Is The ‘Small Neck Of Land’ The Isthmus In Southern Mexico?

As we read the Book of Mormon, we can’t help but try to match it up to cities and lands we know of today. Archaeologists have found plenty of evidence throughout the Americas, but due to scarcity of unique physical details in the text and the possibility of geographical features changing, it is hard to pin one place as unquestionably the site of the Nephites and Lamanites. The best beginning point for finding a matching geographical location seems to be the “small neck of land” mentioned as separating the lands of Desolation to the north and Bountiful to the south. This is the largest and most unique natural feature that is mentioned, and it is mentioned after the geographical changes occuring in 3 Nephi, so it is a good place to start.

Out of the five possible sites that I have seen people talk about, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico seems to be the most likely option. The most common argument against it is that it is more than a “day and a half’s journey” across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. But this argument may be based on a misreading of the Book of Mormon’s description. Does the Book of Mormon really say it is a day and a half’s journey from sea to sea, or is it simply a day and a half’s journey from the lands of the Nephites to the western side of the isthmus?

Isthmus of Panama

The thin point between North and South America would seem to be the “small neck of land.” But the rest of the geography described in the Book of Mormon doesn’t fit at all. This seems unlikely to be the Book of Mormon site.

Niagara Peninsula

At first glance, the thin space between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario would seem to be the the answer, considering it is closest to where Joseph Smith retrieved the gold plates. But the problem is this thin space is too narrow. It is only 20 miles across and can easily be traveled in a day by foot. If you interpret Alma 22 as not actually saying it was a day and half from sea to sea but rather from the lands inhabited by Nephites to the west sea–it still doesn’t make sense. The scriptures say the lands were nearly completely surrounded by water, and the New York region is only bordered by water on the East Coast. Also, the Niagara Peninsula connects to an westward land, not a northward land. It would be easier to travel around the east side of Lake Ontario if you wanted to go north.

Isthmus of Riva in Nicaragua

Some have proposed the isthmus between Lake Cocibolca and the Pacific ocean in Nicaragua. This is a much more likely setting. It is only 10 miles across, not even close to a day and a half’s journey, but maybe the land Bountiful was a day and a half in the lush land to the south-east. But then we have the same problem as with Lake Ontario: why not just travel around the east side of the lake? Alma says the land was “nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land.” I don’t think the San Juan river running from the lake to the east counts as some kind of impenetrable barrier of water. But still, this theory is possible. Keep in mind, the entire face of the land changed in 3 Nephi, so many of the geographical details may have changed.

Isthmus of Tehuantepec

 
Most scholars in the church agree on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec as the setting, due to its proximity to Mayan settlements that match details in the Book of Mormon. Many details match as well.

Migration Southward – The Mulekites first arrived in the land of Desolation north of the small neck of land, and then traveled south through the wilderness to settle the land of Zarahemla. This southern wilderness is presumably higher elevation, as we are told they “came from there up into the south wilderness.” Additionally, this southern wilderness named Bountiful was “filled with all manner of wild animals of every kind, a part of which had come from the land northward for food.” This matches the migration patterns of animals after the Ice Age through Central America. But we aren’t told why the Mulekites migrated southward. For food as well? Well, later in 700 AD, the conquering Teotihuacans pushed the Mayans south across the Isthmus. This area was known as Chontalpa, “region of foreigners,” “in all probability a reference to precontact settlement by Nahuatl-speakers from central Mexico.” Maybe the Mulekites had been likewise pushed south by a hostile tribe along this same route.

Bountiful – This region’s description certainly matches Bountiful. “Hot, lower, flat, and eternally watered.” This region of western Yucatan was very green a lush, and prone to great flooding at the coast, before modern-day damming regulated the rivers: “Vast inundations often covered lands of the center north and allowed travelers to paddle from the Gonzalez directly eastward into the Grijalva without having to go overland, but modern flood control” stopped it (The River People in Flood Time, Terry Rugeley). The Book of Mormon describes a land of many waters somewhere around Desolation and Cumorah. This is why proponents of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec theory point to the western coast of Yucatan and eastern coast of southern Mexico as the “land of many waters” and Bountiful as the lush land just south of it. The Tanala waterway between Veracruz and Tabasco, splitting right across the small neck of land, was known as “place of heat”, and that would explain how you would transition from a land called Bountiful to a land called Desolation even though there are many waters around. Why was it desolate? It was too hot to live there and the flooding made it unsuitable for agriculture, so the Mulekites moved on south to Zarahemla. But Bountiful was also an important trade route, which I suppose is why the Nephites made so much effort to hold onto it.

Land of Nephi – In Alma 53, Helaman marched with his 2,000 stripling soldiers west by the sea shore while Moroni’s main army was fighting Lamanites at the city of Mulek to the east. Helaman went west by the seashore “to support the people in the borders of the land on the south by the west sea.” This would imply that there were two main routes for the Lamanites to approach Zarahamla from the Land of Nephi: east and far west by the seashore, and this matches this region of Yucatan.

In Mosiah 21, Limhi sent a group north to find Zarahemla, but they did not find it, as Limhi’s people had moved over time westward of the land of Nephi. Instead, they traveled due north “lost in the wilderness” aka. mountains, and discovered the land of Desolation. With the map of Yucatan, we can see how they would make this mistake. Then, when Limhi determined where Zarahemla was, he traveled north “in the wilderness” and then “bent their course towards the land of Zarahemla.” Presumably they bent their course towards the east. This south land of Guatamala matches the Land of Nephi.

Sidon – There are two major rivers here that could match the Book of Mormon river Sidon: Mazcalapa and Usumacinta. It is even possible that due to “redirections” of the river over time that the Mazcalapa and Usumacinta were forks of the same “Sidon” river. The Mazcalapa started out as its own river and then was redirected through a canal into the Grijalva by Spanish settlers after flooding naturally changed it toward that direction, after all. Maybe a similar change had been made earlier? But given what we know for sure, the Usumacinta seems like a more likely Sidon river. Mayans used the Usumacinta as a major trade route and it runs along major cities, which would explain why it was named so often in the Book of Mormon.

Misreading ‘Day And A Half’s Journey’ – Most people who read Alma 22 assume that it was a day and a half’s journey from the east sea to the west sea across the small neck of land. But that’s not what it says. Let’s start where Alma begins his description of the geography:

“And it came to pass that the king sent a proclamation throughout all the land, amongst all his people who were in all his land, who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.”

On the map of the Yucatan, we can see how the Land of Nephi could extend from the east sea to the west sea in Guatamala, and that a narrow strip of mountains divides it from the Yucatan low-land, and that these mountains continue along the western seashore, through the head of the river Sidon and then north up to Zarahemla. Then we read the phrase “running from the east towards the west.” What does this phrase refer to? The strip of wilderness. That is the subject of this sentence. The strip of wilderness that narrowly divides that Lamanites from the Nephites and then runs north is “running from the east towards the west.” We see on the map of the Yucatan that this mountain range runs west and then north-west.

Next in verse 28, we are told the less civilized Lamanites lived in these mountains to the west, “in the land of Nephi; yea, and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore.” So they filled this entire western region from south to north.

In verse 29, we are told they also lived by the eastern seashore, but the Nephites “had taken posession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful.” So, the Nephites controlled all the low-land north and west of this mountain range, all the way north to Bountiful, which “bordered upon the land which they called Desolation” to the north.

“And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.”

It doesn’t say it is a day and a half’s journey form the “east sea” to the “west sea.” Doesn’t say that. It says simply “from the east to the west sea.” From the east where? Scholars say it may not be from the east ocean. Well, in verse 27 “running from the east towards the west” referred to the mountain range, right? And then in verse 29 Alma was talking about the lands under Nephite control, which were to the eastward of the lands under Lamanite control, right? So, it sounds like “east” refers to the land east of this wilderness mountain range which were under Nephite control. That’s why he said it was a day and a half’s journey “for a Nephite.” He was talking about how long it would take someone to get from the land under Nephite control to the western sea at the small neck of land. The distance of the narrow pass along this line between Bountiful and Desolation.

There is indeed a pass running through the mountain range at the isthmus of Tehuantepec, where today highway 185 runs downhill north to south, and it is only about 35 miles to get to the seashore–a reasonable distance to travel in a day and a half downhill.

Narrow Pass – Alma 22 talked about a “line” at a “small” neck of land. It was a day and a half journey from the Nephite lands along the “line” at the small neck of land to the west sea. Alma 63, mentions a “narrow neck” at the west sea “which led into the land northward.” This would seem to be this same pass that runs through the mountain range at the isthmus of Tehuantepec to the Pacific Ocean.

Mormon 2 likewise describes it as a “narrow passage which led into the land southward.” The only mention I find of the land itself being narrowed into an isthmus by oceans is Ether 10: “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.” This city could be modern-day Coatzacoalcos which lies north along the Gulf of Mexico. The Jaradites lived northward in present-day Mexico in this geographical model, perhaps around Mexico City. So from their perspective, the Gulf of Mexico certainly divided the land–modern-day Mexico from Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula. The Jaradites were a much larger population spread out over a larger distance, so it is reasonable for them to consider the isthmus of Tehuantepec a neck of land.

Alma 50 describes this region between Bountiful and Desolation in a way that perfectly matches the isthmus of Tehuantepec:

“And it came to pass that they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east.”

The Nephite army was traveling northward to catch up to the dissenters, and finally caught them at the narrow pass on the isthmus of Tehuantepec. We can see that this narrow pass indeed begins at the ocean, “yea, by the sea,” “on the west,” and leads into the land northward “by the sea” “on the east.” In other words, the narrow pass led from the west sea (Pacific Ocean) northward to the east sea (Gulf of Mexico).

Mayan place names frequently match up to Book of Mormon descriptions as further evidence for this theory.

Land Bridge To Cuba

Another theory I have seen is that there was a land bridge between the Yucatan to the north and Cuba. This seems like a fair possibility. The ocean between Yucatan and Cuba is quite shallow. If people migrated across a landbridge from Siberia, why couldn’t they migrate across a land bridge from the Yucatan? The only difference is DNA evidence would be much less likely to be found. The ocean from Cuba to Florida appears to be deeper, but I think it is still a possibility that this neck of land extended all the way up Florida.

This theory makes Moroni’s journey to New York easier. It’s more of a straight shot up the east coast. But then, where is Desolation? Cuba? Where is the the wilderness that runs up the west coast to the narrow pass? Is there archaeological evidence of animal migrations and multiple human maigrations? This is a theory that needs development.

Not Enough Geographical Evidence

I find it interesting that geography ends up being the least plentiful source of information in the Book of Mormon as we search for evidence. If Joseph Smith made it up and wanted to convince people that it was a real story about American Indians, wouldn’t he have provided plenty of land descriptions that match real places, and wouldn’t he have provided little archaeological descriptions, as very little was known of North America archaeology at that time? But instead, we get few geographical descriptions and more plentiful physical descriptions that match archaeological evidences. How did that happen?

We have the same problem with archaeology: scarce unique descriptions that help us match up to one civilization and eliminate other civilizations as possibilities. But the problem with geography is much worse. We only have a few vague descriptions of a river, a strip of wilderness, east/west seas, etc. And of course we have the problem of the entire face of the land changing during the catastrophic events in 3 Nephi–perhaps significantly. So when it comes to looking for where these events took place, geography does not seem like a good place to start. I think it makes more sense to instead look for archaeology and then try to correlate geographical information to that.

The Seer Stone Translation Narrative Is False


Lately, a narrative has crept into the church’s scholarship about how the Book of Mormon was translated. First-hand and reliable witness accounts said Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim, but now historians say he used a different “seer stone.” This seems to be based on quotes that appeared half a century after the translation occurred. We should be careful about these quotes from Antimormon sources which are full of contradictions and inconsistencies. Of course, we don’t know for sure how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, but evidence is pretty clear to me that it was through the Urim and Thummim which used clear stones for lenses. So are the references to “seer stones” simply talking about the Urim and Thummim or perhaps a stone taken out of the Urim and Thummim? I don’t know. Joseph Smith said in D&C 130, “the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one.” I think it is important to critically consider the source of quotes that describe these stones, and to be extremely skeptical of quotes that claim a seer stone was acquired totally independently of the Urim and Thummim.

Rumor Started By An Antimormon in 1834

The seer stone narrative started with an Antimormon named Willard Chase 20 years after the translation of the gold plates. In 1834, Willard Chase published lurid stories of Joseph Smith conning people money in a treasure hunt for gold bars. Willard Chase described Joseph Smith taking possession of a single stone, after which “he began to publish abroad what wonders he could discover by looking in it.”

Provable Lies – There is no record of Joseph Smith saying anything about discovering wonders in a seer stone. Newspaper articles and witness accounts only talk about a Urim and Thummim. Besides this falsehood, Willard Chase’s account is full of other provable lies. He relates Joseph Smith searching for a silver mine on behalf of a man named Lawrence; but the mine incident involved Josiah Stowell, not Lawrence, and it happened before Joseph Smith was married, not after as Willard Chase claims.

The most significant lie is Willard Chase’s claim: “In April, 1830, I again asked Hiram for the stone which he had borrowed of me; he told me I should not have it, for Joseph Made use of it in translating his Bible.” But the Book of Mormon was already published before April 1830! Why would Joseph Smith want to translate something he already translated?

Fake David Whitmer Quotes

Zenas Gurley (1801-1871) of the RLDS splinter-sect produced a quote attributed to Book of Mormon witness David Whitmer:
 

“[H]e used a stone called a “Seers stone,” the “Interpreters” having been taken away from him because of transgression. The “Interpreters” were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of [the manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a “Seers stone” which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English.” (Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing’), via Richard van Wagoner, via Zenas Gurley, 1982

  • David Whitmer did not even know about Joseph Smith and the gold plates until months after the incident with the 116 pages. I haven’t seen any account of David Whitmer acting as scribe for the translation. What evidence is there that David Whitmer was in a position to witness this at all?
  • This is a fourth-hand quote produced in modern times, attributed to RLDS leader Zenas Gurley who had apostatized from the church.
  • David Whitmer had become hostile towards Jopseh Smith by this time, and had joined a splinter sect, so he had every reason to lie. He denounced Joseph Smith and the church.
  • David Whitmer made it clear in newspaper interviews that the Urim and Thumim and not a seer stone was used:
    “When I first read Mr. Traughber’s paper in the Herald of November 15th, I thought that I would not notice his attack at all, as I supposed that I was believed by the Church to be fair and truthful in my statements of other men’s views, when I have occasion to use them, and I shall make this reply only: That unless my interview with David Whitmer in January, 1876, was only a dream, or that I failed to understand plain English, I believed then, and since, and now, that he said that Joseph possessed, and used the Urim and Thummim in the translation of the inscriptions referred to, and I remember of being much pleased with that statement, as I had heard of the ‘Seer stone’ being used. And unless I dreamed the interview, or very soon after failed to recollect the occasion, he described the form and size of the said Urim and Thummim. The nearest approach to a retraction of my testimony as given . . . publicly in many places from the stand from January, 1876, till now, is, that unless I altogether misunderstood ‘Father Whitmer’ on this point, he said the translation was done by the aid of the Urim and Thummim. If he says he did not intend to convey such an impression to my mind, then I say I regret that I misunderstood him, and unintentionally have misrepresented him. But that I understood him as represented by me frequently I still affirm.”

    (Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 56 via Joseph Smith Foundation)
    “The understanding we have about it was that when the book was discovered an angel was present and pointed the place out. In translating from the plates, Joseph Smith looked through the Urim and Thummim, consisting of two transparent pebbles set in the rim of a bow, fastened to a breastplate. He dictated by looking through them to his scribes.”

    (St. Louis Republican, July 16, 1884; cited in Cook, David Whitmer Interviews, 143)
    “ After affixing the magical spectacles to his eyes, Smith would take the plates and translate the characters one at a time. The graven characters would appear in succession to the seer, and directly under the character, when viewed through the glasses, would be the translation in English.”

    (Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1885, 3)
  • Joseph Smith repeatedly made it clear that the Urim and Thummim was returned to him after they had been taken away, contradicting this alleged quote from David Whitmer.
    “”I had the joy and satisfaction of again receiving the Urim and Thummim, with which I have again commenced translating, and Emma writes for me, but the angel said that the Lord would send me a scribe, and I trust his promise will be verified. The angel seemed pleased with me when he gave me back the Urim and Thummim, and he told me that the Lord loved me, for my faithfulness and humility.”

