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By Uncle Dale
From 1840 to 1845 he was a rather important and
highly respected member -- a New England LDS
leader -- sometimes called the "13th Apostle."
George Jones Adams -- aka George J W Adams.
But I hardly know anything about him -- and I distrust
the reliability of much of what has been written about
I'm particularly interested in knowing about his first
wife, Caroline, who acted with Brigham Young and
others in the 1844 stage play "Pizzaro" in Nauvoo.
Then there was his second wife Louise (Pratt?)
who was a temperance lecturer, even while he
was sinking into ever worse alcoholism. What
was her story?
Does anybody have any info (or even access to
the early church members database)?
By Uncle Dale
The year was 1843. The season was late winter. The place was Nauvoo, Illinois.
The "Traveler" had stopped off at the far-famed city and his steamer had either
left him there, or was tied up at the boat landing. He was "ice-bound" with nothing
more to do than explore the "golden city."
He had heard bad things about some of the Mormons -- perhaps from reading
John C. Bennett's recently published "History of the Saints" -- or maybe aboard
the steamship he'd come across a copy of the "Warsaw Signal" or one of the
other local newspapers -- which frequently criticized the LDS city and its leaders.
At any rate, this inadvertent tourist had the leisure (and curiosity) to visit the
very office of Lieutenant-General Joseph Smith, Jr. -- Not just once, but "a few"
times, and receiving "several interviews" with the topmost Church leaders.
His impression of the place and the people was glowingly positive. He seemingly
could not discover a single reason to complain about what was going on in and
For some unstated reason, he chose to address his thoughts to the Editor of the
far-off "Boston Daily Bee." Perhaps he had once lived in that eastern city, or maybe
he was familiar with its proprietors. At any rate, his letter (composed on March 17, 1843)
reached Boston several days later and was published on April 12, 1843.
The "Bee" Editor must have felt it was important enough to displace three columns
of his regular fare -- to take up the space of a dozen of his usual, smaller items.
Who was this 1843 writer? This traveler westward? This "Viator?"
His views of the Nauvoo Mormons sound so positive, that it is a wonder that the
fellow evidently never joined the Saints, to take credit for this marvelous letter.
I had a recent discussion with my older brother. He asserted that morals don't change, I asserted that they have. He used as an example the word of wisdom, saying it's been the same since it was revealed. I said yes the text has remained nearly the same, but it's interpretation and practice has varied in dramatic ways. This did not sit well with him.
So now I have been pondering this question again, for him I suppose. How do we know our morals are "true" or "right" or "ethical" or any other affirmative you choose, especially in the face of new historical narratives? If a historian can convincingly show you that your moral beliefs, the very ones you hold dear, in fact have a history, and that what today is considered the "right" thing to do was not always considered right, and it was "made right" due to various convergences of natural phenomena, social pressures, cultural trends and political machinations, how can you be so sure it's still right? Even if you like it, does that make it "true"? It may seem this question is pointed at the religiously devout, and it is, but I think it has just as much if not more implications for the secular person with morals. Take for example the debate right now about the "rightness" of polygamy. Many of the folks who see themselves on the religiously progressive end wish to denounce the practice, posthumously, in favor of monogamy, and have all sorts of terrible and heart wrenching anecdotes to back the argument. The problem is, how can we know that our senses of morality about our own culture of monogamy, with all it's ideas concerning the nature of love, romance, equality and goodness are not just biases constructed by our own culture and not really moral at all? Can we know that a society in which polygamy is fully accepted and supported (wich nineteenth century mormon society never was) is any "worse" than a monogamous one? But this thread is not about polygamy, its about any moral you have. Look hard enough and you will discover that it has changed so much, and the trajectories usually can't be simply labeled either "progression" or "regression". Whether it be your attitudes about equality, justice, mercy, sexuality, family structures, relationship to property, wealth, health, punishment, love, etc. etc. , they have all changed, and often the changes were for much "messier" reasons than we like to think. If any of this made sense, please share your thoughts.
By Uncle Dale
Was the "son of Nephi" a fictional character?
