Sunday, January 10, 2016

John Gee and Magic-Man Apologetics in "Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World": Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain

Professor John Gee is a Mormon Apologist.  I could be considered one as well.  So, it needs to be understood from the beginning that I am writing this as a believer in the historicity of the Book of Abraham, that it was written by Abraham himself.  And I also believe in the calling of Joseph Smith as a true prophet.  That said, it is sad that John Gee's work in a recent article that was published has such a large amount of shortcomings, which prompted this review.  And it is difficult to produce material that is critical of the work of other Latter-day Saints.  It can be perceived as if we are not on the same side if we are not careful.  John Gee and I are on the same side, in defending the Prophet Joseph Smith and his productions.  On the other hand, when I see something that John Gee produces that continues to potentially hurt the cause that I and he are engaged in, I cannot remain silent.

The one biggest frustration I have in the standard treatment of the KEP (Kirtland Egyptian Papers) by many Mormon apologists is the idea that because critics of the Book of Abraham take certain positions, that no part of those positions can be the least bit reasonable, and that there is no truth to be found in those positions.  A more nuanced view, championed by an LDS scholar named Brian Hauglid, is that we can profit from some of the observations, deductions and made by the critics of the Church, without giving up our cause.

So, from this, I observe that, just because someone is a critic of the Church, that doesn't mean that everything produced by such a person is of no value to the truth.  Similarly, we have a cause to defend the truthfulness of the Book of Abraham.  But that doesn't mean that everyone that is a defender of the Book of Abraham produces good work, or supports good facts with good argumentation.

Unfortunately, one of these individuals that continually puts out bad material with bad assumptions, happens to be John Gee on the subject of the Book of Abraham, specifically in the areas surrounding the translations of Joseph Smith and the extant papyrus that we have (i.e. the Sensen Papyrus or Book of Breathings), as well as the documents produced by Joseph Smith and his scribes called the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  On this front, Gee's score card has a big F.

This is not to say that everything that John Gee has come up with is bad, or that all of his research and conclusions ought to be tossed.  Rather, it means that for some reason, the good scholarship that John Gee produces seems to be in other areas of Book of Abraham studies, such as the Egyptian background of the Book of Abraham, and how it ties in to ancient texts, and other facts surrounding the Book of Abraham's ancient context.  In these other areas, he scores an A+.

Gee, in his recent article "Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt" states:
Determining what Joseph Smith thought about anything poses certain problems for historians.  The sources are varied and range from autographs to dictations to divine revelations to ghost written pieces to third-hand rumors to late reminiscences.  Historians can take, and have taken, a range of approaches, from the minimalist--taking Joseph Smith's opinion only what can be shown to come from his own hand or mind, as exemplified by Dean Jesse's Personal Writings of Joseph Smith--to the maximalist--taking anything that has ever been attributed to him, no matter how tenuously or how late, as accurately reflecting Joseph Smith's thought.  This issue is fundamental to any approach to Joseph Smith, including one that looks at what Joseph Smith knew of the ancient world.  Much of what has been attributed to Joseph Smith's knowledge of ancient Egypt comes from sources of questionable historical value.  This paper takes a strict minimalist approach.  Doing so is the safest way to determine what ideas are actually Joseph Smith's even though it will eliminate sources that probably, but not demonstrably reflect his thought.
It is important to remember that although various people acted as a scribe to Joseph Smith, they were independent people and had their own independent thoughts.  Not everything written by one of Joseph Smith's scribes came from the mind of Joseph Smith, even during the time period when they served as Joseph Smith's scribes.  To use an absurd example, at times during the summer and fall of 1835, W. W. Phelps served as Joseph Smith's scribe.  Automatically assigning any document written by Phelps at that time to the mind of Joseph Smith would have us arguing that Joseph Smith dictated many of the letters that Phelps wrote to his wife Sally.  The proposition should rightly strike the reader as absurd, but the same absurd argument underlies attempts to assign some documents to Joseph Smith as representative of his thoughts on Egyptian . . .
Everyone assumes that Joseph Smith wrote the Explanations to the Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham.  We cannot, however, prove that he did.  The earliest manuscripts of any of the explanations are Book of Abraham manuscripts 5A and 6, both in the handwriting of Willard Richards.  There is nothing in the documents that indicates authorship.  While I am not saying that assuming that Joseph Smith wrote the Explanations is a bad assumption, it does need to be pointed out that it is an assumption and not provable.  If someone wanted to argue that Willard Richards wrote the Explanations, we could not prove it false.  So one cannot, with certainty, use the Explanations of the Facsimiles as a source for Joseph Smith's knowledge of Egyptian or lack thereof. (Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, pp. 436-438).
As I said before, not everything that a critic of Mormonism comes up with is bad, and we can profit from some of their conclusions in coming to an understanding of the truth.  We just reject their ultimate conclusion.  We do not agree with them that Joseph Smith was a fraud.  We do not agree with them that Joseph Smith could not translate.

