Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Problem with Joe Sampson's work on the KEP ("Written by the Finger of God"): You can't Translate Text from an Ancient Verse Marking/Numbering System

John Gee wrote:

As for Sampson's dubious assumption that "Joseph Smith with 'Urim and Thummim' looked at the Book of Breatings[sen-sen] and saw the Book of Abraham encoded there" (p. 70), one would have thought that the critics had demonstrated the impossibility of that idea long ago.

I don't like a lot of what Gee writes, but his writings are a mixed bag, like anything else.  In this paragraph, John Gee is right.  The critics DID demonstrate the impossibility of the idea that the Book of Abraham is encoded in the Sensen papyrus.  The Book of Abraham is not encoded in the Sensen papyrus.  This is why Kabbalah (what Joe Sampson is trying to do) doesn't work on the Sensen papyrus.  I will tell you what Kabbalah IS useful for but it is going to be difficult, and I'm going to do it step by step.  But what it is not useful for is decoding the Book of Abraham or the Book of Joseph from the Sensen papyrus or from the Book of the Dead.

Try to understand this.  This is why what I'm saying and what I'm doing is fundamentally different from Joe Sampson.

Joseph Smith recovered the ancient information in the minds of ancient people about the story of Abraham.  The Sensen Papyrus didn't contain this ancient information.  But symbols from the sensen papyrus were used to help keep track of this information.  It contained markers like in an outline, or like a numbering or alphabetic marker system that helped them keep track of some of the concepts.  What I mean by that is, we have verse and chapter numbers in our scriptures that help keep track of things so that we know how to look them up.  The scriptures are not encoded in verse and chapter numbers.  The verse and chapter numbers are not helpful to know the content of our scriptures.  Joe Sampson is trying to show magically how to extract the scriptures from verse and chapter numbers and letters.  That is a problem, because verse numbers and letters used to mark verses do not contain content.

With Egyptian numbering systems using their alphabet as a numbering or marking system for text, they would have a relationship between the markers/numbering letters and the text.  But the text is not contained in the markers.  Without a document that shows you the content and how they line up with the markers or numberings, you wouldn't know that that's what they were used for.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers is a thing that shows how ancient markers or numberings were used for text, and why those markers were chosen to mark that part of the text.  The markers have no real relationship to the text other than they were used as markers.

So, if you say, to someone in the ancient way of quoting from the book of Abraham:  Show me the verse from the Book of Abraham, Chapter 1, verse Reed Symbol.  That's like saying show me Abraham chapter 1 verse 1.  Reed Symbol didn't contain the Book of Abraham.  Reed Symbol marked a verse like the number 1 for us marks verse 1.  It's nice that Land of the Chaldees (Kiengi) means "Land of Reeds."  But that is the association I'm talking about, between marker/numbering and verse.  That is not content.  That is just a clever association:

You can't extract text from a verse numbering system.

This is the problem with Joe Sampson.  He is trying to extract meaning from a verse numbering/marking system.  I'm trying to show why symbols in the numbering system were chosen, and how there are associations between number/character and verse.  All I'm doing is to demonstrate that these associations were clever.  I'm not trying to show how the numbering system translates to the text.  Do you see the difference between what I'm doing and what Joe Sampson was doing?

So, when I say that it is an ancient cipher, this is what I mean, that there is an ancient relationship between verse numbers/letters and content.  I am not saying that the verse numbers/letters contain content.  I'm saying that they creatively marked their verses with things in the Egyptian Alphabet that had associations with content in the verses/sections of text.

So, when I say that the Book of the Dead was the Book of Joseph, I mean that symbols from the the Book in the papyrus of Ani, for example, were creatively used for verse/section markers in the Book of Joseph.  The order the alphabet/characters were used to mark text were used in the order they are in in the papyrus.  The same with the Sensen Papyrus, when it was used to mark verse sections in the Book of Abraham.  You can't extract the text from it.  You need an external document or key to show you content and context.  This is what I mean when I say "external content dependency."