If I recall correctly, it was in early 1990 that the late Vernal Holley
called my attention to a "remarkable experience" he had in the BYU
Lee Library a short time before. In his own words, he had "seen the
original Nephi," in a display case there.
Vern's "experience" didn't register on my thoughts very heavily at the
time. At his insistence I added a note to an old Swedenborgian Periodical
which he'd given me to share on-line:
There I repeated Vern's communication to me:
>"Daniel Guilford Wait's 1823 'Jewish, Classical, and Oriental Antiquities,'
>states on page 277: The Book of Ibn-Nephi has the following verse:
>'And God appointed him [Enoch] a prophet, and caused to descend to
>him thirty books; and he inherited the books of Seth, and the Ark of Adam...
>Ibn Nephi writes, 'But Adris [Enoch], who is Hermes (peace be unto him!)
>was the first after Seth who wrote with a pen, and Adris was deeply imbued
>with piety and religion from his youth upwards... And God appointed him to
>be a prophet and delivered to him thirty books. He inherited also the books
>which Seth composed and the Tebet [ark] of Adam..."
What I didn't repeat in that footnote, was what Vern told me verbally" That
in the Lee Library, he'd seen an old book opened to a page upon which
BOTH Nephi and Enoch were mentioned, 200 years before the publication
of the Book of Mormon. Since he did not know the name of the author, nor
the title of the book, it seemed rather pointless to mention that experience
in the Swedenborgian article's footnote.
Recently, however, I came across the 1989 "Friends of the Brigham Young
University Newsletter" no. 33, and belatedly realized what book Vern had
seen. The purported ancient "Nephi" was actually "ibn Nephi," an Arabic
term for a "son of Nephi." And the book was Athanasius Kircher's 1652-65
But who was this reported Babylonian rabbi, the son of Nephi? Kircher and
his contempories refer to him as ibn Nephi, Aben Nephi, Abbenephi, ibn Nefi,
Abenephii, Abenephius and/or Barachias Nephi, etc. Did he really exist? And
how did his purported writings end up in a mid-17th century book on Egypt?
And who was this Kircher, who seems to have been the ONLY scholar who
ever had direct access to the Babylonian rabbi's manuscripts?
In Dr. Hugh Nibley's 1968 "Prolegomena to Any Study of the Book of Abraham," he wrote:
>...the most remarkable of these [early scholarly writers] was the learned Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680)
>who deserves mention because his name has often been mentioned in studies of Joseph Smith. Indeed when some
>of the Egyptologists who condemned the prophet in 1912 later talked things over among themselves in Chicago,
>they came to the conclusion that Smith could best be explained as another Athanasius Kircher and some Egyptologists,
>notably E. A. W. Budge, even maintained that Joseph Smith actually got his ideas in the Book of Abraham from Kircher.
>But if Joseph Smith ever saw one of Kircher's books on Egypt, which is doubtful since even in his day those books
>had become exceedingly rare collectors items...
A non-Mormon had a somewhat different opinion, however.
Clyde R. Forsberg, in his 2010 "Esotericism and the Coded Word," compared Joseph
Smith with Athanasius Kircher, by referring to some parallels he found in Erik Hornung's
2001 "The Secret Lore of Egypt." -- In Forsberg's opinion, "Kircher, like Smith, filled in
the blanks, restoring 'missing portions of obelisks and the like,' and even drafting 'new
hieroglyphic inscriptions... and others of his own devising.'"
On the other hand, Kerry Muhlestein, writing about "European Views of Egyptian Magic
and Mystery," for the fall 2004 issue of "BYU Studies," remarked:
>Kircher... was considered one of the greatest scholars of his time... [but] He came to
>believe, incorrectly, that he could decipher hieroglyphs and that they concealed the
>philosophical lore of ancient Egypt. He reconciled these beliefs with his Jesuit views by
>finding a godly character in Egyptian lore: he interpreted Hermes Trismegistus, a
>Grecified and transmogrified version of the Egyptian god Thoth, as a prophet who had
>invented hieroglyphs... Kircher was following the work of earlier writers such as the
>antique work Asclepius, which notes that Trismegistus prophesied of Christ...