In what I will say next, please bear in mind that there is a difference between forensic facts and interpretation of facts.  Where we ought to be united, both critics and apologists alike, is in forensic facts.  Forensic facts ought not to be considered negotiable, because these kinds of scientific facts are basically just raw data.  They are not really negotiable.  It is not negotiable anymore that quantum physics is a fact.  This is the problem with certain LDS apologists, is that they seem to be claiming that forensic facts are negotiable.  That is simply not true.  We ought to be concentrating our defenses on what these facts mean to Mormons, and how we can retain our faith while including explanations that account for these facts.  We ought not to be denying the facts, and finding ways to obfuscate them.

Now, conventional wisdom among critics of the Book of Abraham is that Joseph Smith is absolutely responsible for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and that he was the mastermind behind their production.  Apologists like John Gee treat that as not only insignificant.  But they insist that there is nothing to that.  Unfortunately for the position of Gee, not only is this position well-thought-out among critics, but LDS scholars like Brian Hauglid have come to know that this is the correct position.

While it is true that John Gee is a well-educated and credentialed person, we need to remember that many critics of Mormonism are very well-educated people just as much.  Individuals like Edward Ashment (a Mormon critic) and Robert Ritner are Egyptologists, just like Gee.  Robert Ritner, in fact, was one of Gee's teachers.  Robert Ritner shares the same conclusion as Edward Ashment, that Joseph Smith was responsible for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  In fact, among all NON-LDS credentialed specialists, it is a consensus view, that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers were produced as an attempt to translate material from the Sensen Papyrus, or at least, that the Sensen Papyrus heavily factored in to this attempt.  It is only Egyptologists in the LDS Church such as John Gee and Kerry Muhlstien that continue to hold a view contrary to this consensus.  Yet, to see well-educated and credentialed individuals like Brian Hauglid coming around to the truth of the matter, and joining that consensus view with the well-educated critics doesn't make Brian Hauglid a turncoat.  It just means that Brian Hauglid recognizes that people like Brent Metcalfe and Robert Ritner and Ed Ashment are his colleagues, and their personal beliefs do not matter so much about whether Joseph Smith was a prophet or not.  In the end analysis, it is true that this is a very important thing.  But if someone is a forensic anthropologist, he would not reject the help of a fellow well-educated forensic anthropologist in determining facts of a matter about a dead body.  He would not dismiss out of hand hand the research of his fellows, just because he disagrees with them ideologically.

Unfortunately for Gee, he is calling the consensus view of his colleagues an absurd view, and dismisses their research out of hand.  While LDS apologists may usually walk in lock-step behind Gee, LDS researchers that are serious, in general, need to re-evaluate the whole discipline of Book of Abraham studies in general, and recognize that it is not just apologetics.  It is becoming a real discipline, and certain facts and certain issues of a forensic nature actually transcend any kind of petty ideological battle.  In other words, Book of Abraham studies as a discipline, actually transcends Mormon Apologetics and Anti-Mormonism entirely.  Individuals like Brent Metcalfe, that happen to be critics of Mormonism, are not entirely into the research of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the Book of Abraham just for the sake of being critical.  Rather, we need to recognize that scholars of all varieties are usually lovers of truth, and are fundamentally interested in truth.  They are not just doing what they do because they have it in for Mormonism.

We need to remember that while Ritner has no love for Mormonism, he has a love for truth.  While Brent Metcalfe has no particular interest in the truth claims of Mormonism anymore, he is a lover of the forensic truth of all things Mormon.  And so, contrary to Gee, we need to look at the productions of these people in this light, rather than trying to cast doubt on everything that they produce based on their personal views about Mormon truth claims.  This is why, when one looks at Book of Abraham studies as a discipline, the fact of the matters is, Ritner, Metcalfe, Chris Smith, Steve Thompson, etc., are actually all colleagues of John Gee, and their work needs to be considered in that light.  Yes, even the maligned work of Charles Larson entitled By His Own Hand on Papyrus, from a scholarly standpoint, in many respects actually upholds the scholarly consensus view that Joseph Smith was responsible for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  One can be disturbed by Larson's ideological stance, saying that Mormonism is false and needs to be abandoned.  That claim, of course, is false, and is separate from the rest.  But his handling of the forensic facts of the matter cannot be dismissed or be taken lightly, because they were essentially confirmed in all important respects by Steven Thomson, an LDS Egyptologist.  And so, what I'm really saying is, Mormon scholars ought to take more seriously that some of them are against a consensus view of scholarly opinion.  In other words, a truly good defense of the Book of Abraham ought to be built upon scholarly consensus of forensic facts instead of being in denial of them.

All of these individuals have come to a scholarly consensus view, and it so happens that John Gee and Kerry Muhlstien are the outliers.  They are the people whose work is found outside of the majority view of their colleagues.  That is not a small or insignificant fact.  Here is the problem.  Gee and Muhlstien in general are continually being denialists of information that has come out of forensic examination by eminent scholars of a certain field has a good evidentiary basis.  Put in these terms, that is a real problem.

An argument could be made that we don't want to give heed to people who are critical of the Church, who are trying to destroy faith.  Well, that is true as far as it goes, that we don't want to give heed to things that only have a purpose to destroy faith, and certainly, we don't want to be an unwitting partner in that.  The problem is, Satan's statements to Eve in Eden contained a lot of truth:

(1) you become as God to a degree when you know good from evil, in contrast to how you are in a state of innocence.
(2) you know the contrast between opposites by experience being in mortality ("pleasure and pain", etc.)
(3) your eyes are open when you know the contrast and can see with experience, etc.

Satan's lie was that they would not die, etc.  So, yes, there is the potential for beguilement if someone "gives heed" to critics.  On the other hand, remember that Satan himself pointed out three truths along with the lie.  Should we deny that those three truths are true, listed above?  Or, should we analyze everything he said carefully, and pick out the truths and leave behind that which is false?  It is the former, of course.  The Church recently put a number of essays from research from scholars on the Church's web site to counter critical claims about historical information and so forth on the Internet causing people to lose faith.  The the new essays are different from critical information on the Internet.  How?  Not by denying the facts, but by re-framing the facts within a faithful framework, so that people have a resource to go to for a way to put those facts in a proper faithful framework.  They are based on the same historical facts that the critical articles are based on elsewhere on the Internet.  Being left to themselves without the essays, people would only have the facts as presented by the critics, and would have the critical interpretations of the facts that lead to loss of faith.  Therefore, the evil was not in the facts.  The evil was in the lies and critical interpretations that were packaged with those facts.

D&C 91 makes it clear that the Apocrypha, being a group of ancient documents, are things that contain truth.  Nevertheless, it contains interpolations by the hands of men.  And it is made clear that by the Spirit someone can be benefited by contents that contain truths on various levels.  Even in a book that is an ancient forgery, an ancient person may have recorded religious truths that were had in ancient times among the faithful.  An ancient book may be authentic, but some editor or scribe may have attached some chapter or verse that was not originally in it, giving an explanation of something, or adding extra content, that is not true.  But none of these additions take away from the truth that is present.  The truth has to be carefully separated out by good scholarship and by the Spirit.