The ancient acrostics in the Book of Psalms marks sections of text with Hebrew letters like verse numberings but that doesn't tell me the content.  Yes, there is an association between a letter and the verse that it marks or enumerates, but that doesn't mean it contains the content of the verse/section.  And it is clever how the ancient prophets used those acrostics.

Similarly, it is evident from the KEP that Joseph Smith never claimed that the Sensen Papyrus contained text from the Book of Abraham, but that it was used as an ancient marking/numbering system for sections of text, and he was trying to show people that.  He wasn't claiming that the text could be extracted from it.  He was showing associations between that content and the characters, and why it was clever for someone to use it for a marking/numbering system.  And so, my work on this blog is not to show how the Book of Abraham text is extracted from these characters.  My work is to show the underlying relationships between section markers/numbers and text, and how clever people chose these verse/section markers/numberings to mark/enumerate the text for various reasons.  I'm not saying that the markers/numberings translate to the text.  There is a big difference there.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Review of Brian Hauglid's "The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Project" in "Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World"

In previous posts in this blog, I have criticized John Gee for his mistreatment of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and his deliberate attempts to distance Joseph Smith from them.  Here is the most recent one.

I believe in equal opportunity criticism:  that apologists, whether they have credentials or not, are not demigods, and are subject to mortality like the rest of us, and they deserve to be called out when their research or statements are not in line with facts.  This is also because I believe in EVIDENCE-BASED Apologetics.  This means that we ought to strive to whatever degree possible to base apologetics and research on evidence, rather than evading evidence.

So, in contrast to my criticisms of Gee, this post will be different.   In this post, I have almost nothing but praise for Brian Hauglid, whose work is a shining city on a hill in comparison.  Why is that?  Because Brian Hauglid cares about evidence.  Gee does not.  Or rather, perhaps it is better stated that John Gee, from the looks of it from his various writings, only cares about evidence when it suits him, and cherry picks it.  The manifestations of Brian Hauglid's fair and more scholarly and objective treatment of evidence started to manifest in his recent interviews in the Mormon Matters podcast, even before he wrote this article in question.  And he has appeared in other podcasts, where it is evident that he has made a concerted effort to reach out to those of other paradigms such as Brent Metcalfe, and has not treated his ideological adversaries with disdain in most cases as Gee does, but has treated them with respect, and has sought to acknowledge their points of view as rational.  Brother Hauglid has even given me notice in the past that he intends to review my material at some unknown point in the future.  If he follows through with that, and makes good on that statement, that will be nice.  One can only hope that he is serious about that.  As he notes in his article:

The main task here is to ascertain relational connections between the Egyptian documents and the larger corpus, including the Abrahamic documents.  Exploring points of contact between the documents should help to contextualize the Egyptian project within the larger framework.  (Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, p. 476)

This is precisely what he manages to do, is to demonstrate that in some cases, it seems that some of the KEP documents are dependent on others, and so forth and so on.  I won't get in to a lot of that, but most of Hauglid's conclusions in these matters are reasonable, although I disagree with some of those conclusions.  However, this review isn't meant to be an exhaustive review of each and every claim in Hauglid's article.  He then notes that:

In examining the documentary evidence related to the Abraham and Egyptian projects three main points emerge:  (1) the language (Egyptian) project was likely going on before Joseph Smith acquired the Egyptian papyri; (2) the translation and language projects where occurring at roughly the same time, and (3) the Egyptian project evidences a serious attempt at unveiling the Egyptian language using an imaginative, intricate system that connects the Egyptian alphabet documents to the grammar book and possibly the Abraham documents as well.  (ibid. p. 476)

I would like to address point number three here.  There is no evidence in the KEP that the "intricate system" as Hauglid calls it was an attempt at unveiling the Egyptian language, but rather, as my research in this blog shows, it was an unveiling of an ancient system that is not the mechanics of the Egyptian language at all, but rather, an ancient pictographic system of communication that uses Egyptian symbols in already existing documents as abstractions, and uses external keys to make concrete meaning assignments to those symbols.  The evidence shows that there was no intent in the mind of the ancient originators of this system to confuse this system with the regular Egyptian language, or the regular usage of Egyptian symbols.  The reason this is perplexing to people is precisely because it is a system that is entirely separate system from the regular Egyptian language, and the only thing it has in common with it is the usage of Egyptian symbols.  But people are expecting that it must be the mechanical Egyptian language to be a valid usage of Egyptian symbols.  But the key here is the fact that is ancient, and it is not made up.  It is a transmission of ancient information.  And people need to stop assuming that it is the regular old Egyptian language itself that the KEP purports to represent.  Rather, it is better described as an ancient cipher system developed by ancient Egyptians, using Egyptian characters that relied entirely on external keys for dependencies and context.  And it is NOT a system built IN to the document.  In other words, the original author of the Sensen Papyrus didn't use the symbols in his papyrus this way necessarily.  It was a system of use applied to symbols from papyrus after the fact.  It is a system where symbols in an already-existing document (i.e. the Sensen Papyrus) were harvested to be used to create OTHER productions (i.e. symbols were lifted from it for use in external translation-key documents).  In other words, documents similar to the KEP and the Facsimile Explanations that give explanations for the usage of characters probably existed anciently, but are not extant, and the KEP is probably a reproduction of ancient information.  And this system probably originated in Alexandria among Syncretist cults that mixed and matched symbolism and content from many religions (including the religion of the Jews).  So the problem among the apologists is the lack of recognition of the fact that Joseph Smith's Egyptian system from the Sensen papyrus doesn't purport to be the regular old Egyptian language usage of Egyptian characters, but is, in fact, a different ancient system altogether that is still nevertheless ancient, and is still, nevertheless, Egyptian.

And what I mean by this, is it is an ancient VERSE MARKING system.  If what I have been saying has never been clear enough before to people, let me say it this way:

You can't translate text from an ancient way of marking verses in the scriptures.  The Sensen characters are verse markers, like how we use chapter and verse numbers in our scriptures.  The letters in the Sensen papyrus were verse/section markers.  You can't translate text from verse markers.  If somebody tells you to look up Abraham Chapter 1 verse 1 in modern times, you can't translate the text of the verse 1 from the Book of Abraham by only knowing that someone referenced it by saying "Abraham 1:1" or "Abraham Chapter 1 verse 1."  So, in the ancient way of marking the Book of Abraham, if I say, "Reed Symbol", or the Egyptian letter I, if you are an ancient Egyptian, you know that I'm talking about the Book of Abraham, verse 1, chapter 1, because that is the ancient verse numbering system.  It was nice that the Reed Symbol was chosen to mark it because it matches up with a theme in it (i.e. land of the Chaldees, creatively sort of has an association with reeds).  See this article on that:

So, when I say that it is ancient cipher, this is what I mean, that there is an ancient relationship between verse numbers/letters and content.  I am not saying that the verse numbers/letters contain content.  I'm saying that they creatively marked their verses with things in the Egyptian Alphabet that had associations with content in the verses/sections of text.

Anyway, contrary to Gee, Hauglid notes that Joseph Smith was indeed at least partly responsible for the KEP.  While he doesn't conclude that Joseph Smith was entirely responsible, as I believe the evidence shows, this is at least a step forward from Gee's bad conclusions.  Hauglid writes:

As we shall see, the three Egyptian alphabet documents contain basically the same material while the rest of the Egyptian documents depart from the EA manuscripts, as well as each other, in various ways.  It is also noteworthy that the EAJS contains the handwriting of Joseph Smith, something that occurs quite rarely, since Joseph's general practice was to hire professional scribes.  This would seem to indicate that Joseph Smith had interest in and contributed to the Egyptian project, which is further reinforced in his journal entries for 1835.  But Joseph's interest in the Egyptian project does not arise in a vacuum.  In fact, the Mormon Egyptian focus fits well within the larger nineteenth-century context of Egyptomania.  (ibid.  p. 479.)

