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Chris Smith

My JWHA Paper on the Egyptian Alphabet

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That's what he said. He's not attesting to the translation, but that his knowledge of deciphering was consistent with contemporary science. Indeed, the certification would have been worthless if he had done so, because he himself had no idea how to translate.

I have yet to suggest otherwise. Unlike you, my comments weren't restricted to the certification, but included ALL the historical data that was recorded in the HoC. I see no reason not to also consider what other principles had to say about the event, and to take Joseph at his word--at least as recorded in his history of the Church.

Clearly, revelation. I think Joseph looked at it, shook it, turned it upside down, tried to pick out meaning, and it was revealed. He saw the big picture before he understood the pieces...and that was the purpose of the GAEL.

Will's definitley on to something there. I'm also interested to see if Joseph ever talked about translating the narrative, as opposed to the A&G, or the Egyptian records.

Agreed.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Forgive me if this has already been addressed, but when Michael H. Chandler, on July 3rd of 1835, came to Joseph Smith to have him translate some characters from the Egyptian papyrus, and Joseph gave him an interpretation, which Chandler certified three days later (see History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.16, p.235), then by what means was Joseph able to provide the interpretation?

Was he working from a pre-written Egyptian alphabet? Or, did that come later? (The first mention I could find where Joseph was working on the alphabet was July 19th of 1835--see History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.17, p.238)

There are really only a few documents Chandler could have had the knowledge to "certify". He knew that the hypocephalus was an astronomical representation, and he knew that the papyri contained one or more epitaphs. Thus our candidates are,

1) The Facsimile 2 explanation,

2) The astronomical portion of the GAEL,

3) One or both of the notebooks relating to Katumin,

4) The initial portion of the "Egyptian Alphabet", relating to Katumin.

The first two are out of the question, since they were produced much later. I'm inclined to go with # 4, myself.

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There are really only a few documents Chandler could have had the knowledge to "certify". He knew that the hypocephalus was an astronomical representation, and he knew that the papyri contained one or more epitaphs. Thus our candidates are,

1) The Facsimile 2 explanation,

2) The astronomical portion of the GAEL,

3) One or both of the notebooks relating to Katumin,

4) The initial portion of the "Egyptian Alphabet", relating to Katumin.

The first two are out of the question, since they were produced much later. I'm inclined to go with # 4, myself.

The Egyptian Alphabet? Katumin? Where do you get that from?

Oh, my!

Pure conjecture, and not very likely conjecture at that.

As cited above, it appears to have been something much more substantial than that; something that was written on more than one page!

... Joseph came with the leaves which he had translated, which Oliver Cowdery read, and Mr. Chandler then produced the translation of Professor Anthon as far as the Professor could translate it. Dr. Riggs, who was present at the reading, says that the translation of the Prophet and the Professor agreed so far, but "there was one language Professor Anthon could not translate which the Prophet did."

"Leaves" -- i.e. "pages," as in more than one.

And Joseph had not just translated one more character than did Anthon, but rather a "language" that Anthon could not translate.

But again, the most significant element of this account is that Joseph came with multiple "leaves" of paper, and asked Oliver Cowdery to read them.

There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that any work had commenced on a "grammar and alphabet" until two weeks later--after another translation session had taken place.

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There are really only a few documents Chandler could have had the knowledge to "certify". He knew that the hypocephalus was an astronomical representation, and he knew that the papyri contained one or more epitaphs. Thus our candidates are,

1) The Facsimile 2 explanation,

2) The astronomical portion of the GAEL,

3) One or both of the notebooks relating to Katumin,

4) The initial portion of the "Egyptian Alphabet", relating to Katumin.

The first two are out of the question, since they were produced much later. I'm inclined to go with # 4, myself.

That's an interesting, though perhaps debatable, hypothesis. But, it doesn't answer my question. I am not so much concerned at this point with what may or may not have been "interpreted" or "translated", but the means by which Joseph "interpreted" or "translated" the characters.

Again, he couldn't have employed the Egyptian alphabet and grammar since that hadn't commenced being written for nearly two weeks thereafter.

So, what means did he use to translate?

And, might not the existence of this pre-alphabet/grammer translation be reasonably viewed as suggesting that the alphabet and grammar were derived from the translation (as Will proposes), rather than the other way around (as you and Brent may suppose)?