Therefore, if a Book of Abraham scholar that is critical of the Church happens to have discovered a fact, Mormon scholars cannot just ignore that.  True enough, that faithful Book of Abraham scholars need to also confirm that it is a fact, independently still.  Nevertheless, they cannot bury that fact.  They cannot deny that fact.  They cannot use creative argument to do away with that fact or obscure it.  They must provide a framework for that fact.  Gee does none of that, but is part of the problem, by using the old, outmoded strategy of trying to deny and bury the facts through the strategy he is employing in his articles.

John Gee, in his article that I quoted above, speaks of absurdities, and accuses his colleagues of absurdities.  A true absurdity is to make appeals to cast doubt on something that has a good evidentiary basis.  And unfortunately, it is only the Mormon Apologists like John Gee that are guilty of a true absurdity, where they insist on something that is not on a good evidentiary foundation.  The way we ultimately choose to interpret those evidences and facts is where we ought to diverge from the critics.  We should not argue about forensic facts and say they are not so.  While people could call me an apologist, I have no vested interest in insisting that the KEP is not Joseph Smith's production, because he was indeed the mastermind.  I ONLY have an interest in defending Mormonism, not falling in line and defending John Gee when he is wrong.

Gee trumpets how wonderful a minimalist approach is in his article, as if it is "conservative" and "safe," but it is neither of those things.  In this case, it is not only the wrong approach.  It is whimsical and ideological, as well as seemingly calculated.  Whatever you want to say about it, it is observable that in his article, it seems that the ends justify the means for Gee, that evidence and forensic facts and scholarly consensus don't matter, but that all that matters is the end goal:  defend Joseph Smith at all costs.  Defending Joseph Smith is noble and critical to helping Mormons maintain faith, and we need to continue in diligence.  The problem is, we need to improve in dong so by making forensic truth the foundation of our effort rather than evading it.

This type of evasion of basic and plain forensic evidence is the worst practice from the beginning of LDS Apologetics that ultimately leads to people leaving the Church, when they can see that apologists engage in this kind of behavior.  It has been the same goal as the Scribes-did-it theory from the beginning.  And that goal is to divorce Joseph Smith from any responsibility whatsoever for any attempt at actual translations and blame it all on other people, so that Joseph Smith can be squeaky clean and all this disturbing and difficult stuff can be tossed out so we don't have to do any real kind of work toward the end of having to defend these translations.  Gee, on the other hand, seeks to toss aside the problem of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and get rid of them, merely because they are difficult and seemingly pesky and problematic.  As you can see, I vehemently disagree with Gee and his usage of this kind of apologetic.

Furthermore, it is interesting that now the Scribes-did-it theory has now taken on a new disturbing twist.  Gee would appear to now trying to disqualify the Facsimiles Explanations and explain them away as well as a product of the scribes, so as to make Joseph Smith ONLY responsible for the Book of Abraham TEXT, and entirely remove Joseph Smith from responsibility for ANY Egyptian at all!!  Gee has carefully worded this above to say that he is saying that it may not be a good assumption, he is trying to sleuthfully and artificially introduce the notion now that it is a mere ASSUMPTION.

