Comments about ‘BYU professor speaks on unnoticed assumptions about the Book of Abraham’

Return to article »

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 13 2014 4:40 p.m. MDT

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended

Another assumption commonly made is that Egyptologists have a surefire way of knowing what the hieroglyphics mean. I don't make that assumption so I want to know, very specifically, how it can be known that what we are told is a correct translation is, in fact, accurate. How do people know this? We accept the learned, sometimes, on their own high evaluation.

Portland, Oregon

@Gildas asks, "...how it can be known that what we are told is a correct translation is, in fact, accurate..."

Which is exactly why we are exhorted to rely on the Holy Spirit to know what is and is not true.

Many people think that it's just as simple as praying and getting an answer when it is really a long, intensive process that requires real work from the seeker. We are told to study, learn, seek out as much information about the topic as we can, and ponder that information to a point whereby we make a decision whether or not it is true.

At that point we've done all we can, we take our choice to the Spirit in humility and contriteness, and seek to know if the decision we've made is true. If we have followed the instructions carefully and done our best to learn the truth, the Spirit will reveal to us whether or not our decision is correct.

It's a lot of work on our part, but the rewards are well worth it.

UT Brit
London, England


Haha yes lets ignore those egyptologists with there years upon years of study! I ignore medical advice from my doctor, I see his diplomas on the wall and ignore them and ask him does he have a surefire way of knowing what is wrong with me? I check internet boards instead and get people I dont know to prescribe the cure for my ills.

Sorry this is ridiculous, the papyri used in the Book of Abraham are standard funerary texts. The eygptologists know what the hieroglyphics mean because they have seen dozens of other examples of the same text.

Cedar Hills, UT

Great article! Part of my job is aligning managers and we always start with assumptions. It usually takes a while before people recognize all of their assumptions and recognize that what they thought was "common sense" was not common.

Salt Lake City, UT

What Kerry Muhlestein, and Erica Palmer are talking about is confirmation bias. I can understand that in many cases and especially in theological ones, everybody will have their assumptions and presumptions. However, confirmation bias is the opposite of scholarly work. Why should i trust a professor who just said that he starts out with the assumption that the BOM and BOA, and any other thing from the restoration is true.? And that he looks for the evidence that makes it true.

Now i would pay attention to a professor who said I'm going to follow the evidence where it lies and find out the truth from there. I think this article just proves that you really can't trust somebody who only gives credit to the evidence that supports his presumptions.

I won't even go into how realistically and statistically unreliable revelation is. But ill just leave with this thought; that out of 7 Billion people in the world, supposedly 14 million get the right revelation, and the rest don't.

Fairfax Station, VA

When pieces of the papyrus scroll were re-discovered
in a NY art museum, the church put scholar
Hugh Nibley on the case to decipher the Egyptian
into English. Nibley assumed he would,for example,
translate facsimile 1 and it would be as written in the BOA .
Didn't happen and the church scholars have
been on the defensive ever since because there is no
correlation on anything on the scroll and in the BOA.
Skeptics claim Joseph made it all up; believers
just believe its true and shelf any doubts.

Orem, UT

It's too easy for some doubters to jump on a band-wagon of criticism regarding the Book of Abraham (or for that matter, the Book of Mormon) without ever examining the contents of the book. In spite of the fact that the historical records indicate that the Book of Abraham was translated from the long scroll and not the short scroll where facsimile 1 was taken, and that the Book of Mormon had several witnesses as to how Joseph translated the work, they still argue regarding the process, not what is actually written. If they are truly intellectually honest, they would examine the claims made about the books by first reading them. There is also sufficient research regarding literary style, time frames, archaeology, etc. for them to examine as well by plenty of researchers who are well respected in their chosen fields of study and by their peers. Any objective examination would require such an open-minded approach.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

This is a deeply troubling article because in its effort to leave room for faith, it may completely undermine the foundations of knowledge.

If someone wants to pray and be “guided by the holy spirit” when it comes to leading their lives, I don’t see a problem and it may even be beneficial (although I can imagine it going the other way too – I bet the 9-11 hijackers prayed too).

But when we start equating this with other ways of knowing about facts in the world (and religions make all sorts of claims in this area) we’re out on a limb that can hold no weight.

It is instructive to keep in mind the following two questions here:

1.Name a fact about the natural world for which a prior religious explanation has now been superseded by a scientific explanation.

2.Name a fact about the natural world for which we once had a scientific (in the modern sense of the word) explanation but now have a better religious explanation.

It should be immediately clear that the answers to these questions are “countless” and “none” respectively.

Ernest T. Bass
Bountiful, UT

Completely objective, no doubt.
The truth is, Eqyptologists know the language. There is no debate on that.
Hugh Nibley admitted the papyrus didn't match. Anyone who attempts to cast doubt on what the papyrus says and who claims Egyptian experts aren't certain are simply being dishonest.


The amount of mental gymnastics that he utilizes is impressive.

His presuppositional logic can be easily turned on its head. For example, any Muslim apologist uses the same basic idea.

