Egyptian Papers and Book of Abraham Translation

Kerry Muhlestein, “Egyptian Papers and the Translation of the Book of Abraham: What Careful Applications of the Evidence Can and Cannot Tell Us,” from the 2020 FairMormon Conference.

We still won’t have a perfect picture of the translation after viewing this presentation. But we can be sure that one of the critics’ major claims is not true: the much-discussed characters in the margin are not a result of the “translations” and other efforts found in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP).

An earlier presentation by Dr. Muhlestein:

Why Giving Matters: Arthur Brooks

Dr. Brooks is a practicing Catholic and PhD economist. He loves Utah and admires Latter-day Saints. He was skeptical about the relationships between charity and prosperity. Ultimately, the data showed Arthur that comparing like families and individuals demonstrated that giving made people happier and more prosperous on average.

 
People giving to charity are 43% more likely to say they’re happy. People who give blood: 2x as likely to say they’re happy.

Multiple Versions Of CES Letter History

This blog post shares specific time points in Jeremy Runnell’s life that contradict statements he later made about his intentions

“I almost put this post together a couple years ago, but I was torn. In interviews, Jeremy Runnells comes across as such a nice guy. And yet the very nature of this post calls into question his motives.”

Jeremy claimed he never intends to hurt the Church or its members. Yet, earlier he was already on record stating he didn’t want his kids being brainwashed and had a goal to get others out of the Church. Jeremy’s tone, approach, and stated goals changed.

This thread is available in the LDS forum of reddit:

When the author wrote the original CES Letter in 2013, he was already totally out of the church and self-identifying as an apostate. In this post dated November 15, 2012 for example, he describes himself as an exmormon and asks for advice on how to keep his kids out of the church even though his wife is still in.

“I’m BIC, RM, Temple Married who left the church a few months ago”

“I’m mainly worried about two things at this point: 1) TSCC undermining me as a father by feeding them “your dad lost the spirit” bulls**t. 2) TSCC brainwashing my kids into TBM “Follow the Prophet” robots.”

“When is the right time to bring up my disbelief and the details that caused my disbelief?”

“I want to know the most effective way to save them from Mormonism”

That’s just an example of where he was before he wrote the CES letter. That’s his reddit account.

After he published the first draft he said “I wrote this for my kids who one day are going to ask their dad why he left the faith.”

If you use Google’s “custom date range” search feature you can see a more of what he was saying at the time.

The original CES Letter was different than the one that is available today – he used more aggressive language that made his position at the time a lot more clear. For example (and this was read at his disciplinary council as one of the evidences for his apostasy):

“So, Christ is the crazy god of the Old Testament. The Christ of the Old Testament and the Christ of the New Testament are light years different. Again, I’m asked to believe in not only a part-time racist god and a part-time polygamous god but a part-time psychopathic schizophrenic one as well.”

and

“Delusion is believing when there is an abundance of evidence against something. To me, it’s absolute insanity to bet my life, my precious time, my money, my heart, and my mind into an organization that has so many serious problematic challenges to its foundational truth claims.”

You see that the current subtitle of the CES Letter “My Search for Answers to my Mormon Doubts” is not an accurate description of why he wrote the letter, the content of the letter, or his spiritual state at the time. He wasn’t someone searching for answers as he commonly portrays himself now – he had left the church, had resentment toward it, and was involved in trying to bring his family out of it. The original subtitle was “How I lost my testimony”; he crowdsourced the current subtitle at /r/exmormon in 2015 before releasing the current version.

By 2015 the way he described his position in 2013 had shifted from a strong antagonism closer to what he currently claims: that he was just looking for answers, man. The current release was modified from the previous one “for a softer tone” according to Runnells, and that is characteristic of what he was doing across the board. Here is a good example of the way he describes the period when he was writing all of the stuff I quoted above:

I didn’t lead people away from the Church. I don’t accept this phraseology.” (compare to his posts about how to apply a strategy to get his family out of the church.)

“All I did was share my reasons for doubting.” (compare to his clear antagonism and resentment of the church earlier – that’s not doubt)

“Yes, my position in 2015 is that the LDS Church is based on a foundation of fraud but I was still wrestling with figuring things out 2 years ago when I was approached by the CES Director.” (compare to his statements about the church from 2 years previous – he was quite certain it was a fraud and he spoke openly about it).

Since 2015 he’s really fortified his statements that he was just looking for answers to his doubts when he wrote the letter, but I think the selection of quotes I’ve given here shows that actually that’s not the case.

After he wrote the CES Letter he started speaking publicly against the church. This is what ultimately led to his disciplinary council.

You can read the transcript if you like. As evidence of his apostasy they picked out sections from the original CES Letter (I’ve quoted them above) and they picked out statements he made during that “press tour” period in 2014-2015.

Assumptions of New Testament Scholars

John Gee — more frequently commenting on the Book of Abraham — shares valuable insight on the topic of the veracity of Jesus and the New Testament.

Among other things, Dr. Gee discusses the early Church leader, Papias, age of ancient manuscripts (usually much, much older than the NT manuscripts), and other subjects that support the reliability of the New Testament.

https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/the-implications-of-some-standard-assumptions-of-new-testament-scholars-responding-to-a-modern-anti-christ/

Book of Abraham: greatly weakening critics’ claims

These two videos undermine several of the most tightly held views by critics of our faith. In my opinion, the Book of Abraham won’t long remain among the top 3 — for many it’s the #1 — criticisms against our faith. The data simply don’t support our critics’ major claims on this topic.

This presentation by John Gee is from the 2010 FAIR Conference. It was recorded as it was being streamed, at a time when a camera was not used for the streaming. It consists of the Powerpoint slides and audio.

At the 2020 FAIR conference Tim Barker goes into even more depth to dispel misunderstandings on this topic:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlc3e–vvpE

BH Porter shares additional understanding on this book.

Interesting fact: the area missing in Joseph Smith’s hypocephalus (Facsimile 2, area in 1-4 o’clock area) was present in another hypocephalus that Bro. Porter saw when he researched Abraham at Oxford years ago.

Suicidality and the LDS Church

Episode 7: Youth Suicidality and the Church (Justin Dyer) MAY 2020

It’s not uncommon to hear popular narratives that link depression and suicide with the Church.  Are those claims accurate? Dr. Justin Dyer finds the research suggests a different narrative. In this episode, professor Dyer shares his important studies about Latter-day Saint youth suicide, depression, LGBTQ members, and religiosity that can help us act in more informed and compassionate ways.

Listen to podcast #7 at this link here.

Publications:

Depression, Religiosity, and Parenting Styles among Young Latter-Day Saint Adolescents” (Religions, vol. 10, 2019).

Guest opinion: The church and LGBT youth suicide: Inaccurate claims may do more harm than good” (Deseret News, May 2019)

Commentary: Did the same-sex marriage policy of the LDS Church coincide with an increase in youth suicide?” (Salt Lake Tribune, September 2018)

Op-ed: Responding to Ellen on Mormons and teen suicide” (Deseret News, June 2018)

Other links:

Suicide Prevention and Ministering (churchofjesuschrist.org)

Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

Suicide Prevention Lifeline