Second David Whitmer Quote:
 

“Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. [Page 175]One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man .”
(An Address to All Believers in Christ)

  • This quote was printed in a book with David Whitmer listed as the author. But it was published only one year before David Whimter’s death from old age at 87 years old. Was he functionally capable to write a book?
  • The stated purpose of this book was to convince Mormons that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, “drifting into errors after translating the Book of Mormon.” David Whitmer had become hostile and had joined a splinter sect. This book was edited and published by a hostile non-LDS source.
  • Again, this contradicts what David Whitmer clearly told reporters just two years earlier.
  • Third David Whitmer Quote:
     

    “By fervent prayer and by otherwise humbling himself, the prophet, however, again found favor, and was presented with a strange oval-shaped, chocolate-colored stone, about the size of an egg, only more flat, which, it was promised, should serve the same purpose as the missing urim and thummim (the latter was a pair of transparent stones set in a bow-shaped frame and very much resembled a pair of spectacles). With this stone all of the present Book of Mormon was translated.”
    (via Chicago Inter-Ocean, via The Saints Herald)

    • This is another quote that was allegedly given on David Whitmer’s deathbed. Why would he wait 50 years until he is almost dead to make any mention of this important detail? Who else was there to verify that he said this besides some unknown reporter from Chicago, via the RLDS splinter sect?
    • This contradicts the earlier quote which claims the seer stone was dug up in a well rather than presented to Joseph Smith.
    • David Whimter was not involved in the Book of Mormon until months after the Urim and Thummim was taken away. So how would he know what it looked like?
    • Again, this statement was given after David Whitmer had become hostile towards Joseph Smith and the church.

    Traughber Quote

     

    “With the sanction of David Whitmer, and by his authority, I now state that he does not say that Joseph Smith ever translated in his presence by aid of Urim and Thummim; but by means of one dark colored, opaque stone, called a “Seer Stone,” which was placed in the crown of a hat, into which Joseph put his face, so as to exclude the external light. Then, a spiritual light would shine forth, and parchment would appear before Joseph, upon which was a line of characters from the plates, and under it, the translation in English; at least, so Joseph said.”

    • As I pointed out earlier, a reporter made it clear that this completely contradicts what David Whitmer had told him.”
    • This contradicts the other quotes attributed to David Whitmer, which say Joseph Smith at least some times used the Urim and Thummim.
    • The source is an RLDS splinter-sect member, 50 years after the events supposedly occured.

    Emma Smith Quotes

     

    “In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.”
    Emma Smith Bigamon, via RLDS, 1879

    • Like David Whitmer, this was quoted soon before Emma’s death. Why did she wait 50 years and until she was almost dead from old age to mention this important detail? Why did she tell only one person? Did she have full capacity to recount events from 50 years ago?
    • This comes from a second-hand RLDS splinter-sect source. There is no other witness to verify that she actually said this.
    • Earlier in this narrative attributed to Emma, she denies polygamy ever happened, which there is plenty of evidence for. This contradiction makes the account unreliable.
    • Emma never says the “stone” is different than the Urim and Thummim, which had stones in it. Maybe she was simply referring to the Urim and Thummim? Many quotes describe the Urim and Thummim the same way; for example, they both were used by placing them in a hat. Maybe the seer stones are the Urim and Thummim.

    Second Emma Smith Quote:
     

    “Now the first that my translated, [the book] was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color.”
    Emma Smith Bidamon, via Emma Pilgrim, RLDS, 1981

    • This quote was produced by the wife of a pastor for the RLDS splinter group. The first mention I could find of this quote existing is from the 1981 “The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal,” almost two centuries after the events supposedly occured. There is no evidence that the 1870 source, a letter, actually exists.

    Fake Martin Harris Quote

     

    “…that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone.”
    Martin Harris, via Edward Stevenson via anonymous reporter, 1881

    • This comes from the Evening News newspaper September 5, 1870 by an unknown author. Totally anonymous source.
    • This quote refers to “an incident,” a singular time he he used the seer stone. This contradicts all other accounts about the stone, which say he used it often, most, or all of the time.
    • Like the other quotes, this quote shows up 50 years after the events supposedly occured? Why did Martin Harris wait so long to mention such an important detail?
    • Why is there no record of this anonymous 1870 newspaper interview until Antimormon Edward Stevenson quoted it years after Martin Harris’s death? That’s quite convenient for him to quote it after Martin Harris is no longer around to correct it.

    Fake Oliver Cowdery Quote

     

    “But I believed in both the Seer and the “Seer stone,” and what the First Elder announced as revelation from God, I accepted as such, and committed to paper with a glad mind and happy heart and swift pen; for I believed him to be the soul of honor and truth, a young man who would die before he would lie.”
    Oliver Cowdery, 1839, forgery by R.B. Neal in 1906

    • These phrases were found to have been pieced together from the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate and An Address to All Believers in Christ. This is a proven forgery.

    Kenneth Godfrey Quote

     

    “From April 12 to June 14, Joseph translated while Martin wrote, with only a curtain between them. On occasion they took breaks from the arduous task, sometimes going to the river and throwing stones. Once Martin found a rock closely resembling the seer stone Joseph sometimes used in place of the interpreters and substituted it without the Prophet’s knowledge. When the translation resumed, Joseph paused for a long time and then exclaimed, “Martin, what is the matter, all is as dark as Egypt.” Martin then confessed that he wished to “stop the mouths of fools” who told him that the Prophet memorized sentences and merely repeated them.”
    (Kenneth W. Godfrey, 1988)

    • I haven’t found who Godfrey’s source was for this. Was this a witness account? A rumour he heard? Something someone told him in a bar?
    • This contradicts Whitmer’s and Emma’s quotes, which claim the seer stone was always used after the 116 pages were lost, rather than “sometimes.” Or maybe Joseph Smith simply extracted a stone out of the Urim and Thummim?

    All Antimormon Sources

    Most of these sources come from Antimormons who claimed they were quoting or publishing the words of an eye witness. All first-hand and reliable witness accounts only mention the Urim and Thummim. Why are we trusting Antimormon and apostate splinter-sect sources with zero evidence? Even if David Whitmer did actually say those things, he called Joseph Smith a fallen prophet and rejected the authority of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. I haven’t seen evidence that David Whitmer helped transcribe the Book of Mormon.

    As Joseph Smith Foundation points out, scriptural record gives a precise method of translation through revelation that doesn’t fit the seer stone narrative. D&C 8 and 9 tell us, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost,” and “you must study it out in your mind.” They do not say you just look at the stone and copy down whatever words show up, whatever punctuation and misspellings you see. Brigham Young said: ” if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation” (Journal of Discourses, 9:311), presumably because of translation corrections. The narrative in some of these quotes just doesn’t make sense or fit what we know about revelation.

    Many of these quotes and publications are modern productions. Why did they wait 50 years to say anything? Why didn’t they tell anyone except a couple reporters and RLDS leaders? As time goes by and the production of the Book of Mormon fades into ancient history, this time difference becomes harder for us to appreciate. The very idea that seer stones could be used to translate words was not even a thing until these modern Antimormon quotes cropped up. Seer stones were definitely around in Joseph Smith’s time and Joseph Smith probably had one, but that’s because it was a popular regional craze for kids at the time, like playing with Pokemon cards today. A century from now, will historians say church leaders wrote the Proclamation on the Family from a game of Pokemon cards?

    How could the Book of Mormon have been produced this way? Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon in 65 days, an average 8 pages per day. How do you produce 8 pages of complex text each day, for months, with a tiny stone that gives you one word or punctuation mark at a time, having to double check with your scribe with each time to make sure he wrote it correctly? I know it would take me longer. Of course, this becomes much more more impossible if your narrative is that Joseph Smith was making it up.

    Why It Matters

    Most people shrug and say, “Well, it doesn’t matter.” Finding a stone from the ground or a device with stones in it buried with the gold plates, what difference does it make?

    Well, the first problem is it gives us a false impression about revelation. If answers magically appeared for Joseph Smith in a rock, why can’t we get easy answers for our challenges? Why can’t we all find a rock in the ground to tell us what we need to know? Of course, Joseph Smith’s life and subsequent translations were not at all easy. And of course he couldn’t just look in a seer stone to figure out where the lost 116 pages went. This seer stone narrative sometimes sounds too much like superstitious fortune telling, and we are tempted to request easy answers to life instead of finding our own solutions and growing thereby. Joseph Smith by all accounts grew greatly from his experiences with the gold plates, and I don’t think that could have happened if all he had to look at a stone and repeat what it told him. It doesn’t seem like it was so simplistic as that.

    The second problem is Willard Chase’s connection of the seer stone and treasure hunting. Seer stones were apparently used to look for treasure in those days, as a children’s game like Pokemon cards today. Why would Joseph Smith use a device for finding treasure to translate a book? It is easy for Antimormons to turn this into a narrative of a treasure seeker turning his sights into religious preacher to get at people’s money, and that’s exactly what Antimormons have turned it into. It’s a narrative that doesn’t make sense, but just the imagery of a treasure seeker going into the religion business looks bad enough to make up many people’s minds about Joseph Smith. It cheapens the miracle that is the Book of Mormon.

    Finally, the spiritual stone is an important symbolism we see in scripture and this narrative confuses that symbolism. The Book of Revelation and D&C 130 talk about a “white stone” that “will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual” in order to gain great knowledge in the celestial kingdom. Doesn’t it sound like the spiritual stone is the Urim and Thumim? It does to me. It confuses our understanding of how to gain Celestial knowledge if we think the Urim and Thumim is different from spiritual stones, and spiritual stones just light up with a magic answer to whatever we want to know. Mormon apologists contort scriptures like these to justify the seer stone narrative, and what ends up happening is we get a totally false impression of how to gain spiritual knowledge, like it is some kind of parlor trick, and that is an enormous problem.

    I have seen some Antimormons complain that the Brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon got an easy answer when God touched the stones for his journey to the promised land to give him light in the barges. Well, we all know from Sunday School that the Brother of Jared had to try every possible solution and then come to God asking for intervention. We also know these illuminated stones referenced back to the stone Noah used in the ark, and the ark was a symbol for the temple. So it is consistent imagery of God’s lasting presence in our refuge in the midst of the deluge on our journey to the new world. So symbolically, it was about God stepping in after all we can do, and God’s comforting presence, promise, and guidance through the storm.

    I think scholarship in the church can rethink how they approach this issue. Why do apologists accept the narrative of Antimormons and apostates? There’s a reason why Matt Stone and Trey Parker focused primarily on the seer stone in their bigoted ridicule of the church on Viacom’s cable TV channel. They see it as a weak spot, and it becomes a lot weaker when church historians and apologists give ground like this. Fortunately, things might change. The church is taking a closer look at history. At this time when the church is putting a lot more emphasis on church history through publications like “Saints,” I hope historians will seriously look into these quotes that we see always getting thrown around, and really get to the bottom of the issue. We need a much more thorough investigation, and we must stop allowing Antimormons to drive the narrative.

    Is Bearing Testimony Memetic Imitation Or Individual Inspiration?


    “Kids who bear ‘testimony’ are just repeating words from their parents!”

    Ever hear a skeptic say this? This narrative against faith follows a theory that leading atheists recently came up with called Memetic Theory (or if, like Wikipedia, you don’t want to admit your theories are only theories, you just call it Memetics). Wikipedia defines Memetics as “an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer.” The basic idea is that a web of myths gets passed down from generation to generation to keep social structures intact. By treating our gospel teachings as “memes” rather than “archetypes”–which is how sociologists have always treated them until now–atheist activists more successfully twist it into a social justice crusade, as if social class equality can be achieved by disrupting these myth transfers. But the deeper we look into Memetic Theory, the less it resembles a testimony of Jesus Christ and actually resembles the teachings of these same atheists and social justice proponents.

    Memetic Theory

    Radical atheist Richard Dawkins first used the term “meme” in 1976 to describe religious beliefs. Meme comes from the Greek word mimētḗs which Wikipedia incorrectly translates to mean “pretender.” No, it doesn’t mean “pretender.” It means “imitator” or “follower,” and it is actually used in the New Testament seven times to refer to followers of Jesus Christ. So it’s not a bad word to use. The problem is that Richard Dawkins compared religious belief to evolutionary genetics.
     
     

    “Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation… When you plant a fertile meme in my mind you literally parasitize my brain, turning it into a vehicle for the meme’s propagation in just the way that a virus may parasitize the genetic mechanism of a host cell. And this isn’t just a way of talking — the meme for, say, ‘belief in life after death’ is actually realized physically, millions of times over, as a structure in the nervous systems of individual men the world over.’…

    I conjecture that co-adapted meme-complexes evolve in the same kind of way as co-adapted gene-complexes. Selection favours memes that exploit their cultural environment to their own advantage. This cultural environment consists of other memes which are also being selected. The meme pool therefore comes to have the attributes of an evolutionarily stable set, which new memes find it hard to invade…. When we die there are two things we can leave behind us: genes and memes.”

    You stray to dangerous territory if you use this theory to equate religion with genetics–which is how Hitler talked about Jews. But history aside, this can be used to justify intolerance for other people’s beliefs. It is easy to dismiss ideas if you think they are something people inherited without choosing to believe it. It’s a cop out. It also sounds self-defeating, as I could argue that Richard Dawkins simply inherited his atheist beliefs as well. I see some atheists latch onto this notion of memetics and become fearful that religious ideas will invade their brains like a parasite and they will lose control of their mind. They equate it with brainwashing. This is why they talk about children repeating what they have been told by their parents and convincing themselves that they know it. Radical atheists think we are brainwashed, but this is only because they are too fearful to actually allow the gospel ideas to enter their brain for consideration, and they for some reason think memetics doesn’t apply to their atheist beliefs. Apparently, their ideas aren’t parasites, just ours.

    The clever thing about Memetic Theory is that it is very close to what faith actually is. Joseph Smith described in Lectures on Faith a very similar process for how faith propagates.

    “Adam thus being made acquainted with God, communicated the knowledge which he had unto his posterity; and it was through this means that the thought was first suggested to their minds that there was a God. Which laid the foundation for the exercise of their faith, through which they could obtain a knowledge of his character and also of his glory…

    From this we can see that the whole human family, in the early age of their existence, in all their different branches, had this knowledge disseminated among them; so that the existence of God became an object of faith, in the early age of the world. And the evidences which these men had of the existence of a God, was the testimony of their fathers in the first instance…. this class may see by what means it was that God became an object of faith among men after the fall; and what it was that stirred up the faith of multitudes to feel after him; to search after a knowledge of his character, perfections and attributes, until they became extensively acquainted with him; and not only commune with him, and behold his glory, but be partakers of his power, and stand in his presence… the whole faith of the world, from that time down to the present, is in a certain degree, dependent on the knowledge first communicated to them by their common progenitor; and it has been handed down to the day and generation in which we live, as we shall show from the face of the sacred records.”

    Testimony of God propagates through vocal testimony and written scripture all the way from Adam who walked with God. We also have prophets who restore face-to-face knowledge of God in periodic dispensations after periods of apostasy. But the big difference between actual faith and Memetic Theory is that the propagated testimony stirs faith in multitudes to search after knowledge of God on their own. It is not some embedded gene that replicates an exact copy, but a starting point that motivates a person to develop an individually tailored testimony for themselves.

    Eternal Doctrine Vs. Temporary Policy – Dawkins says, “There is no need to think about design or purpose.” No need to think about purpose?? Isn’t that just a circular argument for evolution–that in order to see how belief is a product of evolution we need to omit all consideration of intelligent design? In order to correctly define faith, I think there absolutely is need for purpose, because Joseph Smith’s model of faith allows for much more adaptivity if testimony is propagated with purpose. Purpose means it isn’t mindlessly propagated. A person who hears their parents’ testimony is not forced to propagate an exact copy, but is free to explore different avenues and follow different commandments. This is where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints differs from mainstream Christianity. Modern prophets receive inspiration for different commandments and policies to suit modern circumstances. The question of what is eternal unchanging doctrine and what is temporary policy is something that very frequently confuses skeptics and Antimormons. Radical atheists often complain about commandments in the bible to stone witches and sacrifice animals. But Joseph Smith’s model of faith allows for adaptivity so that we retain the same eternal truths that Adam believed but practice an orthopraxy that is suited to modern times.

    Rhetorical Evidence – Evolution is based on physical science, but Memetic Theory moves to rhetorical and immaterial evidence, and thus is on very shaky ground as science. How could Richard Dawkins possibly know how people 10,000 years ago passed down beliefs? There is no way to produce physical evidence. Ironically, we see this same argument I’m making here being used against religion by skeptics. How could we possibly know that the scriptures are really ancient records and that Noah really built an ark? These are things that are based on rhetorical evidence, and it is ironic that atheists end up relying on rhetorical evidence as well to attack religion.

    If it turns out Nephi exaggerated some parts of his story, does that make the entire Book of Mormon false? This is a difficult question for both Mormons and Antimormons. I don’t think strict historical accuracy is the point of scripture. Do some details affect my ability to repent, receive authoritative saving ordinances, or have faith in God? There certainly are details in scripture that are important as historical events because these events involve gospel spiritual truth, such as Jesus dying on the cross and Joseph Smith restoring the church. The church can’t be true unless Jesus died on the cross and Joseph Smith restored the church. But other small details? Thus, scripture acts as a catalyst for discovering truth. It is not an embedded vehicle for delivering everything in a perfect end-all package, as some mainstream Christians unfortunately treat it, but the seed that leads to inspiration.

