Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Response to a Critical Article on the Book of Abraham

I read through a lot of the Kelan article. My reaction to this is the same as my reaction always has been to works such as By His Own Hand on Papyrus by Charles Larson, or Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri by Robert Ritner, or even the CES Letter. We can congratulate the authors for their attention to a lot of detail where they try to bombard us with so much technical detail about how things are supposedly "false", that as the author Kelan said, to quote, you have to "come up for air" sometimes. The importance of evidence is not lost on the authors of these materials. And sometimes they are very right about technical details. But it is not the rightness of technical details that is all that impressive. It is whether they have focused so much on technical details that they are lost on things that really matter. that is where they fail. Because for some reason, they assume that all parties that are on the Church's side are agreed on all details, just because something is put out as authoritative by the Church, that is in fact ghost written by flawed apologists. I am in fact not in agreement on all the details and claims made in the Church's apologetic production, just because I am a member of the Church. In fact, I am agreed on a great number of facts and details put out by the critics. And by that, I mean, the fact is, it doesn't matter so much that a critic can be right to a great degree by bombarding us with a bunch of stuff that is true. That is not very impressive to me, because I actually agree with the great majority of facts that the critics are presenting. It is their interpretation of what those facts mean that is the issue with me. And so, by that, I mean that a lot of things are both true at the same time. For example, it is both true that Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State contains items that resemble contents of the Book of Abraham, but it is also true that it is an authentic fact that Abraham also actually knew these things. But the same type of things exist for the Book of Mormon too about many things that Joseph Smith knew from his environment, that primed him for it. For example, the theories about the moundbuilders that they were the Lost Ten Tribes from Joseph smith's environment. Just because this stuff was in his environment did not stop the facts in the Book of Mormon from being true. So, the truth can actually be surprising sometimes that two things can be true at the same time. The critics bombard us with this stuff and then feed us the assumption that there is only one possibility, that Joseph Smith copied stuff from his environment. Even if he did, it doesn't mean that what he produced is not true. In fact, I embrace the fact that sometimes things from the environment are there in fact for the very purpose of priming him to receive revelations, and that people in his environment also were receivers of revelation and inspiration to make sure that those very things would be there for the prophet to be primed at the time he needed to be. Secondly, the other common claim from the critic is that, just because it is technically true that Joseph Smith didn't get technical things right about the identification of the papyri that he was dealing with, that therefore was in fact no ancient source that once contained the information that he produced. Those things are not indicative that there was no ancient source that Joseph Smith reproduced. In fact, what I am saying is that revelation many times does not actually resemble the parody of it that the critics would have us believe. For example, just because Joseph Smith had certain assumptions about his sources doesn't invalidate the end product that he produced as being a reproduction of authentically ancient material. It is the end product that ought to be put under the microscope, not Joseph Smith's assumptions about it, which in fact may be outright wrong, or incomplete. In this case, Joseph Smith's assumptions about the Hor Papyrus as being an autograph of Abraham is not technically correct. That is a fact. Joseph Smith did not understand technical details about it. Today we do, and both the critics and the apologists know this very well. We know very well that the Papyrus does not contain the Book of Abraham. What Joseph Smith was NOT wrong about was that there is an association between the symbols and the content of the Book of Abraham, and that that relationship is ancient. THIS is what my research shows. In other words, with modern research, we come to know in sharp focus HOW the Hor Papyrus has a linkage to the Book of Abraham, and that it does not CONTAIN the contents of the message of the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith assumed too much about the identity of the papyrus. In other words the Holy Ghost used Joseph Smith, regardless of Joseph Smith's partially true or partially false assumptions about the identity of the thing he was working with. In other words, Joseph Smith knew things only partially, but the Holy Ghost used him anyway. And the Holy Ghost knew things fully. Therefore, Joseph Smith is still a vessel of receiving information from the Holy Ghost notwithstanding his failings or partial understandings, and notwithstanding what was in Joseph Smith's environment. Therefore, as Church members, we still have enough evidence to indicate that we ought to to be grateful to Joseph Smith, that he is a conduit, notwithstanding he is human and fallible and not omniscient. And we ought to be grateful that the Holy Ghost still used him as a conduit anyway. And furthermore, we ought to be grateful that the Holy Ghost is the entity that is omniscient that worked with Joseph Smith as a tool. We ought to be grateful that there is an element in the equation that is indeed omniscient, in spite of the limitations of the conduit. Therefore, as Church Members, we ought to also be grateful to ALL researchers (including the critics) for bringing further facts to light about the matter. Because, as Church members, we aren't necessarily as interested in apologetics and being bamboozled by apologists when they make false or incorrect claims, and we are not even necessarily interested in Church sponsored claims when they are not entirely correct coming from apologists that are commissioned by the Church to produce something. We are interested in all truth, regardless from whence it comes. Therefore, we ought to be grateful to the critics when they bring truth to light, but we intend to circumscribe all truth into one great combination of truth. Therefore, we ought to be willing to recognize by the Holy Ghost when truth comes from critics, or from apologists, or from whatever source. Therefore, I am not interested in defending things even in the Church essay when the Church essay presents facts that aren't precisely correct. Ultimately, I am interested in coming to an understanding of truth as a whole. And if Joseph Smith only knew the truth partially, then I am undisturbed when facts come to light that show more of the truth. But that doesn't invalidate the parts of the truth, or even partial truths that Joseph Smith did in fact know. Therefore, I say, I am as grateful for the facts presented in Kellan's article as I am from the By His Own hand on Papyrus book, or Ritner's book. I am just not impressed by Kellan's interpretations of those facts, and I say, none of those facts invalidate my research the least bit. In other words, I am still asserting and am unswayed from the conclusion that the Hor Papyrus has a role where it is related to the Book of Abraham symbolically by the relational things of its ancient usage of its symbols, but it does not CONTAIN the text. And therefore, the contents are reproduced from a non-extant ancient source. The Holy Ghost knew this, but Joseph Smith didn't have to know these details to complete his work. And I am undisturbed by the fact that Joseph Smith didn't have to know all things or all technical facts of a matter to actually have performed his work, and the fact that we can come to know facts that Joseph Smith did not know is a testimony that the Holy Ghost continues to reveal important facts and does things incrementally according to our needs. Apologists need to strive to have their interpretations of things actually harmonize with known facts, rather than making stuff up or outright lying or misrepresenting facts the way they do sometimes, because when they do that, they do damage to the cause. And this can be especially damaging when the Church relies on the "expertise" of apologists like that. I for one strive to have interpretations that harmonize with the evidence. Thanks.