What Muhlestein left out of that report, was that Kircher compared the biblical Enoch
to the Egyptian inventor of hieroglyphs -- calling upon his fictional "ibn Nephi" to supply
the fact (?) that although Enoch inherited divine writings from Adam and Seth, it was
Enoch himself who first wrote holy scripture, long before the Hebrew Torah was composed.
Kircher also used his fictional rabbi "ibn Nephi," to introduce a fragment of the (then) "lost"
Greek "Book of Enoch." The text thus supplied elucidated the heirarchy of angels and the
pretension that some angels could mate with human beings, giving rise to gigantic offspring,
the "Nephilim." In fact, it is evident that Kircher borrowed a version of the singular form
of that word to fabricate his rabbi "ibn Nephi" -- the ONLY such Nephi reported to have
existed in Near Eastern antiquity.
In the 1989 "Friends of the Library" publication entitled "Athanasius Kircher... An
Exhibition of his Works in the Harold B. Lee Library...," it says on pages 22-23:
>"Oedipus Aegyptiacus," Kircher's largest and most astounding work...
>In the remainder of part 1, Kircher expounds [Egyptian] mysteries and
>their affinities with the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, Zoroaster, Orpheus,
>Proclus, Plato, Psellus, the Alexandrian Fathers, the Greek myths, the Book
>of Enoch, and the Chaldean Oracles.
Although this is a fair summary, it does not cover Kircher's incorporation of Muslim
theological lore concerning Enoch (called Idris or Edris in the Koran) and his role
in the supposed invention of writing. Had Kircher cared to provide additional details
he might well have identified Enoch as the prophetic head of one of the seven
divine religious dispensations, commencing with Adam and ending with Mohammed.
Strangely enough, this parallel with LDS theology is rarely mentioned, even by those
writers familiar with Muslim and Mormon dispensationalism.
In more recent times historians have generally reached the conclusion that Kircher's
"son of Nephi" was his own invention. Kircher created the mysterious Babylonian
rabbi in order to lend support and authority to his own speculative ideas regarding
history, languages, religion, etc.
If anybody is familiar enough with Arabic texts, to help me translate Kiecher's
"son of Nephi" excerpt into English, I'd appreciate the help.
By Uncle Dale
St. Peter Chrysologus (Archbishop of Ravenna)
wrote something interesting, in an ancient sermon
labeled "No. 16."
It is available on-line in a partial preview at Google Books:
>Selected Sermons, Volume II
>By Saint Peter Chrysologus,
>Rome: 1953 (English Translation: CUA Press 2004)
on page 75 of that 2004 publication, I came across this:
>When Jesus Came to the Region of the Gerasenes
Only the first few sentences interested me, so I'll only copy that part:
>That Christ crosses seas and visits places is not a matter of
>human desire, but is the cause of human salvation. Christ walks
>not in order to see places, but in order to meet human beings
>who had been perishing from various calamities.
>What would the One who had made the places see that was new
>in those places? Or what escaped the view of him who was everywhere?
>As man he was seen in places, but as God he saw everywhere...
If this passage had only referred to the sea of Galilee, I might have
skipped over it, as having no special meaning. But, I was intrigued
enough to see whether or not the Archbishop's plural word "seas"
had been quoted elsewhere.
They were -- in Thomas Thorowgood's 1650 edition of Jews in America,
a volume which attempts to show that the American Indians descended
from the scattered Israelites in ancient times.
On page 59 of that book, Thorowgood quotes the Archbishop,
but his citation of Christ crossing "seas" is only indirectly linked
to the overall topic of the book:
>and Christians may have learned this from our deare Master
>Christ, who coasted the Countrey, and crossed the seas
>saith Chrysologus, not to satisfie humane curiosity, but to
>promote mans salvation; not to see diversities of places,
>but to seeke, and finde, and save lost mankinde.
Thorowgood elsewhere speaks of Christ's apostles bringing
Christianity to the ancient Americans, but this is the only place
in his book where he indirectly alludes to the possibility of Christ
himself having "crossed the seas... to seek, and find, and save..."
Did Hugh Nibley or some other learned LDS scholar ever refer to
Thorowgood's writings (or to Chrysologus himself)? It appears to
be a topic worthy of at least a little consideration.