"I start out with an assumption that the Taurat and the Qu'ran, and anything else that we get from the Prophet Mohammad, is true”

It doesn't matter how much evidence anyone provides to the contrary, the apologist will never change his mind. Believing something on bad evidence, in spite of evidence, or in the face of evidence, is what causes people to be flat-Earthers and Elvis conspirators.

It is intellectual dishonesty at its greatest.

Bountiful Guy
Bountiful, UT

I always start with the premise that Joseph Smith is a prophet. Once I have an immovable testimony of that; one that I cannot deny, then I can move forward and understand through faith and works how things such as the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham are true. I find overwhelming evidence (not proof) that they are true. And I can then pray about them for spiritual confirmation and can receive a witness that they are true that I cannot deny. I don't ignore facts. I seek to understand facts and how the facts that we have pertain or do not pertain to the thing about which I seek testimony and truth. The Book of Abraham is not a translation of the papyrus that has been studied. It's that very real possibility that some ignore, because ignoring it helps build their case against it. The fire is a fact. The survival of a fragment is a fact. Much was destroyed is a fact. The failure to match the translation to the surviving piece is a fact. More than one conclusion is reasonable.

UT Brit
London, England

I pay attention to expert egytpologists who have no skin in the game. On the one hand I have a professor (like Ritner) who's analysis of the Book of Abraham makes no change to him or his life, on the other hand I have a BYU professor whos very livelihood depends on proclaiming the BoA to be a true book of scripture. Hmmmm who should I believe............

Not one Egyptologist outside the church has confirmed that the translation from the KEP or those of the facsimiles are translated correctly. Use the catalyst theory all you like but lets not for one second assume that anything we have on the papyri has anything to do with the writings of the Book Of Abraham.

Orem, UT

Recent research on facsimile 1 have shown that the so-called funerary text explanation is simply not sufficient to explain the discrepancies between it and other standard funerary texts found by egyptologists. The separation of the legs show movement, the priest standing behind the lion couch, the fact that the victim is clothed, the two hands lifted rather than one. When a more closer examination is made, facsimile 1 appears more to be an act of human sacrifice and compares favorably with other text showing the same. Egyptians did use Abraham also in many of their texts further reinforcing the idea that Joseph Smith did get the interpretation of facsimile 1 correctly. The fact that all three other facsimile's were correctly interpreted by Joseph Smith underscore the fact that the Book of Abraham is a valid interpretation. Those who claim otherwise simply have not done their homework and are taking a lazy approach to any real investigation on this matter.

Los Angeles, CA

Science and all it's fields are ever changing, evolving and self correcting. Anyone that puts all their faith in science as 100% or takes no stock in it at all are both ignorant. The field or study of science is simply man working really hard to learn what God already knows. In the end both science and mans understanding of God will be congruent.

Bob A. Bohey
Marlborough, MA

When trying to defend something that many people believe (have faith) that it was made up, a very shrewd move is to play the "we'll just have to agree to disagree card". A very weak argument IMVHO.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

"I start out with an assumption that the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, and anything else that we get from the restored gospel, is true," he [Muhlestein] said.

If Professor Muhlestein finds that a solid frame of reference from which to have an exchange of ideas, I can’t argue with him. At least I certainly know better than to try.

Tustin, CA

It is good to make it clear that the facsimile was likely not what Joseph Smith used. There are corrections in religious things and in scientific ones. In a science class I was taught the universe's expansion was slowing so likely it would reverse and go back to a single tiny spot again, not science says it is not slowing but continuing at the same speed, ever expanding. So the LDS church has made corrections where it found an error was made, take for instance the first edition of the "Mormon Doctrine" it had many errors, and the church had it corrected. While we can pray and hopefully get inspiration for ourselves (that isn't always recognized nor are we always prepared to get an answer), I believe that science and religion will come closer and closer over time, until the absolute truth is known.

Light and Liberty
St. George/Washington, UT

Game Theory: Assuming that at the time time of Christ the population of the Roman empire was approximately 1 million, Christ shouldn't be given any credence for his message (I guess, based on your assumptions that numbers equate with certainty-or non certainty as stated by you). God certainly knew that Christ's message was true, but it was undeniably rejected by most of the then population, as well as for another hundred years and more! I think a better way to live a life is to make your own decisions, rather than following the crowd. The crowd, particularly today, is not something I'd want to base my decisions. Your analogy is weak!


That the origin of the Book of Abraham cannot be so easily dismissed by alluding to the "expert" non-LDS Egyptologists is demonstrated by the following facts: "In the 1960s a few fragments of the original papyri were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and given back to the Mormon Church. They have since been published and studied, but they are not, unfortunately, the papyri from which Joseph Smith took the Book of Abraham. In his writings, Joseph Smith describes the papyrus scroll that the Book of Abraham was “beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation” (History of the Church, 2:348). The surviving fragments contain only black ink and are in terrible disrepair. So, for all the fuss that critics have made about the Book of Abraham, there is no evidence to refute it."

Newport Beach, CA

The right question to ask is how often a text is associated with an adjacent picture, when the text *refers* to the picture.

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments