Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Few Comments about John Gee's Book "Introduction to the Book of Abraham"

I got John Gee's new book An Introduction to the Book of Abraham in the mail today.  I actually do have to recommend this book to all as (mostly) a carefully written and carefully thought-out overview and summary of the issues surrounding the Book of Abraham.  Overall, the book is quite fair and surprisingly not so one-sided as a lot of his other writings are.  Could this be because he has backed off of some of the strong claims he has made about things in the past, or is it because of good editors?  I wouldn't know.

However, now comes the meat of the problems, which are few.  Like all of John Gee's writings, I have no real issues for the most part except for his treatment of the Kirtland Egyptain Papers.  The same is so with this book and its treatment of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.

Anyway, what he does have to say in it about the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is that "No designation [for them] has gained wide acceptance." (p. 33).  This is pretty much true, but it is mostly because the apologists do not want to assign their ownership to Joseph Smith.  So its the apologists that came up with the term "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" to begin with as a catch-all umbrella.  He says that:
Almost every aspect of these documents is disputed: their authorship, their date, their purpose, their relationship with the Book of Abraham, their relationship with the Joseph Smith Papyri, their relationship with each other, what the documents are or were intended to be, and even whether the documents for a discrete or coherent group.  With so many questionable or problematic facets of the documents in dispute, theories about the Book of Abraham built on this  material run the risk of following a potentially incorrect assumption to its logically flawed conclusion . . . While these documents are kept together, and, additionally, often classed with Book of Abraham manuscripts, that classification is artificial. (p. 33)
It is only the group of Apologists that sort of salute to the same flag that John Gee raises on the apologetic flagpole of FAIRMormon, Mormon Interpreter and so forth that really believe this way, or insist that there is really a basis for dispute.  The critics are united in assigning their provenance to Joseph Smith.  Other faithful and careful scholars like Brian Hauglid and David Bokovoy seem to be united in placing the ownership and provenance to Joseph Smith, and essentially recognizing that their internal contents show them to be one whole.  So, there is actually quite a wide consensus among scholars that deal with these issues that come down on this side of the issue.  All of these scholars mostly have one united attribute, and that is, they are objective from the standpoint that they are willing to see the evidence for what it is, that the translations in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers originate from the mouth of Joseph Smith (mostly), and was written by his scribes (mostly).  Some of them have this attribute because they aren't trying to defend Joseph Smith.  Apologists are bent on defending Joseph Smith at all costs.  And while this is a VIRTUE (don't get me wrong), in issues like this, taken to this extreme, this virtue has gotten in the way of the truth, to the degree that a significant portion of the truth cannot come forth to the eyes of the public.  Now the apologists are, by an artifact or side-effect of their apologetics, in the way of the truth coming forth about true translations in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  I say, please my fellow brethren, please step out of the way of the truth coming forth.  There is no longer anything to be scared of.  The truth is no longer scary because now its on our side, when before it may have seemed not to be.  John Gee and those united with his paradigm insist that these translations cannot be from Joseph Smith, and therefore, they blame them on W. W. Phelps, and say that Phelps was acting on his own (as mastermind) in the creation of these documents.  This is their claim, notwithstanding the evidence with Joseph Smith's signature on the "Valuable Discovery" section of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and also Joseph Smith's handwriting (as the scribe) in one section of the Grammar and Alphabet documents in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  See on the Joseph Smith Papers project website for example.

In other words, as I have written multiple times in multiple articles on this blog, it is only the apologists trying to divorce Joseph Smith for responsibility for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers that dispute the consensus among the other scholars.  And so, while Gee's statement that almost every aspect of these papers is in dispute is technically true, ironically, the dispute originates with Gee and those who follow his paradigm in the first place, and is not based on a forensic evidentiary basis, but rather a political and paradigmatic/ideological basis.  The reason all other scholars have sided with the consensus that Gee has not sided with, is that Gee is arguing against the forensic and internal evidence widely available in high definition on the Joseph Smith Papers Project website.

And while Gee calls information like what is presented on this blog as "potentially incorrect" and based on an "assumption" that would end up at a "logically flawed conclusion," the fact of the matter is, the information on this blog is based on an examination of the evidence in the very papers that Gee insists are in dispute, and the conclusions are based on the very premise from the scholarly consensus that Gee refuses to adopt, that Joseph Smith is 100% responsible for all of the content in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, not Phelps.  And notice the outcome of the information on this blog.  I have been able to argue that Joseph Smith is not only responsible, but that the information that he brought forth is 100 times more jaw-dropping than the mere place name of NHM/Nahom in Arabia, as predicted by the Book of Mormon text ever was.  And while I am not disparaging the NHM/Nahom place name in the sense that I believe in it, and also agree with it, I'm using it as an example of something that the apologists trumpet for being extremely significant.  And while it is indeed significant, there is also a whole mountain of other information that they don't want to have anything to do with on this blog that defends and upholds the prophetic abilities and calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  And so, they don't want to have anything to do with this information, only because it goes against this paradigm that Gee and those that agree with him continue to put forth.  Gee's position on this issue is neither logical, nor is it desirable in the long term.  So while Gee says that information which is found on this blog may suffer logically and so forth and so on, he and those allied with him have never stepped forward to actually deal with the claims and evidences presented here to actually refute them.  They just make these kinds of vague pronouncements.