    Are there embedded beliefs that we in the church propagate without really investigating or verifying it? Absolutely, I think this is impossible to completely avoid. But not when it comes to scripture. Scripture is heavily investigated. I don’t think anything has been examined and evaluated as much as scripture. But there are certainly other aspects that I feel we pass down that we should inspect closer, such as the seer stone narrative and the claim Oliver Cowdery used a divining rod. There are cultural beliefs that could use investigation and refinement. But there are also unchanging truths that go all the way back to Adam which are contained in the holy scriptures.

    Archetypes of Collective Unconscious

    Carl Jung developed the idea of collective human archetypes in 1916, which is a much better explanation for patterns of conception that get passed down from generation to generation. Underlying evolutionary structures produce the basis for popular belief which means those beliefs are the best for reproducing the species. Carl Jung said, “Thoughts are natural events that you do not possess, and whose meaning you only imperfectly recognize.” Religious belief has produced a society that is most suitable for individual and collective growth. That’s why it continues to get passed down.

    This sounds much better than memes. Jordan Peterson said, “the meme is a trivial concept compared to the archetype.” How is archetype different than a meme? The evolutionary archetype goes back to primitive humans who learned to share food because they discovered this would lead to food being shared to them. Much like Greek philosophers who said man’s capacity for socializing began when they stood on two feet and looked at the stars instead of the ground, evolutionary archetype claims social standards were born at the same times as religious faith. Humans discovered sacrifice as a means to achieve a greater long-term goal, and the ultimate cosmic sacrifice of God on behalf of the universe became a belief to enable us to achieve the greatest long-term goals imaginable.

    Again, we can see similar devices in the Mormon faith. We make a much bigger deal of Adam’s sacrifices to God on the altar, something we treat as a significant advancement while mainstream Christianity doesn’t have much to say about sacrifice until Noah stepped out of the ark. But the problem with Jordan Peterson’s and Carl Jung’s treatment of spiritual development is that it leads to the social contract and goes no further. If the gospel is just rhetoric and mythological stories that got invented somewhere along the line, the social contract is the furthest it can go, because then there isn’t really a supreme Creator who died on the cross to atone for sins. Divine justice must melt away to social justice, and that is a real problem, because social justice as it is made manifest time and time again is the plan of Satan, not the plan of God. So even if social justice were a productive structure–which it isn’t–it completely contradicts the archetypes from which it is born. We must fall back on mindlessly propagated memes that are carbon copied and we lose all individual freedom of belief. I respect Jordan Peterson’s investigation and he does a great job debunking Richard Dawkins, but he doesn’t quite reach the important final step which is godly justice.

    If meme is a trivial derivative of archetype, archetype is a trivial derivative of natural law. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch, God tells Enoch all creation obeys God’s word and our obedience to God is simply a matter of doing likewise. The spiritual structures that span continents and time are largely natural ideas that we ought to figure out on our own, like cooking food or bathing in water. They are just common sense. But archetypes show incredible detail don’t they? The Mayan pyramids that so closely resemble the pyramids in Egypt are often passed off as a result of archetype. Humans are naturally inclined to build pyramids, I guess. Well, we members of the church have a sensible explanation for that. Our scripture tells us of a migration from the Middle East to Central America. We know of a direct connection due to divine intervention. Divine intervention is the natural occurrence that allows for such detail. Periods of apostasy are interrupted by periods of restoration, and this occurs on an individual level as well as globally. Individually, there is a cycle of apostasy and repentance, where truth that was lost is restored from an external spiritual source. The external source–the Holy Ghost (and also evil spiritual influences)–accounts for the remarkable detail of archetype transfer, and for the purpose or design behind it all.

    Rather than some unseen biological device, maybe there is an unseen spiritual connection that provides this spiritual information. Maybe there is a Holy Ghost that puts thoughts and feelings into our head that are not the result of millions of years of evolution. This can produce stunningly similar details to other continents and time, such as temple ordinances that are similar to Freemason ceremonies. Or Gadianton’s evil secret combinations that were stunningly similar to the conspiracy groups in Ether’s time, though Gadianton had no access to their writings. Are these things coincidences? Couldn’t be. Are they the product of some embedded idea in our biology? Or are they the product of inspiration from spiritual beings? Science can’t tell us either way.

    Levels Of Knowledge

    So, the child who gets up in Sacrament Meeting and tells everybody he knows the church is true. Is this a true testimony? Or is he just repeating what he’s heard until he believes it? Greek philosopher Plato said there are four degrees of knowledge, which he explained in a parable:

    In his parable, Plato said knowledge starts with mere allusion to truth like a puppet show casting shadows upon a cave wall. This is the “hope” Alma speaks of. This is the child saying he knows it is true because he hopes it is true, and it is valid as knowledge. It is the first step of knowledge. So when a young child gets up in Sacrament meeting and says they “know the church is true,” this is not a false statement. Alma even says there are cases where “little children do have words given unto them” that can direct people to “the first place” of gaining knowledge or the first stage of hope.

    Then, a person turns around and sees the fire projecting the shadows. This is when a person gains a rhetorical belief or conviction of the source behind allusions. Next, they walk out the door of the cave they are in and see how the same principle of light and shadow operates all around us. Plato calls this a “mathematical” understanding, which basically means the person gains an understanding the nature of operation. As Joseph Smith put it, this is understanding the character of God and a knowledge that your own character is in alignment with it. Finally, a person fully understands that the sun is the source of all visible objects. This is the use of reason with which we approach divinity. This is the source of truth which we can use to design our own creation.

    An important difference between Mormonism and Platonicism is that the visible realm overlaps the invisible realm. The allusionary puppets that we started out with are not tossed aside as we exit the cave, but kept as the seeds of knowledge. God is not a myth that we forget about once we discover repentance. But the memetic seed that led us to search for knowledge is passed along–not as a carbon copy but in our own words and understanding.

    Alma says enlightened understanding and expanded intellect are the final degrees of knowledge. Like Plato, he says this gives us the power of discerning things and we see light for what it is. When it comes to right and wrong, or moral truth, Mormons look for a spiritual source with which to discern. We understand the principles behind spiritual cause and effect until we are able to frequently exercise them, and we use the spiritual source like a flashlight.

    Nobody Is Given Lines – The LDS church does not feed people what to say. The LDS church does not tell people to repeat things over and over. We do not have prayer books or memorized scripts. People “bear testimonies” by talking frankly about personal thoughts and feelings however they wish. Certainly, nobody is told to say anything they think is untrue. People who bear testimony go up to the podium and simply talk about their thoughts in order to get them to think about it more and develop their ideas. The point of bearing a testimony is to help the process of developing knowledge along.

     

    Aren’t testimonies kind of like what you do in school? You present subjects to the class in order to gain a better understanding of it yourself. When the teacher asks you to solve a math problem on the board, do you tell her, “But I can’t because I don’t know that this math principle is true”? That is the whole point of solving it on the board! We publicly bear our testimonies in order to better understand our testimonies. We don’t just believe something we hear in class, whether at school or church. We think about it.

    Scientists gain a better understanding of their science by “bearing testimony” of their hypotheses in research papers and review journals, even though they don’t start off “knowing” it without a shadow of a doubt. Journals and studies help them develop their ideas, because public presentations help us focus and frame the issue in a logical, clear way, and allows us to receive public feedback. Like anything, it is hard to truly understand the gospel until you can explain it to someone else. We do not make vain repetitions. We boldly declare what we know is right.

    Memeticism In The World

    I find it interesting that the same skeptics who children are too young to bear testimony also say children are old enough to change gender. The same skeptics that say children are too young to decide about getting baptized say the church is terrible if we don’t baptize children of gay couples. They claim our beliefs are just carbon copies mindlessly passed down, yet they propagate their ideology with the least amount of critical thought. Their narrative shifts all over the place, like a strand of DNA that gets passed on for only however long it is useful, and then a different strand gets created and passed around.

    Just look at journalism; 99% of it is just repetition of a narrative somebody else already wrote up. Most news sites and blogs are like weeds passing along seeds of the narrative that got passed along to them. They are not archetypical, but purely memetic devices that mindlessly repeat. Look at a Facebook feed. Look at school classroom assignments. Look at Antimormon websites. It’s the same old tired arguments that have been repeated for hundreds of years. I have noticed lots of people on the internet repeating lines out of Antimormon writings instead of thinking for themselves, and I have noticed today’s Antimormon rhetoric is basically the same as Antimormons who have come before. In the history of the world, has an apostate or skeptic ever come up with and developed his “faith crisis” entirely on his own? Has an apostate ever split from the church without someone inserting a parasitical doubt into his brain? From what I’ve seen, people typically read something on the internet or hear something from a friend and it sparks a bunch of other concerns. So why are we Mormons being attacked for starting our process of knowledge with a seed of hope when that is similar to how Ex-Mormons lose their faith?

    When have you ever seen a church member read a script while bearing testimony in church? When has a leader ever told someone to testify of a specific thing that the person didn’t really know to be true? The only time I ever saw this happen was when an Antimormon child read a script for their “testimony” attacking the church. The Socialists who use Memetic Theory to bash Christianity also use it to propagate their socialist ideology. They think if they can reduce natural law to immaterial memetic ideas they can easily tweak morality to bring class consciousness and pure equality. Everything can be equal if they just unlock those inner biological vehicles and change them to their liking. Thus, propaganda becomes a replacement for spiritual inspiration.

    What Meme Has Become – I think the greatest proof of how wrong Richard Dawkin’s theory of evolutionary memetics is lies in how the “meme” has evolved into what it is today. The “meme” today has become a small image or video clip that tells a quick message and gets passed around to lots of people on the internet. Isn’t that what a meme is? People take a funny image and attach some kind of ironic or profound message, but there are all kinds of different messages that get attached to the same image. That’s what makes it a meme. You might see a conservative and liberal attach opposing messages to the same meme image. So it turns out, a meme isn’t the moral message or spiritual imperative that gets naturally passed from human to human, it is the aesthetic frame that contains the message. Time has proven Dawkin wrong. It is the frame that naturally stays the same. A true “meme” would be the church steeple that is used by many different churches who all believe different things. The black suit and tie. The church organ. Within the church, we have our own sort of recognizable memes, such as the cheap grass siding on our church hallways, CTR rings, and missionary tags. These facilitate whatever particular message we individually wish to attach to them. A CTR ring doesn’t tell us what right is, just that we should choose it. A missionary tag doesn’t give only one name, it only says we should represent Jesus Christ.

    So mimeticism does not explain why people inherently know certain things are right and wrong. It doesn’t explain why belief systems get passed down. Archetype comes closer but still falls short because it doesn’t explain divine justice. The truth is spiritual testimony is a fire on a cave wall that inspires us to seek out for ourselves knowledge of the fire’s source, knowledge of all light, and knowledge of how to create light for ourselves. It is a process of discovery that sparks future processes of discovery.

    In conclusion:

    Developing Confidence For Dating In The Single’s Ward


    Where do we learn how to date? There’s no guidebook and no Sunday School lesson. Typically, the advice we get is to live a chaste life and quickly find a good husband or wife. That is important advice, but it seems like getting married is becoming harder to do. We need a basic understanding of what the opposite sex wants, and how to improve our behavior to fulfill those needs and let them fulfill us. How can we train our basic social behavior?

    Importance Of Dating As Young Adult

     
    The transition from family ward to single’s ward is very abrupt. One day you are sitting with your family in church, and the next you sit on the pew alone. One day you walk through a scripted itinerary of school classes, and the next your schedule is up to you to figure out. One day you are exhorted to bridle your passions and the next you are supposed to get married. Most people figure out their daily routine and long-term goals before they try to tackle the issue of marriage. They don’t even try to date until they can make some kind of sense of college, church, and adult life. I think this contributes to a cold, silent single’s ward where everyone stays isolated or in tiny cliques. The suppression of romantic interests becomes literal self-torture, and the integration of romance into life goals later down the road becomes even harder. It is better to fit romance into its rightful place immediately upon entering adult life.

    Of course, this is the harder road to take. Dating is hard. The popular thing to do in our culture is to go on a mission, then go to college, start a career, and then start to think about family–one thing at a time. But maybe we think we are just not good enough to date. We don’t think we have the discipline, the skill, or the traits that a suitable mate desires. It’s too much work and we are stressed with schoolwork as it is. But what ends up happening is you finish school and then you have to integrate a career, and then you have a career and you have to integrate a family. It’s much easier if you start with a plan that has everything integrated before you even depart on your mission and tweak it as time goes on. In the 1950’s, people could graduate, get a good job, and find a husband or wife and have kids by the time they turned 22 years old. Today, these things do not easily fall into place. Each part requires more demands and the timetable gets stretched out. We can’t afford to not take dating seriously from the start.

    People certainly rush things as well. I’ve known friends who married young and then realized they hadn’t actually thought things through, or they weren’t financially stable enough, or decided they actually wanted to have a few years of singlehood like their friends before they settled down. It is tough to know what kind of person we will be in ten years because what we want is always changing. It’s safer to wait. But we don’t need to complete school and start long-term paths before we figure this out. We can take control of our identity by investigating emotional resources, our environment, and our relationships that lead to our vision. It is smart to be safe and try not to rush things. Take the time you need to figure your plan out, definitely. But the important thing is to not let your motivation be materialism. American culture is saturated with material values where money, status, and comfort are more important than anything else, and these material values saturate church culture as well. The mistake is thinking we can’t fulfill our relationships until we have first fulfilled material goals. Stop relying on materialism. We can at any time take stock of everything we need for our long-term plans and develop our strategy. I recommend young single adults in the church start dating now to take control of this important part of your life and envision yourself as a happily married person.

    Importance Of Dating As Older Adult

    I like the bible story of Jacob who worked 14 years to gain the right to marry Rachel. The scriptures tell us it felt like 14 days to him because of his love for Rachel. I apply this story to mean we should jump into the effort to create a relationship no matter how long it takes or where we are at. It becomes much easier if you actually enjoy the pursuit… so enjoy the pursuit. In cases of singles who never found the right one or were widowed or divorced, this could become difficult because the chances of success appear tiny and past experience drags us down. Maybe we had the plan worked out but everything fell to pieces and we don’t know why. Perhaps Jacob felt this way when he worked hard 7 years and then married a different woman. Was that fair to him? So what did he do? He reevaluated and made a new plan where he worked another 7 years. We have to accept what our resources and circumstances are and plan accordingly. There is always a way.

    Forget About Contradictions – For older adults, it can be harder to adopt the required mindset to be successful because our circumstances appear to contradict what we need to succeed. But so what? Why consider contradictions at all? Popular culture has trained us to plan this way. But this is a strategy that was invented by Marxists. Why would you follow a strategy for dating that was invented by Karl Marx? Stop thinking about contradictions. They don’t matter. A gospel-centered strategy instead considers inner Christlike virtues that lead us on a straight and narrow path to eternal life. This is as true for dating as it is for anything else. The important thing is to walk on the right path.

    Resources can be very difficult to see because of popular misconceptions. We paint ourselves into corners where we can’t see the multitude of prospects available to us or a false abundance makes it so we can’t settle on one good choice. Maybe being realistic isn’t so bad. Maybe the answer would involve a drastic life change like moving to a new country and we aren’t willing to do that. We’ve simply got to decide that this is something very important to us and we are going to do whatever it takes to facilitate it happening. That is virtue. Instead of considering dismal chances, poor circumstances, or any other ‘contradiction’, and instead of trying to remove roadblocks, we should instead facilitate a strategy to make it happen, with an eye of faith that is confident it will happen. You can adopt that mindset and see the value in yourself because the value is there. It can happen.

    Confidence In Your Vision

    For both men and women, it is essential to figure this life plan out (while leaving the plan open for reevaluation) because that gives us confidence which makes us attractive. Confidence in one’s life pursuit makes one attractive. Well, it just makes sense to date someone who has their vision figured out, doesn’t it? You don’t want to come home one day and find a note on the counter saying your husband or wife decided to move to Las Vegas. You want to dedicate yourself to someone who is confident in their decisions. But confidence is also worn on the face. The head is held higher and the voice is firmer. Confidence is the number one thing for dating. It’s all about confidence, and you can’t really fake it. You have to be confident that you have the resources you need, that you have your environment figured out, and that you have healthy relationships.

    We all beat ourselves up over lack of virtue and lack of relationships, but that is a large part of the point of dating: to develop those things. It’s really a positive feedback loop where the more you date the more virtue and healthy relationships you develop, so you just need to start on the right path. You need to take that great leap into the unknown to pursue your life-long ambitions–real actions that turn your plan into reality. This means eagerly dating lots of people as you are figuring it all out.

