Comments about ‘BYU professor Royal Skousen concludes his discussion on changes to the Book of Mormon original text’

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Published: Tuesday, March 19 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

"...the project must be run according to the most rigorous academic principles," Peterson said.

Unfortunately, "the most rigorous academic principles" seem to have been ignored by LDS apologists regarding the surviving Egyptian papyri and facsimiles used in the "translation" of another LDS scriptural book -- the Book of Abraham.

Thanks to the scholarly work of independent experts in Egyptology, we now know the surviving Egyptian papyri and facsimiles have absolutely nothing to do with the writings of Abraham, the grand keys of the priesthood, or a planet called Kolob. Rather, they are simply Egyptian burial documents.

Lehi, UT

This is a very interesting project and I appreciate the work Skousen has done. I wonder how would come to terms with the fact that there were so many errors (even if they didn't conflict doctrine), yet witnesses of the translation process say that the words on the seer stone Joseph used would not disapear until they had been transcribed perfectly.

Phoenix, AZ

It seems strange that messages and writing coming directly from god could be so messed up and questionable. It makes it seem like even god can't get things done right one time the first time. What is one to believe.

Salt Lake City, UT

All of the skeptical comments so far relate to what is really meant by "translation." In the case of Joseph Smith I maintain that it was not translation as we think of it, but a spiritual process. Yes, one witness had the impression that Joseph actually saw words, but he had no way of knowing that. Could he see through Joseph's eyes?

Joseph clearly could not translate ancient languages, but through the seer stones he could receive spiritual impressions about actual ancient writings and events. The plates were never necessary other than as a testament that the work was true. The papyri only prompted Joseph to receive spiritual impressions about Abraham. I agree that the facsimiles should not be touted as documents that were actually "translated" and the illustrations should probably be removed from the Pearl of Great Price.

What is important about both the Books of Mormon and Abraham is what they actually have to say. Critics dwell on the periphery. Do the words that were written down on paper actually come from God? That is the true question. I believe that they do. But I, too, have to rely upon spiritual impressions to believe.

Westland, MI


"What is one to believe?"

Believe in the Book of Mormon as the word of God based upon its internal doctrinal evidence (agrees with KJV).

Reject the Book of Abraham, as noted by Weber State Graduate above, based upon its internal contradictions of scripture (KJV and BoM) and the outstanding 2012 scholarly work on the JS Egyptian Papyri by Dr. Robert K. Ritner which reveals for all time the BoA as a bogus and fraudulent Joseph Smith "translation".

John Wilson
Idaho Falls, 00

Thanks for the nice article. I wish there had been space for more examples. I also enjoy reading Daniel Peterson's thoughts on this and many other subjects.

Hayden, ID

Not one word in the Book of Abraham is untrue! Read it and can not find anything in there that is not true no matter how it was translated.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Joseph Smith’s own description of how he and his scribes did the actual work of transcribing the English manuscript is not a description of translation. If in the BOM preface Joseph had just said he brought forth the book by the gift and power God, by revelation or inspiration and left it at that, he would have been on firmer ground and spared apologists like Skousen and Peterson from feeling constrained to go through such labored contortions to make Joseph’s claim of translating an ancient record sound credible.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

I didn't attend the lecture, but I am sure the topic was not the Book of Abraham. Still, the BOA reminds me of a old Western parable:

A sharp-shooter arrives in town claiming to be able to shoot far more accurately than anybody else. When challenged by a few skeptics in town, the sharp-shooter says "see that target way off yonder in the distance? I will shoot twelve balls right into it." The skeptics notice a rock off in the distance, and watch as the sharp-shooter aims. He fires a dozen shots towards the rock several hundred yards in the distance. The skeptics run and expecting to find a rock plastered with bullets, instead find the sharp-shooter completely missed the target. The skeptics laugh him to scorn and leave the scene. Little did they know that 15 feet beyond the rock was a tree trunk with a dozen balls in an 'X' pattern that the sharp-shooter had done.

Don't stop at the "rock" with the BOA, but find the "tree stump". Books like "One Eternal Round" by Hugh Nibley (and others) offer amazing insights into just how inspired Joseph Smith was with the BOA.

layton, UT

RE: Craig Clark, Joseph’s claim of translating an ancient record sound credible?

3 Nephi 12:6 And blessed are all they that hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be *filled with the Holy Ghost. And (Mt 5:8 JST)
(Mt 5:6 KJV) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled= (**chortazō 5526).*to feed with herbs, hay; to fill, satisfy with food not the Holy Ghost.
Example.(Luke 6:21 KJV &JST) Blessed are you that hunger now: for you shall be filled= (**chortazo)…
Correct Greek word in (Acts 4:8)Then Peter, *filled=( pimplēmi,4130) with the Holy Ghost…

Also the Matthew Greek apparatus has No MS support for the JST -- “with the Holy Ghost”.

RE: Utes Fan a Western parable. How about a "Hebrew Idiom" like, "he's my right hand man." In the Hebrew this idiom denotes power and strength.
Carried over to the Greek…" where Stephen saw "the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God." Acts 7:55, 56.

Weber State Graduate
Clearfield, UT

Three statisticians went target shooting in the woods. After setting up the target, the first one took aim and fired, missing the target by a couple of inches to the left. Immediately afterwards the second one fired, but missed the target by a couple of inches to the right. The third put down his gun exclaiming, "Great shooting lads, on average I reckon we got it..."

Some people are content with completely missing the mark. They believe if they shoot enough times, the law of averages will eventually win people over.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


Though it is certainly idiomatic (the right hand of power, etc.),it is also literal.

Note 2 Chronicles 18:18:

I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.

Also, Christ retains a body with a left and a right. See Mark 10:40.

Phoenix, AZ

Your suggestion to believe in the BOM might be OK, but what if it is the influence of the Adversary to lead one astray and god will say there were all kind of red flags to warn you remember I gave Moses tablets with out error, my work is perfect and not subject to change. Just wondering.

G L W8

sharronna, your wrangling over the Septuagint Greek is pointless. Jesus spoke in either Aramaic or Hebrew, and in highly symbolic language as evidenced by his parables. Besides, in 3 Nephi he was speaking to a group that had modified the Hebrew over the centuries, and a set of "more righteous" people than the Nephites destroyed in the devestation recorded in that book. Certainly, he would have been more interested in speaking in terms they could clearly understand.

Gray, TN

Skeptic, all the gospels, and history recorded in the Holy Bible were written down by PEOPLE (human hands), not God. The Mosaic Tablets that God did write upon and given to Moses were put into the Ark of the Covenant - which is nowhere to be found. Prophets, or their scribes, wrote on papyrus, sheepskin, clay tablets, brass plates, gold plates, stones, etc. in their native languages. The important issue with Scripture is the Doctrine, the Commandments, the Will of God. The printing press didn't come along until Gutenburg in 15th century (1440), so most of God's messages were through His prophets who SPOKE to the people, wrote letters or journals and then those hearing may "take notes" and keep them to pass along. So, ALL of the old prophets' words were written in a NON-ENGLISH language. Who was the translator into Greek, into German, into English?
If you want to know if something is "true" you can obtain your personal revelation by way of the Holy Spirit through prayer that can testify to your spirit if what you are reading, seeing, or hearing is true or not. Take advantage of God's invitation, "knock and receive".

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Faith doesn’t depend on tangible evidence that can prove that the Book of Mormon was inscribed on gold plates or that the Shroud of Turin is the actual burial cloth of Jesus. No amount of physical evidence will shake the faithful from what their convictions tell them is true; nor will it persuade the skeptics to believe what they find improbable.

Kent C. DeForrest
Provo, UT

skeptic writes: "It seems strange that messages and writing coming directly from god could be so messed up and questionable."

Who's to say it came directly from God? If Skousen is correct, that Joseph Smith was viewing English text and merely reading it to the scribe, then John Gilbert, compositor of the Book of Mormon, was on the right track in asking who really translated the book. It wasn't Joseph, and I would argue that it wasn't God either. I don't think God would make all the grammatical mistakes we find in the book. That leaves one other possibility: someone else who spoke both English and the language(s) on the plates. Hmm. Well, that opens some interesting possibilities.

Herndon, VA

To: Weber State Graduate

I don't know why when there is so much documented proof that you would repeat old tired attacks and spurious claims concerning the origins of the Book of Abraham:

"Thanks to the scholarly work of independent experts in Egyptology, we now know the surviving Egyptian papyri and facsimiles have absolutely nothing to do with the writings of Abraham, the grand keys of the priesthood, or a planet called Kolob. Rather, they are simply Egyptian burial documents."

This is patently false. To use your term, segments of the original papyri have been "independently" translated several times and found to be accurate, so there is simply no truth whatsoever to your claim, continually repeated ad nauseam by those making ad-hominine attacks on the church.

The Book of Abraham will stand for all time because it is in fact true. It was an original document translated by a prophet of God.

You are going to have to come up with something better than this to attack the church. In the meantime, I suggest you get some readily available clarity on this long-since dismissed matter concerning the Book of Abraham.

sandy, ut

People are really starting to reach to find explanations as to why the book of Abraham and the whole Pearl of Great Price is not what it claims to be. There is a reason the apostles took the pearl of great price out of the study courses in sunday school. It used to be part of church study. A few years back, it simply isn't included anymore. Too many questions were coming up about it and so they just stopped it. They claim it is one of the most important books of scripture of our time yet they don't allow it to be studied in church.

Fresno, CA

It is just a shame that this collection isn't available for all CES students who are attending the other BYU campuses. I'm currently enrolled at BYU-I and I can't view the special collection online, even with my CES NetID. They really should have this special collection available for at least all of students attending church schools and not just BYU-Provo students. Actually, the project should be available for all to review so that it can also more easily face the scientific peer review process, but that is a discussion for a later date.

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