The one thing that is an incredibly important step forward with Brother Hauglid's research is the fact that, contrary to Gee, he says things like this:

One more entry [from Joseph Smith's journals] dated the day after the last translation session on Nobember 26, 1835, refers to "transcribing Egyptian characters from the papyrus."  Unlike the word "translation," "transcribing Egyptian characters" here denotes the copying of Egyptian characters from the papyri to paper.  If this is the case, this entry may refer to the three 1835 Abraham manuscripts that have hieratic characters drawn from the first few lines of P. JS XI in the margins opposite text from the Book of Abraham.  These 1835 manuscripts (with one more from the Nauvoo period) roughly cover Abraham 1:1-2:18.
In sum, from available historical evidence, it appears that Joseph Smith (and his associates) made a literal connection between the Egyptian papyri [i.e. the Sensen Papyrus/Book of Breathings] and the Book of Abraham by translating specific characters on the papyri to produce both the Egyptian alphabet and the Abraham manuscripts. (ibid., p. 485-486, emphasis added).
So, contrary to John Gee and his Magic-Man Apologetics, not only does Hauglid refute Gee where Gee tries to say that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with it.  The fact is, Joseph Smith not only had something to do with it.  But the evidence shows, as has been known by critics and Anti-Mormons for a very long time, that Joseph Smiths very handwriting appears in the Egyptian Alphabet collection, showing Joseph Smith's direct involvement.  Gee conveniently leaves information like this out of his work.  Chris Smith, Brent Metcalfe, Ed Ashment, Robert Ritner, and many others who are critics have known these facts for a very long time, and for an LDS scholar to acknowledge these facts is not just a breath of fresh air, but it means that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and hope.  LDS scholars that care about evidence are finally starting to emerge.  And furthermore, Hauglid admits translation activity of characters directly lifted from the Sensen papyrus and that these characters are translated as Book of Abraham content.  But here is a problem again in Hauglid's interpretation of the evidence, where he states that:

If any of the Egyptian documents were to be examined by a modern Egyptologist, they would more than likely be deemed gibbrish.  However, it must be understood that Joseph Smith and his associates took their language study quite seriously.  That is to say, while approaching the Egyptian documents from a purely Egyptological standpoint yields minimal value, analyzing the systematic nature of the documents themselves can tell us something about those who created them.  In doing so, it becomes quite clear that Joseph Smith and W. W. Phelps, in particular, developed a complex, if not imaginative, system toward their apprehension of the Egyptian language.  (ibid. p. 487).
So, herein lies the crux of Hauglid's apologetic attempt at defense of Joseph Smith's Egyptian:  It isn't Egyptological at all and it's gibbrish, but hey, these guys were serious, so we need to take their seriousness seriously.  While this is certainly a step forward from Gee's nonsense, and it is reasonable to scholars that are uber-cautious about anything they say, it basically says that Joseph Smith's production wasn't a translation at all, and Joseph Smith couldn't translate.  While I congratulate Hauglid for an amazing step forward, and an amazing amount of admission about the forensic facts of the matter, Hauglid's assumption, like the rest of the scholars and Egyptologists that have dealt with this, is that for Joseph Smith's Egyptian system to be valid, it ought to match Egyptological Egyptian.  Well, that assumption is wrong, because it is wrong to presume that Joseph Smith knew what he was producing.  Joseph Smith never claimed that this was the regular old "Egyptian language," but rather, he stated such things like he was "translating an alphabet to the book of Abraham."  Joseph Smith never made the claim that he was directly translating text, but rather, as I have shown in other posts in this blog, he only claimed that the "subject" of the content was represented by the characters.  He never claimed this to be literal "text."  But rather, the content produced by Joseph Smith was NEVER CONTAINED in the papyrus.  Therefore, the system of representation that Joseph Smith described in the KEP is not a description of the Egyptological Egyptian language.  Rather, the ORIGINAL PAPYRUS that Abraham wrote in his own hand, that actually read mechanically as the Book of Abraham text is not this papyrus, but was something that was lost to antiquity.  The story from Abraham's book was known to some ancient people, and they used symbols in this papyrus to represent some themes from that story.  Therefore, there is no reason to presume that symbols from the Sensen papyrus in their Abrahamic usage were understood the way a regular Egyptian text reads.

