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Royal Skousen and the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham.


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3 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

It seems like either you or the person you were conversing with (or both?) were conflating our understanding of translations of texts on some of the extant papyri fragments with the interpretation of the vignettes, particularly Facsimile 1. 

There is basically universal agreement among Latter-day Saint scholars and non-Latter-day saint scholars that some of the extant papyri contain portions of what are commonly referred to as the Book of the Dead and the Book of Breathings. Whether or not Facsimile 1 is merely a common funerary scene, however, is debated.

In other words, it would be understandable for someone to disagree with you about the "vignettes" being standard funerary texts. The quote you provided addresses a different topic.

John was quoting directly from the official LDS essay on the Historicity of the Book of Abraham.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng

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8 hours ago, sunstoned said:

John was quoting directly from the official LDS essay on the Historicity of the Book of Abraham.

I understood that he was.

My point was that the Church's essay is likely talking about one thing (the translation of characters on the extant papyri), and that either John or the person conversing with him (or both) were likely talking about another (the interpretation of the vignettes, particularly Facsimile 1). Notice that the Church's quote itself qualifies that while there is widespread agreement about the translation of the characters on many of the papyri fragments (i.e., that they belong to well-known funerary texts), there is disagreement about the vignettes. This becomes clear once one looks at an expanded version of the quote that John gave from the gospel topics essay: 

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The discovery of the papyrus fragments renewed debate about Joseph Smith’s translation. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. Joseph Smith had published the facsimiles as freestanding drawings, cut off from the hieroglyphs or hieratic characters that originally surrounded the vignettes. The discovery of the fragments meant that readers could now see the hieroglyphs and characters immediately surrounding the vignette that became facsimile 1.

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Latter-day Saint scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.

When the essay mentions "standard funerary texts," it is clearly talking about the characters, or text, in the extant JSP (not the interpretation of the vignettes, which it just said lacked consensus). As demonstrated, in the recent publication on the Book of Abraham from BYU Studies, there is still ongoing debate about whether Facsimile 1 is a standard funerary scene: 

https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/facsimile-1-as-a-sacrifice-scene/

This is most likely why the person conversing with @jkwilliams took issue with John's following statement: 

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Not long ago, an apologist ridiculed me on this board for saying the vignettes were “bog-standard” funerary texts unrelated to Abraham. Seems like the church agrees with me.

It seems like the Church actually doesn't agree with John, as he is apparently conflating the vignettes (the illustrations from which the Facsimiles were made) with the extant "texts" in the JSP. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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Just now, Ryan Dahle said:

I understood that he was.

My point was that the Church's essay is likely talking about one thing (the translation of characters on the extant papyri), and that either John or the person conversing with him (or both) were likely talking about another (the interpretation of the vignettes, particularly Facsimile 1). Notice that the Church's quote itself qualifies that while there is widespread agreement about the translation of the characters on many of the papyri fragments (i.e., that they belong to well-known funerary texts), there is disagreement about the vignettes. This becomes clear once one looks an expanded version of the quote that John gave from the gospel topics essay: 

When the essay mentions "standard funerary texts," it is clearly talking about the characters, or text, in the extant JSP (not the interpretation of the vignettes, which it just said lacked consensus). As demonstrated, in the recent publication on the Book of Abraham from BYU Studies, there is still ongoing debate about whether Facsimile 1 is a standard funerary scene: 

https://byustudies.byu.edu/article/facsimile-1-as-a-sacrifice-scene/

This most likely why the person conversing with @jkwilliams took issue with John's following statement: 

It seems like the Church actually doesn't agree with John, as he is apparently conflating the vignettes (the illustrations from which the Facsimiles were made) with the extant "texts" in the JSP. 

I misspoke last night in referring to "vignettes." The person who mocked me said that the funerary papyri were not in any way standard and, of course, suggested I was merely ignorant because I disagreed. The church apparently agrees with me that the "papyrus fragments [are] parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies." Whoever wrote the gospel topic essay (and the Correlation Committee by extension) seems content to disengage the text of the Book of Abraham from any kind of "translation" of the papyrus, other than to say that the texts may have had an alternate meaning Egyptologists are unaware of or that they acted as a catalyst for a revelatory experience. I guess I don't understand the need to continue pressing for some rationalization of the papyrus and the text. 

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36 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I misspoke last night in referring to "vignettes." The person who mocked me said that the funerary papyri were not in any way standard and, of course, suggested I was merely ignorant because I disagreed. 

That makes more sense, and I can see how someone you were conversing with would take that hardline position, as untenable as it is.

37 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

The church apparently agrees with me that the [EXTANT] "papyrus fragments [are] parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies." Whoever wrote the gospel topic essay (and the Correlation Committee by extension) seems content to disengage the text of the Book of Abraham from any kind of "translation" of the [EXTANT] papyrus, other than to say that the texts may have had an alternate meaning Egyptologists are unaware of or that they acted as a catalyst for a revelatory experience.

Your statement is only true if you are talking about the EXTANT papyrus in the current JSP collection, a crucial clarification which I inserted into your quote in brackets and bolded.

It is obvious that the "missing papyrus" theory is still on the table for whoever wrote the gospel topics essay: 

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It is likely futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession. Eyewitnesses spoke of “a long roll” or multiple “rolls” of papyrus. Since only fragments survive, it is likely that much of the papyri accessible to Joseph when he translated the book of Abraham is not among these fragments. The loss of a significant portion of the papyri means the relationship of the papyri to the published text cannot be settled conclusively by reference to the papyri.

Note that this consideration is given first (perhaps indicating the missing papyrus theory is somewhat privileged), while the catalyst theory is given second as an alternative option. I'm not saying you were disagreeing with this, necessarily, but without clarification your statements can be easily misunderstood.

It seems like, among those critical of the Church, there is a strong push to act as if the catalyst theory is now somehow the dominant position held by the Church and that the idea that the Book of Abraham relates to missing papyri is somehow obsolete or off the table. That simply isn't true. Hence my clarification, in case that is what you were insinuating. If not, no worries. 

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I don't quite cut it among you intellectual giants on this thread and elsewhere, but my feeling is that the church and all churches are now at a point that faith is the only way, since neither the BoM or the Bible is factual or even based on much history.

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5 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

That makes more sense, and I can see how someone you were conversing with would take that hardline position, as untenable as it is.

Your statement is only true if you are talking about the EXTANT papyrus in the current JSP collection, a crucial clarification which I inserted into your quote in brackets and bolded.

It is obvious that the "missing papyrus" theory is still on the table for whoever wrote the gospel topics essay: 

Note that this consideration is given first (perhaps indicating the missing papyrus theory is somewhat privileged), while the catalyst theory is given second as an alternative option. I'm not saying you were disagreeing with this, necessarily, but without clarification your statements can be easily misunderstood.

It seems like, among those critical of the Church, there is a strong push to act as if the catalyst theory is now somehow the dominant position held by the Church and that the idea that the Book of Abraham relates to missing papyri is somehow obsolete or off the table. That simply isn't true. Hence my clarification, in case that is what you were insinuating. If not, no worries. 

Seems like you’re suggesting the “missing scroll” theory. That’s fine, but as with the catalyst theory, it makes rationalizing the text to the extant fragments unnecessary and, well, pointless. And of course, that theory comes with its own problems.

I have not suggested there is any “dominant” theory, officially or not. What the gospel topics essay suggests is that attempts to find a direct correspondence between the fragments and the Book of Abraham is beside the point. I agree with that. You seem to think this means I am attacking the church’s position. 

 

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7 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I don't quite cut it among you intellectual giants on this thread and elsewhere, but my feeling is that the church and all churches are now at a point that faith is the only way, since neither the BoM or the Bible is factual or even based on much history.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is about as far as you can get from moving away from Book of Mormon historicity. Certain members and intellectuals within the Church have taken the "non-historical" position, and it is a position which the Church can accommodate among its members (i.e., to my knowledge, the Church hasn't formally placed any restrictions on members for lacking faith in the Book of Mormon's historical claims). But the Church itself--in its official literature, publications, conference addresses and so forth--is not, in any way that I can see, veering towards the "inspired fiction" camp. 

Perhaps you personally feel the Church is at a point where it must reject the historicity of its sacred texts (i.e., from your own perspective, you can't see how these texts' historical claims could in any way be fundamentally accurate). And if that is all you meant, then your position is perfectly accurate and understandable.  

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28 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

Seems like you’re suggesting the “missing scroll” theory. That’s fine, but as with the catalyst theory, it makes rationalizing the text to the extant fragments unnecessary and, well, pointless. And of course, that theory comes with its own problems.

I wasn't making a case for the "missing scroll" theory, per se. I was just clarifying that it is not off the table as far as the Church's official position is concerned (in case you were implying it somehow was off the table or was now a sort of last-ditch or obsolete position). 

28 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I have not suggested there is any “dominant” theory, officially or not. What the gospel topics essay suggests is that attempts to find a direct correspondence between the fragments and the Book of Abraham is beside the point. I agree with that. You seem to think this means I am attacking the church’s position

Nope. I just wasn't sure exactly what you meant or if you were insinuating something about the Church's position that wasn't accurate. In other words, I thought you might be misrepresenting (not attacking) the Church's position. My efforts were to get a clearer, clarified understanding of your position and to express why I saw ambiguity in your statements. Looks like we are probably in agreement on this, since your previously unqualified descriptions of the "papyrus" indeed seem to have been in reference to the extant JSP fragments (and not to the missing papyri rolls and fragments). I think we are all good.  

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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On 7/30/2023 at 11:54 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

In terms of the language stuff that we have been discussing, Joseph Smith had a J.W. Gibbs Lexicon. I don't know which edition. I suspect it was the 1832 student edition (which is smaller than the full lexicon he published). I have found places in the EA documents (especially in EA-OC) suggestions that this text was being employed in efforts that went back over some of the earlier work on the EAG (much of which was completed in July-September 1835). This would have necessarily occurred after November of 1835 (when the book arrived in Nauvoo) and likely before or contemporary with J. Seixas teaching Hebrew in Kirtland (which runs from January to February 1836). Joseph Smith acquires at the same time a 5th edition of Moses Stuart's Hebrew Grammar - the RLDS Church owns this specific book. Seixas brought with him some material to instruct the members of the Church in Kirtland in 1836 - and they actually printed a small booklet for use in the class. Joseph Smith's use of the Seixas material seem to mostly come from the 1834 edition of the Seixas Grammar. There was also an 1833 edition. While these are all available in digital format now, prior to my work, there were very few copies of the 1834 edition available (at one of the early FAIR conferences, I distributed high resolution images of both on CD). The edition matters here - most of the earlier research on the Seixas grammar and its relationship to Joseph Smith's work was done using a replica edition published in 1981 by Zucker. His work used the 1833 edition.

Hi Ben,

This morning I spent some time going over my notes and books, focusing on the Hebrew texts you mentioned above. 

My Gibbs copy is the 1832 2nd edition you mention above, and I can confirm that is the version used in Kirtland and the version Cowdrey brought back from New York in Nov 1835. . The C.O.C. has three copies of this book all of which have the inscription of FWC inside them. FWC stands for F.G.Williams & Co. and was the organization responsible for purchasing school materials in Kirtland. Other extant books from Cowdery's trip, like the Biblia Hebraica, are still in the possession of the C.O.C. and some have the same inscription in them.

I have 5 versions of the Stuart Grammar ranging from an 1831 version like John Taylor owned to a couple of 1838 versions I picked up because they were less than $30.00. (How does a book survive for almost two hundred years and still be worth so little?) It was a very popular book at the time and Stuart, as I am sure you know, was the premier American Biblical scholar of the day. I do have an 1835 5th edition of Stuart's "A Grammar of the Hebrew Language." like the one Smith owned and like the ones Cowdery brought back from New York. Even though Smith's signed copy does not have a FWC in it, I think it is a good bet it was part of what Cowdery brought back, since the book is dated Nov 20, 1835, the same day Cowdrey returned with other books for the school. A copy that the C.O.C. has, is inscribed with FWC also. In a couple of my copies the foldout of "A Synoptical View of all the Conjugations of Hebrew Verbs" has survived. Most times these foldouts do not survive, so that is kind of cool.

And, as I mentioned above, I also have a good copy of the 1834 2nd edition of the Seixas Grammar as well as a small reproduction of the supplement that can be purchased from Benchmark Books for under $10.00.  (RIP Curt.) The Zucker information is very interesting. I have added that to my notes. Thanks.

 

On 7/30/2023 at 11:54 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

These texts and the dates involved with them are important - not just because of their contents and the relationship between these texts and material produced by Joseph Smith and his associates - but also because of distinct difference between the Seixas material and everything else. Gibbs and Stuart base their work on the earlier work of Gesenius (I am reasonably confident that Joseph didn't own a copy of Gesenius himself). His work was in German (and so to the extent that most of the Hebrew grammars and lexicons in the 19th century use him - they are translations from the German). Gesenius used a style of Hebrew transliteration and pronunciation which is generally called Ashkenazic. This was a Hebrew dialect that developed in the diaspora in northern Europe. The other general system is called Sephardic - and it comes out of sourthern Europe. Most of the early immigrating Jews who came to the United States were Sephardic Jews. Seixas's grammar and teaching was done using the Sephardic style. There are some major differences between the two that are really important for students of early Mormonism. For example, the Hebrew word for God is written as El in Ashkenazic style and as Ale in Sephardic. Kokaubeam and Gnolaum - from Abraham 3, are Sephardic spellings. Gnolaum corresponds to H5769 in a Strong's concordance, which spells it as 'owlam. Kokaubeam is a plural form of the Hebrew H3556, which Strong's transliterates as kowkab (or in the plural, kowkabim). One of the distinct differences between the 1833 and 1834 editions of the Seixas grammar is that the 1834 edition contains an extended translation and discussion of excerpts from the first chapter of Genesis. The terms occur there. But this isn't the extent of the connection between Abraham and Seixas's translation of Genesis. For example, while the KJV has in verse 2: "the earth was without form, and void," Seixas renders this "the earth was empty and desolate," and in the Book of Abraham we get "And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate." There is a lot of connections there - this is just the tip of the iceberg. But, after 1836, Joseph does a lot with both Sephardic spellings, and with the process by which Seixas taught how to use the lexical tools to interpret biblical Hebrew. Another example that reflects the depth of the influence comes much later in the King Follett discourse - and rather than putting it here - you can dig way back on this site to comments I posted in 2013. My thoughts on that haven't changed at all. So it isn't just about words, it's ideas about language more generally and translation that deeply impact Joseph's thoughts.

So much here that is interesting. I was aware of the distinctions between Ashkenazic and Sephardic, a distinction that is critical when it comes to establishing BoA translation timelines. I am still working through the rest of your post but, again, thanks for the thoughtful reply.

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I am not much of a fan of the term "catalyst theory" - I don't think that it reflects the full scope of what is happening - or what the evidence tells us. The Book of Abraham is at least in part a continuation of an idea that starts at least as early as 1832, and precedes the exposure to and acquisition of the Egyptian material. Using the term seems to create real limitations on the project of the Book of Abraham in terms of context. To speculate, I believe that some of the material that we find in the Book of Abraham would have appeared without the Egyptian materials.

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On 7/30/2023 at 8:54 AM, Benjamin McGuire said:

There are some major differences between the two that are really important for students of early Mormonism. For example, the Hebrew word for God is written as El in Ashkenazic style and as Ale in Sephardic.

Deleted for temple content.

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3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I am not much of a fan of the term "catalyst theory" - I don't think that it reflects the full scope of what is happening - or what the evidence tells us. The Book of Abraham is at least in part a continuation of an idea that starts at least as early as 1832, and precedes the exposure to and acquisition of the Egyptian material. Using the term seems to create real limitations on the project of the Book of Abraham in terms of context. To speculate, I believe that some of the material that we find in the Book of Abraham would have appeared without the Egyptian materials.

I find the whole process fascinating. Seems to me there was a creative element to Joseph Smith's production of revelation and scripture, and it does, as you say, put unnecessary limitations on our understanding of things to ignore that and focus on one theory or another. It's true that I don't see a translation based on the papyrus as particularly defensible, but then I don't think questions of faith rest on such issues, anyway. 

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There was a FB comment on the use of the work of Karl Popper by Nibley in his defense of the possibility of a missing Book of Abraham manuscript'

"

"That’s misuse, because there is no real chance of falsification by evidence even if the statement is false. Which it undoubtedly is. He’s loaded the deck, or technically taken a statement which is infalsifiable to try to prove its opposite. The statement ‘there was an Abraham manuscript’ is strictly infalsifiable because we have no direct means of providing evidence against it, so it’s opposite isn’t reputable either. We have no direct evidence concerning the case. Meanwhile, we have plenty of evidence concerning surrounding facts that make the manuscript unlikely. Falsifiable though indirect knowledge.
Authors are not responsible for egregious misuses of their texts. That includes collectively written texts of antiquity, by the way. I’ll give the apologists that."
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On 7/28/2023 at 12:53 PM, Benjamin McGuire said:

We see a lot of this sort of thing in the King Follett Discourse, for example, where we can take his language and actually pinpoint which of the texts he derived his explanations from.

Benjamin,

Would you mind telling which texts were used for the KFD? Other than the Seixas lexicon, if there is any.

 

Thanks

Edited by CA Steve
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20 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Would you mind telling which texts were used for the KFD? Other than the Seixas lexicon, if there is any.

I have never bothered to deal with the entire sermon - just sections of it. In the section where he relies on Seixas, he also seems to be relying to some extent on the Gibbs. There is something of an assumption here in that what he seems to be doing follows naturally from the way the entries are provided in the Gibbs student edition - and not so much of he was using the more complete earlier text. At the same time, any Lexicon could have provided that information - it wasn't unique to the Gibbs (I linked to a short discussion of this issue earlier). Elsewhere in the KFD, he discusses a German translation of parts of the New Testament. Circumstantially, at least, it would appear that he was using a 1602 Hutter polyglot - his Novum Testamentum harmonicum. While this is of mild interest (it is a fairly rare volume, which does make us wonder a bit about whether this conclusion is warranted), what is probably more important is that Joseph was favoring a German New Testament by Luther (which can be found in lots of places). It is also reasonable to believe that some of Joseph's comments on languages came from Phelps. To understand that connection, you have to start with Sam Brown's work. If you aren't already familiar with it, go here:

https://samuelbrown.net/history/

There is probably a lot of other stuff to be found in the sermon. But, outside of my specific interests in the past, I haven't done a whole lot. My original interest in the KFD was really limited to his discussion of the Hebrew. This was a fairly long time ago, when I was dealing with it  - and my work on defining textual reliance developed quite a bit since that point in time. Later, I became interested in the way that the text described Joseph's attitudes towards the Bible and its various translations and the comparison between those views and the views of other Church members 60 years later.

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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  • 2 weeks later...

The book When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger and others on how followers of certain beliefs deal with information that challenges those beliefs. JWs were telling their people that the end was coming in 1975. This made their followers  become more motivated in doing their door knocking activity. It did not happen. Ask their members now why and they respond it was just a few of their members saying this date and did not come from the governing body.

Festinger writes "A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away (shunning?)  Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources (the JW governing body did not teach) Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. 

Five conditions  under which we would expect to observe increased fervor following the disconfirmation of  belief (eg The Book of Abraham is a translation of some papyri that fell into the hands of Joseph Smith and his followers).

1. A belief must be held with deep conviction  Examples defended in message boards, journals (FAIR, BYU Studies) Youtube videos (Kerry Muhlestein) and books (eg John Gee).

2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it. More evidence  for the "missing BOA manuscript" suggested and responses made to critics (eg Cook and Smith).

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world. Be involved in publishing writing concerned with other issues in Egyptology from which the LDS scholar gets recognition as a competent scholar. Search Google scholar where one sees contributions to both church and academic publications. .

4. Such discomfirmatory evidence must occur and be recognized by the individual holding the belief. Perhaps responded to with the response which argues there are  difference of opinion by Egyptologists on certain festivals eg Sed festival or there are still sources not yet examined. See John Gee's review of Tamis Mekis's book on the hypocephalus (Gee citing Assman" there is no explicit and coherent explanation of Egyptian theology on the meta level of theoretical discourse in ancient Egypt" p.6 Gee " So Mekis has given us just one of many possible interpretations insofar as it is in keeping with the ancient sources" 

5. The individual must have social support seen publications, conferences , blogs and message boards. There seems to be a small contigent of believers who accept the catalyst theory. Does that reduce cognitive dissonance? 

 

 

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On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

The book When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger and others on how followers of certain beliefs deal with information that challenges those beliefs.

Have you read it? I am just curious. This particular study by Festinger is generally highly criticized (which is not to say that his theory of Cognitive Dissonance is highly criticized).

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

Ask their members now why and they respond it was just a few of their members saying this date and did not come from the governing body.

To some extent, this is going to be quite true. The group gained a lot of notoriety very quickly - and the groups membership grew because of it. But much of that growth wasn't from true believers, it was from sociologists, like Festinger, who wanted to get research as an insider. It is estimated that by the time the prophecy failed, nearly a third of the groups members were individuals who were studying the group (and not believers) and that their participation contaminated the circumstances. Festinger's 1957 volume was much better.

The reason why your list isn't all that meaningful in the broader context is simply this - members of the Church today don't, as a general rule, have a high level of investment in the Book of Abraham. Your list of people represents those that do have a high level of investment - but this is anything but typical. And when we get to the real world situations that Festinger emphasized so much, we find examples that don't completely follow this pattern. Consider Harold Camping's group. While initially, his failures (along with his explanations for those failures) didn't have an impact on his following, eventually they did. We can see cognitive dissonance at work here, but, it isn't as predictive as you suggest.

So moving on - I think that there are two major problems with your comments. The first deals with your list, and the way that you have edited it (assuming your source is in fact When Prophecy Fails).

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

1. A belief must be held with deep conviction  Examples defended in message boards, journals (FAIR, BYU Studies) Youtube videos (Kerry Muhlestein) and books (eg John Gee).

This isn't what the book says, what it really provides as its first criteria is this:

Quote

1. A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he behaves.

One of the differences, for example, between Harold Camping's group and their view of the Second Coming (or the JWs and their door knocking), and Mormonism's approach to the Book of Abraham is that the Book of Abraham provides a relatively minimal contribution to Mormonism and to the actions of its members. In fact, it doesn't even become scripture until 1880. It's major contribution to LDS theology deals with moving the beginning of agency for mankind from the Garden of Eden to the pre-existence. But this isn't some sort of principle of action. It is about definitions. This means that Mormonism isn't terribly committed to their deep conviction, what ever it might be. It is easy enough to point to the idea that the Book of Abraham is defended in a variety of contexts - but - it is being defended by those with an interest in the subject. And let's face it, I can look on this particular forum, and go back a few years, and what do I find?

"I'm pretty sure there was originally a jackal head instead of a human head - but that doesn't take away from the story given by revelation."

That was Paul Osborne. I might also note that on the previous page of that thread, he tells a critic of Mormonism this:

Quote

I am going to enjoy every moment watching Dr. Peterson roast you over the coals. You are wrong dude!!

Oh how I can't wait - alienward just made a huge mistake in not knowing squat about the book he attacks and then he has the nerve to attack a professor who is an expert on its contents!!

Let's suppose, for a moment, that you are right. How does Paul go from this to what he writes today (I am pretty confident that you know what I am referring to ...)? Would you call this "increased fervor following the disconfirmation of belief"? Moving on:

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it. More evidence  for the "missing BOA manuscript" suggested and responses made to critics (eg Cook and Smith).

What the text actually says is this:

Quote

2. The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.

I think that this is really important. It may be possible that there are some apologists who have over committed to the Book of Abraham - that have used their belief in the Book of Abraham to fuel important actions that are difficult to undo. I can think of a few examples which might fall into that category - but these are really unusual circumstances. Outside of a very small group of people, I don't know of any members of the LDS Church who have used their belief in the Book of Abraham to fuel actions that are difficult to undo. And this is because the text is primarily used as a supplemental reference for some doctrinal issues. Even in this limited role, the LDS Church's engagement with the text has been blunted by the Church's shift on race in 1978, and the subsequent shift in interpretation of the text on the issue of race. The Church's essay on the translation of the Book of Abraham really allows for a wide range of views on the issue - making it even less likely that a member feels it necessary to make some action based on their belief in the Book of Abraham. Next -

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world. Be involved in publishing writing concerned with other issues in Egyptology from which the LDS scholar gets recognition as a competent scholar. Search Google scholar where one sees contributions to both church and academic publications.

Again, there is a qualifier in the book:

Quote

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.

What made the group that was studied in this book work for this principle was that they picked a specific time and place for events to occur - so that the belief could be seen to be true or false to the group. The same is true with Harold Camping's predictions of the second coming. While we can argue that the Church (and Joseph Smith) made claims about the relationship of the text of the Book of Abraham to the papyri, the LDS Church has stepped back from this claim. From the essay that I mentioned above:

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The relationship of these documents to the book of Abraham is not fully understood. Neither the rules nor the translations in the grammar book correspond to those recognized by Egyptologists today. ...

The veracity and value of the book of Abraham cannot be settled by scholarly debate concerning the book’s translation and historicity. The book’s status as scripture lies in the eternal truths it teaches and the powerful spirit it conveys.

No matter what you think of these statements, the limitations described by Festinger, et al., in their book become apparent here. Without some sort of absolute criteria that can be used to evaluate the truth of the belief, the belief doesn't have the specificity to produce the 'disconfirmation of belief' necessary. Trying to portray it in a way that suggests that this exists is problematic because everyone would have to agree with that portrayal. Competing portrayals provides insulation against the experience of cognitive dissonance. Next -

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

4. Such discomfirmatory evidence must occur and be recognized by the individual holding the belief. Perhaps responded to with the response which argues there are  difference of opinion by Egyptologists on certain festivals eg Sed festival or there are still sources not yet examined. See John Gee's review of Tamis Mekis's book on the hypocephalus (Gee citing Assman" there is no explicit and coherent explanation of Egyptian theology on the meta level of theoretical discourse in ancient Egypt" p.6 Gee " So Mekis has given us just one of many possible interpretations insofar as it is in keeping with the ancient sources"

There is no difference here. However, Festinger, et al., take a moment to explain why there even needs to be a fifth principle:

Quote

The first two of these conditions specify the circumstances that will make the belief resistant to change. The third and fourth conditions together, on the other hand, point to factors that would exert powerful pressure on a believer to discard his belief. It is, of course, possible that an individual, even though deeply convinced of a belief, may discard it in the face of unequivocal disconfirmation. We must, therefore, state a fifth condition specifying the circumstances under which the belief will be discarded and those under which it will be maintained with new fervor.

Which brings us to principle 5:

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

5. The individual must have social support seen publications, conferences , blogs and message boards. There seems to be a small contigent of believers who accept the catalyst theory. Does that reduce cognitive dissonance? 

Which is expanded to:

Quote

5. The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence we have specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, we would expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselyte or to persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.

And here again, we run into reality. Cognitive Dissonance functions at the level of an individual, and not at the level of a group or organization. While there are conferences, and there are blogs and message boards, there isn't a consistent message that stretches across the continuum of belief within the LDS Church.

Finally, I want to point out the other thing - like many who use the term cognitive dissonance, you seem to be using it inappropriately. Cognitive Dissonance is the mental toll created by the psychological stress of confronting contradictory information. People don't generally stay in a state of cognitive dissonance - when they experience it, they make an adjustment in their beliefs or actions so that the psychological stress disappears.

"Increased fervor following the disconfirmation of belief," as a function of Cognitive Dissonance (at least as defined in When Prophecy Fails) requires that there is a closely held belief that has caused an individual to engage in some important action (behavior) that is difficult to change or undo. This is important because, as Festinger observes, if there is an easy change that can be made that will reduce or eliminate the cognitive dissonance, we will make that change. While there are some individuals in the LDS Church who have engaged in actions based on their belief in the Book of Abraham in contexts that are difficult to undo, this number is very small. And this means that there are going to be very few member of the LDS faith who are going find themselves in a postion that actually leads to this 'increased fervor' over the belief in the Book of Abraham.

The second part of this deals with the exposure to that contradictory information. The contradiction has to be both clear and it has to occur in a way that brings that conflict into the world of experience. Egyptology is an arcane subject. Even fewer members of the LDS Church than those who base actions on their belief in the Book of Abraham can engage Egyptology in any significant or meaningful way. What this means is that for those few members whose belief in the Book of Abraham has changed their behavior in a significant manner and in a way that is difficult to undo - of those individuals, even fewer can map out an unequivocal refutation of that belief.

So you ask,

On 8/14/2023 at 6:45 PM, Tweed1944 said:

There seems to be a small contigent of believers who accept the catalyst theory. Does that reduce cognitive dissonance? 

So what does the introduction of a catalyst theory do for people? This impacts the second half of these arguments. What it does is to create a situation in which there isn't an unequivocal refutation to the belief - and this can reduce cognitive dissonance. What it really does, in the context of your discussion though, is to prevent the need for an individual to ever get to the point where "we would expect to observe increased fervor following the disconfirmation of belief."

What does this mean? What it means is that for those who accept the idea of the catalyst theory, there is never sufficient counter evidence to create significant cognitive dissonance to begin with.

When we talk about cognitive dissonance and those who experience it, people simply change something. Adding a catalyst theory to belief may insulate that belief so that there is less conflicting information. Other ways to reduce cognitive dissonance are to eliminate the belief (there are many ways to do this, including simply leaving the Church and abandoning your faith - like Mr. Osborne). For those who have significant amounts of knowledge, the changes may only need to be quite small to mitigate the potential for cognitive dissonance. We use the idea of a catalyst theory as a focal point because the LDS Church's current views tend to lean in that direction. But really, any member who can accept some degree of ambiguity and decide that there are a number of potential ways to explain it without having the need to know exactly which one - those individuals are unlikely to ever experience cognitive dissonance over the issue.

I would suggest that the vast majority of active LDS members today don't continue to believe despite the evidence against the Book of Abraham being some sort of direct translation of the Egyptian papyri that we have because they experience what is described in the book When Prophecy Fails - they continue to believe because the information that you may believe contradicts the narratives about the Book of Abraham isn't viewed as being an unequivocal contradiction to their beliefs. And it requires only very minor adjustments (things that don't even involve changes to behaviors or actions) to strengthen the original belief in the face of that conflicting information. And this is mostly because belief in the Book of Abraham isn't itself a significant motivator for LDS member actions on its own.

Finally, if you have read the book, When Prophecy Fails, I have two additional volumes you might consider - Of Flying Saucers and Social Scientists, and Lubavitcher Messianism: What Really Happens When Prophecy Fails?. Both of these volumes, will, I think, give you a better understanding of why the Book of Abraham provides such a poor test case for your premise.

 

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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Another BYU scholar in an email "Abraham is a can of worms, and it gets people all worked up in ways that I find nauseating. To stay safe, I would say that the Book of Abraham is a revelation and not a history book."

And Sam Taylor  1974

Regarding the "Book of Abraham," it quite obviously I
is an inspired translation, not.a literal one. Joseph
looked, felt, and wrote. The same was true of the
Book of Mormon, as he expl.adned to Oliver COv-lderywhen
Oliver wanted to translate. Joseph said to look, and
what you feel is it. Oliver couldn't do it; so Joseph
continued. You might know that Joseph did much of that
translation by looking at a seer stone in his hat.
To accept the Book of Normon as inspired"rather
than a literal translation, solves many pr'obIems, The
same is true with the "Book of Abraham." I see no
reason for rejecting the church because of such things"

Lowell Bennion 

image.thumb.png.8daaff186e9afd2f7992fc4aa767a6cf.png

 

Edited by Tweed1944
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12 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

It may be possible that there are some apologists who have over committed to the Book of Abraham - that have used their belief in the Book of Abraham to fuel important actions that are difficult to undo. I can think of a few examples which might fall into that category - but these are really unusual circumstances.

Which apologists do you think have "over committed" to the Book of Abraham, such that they have committed "actions that are difficult to undo"? Furthermore, what are these actions, and why can't they easily be undone?

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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55 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Which apologists do you think have "over committed" to the Book of Abraham, such that they have committed "actions that are difficult to undo"? Furthermore, what are these actions, and why can't they easily be undone?

This isn't a question I am going to answer.

I will, however, speak to the question more generally. In the context of this discussion, the idea of cognitive dissonance is a sort of question of economics. Festinger suggests that we (speaking collectively) work to avoid cognitive dissonance. However, he argues, when the cost of avoiding cognitive dissonance is high enough, we are willing to live with the dissonance. This is a rather unusual circumstance. It requires certain conditions to be met - and I hope you'll forgive me for repeating a little bit from my earlier post -

1: That there is a belief that leads to significant actions.

2: That the belief has a way to be unequivocally shown to be false.

3: The belief has to be refutable in a real and experience-able way.

4: The believer must recognize that refutation when they experience it.

In the context of the Book of Abraham, I don't generally think that we generally meet this criteria. I think that the idea of being "over committed" isn't appropriate to the discussion for two reasons. The first is simple - we generally hold the believes that we have to be true - until we are convinced otherwise. The second is that cognitive dissonance doesn't usually require us to abandon our beliefs - merely to either modify those beliefs or to modify our behavior caused by those beliefs. This tension about costs is really the key to the discussion. The classic example is to deal with a person who is addicted to cigarettes. We get the surgeon general's warning. Their doctor has told them they need to quit or they will likely develop some sort of pulmonary disease (or cancer). However, they continue to smoke because they are addicted, and the cost to quit smoking is high (because quitting is difficult). They could decide that (for whatever reason) the risks for themselves is lower than the warnings suggest (after all, Aunt May smoked a pack a day until she died at 97). Or they could decide that they aren't interested in living into old age. Or they could quit. What we see is that the smoker can modify beliefs, or they can modify behavior, and this will reduce the cognitive dissonance. Until they do one of these things, they will be experiencing some level of psychological discomfort (especially when they smoke a cigarette). Smoking cigarettes, though, will generally never produce the results discussed in the book When Prophecy Fails. There isn't an unequivocal way to prove the belief wrong. I also am not terribly interested in discussing this from an apologists standpoint. You have the issue of trying to determine just what an apologist is, and you have the issue that cognitive dissonance of the sort discussed in When Prophecy Fails comes from rigid beliefs. I suspect that it is more likely for us to say that within Mormonism there are greater problems with cognitive dissonance when we deal with fundamentalism and other kinds of rigid thinking. Apologists are often willing to explore possibilities, and this is important in this sort of discussion - because they tend to avoid painting their beliefs into a corner where things are unequivocally true or false. Take me, for example. My strong postmodernist leanings tend to provide a significant insulation to the sorts of thinking that lead to the outcomes described in When Prophecy Fails.

So, what sorts of conditions would exist for the Book of Mormon? An absolute commitment to the idea that Joseph Smith translated something directly from a papyrus that resulted (through a word-for-word sort of replacement) with the text of the Book of Abraham. There could be additional beliefs buttressing this position. A belief that Joseph really could read the Egyptian language. A belief that there is an Adamic language that is closely related to the Egyptian language. A belief that the Book of Abraham has a high degree of historicity. This sort of rigid thinking doesn't meet that first criteria on its own. If (going back to the mid 1830s), the sole reason why you joined Mormonism was because you were convinced that Joseph Smith was doing this, then we have a significant action. Today, it might be seen in the idea of a member of the Church who decided to go to school and get their graduate degree only for the purpose of proving Joseph Smith right. It might come in the form of putting your professional standing at risk over the issue. In other words, there has to be a significant cost created by the combination of belief and action that would allow for the development of cognitive dissonance to this sort of level. Most people (even most apologists) simply don't have enough invested in the Book of Abraham to arrive at this point.

The second criteria is even more problematic. Why? Because even with such a rigid belief, we don't have the unequivocal refutation. We could describe that unequivocal refutation. We could say - suppose that we have all of the papyri, and we have a real and academic translation of the whole thing - that this would constitute unequivocal evidence against this rigid point of view. Anything short of this remains unequivocal. That is, there is the missing papyrus theory (in all of its forms). This creates a fairly high evidentiary bar that could protect such a belief. When we get to the idea of Tweed's catalyst theory question - the only way that we could unequivocally refute that sort of thing would be the surprise appearance of irrefutable evidence of Joseph Smith saying that he was simply going to fabricate the whole thing. So, I can describe what I think would be conditions that meet Festinger's criteria. There are very few people I can think of who might begin to qualify for this. And from my experience, most of those who even come close to meeting these criteria don't end up doubling down and working hard to convert people to the Church based on this single point of view - they end up leaving the Church when they are faced with what they believe to be irrefutable and unequivocal evidence.

Finally, I don't want to cover up the fact that for the most part, this idea of cognitive dissonance isn't about people behaving abnormally. Everyone goes through this process of cognitive dissonance as we incorporate new knowledge and change our beliefs and actions. We live in a time when there is a great deal of misinformation that is driving people's decisions - and for those interested in these issues, we have a lot of Petri dishes to study. Just look at QAnon. So I don't want to come across as saying that these beliefs and the actions associated with them, are particularly irrational. I also want to add that this isn't just about believers. People who leave the Church after discovering "the Truth" are just as much responding to cognitive dissonance as are people who double down on their beliefs when confronted with "the Truth." Very few (if any) LDS beliefs are linked so closely to events that have been given a specific and concrete time frame as the ones that Festinger studied. It was this narrow and very specific sort of prophecy that the book When Prophecy Fails deals with - precisely because there isn't any sort of way to mitigate the unequivocal refutation of the prophecy. As long as the LDS Church (and its members) recognize the possibility of something like a catalyst theory - the Book of Abraham will only very rarely put people into this sort of position.

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It seems many are joining the catalyst theory. 

eg Givens

My views are pretty clearly laid out in my book, The Pearl of Greatest Price.  In brief, leading LDS authorities and scholars all acknowledged as early as 1912 that JSs explanation of the facsimiles was not consistent with Egyptian scholarship. What came to be called the catalyst theory was put forward more than a century ago-- JS produced something that was inspired, but it was likely not a straightforward translation of the papyri he was working with. As for the future of the facsimiles, I cannot see the church moving away from their position, since the facsimiles and their "explanation" are part of canonized scripture."

The folks who wrote "Behind Closed Doors" seem to be attacking the folks at the Maxwell Institute of which Givens in associated  with.

 

Edited by Tweed1944
include more.
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So accepting the catalyst theory allows you to accept the claims by Egyptologists that Smith's interpretations are wrong which Givens accepts. No worries with the "missing Book of Abraham (Gee).

Accept the fact that Smith might have restored missing parts of the facsimiles incorrectly.

EG

Was the standing figure in facsimile 1 holding a knife or a jar

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P1llnhvfouDJwhhGFoVBzXpf3-Feor1WHO-xWnHNVYg/edit?usp=sharing

We know from the sketch that parts of facsimile 2 were damage and missing and replaced with things that don't belong there. eg figure 3.

It seems that a figure standing in a boat with a scarab (insect) would be the item most likely originally there. 

See examples in the British Museum.

https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/search?object=hypocephalus&fbclid=IwAR1mf5jmVTStsjGiXmrJUcL-MsgRjROS6tLwPKSjYravybT7o5hzRooFkQA

In facsimile 3 it seems the slaves (Anubis) face has been mutilated (left with one ear) Examine the printing plate. Does it look like some chiseled  his face?

Imagine Nibley's scribblings on the Sed festival  not needed. His friend Klaus Baer's response valid.

I understand   Skousen's view of the facsimiles. 

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