    Confidence informs all behavior with dating and courtship. What does real confidence look like? A successful man who girls want to date bursts into the room, shaking hands and greeting warmly everyone he passes, complimenting people and making their day brighter, and then sitting at the front with his arms stretched on either side, head high. He doesn’t slink into the back corner silently and count the minutes until he can go home. A smart man understands that an important part of his life goal is finding a wife, so he scopes the room and schemes about how to meet girls. That’s what a smart man does, but a confident man sits at the front where the girls can study him and scheme about how to meet him. It is a matter of faith in yourself. The confident man has found his ship and made himself captain, sailing into the exciting blue. Again, it is important that this not just be in your head, but proven through real tangible actions that are more significant than signing up for some dating site or uploading some nice pictures to Facebook. And it is alright if you are only at the point where you are preparing the ship and it hasn’t actually set sail yet. It is a matter of life vision. And of course, don’t set sail on your own thinking you don’t need that person with you.

     
    This is a lot to ask for. Most sit alone and wonder where could they meet the opposite sex? Internet dating sites are fruitless. Members in single’s wards stick to their cliques. People walking down the street are glued to their phones. How could we be confident in our relationships if there are no relationships? The answer is to take a first step, the smallest step. Look for any kind of resource you can and figure out how to make it lead to a next step in your plan. There are lots of people all around. There must be a way to meet them. It reminds me of the first time on my mission I stood on a street corner and wondered how I could approach complete strangers in a strange country in a language I didn’t know and talk to them about their personal beliefs. It seemed like there was no way, and with each rejection I lost motivation. But I found that through persistent study, creative strategy, and an eye single to faith I could make it happen. And I soon enjoyed it. Dating likewise can be enjoyable even if it involves lots of rejection, and each date can be great even if they don’t lead to something long-term. Each step leads to a another step that builds your confidence.

    Evidence Suggests Racist Elder Mark E. Petersen Quote Is Fake

    “If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get a celestial resurrection. He will get a place in the celestial glory.”

    • Antimormon Source – Where did this quote come from? Wikipedia refers to a photocopied pamphlet on archive.org as the source of this quote. I don’t find any mention of who created this pamphlet, why they created it, where it came from, how they acquired it, or anything else. There is a listing in the University of Utah special collections of a photocopy (perhaps what was scanned to archive.org), but there is no information on when the library acquired it, whom they acquired it from, why they don’t have an original source, etc. We are just supposed to believe a photocopy of something?
       
      The earliest record I found of this pamphlet’s existence is a 1963 Library of Congress listing by Modern Microfilm Co. which was the name of Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Antimormon organization. How about that! So was the original source for this quote an Antimormon? Published years after the address allegedly occurred? The inventory of international library listings attributes the University of Utah copy–and a bunch of other copies at other universities–to Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s 1963 publication, so it appears so.
    • Huge Font Size – The pamphlet appears to be typewritten on 28cm sheets of paper (standard 8.5×11”). The first line all the way across the top of the first page is: “The discussion on civil rights, especially over”. This text fits on a standard-size page at 22 point font size with standard margins, which is almost double the standard 12 font size for typewriters. Or maybe they just had enormous margins? The problem with that is on page 2 we see the staple binding almost at the edge of the text, indicating the margins are very narrow. This means either the font size is larger than 22 point, or the scan is zoomed in. The listed page size can’t be incorrect, as it is consistently listed as 22cm on each library listing. I don’t think this was typed using a typewriter with enormous letters. I think the photocopy zoomed in on half-size typewritten pages. Why was it typed onto half-size paper?
    • Typewritten – Why was this book typewritten at all? Aren’t books typically printed? Well, maybe somebody was transcribing as Mark E. Peterson was speaking this address. Okay, but this can’t be, because paragraphs are all neatly indented and page numbers evenly spaced in the same top corner location. That takes too much time to format on a typewriter. Also, while there are lots of spelling mistakes, there aren’t as many mistakes as we would expect from somebody trying to transcribe someone speaking. Conversely, if this were typed out based on some handwritten notes, we would expect few or zero spelling mistakes, while this pamphlet has many spelling mistakes–and we would expect a professional printing, especially from a university organization. Just a year prior to this alleged pamphlet, Mark Peterson published a pamphlet with professional printing and an illustrated cover. He published lots of pamphlets professionally. Why did all of his other works get professionally printed but this one was messily typed? Not only is it full of spelling mistakes, it used double-spacing after periods, which would have been unusual for a mass produced work: “Around the 1950s, single sentence spacing became the standard commercial practice in mass-print-runs in the United States.” So if this wasn’t a work for publication, why was it type-written at all and why was it published by Antimormons rather than a church source?
    • Unidentifiable Text Bleeds Onto Cover Page – We can see text bleed through the paper, which we would expect with semi-transparent pages. Page 1 and page 2 bleed through to each other, indicating they are the same paper. The problem is the cover page also shows text bleeding through the page. If page 1 starts on the next piece of paper, what text is on the other side of the title page paper that we see bleeding through? Why wasn’t that included in the scan?

    • Convention Listed On Wrong Day – This pamphlet claims to be an “address” given at “the convention of teachers of religion on the college level” at “Provo, Utah” on “August 27, 1954.” I can find zero references anywhere that mention a “convention of teachers of religion on the college level” ever existing on this date. I find a church history reference to a “convention of L.D.S. teachers of religion on the college level” but that is a different name, it dates to 1938, and it isn’t photocopied. Different convention. Shouldn’t there be at least some other address given at this convention or a passing reference to this convention somewhere in BYU’s archives–or somewhere on the internet at all? I do find a second church historical record for the “Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level”, so maybe it did exist, but this other record lists the event as happening several days earlier, and this time the Department of Seminaries is the publisher. Why is the publisher different? Why is there zero mention of this convention other than Mark Petersen? If the date is different because the convention lasted for an entire week, why is there no mention of anyone else speaking at this convention? Was Mark E. Petersen the only speaker for a week-long convention? Come on. A full collection of Mark E. Petersen’s 1954 addresses includes this second historical record, but not the Race Problems address that supposedly happened days earlier. My guess is the convention lasted one day and this pamphlet got the date wrong.
       
      Church historical records list a copy of the Race Problems pamphlet with BYU as the publisher. Does this mean BYU published the pamphlet separately from the Modern Microfilm Co. copy we see on the Worldcat inventory listing for BYU? Well, why would they do that? Why publish it separately, and why doesn’t Worldcat inventory show this BYU-published copy? Why do both copies just happen to be photocopies, zoomed in to the same 22cm dimension? The most logical guess I can think of is that Modern Microfilm Co. copy is BYU’s only copy and the church record listed it as BYU because that is where the church got it from, and that it isn’t in BYU’s archives today because it was moved from there to the church records. It would be quite strange for BYU to publish a separate copy and for it to be photocopied like the Modern Microfilm Co. copy and zoomed into the same exact size as the Modern Microfilm Co. copy.
    • Joseph Fielding Smith Allegedly Attended This Nonexistent Event – In the address, Mark Petersen addresses President Joseph Fielding Smith as if he was present at the conference: “We do have a few suggestions from the early brethren as to their own views, but I assume that these are their own private ideas–I don’t know whether I am wrong in that, President Smith, but that has always been my assumption…” Joseph Fielding Smith would have been the president of the quorum of the twelve apostles at this time, so it makes sense why apostle Mark E. Petersen would ask him for clarification on matters of doctrine. But if Joseph Fielding Smith, who later became president of the church, attended and spoke at this convention along with other apostles, don’t you think there would be some mention of it somewhere? The church and members of the church have always been careful to document and quickly publish everything top church leadership does.
    • Lengthy Quotes From Unverified News Articles – Near the beginning of the pamphlet, we see five pages of content “from an interview conducted by the United States News with Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.” It’s weird to me that someone speaking an address verbally would read verbatim from a lengthy question and answer session that goes on for five pages. This content is easier to read on paper but sounds weird when spoken out-loud. For example:
      “Q: ‘How far away would you say that is?’

      A: ‘Well, that is hard to say. I never thought India would be free in my lifetime, but today India is free. I didn’t think that Africa would have a black Prime Minister, but they do today in the Gold Coast.”….

      Can you imagine someone verbally reading something like this for 10-20 minutes? Sorry, nobody was this boring, even in 1954.

    • Contradicts Contemporary Teachings On Race – It has never been a teaching of the church that Blacks would enter heaven as a servant. What Mark Petersen allegedly said contradicts everything that had ever been taught (including by Joseph Fielding Smith who was supposedly present):
      “Every soul coming into this world came here with the promise that through obedience he would receive the blessings of salvation. No person was foreordained or appointed to sin or to perform a mission of evil. No person is ever predestined to salvation or damnation. Every person has free agency.” – Joseph Fielding Smithv
      “when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the Priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we are now entitled to.” -Brigham Young

      “The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have” -Wilford Woodruff

      “Sometime in God’s eternal plan, the Negro will be given the right to hold the Priesthood. In the meantime, those of that race who receive the testimony of the Restored Gospel may have their family ties protected and other blessings made secure, for in the justice of the Lord they will possess all the blessings to which they are entitled in the eternal plan of Salvation and Exaltation.” -David McKay

      “It’s only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we’re just waiting for that time.” -Harold B. Lee

    • Most Of The Pamphlet Is Correct – The pamphlet is written in a way that would easily trick an apologist into defending it, because most of what it says is correct. It points out: “We shall be punished for our sins and not for Adam’s transgression, nor for anybody else’s transgression.” That’s true. It says: “we reap what we sow” regardless of the circumstances in which we are born. Yes. But then it cites “large number of illegitimate children have been born to Chinese girls, fathered by men of other races” after World War Two–which is actually an anachronism which anyone who lived during World War 2 wouldn’t have made. But there is so much positive rhetoric here that begs to be defended. An apologist could easily make the case that the incorrect bit about going to the Celestial kingdom as a servant was taken out of context or that he meant something else, considering much of the pamphlet is pro-equality and pro-civil rights. It’s like Mark E. Petersen was promoting civil rights and suddenly switched gears and became racist, it’s weird. It reads like the forger of this pamphlet didn’t want to go overboard with the racism and wanted to make sure that apologists could feel like it was defendable. What it ends up being is totally contradictory.
       
      But there are also small details in the pamphlet that definitely are over the top racism. As one of the “great evidences of the mercy of God” toward Blacks, it cites a meeting he supposedly had with a Black family in Cincinnati, Ohio that was banned from attending church because they were Black. That’s supposed to be evidence of mercy? It goes on to say they “picked berries and sold them on the streets of Cincinnati to get enough money to pay” their tithing, even though he was also working a full time job. Again, how is being forced to pick berries along with a full-time job evidence of mercy? That sounds suspiciously similar to the phony popular Antimormon narrative that poor people go starving in order to pay tithing. It is a phony narrative that I have never ever heard of happening. It doesn’t happen. Firstly, church welfare services were established in 1936 and the church provided resources for people who couldn’t afford food. It would have been silly for a church leader to talk about someone being unable to pay for food because of their tithing. That person could have simply used the church welfare services. Secondly, it doesn’t make mathematical sense. If someone’s 10% tithing is large enough to pay for groceries, how is the 90% that is left over too tight to leave them starving? I have never, besides this phony pamphlet, heard of such a thing happening.

      There are several other parts that sound weird and I find it hard to imagine an apostle saying. For example, it says “we should not speculate too much” about “what the ultimate end of the Negro is going to be.” Not only is this contradictory because it just said they could go to the Celestial kingdom as servants, but it also contradicts the very sermon by Brigham Young that it had just quoted, in which Brigham Young declares that the time would soon come when the curse would be lifted and they would enjoy equal rights. The pamphlet contradicts normal, accepted church teachings of the time, and it is very strange that two top apostles would be standing there teaching these contradictions–in a convention that nobody has ever heard of.

      I can’t go back in time and know for sure if this address is a forgery or not, but evidence suggests it is yet another fake quote in a long list of Antimormon fake quotes.

    Is The ‘Keystone’ Really The Most Important Part Of An Arch?


    We say the Book of Mormon is a keystone because it is the “most important” part of our religion. But I often wondered about this. How is the keystone the most important stone in an arch? Isn’t each stone equally important? I guess it is a matter of what you consider “important.” As far is holding up weight, the keystone is the least important part of an arch. It actually does the least amount of work. What makes it important is that it is the final piece that gets installed in the construction process and it unifies both sides. I believe there is rich symbolism in the “keystone” comparison if we consider what makes it “important.”

    A Miracle Of Engineering

    Joseph Smith said “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.” Unfortunately, he did not explain more about what he meant by this. How is it most “correct?” Church leaders tell us:

    “The Book of Mormon represents the gospel teachings in the most correct form available to man. Furthermore, the book acts as a catalyst in obtaining even greater understanding of the gospel.”

    We can see this is many classic arches. The keystone is most prominent, most instructive to a person walking underneath of how the arch is holding itself together. If you are worried about an arch collapsing as you walk under it, it doesn’t make sense to start inspect around the sides, does it? You start inspecting the top, the part that appears to be hovering in mid-air above your head. You try to figure out what keeps this hovering part from falling. Masons try to make it the best aesthetically fashioned stone of them all, to show us how the load is being distributed to the ground, and to let everyone know that the arch has full integrity and will not collapse. If we start by studying this part, we can move on to other parts of the structure and gain an easier understanding of how those parts help hold everything up.

    So, in terms of instructiveness, the Book of Mormon absolutely is the most important part of the arch. The Book of Mormon stands as a feat of wonder. It stands hovering in mid-air, a miracle that defies the laws of our understanding. How did a teenage boy produce this magnificent book of scripture, and how does it continue to stand as an inspiring and enlightening source of wisdom? Antimormons are always trying to poke holes in it, telling us Joseph Smith took content from other books, telling us it contradicts the bible, etc. But their narratives all fall apart. Try as they might, they can’t give a true halfway-reasonable explanation other than that it was divinely inspired.

    As the finest fashioned stone in place and the most miraculous, the Book of Mormon immediately grabs people’s attention. If they start by studying this part of our religion, it becomes incredibly easier to understand the rest of it. If people study eternal marriage or baptism for the dead without a proper understanding of the Book of Mormon, they are unlikely to get a real grasp of the intellectual idea, nor are they likely to gain a spiritual testimony of it. They might. I’ve seen it happen. But it becomes a harder process.

    Final Piece Of The Gospel

    President Ezra Taft Benson explained, “A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.” This is the part I didn’t understand. Isn’t this true of all the stones in an arch? Wouldn’t it collapse if you removed any of the stones? If you consider elements of the gospel, the entire church is likely to fall apart if you remove any of them. Priesthood? The early Christian church collapsed largely because church leadership got killed off. Humility? Take a look at how apostasy took over in 4 Nephi. Each element serves a vital function.

    But President Benson said its significance is that it is the “central stone.” When building an arch, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. You get to the top, and you place the final central stone at the very top, and then–only then–can the arch stand on its own. This is powerful symbolism that we see written on our temples: the golden angel (which many attribute to Moroni) holding a book in hand, standing on the center spire, the top-most part of the building. It is the final piece that makes our religion what it is, to the confounding of all apostate sects. Our religion could not stand on its own until that central piece was put in place.

    One important fallacy to be careful not to fall into is to think that because it is the final piece to be assembled that means it is the first piece to fall if the arch starts to collapse. It may be hovering over our heads, defying gravity, but if an arch starts to crack and lose some integrity, the cracks appear at the sides not at the top. This is because for a perfect semi-circular arch the greatest stress is at the sides. I believe we can see this in the world as well. People may still hold to the Book of Mormon yet apostatize with other parts of the gospel–priesthood, marriage, chastity, Word of Wisdom, etc. Those cracks are important warning signs that the entire arch is liable to collapse, and then finally it gets to the point where the Book of Mormon itself collapses and the individual starts repeating phony arguments they read about it on Antimormon websites.

    Structurally, the Book of Mormon does the least amount of work distributing the weight of the arch vertically to the ground. The most important structural members are the stones at the base of the arch. They hold the weight of everything and distribute it to the ground. What is the base of the arch? The cornerstone, which we are told is the “the first stone placed upon a building’s foundation,” and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus himself is the most important stone of this gospel, the one that bears all the weight. Jesus Christ is the beginning of it all, and the Book of Mormon is the final part.

    The foundation is the justice of God, which again, I always considered “important” and never really thought about it. But think about what it means to be on a foundation of divine justice. The rest of the world does not lie upon this foundation, which we often don’t really consider. They lie upon a foundation of social justice, and we find it hard to see the difference and full significance of our justice being different than social justice. But we must absolutely see this difference, because this is what everything rests upon. If we do not consider the foundation upon which our lives stand, apostasy is inevitable and the cracks will quickly begin to show. If we think justice is all about distributing rights to disenfranchised classes and achieving equality, I don’t know how long the gospel in our testimony can stand.

    “Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.
    Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.”

    Illusions Of Equality

     
    These are the different stones of the gospel and these are their proper places. It has helped me to get a sense of which parts of our religion are more important and what specific functions they serve by deeply considering the symbolism. Everything isn’t equal. The stones in an arch do not equally support loads and they do not serve equal functions, even if visually it appears as if they are the same. If we place everything upon the keystone because we think that is structurally the most secure, our arch is destined to collapse. The cornerstone is designed to take that weight: Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is the central and final piece that holds everything together and serves as the most correct introduction to the gospel and inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but ultimately it is Jesus Christ who atones for our weaknesses and provides the miracle of forgiveness so that we can improve ourselves each day.

    This is something I learned early on my mission. My first investigator read the Book of Mormon and liked it, but did not understand the importance of Jesus Christ as the son of God. To be honest neither did I at that time. I had read the scriptures several times through and I understood all of the concepts of the church. I knew the significance of the Book of Mormon. But I could not explain why the role of Jesus was important to me. Then, finally, I applied the atonement in my life and developed a personal relationship with the Savior. My investigator and I learned the importance of this cornerstone together, and to me it felt as if the structure of my testimony was finally being set in its rightful place. It all came together.

    Let us also not forget what the entire purpose of this structure is–to provide a path through an impenetrable wall. It is a strait and narrow path that leads to our improvement and exaltation in the eternities. Without it, we cannot pass through the great stone wall. It is a marvelous piece of design that could never be achieved naturally or by the hands of man, but through the workings of the Creator of this world. This keystone of our religions is an absolute miracle and feat of construction, and it is a tiny but very important part of a grand structure that opens up greatness in our personal lives.

    Use The Quadrivium To Transform How You Learn

    Education is more important than ever, yet it is becoming harder for people to learn. We may be good at memorizing information we read in books or see on TV, but what about critical thought and inventive reasoning? Soon after graduating college, I decided to read classic Greek literature, and this turned out to be one of the greatest things I ever did because it transformed how I saw the world. The trivium and quadrivium are principles of learning established by the ancients that create a “unified idea of reality,” starting at the center of our souls. Education becomes much than just sitting in a classroom memorizing words and formulas. It becomes a mindset and personal identity.

    The Problem With Modern Education – Pretty much any man who has taken a high school English class in America has seen the problem with modern education. We read some esoteric John Steinbeck quote and tell the class some politically correct moral so that everyone can nod in eager agreement. Underpaid teachers repeat a government-approved curriculum and students display their worth by filling in bubbles on a test sheet with a number two pencil.

    The problem with our education system is that the entire thing was designed in 19th century Prussia to produce factory workers for manufacturing textiles, farming equipment, and ladies’ purses. Our education system is a “machine constructed by industrialism to produce” a labor force dominated by “the factory whistle and the clock.” (Alvin Toffler, Future Shock) The problem is people are not machines to be programed with math formulas and the scientific table of elements. In elementary school, my teacher often wrote at the bottom of my report card: “Does not pay attention in class.” It wasn’t until after reading the works of great Greek philosophers that I realized the reason I had a hard time paying attention was because I was not interested in becoming a factory worker.

    In a Masters or PHD program that you start to experience a truly constructive environment for learning, closer to the schools of ancient times. If only we could follow this model for the previous 18 years of school! But many great thinkers did not even become great by sitting in a classroom. Albert Einstein thought up his great scientific theories while stamping papers in a patent office. It is foolish to think you can become great with no education at all, but we should also realize that we need to be our own mechanism for learning. The machine to produce our education should be ourselves.

    Putting Education In Order

     
    This is my education plan that I came up with after reading Gorilla Mindset and some other great books. I see my mind as a train that is powered by my personal motivation for greatness, pulling a line of train cars that each lead to the final vision for my world.

    Impression & Expression – It starts with thinking about what is entering into and what is exiting out of the mind. When young Solomon asked for wisdom from the Lord, he specifically asked for “knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people.” (2 Chron 1:10) We see the same idea of ‘incomings and outgoings’ in the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer:

    “And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith;

    Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;

    That your incomings may be in the name of the Lord, that your outgoings may be in the name of the Lord, that all your salutations may be in the name of the Lord.”

    Scriptures treat wisdom as a kind of transition of information into and out of the mind, like a gate or passageway between us and the world. In philosophical terms, this is the cycle of impression and expression that determines how we see and influence the world. The first several cars on the mind train are impressions we take in from the world. The last several cars are our expressions that make us part of the world. The connections between each car are a synthesis that lead from one step to another.

    Locomotive

    First is the internal motivation of self-love. Love for one’s self provides the energy to move the machine, and it can be sparked by the simplest of things: words of encouragement from a father, concern for a loved one, and inspiration from the Holy Ghost. It is important to understand that though this motivation leads to love for others, it always starts with self-worth. Love for others is not the locomotive itself.

    As the weight of the train cars gain momentum, this self-worth will improve one’s image of worth and that will further create self-worth, and you start chugging along. If the train stalls and comes to a halt, remember the childhood story of the train that said over and over: “I think I can. I think I can.” Self-love is how we think we can. The locomotive builds steam pressure as resources heat up the very essence of the spirit: individual will. Small bursts of pressure move the pistons in a organized, logical way. The drive shaft follows the rules of physics to transfer energy to the wheels. The wheels touch the ground and move us along, defining us by what we do. So, in many ways, the locomotive is our individual ego which powers everything. Many locomotives have a cattle catcher to move things that get in the way, moving aside people who are stalled in their progression and get in our way. Locomotives also have a smoke stack the move exhaust upward so the rest of the train doesn’t get choked by the fumes produced. The smoke flows back along the rest of the train as evidence for the cause of the entire train’s movement.

    Resources

    Behind every locomotive is a small car filled with coal. This car contains the psychological resources that enable us to build a picture of ourselves. The important thing is to fill the coal car as full as it will go. Why would you depart on a journey with your fuel only a quarter full? This is something I unfortunately did in school. I determined my resources after I had created my relationships and identity–I let the teacher and classroom determine what I could learn. This reflects a Social Justice mindset where we think the individual is limited by the class he is a member of. The individual is not limited by society, and we should not place our fuel after our relationships and identity. Your teachers, classmates, family, and friends do not determine what resources are available to you.

    When we see an absence of resources–maybe we don’t have enough money for college, we don’t have enough time, or we don’t take the risk that comes with being traditional and religious, etc.–what we need to do is take a quiet moment of reflection and try to see abundance. The temple is a great place to take this moment to reflect. An abundance of resources will always be there if we look for it, because we are only limited by how lofty our imaginations can take us. If you can conceive of it, you can find the resources you need.

    Ancient philosophy helped me with this. The scriptures, of course, were a very important resource. But what really helps is if you take a mental inventory and organize your resources as objectively as you can. Write them down in a list. It is interesting that in an age of internet communication, quick transportation, and modern science, there are more people than ever who feel limited. More people than ever can’t find someone to marry, even though they have access to a larger pool of dating prospects than any of their ancestors had–or perhaps because of it. Why don’t we recognize our resources? They are presented to us by the world in total disorder, and this causes a false sense of abundance or limitation. We need to sort it out and be realistic about what we are able to achieve with what we have. Can I change the world with a blog? If I’m honest with myself, no, because media is dominated by a handful of big corporations and they are not going to allow bloggers to reach many people unless we conform to their static dogma. So a blog is just an illusion of abundance. Be realistic about psychological resources as well. What abundant resource is available for you to fill your coal car up with?

    Plato said there is an ideal form behind every tangible form. This unfortunately led people of his time to reject tangible form altogether, which is not the way to go at all, but it helps if we try to understand the true form behind every influence we take in. Coffee. Netflix. Church. What do these things mean as mental resources for spiritual motivation? This is, of course, something we talk a lot about in Sunday School lessons, but I don’t know how seriously we consider tangible influences as raw fuel for our lives. When we talk about the Word of Wisdom and then go home and drink Diet Coke every day, do we really grasp the doctrine as a resource? Or are we just picking small parts and leaving the meat of it to waste?

    Synthesis

    How do we connect train car to the next? What is the process of using psychological resources to benefit the ego? Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were called in De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii the “higher” arts, and Plato said they were essential for any education.

    • Grammar seems like a straightforward thing–the structuring of sentences–but what is really the basis for our language? If we consider language to simply be a manner of communication, isn’t it important to understand the structure of communication? What is the grammar of artwork? What is the grammar of spiritual promptings? If you consider everything your senses take in in terms of communication, you can look for natural grammatical structures and start to tweak grammar in your own communication to make it clearer.
    • Logic is the structure of thought, and we tend to agree that there are natural rules that logic is governed by. For example, we agree circular reasoning is a logical fallacy. Can we actually take control of our own structure of thought and decide how we think about things? I believe it takes a focused effort to investigate thought in order to take control of our intellectual and emotional processes, and that once we do it becomes much easier to be aligned with the Spirit of God.
    • Rhetoric is the application of knowledge in action. Once we understand something and learn from it, how do we apply that?

    Environment

    The next car on the train is our environment. When we look at the transition into and out of our mind, consider that there wasn’t just a single gate between Solomon’s temple and the outside world. The process of incoming and outgoing occurred through a transition of several spaces of holiness. So psychologically we don’t just step out the door and suddenly we see all our environment. We see it bit by bit. We explore and discover.

    First is our relationship to our bodies. The body was the first thing we were aware of as tiny babies and it will be the last thing we are aware of when we die. I think this is why more than just being a matter of respecting our most precious gift from God with respect, treatment of one’s body as a temple is important because it is our first and final layer of communication with our environment. So if we defile it with ratty tattoos, shoddy clothing, and a nasty countenance, that acts as the filter for our incomings and outgoings, and inevitably shapes our spirit and final identity. It also inevitably shapes how we influence others. It is easy to dismiss this, but ultimately our bodies are the primary faculty for all civility and behavior, and should be recognized as such.

    Moments of quiet reflection help me take a snapshot of my environment. I have learned to do so with brutal honesty and not paint a rosy picture of aspects that aren’t what I wish they were. I find this actually helps me be optimistic, because there is so much negativity in the world, and a wide scope of the world helps remind me the eternal picture. Moses in his visitation with the Lord after leaving Egypt saw his environment and shrunk because he saw what a small role he had. He saw that he was a small insignificant speck in the universe. But then later he was able to look Satan in the eye and declare he was a son of God and Satan wasn’t worth his time. There is so much around us built on illusion. So much depends on everybody buying into an idea and deciding that’s the right way for it to be–everybody stopping at stop signs and exchanging money in stores for purchases. If we can explore our environment, place levels of importance on our environment, and discern resources for what they are, this will allow us to see what we have control over and what we don’t. We need to examine from all sides. Don’t fixate on one pre-supposed idea or solution. We can stop worthless pursuits on trails that don’t lead anywhere and focus on what matters. We can have the courage to study all sides of every argument and nurture true faith rather than try to justify our cognitive biases.

    The tools for checking in with the environment are sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste. The first step for self-mastery is to treat the senses for what they are: utilities for taking in the environment. When you see a fast food commercial on TV, do they advertise the nutritional benefits and how food helps you connect with the culture you are part of? Not usually. Usually, food commercials are about how it makes you “feel.” Music is advertised for how it makes you “feel.” And that is why so many people are obese and listen to trash hip-hop. It should be a utility for nourishing the body, connecting around the dinner table, and connecting with the culture of which we are a part. It is a tool for discovery. So try not to prematurely define your relationships or identity based on what your senses take in.

    Relationships

    Narcissists place people into the category “environment” and people become just another tool to exploit. Again, don’t prematurely switch up categories. It is important to treat relationships as a closer influence on our identity than just the overall environment.

    But it is also important to recognize relationships as another matter of incoming and outgoing in our mindset–influences that shape what we are and elements that are shaped by our influence. As a kid, I always had a hard time with advice I got from people who said I should pick good friends and avoid people who are bad influences. Isn’t that intolerant? Shouldn’t we accept everybody? But it is wise to objectively see people as influences and not think you are above being affected by them. Your first obligation is to yourself, and if somebody needs to be cut out, that is very sad but it also may be necessary. Conversely, there may be important relationships that we for some reason refuse to allow that would be to our benefit. Maybe someone is uncool, or a friend doesn’t like them, or you have some grudge or bias. I have found that when I sit down and analyze the benefits and disadvantages of having a relationship, it leads me to give someone a chance that I otherwise wouldn’t have, and they end up improving my life.

    One hugely important thing about this train car is that our foundational sense of justice is built on relationships, so like the primordial battle of heaven it is fundamentally a question of equality versus meritocracy. We must figure out what kind of gate we place on the walls of our inner temple. How much influence should we let other people be on our identity? Should the psychological spaces of the mind transition from holiness or unconsecrated space or should all spaces be equally holy? The Social Justice ideology leads us to give up ownership of our very psyche to society for the greater good. The mind becomes the “people’s temple.” A Divine Justice mindset, on the other hand, makes us each gods in our own mind, sitting on the throne of the inner sanctum, creating worlds and speaking words of truth. As for me, I pick the divine justice model. Rather than being another piece of a machine, this model allows us to be our own locomotive, pulling our own train, going our own direction.

    Yet a train can only follow the tracks it is on, can’t it? A train can’t leap off the tracks and go cross-country. Much of life is outside of our control, and you can only decide whether to keep going the direction you are in or turn around and find some different fork in the tracks. To put this in terms of Mormon imagery, you don’t get to decide where the rod of iron that leads to the tree of life gets placed. You don’t get to decide whether that path is level or steep. Our environment is given to us as it is and the relationship we form to the environment is very limited in how it changes the environment.

    Identity

    Now you can focus on your identity. While many people are pulled by the whims of popular culture, friends and family, their mood, and social restrictions, a person who takes inventory of their environment and takes charge of their relationship to the world can now take charge of their own identity. You can sit down, decide who you want to be in five years, and write down a step by step plan of how to get there. It’s like trying to climb Mount Everest. You gather your resources, you figure out how to do it, you plot your trail, and then you go for it.

    For me, this kind of focus made it much easier to appreciate the hard work that I had to do to accomplish great things. Always before, I saw men who worked hard and thought I could never be like that. But all great people become great because they enjoy work. The worst thing you can do for a person is give them free handouts that they don’t deserve and don’t appreciate, because that reinforces a mindset that resents work. At first when I was trying to learn German as a missionary, I resented the work that it took. Learning a language doesn’t come easily to me. But once I realized how this was shaping my very identity, my very soul, and opening new doors of opportunity, I embraced this task as if I were eating a steak dinner. Now I make vocabulary lists of English words as well to improve my communication.

    I can’t stand if I’m wasting time, if I’m sitting in a movie theater watching a dumb movie. I would rather be sitting in a car driving on a boring road than watching a typical Hollywood movie, because at least in the car I can quietly think about something. The same goes for menial labor. What is menial, when you are working hard flipping burgers or playing an amazing video game? The burger job actually creates something while the video game is just a waste of your mental faculties. Playing games has its place, but so many people are stuck in a playground and won’t step out and actually experience the risk of real pursuit.

    There is one scene of the film ‘Grease’ I enjoyed where the coach is giving a pep talk to the football team, and he is describing graphically violent things that they are going to do in the football game while the female principal looks on in disgust. There are masculine and there are feminine virtues that are simply different. As world powers seek to gain control over the individual’s identity, they try to erase all distinction of identity by sex, religion, culture, etc. or simply twist them. They try to turn us all into the same robot. As we try to regain control over ourselves, we can’t try to form our identity totally independent of these things either. You’ll become a hermit going crazy out alone in the woods. Culture, religion, and sex are important resources that we should use. Embrace the virtue. Is it unmasculine to enjoy opera or want to become a school teacher? No. Virtue is not the passion you pursue, but the fitness you develop to pursue it.

    Identity can be described in terms of how a person expresses themselves. I consider this in terms of what is known as the quadrivium–geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy (in that order).

    • Geometry- Spatializing. This could be a logical investigation of space in our environment, but it could be spacializing abstract thoughts or an arrangement of things to form some sort of plan. It helps us understand how things relate and how to create unity.
    • Arithmetic – The design or construction of something. This could be deducing a logical solution to a math problem, but it could also be just coming up with a solution to a problem in your daily life.
    • Music- Music is the consideration of time, which is extremely important when we consider that we are all mortal and time is a constraint that we can’t bend. We seek harmony and pleasantness within our constraints.
    • Astronomy- Greeks used the study of the cosmos for everything they invented or created. The most important thing we learn is that we are part of a hierarchy, and we should fit things into proper hierarchies as well.

    Each person is a river who is constantly flowing and never the same in any two instances. Lehi counseled his sons to direct their education toward the source of all righteousness like a river flowing into the ocean, and yet to also be firm like the mountain , unshakable in determination. A river digs itself into a canyon as it flows in the same way over time, and so we solidify our identity and we settle into lifestyle choices. We can still change if we need to, but it becomes harder over time.

    Vision

    Now we can look to the future. It is tough to know how a hike up a mountain will be until you start hiking. Looking at a map isn’t good enough. Once you are there starting along the path, then you can get a sense of how it is like and where the path will lead. Now we can cycle back to the beginning and reconsider what kind of resources are available, what our environment is like, and so forth.