In terms of translation (as opposed to education), what need would there be for an alphabet/grammer if Joseph already had the ability to translate?

It may also be of interest to explore from whence Joseph obtained the alphabet/grammer, if not by way of his initial translation. But, these questions may best be reserved until after my question above is answered.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Oh yes, William. The childhood memory of John Riggs, fifty years after the fact, as reported by a journalist. Let's rely on that to tell us whether there was one page or more than one.

I already gave you one good reason for thinking the Katumin epitaph was what JS initially translated: namely, that this is one of the few things Chandler could have meaningfully "certified".

Additional reasons emerge when we closely examine the DHC account:

As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate [the papyri], he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation[...] Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kitland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the scrolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,

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So, what means did he use to translate?

And, might not the existence of this pre-alphabet/grammer translation be reasonably viewed as suggesting that the alphabet and grammar were derived from the translation (as Will proposes), rather than the other way around (as you and Brent may suppose)?

You don't understand. I'm suggesting that the initial portion of the Egyptian Alphabet was the translation that JS produced on that day.

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Oh yes, William. The childhood memory of John Riggs, fifty years after the fact, as reported by a journalist. Let's rely on that to tell us whether there was one page or more than one.

I already gave you one good reason for thinking the Katumin epitaph was what JS initially translated: namely, that this is one of the few things Chandler could have meaningfully "certified".

Additional reasons emerge when we closely examine the DHC account:

If this entry is accurate, then we can draw a couple telling conclusions:

1) Joseph translated "some of the characters or hieroglyphics" on these days. We are not told, as in entries for November, that he was translating "the Egyptian records," or "the Book of Abraham". The wording is at least as evocative of the Egyptian Alphabet as of the Book of Abraham.

2) It seems that Joseph did not discover these were the records of Abraham and Joseph until after the initial translation session and purchase of the papyri. Thus whatever he translated on the first day would have to have been non-Abraham-related. I should note that the sources are divided as to whether the discovery occurred before or after the purchase, but the sources that place it before the purchase tend to be from people who weren't directly involved, like Pratt.

Identifying the mummies also just seems like a natural starting place, does it not?

Anyway, that's all for now.

Peace,

-Chris

And this, folks, is a prime example of how to privilege sources in order to only consider those that conform to your presuppositions and agenda.

This also illustrates, in spades, why it is that I no longer choose to carry on these kinds of debates via message board. Far better to simply put it in print; cite the sources; make interpretations and draw conclusions, and then let individual readers decide for themselves.

For any who are interested, there will be a published review of Christopher Smith's paper forthcoming. That's right, Chris, you've become so significant now that someone is even going to go to the trouble to review your paper.

OK, I'm outta here for the time being ...

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You don't understand. I'm suggesting that the initial portion of the Egyptian Alphabet was the translation that JS produced on that day.

Sorry, it is you who doesn't understand. Even if we accept your hypothesis, this doesn't answer my question. So, let me ask it another way: what means did Joseph use to translate the Egytian Alphabet (as you suppose)?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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lol. I look forward to it, Will.

By the way, folks, my JWHA paper began life as an appendix to a much longer paper by myself and Don Bradley titled, "The Reckoning of Its Time: Toward a Translation Chronology for the Joseph Smith Egyptian Materials". It was split off from that paper because that paper was already a horrific 23,000 words in length. I both wanted to shorten the full paper, and to have room to do justice to the EAG materials. So, be aware that there is more good stuff coming!

Peace,

-Chris

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Sorry, it is you who doesn't understand. Even if we accept your hypothesis, this doesn't answer my question. So, let me ask it another way: what means did Joseph use to translate the Egytian Alphabet (as you suppose)?

Revelation, presumably. Or at least, inspired reflection on the material sources (i.e. Josephus, the papyri, the Bible).

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Revelation, presumably. Or at least, inspired reflection on the material sources (i.e. Josephus, the papyri, the Bible).

Then, we agree on that point.

The question then may be asked: If Joseph had the capacity to translate Egyptian via revelation or inspired reflection, what need would there be for an Egyptian alphabet/grammar when translating the BoA?

And, since presumably on July 5th of 1825, as you noted, Joseph "commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the scrolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt", what reason is there to suggest that revelation and or inspired reflection weren't used to translate the characters or hieroglyphics of the scrolls containing the writings of Abraham and Joseph, particularly given that for the next several months thereafter (through at least October of that year) Joseph was still working on the Egyptian alphabet and grammar?

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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Wade,

I can think of several possible answers to your first question, but the one that seems most likely to me is that this provided the scribes an opportunity to help in the translation process by using the Grammar to try to determine the meanings of the BoA characters.

As for your second question, I don't understand what you're asking. Perhaps you could rephrase.

Peace,

-Chris

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Oh yes, William. The childhood memory of John Riggs, fifty years after the fact, as reported by a journalist. Let's rely on that to tell us whether there was one page or more than one.

Do you have reason, other than your own hypothesis, to believe that Riggs was mistaken?

I already gave you one good reason for thinking the Katumin epitaph was what JS initially translated: namely, that this is one of the few things Chandler could have meaningfully "certified".

Additional reasons emerge when we closely examine the DHC account:

As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate [the papyri], he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation[...] Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kitland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the scrolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,

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Wade,

I can think of several possible answers to your first question, but the one that seems most likely to me is that this provided the scribes an opportunity to help in the translation process by using the Grammar to try to determine the meanings of the BoA characters.

Then, we agree that the "Grammar" may have been used to train and assist the scribes in translating. Where we may differ is whether the "Grammar" was used by Joseph to translate the BoA. Right?

As for your second question, I don't understand what you're asking. Perhaps you could rephrase. Peace, -Chris

I rephrased it in my last post. I look forward to your answer.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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While you may or may not be correct about the innitial characters brought to Joseph by Chandler, clearly, though, soon after Joseph translated enough of the scrolls containing the writings of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt so as to know who wrote them. Agreed?

Ah. Now I understand your question.

I do believe that Abraham 1:1-3 was translated by the end of July, and that the corresponding portion of the Grammar had been completed by then.

However, there is sufficient information in the Alphabet materials to reveal that these were the writings of Abraham-- if, in fact, that knowledge did not come to JS through direct revelation, as several sources imply it did. So no, I don't think the DHC entry implies that the actual text of the BoA had been translated in early July.

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Will,

As much as this is all tangential, this is actually becoming more and more interesting.

1- Chandler certified in so far as his experience with eminent men collaborated Joseph knowledge of deciphering. Nothing deceptive about that. In fact, it

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PacMan,

Whether Anthon was involved is somewhat debatable. Anthon's involvement is known only from the childhood memory of John Riggs, reported fifty years later. He may simply have been conflating the papyri with the Book of Mormon characters incident. If Anthon had been one of the scholars, you'd think Oliver Cowdery would have commented on it in his lengthy letter to Wm. Frye in 1835. I used to think that Anthon was one of the scholars Chandler had visited, but I have since come to be much more cautious about Riggs' account. His report of Anthon's involvement must unfortunately remain little more than intriguingly suggestive.

In any case, it does not seem the scholars Chandler took his papyri to had much success in translating them. Cowdery reports that despite considerable effort on Chandler's part, he only managed to obtain "in a small degree, the translation of a few characters." I have mentioned that the Eastern scholars seem to have been the first to identify "epitaph(s)" and an "astronomical representation" on the papyri. Beyond these very general identifications, they don't seem to have translated much of anything.

But you are correct that what Joseph translated on the first day does not seem to have been the Abraham narrative. It's rather unlikely that Chandler would, on his own initiative, certify such a narrative, although I suppose he might have done so self-servingly in order to get a buyer for his antiquities.

Peace,

-Chris

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PacMan,

Whether Anthon was involved is somewhat debatable. Anthon's involvement is known only from the childhood memory of John Riggs, reported fifty years later. He may simply have been conflating the papyri with the Book of Mormon characters incident. If Anthon had been one of the scholars, you'd think Oliver Cowdery would have commented on it in his lengthy letter to Wm. Frye in 1835. I used to think that Anthon was one of the scholars Chandler had visited, but I have since come to be much more cautious about Riggs' account. His report of Anthon's involvement must unfortunately remain little more than intriguingly suggestive.

In any case, it does not seem the scholars Chandler took his papyri to had much success in translating them. Cowdery reports that despite considerable effort on Chandler's part, he only managed to obtain "in a small degree, the translation of a few characters." I have mentioned that the Eastern scholars seem to have been the first to identify "epitaph(s)" and an "astronomical representation" on the papyri. Beyond these very general identifications, they don't seem to have translated much of anything.

