago have been any different?

  44. There’s literal:

    Bulgarian: da ritnesh kambanata (да ритнеш камбаната) ‘to kick the bell’
    Danish: at stille træskoene ‘to take off the clogs’,
    Dutch: het loodje leggen ‘to lay the piece of lead’,
    Finnish: potkaista tyhjää ‘to kick the void’,
    French: manger des pissenlits par la racine ‘to eat dandelions by the root’,
    German: den Löffel abgeben ‘to give the spoon away’ or ins Gras beißen ‘to bite into the grass’ or sich die Radieschen von unten ansehen ‘look at the radishes from underneath’
    Greek: τινάζω τα πέταλα ‘to shake the horse-shoes’
    Italian: tirare le cuoia ‘to pull the skins’,
    Latvian: nolikt karoti ‘to put the spoon down'[7]
    Norwegian: Ã¥ parkere tøflene ‘to park the slippers’,
    Polish:kopnąć w kalendarz ‘to kick the calendar’,
    Portuguese: bater as botas ‘to beat the boots’,
    Romanian:a da colÈ›ul ‘to take a corner’,
    Russian:сыграть в ящик (s’igrat’ v yaschik) ‘to play with box’,
    Spanish: estirar la pata ‘to stretch one’s leg’,
    Swedish: trilla av pinnen ‘to fall off the stick’,
    Ukrainian: врізати дуба ‘to cut the oak, as in building a coffin’.

    All of which literally means the English idiom “kick the bucket,” which doesn’t literally mean that one kicks a bucket, but that one dies.

    In other words, there’s literal and then there’s literal.

    When I said Joseph literally translated the Book of Abraham from the Egyptian on the scroll, I meant he did it literally. Capeesh?

    Now apply the same principle to Egyptian.

  45. Let’s take the double entendre.

    Btw, a double entendre is not something that can be read more than one way. It is something that is intended to be read more than one way.

    For instance, “Joseph Smith felt a burning in his bosom when he contemplated loving service for all mankind–and an even stronger burning when he contemplated loving service for all womankind.”

    THAT is a double entendre, because “service” also has a sexual meaning. Whereas “We stand behind every bed we sell” is not a double entendre–unless it is intended it as a dirty joke.

  46. Some languages can do things that other languages simply cannot. Hebrew, of course, is the prime example of that, but Egyptian appears to be another one. You can use these languages like other languages and produce a Rosetta Stone, but they are also useful for communicating religious mysteries, meaning things for initiates only.

    The Book of Abraham deals specifically in such religious mysteries, so although you can read it like a Rosetta Stone, that is only the basic level and will only reveal one layer of possible meaning. Joseph’s translation was on the religious elite, priestly or initiate level, not on the level of the Rosetta Stone.

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