    When I seek a vision for where I am headed, I try to always keep in mind that it is a matter of my personal expression. I pay attention to my language, my dictation, my posture, my anxieties, and how I treat those around me. I know I can’t stand tall if I haven’t exercised my mind, heart, and spirit, and I know I can’t know something until I have turned around every side of the issue. Like Bob Ross said about oil painting, the hardest part is deciding what to paint. There are endless possibilities to pick from, and you can’t sit in the station idle trying to decide all day. But the great thing, perhaps the most important thing, to remember is that once you make a choice you aren’t stuck with it forever. You can go backwards. Backtracking makes you lose time, but it is definitely worth it if you aren’t going where you want to go. Of course, in the church we call this repentance, and we correctly think of it in terms of putting off the old man and being reborn. Our understanding of divine justice and the atonement of the divine Creator is crucial for us being able to make a change when we need to, to have the fortitude, courage, and faculties.

    Conclusion – This is not something I learned completely from the church, or from a university or self-help book. It is something I pieced together by reading the words of great philosophers and thinkers, such as Plato, Cicero, and Vitruvius, and personal religious study. Once I started to apply it to myself, I found it much easier to figure things out and innovate. When I got an answer wrong, instead of just moving on to the next question and I deeply considered why I got it wrong, and if there were any deeper issues to it that I should re-evaluate. I found myself becoming insatiably interested in textbooks and college lectures instead of playing video games. From little things to the big picture in my life, things started working out the way I wanted. I wish I had figured it out long ago, but it is never too late. The Holy Ghost is a better teacher than any class, and that is an internal source. That is the critical relationship for my identity.

    Tomb of Osiris & Cave of Patriarchs: Evidences For Book Of Abraham

    Abraham has a strong connection with the Egyptian god Osiris, starting at an early age, when Abraham took the place of Osiris in the ‘Mysteries of Osiris’ related to Facsimile 1. Abraham consistently takes the place of Osiris in each of the three Facsimiles. People were commonly addressed as Osiris in the Egyptian rituals, and in literature we find “the patriarchs were sometimes addressed as deities.” We even see a piece of the hieroglyph for Osiris manipulated in Joseph Smith’s notebooks to become “Abraham.”

    Joseph Smith’s investigation of the other three papyri started with the word Katumin. Through degrees of comparison between the scrolls, he settled on an explanation for this word Katumin–the Egyptian character for “speech”–as “a lineage that kept the records & knowledge of embalming.” Embalming fits the context of these scrolls, funerals and preparation for the afterlife. The bottom row of hieroglyphs of Facsimile 3, which Joseph Smith made sure to keep in the facsimile but did not translate, illustrates this: “O gods of the necropolis, gods of the caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east, grant salvation to the Osiris Hor, the justified, born by Talkhibit.” This order of cardinal directions matches a chapter in the Book of Mormon about Abraham, except flipped around:

    ”I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath… For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south. I will judge the world every man according to their works, according to that which is written… I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.”

    The Book of Mormon consistently lists the cardinal directions as “north,south,east,west” except this one instance, so there must have been a reason for it. Considering Egyptian could read either right to left or left to right, it shouldn’t be surprising if the list of directions gets flipped.

    The phrase “heavens and earth beneath” describes both the Egyptian and ancient American concept of the sacred cave. These “caverns” or burial chambers made special reference to the cardinal directions, judgement in the afterlife, and their posterity for future generations and godly creation, in both Egypt and early America. So if the Book of Abraham is a true book, it should come as no surprise when we find similarities between Abraham’s burial and how Osiris was treated in burial–and sacred burial in pre-Columbian America.

    Giza Tomb Of Osiris

     
    First, we go to the ancient city Giza, Egypt. In 1999, archaeologists made a startling discovery at the famous pyramids. They investigated vertical tunnels known as the ‘Osiris shaft’ below the causeway between the Great Pyramid and Sphinx. They called it the ‘Osiris shaft’ based on the “inventory stele” at the queen’s pyramid which located the Great Pyramid “northwest of the house of Osiris, Lord of Rosta.”

    Egyptians dug this Osiris tomb complex during the Old Kingdom to give resurrecting power in the netherworld to the kings buried nearby. The shafts descended in a procession of three room, which is appropriate for “the Sun-god as journeying from cavern to cavern beneath the earth, passing through the realm of Osiris and brining light and joy to the dead who dwell there.” (James Breasted) The first vertical shaft leads to the “lobby” chamber A, then a shaft to chamber B with six niches for burials, and then a shaft to the Osiris tomb. Zahi A. Hawass of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said this Osiris tomb takes the form of a “rectangular pit” with a “sarcophagus in the middle surrounded by water in the shape of the pr sign.” This water trench surrounding the “island” with the sarcophagus is certainly very peculiar, as well as the four pillars on each corner of the island. I can’t think of anything like it.

     

    But then again, Zahi Hawass points out that we can see a similar layout in the Osireion at Abydos, which is also a tomb of Osiris. The Osireion at Abydos, built much later, starts with a corridor to the “lobby” chamber, then a chamber with many niches, and then the inner chamber (see floorplan to the right). Hawass says the island represents the “primeval mound surrounded by the NVn” the sky God (firmament of waters). The water represents “Osiris’s role as god of vegetation and resurrection.”

    Greek historian Herodotus described the Osiris shaft in his 5 BC account, so it wasn’t a secret. Apparently it was well known, and surely looted of anything precious. He said this was the tomb of Khufu, not the pyramid, which of course scholars reject today, but what if that is true? What if it was a burial place of the king? The kings were identified as Osiris in the Osiris Mysteries, and identified with Osiris in funeral rituals, so why couldn’t they be buried as Osiris? Well, we don’t know, but in any case, the Osiris shaft was created in the form of a burial complex.

    World Tree – Osiris was called “Osiris, the seed and tree of life.” In the Egyptian myth, Isis hid the body of slain Osiris in the trunk of a tree until the tree split and he was resurrected. There was a transition in Egyptian theology “from the tree to the sacred post while in Egypt the oldest emblem of Osiris, the Djed-column, has the appearance of the pillar”–the trunk of a tree–“or four lotus-blossoms.” The world tree and four-petaled lotus are the same symbol for resurrection creation. Plutarch claimed the tree of Osiris was cut down and used as a pillar for the Byblos palace, much like the “world’s central tree” at the Phoenician palace. The four pillars on the island of the Osiris tomb apparently represent the Tree of Life inside the sacred cavern, the place of creation. But we also see symbolism of the pyramid itself, with its four sides, resembling the Tree of life. Scholars ask, “Is it possible this tree of life is the Great Pyramid?” The earth and world-tree is symbolized by the four-sided island surrounded by water, as well as the four-sided pyramid surrounded by desert.

    On the side of the Osiris tomb chamber is a tunnel that leads “in an easterly direction towards the Sphinx.” Rumor has it these connect to tunnels that have been found leading down under the Sphinx itself, though this is unconfirmed.

    When I saw this theory of connecting tunnels, it reminded me of the Cave of the Patriarchs in El-Haram. So now, let’s fly over to Jerusalem.

    Cave Of The Patriarchs

     
    The building above the Cave of the Patriarchs is said to have been built in the time of King Herod (though it is probably older), and it concealed the entrance to the burial complex until 119 A.D. when a crusader monk Arnulf discovered it. The bones of the patriarchs were plundered and sold to European pilgrims. In 1982, Jewish community spokesman Noam Arnon and his team snuck into the highly-restricted site near Jerusalem where Abraham was buried. The entrance is a vertical shaft above the cave, much like with the Osiris shaft. But they discovered a second entrance to the underground cave complex that connects down a long tunnel, again much like the Osiris shaft. The traditional entrance is a vertical shaft above chamber one, and then there are also stairs that lead from Hall of Isaac through the second entrance. They converge at Chamber A, which Arnulf the monk described as “a little hourse, like a basilica, made wonderfully and round, capable of holding around thirty people and covered on top by a single stone.” Here is how the underground complex looks from his description:

     
    Compare this to the Osiris Shaft in Egypt:

     
    Looks fairly similar. In fact, there are a lot of similarities to the Osiris shaft:

    • 3 levels of shafts and chambers
    • 6 niches for sarcophaguses in the second chamber
    • Located below fields (Giza plateau vs. Machpelah)
    • Heavily restricted access today
    • 4 pillars above main tomb.
    • Positioned relative to city above with the theme of “four.” Hebron was also known as Kirjathj-arba “city of four”, and Giza was a city of four-sided pyramids
    • Date to around the same time
    • Consider the overall sites. The Osiris complex is accessed at the causeway on the Giza plateau to the Great Pyramid. Abraham’s burial place is accessed at the Field of Machpelah, according to Genesis 23:20. Both are below fields, which is significant when you consider the afterlife involving a “field.”
    • They both follow an axis leading to a tree symbol. The Field of Machpelah leads to Mamre “great oak tree.” The Giza causeway leads to the Great Pyramid, which as we have seen symbolizes the world tree, among other things.
    • If the tunnel leading off from the Osiris chamber really does go to the Sphinx, that means both complexes are accessed from two openings. Also, the lion Sphinx lies above the possible second access-point in Egypt and is roughly the same dimensions as the Solomon-era structure above the Haram access-point: 240’x63’x66’ vs. 200’x115’x50’.
       
      This second entrance in Haram is at the Hall of Jacob, and Jacob called himself a lion in Genesis 49:9.

    Six Burial Chambers – Both sites proceed through three chambers, and the second chamber contains burials of six people. At El-Haram, the six chambers are for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, and Leah. Arnulf found the bones of the patriarchs (now gone) and noticed “that the earth inside appeared to him as though sprinkled with blood” as if it was a site for sacrificing. He was careful to note that Abraham’s remains were found in the inmost chamber, wearing green clothes, while the rest were in Chamber B.

    The above-ground building includes six cenotaphs to reflect these six burial niches. The building’s process axis also reflects the corridor that leads to the second chamber. So we know they made an effort to reflect on the form of the cave in the architecture above. So it is interesting, then, that the traditional entrance to the complex is a raised “island”, shaped like a lotus flower, and surrounded by four pillars. That’s probably just coincidence, but is it coincidence that these four pillars stand exactly above the passage between the first and second cave? Note also that this pavilion turns into a Corinthian column at the top, which is interesting considering the Corinthian column is based on a tree growing out of a tomb, bringing us again back to the sacred tree of life.

    Four Directions – The four cardinal directions are extremely important to Abraham, and they show up in each of the Book of Abraham facsimiles. As we pointed out, the central figure 1 of Facsimile 2 is always shown with four heads to represent the four quarters of the earth. And then we see the four sons of Horus, representing the four quarters of the earth, supporting the funeral couch of Abraham/Osiris in Facsimile 1. There, they are the four quarters, lands, and peoples who support and help in the ritual Sed-festival revivification of the king. In Facsimile 2, they appear to be represent the delivering of the power, authority, and governance of god to the four quarters, lands, and peoples–symbolized by the four heads of the River Eden that the Book of Abraham talks about.

    We also see “four directions” in God’s covenant with Abraham, for him to “walk the land” that he and his posterity would inherit. We know also, “Abraham’s tent was open in four directions to allow strangers to enter freely into his home.” This is why it is so important that the four quarters of the earth play such a prominent role in these Facsimiles and the architecture above Abraham’s burial cave, (as well as the first complex chamber which is four-sided) suggesting their universal significance to the entire world:

    ”Abraham is at a crossroads… people come from the four points of the compass. Similarly in T. Job 8:6-7, they come from all regions, ‘and the four doors of my house were open’… presents Abraham as surpassing Job: the patriarch went looking for wayfarers.”

    Not only did Abraham make himself the center of the four quarters of the earth, he went out and actively sought for people in need. The four-quartered hypocephalus is a perfect symbol for Abraham.

    Now, it is not unusual for important buildings to be built above sacred caves. The Potala Palace in Tibet was built above the sacred cave of Songtsan Gambo, for example. It was also not unusual to be buried near a tree.

    But over in pre-Columbian America we find a very detailed similarity to the Osiris shaft. Archaeologists have found a tunnel at the causeway leading to the Pyramid of the sun in Teotihuacan. So let’s fly over to Teotihuacan near Mexico City.

    Teotihuacan Tunnel Under Pyramid

    In Teotihuacan, we find a city full of enormous pyramids with a processional main axis called the “avenue of the dead.” Like with the site in Egypt and the site in El-haram, we see fields lying before the pyramids. Like the pyramids in Giza, the American pyramids are aligned to the sun at the equinoxes. The main pyramid is known as the Pyramid of the Sun, and we find the same imagery as Egypt where the sun enters the Osiris chamber for rebirth.

    Do we find a tunnel below the Avenue of the Dead, like the Osiris shaft below the causeway? Why, yes we do! In 1975, archaeologists discovered a cave under Pyramid of the Sun with a tunnel connecting from the pyramid’s front. It proceeds very similarly to the passageways inside the Egyptian pyramids, but in function resembles the Osiris shaft in front of the pyramid. This cave is called “Place of the House of Maize.” Maize was a symbol of creation for the ancient Americans, with the Popul Vohl creation gods emerging from maize like how Osiris emerged from the tree. In ancient America, “caves are thought by some indigenous people to house the maize god.” Maize gods also assume the color green to symbolize creation, much like the green color of Osiris and the green shroud around Abraham’s body. So this name “House of Maize” is pretty much identical to the Osiris Shaft’s name “house of Osiris, Lord of Rosta (aka cave).”

    Like the three levels of the Osiris shaft, the cave tunnel descends in three levels, thought to represent the three levels of the ancient American concept of the universe. By examining this symbolism, we can discern why the Abraham cave and the Osiris shaft may descend in three steps: to represent the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. Kinda like the LDS temple.

    The mid-level part of the Teotihuacan cave contains two niches, and the lowest level contains four niches (for the four quarters of the earth), making a total of six niches. These four niches in the lowest chamber surround a center point in a lotus pattern, like the four pillars in Egypt and El-haram.

    Waters Of Creation – Perhaps the most shocking similarity to Osiris is the use of water symbolism. Archaeologists found evidence that water was directed into this tunnel, perhaps to represent the water deity Ixchel, the chaos of creation. Scholars believe the Teotihuacan cave represents “initial creation of the universe from a watery void.” The water was all dried up by the time archaeologists go to it. But a few years ago, archaeologists made an important discovery: another tunnel leading from the Avenue of the Dead to the ground under a pyramid. This second tunnel provides a great opportunity to learn about the symbolism because it hasn’t been plundered of its artifacts and its water hasn’t dried up.

    Feathered Serpent Tunnel – We have talked about the similarities between Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent god and Jesus Christ. It’s hard to ignore. Skeptics argue that Quetzalcoatl was based on descriptions by European Conquistadors of Christianity, but discoveries like this cave beneath the pyramid of Quetzalcoatl prove that this similarities to Christianity existed long, long ago.

    In the Feathered Serpent tunnel, we find the same three descending levels. It ends directly beneath the center of the pyramid, which has left scientists baffled as to how the builders determined this exact center. However they did it, this is significant, as this Feathered Serpent pyramid is the exact center of the entire city. We find a cross-shape of niches in the lowest chamber, which is important because the cross represented to ancient Americans the world tree or lotus. Again, we come back to the tree of life. The ancient American world tree performs the same function as in Egyptian mythology, as a space between this life and the after-realm.

    Scientists discovered mercury on the walls of the tunnel, which “served as symbolic representations of water,” and minerals which represented “standing amid the stars.” This connection with water deity is certainly compelling, but we also have the fact that the lowest chamber was submerged half-way in water. Like in the Osiris shaft, an underground lake of water symbolized the universe emerging from the watery void. They dug down to below the water line so that the tunnel would be permanently filled with water, just like with the Osiris shaft.

    Four Statues – There are only four niches this time, but this tunnel has a powerful symbol of four: four statues representing the four quarters of the earth, all facing in a rectangular arrangement inward to the very center of the chamber, which is the center of the pyramid, which is the center of the city. Scientists describe these statues as “Greeters, or Witnesses” who “mark the location of the axis mundi, the ‘world tree’ that connects the three tiered worlds.” Sergio Gomez Chavez, who worked on the excavation, said “this is where the underworld and heavens meet.” (see ‘Secrets of the Dead’) Are these four statues the same as the four statues we see in Facsimile 1 standing as witnesses for the great sacrifice of Abraham?

    These stunning “four 60-centimeter-tall jade statues” are green, and lots of other green imagery has been found amidst the tunnel. Imported jade and obsidian blades for sacrificing were found 80 yards from the entrance. They also found evidence of sacrifices, like the evidence of sacrifices found at Abraham’s cave.

    Elsewhere in Teotihuacan, archaeologists uncovered a sacred mural that illustrates the symbolism of these tunnels. It shows channels of water and red (perhaps blood) entering the sacred mountain from the sides and this bursting out the top like a volcano with people and all creation. They called this a fountain of souls springing up, Chicomoztoc:

     

    Father Abraham – The similarities to Egypt and Abraham are too great to ignore. But why? Why would ancient Americans who somehow related to descendants of Lehi carry on this ancient symbolism from the Old World in their great civic architecture? Well, just read what the Book of Mormon has to say about Abraham:

    “And then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth, and from the north countries, and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham.”