Peace,

-Chris

Chris,

In the objective analysis, I certainly respect you holding Riggs' account suspect. But no, I don't think Cowdery would have necessarily mentioned it to Frye. Maybe he mentioned it in a different letter? Maybe he forgot? Maybe he hated Anthon (because he was a liar) and didn't want to identify with him? If someone went to great lengths to make me look like an idiot and lie about a previous meeting, I wouldn't be too happy about their endorsement either.

That seems much more probable.

But the fact that there was a translation of a few characters, and not simply "general identifications" tells us something: That either Chandler was a complete fraud, or that he actually got something translated (however small) from someone that likely knew what they were doing (Anthon). And the fact of the matter is, there's every reason to believe that the experts had the Champollion paper long, long before the 1830s, and at this juncture EVERYONE involved would have known that the characters were phonetic.

Now, really the only way I'm wrong is if you think Chandler was a liar. Everyone has assumed ulterior motives, but the assumption can only be supported on the idea that there was a lack of knowledge of Champollion...that it was all B.S. That doesn't hold anymore. So now, where's the evidence?

It's rather unlikely that Chandler would, on his own initiative, certify such a narrative, although I suppose he might have done so self-servingly in order to get a buyer for his antiquities.

Irrelevant. It does matter a darn who asked who. There's nothing to say it was not done in good-faith, nor that the certification was incorrect in any way. But if it was all fraudulent, then why didn't Joseph ask him to state specifically what was correct, and that his abilities far exceed those of the scholars, etc., etc.? Why not elaborate? The certification was actually very limited, and appears very responsibly written. Chandler is simply saying, 'As far as I can tell from what I've learned from guys a lot smarter than me.' What is so unfair about that? Moreover, what does it add for Joseph?

P.S. At what point did Parrish get released for "working against the prophet?" (I think it was Nibley that said it was Dec.) What are the dates of the GAEL? Does Parrish's malevolent intent overlap? Conspiracy theory...here I come!

PacMan

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PacMan,

Parrish wasn't involved in the GAEL project except for a few Kolob-related addenda he added after it was completed.

As for Chandler, I'm not suggesting that he was being deceptive. I'm simply pointing out that if he obtained a translation of these few characters only "in a small degree," then we might conclude that the "translation" was not a word-for-word rendering, but merely the general gist of what they said-- i.e. that they were an epitaph. Similarly, Chandler certified Smith's translation only "from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with". In other words, he didn't really have much to go on. So I'm perfectly willing to say that Chandler acted in good faith by certifying Smith's translation, but again, I don't think the scholars had supplied him with a "translation" so much as with some general information about the meaning of his texts.

That's all for now; I have homework to finish!!!

-Chris

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PacMan,

Parrish wasn't involved in the GAEL project except for a few Kolob-related addenda he added after it was completed.

As for Chandler, I'm not suggesting that he was being deceptive. I'm simply pointing out that if he obtained a translation of these few characters only "in a small degree," then we might conclude that the "translation" was not a word-for-word rendering, but merely the general gist of what they said-- i.e. that they were an epitaph. Similarly, Chandler certified Smith's translation only "from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with". In other words, he didn't really have much to go on. So I'm perfectly willing to say that Chandler acted in good faith by certifying Smith's translation, but again, I don't think the scholars had supplied him with a "translation" so much as with some general information about the meaning of his texts.

OK, so Chandler could have well-been an honest guy. Agreed. And he didn't have much to go on. Agreed. But he had something, and there's good reason to think that this something included a translation as we know it (if he's telling the truth about all these eminent men). But, now you are saying that a translation isn't a translation? That it was a general identification? I'm not convinced. If the Anthon bit existed (which I the evidence says it does) and Chandler told the truth (and the evidence said he did), then there was something...maybe the word river, or something. But there was something, and it was corroborated. Otherwise it wouldn't have been a translation at all.

PacMan

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Will,

As much as this is all tangential, this is actually becoming more and more interesting.

1- Chandler certified in so far as his experience with eminent men collaborated Joseph knowledge of deciphering. Nothing deceptive about that. In fact, it

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Ah. Now I understand your question.

I do believe that Abraham 1:1-3 was translated by the end of July, and that the corresponding portion of the Grammar had been completed by then.

