Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Critics Response to Book of Abraham Parallels

This thread is a collaborative project. All are welcome to contribute and will receive credit for their contributions in any future online publications of this work.

This effort is in response to the Mormon apologists' argument that there are amazing parallels between the content of the Book of Abraham and many early traditions about the life of Abraham that were unknown before the Book of Abraham text was produced. The apologists' pose the question, "How could Joseph Smith have gotten all of these things 'right' unless they were revealed to him by God?"

The major work of the apologists that points out the parallels between the Book of Abraham and these early traditions is Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham by John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, John Gee. You can read a review of the book by another apologist here. The book costs $50 (more than I am willing to pay), but is often available at many university libraries. The majority of the book is composed of translations of a variety of texts from early Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other sources, the majority of which were discovered or first translated after the time of Joseph Smith and so could not have been used as source material for the Book of Abraham.

At the end of Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham is an index entitled "Unique Elements of the Book of Abraham Supported by Extrabiblical Traditions" with the following description:

The Book of Abraham contains information that is absent from the Genesis account of Abraham and, with a few exceptions, from other parts of the Bible. Many of these “unique” elements are supported by extrabiblical traditions included in this collection. These are indexed here by topic and subtopic. Some parallels are stronger than others, so the reader is advised to check each text before inferring support for the Book of Abraham.
The index then lists several subtopics with an accompanying reference from the Book of Abraham and a number of references to what the authors feel are parallels to extrabiblical material. I do not believe it is my place to post their entire index, but below is a list of their subtopics.


Abraham’s fathers worshipped idols (BoA 1:5-6) -

Idols were made of wood and stone (BoA 1:11) –

Terah, Abraham’s father, worshiped idols (BoA 1:16-17, 27) –

Terah, after repenting, returned to his idols (BoA 2:5) –

Abraham connected to Egyptian idols (BoA 1:6-7, 13, 17, 20, 29; 2:13; 3:20; Facsimile 1, figures 4-9) –

Children were sacrificed (BoA 1:7-8, 10-11) –

Those who would not worship idols were killed (BoA 1:11) -

Abraham was brought to be killed or sacrificed because he would not worship idols (BoA 1:7, 12, 15; Facsimile 1, figure 3) –

Terah was behind the attempt to kill Abraham (BoA 1:7, 30) –

Abraham was fastened or bound (BoA 1:15; Facsimile 1, figure 2) –

When his life was in danger, Abraham prayed (BoA 1:15) –

An angel came to rescue Abraham (BoA 1:15; 2:13; Facsimile 1, figure 1) –

God rescued Abraham from death (BoA 1:16; 3:20) –

The altar (furnace) and the idols were destroyed (BoA 1:20) –

The priest (or leader) was smitten and died (BoA 1:20, 29) –

Abraham was heir to the priesthood of his fathers (BoA 1:2-3, 1Cool

Abraham held the priesthood (BoA 1:2; 2:9, 11; Facsimile 2, figure 3; Facsimile 3, figure 1) –

Abraham was linked to Noah (BoA 1:19; Facsimile 2, figure 3) –

Believers are the seed of Abraham and are blessed through him (BoA2:10-11) –

Abraham sought God earnestly (BoA 2:12) –

Abraham made converts in Haran (BoA 2:15) –

Abraham possessed the Urim and Thummim, by means of which he received revelation from God (BoA 3:1, 4) –

* Abraham was knowledgeable about astronomy, which he learned from ancient records and from God (BoA 1:31; 3:1-18; Facsimiles 2 and 3) – Book of Jasher 9:17-18; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.7.1-2; 1.8.2

* Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians (BoA Facsimile 3) – no Book of Jasher reference; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 1.8.2

* Earth has four quarters (BoA Facsimile 2, figure 6) – Book of Jasher 8:2, 10; 12:9

Abraham knew about the creation (BoA 1:31; 4-5) –

There was advance planning for the creation (BoA 4:31-5:5; Moses 3:4-5) –

The elements of the earth obeyed God (BoA 4:9-12, 18, 21, 24-25, 31) –

* Abraham saw the premortal spirits (BoA 3:21-24) – Book of Jasher 12:38

The Lord instructed Abraham to say that Sarah was his sister (BoA 2:22-25) -

Abraham possessed records from the fathers (BoA 1:28, 31) –

Abraham left a record of his own (BoA 1:31) –

The founding of Egypt (BoA 1:21-27) –

Pharaoh was a descendant of Ham but also of Canaan (BoA 1:21-22, 24-25, 27) –

The first pharaoh, a good man, was blessed by Noah (BoA 1:26) –

* Abraham was allowed to sit on a king’s throne (BoA Facsimile 3. figure 1) – Book of Jasher 15:22

There was a famine in Abraham’s homeland (BoA 1:29-30; 2:1, 5) –

Abraham prayed that god would end the famine in Chaldea (BoA 2:17) –

Haran died in the famine (BoA 2:1) –

Abraham was sixty-two years of age when he left Haran, not seventy-five as Genesis says (BoA 2:14) –

Note: I included a couple of parallels that they gave to the writings of Josephus and the Book of Jasher, which I can demonstrate that Joseph Smith was familiar with and had access to before the accompanying BoA verses were first written down. There were many other parallels to the Book of Jasher in the index, but those were not included in the above list because we know that BoA 1:1-2:18 were written before the Book of Jasher was published in English. There is more on that below.

I find that many of these so-called unique parallels to extrabiblical sources are not unique at all in that the ideas are also present in the Bible. 1) So, one thing, we need to do is find references in the Bible to as many of the items in the above list as possible. That will vastly narrow down the list of unique parallels with extrabiblical sources.

2) I believe there are other parallels we can find with books that we know Joseph Smith was familiar with like with Josephus, and Book of Jasher (with BoA verses after BoA 2:1Cool.

3) Any remaining subtopics we might be able to explain as rational inferences from what was already written about Abraham, or necessitated by Joseph's having to incorporate the facsimilies into his BoA text.

4) The last point that I'd like to make is that the traditions about Abraham contradict each other in numerous aspects and there is no definitive version of the story of Abraham's life, so Joseph's version doesn't remarkably agree with any authoritative story. When one has scores of different stories about Abraham, one's story is bound to be similar to some of them in some respects.

Given all of the above there is nothing remarkable about the parallels between the BoA and these ancient texts - nothing that demands us to accept revelation as the only reasonable explanation for the parallels. Now, if we combine that with all the wealth of damning evidence against the BoA (the fact that it is not a translation, that the facsimiles were improperly restored and interpreted, that the scrolls are not old enough to have been written by Abraham, that Joseph reused characters that he translated differently elsewhere, that Joseph created Egyptian characters that don't even exist, the text contains anachronisms and incorrect reconstructions of history, and contains ideas such as intelligences that appear to be lifted from the writings of Thomas Dick and others, etc), and the apologists have nothing to stand on.

Source material:

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/abr/contents
http://www.biblegateway.com/

On June 25th, 1833, Joseph wrote the following to W. W. Phelps and others in Missouri:
“We have not found the Book of Jasher, nor any other of the lost books mentioned in the Bible as yet; nor will we obtain them at present” (Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols., introduction and notes by B. H. Roberts [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1932-1951], 1: 363).

In the summer of 1835, the Church purchased papyri fragments and mummies from a Michael Chandler who visited Kirtland.

Now, the timing of the creation of the Book of Abraham text is uncertain, but we do have some clues. Warren Parrish was a scribe and secretary to Joseph Smith, Jr., primarily in Kirtland, Ohio from 1835–1837. The Book of Abraham Manuscript 2 (BAbr MS 2' ), which comprises Book of Abraham 1:1 to 2:18, is written in the handwriting of William W. Phelps (BoA 1:1-3) and Warren Parrish (BoA 1:4-2:1Cool. So, the text of the Book of Abraham up through BoA 2:18, was completed by the end of Parrish’s role as scribe in 1837.
The first English translation of the Book of Jasher was translated by Mr. Samuel of Liverpool, England, and published by Mordecai M. Noah in New York in 1840. In June 1840, it was announced in the Times and Seasons that an English translation of the Book of Jasher would soon be available.

In the March 1, 1842, edition of the Times and Seasons, the first translation of the Book of Abraham was published.

By Sept. 1, 1842, Joseph wrote in the Times and Seasons, “But if we believe in present revelation, as published in the "Times and Seasons" last spring, Abraham, the prophet of the Lord, was laid upon the iron bedstead for slaughter; and the book of Jasher, which has not been disproved as a bad author, says he was cast into the fire of the Chaldees” (Joseph Smith, Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Alma P. Burton [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977], 180 - 181).


Let's start with Joseph Smith reading Josephus. The following is from "Examining the Book of Abraham" by Kevin Mathie (http://tinyurl.com/349hu5 ). "LDS author Grant Palmer explains:

In 1835, the year [Joseph Smith] produced the opening chapters of Abraham, his counselor Oliver Cowdery, in the Messenger and Advocate, mentioned Josephus three times in interpreting the pictures from the "Joseph of Egypt" scroll [Dec. 1835]. In the Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus wrote about how Noah, who had trouble with his son Ham, "cursed his posterity," whereas the lineage of Abraham and others "escaped that curse." Joseph Smith expanded this original curse (Gen. 9:20-27) to include denial of priesthood ordination to blacks (Abr. 1:21-26). LDS scholar Lester Bush, with these Abraham verses in mind, commented: "Mormon scripture [The Book of Abraham] and the contemporary pro slavery arguments are striking". Josephus further identified Abraham as a resident of Chaldea and "a person of great sagacity" who "began to have higher notions of virtue than others had, and he determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God." Abraham's preaching was not welcome. They "raised a tumult against him... and by the assistance of God, he came and lived in the land of Canaan. While in Canaan, a land promised to his posterity, Abraham encountered a famine. This brought him and his wife Sarah to Egypt, where he successfully pretended to be his wife's brother. The pharaoh eventually allowed him to "enter into conversation with the most learned among the Egyptians; from which conversation his virtue and reputation became more conspicuous than they had been before. ... He communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt they were unacquainted with those parts of learning..."

This sketch by Josephus, which was available to Joseph Smith [note the signature at the bottom of the page pictured to the right*], explains why, upon examining Facsimile 1 of the Hor papyrus, Joseph might have assumed that Abraham was being sacrificed for preaching gainst heathen gods but escaped with God's assistance. Viewing the other end of the scroll, Joseph further saw (Facsimile 3) Abraham teaching astronomy in Pharaoh's court just as Josephus's narrative portrays (Grant Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, publ. Signature Books, 2002, pp. 16-19).

* This graphic is taken from Grant Palmer's book, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, publ. Signature Books, 2002, p. 18. Be aware that the handwritten notation "Hyrum Smith's book" was not originally on the title page of Josephus's book, but it was on another page of the book. When Palmer, or the folks at Signature Books, created the graphic, the signature was combined with the title page in order to more clearly illustrate that this book of Josephus was owned by Hyrum".

Now since I have used secondary sources to summarize the main points, allow me to go back and use primary sources. This is a quote by Oliver Cowdery concerning the Egyptian papyri directly from Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 2 (Oct. 1835 - Sept. 1836), Vol. 2 December 1835, No. 15, 236 (You can find this in GospeLink):

"Enoch's Pillar, as mentioned by Josephus, is upon the same roll.—True, our present version of the bible does not mention this fact, though it speaks of the righteousness of Abel and the holiness of Enoch,—one slain because his offering was accepted of the Lord, and the other taken to the regions of everlasting day without being confined to the narrow limits of the tomb, or tasting death; but Josephus says that the descendants of Seth were virtuous, and possessed a great knowledge of the heavenly bodies, and, that, in consequence of the prophecy of Adam, that the world should be destroyed once by water and again by fire, Enoch wrote a history or an account of the same, and put into two pillars one of brick and the other of stone; and that the same were in being at his (Josephus;) day."

The following is from The Works of Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapters 6, 7 and 8 (http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/ant-1.htm):

"I will now treat of the Hebrews. The son of Phaleg, whose father Was Heber, was Ragau; whose son was Serug, to whom was born Nahor; his son was Terah, who was the father of Abraham, who accordingly was the tenth from Noah, and was born in the two hundred and ninety-second year after the deluge; for Terah begat Abram in his seventieth year. Nahor begat Haran when he was one hundred and twenty years old; Nahor was born to Serug in his hundred and thirty-second year; Ragau had Serug at one hundred and thirty; at the same age also Phaleg had Ragau; Heber begat Phaleg in his hundred and thirty-fourth year; he himself being begotten by Sala when he was a hundred and thirty years old, whom Arphaxad had for his son at the hundred and thirty-fifth year of his age. Arphaxad was the son of Shem, and born twelve years after the deluge. Now Abram had two brethren, Nahor and Haran: of these Haran left a son, Lot; as also Sarai and Milcha his daughters; and died among the Chaldeans, in a city of the Chaldeans, called Ur; and his monument is shown to this day. These married their nieces. Nabor married Milcha, and Abram married Sarai. Now Terah hating Chaldea, on account of his mourning for Ilaran, they all removed to Haran of Mesopotamia, where Terah died, and was buried, when he had lived to be two hundred and five years old; for the life of man was already, by degrees, diminished, and became shorter than before, till the birth of Moses; after whom the term of human life was one hundred and twenty years, God determining it to the length that Moses happened to live. Now Nahor had eight sons by Milcha; Uz and Buz, Kemuel, Chesed, Azau, Pheldas, Jadelph, and Bethuel. These were all the genuine sons of Nahor; for Teba, and Gaam, and Tachas, and Maaca, were born of Reuma his concubine: but Bethuel had a daughter, Rebecca, and a son, Laban.

1. Now Abram, having no son of his own, adopted Lot, his brother Haran's son, and his wife Sarai's brother; and he left the land of Chaldea when he was seventy-five years old, and at the command of God went into Canaan, and therein he dwelt himself, and left it to his posterity. He was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things and persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue than others had, and he determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God; for he was the first that ventured to publish this notion, That there was but one God, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed any thing to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power. This his opinion was derived from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun, and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, thus: - "If [said he] these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they co-operate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to Him that commands them, to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving." For which doctrines, when the Chaldeans, and other people of Mesopotamia, raised a tumult against him, he thought fit to leave that country; and at the command and by the assistance of God, he came and lived in the land of Canaan. And when he was there settled, he built an altar, and performed a sacrifice to God.

2. Berosus mentions our father Abram without naming him, when he says thus: "In the tenth generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science." But Hecatseus does more than barely mention him; for he composed, and left behind him, a book concerning him. And Nicolaus of Damascus, in the fourth book of his History, says thus: "Abram reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans: but, after a long time, he got him up, and removed from that country also, with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and this when his posterity were become a multitude; as to which posterity of his, we relate their history in another work. Now the name of Abram is even still famous in the country of Damascus; and there is shown a village named from him, The Habitation of Abram."

1. NOW, after this, when a famine had invaded the land of Canaan, and Abram had discovered that the Egyptians were in a flourishing condition, he was disposed to go down to them, both to partake of the plenty they enjoyed, and to become an auditor of their priests, and to know what they said concerning the gods; designing either to follow them, if they had better notions than he, or to convert them into a better way, if his own notions proved the truest. Now, seeing he was to take Sarai with him, and was afraid of the madness of the Egyptians with regard to women, lest the king should kill him on occasion of his wife's great beauty, he contrived this device : - he pretended to be her brother, and directed her in a dissembling way to pretend the same, for he said it would be for their benefit. Now, as soon as he came into Egypt, it happened to Abram as he supposed it would; for the fame of his wife's beauty was greatly talked of; for which reason Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, would not be satisfied with what was reported of her, but would needs see her himself, and was preparing to enjoy her; but God put a stop to his unjust inclinations, by sending upon him a distemper, and a sedition against his government. And when he inquired of the priests how he might be freed from these calamities, they told him that this his miserable condition was derived from the wrath of God, upon account of his inclinations to abuse the stranger's wife. He then, out of fear, asked Sarai who she was, and who it was that she brought along with her. And when he had found out the truth, he excused himself to Abram, that supposing the woman to be his sister, and not his wife, he set his affections on her, as desiring an affinity with him by marrying her, but not as incited by lust to abuse her. He also made him a large present in money, and gave him leave to enter into conversation with the most learned among the Egyptians; from which conversation his virtue and his reputation became more conspicuous than they had been before.