The problem is, certain facts are as close to facts as anything can ever be in science.  One could say that nothing in science is proven.  But rather, science is about what is testable, and plausible, and not yet falsified.  So, one could say that quantum physics is full of assumptions, but that doesn't stop it from being at the heart of computing technology and smartphones and countless other things we are reliant on now.  If quantum physics is full of assumptions, these assumptions are part of a model we have of the world, and that model has proven itself as much of an approximation of reality that we need to actually get results.  Therefore, Gee's presumption that he can call certain things that are as good as facts mere "assumptions" is not going to change their usefulness in the world, and seeing their effects manifest before us, and thereby concluding that they are as solid as they need to be to be useful and effective.  It is not an assumption that Joseph Smith's scribes wrote for him, and it never was.  As I wrote in my other article, remember, those men were his scribes, and Joseph Smith himself stated, in a journal entry for March 3, 1843:  “On returning to my office after dinner, I spoke the following proverb:  'For a man to be great, he must not dwell on small things, though he may enjoy them;' this shows that a Prophet cannot well be his own scribe, but must have some one to write for him.”  (Leland R. Nelson (ed.), Journal of Joseph: The Personal History of A Modern Prophet, p. 213; History of the Church, 5:298).

And so, merely trying to cast doubt on something does not mean that it is going to be accepted, and certainly doesn't mean that it has a chance of ever being proven.  Merely invoking reductionism or minimalism as Gee likes to call it doesn't mean that it is the right answer for history to be reductionist to come to a correct conclusion.  Invoking reductionism takes good judgement when it is the correct tool in the toolkit to use.  It is not the right tool here.  Rather, relevant facts ought to be weighed in the balance of the reader to come to an appropriate conclusion.  Apologists seem to be good magicians of a sort.  They say, "look at me pull a rabbit out of my hat."  Pay no attention to the sleight of hand that produces the effect, when it is nothing but sleight of hand.  That's like the Wizard of Oz telling people to pay no attention to that guy behind the curtain, but look at the big green head.  Gee wants his readers to pay no attention to the pesky evidence before them, but exclude it from their mindset.  He wishes them to ignore the evidence before them, and he wants to disqualify it.

The fact is, it is indeed accepted among everyone BUT Gee that the Explanations for the facsimiles are indeed a production of Joseph Smith.  This is a consensus among both LDS and non LDS specialists.  And certainly, among historians, this would not fly.  Science is about consensus in a certain field, and Gee doesn't write for that field, nor does Gee's opinions or apologetics establish facts for a field he is not a specialist in.  He is not a historian.  Historians write for that field.  Gee goes on to write, about the facsimiles that:
Although the minimalist approach taken here will not make everyone happy, particularly those who would like to assume that Joseph Smith is responsible for certain items, it is a conservative, safe approach.  It takes only what can be proven to be Joseph Smith's.  The only certain source of Joseph Smith's knowledge about Egyptian is the text of the Book of Abraham excluding the Facsimiles. (Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, pp. 441-442)
Just a moment ago in a previous paragraph, Gee stated that it was not necessarily a "bad assumption" to think that Joseph Smith is responsible for the facsimiles.  And thus he has stealthfully transformed what is conventionally known historically to be a fact, to be mere supposition.  Gee is hiding behind the idea of what can only be PROVEN to be Smith's, as if Gee's standard of proof is the golden standard of what all historians would abide by, and I can speculate to you that if you ask any responsible historian, they would probably not go along with Gee's standard.

But now Gee might as well be lobbying for the removal of the Facsimiles and the explanations from the scriptures.  He pretends like that is not what he is doing, but that is exactly what someone may START doing someday when they read this apologetic.  Gee is planting a seed, it seems.  One may wonder if Gee hopes that someday a group of apologists may lobby the Church for the Facsimiles and their explanations to be removed entirely from the scriptures.  Gee attempts to be speaking for historians and their ways, but as I pointed out, he is not qualified to speak for them, and it seems that most of them would not necessarily be willing to jump on to Gee's bandwagon, nor would they necessarily subscribe to Gee's type of apologetics in trying to remove Joseph Smith from all responsibility for ANY Egyptian whatsoever.  See my other article on the Scribes-did-it theory from back in 2013, where I detail some information on what Historians actually think about this kind of thing:

http://egyptianalphabetandgrammar.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-question-of-scribes-did-they-really.html

As I shared in that article, I will once again quote in this one.  In a book review in BYU Studies of George D. Smith's book, An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton, James B. Allen wrote:

Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and other Church leaders often called on their scribes and secretaries to record their journals for them. No responsible historian presumes to publish such journals as part of the papers of the scribes who wrote them. Such journals are the journals of those for whom they were written. Smith correctly observes that when Stanley B. Kimball published the journals of Heber C. Kimball, he left this one out. That still does not legitimize publishing it here. If such a journal could be called a Clayton journal, then so could the journal Clayton wrote for Kimball while crossing the plains in 1847. That journal has been published twice-as a Heber C. Kimball journal. The temple journal is in exactly the same category. If it is to be published at all, it should be published with a Kimball collection, not a Clayton collection. (https://byustudies.byu.edu/showtitle.aspx?title=7457, emphasis added)

Remember, John Gee is an Egyptologist, not a Historian, and doesn't speak for historians.  Historians in the Church ought to speak for themselves.  John Gee ought not to think that he can speak for them, and he is out of his area of specialization to presume that he can say something authoritatively about the business of the area of specialty of Historians.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers, to a large degree, are a problem for historians, not for Egyptologists.  The Egyptologists have not been able to make heads or tails out of them, for sure, and continually do all that they can do to get rid of them and conveniently bury them.

It was only a matter of time before Apologists would start trying to lobby for the idea that the Facsimiles Explanations are not inspired productions of Joseph Smith, but instead are apocryphal like they insist the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are.  They manifest the same exact "problems" as in the KEP (which aren't really problems, but keys to what is really going on), but the Mormons have always defended them because they were in the scriptures, out of loyalty.  However, falling into the trap of trying to do away with the Facsimiles Explanations as they have tried to do with the KEP, I say that this is another huge, strategic mistake.  Rather, people ought to embrace the KEP, and defend them after the same manner as they have defended the Facsimiles and their explanations since the beginning.  Hugh Nibley's voluminous writings on Facsimile #2 alone shows what can be accomplished by simply engaging in research until one finds good evidence on a certain subject and publishing it.

The problem with Mormon Apologetics is not about evidence or lack thereof.  It is all about bad ideological and methodological problems, like how Gee runs his apologetics, where the ends justifies the means at all costs, evidence and facts be darned, so pay no attention to the guy behind the curtain.

Anyway, so Gee goes on to call the Kirtland Egyptian Papers the "So-Called" Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  Well, before Hugh Nibley came along, nobody even called these the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, but they were the Grammar and Alphabet documents and associated Egyptian documents.  But I have nothing against calling them Kirtland Egyptian Papers, because they are indeed a collection of papers, mostly from the Kirtland era.  But Gee says on page 438 that, "Just because the documents are lumped together now does not mean that they were lumped together then, or that they should be lumped together."  Well, not only should they be lumped together, but they represent the same exact thing as the Facsimile Explanations:  they are translation keys showing the same exact pattern as the Facsimile Explanations:  they are what computer scientists call a key-value pair.  They are symbols with value assignments.  See the following article to understand more in-depth about what I'm talking about:

http://egyptianalphabetandgrammar.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-problem-with-joe-sampsons-work-on.html

It is important that people do not assume that I'm suggesting like Joe Sampson did that the Sensen papyrus "contains" the text of the Book of Abraham.  It does not.  I'm saying that we have verse/section markers using Egyptian characters, and the associations between text and markers/numberings are clever creations.  And I'm saying that Joseph Smith was trying to show people how clever these associations are.  He never claimed that the Sensen Papyrus contained the text of the Book of Abraham.  And he never claimed that the purpose behind the KEP was to show how the Book of Abraham text could be extracted from characters that are mere markers or numberings.  However, that does not take away from how clever the associations are between these characters and the sections of text that they enumerate.  This does not take way from the fact that it is likely that the "missing papyrus" in antiquity, that contained the Book of Abraham text, was a hybrid production containing both Sensen characters and the text of the Book of Abraham, and other Abrahamic content, all in one document.  This ancient document was never in the hands of Joseph Smith.  Rather, in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and in the Book of Abraham translation manuscripts, Joseph Smith was reproducing/rehydrating the content of this ancient document, but transmitting it into modern speech.  That is the key to Joseph Smith's translations.  Whatever the nature of them, they always contain the element of reproducing ancient material for modern-day use in modern day speech.  Therefore, transmission into English is key.