He says that the classification of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers documents is an artificial one, as if they don't belong together, when much of the content of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is very specifically related with content in the Book of Abraham text and the text in the Explanations of the Book of Abraham.

Once again, Gee blames the Kirtland Egyptian Papers on Phelps in this new book, saying that:
There are documents that seem to have belonged to W. W. Phelps and are in his handwriting, with additions by Warren Parrish.  The documents use some characters from the Document of Breathings made by Isis; other characters sometimes match up with portions of the Book of Abraham and sometimes with things that seem to have nothing to do with the Book of Abraham.  These have been attributed to Joseph Smith by many individuals, but the attribution to Joseph Smith depends more on assumption and assertion than on demonstration; they cannot be proven to be Joseph Smith's.  It is assumed that since Joseph Smith sometimes used W. W. Phelps as a scribe, those particular documents must be Joseph Smith's thoughts. (p. 177).
Can you see the evasion tactic in these words?  I can.  There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that these belonged to Phelps, any more than the Book of Mormon text written in the hand of Oliver Cowdery in many places belonged to Cowdery.  It is John Gee and those associated with him that refuse to go along with consensus, because they are very very invested in making sure that these things are not attributed to Joseph Smith.  But, as I have argued for many years now, there is no need for that anymore, when Joseph Smith's translations in these documents can now be defended quite easily.  In other words, John Gee and those allied with him that continue to do this do it because they believe that the translations are indefensible, so they must blame them on Phelps and the others at all costs.  But remember, I just showed how Joseph Smith not only signed his name to it, but that the Grammar and Alphabet documents have his handwriting on them as one of the scribes.  Here is Joseph Smith's signature:

And as it is transcribed by the Joseph Smith Papers Project scholars, it says:

Valuable Discovery of hiden (sic) reccords (sic) that have been obtained from the ancient buring (sic) place of the Egyptians
Joseph Smith Jr.
There is his signature on the very last line.  The spelling in the above is in the document, and is not mine.  Then, there is the oft quoted statement from Joseph Smith, which shows content that is not found in any other place except for in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers:
Were I an Egyptian, I would exclaim Jah-oh-eh, Enish-go-on-dosh, Flo-ees-Flos-is-is; [O the earth! the power of attraction, and the moon passing between her and the sun.] (
Is this a quote from Phelps, or is it a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith?  From the Prophet of course.  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, emphasis added).
Similarly, 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)
Yet, supposedly responsible individuals like John Gee insist that it was the scribes that are responsible for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and that Joseph Smith's papers BELONGED to Phelps.  Do you see the absurdity in that yet?  I do.

So, my suggestion to Gee and those that agree with him is the same as it has been for many years.  It its time to let go of this type of apologetics.  The time for this has passed.  The need for this type of approach of blaming it on his scribes no longer exists.  That apologetic was invented in a day when his translations in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers could not be defended.  It's time to embrace the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and ascribe them to Joseph Smith, and that Joseph Smith is 100% responsible for them, in conjunction with his associates, that formed a council, yet he was mastermind.  I've showed all over this blog how to defend it, and I think the time has come.

Now its up to others to actually realize that it can be done.  Unfortunately, I predict that it will take another generation for it to happen.  So, if you can defend them, why would you persist on placing the "blame" for these things on others.  Are you going to "blame" W. W. Phelps for correct Egyptian Translations?  Since there is no longer anything negative to blame anyone on, wouldn't you WANT Joseph Smith to be given responsibility for correct translations that show he was a true prophet?  I do want him to have credit for correct translations!  And so to me, the logic is clear about what must be done, and has been for a very long time.

One other thing I should mention is that Gee seems to be placing Abraham's Ur in northern Mesopotamia rather than Southern Mesopotamia in the area of Eridu.  As I have shown in other places in this blog, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers place Abraham's Ur in Southern Mesopotamia, because that was the Land of Reeds, or Chalsidonhiash, the Kassite version of which is Kardunaish.  There are quite a number of scholars in this world that are very comfortable with placing Abraham's Ur in the south.