2. For whereas the Egyptians were formerly addicted to different customs, and despised one another's sacred and accustomed rites, and were very angry one with another on that account, Abram conferred with each of them, and, confuting the reasonings they made use of, every one for their own practices, demonstrated that such reasonings were vain and void of truth: whereupon he was admired by them in those conferences as a very wise man, and one of great sagacity, when he discoursed on any subject he undertook; and this not only in understanding it, but in persuading other men also to assent to him. He communicated to them arithmetic, and delivered to them the science of astronomy; for before Abram came into Egypt they were unacquainted with those parts of learning; for that science came from the Chaldeans into Egypt, and from thence to the Greeks also.

3. As soon as Abram was come back into Canaan, he parted the land between him and Lot, upon account of the tumultuous behavior of their shepherds, concerning the pastures wherein they should feed their flocks. However, he gave Lot his option, or leave, to choose which lands he would take; and he took himself what the other left, which were the lower grounds at the foot of the mountains; and he himself dwelt in Hebron, which is a city seven years more ancient than Tunis of Egypt. But Lot possessed the land of the plain, and the river Jordan, not far from the city of Sodom, which was then a fine city, but is now destroyed, by the will and wrath of God, the cause of which I shall show in its proper place hereafter."

Having shown that Hyrum had a copy of Josephus and that Oliver referred to Josephus in describing what was on the Egyptian papyri, it is very likely that Joseph Smith was aware of the above quoted passages while creating the Book of Abraham. As for supporting my claim of the plagiarism of ideas, it will be the subject of my next post.

For reference, since we are talking about parallels here, I'll throw in the relevant passages from the Bible (Genesis 11:28-12:20):

"28And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

29And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram's wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.

30But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

32And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

1Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

4So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

5And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

6And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

7And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

8And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

9And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

10And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

11And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

12Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.

13Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

14And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

15The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.

16And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

17And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

18And Pharaoh called Abram and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

19Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

20And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had."

For more on the Book of Abraham see my earlier posts: http://tinyurl.com/2lgzd6 and http://tinyurl.com/38y7xp

The following is from "Examining the Book of Abraham" by Kevin Mathie (http://tinyurl.com/349hu5 ). "LDS author Grant Palmer explains:
The astronomical phrases and concepts in the Abraham texts were also common in Joseph Smith's environment. For example, in 1816 Thomas Taylor published a two-volume work called The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato. Volume 2 (pp. 140-146) contains phrases and ideas similar to the astronomical concepts in Abraham 3 and Facsimile No. 2. In these six pages, Taylor calls the planets "governors" and uses the terms "fixed stars and planets" and "grand key." Both works refer to the sun as a planet receiving its light and power from a higher sphere rather than generating its own light through hydrogen-helium fusion (cf. Fac. 2, fig. 5). LDS scholar R. Grant Athay, a research astronomer and director of the University of Colorado Observatory, has written, "At the time that the Book of Abraham was translated ... the energy source of the sun was unknown," and "the concept of one star influencing another was also a common concept of the time" (R. Grant Athay, "Astronomy in the Book of Abraham," Book of Abraham Symposium (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Institute of Religion, 3 Apr. 1970), ix, 60-61). Further reflecting nineteenth-century cosmology, Taylor (cf. Abraham 3:4-10) describes the progression of time among the universal bodies. Like Abraham 3:16-19, certain people of Joseph Smith's day also believed in progressive orders of orbs and the intelligences that inhabited them. According to Athay:
They believed that the surface of the sun was solid, and that it was inhabited by human beings. In fact, they believed that it was inhabited by man. They also believed that all the planets in the solar system were inhabited by man, and the moon as well ... [T]he concept of multiple-world systems, multiple dwellings of man ... was a rather common topic of that time (R. Grant Athay, "Astronomy in the Book of Abraham," Book of Abraham Symposium (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Institute of Religion, 3 Apr. 1970), ix, 60-61. ALSO, Grant Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, publ. Signature Books, 2002, pp. 21-22).
Corroborating the fact that this idea of people living on the moon and sun was prevalent within the social structure of the first generation of Latter-day Saints are the following statements.
In 1833, Oliver Cowdery stated:
"It is a pleasing thing to let the mind stretch away and contemplate the vast creations of the Almighty; to see the planets perform their regular revolutions, and observe their exact motions; to view the thousand suns giving light to myriads off globes, moving in their respective orbits, and revolving upon their several axis, all inhabited by intelligent beings..." (The Evening and the Morning Star, Vol. 2 (Dec. 1833): p. 116 - emphasis added)
In a sermon given April 27, 1843 by Hiram Smith on the plurality of gods and worlds, is this comment:
"...every Star that we see is a world and is inhabited the same as this world is peopled. The Sun & Moon is inhabited & the Stars & (Jesus Christ is the light of the Sun, etc.). The Stars are inhabited the same as this Earth. But eny of them are larger then this Earth, & meny that we cannot see without a telliscope are larger then this Earth. They are under the same order as this Earth is undergoing & undergoing the same change." (George Laub Nauvoo Journal, emphasis added)
More specifically, according to Grant Palmer, Joseph Smith owned one particular book that probably greatly influenced his cosmology:
Klaus Hansen, an LDS scholar, has written: "The progressive aspect of Joseph's theology, as well as its cosmology, while in a general way compatible with antebellum thought, bears some remarkable resemblances to Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State, a second edition of which had been published in 1830," Joseph Smith owned a copy of this work, and Oliver Cowdery in December 1836 quoted some lengthy excerpts from it in the Messenger and Advocate [Dec. 1836: 423-25]. Hansen continues:
Some very striking parallels to Smith's theology suggest that the similarities between the two may be more than coincidental. Dick's lengthy book, an ambitious treatise on astronomy and metaphysics, proposed the idea that matter is eternal and indestructible and rejected the notion of a creation ex nihilo. Much of the book dealt with the infinity of the universe, made up of innumberable stars spread out over immeasurable distances. Dick speculated that many of these stars were peopled by "various orders of intelligences" and that these intelligences were "progressive beings" in various stages of evolution toward perfection. In the Book of Abraham, part of which consists of a treatise on astronomy and cosmology, eternal beings of various orders and stages of development likewise populate numerous stars. They, too, are called "intelligences." Dick speculated that "the systems of the universe revolve around a common center... the throne of God." In the Book of Abraham, one star named Kolob "was nearest unto the throne of God." Other stars, in ever diminishing order, were placed in increasing distances from this center.
Hansen observed further that:
According to the Book of Abraham, the patriarch had a knowledge of the times of various planets, "until thou come nigh unto Kolob which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord's time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." One revolution of Kolob "was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time according to the reckoning of Kolob." God's time thus conformed perfectly to the laws of Galilean relativity and Newtonian mechanics."
What we find in Abraham 3 and the official scriptures of the LDS church regarding science reflects a Newtonian world concept. The Catholic church's Ptolemaic cosmology was displaced by the new Copernican and Newtonian world model, just as the nineteenth-century, canonized, Newtonian world view is challenged by Einstein's twentieth-century science. Keith Norman, a Mormon scholar, has written that for the LDS church, "it is no longer possible to pretend there is not conflict." He continues:
Scientific cosmology began its leap forward just when Mormon doctrine was becoming stabilized. The revolution in twentieth-century physics precipitated by Einstein dethroned Newtonian physics as the ultimate explanation of the way the universe works. Relativity theory and quantum mechanics, combined with advances in astronomy, have established a vastly different picture of how the universe began, how it is structured and operates, and the nature of matter and energy. ... This new scientific cosmology pose[s] a serious challenge to the Mormon version of the universe.
Many of the astronomical and cosmological ideas found in both Joseph Smith's environment and in the Book of Abraham have become out of vogue, and some of these Newtonian concepts are scientific relics. The evidence suggests that the Book of Abraham reflects concepts of Joseph Smith's time and place rather than those of an ancient world.
In 1833, Oliver Cowdery stated:
"It is a pleasing thing to let the mind stretch away and contemplate the vast creations of the Almighty; to see the planets perform their regular revolutions, and observe their exact motions; to view the thousand suns giving light to myriads off globes, moving in their respective orbits, and revolving upon their several axis, all inhabited by intelligent beings..." (The Evening and the Morning Star, Vol. 2 (Dec. 1833): p. 116 - emphasis added)
In a sermon given April 27, 1843 by Hiram Smith on the plurality of gods and worlds, is this comment:
"...every Star that we see is a world and is inhabited the same as this world is peopled. The Sun & Moon is inhabited & the Stars & (Jesus Christ is the light of the Sun, etc.). The Stars are inhabited the same as this Earth. But eny of them are larger then this Earth, & meny that we cannot see without a telliscope are larger then this Earth. They are under the same order as this Earth is undergoing & undergoing the same change." (George Laub Nauvoo Journal, emphasis added)
More specifically, according to Grant Palmer, Joseph Smith owned one particular book that probably greatly influenced his cosmology:
Klaus Hansen, an LDS scholar, has written: "The progressive aspect of Joseph's theology, as well as its cosmology, while in a general way compatible with antebellum thought, bears some remarkable resemblances to Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State, a second edition of which had been published in 1830," Joseph Smith owned a copy of this work, and Oliver Cowdery in December 1836 quoted some lengthy excerpts from it in the Messenger and Advocate [Dec. 1836: 423-25]. Hansen continues:
Some very striking parallels to Smith's theology suggest that the similarities between the two may be more than coincidental. Dick's lengthy book, an ambitious treatise on astronomy and metaphysics, proposed the idea that matter is eternal and indestructible and rejected the notion of a creation ex nihilo. Much of the book dealt with the infinity of the universe, made up of innumberable stars spread out over immeasurable distances. Dick speculated that many of these stars were peopled by "various orders of intelligences" and that these intelligences were "progressive beings" in various stages of evolution toward perfection. In the Book of Abraham, part of which consists of a treatise on astronomy and cosmology, eternal beings of various orders and stages of development likewise populate numerous stars. They, too, are called "intelligences." Dick speculated that "the systems of the universe revolve around a common center... the throne of God." In the Book of Abraham, one star named Kolob "was nearest unto the throne of God." Other stars, in ever diminishing order, were placed in increasing distances from this center.
Hansen observed further that:
According to the Book of Abraham, the patriarch had a knowledge of the times of various planets, "until thou come nigh unto Kolob which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord's time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." One revolution of Kolob "was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest. This is the reckoning of the Lord's time according to the reckoning of Kolob." God's time thus conformed perfectly to the laws of Galilean relativity and Newtonian mechanics."
What we find in Abraham 3 and the official scriptures of the LDS church regarding science reflects a Newtonian world concept. The Catholic church's Ptolemaic cosmology was displaced by the new Copernican and Newtonian world model, just as the nineteenth-century, canonized, Newtonian world view is challenged by Einstein's twentieth-century science. Keith Norman, a Mormon scholar, has written that for the LDS church, "it is no longer possible to pretend there is not conflict." He continues:
Scientific cosmology began its leap forward just when Mormon doctrine was becoming stabilized. The revolution in twentieth-century physics precipitated by Einstein dethroned Newtonian physics as the ultimate explanation of the way the universe works. Relativity theory and quantum mechanics, combined with advances in astronomy, have established a vastly different picture of how the universe began, how it is structured and operates, and the nature of matter and energy. ... This new scientific cosmology pose[s] a serious challenge to the Mormon version of the universe.
Many of the astronomical and cosmological ideas found in both Joseph Smith's environment and in the Book of Abraham have become out of vogue, and some of these Newtonian concepts are scientific relics. The evidence suggests that the Book of Abraham reflects concepts of Joseph Smith's time and place rather than those of an ancient world (Grant Palmer, An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, publ. Signature Books, 2002, pp. 22-25)."