This is the problem I have with Hauglid's work, as well as the work of other people.  They presume that the system in the KEP usage of this papyrus purports to be the regular Egyptian usage, and that Joseph Smith was claiming to be recovering that.  Rather, since its obvious it is NOT that, why not give Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt that he produced something genuine and authentic, but different?  I don't see any indication that this was ever the claim in the KEP that it ought to be understood to be the regular way to use Egyptian.  Rather, the evidence in the KEP ought to be ascertained, as I try to do in this blog, and then we ought to demonstrate evidence from ancient times that shows that this system was indeed ancient.  This is why I continually say that this transcends regular Egyptological Egyptian.  It never claimed to be regular Egyptian.  It was never intended to be understood that way.  Joseph Smith never made that claim.  Egyptologists and other scholars that have examined Joseph Smith's material have assumed that Joseph Smith can't translate because they set up this straw man in the first place that Joseph Smith's Egyptian ever purported to be the regular system of the Egyptian language that was deciphered from the Rosetta stone.  Rather, it is its own animal in the way it uses Egyptian characters, and evidence shows it is ancient.  So, in the first place, scholars like Gee and Hauglid should remove the notion in their minds that this was ever intended to be the regular Egyptian language by the authors of the KEP.  The authors of the KEP didn't know what they were producing, in the sense that they were just rehydrating something that other people came up with, and the ancient people that produced this system never intended it to be confused with regular old Egyptian that reads mechanically like any other language that a machine could translate, the way English or Japanese can be translated with Google translate.  It is not a mechanical thing like this.  It is a system where an already-existing document had its already-existing symbols lifted from it and used in a way different from the intent of the author of the document.  And the way they were used is context dependent, and the context is given in an external key.

So, in summary, Hauglid makes some huge steps forward from Gee, but Hauglid's work still doesn't go far enough in actually trying to uncover evidence of the ancientness of the underlying system in the KEP, as is done in this blog.  Until scholars start trying to use an approach similar to the one on this blog, they will continue to have to say things like this, that this seems to be gibbrish, despite the fact that they have finally started acknowledging the facts of the matter from the forensic evidence.  Joseph Smith did not produce gibbrish.  He produced a transmission of an ancient system that must be vindicated, a system that was never meant to be confused with regular, mechanical "Egyptological Egyptian."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Follow-Through, and Redefining Apologetics to be Evidence-Based

Alan Turing and Boris Pavlovich Belousov never lived to see the ultimate outcome of their contributions to science.  Their contributions would lead to a change that would effect the very understanding of science itself.  And that their ideas, coupled with the ideas of others would ultimately cause a paradigm shift.  And so, just because someone's research is not immediately accepted, that it is worth following through with it.  Turing showed how complex patterns emerge from simple mathematical principles:  a big, bold idea.

As Wikipedia says about Belousov:

It was while seeking an inorganic analog of the biochemical citric acid cycle that Belousov chanced to discover an oscillating chemical reaction. He tried twice over a period of six years to publish his findings, but the incredulous editors of the journals to which he submitted his articles rejected his work as "impossible". He took this very hard.
The biochemist Simon El'evich Shnoll, at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics (Puschino), heard of Belousov's work and tried to encourage him to continue. Belousov gave Schnoll some of his experimental notes and agreed to publish an article in a rather obscure, non-reviewed, journal, but then essentially quit science. Schnoll gave the project to a graduate student, Anatol Zhabotinsky, who investigated the reaction in detail and succeeded in publishing his results. The reaction now bears the names of both Belousov and Zhabotinsky.
Belousov was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize in 1980 for his work on the BZ reaction.

Belousov's reaction was the type of behavior in nature that Turing's work predicted.  And it was further added upon by the work of Mandelbrot.  In my case, I am suggesting a way of looking at Egyptian symbolism that has simple principles, but that those principles lays the foundation for the complexity that we see in Joseph Smith's Egyptian productions in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and in the Explanations for the Book of Abraham Facsimiles.  Someone had to figure out the fundamentals that lay the groundwork for the complexity, and it isn't really complex so much, but rather, it has fundamentals on which the complexity is derived, and that if you focus in on some part, you will see those fundamentals in play at each stage.  If I am remembered for anything, perhaps it will be that I sought out the basic principles on which this complexity emerged.

There are people out there that sense patterns where others do not see that they exist.  There are people that can sense fundamentals in things that others cannot seem to sense.  This is what I mean to say, when I say that Turing and Belousov and Mandelbrot had a sense for the same type of elusive, underlying realities that Bohr and Einstein and Darwin had a sense for.  I have a sense for what I believe are underlying principles in Joseph Smith's Egyptian

I had a time in my life also when I became acquainted with the New Atheists, the Transhumanists and the Skeptic Societies, like the James Randi Educational Foundation.  I learned that I had a lot in common with them.  I was even part of the Mormon Transhumanist Association at one time.  I found a lot of value in the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, strangely enough.  While Dawkins' work on religion is not of very much value.  However, Dawkins is a Transhumanist who described the possibility of Gods who are Extraterrestrial Beings who did not start out that way.  He has no faith in the god of the Sectarians who describe a being without body, parts and passions.  Transhumanists say that advanced humans that in the future would transcend our state in this life are "post-Human."  This is a description of the Mormon And so, by stating that God is a post-Human being is thoroughly Mormon, but strangely Transhumanist at the same time.  Strangely enough, the ideas promoted in the movies Prometheus and Interstellar are actually quite Transhumanist, and quite similar to the Mormon idea of an emergent being that became God, that is part of a natural species.

And so, I felt quite at home in this transhumanist/skeptical/evidence-based paradigm.  Yet, I sought to pair it with faith in Jesus Christ.  Skeptics and New Atheists have good points.  But they throw the baby out with the bathwater and malign all religion.  That is wrong.  I'm only interested in profiting from their good points.  So, that is what I sought for, to profit from their good points.  And so, I felt that I needed to have an evidentiary basis for my research as much as it is possible, while maintaining testimony.  That is what I call evidence-based apologetics.  And that is where I differ with John Gee and Apologists that strive to hide evidence, and explain it away.  We need serious answers that harmonize with evidence as far as possible.  We need serious hypotheses and theories that actually explain the evidence that we see before us.  This is where I differ with FAIRMormon and other Apologists.  I want an evidentiary basis if it is possible to have one, or at the very least, strive for it.  I don't believe they try hard enough to do that.  Being a believer in Mormonism makes it so that I cannot evade the fact that I am still fundamentally an apologist in that I defend Mormonism.  Many people hate the word apologist, but I guess it is just something one is naturally if one defends one's religion.  I seek to redefine what that means in terms of being more careful with evidence and trying to be evidence-based.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Response to "Book of Abraham Fraud" By Mark Hines: Anti-Mormon Egyptian Art Aversion

Sometimes things irritate me because they are stupid.  And I feel that they need a response to illustrate and bring out the stupidity, especially when someone disrespects Joseph Smith and the Church so much, and then makes the claim that it is common sense that it is so.  This sort of claim shows how people when they are against the Church have lost the Holy Ghost, and refuse to look at anything through any kind of lens except their extremely cynical worldview.  They refuse to give anything the benefit of the doubt, but they feel the need to portray it in the worst possible light, and then pass judgement on it, condemning it to hell, and refuse to understand it.  This type of thing coming from people like this reminds me of the how children are fixated on potty stuff and private parts.

This is a link to an article by an Anti-Mormon named Mark Hines. The copy of this that I have in PDF form doesn't seem to be exactly the same, but the content is pretty much the same.