However, there is sufficient information in the Alphabet materials to reveal that these were the writings of Abraham-- if, in fact, that knowledge did not come to JS through direct revelation, as several sources imply it did. So no, I don't think the DHC entry implies that the actual text of the BoA had been translated in early July.

What makes me suspect, in concert with Will, that the translation of at least a portion of the record of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt, occured earlier in July, is the following statement in the HoC, nestled between entries for the 5th and 9th of July:

"Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,--a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.16, p.236)

So, presumably, some time between the 5th and the 9th of July, the mummies and papyri were purchased. According to Will, they were purchased on the 6th of July for $2,400.00 (a rather sizable sum for the financially strained saints at the time).

Evidently, Joseph saw something in the papyri that would be of such value to he and the saints as to warrant shelling out that kind of money. So, what was it that he saw or translated that he deemed of such great value? Was it the Egyptian alphabet? I seriously doubt it. Could it have been the "much joy" in finding that "one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt"? This seems the most plausible explanation to me.

If so, then at least a portion of the Abraham roll was translated prior to the saints purchasing the papyri, which would have been some time between the 5th and the 9th of July, and as Will suggests, most likely the evening of the 5th and/or during the day of the 6th, leading up to the certification by Chandler.

This would mean that the citation above was a non-chronological summary of events that occured over several days early in July.

And, perhaps not coincedentally, it squares with the late recollections of Dr. Riggs quoted earlier by Will.

Granted, it is reasonable to question the complete accuracy of 50-year-old recollections, though I see no reason to suggest that Riggs' late memory of the events was entirely confabulated. It is quite possible that he correctly recalled certain things. Absent any conflicting historical data, and given Will's plausible scenerio above, I think it very rational to conclude that Riggs at least got the timing of the events right.

Now, reasonable people can certainly disagree on this point, but I think a persuasive case has been, and will continue to be made in support of Will's stated position.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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What makes me suspect, in concert with Will, that the translation of at least a portion of the record of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt, occured earlier in July, is the following statement in the HoC, nestled between entries for the 5th and 9th of July:

"Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,--a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.16, p.236)

So, presumably, some time between the 5th and the 9th of July, the mummies and papyri were purchased. According to Will, they were purchased on the 6th of July for $2,400.00 (a rather sizable sum for the financially strained saints at the time).

Evidently, Joseph saw something in the papyri that would be of such value to he and the saints as to warrant shelling out that kind of money. So, what was it that he saw or translated that he deemed of such great value? Was it the Egyptian alphabet? I seriously doubt it. Could it have been the "much joy" in finding that "one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt"? This seems the most plausible explanation to me.

If so, then at least a portion of the Abraham roll was translated prior to the saints purchasing the papyri, which would have been some time between the 5th and the 9th of July, and as Will suggests, most likely the evening of the 5th and/or during the day of the 6th, leading up to the certification by Chandler.

This would mean that citation above was a non-chronological summary of events that occured over several days early in July.

And, perhaps not coincedentally, it squares with the late recollections of Dr. Riggs quoted earlier by Will.

Granted, it is reasonable to question the complete accuracy of 50-year-old recollections, though I see no reason to suggest that Riggs' late memory of the events was entirely a confabulation. It is quite possible that he correctly recalled certain things. Absent any conflicting historical data, and given Will's plausible scenerio above, I think it very rational to conclude that Riggs at least got the timing of the events right.

Now, reasonable people can certain disagree on this point, but I think a persuasive case has been, and will continue to be made in support of Will's stated position.

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

Wade,

I agree 100%. I was talking yesterday about this very thing with a colleague who is also interested in these matters.

I am convinced that there is no reason in the world that Joseph Smith would have been able to convince the brethren in Kirtland to shell out $2400 to buy the Egyptian material from Chandler had he not already known that the papyri contained valuable sacred records.

Furthermore, I am convinced that he would not have shared that knowledge with Chandler in any event. I suspect he still conveyed enough excitement over the material that Chandler was able to hike the asking price to the extent he did. And I'll bet Chandler left Kirtland feeling as though he had made "a killing" on his mummies and papyri.

In any case, it was only after they had finalized the sale and Chandler had hit the road with his wallet full that Joseph then announced the reason for the purchase of the papyri: they contained records of Abraham and Joseph.

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thews,

Let me say this as nicely as possible: Huh? Let me point out one, little, tiny sentence that illuminates your worthlessness on these boards. Your comments are caked in fallacy

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