And so, not only should the KEP documents all be lumped together, but the Facsimile Explanations must be lumped together with them.  And Gee knows that they show they all show the same patterns that are viewed to be problematic in the eyes of the apologists:  (1) Egyptian symbols with (2) English value assignments, where the English value assignments seem on the surface to be false, or otherwise stump or mystify the apologists.  If only the apologists knew that these are associations between characters and values, not direct translations of content.

If Gee didn't observe that the same pattern exists here between these things, which he interprets as incorrect translations, he would not be lobbying for the Facsimile Explanations to be strategically DUMPED just like the KEP, because in his eyes, they don't translate.  But he has been trying to do this same type of thing for decades.  In 1995, he wrote:

It has been generally assumed that the "Egyptian alphabet" is the Kirtland Egyptian Papers Egyptian manuscript (hereafter KEPE) # 1 or the so-called Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar.  This is highly unlikely as (1) KEPE 1 is in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps and Warren Parrish; (2) it was four weeks later, on 29 October 1835, that Warren Parrish "commenced writing for me [Joseph Smith]"; (3) the title of the manuscript is "Grammar & aphabet [sic] of the Egyptian language."  If any of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are to be identified with the documents referred to in the journal entries it would be KEPE 3- 5, in the handwritings identified as those of W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdery and bearing the titles (apparently lost in the case of deteriorated KEPE 5) of "Egyptian alphabet."  Thus there is no solid evidence that Joseph Smith worked on KEPE 1, the so-called Alphabet and Grammar, during this period of lime, or at any period of lime.  It was never presented as scripture or as revelation to the Saints and they are not under any obligation to defend it, believe it, or even understand it. ('Bird Island' Revisited, or the Book of Mormon through Pyramidal Kabbalistic Glasses, Review of Written by the Finger of God: A Testimony of Joseph Smith’s Translations (1993), by Joe Sampson, in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7/1 (1995): pp. 219-228.)

So, back in 1995, John Gee was assuring latter-day saints that they had no obligation to even understand the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and was trying hard to obscure the facts of Joseph Smith's involvement, using the same basic strategy of saying (1) that Joseph Smith's scribes are basically responsible for it all, and (2) Joseph Smith can only be tied to the manuscript in the KEP with his own writing on it, and that (3) these documents ought not to be viewed as one corpus, because the scribes are individually responsible for their own content in their own handwriting.  Not one of these three proposals are correct at all.  And to deliberately suggest that Latter-day Saints ought to be ignorant of facts is laughable.  Yet, that is precisely what he did, saying that Latter-day Saints are under no obligation to even UNDERSTAND them!  Again, pay no attention to these pesky facts.  Once again, just pay attention to the big green head.  Just leave it up to John Gee to digest and disseminate and distill the information for us, because he is to be trusted as the final arbiter of the facts of the matter.  He hides behind the fact that the KEP is not canonized saying that since it is not scriptural canon, that it has no revelatory potential.  If that were true, then we should just toss out everything coming out in the Joseph Smith Papers project that details some of Joseph Smith's other uncanonized revelations.  No rational historian would suggest that Joseph Smith's other canonized revelations do not have revelatory potential.  True enough that we are not bound by uncanonized revelation.  That doesn't make those revelations apocryphal or untrue.  That just means that we won't be judged by their content on judgement day.  That is not an excuse for ignorance.  Yet John Gee is pleading for his audience to  remain ignorant.  History has shown how well that turned out for Catholics in the dark ages, who were reliant on their priests for correct information.  Here we have a high priest from the high priesthood of academia pleading for his audience to remain ignorant and to trust in him!