People ought not to be disturbed by the drivel in documents that circulate such as this.  Hines makes claims that are classic Anti-Mormon claims against the Book of Abraham (which is the same kind of stuff used in Larson's classic book By His Own Hand on Papyrus):

(1) The Book of Abraham Facsimiles use the god Min from ancient Egypt as a symbol.  Min was a fertility god, and iconographically, his penis is erect, and in some contexts, in some statues and so forth, Egyptians actually use a depiction of Min with his hand around his erect penis.

(2) Mormons will burn in hell if they don't stop believing in Mormonism, and Mormonism is Satanic because Ancient Egyptian Iconography is pagan and evil.  And Egyptian iconography is especially evil, because some characters in it are pornographic such as Min.

(3) The God of Christians would never use a penis for a symbol.

(4) Christians have enough common sense to know that God would never use a penis for a symbol.

Yes, it is true that in other ways I have praised Larson's book at times for the presentation of facts in general, not its anti-Mormon claims.  But Larson also seems to have had a fixation on Min's penis like Hines.  For example, Larson shows Osiris on the Lion Couch in an Egyptological reconstruction holding his penis.  And its not that it is necessarily incorrect to suggest that some Lion Couch scenes showed the idea of fertility between Isis and her dead husband Osiris in their marriage (especially the fact that the fertility extended beyond the grave, an idea that Mormons are quite at home with, and it was a marriage for crying out loud).  But anti-Mormons love to make a big deal out of nothing and can't be adults about things that are just symbols.  Hines says things like this:

Even in Joe Smith's day, a moderately retarded person could identify the sitting person as having an erect penis. Anybody with high school level reading comprehension skills can read Joe Smith's explanation. Sanity, common sense, basic decency, etc., tell one that this "prophet" Joe Smith and his obscene representation of God are of Satan . . .  He is usually represented as having an erect penis. In some hypocephali, Min holds his stiff penis with his left hand.

Hines has no respect for a religion that he disagrees with, and calls it's founding prophet by the name of "Joe," as many Anti-Mormons have since the beginning of time, to make the first man in the 19th Century who spoke with Jehovah, a man of the stature of Moses in modern times, into a regular "Joe."

And now, Hines makes an appeal to the emotion of his audience, appealing to their "basic decency," and their "common sense," because in the infinite wisdom of his audience, of course his audience "knows" that it is "obvious" that this is "obscene" and surely their God would never use such symbols which are obviously Satanic.  Some of you out there may almost think that Hines argument has real substance in it, until you actually start analyzing how he is manipulating his audience emotionally, and appealing to their own sense of what they think is "decent" and "common sense" from their own culture.  Yet, if you recognize that the fact that the Egyptians didn't necessarily have the same thoughts, you may come to realize that Egyptians and other people in other cultures in a world three or four thousand years separated from ours may have had a different sense of "common sense."

The God of Israel is not a product of Western Culture, but instead is a being that has been around far longer than the earth itself, and who assures us that his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  So if God has a "culture," then it is not ours for sure.  Yet Hines presumes to know what is acceptable to God, which, to know such a thing, would require Hines to know the mind of God, yet the religion that Hines belongs to rejects modern-day revelation to know the mind of God on a subject.  If Hines rejects Mormon Prophets, then how would he presume to know what God thinks of Min's penis in a drawing from the Egyptians, and what God may use the symbol for?

To the Muslims, isn't it common sense that Westerners are indecent by allowing their women to not be covered head to toe?  Yet isn't it common sense to us that forcing women to do such things is abusive, and that our own sense of what is "modest" and "decent" is entirely culture-based?  Hines doesn't bother to really reveal to his audience what the point the Egyptians were trying to make by using an erect penis as a symbol.  And as it happens, the value to them was the message behind the symbol, which is the idea of fertility and the power of procreation.  Indecency and pornography was the furthest thing from their minds, but Hines doesn't bother to tell people this.  He would rather manipulate people and try to make an appeal to their ethnocentricity.  And he would hope that his audience doesn't actually start trying to analyze what he is actually saying.