    They took this symbolism of the four quarters and atonement through sacrifice seriously. They took seriously the idea that they were Abraham’s seed and of the house of Israel. How better to symbolize being of the house of Israel and Abraham than to build a literal house as part of your temple? They believed that their judgement in the afterlife would hinge on being part of Abraham’s seed, much like the Egyptians sought to be justified by Osiris. I believe this is why we see the same architecture and symbolism show up in three wildly different places in the ancient world: Egypt, Jerusalem, and Mexico.

    Lehi’s Dream – The imagery in Lehi’s dream in the Book of Mormon shows us how this symbolism carried across time and continents. In Lehi’s dream, we find a strait and narrow path leading through a field to the tree of life–like the causeway or avenue of the dead leading through the Giza plateau, Machpelah field, or Teotihuacan valley to the pyramid or Mamre great oak. We find the fountain of water Lehi spoke of which either provides life or drowns the wicked. The judgement and justice of God determines their fate. We see all the scattered peoples of the earth gathering in an attempt to reach this tree.

    If we are going to look for uniquely Mormon concepts of Abraham as evidence for the Book of Abraham, what better place to look than the burial cave of Abraham? I’m surprised that I haven’t read any scholars in the church look at this. Few know that this Cave of the Patriarchs exists, much less know where to look to find clues for Mormon ideas. I think it’s in the architecture. The Egyptian influence is hard to ignore, and when you consider the connection between Abraham and Osiris (which Antimormons complain so much about) you find rich symbolism that edifies our understanding of father Abraham. This is a subject that I hope scholars start to look at, and I will continue to look into. There is a lot more here waiting to be found.

    Stop Calling Break-Away Splinter-Sects ‘Mormon’


    Back when polygamous sects started appearing on reality TV and the FBI swooped in with a dramatic raid on that Texas compound, we thought the government would finally take care of the problem and we would stop hearing about polygamy. But instead the opposite happened. Suddenly, polygamy has become plastered on every newspaper in the country. Tom Hanks produced a top TV show about it. Today, the media does not mention ‘Mormon’ without some kind of reference to polygamy, like it’s an original sin we can’t get away from. It is there all the time.

    This is a problem we desperatly need to confront as a community because it has gotten way out of hand. With most other groups of people, if they were treated this way by the media they would be outside the HBO studies protesting, but members of the Church don’t like to protest. Last time we went out protesting, we found our names on a California blacklist. With little push-back given, the media has pushed it and pushed it, and I believe they will continue to push it.

    Search the term “Mormon” on Google and you get images goofy-looking white guys in sexual poses. Google links to Wikipedia, which is full of lies about members of the Church. (For example, the first Google search result for Cumorah is a Wikipedia article that pushes a blatantly-false hoax about an African island.) This is the impression people have of Mormons because this is what the entire media establishment portrays nonstop. There is no denying that the overwhelming media image of Mormons is false, dehumanizing, and extremely negative.

    Our History With Polygamy

    I don’t think these dehumanizing portrayals are random. Why polygamy? Well, the first reason is obvious: our history with it. Well, what about other religions that have practiced polygamy? Why don’t they get harassed about it? Plenty of other religions engaged in polygamy, but they didn’t have a huge army of American soldiers come crashing down on them because of it, did they? The federal US government started regulating marriage because of Mormon polygamy, and the Edmunds Act was passed to register all marriages and arrest suspected polygamists without evidence and without trial. Our ancestors were arrested, our ancestors’ wives were forced to testify against them, and their land was stolen because the government didn’t like their marriages. This horrible history has created great anxiety and taboo among Mormons and lingering bigotry in American society against Mormons. A quarter of all Americans think Mormons still endorse polygamy, while the truth is polls show more Mormons are against polygamy than the general public is.

    There is also a general anxiety in America about sexuality. Movies and TV shows portray men as power-hungry brutes and women are doing whatever they can to survive this patriarchal landscape. Polygamy has come to symbolize the horrible things we are capable of. So when an average American watches a TLC show about polygamists, he wonders if it is possible to insatiate his lusts while sitting as leader of a nice traditional family with happy kids, and he quickly realizes that there is a dark underbelly to all of this that he needs to stay away from. Mormons come to symbolize this lust and dark underbelly.

    Of course, the truth is completely opposite. Traditional Mormon communities are some of the safest places you can be. BYU experienced 1 rape in 2015, while UC Berkely saw their rape rate skyrocket from 2 rapes in 2012 to 15 rapes in 2016. You would think the media would be alarmed by this problem in UC Berkeley, right? Well, the Salt Lake Tribune received a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for their 2016 reporting on rape at BYU campus. Suddenly it’s a Mormon problem.

    Mormonism is very positive for masculinity and femininity. Boys were, until recently at least, mentored by men in scouting programs where they learned discipline and skill, and women were counseled by women in a great environment. The media’s problem with this is boys and girls who are mentored by positive role models are less likely to purchase trash television shows, spend time on Instagram, and model their lives from Brad Pitt. How dare those Mormons think they know how to raise children better than the “village”?

    Bad Associations

    Responsibilities the church teaches boys:
     

    The next problem is all of these small splinter-groups that call themselves Mormon. Most members of the church I know think it’s alright for them to use the name Mormon. After all, don’t they believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and the Book of Mormon to be the word of God? If they did, they would recognize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as the true church today, but to me this isn’t the main reason. What about the millions and millions of Muslims around the world who get a bad reputation because a tiny group of extremists do acts of terrorism? Is that fair? Many conservatives say mainstream Mulsims need to vocally denounce the extremists and distance themselves from them, but what about Mormons and these splinter-groups? Don’t we need to distance ourselves from them? I think in a way we are trying to have our cake and eat it too. We want to tolerate these people for recognizing pieces of the true gospel while condemning them for the attrocities that they commit.

    They are apostates. That makes them no longer Mormon. When we talk about “apostates” we think of people who reject the gospel, but perhaps we need to be careful about our termonology there too. When I read in the scriptures about apostates, I don’t read about people who merely decided to lead a secular lifestyle. I read about people who persecutated the Saints and sacrificed their children to Moloch. We need to recognize merely becoming a disbeliever is not the same as becoming a polygamous cult. Apostasy is reaching the level where strong condemnation is appropriate. I am appalled and totally disgusted by Warren Jeffs and what his cult reportedly does, and I want no association with them whatsoever.

    Heber C. Kimball prophesied in 1856: “The time is coming when we will be mixed up in these now peaceful valleys to that extent that it will be difficult to tell the face of a Saint from the face of an enemy to the people of God.” President Gordon B. Hinckley linked this prophesy to sexual sin: “We can oppose the tide of pornography and lasciviousness, which is destroying the very fiber of nations… We need not compromise. We must not compromise.” Indeed, why do we need to compromise? Why are we compromising our very name?

    As well as bad associations, this weird insistence on including them as Mormons also invites all kinds of lies about our history and beliefs. These splinter-groups are behind most of the phony quotes and false narratives that Antimormons propagate. The RLDS placed a sign “Church of the Latter Day Saints” on the Kirtland temple to make it look like we keep changing the name of the church. RLDS Clark Braden pushed a fake quote to make it look like Martin Harris “had as much evidence for” Shaker scripture as the Book of Mormon. RLDS historian Richard Howard reportedly pushed the narrative that Oliver Cowdery used a divining rod. This Richard Howard also pushed the narrative that Joseph Smith used a rock in a hat to translate. The media is going to run with whatever tale these apostates come up with. After all, even we recognize them as “Mormons” don’t we?

    Why do we keep including these people as “Mormon” so that they can spread lies about our history? It reminds me of Zeniff who sought to build associations with the Lamanites which led to his people being placed into bondage. I think we should seek civility with splinter-sects and be as peaceful as we can, but we are really hurting ourselves with all of these compromises. We also were charged a record $35 million for an early Church record they sold us. Do friends do this to friends?

    ‘Mormon’ Is Not A Category Like ‘Christian’

    The problem with using Mormon as an umbrella term that includes many churches is that it replaces the term ‘Christian.’ On surveys and forms, we now see listed out “Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Mormon,” as if Mormon is not part of Christianity. It’s easy for us to say “Oh well, people just need to recognize Mormonism as a sub-category of Christianity” but, do they? I mean, should Mormonism be recognized as a sub-set of Christianity? Why do we need this category? When the Protestants split from Catholics way back in the Middle Ages, did Catholicism become a sub-category of Christianity? No, Protestants simply became known as a different church. They didn’t feel the need to keep the name Catholic. Do people ask Protestants about something a Catholic did? Do people ask Catholics about something a Protestant did? Then why do people ask me abot something they saw on an episode of Tom Hank’s show? And why do these splinter-sects feel the need to keep the name Mormon?

    Mormonism is a Christian church. The RLDS, or know today as Community Of Christ, is a Christian church. The other splinter-sects are Christian, I suppose. It really weakens our position to tell Southern Baptist evangelicals we are Christian when we use the nickname of our church as a category parallel to the term Christian instead of as a Christian church.

    It is easy for us to fall into the trap of reading about Mormonism on Wikipedia and believing that’s how we should treat our religion. But we need to stop getting our frame from Wikipedia! Wikipedia is not written by leaders of the church! Wikipedia is written by a bunch of pernicious Antimormons who hate us and want to destroy the church! That’s why they spread false rumors about us. Why are we following the frame of people who spread false rumors about us?

    This is where I see the greatest wisdom behind President Nelson’s recent announcement to stop applying the term to ourselves. If we focus on using the full name of the church instead of the nickname Mormon, this will train us to stop treating the name Mormon as a category that equates us to the splinter-sects. It’s not that we are ashamed of the name Mormon or that we are running from it. It’s that we are taking control of the dehumanizing image that the media thrusts on us. Now, the media will continue to do what they do. They certainly won’t follow these guidelines. They will blame us for everything they can. They will lie about us, portray us in the worst ways they can imagine, and inspire as many Americans as they can to hate us. But if we can discipline ourselves to stop accepting their narratives and to stop associating ourselves with apostates, this will go a long way toward solving the problem. This was truly an inspired decision.

    How Joseph Smith Translated The Book Of Abraham & Egyptian Alphabet

     
    Out of the four scrolls in Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection, we know that Joseph Smith used the missing Amenhotep scroll as his basis for the Book of Abraham text, based on witness descriptions.1 Joseph Smith identified the mummy containing the Book of Abraham source as “Onitah” and Joseph Smith’s notebooks associate “Onitah” with the missing Amenhotep scroll. In Joseph Smith’s notebooks, we find a chronology of attempts to explore the other scrolls based on this translation.

    Identifying Katumin – 5 July 1835

    The earliest record we have relating to Joseph Smith’s translation is the Notebook of Copied Characters. The first page says it is a partial “translation of the next page.” Immediately this leads me to ask, why would they start with an English translation and then draw the Egyptian characters they are translating from? Wouldn’t you start with the source of the translation and then give your translation? And why only give a partial translation?

    This indicates that they started out with the English text and then found the Egyptian content to match to it. Joseph Smith determined what the scrolls were generally about early on, according to what Joseph Smith said about his initial contact:

    “I, with William W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery, as scribes, commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham; another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, &c, a more full account of which​ will appear in their place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them.”

    The Egyptian content on page 2 comes from the Amenhotep scroll. It makes sense that the first Egyptian characters to be drawn would be from the Amenhotep scroll considering Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham first. Joseph Smith apparently used his translation of the Book of Abraham to derive this explanation about Katumin and Onita, and then matched it up with this Egyptian content. In the Valuable Discovery notebook, there are lines of hieroglyphs from the Amenhotep scroll (I haven’t found anyone able to decipher a translation for this) and then a copy of the same Katumin explanation copied over from the Notebook of Copied Characters on the next page. Is this preceding Egyptian transcription in the Valuable Discovery notebook the start of Joseph Smith’s investigation and the source of the name Katumin? Is this actually the beginning of the entire thing?

     
    It looks like each step references a different source. So, in the the Notebook of Copied Characters, this would mean the “partial” translation should match only partially or somewhat to the Egyptian on page 2, perhaps not a strict translation but merely a strong association based on the first characters. He was simply making a comparison. Unfortunately, these characters are either transcribed poorly or written in an unknown script, and scholars have only been able to translate the first part: “Osiris Amen-Terp, who is true of word, mistress.” 2 This is how scholars today are able to identify the likely owner of the scroll as Amenhotep.

    Then we see a notation: “Over this stood the figure of a woman” and then a drawing of the woman who presumably owned the scroll. But this isn’t a drawing of Amenhotep. This drawing is distinctly from the Ta-shert-Min scroll, which we can see in recovered papyrus fragment 5. This indicates that indeed they were concerned with finding out about the scroll’s owner–not of the owner of the Amenhotep scroll, but rather the Ta-shert-Min scroll. That was the point of the entire thing.

    Instead of Ta-shert-Min, Joseph Smith names “Ka-tu-Min.” Antimormons have made a big deal about the name not matching. But though they are not the same, there are striking similarities. Ta-shert-Min translates as “Daughter of the god Min” while Ka-tu-Min translates as “my spirit is one with the god Min.” Very close matches. And even though Ka-tu-Min doesn’t say anything about being a daughter, Joseph Smith’s explanations in other notebooks stress the importance of Katumin’s role as daughter. 3

    The Egyptian characters are on the left side of the page, indicating that they were drawn first, and then there is the note about a woman standing above it. Then to the right there were drawn three figures. There is a bird figure that looks very vaguely like the Ba bird in Facsimile 1 from the Hor scroll. Next to it is the Nekheny figure from Facsimile 1. Below is Ta-shert-Min standing next to Nehebkau, which we see in a Ta-shert-Min fragment. Interestingly, these three figures can be used to form the name Ka-tu-Min:

    • Facsimile 1 calls Nekheny “El-Kanah”, which as we have seen comes from the root “Khana” or “Kheni”
    • Ba is similar to Ka, in pronunciation and definition. But perhaps instead of being a Ba bird, they took this to be the Tm(w) Thoth bird?
    • In Facsimile 2, Nehebkau gives offerings to Min

    So we can get Khana-Tm(w)-Min (Katumin). Now, this is really a stretch, I know, and perhaps false. I find it highly unlikely that this is how the name Katumin was discovered, in any case, but it gives us the possibility that maybe these three figures were drawn on this page because Joseph Smith picked figures in an attempt to draw a match to the name.

    Investigating ‘Joseph In Egypt’ Scrolls

    Book Of Breathings Is The Record Of Joseph In Egypt – This was an attempt to investigate the Ta-shert-Min scroll and other Book of Breathings scrolls from what Joseph Smith knew about the Amenhotep scroll. We know this because notebooks start copying content from the Ta-shert-Min scroll from this point on. The Book of Abraham translation may have already been on its way or even fully complete through pure inspiration or using the Urim and Thummim. But Joseph Smith indicated he was concerned with translating a record of Joseph in Egypt as well as Abraham, and maybe it wasn’t working out for the Joseph record. Maybe the Urim and Thummim was coming up blank and he didn’t know what to do. From what Joseph Smith said, we know that there were records kept (not necessary taught) by Joseph in Egypt, as well as the record–only one record–written by Abraham.

    “He soon knew what they were and said that the rolls of papyrus contained a sacred record kept by Joseph in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt and the teachings of Father Abraham.”

    Notice that he said there were multiple rolls of Joseph in Egypt’s sacred records–“rolls of papyrus”–but never does he indicate multiple rolls of Abraham’s writings. Rather, he makes it clear there was only one Abraham scroll. He also doesn’t say Joseph wrote those scrolls, just that he kept them. Between what he said in July 6 and July 20, apparently Joseph figured out that the scroll was written by someone else. The excerpt from the Amenhotep scroll is unique –the singular record–and then we also have multiple copies of another record among Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection: the Ta-shert-Min Book of the Dead and two Books of Breathing scrolls, which derived from the Book of the Dead. So maybe the sacred record Joseph kept was the Book of the Dead. Take a look at Oliver Cowdery’s description of the Joseph scrolls:

    “The evidence is apparent upon the face, that they were written by persons acquainted with the history of the creation, the fall of man, and more or less of the correct ideas of notions of the Diety. The representation of the god-head—three, yet in one, is curiously drawn to give simply, though impressively, the writers views of that exalted personage. The serpent, represented as walking, or formed in a manner to be able to walk, standing in front of, and near a female figure, is to me, one of the greatest representations I have ever seen upon paper… convincing the rational mind of the correctness and divine authority of the holy scriptures… Enoch’s Pillar, as mentioned by Josephus, is upon the same roll… The inner end of the same roll, (Joseph’s record,) presents a representation of the judgment: At one view you behold the Savior seated upon his throne, crowned and holding the sceptres of righteousness and power before whom also are assembled the twelve tribes of Israel, the nations, languages and tongues of the earth…”

     

    Oliver Cowdery said these were multiple scrolls written by multiple people, and he doesn’t make it sound like Joseph himself wrote them, but simply written by people with similar religious concepts and more-or-less correct ideas. (He also makes it sound like Abraham wasn’t the author of the Book of Abraham scroll, but that it merely contained his teachings.) Maybe Joseph in Egypt only kept this kind of record for the Egyptians, or he copied them, or he influenced them in some way.