Now that I have used secondary sources to summarize. I will again point you to primary sources. But, first, I would like you to know of the list of books that we have evidence that Joseph owned (http://tinyurl.com/275oqc ). Take special note that during the Illinois period, among the list of books donated by Joseph Smith to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute on the 31 January 1844, is one Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State. So, we know that he owned it.
I have gone through the trouble of finding an electronic copy of that book at the University of Michigan (starting on page 62; http://tinyurl.com/2w67l8 ). Below, I have a handful of quotations from the book teaching ideas that will be familiar to many Mormons:

"And the appearance of the heavens in reality receding from the view, would be produced, were the earth to leave its present station among the planets, and to be impelled with a rapid motion towards the distant parts of the solar system, or beyond its boundaries; in which case the sun would appear to fly off with a rapid motion to a distant part of space, till he had diminished to the size of a twinkling star, and the moon and the nearest planets would, in a short time, entirely disappear...The materials of which the earth and its atmosphere are composed will still continue to exist after its present structure is deranged, and will, in all probability, be employed in the arrangement of a new system, purified from the physical evils which now exist, and which may continue to flourish as a monument of divine power and wisdom, throughout an indefinite lapse of ages" (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 64).

It occurred to me that perhaps many of you might not be familiar with how the last quote fits in with Mormon doctrine. Here is a quote from Brigham Young:

"but when man fell, the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system, and the sun became our light. When the Lord said—"Let there be light," there was light, for the earth was brought near the sun that it might reflect upon it so as to give us light by day, and the moon to give us light by night. This is the glory the earth came from, and when it is glorified it will return again unto the presence of the Father, and it will dwell there, and these intelligent beings that I am looking at, if they live worthy of it, will dwell upon this earth" (Journal of Discourses 17:143).

Now back to Thomas Dick:

"Hence it is declared, with respect to the "saints of the Most High," "They that be teachers of wisdom shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever." In short, when we consider the boundless extent of the starry firmament, the scenes of grandeur it displays, the new luminaries, which, in the course of ages, appear to be gradually su*menting its splendor, and the countless myriads of exalted intelligences which doubtless people its expansive regions..." (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 65).

"It is evident, therefore, that superior intelligences, such as angels, and redeemed men in a future state, must have their attention directed to the science of numbers" (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 69).

"It is evident, then, that beings of a superior order, or in a higher state of existence, must have a more profound and comprehensive knowledge of numbers than man: in consequence of which they are enabled to survey the universe with more intelligence, and to form more distinct and ample conceptions of the designs and operations of infinite wisdom and omnipotence" (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 70).

"...of the number of opaque globes which may exist in every region of space, of the distance to which the material world extends, and of the various dispensations of the Almighty towards the diversified orders of intelligences which people his vast empire..." (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 72).

"...and the magnificence of his works are displayed in all of their variety and lustre to the countless orders of his rational offspring, over which he will continue to eternally preside" (Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, page 72).

"It is highly probable, in a future world, a considerable portion of our knowledge respecting the distant provinces of the divine empire, will be communicated by superior beings who have visited the different systems dispersed through the universe...We learn from Scripture, that there are intelligences that can wing their way, in a short period of time, from one world to another" (ibid, page 73).

"The grand aim of celestial intelligences will be, to increase in the knowledge and love of God" (ibid, page 74).