Well, now, Hines, of course, loves the shock value of pointing out the use of the penis on Min statues and in other art.  I don't know what his fascination/fixation is with Min's penis, but Mormons have never thought much of it, and have not only NOT pointed it out, but just simply don't care because it isn't a big deal.  Hines needs to grow up and be an adult.  Grow up Hines.

Mormons don't seem to be as childish as this.  Yes I said childish.  I say to the Anti-Mormons, get over it and stop being childish, and stop getting so worked up about Min's erect penis.  It's a symbol of fertility.  Get over it.  It is an ancient symbol that is not any more of a big deal than a naked statue from the Greeks.  You Anti-Mormons are the only ones getting worked up about about Min's penis.  Egyptologists don't get worked up about Min's penis, and neither do Mormons.

Christians, so called, in their unChristlike judgement of Mormons, like Hines probably don't want you to notice the fact that their Savior God also is a man...  Get it?  His name is Jesus Christ, and he is in the form of a man, and that means he is equipped in the form of a man.  Get it?  It is doubtful that Jesus walked around as a Eunuch for 33 years on this planet, but that he had what it took to be considered a man.  So, not only did the Egyptian god Min have a penis, but so did your God.  I have no problem saying it as it is.  Mormons aren't scared that Father in Heaven is equipped to be a Father, even though some Christians are scared to even contemplate the possibility that Jesus was married and did what it took to be a Father as well.  Why should I mince words?

You Christians as you call yourselves, holier than the rest of us, so you believe.  You condemn the rest of us to hell because you say we are Satanic over a symbol.  You are commanded not to judge, but you pass judgement on the basis of doctrines that you disagree with.  You act like you are the only people in the world who have the right to use that name, are trying to exclude Mormons from your "Christian club," because we don't have the same cool doctrines you do in your minds.  So you resort to making a big deal out of something that is nothing.  You people forget that Egyptology is all about symbolism, and those symbols are drawings.  And this wasn't used with pornographic intent.

You claim the Bible as yours.  Well, it is not.  It is the book of the primitive Christians.  You didn't write it.  Nevertheless, I could point out God's fixation on Onan's spilling his own seed from his penis, not wanting to provide an heir to his brother (Genesis 38:9).  I could point out King David's dancing in the streets naked (2 Samuel 6:20).  I could point out the commandment to Hosea to go marry a prostitute and God's use of the prostitute/whore for a symbol, which was quite literal, and may have caused a prophet to get an STD, for all we know (Hosea 1:2).  God seems to have had no aversion to use the symbol of a whore in the Book of Revelation as the whore of Babylon.

As my associate in MoGraphers, Vincent Coon points out, there are many other things in Hebrew scripture "that should rub the sensibilities of western Christian society the wrong way."  For example, he notes:
The KJV still leaves us with God repeatedly stating that he will cut of him that “pisseth against the wall” and then there are statements like “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins” (KJV 1 Kings 12:10), more explicit in Hebrew, not to mention Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs).
But I won't rip on "your" Bible, because the Bible is true, and it isn't yours anyway.  It is actually the book from the ancient Christians, not you.  And it is as much a Mormon book as anything.  Christians are actually the intellectual descendants of the proto-Orthodox usurpers, not the primitive Christians, according to scholars such as Bart Ehrman.  The Mormons at least had it right, long before Ehrman, to know that there were usurpers in the religious lineages of the sectarians.  And the Mormons know that Joseph Smith and his successors are the true successors to the primitive Christians through restoration.  But Christians don't want to have to bother with little facts such as these.  And the primitive Christians had no aversion to symbolism that was only used as symbolism in the culture of the middle east.  Therefore, it is the so-called Christians with their penis aversion in art that didn't have the intent that they put upon it that I will criticize.

You can't even represent a penis, or even the idea of fertility, in Egyptian without drawing one.  That's how stupid this is.  The Egyptians thought no more about drawing a penis (Gardiner's D52 and D53) than drawing an eye.

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:

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. (, 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:

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!