    Joseph Vs. Imhotep – Scholars have long noted the similarities between Joseph in Egypt and the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep. This has led many to theorize that Joseph in the bible derived from the character Imhotep, or perhaps that Imhotep derived from Joseph.

    “Imhotep was revered as the son of PTAH, a creator-god of Memphis, the patron god of craftsmen; equated by the Greeks with Hephaestus. The cult of Imhotep reached its zenith in Greco-Roman times when sick people slept in his temples with the hope that the ‘god’ would reveal remedies to them in dreams — much like Edgar Cayce’s legendary abilities. The ‘TA’ in Ptah means earth. Take the P and H and add them to (D)Jose(r) and you have Joseph.”

    Both Joseph and Egyptian architect Imhotep were second in command under the Egyptian king, lived to an age of 110 years old, acted as architect, stored corn for 7 years of bounty, fed the people during 7 years of famine, created grain silos, interpreted dreams, acted as physician, taxed the people 1/5 of their income, married into the local priesthood, taught astrology, and was in a family of 12 siblings. That’s a lot of similarities! Notice that Oliver Cowdery made careful note of the 12 siblings standing to be judged in a judgement scene which is now apparently lost.

    Well, it just so happens that Imhotep is credited as the original author of sacred Egyptian literature. Isn’t that interesting?

    “Well-known are the aretalogies of Imhotep and such Graeco-Egyptian texts as P. Oxyrhynchus 1381, that tale of a disciple who belatedly turns his hand to translating a book on god’s immense power and miraculous manifestations… Like Thoth, Imhotep is an author, composing, for example, the ssm.w nw H.t-ntr, ‘The Regulations/Ordinances of the Temple.'”

    This is exactly what the Book of Breathings/Book of the Dead is: ordinances of the temple . Joseph Smith associated Joseph in Egypt with the Book of the Dead scrolls, and we see evidence that this could be the case. But the problem is Joseph Smith’s collection of texts were much-later derivatives from whatever it was Joseph kept. We certainly see temple themes that align with modern LDS concepts, but maybe the context was too far gone to get a translation from it using the Urim and Thummim. This would explain why Joseph Smith was interested in translating the Ta-shert-Min scroll and embarked on this painstaking comparison of characters. He had to.

    Oh, and is it just coincidence that the Book of Abraham source talked about “Amunhotep” and the Egyptian mythological name for Joseph in Egypt was “Imhotep”? 4

    Determining An Alphabet

    Once he had matched the word Katumin, Joseph Smith tried to find something out about the Egyptian characters. On the page 3 of the Valuable Discovery notebook we see the English text about Katumin copied over and matched up with characters loosely based on the characters at the beginning of the Amehotep excerpts. We know this page of the Valuable Discovery notebook probably came later because it includes added words that were not in the Notebook of Egyptian Characters English text.

     
    The problem here is that the Egyptian characters look loosely similar yet contain striking differences. They are mixed around, flipped, and drawn differently. They match none of the Egyptian excerpts in Joseph Smith’s notebooks. Why? Maybe because they didn’t come from the same place! The way these characters have been moved and flipped around on page 3 of Valuable Discovery now renders it as “Recitation of Osiris” (dd mdw in wsir), no longer “Osiris Amenhotep true of word.” This phrase “recitation of Osiris” shows up in the Book of the Dead, and we can even see it above the figure’s hand in Facsimile 3, which comes from the Book of the Dead. The characters are stacked above each other like in Facsimile 3, not side-by-side like in the Amenhotep excerpts. Maybe Joseph Smith was looking somewhere else, a fragment now missing, and he saw that these characters looked similar, so he tried to match them up to specific parts of the Katumin explanation. We do not know where the characters for page 3 of Valuable Discovery came from.

    Skeptics attack Joseph Smith for matching a single cobra hieroglyph–two semicircles on top of each other forming an oval–as “Katumin.” They say it is really the hieroglyph for “speak.” But when we look at his explanation of Katumin in the Grammar and Alphabet notebook, we see he was actually correct. As the website Egyptianalphabetandgrammar.blogspot.com discovered, Joseph Smith started with two O looking shapes, and then that became a flat oval with a hook sticking out of the top in the Valuable Discoveries notebook. Then, in the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks that became a curled line over a semicircle. Egyptology experts claim this is the hieroglyph ḏd “to speak.” But actually now these three characters make the Egyptian word Kt, which means “uraeus.” Cobra in Egyptian is “Iaret”, similar to the Greek word for cobra “Uraeus,” a serpent worn on the head denoting royalty. The next character, the pole, gives an M sound. Then the reed symbol gives an I, and the water symbol an N. So we get “Kt-Min” and we get clear indications of royalty.

    It is important to note that no-where does it say in the Valuable Discovery notebook that this is a translation of text. The Egyptian Alphabet notebooks and Grammar & Alphabet notebook likewise don’t claim to give text translations, nor do the manuscripts. Joseph Smith said he was simply deriving an alphabet of Egyptian from the Book of Abraham. The purpase was to understand each part of a hieroglyph.

    “The remainder of this month [July 1835] I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.”

    If he was translating an alphabet from the Book of Abraham, doesn’t that mean he already had the Book of Abraham translated to get an alphabet from? To me, this indicates Joseph Smith already had the Book of Abraham text at hand to pull alphabet letters from and that he was trying to first understand the language, not give text translations. The beginnings of this alphabet process can be seen in the Valuable Discovery notebook. He wasn’t deriving the name Katumin from a single Egyptian character in the Valuable Discovery notebook as Antimormons claim, but rather making a comparison of single characters with parts of what they already knew about Katumin. And these comparisons prove to be correct.

    Comparing Egyptian Characters

    Joseph Smith and his scribes created what is now known as the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks as they dissected characters from the Amenhotep scroll. What Joseph Smith learned from the Katumin investigation was now incorporated in a new exploration. The first character to show up in these notebooks is apparently taken from the third part of the Katumin comparison, and in Egyptian is wsir, the name Osiris. Joseph Smith expalins it here as pronounced “ah” and meaning “The first Being who excercises power.” In the Grammar & Alphabet it curls into what looks like an Egyptian vulture and becomes “Ah brah—aam— a father of many nations, referring to Abraham.” This is interesting because Abraham constistantly takes the place of Osiris in each Facsimile, and this follows the same pattern. It also is correctly pronounced “ah” like Joseph Smith said. The letter is alef in Egyptian, which corresponds to alpha in Greek, Alef in Arabic, and Alep in Hebrew. The next several characters are variations of this letter for the comparison that would happen to the Hor scroll.

    We can see pieces of the Katumin comparison characters in these first Egyptian Alphabet notebooks characters , but others we don’t. For example, the final character, a cross called “zool”, we don’t find on the page about Katumin–but it does show up in the original Amenhotep excerpt.

    It is important to note that the later Manuscript notebooks which match Egyptian characters with text from the Book of Abraham text often ignore the Egyptian characters in the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks . For example, the second character–derived from the “ah” character– is V-shaped and explained as: “The first man.” The Grammar & Alphabet matches it with “The first man, or Adam coming from Adam.” This is a perfect match with the Book of Abraham 1:3 which reads: “from… the first man, who is Adam.” Yet the Manuscript notebooks align no Egyptian character with this phrase and the V-shaped character is no-where to be seen on the entire page. This tells me the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks and Grammar & Alphabet was derived from the Amenhotep scroll , just as Joseph Smith indicated. Then characters from the Hor scroll were then matched in consecutive order with Abraham text based on resemblence to these characters in the notebooks and their matching explanations.

    We see how Joseph Smith by “degrees” related the Katumin comparison to the Hor characters. He explained that the first character’s derivative was “The name of a​ royal family, in the female line.” In the Grammar & Alphabet notebook, we get a deeper root meaning: a lineage that kept the records & knowledge of embalming. He finally determined that Katumin referred to the one “with whom a record of the fathers was entrusted.” Not necessarily the person’s name but their role. The associative Egyptian character means “speech,” remember. Records vs. Speech. So, through the iterative degrees of finding meaning through comparison of different contexts, Joseph Smith settled on an explanation very close to what we now know is the Egyptian dictionary definition.

    Hor Scroll Comparison – As we look at these Hor scroll characters which were matched in consecutive order, we can compare them to the characters in the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks and get a similar match to the corresponding English text. Antimormons have tried to match the entire English paragraph with each character, but this results in nothing. They don’t really match up. They only do this to try to confirm their pre-conclusion that the Manuscript notebooks were translation documents. They weren’t. The characters were never meant to correspond to entire paragraphs of text. The reference numbers that Joseph Smith included for the first two characters prove this.

     
    Why would Joseph Smith include numbered citations if these characters were meant to refer to entire paragraphs of text? The first two characters get citations with single words inside the paragraphs of text. Also, why is there no Egyptian character column for verse 14 if the text came from Egyptian characters? That verse just doesn’t count?

    Then we see the handwriting change because Joseph Smith took a long break and changed writers. The new writer wrote Book of Abraham text in much nicer script with no additions or corrections to the English text, indicating the Book fo Abraham translation was complete and fully refined by this point. There are no citations from this point on, unfortunately, but we see a line break whenever they introduced a new Egyptian character. This indicates they wrote the Egyptian character in the left column, and then wrote the English text until they got to the phrase that matches, and then added a line break. So the Egyptian character matches with the sentence at the end of its corresponding Book of Abraham paragraph. Look at the first two characters:

    Character
    Egyptian Alphabet Definition
    Grammar & Alphabet Definition
    Book of Abraham Match
    First Being with supreme power place of happiness, purity, holiness rest.
    see
    “In the land of the Chaldeans”
    “saw”
    Abraham 1:1
    First Being with supreme power Ah brah-aam father of nations, prince of peace, keeps commandments, patriarch, heir, high priest “Abraham”
    Abraham 1:1-2

    The rest of the characters match up with words or phrases at the end of the corresponding Book of Abraham text. A good example of this is the sixth character. The final words of the corresponding Book of Abraham text is “priest of Elkkener.”

    Character
    Egyptian Alphabet Definition
    Grammar & Alphabet Definition
    Book of Abraham Match
    A royal family name Lineage keeping records & embalming “priest of Elkkener”
    (ref. Facs. 1)
    Abraham 1:7-8

    The first letter, a Y-shaped figure, is explained in Egyptian Alphabet as “The first Being” and matches nicely with the Hebrew El, meaning God, in El-kenah. The second part of the word El-kenah, Kenah or Kkener, is very similar to the Egyptian name for the land of Canaan, which is Kinahhi or Khana. The Hebrew root word for Canaan, kana, looks very much like this entire Egyptian character reversed. It is also interesting that this recognizes the priest of Elkanah in Figure 1 as an “embalmer” which correctly matches its Egyptian meaning.

    The Rest Of The Alphabet – The first part of the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks take characters from the Amenhotep scroll. The “second part of the first degree” after that takes characters from the Pure Language of Abraham that we know Joseph Smith earlier received through inspiration. Interestingly, that earlier “Pure Language of Abraham” document aligns the characters with single words, like we would expect in a proper translation dictionary. We don’t see paragraphs of text next to characters that Antimormons incorrectly claim indicates a translation attempt in the Abraham documents. This further proves that the characters next to English text in the Abraham documents were comparisons of single words or short phrases, not translations.

     

    Abandoned – The third part of the Egyptian Alphabet notebooks take characters from the Hor scroll. This indicates Joseph Smith started making comparisons with excerpts from the Hor scroll after he had dissected the Amenhotep characters. They started from the beginning (How did Joseph Smith know the beginning was at the top right of the page to the left of the Facsimile?) and wrote down the hieroglyphs sequentially next to the Book of Abraham text that they appeared to have some kind of correspondence to. They didn’t get very far, however. We can see as the character comparison in the Manuscript notebooks progressed how things got more and more haphazard. The characters match in a more vague and incoherent way. They only made it a these few verses until they gave up. The Joseph Smith record (Book of Breathings) was simply not to be deciphered.

    Hebrew – One final thing to consider is that along with discerning meanings through comparison, Joseph Smith also used what he knew about Hebrew. We see lots of Hebrew names attached to the Egyptian characters, such as Beth and Iota. Oliver Cowdery said in December 22, 1835, after this entire exercise was abandoned: “With many characters or letters exactly like the present (though probably not quite so square), form of the Hebrew without points.” This apparently helped them out. Or perhaps hindered them. Much of what they explained about the characters appear to be only vaguely correct.

    Antimormon Narrative Doesn’t Make Sense – Antimormons tell a convoluted story about Joseph Smith’s translation process, where he imagined up something about Katumin, then expounded it with random characters, then randomly assigned those characters to the Hor scroll hieroglyphs and wrote up paragraphs alongside each hieroglyph. It doesn’t make sense.

    • If the Hor document was the source of the Book of Abraham, why did they only get to chapter 2 in this comparison? There are several chapters that are unaccounted for. Why do the three Manuscript documents start and end at different places?
    • Each single hieroglyph character matches up to long paragraphs of text? (Except the first couple which have citations next to them, and verse 14 which aligns with no character for some reason) Why would Joseph Smith claim he was translating paragraphs from a single character? Why do the first couple verses have all sorts of corrections and then suddenly pristine English text without a single correction?
    • The hieroglyphs overlap the page’s columns, while the English text does not. This suggests that the English was written first, and that it therefore came from a previous source.
    • These hieroglyphs do not appear in the Grammar and Alphabet list, so their definitions were apparently not explored like the facsimiles were. Why not? Both documents were written around the same time, after all.
    • Joseph Smith wrote that he commenced translation immediately after he got the scrolls in 1833. But these documents were started later, after the Egyptian Alphabet. Why?
    • Why were there three separate documents with this same alignment of hieroglyph vs. text?
    • How could someone make up a book of scripture this way? How could a person make up a text by lining up random paragraphs to random glyphs?

    See Also: The Recovered Joseph Smith Papyri Were Never The Basis For The Book Of Abraham

  • ^See a full explanation here. In this previous article, we looked at witness description of scroll size, ink color, preservation state, and resemblance to Hebrew to show that it could only match the missing Amenhotep scroll. It has now become clear as well that Joseph Smith said the Book of Abraham source was found together with a mummy he named Onitah. Charlotte Haven said the “long roll” contained “the writing of Abraham” and that “another roll” contained the figure of a serpent “standing on the tip of his tail” which we recognize in the Ta-shert-Min fragment. So it couldn’t have been that scroll.
     
    LaFayette Knight wrote in 1843: “I went into his house and had a comfortable chat with him, and then examined the four mummies one of which his Mother told me was King Onitus, on whose breast was found the writing of Abraham It being as they say, the astronomy taught by him.” If Joseph Smith’s Notebook of Copied Characters associates an English translation talking about Onitus with an excerpt from the Amenhotep scroll, doesn’t this mean the Amenhotep scroll was the Book of Abraham source?
  • ^ See The Joseph Smith Papyri , Dee Jay Nelson, 1968
    Nelson looked at “the three lines of Egyptian, on the same page as Joseph Smith’s legged serpent drawing in the Valuable Discovery Notebook” and tells us “18 of the 26 characters in the first line are identifiable (70%). 17 of these form the name of the beneficiary in the following context, ‘Osiris Amen-Terp, who is tme of word, mistress.’”

    On another excerpt “from a page of Joseph Smith’s Valuable Discovery Notebook”, Nelson again translates the first lines “lines 1 and 2 is the complete formalized name phrase, ‘Osiris, Amen-Terp, who is true of word, daughter of Na-Nub, who is true of word.’ In lines 6 and 7 this identical name phrase is repeated. In lines 7 and 8 Osiris Amen-Terp is again written, but this time without the mother’s name.”

  • ^ As the Egyptian characters that were lined up with Katumin in the Valuable Discovery notebook got dissected in the Egyptian Alphabet and Alphabet & Grammar notebooks, we see a horizontal line explained as “a woman, married or unmarried,= daughter” and we see a semicircle with a horizontal line explained as the land of Egypt “settled by her Sons she being a daughter of Ham.”
  • ^ Among the three other scrolls, Joseph Smith may have picked the Ta-shert-Min scroll to investigate because it was in best preservation and because as Book of the Dead it was closest to what Joseph In Egypt had–the Book of Breathings derived from the Book of the Dead. One major difference is: “In castrast to the Book of the Dead, Amun plays an important role here.” Maybe this could help explain why the Amunhotep scroll speaks of an Amun-hotep instead of Immu-hotep?