While we are talking about primary sources, I must add the Book of Jasher here. Joseph Smith was familiar with the Book of Jasher and likely used it to help him create the BoA. Most parallels between the BoA and the Traditions of Abraham can be accounted for by looking at the Book of Jasher, together with Josephus and the Bible. Here is a statement that Joseph was familiar with the Book of Jasher:

"But if we believe in present revelation, as published in the Times and Seasons last spring, Abraham, the prophet of the Lord, was laid upon the iron bedstead for slaughter; and the book of Jasher, which has not been disproved as a bad author, says he was cast into the fire of the Chaldees." Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), p. 261, quoting Times and Seasons (1 Sep 1842), 3:902.

The relevant sections are from the Book of Jasher 7:51 - 20:30 (http://www.cumorah.com/etexts/jasher.txt ; it also can be found http://entreated.blogspot.com/2007/04/reply-to-stan-book-of-abraham-part-2.html)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Evidence that Joseph had Sex with his Plural Wives

Occasionally, LDS's want to claim that Joseph never had sex with his plural wives. Well here is the evidence.

Some other things I found from here:

Did Joseph Smith obey the commandment and have sex with his wives?

Compton writes:
"Because of claims by Reorganized Latter-day Saints that Joseph was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Joseph's wives) affirmed repeatedly that Joseph had physical sexual relations with his plural wives-despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American religion which otherwise would have prevented mention of sexual relations in marriage."

- Faithful Mormon Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph's wife "in very deed." (Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156.)

- In a court affidavit, faithful Mormon Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. (Temple Lot Case, 427)

- Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) said she "roomed" with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had "carnal intercourse" with him. (Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15.)

joseph smithIn total, 13 faithful latter-day saint women who were married to Joseph Smith swore court affidavits that they had sexual relations with him.

- Joseph Smith's personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith's first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated.
William Clayton's journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106)

- Smith's secretary William Clayton also recorded a visit to young Almera Johnson on May 16, 1843: "Prest. Joseph and I went to B[enjamin] F. Johnsons to sleep." Johnson himself later noted that on this visit Smith stayed with Almera "as man and wife" and "occupied the same room and bed with my sister, that the previous month he had occupied with the daughter of the late Bishop Partridge as his wife." Almera Johnson also confirmed her secret marriage to Joseph Smith: "I lived with the prophet Joseph as his wife and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin F." (Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. See also "The Origin of Plural Marriage, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Deseret News Press, page 70-71.)

- Faithful Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith's son: "Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, "I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that."" (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.)

4. Did Joseph Smith father any children from his polygamous wives?

- Stake President Angus Cannon also testified: "I will now refer you to one case where it was said by the girl's grandmother that your father [Joseph Smith] has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl's grandmother was Mother Sessions . . . She was the grand-daughter of Mother Sessions. That girl, I believe, is living today, in Bountiful, north of this city. I heard prest. Young, a short time before his death, refer to the report . . . The woman is now said to have a family of children, and I think she is still living." (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 25-26, LDS archives.)

- Faithful Mormon and wife of Joseph Smith, Sylvia Sessions (Lyon), on her deathbed told her daughter, Josephine, that she (Josephine) was the daughter of Joseph Smith. Josephine testified: "She (Sylvia) then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." (Affidavit to Church Historian Andrew Jenson, 24 Feb. 1915)

- In her testimony given at a Brigham Young University devotional, Faithful Mormon Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner stated that she knew of children born to Smith's plural wives: "I know he [Joseph Smith] had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I know he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names." (Read her full BYU testimony here: http://www.ldshistory.net/pc/merlbyu.htm)

- Faithful Mormon Prescindia D. Huntington, who was Normal Buell's wife and simultaneously a "plural wife" of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman "or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver." And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith's boys.
(Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Fifteen Years Among the Mormons", page 34; also Fawn Brodie "No Man Knows My History" pages 301-302, 437-39)

- Researchers have tentatively identified eight children that Joseph Smith may have had by his plural wives. Besides Josephine Fisher (b. Feb. 8, 1844) and Oliver Buell, named as possible children of Joseph Smith by his plural wives are John R. Hancock (b. Apr. 19, 1841), George A. Lightner (b. Mar. 12, 1842), Orson W. Hyde (b. Nov. 9, 1843), Frank H. Hyde (b. Jan 23, 1845), Moroni Pratt (b. Dec. 7, 1844), and Zebulon Jacobs (b. Jan 2, 1842). ("Mormon Polygamy: A History" by LDS Historian Richard S. Van Wagoner, pages 44, 48- 49n3.)

There is another piece of evidence you might consider in examining Joseph Smith's sexual behavior. The following excerpt is from a love letter Joseph Smith wrote when he wanted to arrange a liaison with Newel K. Whitney's daughter Sarah Ann, whom Smith had secretly "married." It reveals Smith's cloak-and-dagger approach to his extramarital affairs:

joseph smith polygamy"... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith."
- Joseph Smith Handwritten Letter, http://www.xmission.com/~research/family/strange.htm

I found an old thread of mine in which I argue with a TBM over whether JS had sex with his wives, especially minors, you can read it here.

What Do You Do for a Living?

I am a psychotherapist in a sexual offender treatment program for inmates in a state prison. My wife is a stay at home mom of two young children.

What do you and yours do?

My Former Interest in Deep Doctrines

I was one of those Mormons who thrived on meaning, symbolism, and deep doctrines. I was a perfect consumer for the more mystical sides of Mormonism. I would spend much time on trying to make parallels between the endowment and life. I "found" what I thought was a lot of neat ideas and concepts and experienced epiphanies and what I thought was clarity of thought, etc. Needless to say I was very disappointed and pissed off when I came to realize that the whole damn ceremony and gospel were nothing more than fiction and fraud.

I still like parables and teaching through analogy and symbollism, etc, as long as people aren't misrepresenting things as secrets of god and such when they are not. I am also bugged by authors who try to sell their stuff as deeply profound and mystical and full of wisdom when they are not all that. Two quick examples of that is "The Secret" by Rhoda Byrne and "What the Bleep do We Know". And it really sickens me to hear people praise them, about as much as it sickens me to hear people praise Joseph Smith and the profound doctrines he taught, because I feel like people are being suckered in by confident men (con-men) and women. It bothers me when people think their eyes are being opened while they are swallowing lies.

I remember telling the missionaries I taught at the MTC, "Having an epiphany doesn't necessarily mean that you are right". Meaning one can find cool connections and experience that euphoic clarity and be dead wrong. That happened all the time in my physics classes, students would think of these cool parallels only to find out that the physics doesn't work that way.

I was trying to make my calling and election made sure. I wanted my wife and I to have a personal visitation of Jesus Christ. I learned all about the second anointing so that I would be ready. It was only later that I learned they hardly ever do the second anointing anymore.

I read a lot of Hyrum Andrus during my TBM days and thought I knew a lot. I used to share some of his writings with people who were struggling with accepting Mormonism's "former" practice of polygamy. And, B.H. Roberts study on the Book of Mormon gave my TBM mind plenty to creatively accomodate.

I bought Infobase on cd in the mid 1990's long before GospeLink, and I still have GospeLink on my computer.

Before I became a complete disbeliever, I never lost my faith in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its presidents. I believed that the Church was led by God through his prophets. Now, as I learned more and more about the true history of the church, I had to reframe my conception of what a prophet was a number of times. At the time, I wished the Church would go back to teaching the deep doctrines publicly, but I believed that how the Church was run was how the Lord wanted it to be. I believed the Lord waited for church leaders (and membership) to be ready. Instead of the Lord dictating to the prophets what he wanted done, I came to believe that the prophets came up with their best ideas (heavily influenced by their culture and times) and then the Lord sanctioned their decisions. It was important that we were obedient. If the Lord did not want us publicly teaching deep doctrines, then we shouldn't do it or face excommunication. I never sat in judgement of the Brethern because that was forbidden. I truly felt that it was more important to follow the living prophet than a dead one.

I believed and accepted polygamy as a true doctrine and was prepared to live it when it was restored to the earth and/or in heaven, but I believed those who currently practiced polygamy were evil apostates who ran ahead of the Lord and trusted too much in themselves instead of following the Lord's appointed representative. So, that is how I never allowed myself to leave the LDS Church to join some fundy group. I awaited the coming of the latter day Patriarch of the house of Israel who would be a direct male descendant of Joseph Smith who would eventually lead all those who belong to Israel. At that time the Church's function would only be to bring new gentiles into the House of Israel through adoption (baptism). It would be the Patriarch who would lead us. Hyrum Andrus explains all of this very well, here is a link.

Oh, and bytheway, once I realized the whole Latter-day gospel wasn't true, I dropped my desire for polygamy like a hot potato.

I once took a religion class at BYU from Lloyd Newell (Music and the Spoken Word guy) on Teachings of the Living Prophets. He once told us the key to avoiding apostasy was to stick with the Brethern. If we held close to them and followed where they went we would never apostasize. And I did follow them...until I found out the BoA was a fraud, and by extension Joseph Smith was a liar about the Word of God, and the Spirit which testifies of the BoA and Joe Smith could not be trusted. The prophets had been duped just like the rest of us (who knows how much they believe). But, in any case I was no longer going to follow blind men who were at best following an unreliable guide (the Spirit), so I apostacized and am damn proud of it. There is no shame in doing the right and wise thing.

Solid Ground and Treatment for Anxiety

On PostMo, Draconis wrote:

Now speaking of having the ground yanked out from under me: While talking to my psychologist she suggested that when I am starting to feel anxious I need to focus on something grounding- something I know will bring me peace and comfort; something "solid."

The trouble is, I can not think of anything solid to ground myself with. "Rocks" that I've clung to all my life have washed away as mud into the sea. Every piece of flotsom that looks promising seems to carry the risk of decaying as well. Nothing appears solid to me anymore. I can't find solid ground. I have a hard time having real faith in anything or anyone-- not even in myself. How can I feel grounded when everything in my life has become uncertainty?

What do you all find "solid" since you left behind the paradigms of TSCC? I wish I could have faith in things like love, friendship, myself, my family, "God," Superman; almost anything really. I just can't think of anything to keep myself anchored to anymore. Will it just take me time to regain the ability to trust? Have any of you gone through this and found the ability to trust again? Or have you just become so familiar with uncertainty that it no longer bothers you anymore?


Draconis,

If you are talking bedrock solid ground, of which no scientific discovery will ever turn on its head, and no human will ever change its mind about, or death cannot take away, then the only thing I know of that is that certain and stable is the knowledge that "something is happening". It is the one thing that is impossible to doubt and that we must be sure of, even if we are in the Matrix or are characters in someone else's dream, we can at least (and at most) know that something is happening.

Everything else is probability. We assume the earth and everything else actually exists. We thirst for patterns in behavior (such as the laws of physics). We crave congruence (when our sight, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, sense of balance, etc, all agree). Those things give us more confidence to estimate the probability of those things existing as higher. We observe others watching for predictability in behavior (i.e., stable personality and character) so that we can gain confidence that we can trust that others will behave a certain way in the future that is similar to how they have behaved in the past. Now, that method is not perfect as people can change, but generally people behave fairly characteristicly.

I kind of feel bad saying this to you because I know your wife left you, but one great source of stability and reliability in my life is my wife and kids. They give my life meaning and purpose because I choose to care about their feelings and well-being and they would be quite upset to lose me and I, them. Yet, they are not my only source of meaning and stability. If they all died at once, I believe I could go on, living for the good I could do for others. You all, on this PostMormon site give my life and make my life worth living. I mean something to you, as you do to me.

I also look at the power and stability of reason and the philosophy of science. They are something I can count on and turn to help me make sense of the chaos of life. Now their findings may change, one can count of new paradigms overturning previous ones, but the method is sound.

Now as for how to deal with your anxiety, the state of the art treatment for all anxieties from phobias, to PTSD, to Panic Attacks, to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to Generalized Aniety Disorder, is some variation of systematic desensitization. The one thing that psychologists treat more effectively than anything else (I dare say we have nailed this one) is the treatment of phobias. We can cure (and I don't say that lightly) any phobia through systematic desensitization.

Suppose you had a fear of snakes. We'd put a snake inside an aquarium and put him in the fall corner of the gymnasium. We would bring you into the gym and start you off as far from the snake as possible. We'd instruct you to approach the snake until your anxiety is about a 4 out of 10 (uncomfortable, but manageable), and then have you just stand there focusing on that snake and not using any kind of relaxation technique. It might take up to 30 minutes or an hour. Eventually, your body will become acclimated and return to homeostasis and your anxiety would go back down to a 1 or 2. It happens naturally. Then we would have you move closer to the snake until your anxiety rating was again a 4 and have you stay there until it is a 1 or 2. Repeated until you are able to handle the snake. With a few refresher sessions, you will be over your fear of snakes.

We do the same sort of thing for the other anxiety disorders, except this time the feared thing is not an object in space, but a thought. So, again we get you to approach your thought and hold it until the anxiety drops. Now, just as we would not just throw a snake on you at the beginning of treatment because that would do nothing but retraumitize you by sending your anxiety level to a 10, we also cannot allow you to rush headlong into your thoughts. So, the therapist may slow you down or use thought-stopping techniques if she or he notices that your anxiety is getting too high. But, this is why talk therapy works when confronting thoughts you are afraid of. People naturally do this when they tell a friend about a rafting accident they had earlier that day, or whatever. The main thing is to not be retraumitized, as that will turn you off to therapy and make you not want to return.

Use meditation techniques, visual imagery, or progessive muscle relaxation to address acute anxiety episodes and/or for daily maintenance. But, to really take care of the underlying anxiety problem find a therapist who is comfortable and trained in doing what I described above. Edna Foa, Ph.D. is the leading developer of these sorts of treatments for: OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety disorder, but the techniques apply to any anxiety disorder.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How good it is going to feel to defeat the Church on Prop 8

Lately, I have cared less and less about the Church. It is quickly becoming irrelevant in my life. But, I do have to say that it is going to feel real good to defeat the Church on Prop 8 when they have poured so many resources into persuading others to pass it.



I just don't think organizations and their leaders who defraud people should win. And I do believe the Church hierarchy deceives its members, especially Boyd Packer and Dallin Oaks. How dare they take advantage of the pure hearts of so many good people who believe their misrepresentations and distortions, and invest so much because of them? I have no idea who all knows the Church isn't what it claims to be, but the words of Boyd and Dallin indicate to me that at minimum, they do.



Two, I really want gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered couples to enjoy equal protection under the law and the freedom to marry the one they love just like heterosexuals can.



Three, my work in opposing Prop 8 is kind of a small penance I am paying for the things I did while in the Church that was not in the best interest of gays. I served on a Bishopric council that disciplined and counseled a gay friend of mine with the intent to make him think that his homosexual attractions were wrong and that through some cognitive retraining he might diminish those desires. After leaving the Church I apologized to that man for the role I played in those meetings. He is much happier now out of the closet and out of the Church.



Anyway, I really want the Church to lose on Prop 8. Hopefully, if all things go well, on Wednesday morning, November 5th, I will be celebrating both an Obama win and a defeat of Prop 8 in California.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hollywood Declares "Don't Vote"

If you haven't registered yet or if you have but don't think you'll vote this election (or are amused by attempts at reverse psychology) take a look at this:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain

Hamlet, disgusted at his partying, murderous, adulterous uncle, makes a mental note that "one may smile, and smile, and be a villain".
One of the difficult things people face as they try to reconcile the two images of Joseph Smith (God's spokesman and coniving fraud) is how can one man produce both the majestic, loving scripture as found in the D&C, and the evil deeds post-mo's are all too familiar with. I think that huge contrast is one reason why so many TBM's have a hard time believing the awful truths about Joseph Smith.
Here is Joseph "smiling":
"Let thy abowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let bvirtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy cconfidence wax strong in the dpresence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the edews from heaven. "
And "smiling":
"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. aCourage, brethren; and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into bsinging. Let the cdead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the dKing Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to eredeem them out of their fprison; for the prisoners shall go free.

23 Let the amountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King! And ye rivers, and brooks, and rills, flow down with gladness. Let the woods and all the trees of the field praise the Lord; and ye solid brocks weep for joy! And let the sun, moon, and the cmorning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and dimmortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!"
And being a villain...All the remainder of this post comes from (http://20truths.info/mormon/vain.html ):
One of Joseph's ambitions was to resolve the heavy debt incurred by the church by establishing the Kirtland Safety Society Bank on January 1, 1837. However, due to being denied this privilege by the Ohio legislature, he established the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company the following day. The bank was said to have been established through revelation from God, and it was rumored that Joseph predicted that like Aaron's rod, the bank would swallow up all other banks "and grow and flourish, and spread from the rivers to the ends of the earth, and survive when all others should be laid in ruins." (According to Warren Parrish, who succeeded Joseph as cashier of the bank, in a letter dated March 6, 1838 in Zion's Watchman. This letter was certified to be a statement of fact by Luke Johnson and John F. Boynton (former apostles) and Sylvester Smith and Leonard Rich (former seventies).)
The Messenger and Advocate published an appeal for investors which said:
-
"…we invite the brethren from abroad, to call on us, and take stock in our Safety Society; and we would remind them also of the sayings of Isaiah…'Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold (not their bank notes) with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God.'" (The parenthetical expression is part of the original text, reprinted in History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 473)
According to several individuals that left the church, the bank was established on fraudulent claims of capital security. They related that the bank vault was lined with many boxes, each marked $1,000. These boxes were actually filled with "sand, lead, old iron, stone, and combustibles," but each had a top layer of bright fifty-cent silver coins. Anyone suspicious of the bank's stability was permitted to lift and count the boxes. According to C. G. Webb:
-
"The effect of those boxes was like magic. They created general confidence in the solidity of the bank and that beautiful paper money went like hot cakes. For about a month it was the best money in the country." (Interview by W. Wyl. See Mormon Portraits, p. 36; also Oliver Olney: Absurdities of Mormonism Portrayed, p. 4; the letter of Cyrus Smalling in E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14; and Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, pp. 194-8).
William Parrish, secretary for Joseph and cashier of the bank for a short time, wrote in 1838:
-
"I have been astonished to hear him declare that we had $60,000 in specie in our vaults and $600,000 at our command, when we had not to exceed $6,000 and could not command any more; also that we had but about ten thousand dollars of our bills in circulation when he, as cashier of that institution, knew that there was at least $150,000." (Letter to Zion's Watchman, published March 24, 1838. Cyrus Smalling also wrote that Joseph had collected only $6,000 in specie. See E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14)
It should be noted that Parrish left the church following this fiasco and began openly to describe Joseph's banking methods. He was later accused of absconding with $25,000, probably in bank notes which ultimately proved worthless.
On January 27, less than a month after the bank's opening, the Painesville Telegraph reported that Joseph had "shut up shop…saying he would not redeem another dollar except with land." Everyone with Kirtland anti-bank bills now realized their quandary and tried desperately to get rid of them. By February 1 the bills were selling for 12 ½ cents on the dollar. (According to Cyrus Smalling. See E. G. Lee, The Mormons, or Knavery Exposed, p. 14. Also William Harris: Mormonism Portrayed (Warsaw, Illinois, 1841), p. 30)
From the beginning, the bank had been operated illegally and Joseph was eventually ordered by the courts to pay the standard $1,000 penalty as well as court costs (see Chardon, Ohio, courthouse, Vol. U, p. 362). Needless to say, the dissolution of the bank and the catastrophic effects it held for those that trusted Joseph's word resulted in widespread disillusionment with the prophet. Under accusations of fraud, Joseph threatened to excommunicate any Saint who brought suit against a brother in the church. As Heber Kimball put it, during this time "there were not twenty persons on earth that would declare that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." (Sermon delivered September 28, 1856. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 105)
To be fair, many other banks failed during the "panic of 1837" and Saints who were ready to apostatize decided that Joseph's speculation looked more like an indiscretion than grand larceny. As related by Christopher Cary:
-
"It was marvelous to see with what tenacity they held to their faith in the prophet, when they knew they had been robbed, abused and insulted." (Pioneer and Personal Reminiscences, p. 45)
However, given the dishonest claims that appear to have been made regarding the bank's capital, the seemingly prophetic promises of prosperity in return for investment, and the fact that Joseph authorized and perpetuated the illegal operation of the bank in the first place, I personally consider this a poor reflection on Joseph's character and his ability to act under inspiration from God.

LDS Church counts almost 33 % more people as members than reported themselves to be Mormons

The following paragraph comes from a recent article in the UUWorld magazine entitled, "Three in a thousand: A new survey estimates that 0.3 percent of American adults identify as Unitarians—a lot more than belong to our churches". In it, the author refers to the recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Forum.
Gaps between self-described and formal membership are common, said David A. Roozen, a sociologist who tracks religion trends as director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, in Hartford, Connecticut. For example, 25 percent more people identified themselves as Episcopalians and 33 percent more people claimed to be Methodists than either national body counts. The gap works the other way for some traditions, however: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counts almost 33 percent more people as members than reported themselves to be Mormons in the Pew study.

Most churches don't count someone as a member unless they actually attend. If someone stops attending or donating after a period of time, the church drops them from the rolls. When asked in a survey, some of these people will still consider themselves as belonging to a particular religious movement.

The LDS Church on the other hand counts as members not only those who no longer attend, but also those who no longer consider themselves Mormon. This has long been suspected and infered from the Church's own statistics, etc, but here we have yet another well-conducted study showing that the church grossly inflates its numbers.

Parenting Resources for Non-Theists

Since there are a number of us non-theists here, I thought we might share things we have found to help raise our kids to be skeptical and ethical. (Some of the religious parents might find these resources helpful, too).

Books - I haven't read all of these, yet.

"Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion"

"Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics"

"How Do You Know It's True?: Discovering the Difference Between Science and Superstition"

"Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution"

"Our Whole Lives" - A series of books for teaching children about healthy sexuality

Summer Camps

Camp Inquiry

Camp Quest

Blog

Secular Parenting Blog

Parenting Beyond Belief forum

Abiogenesis

Jahedgpeth wrote the following on PostMormon:

from wikipedia:

In the natural sciences, abiogenesis, or origin of life, is the study of how life on Earth emerged from inanimate organic and inorganic molecules

Basically, I can't believe that we could ever get to a viable single celled organism and have that organism reproduce without some sort of "god" x-factor to begin the process.

It never has made sense to me.




Here is how I get past the probability issue.

First, it must be clear that we are not talking about pure chance. There are organizing forces at work. Electrostatic attraction organizes atoms into molecules, and molecules into protein stuctures. Spheres (the shape of the cell membrane and the neucleus) are very stable due to the laws of physics. That is why soap bubbles take the shape of a sphere.

So, we are not saying that all of these atoms just randomly aligned out of pure chance. Chance played a large role, but there are organizing forces of physics and chemistry that were at work naturally, just doing what they do.

Let's also remember that the formation of a cell without a god-like creator is not impossible. (A point which Jahedgpeth has already admitted to).

So, let's estimate the probability of the formation of a cell to be very, very low. Here is where the law of very large numbers comes in. If the numbers are big enough, even very, very improbable occurances become likely. To illustrate, let me use easy numbers to work with. The probability of one Powerball lottery ticket having all the numbers that are drawn on a particular day is 1 in 100,000,000, so very unlikely. However, if 1,000,000,000 lottery tickets are purchased, the odds are that 10 of those lottery tickets are winners. So, an event that is improbable becomes probable if given a whole lot of chances.

Now, the odds of a cell forming are a lot smaller than 1 in 100 million. But, no matter how infinitesimly small the chances are, we have to remember how large the universe is and how long billions of years are, and how many interactions atoms have each second. I mean we don't even have names for the number of interactions atoms had throughout the entire universe over the entire time from the Big Bang to the creation of replicating cells. Even very improbably events can happen. And remember it is not just chance at work, principles of physics are at work organizing the elements and holding the pieces together when they get in place.

I find that the formation of replicating cells become likely due to the law of very large numbers. I see no need for a Creator, and I don't believe there has to be a reason why.

Here is some reading:

Law of Truly Large Numbers

law of truly large numbers

I don't believe we matter at the cosmic level; we don't matter ultimately or permanently. But, I do believe we can matter at the local level in space and time - temporarily.

Incidently, that is also how we reconcile the law of entropy against the other organizing laws of physics such as those that arrange carbon atoms into diamonds, etc. At the cosmic level, the universe is cooling down and becoming more disorganized (entropy rules). But, at the local level we see matter moving into more and more organized and complex forms (organizing laws of physics rule).

Preparing Young Atheists for the Draws of Religion

Someone named Draconis posted the following on PostMormon:

I was talking to someone today and the subject of religion came up. It turns out that he is an atheist who has never really been taught much at all about religion. What was interesting to me is that his world view seems to be very naive, based on lack of reason to believe anything in particular. He's never given it much thought, never been too concerned about it, and only knows that he disliked Christianity because to him they are "too pushy." Beyond that, he has never much pondered the mysteries of the universe at all.

In stark contrast, while I don't necessarily disagree with his conclusions, I almost found it offensive that he reached them so callously. He's never pondered the big questions. He has never yearned for the truth. He was totally ignorant to the reasons why somebody might choose to be an atheist and instead just never chose NOT to be an atheist. In short, he has no good reason to be an atheist.

I started wondering whether part of the reason I was annoyed by his apathy and gross ignorance was due to some jealousy on my behalf. What would it have been like to be raised without the concept of some all-powerful control-freak watching over me and judging my actions and thoughts? What would it have been like to not have to break free from the chains of spiritual bondage and fight my way to freedom?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what was unsettling me was that he didn't appreciate what he had, because he'd never earned it. Most of us here know what it means to suffer in order to find our own spiritual freedom, and here this guy has never been without it and doesn't even begin to appreciate what he has.

Once I understood the reason for my feelings I was able to change them. I know that I have something he does not have. I recognize the value of my perspective because it is based on hard-won experience. I will not be easily duped in the future. I have valuable experience to back up my convictions, where he merely has a lack of convictions due to a lack of experience. That is to say, I have good reason not to believe, whereas he merely has no good reason to believe.


Here was my response:

I have been thinking of this topic a lot recently. Obama was much like the guy you described. Obama's father was raised Muslim, but by the time he got involved with Obama's mother, he was atheist. Obama's mother was raised protestant, but was basically agnostic/secular humanist throughout he adult life.

Obama spent a lot of time with his maternal grandparents. But, while living with his mom in foriegn countries he was exposed to Catholic and Muslim beliefs, but never really internalized those beliefs. In his young adult years, he aimlessly wandered a bit using some drugs and alcohol. Then, he got his education on track and earned a law degree.

It was while he was working with the poor in Chicago that he realized that the people he was helping had something he did not - a spirituality that got them through the tough times. He wanted that, too, so he studied with the Rev. Wright and was really introduced to Christ. Obama challenged the pastor a bit, but eventually acepted Christianity as true.

See, I think Obama was unprepared like so many nontheists are today. I think those of us who are atheists need to teach our kids two important things: 1) spirituality that does not stem from the supernatural, and 2) all the evidence of why we find the dogmatic religions of the world false.

My kids are very young now, but they will know why I don't believe Mormonism is true, and they will know the evidence against the Bible, thereby ruling out a literal belief in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They will be free to choose to believe what they wish and I'll take them to many different religions' services, but they will also know the evidence and logical arguments I use to determine what I think about those religions.

But, the other thing I'll do is teach my kids to experience awe, transcendence, elevation, peace, connectedness, wonder, etc, outside of the supernatural context. They will know what I believe to be the natural mechanisms at work during "spiritual" experiences. I don't want my kids to feel like this is a gaping whole in their lives that can only be filled through superstitious religion.

I know why I am atheist and am proud of the research I have done into Mormonism and Christianity that convinced me that they could not be true. I hope that I will equip my children with critical thinking skills and a willingness to thoroughly investigate any religion before they believe in it. And I want them to know how to create those wonderful and calming experiences that are traditional thought of as spiritual without having to believe in the supernatural.

I think young atheists need to be religiously literate. Religion plays too large a role in world affairs and domestic agendas for any of us to not be educated in it. I don't believe one can have a suitable, welll-rounded education and be prepared to be a citizen of the world without having some working knowledge of religion. So much of great art and literature allude to religious icons. Religion is a very real and influential cultural phenomenon even if the beliefs they are founded on aren't true.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

This is part of why I am proud to support Obama

I just read this wonderful article on Obama's economic vision. This is one of the reasons we desperately need Obama in the White House.

How Obama Reconciles Dueling Views on Economy

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again!

Ever wonder what it would have been like to have been witness to Joseph Smith tell his tales right there in front of you? A few former Mormons in England have founded a new church. They have a prophet that has translated a new book of scripture written by the ancient inhabitants of England. Their poor prophet hasn't the creativity to think of anything new, he is following the Joseph Smith story line by line as if it were a script. It is hilarious and sad. I wonder how big a following he'll get and how much money he'll make. As P.T. Barnum said, "There is a sucker born every minute".
Here is the church's website.
Here is a youtube video explaining the Book of Jeraneck.
This guy is an amatuer nave.
______________________________________________________________
Matthew Gill's story does remind me of another, much more gifted Joseph Smith imitator, Christopher Nemelka. Nemelka claimed to have translated the Book of Lehi (remember the 116 lost manuscript pages) and the sealed portion of the golden plates.
His site has been updated since the last time I visited: thesealedportion
He acknowledged his fraud here, but apparently he resumed his fraud hoping his followers won't learn of his earlier confession.
His online calendar.
Oh, and for a fun flashback, remember this story, when a woman interrupted the 2005 Christmas Devotional? Well, she was a follower of Nemelka's.
The whole structure and doctrine of Mormonism breeds these kind of copycat prophets. Almost every boy wants to be like Joseph and the next prophet.

Trust

On a thread on PostMormon, Hiker R wrote:

A father took his son into the barn one day and asked him to climb up in the hay loft. Then he told the son to jump into his arms. The son said he was scared because he was pretty high up and didn’t think his dad could catch him. The dad assured the son he could. The son jumped and the dad stepped out of the way and the son hit the ground. The dad approached his son and said, “Important business lesson; don’t trust anybody.”

I wanted to dedicate a thread to the topic of trust. I disagree strongly with this father's tactics and the moral of the story.

I believe that we should trust others, but not with more than we are willing to lose.

Like it or not, homo sapiens evoled to become social animals, and trust is essential in all social interactions. We are vulnerable all the time - vulnerable to being taken advantage of, stolen from, injured, confined, or killed by others. We also depend on others, at least in part, for protection from all of those things.

I am not advocating that we be foolish with the trust we have to invest. I think we should start slowly in new relationships, risking only a little and then seeing what they do with it. Over time a track record is established. Nothing is certain; even the best performing stocks can fail. But, I'd rather invest in an individual with a proven track record than in an unknown person.

Before I invest a lot of trust in an etity that I have no previous experience with, I do my homework by learning of the experiences others have had with that entity. I check the BBB, epinions, and background checks depending on what services I'd use them for.

It can be scary when we realize how much we trust others. I trust my wife with my life every time I let her drive. Heck, I trust my life to every other driver on the road, and I know nothing about them. Any determined person could kill me if I didn't see it coming (school shootings, pipe bombs, arsenic poisonings, etc). Our society would not work without trust. Despite all the risk, I think prudent trusting is worth it. Because through it, we can get our emotional needs met, accumulate wealth, and enjoy the freedom to do what we want.

So, are you a "Trust no one, Mr. Mulder" kind of person; a carefree, perhaps overly trusting person; or one who builds trusting relationships carefully?