New Revelations Shock Mormon Church
That being said, I came upon a story while researching an article on Mitt Romney. Much is made of the fact that Mr. Romney is a Mormon and that his character and personality are built upon that wholesome Mormon morality. Unless you are within a few hundred miles of Salt Lake City, Utah, you probably know next to nothing about the "LDS" (Latter Day Saints), as they are called. Here's the background first, then the bomb shell that's caused many to turn away from the church and its teachings.
The Church was founded by a young man, Joseph Smith, who claimed he was contacted by an Angel called Moroni and given some sacred texts in an ancient language that had been scribed upon a book of golden pages. Smith translated the text with the help of some jeweled breastplates that gave him the special abilities.
This is similar to the Biblical accounts of a breastplate made of gold and specific gems and stones.
Urim and Thummim
Crystal gemstones inspire many people with their beauty. But the power and symbolism of these sacred stones goes beyond simple inspiration. In the Book of Exodus, the Bible and Torah both describe how Yahweh instructed people to make a breastplate with 12 different gemstones for a high priest to use in prayer.
Exodus 28:30 mentions mystical objects called "Urim and Thummim" (which mean "lights and perfections") that Yahweh instructed the Hebrew people to include in the breastplate:
"Also put the Urim and the Thummim in the breastplate, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of Yahweh. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before Yahweh."
The translation of Joseph Smith was dictated and then transcribed by assistants and eventually became The Book of Mormon. The original source -- the gold plates -- were returned to the Angel Moroni and so we are left with no remaining evidence.
Many religions have similar themes where the "message" is revealed through a prophet. Islam believes that the Qu'ran was revealed by an Angel and transcribed by Mohammed. Judaism believes that the Ten Commandments were transcribed to Moses by Yahweh.
Accepting the "messages" of prophets like Joseph Smith, Mohammed and Moses, is primarily a matter of faith. We cannot validate their claims because there are no other witnesses to the divine contact, except the prophet. We invest our faith in the character and honesty of these prophets and billions of us use this faith to motivate our lives, form laws and escape the fear of our unknown destinies -- all by what they we were told and read about from these men.
But what if we discovered thst our prophet had been dishonest and simply made things up?
Sadly, like Santa Claus, Joseph Smith's Revelations Are A Hoax.
The veracity of the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, is in serious danger. Already a significant number of people have left the church because of a 1966 discovery in an archive of Egyptian artifacts at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The papyrus scroll contradicts Smith's translations that became The Book of Abraham, one of the canons of the Mormon faith. It would appear that Joseph Smith just invented the text and lied about his ability to translate it!
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830. Andrew Jackson was president of the United States and the famous Oregon Trail had just crossed the Continental Divide. By 1835, Smith and his twelve apostles had set up a pioneer-like agricultural community in Kirtland, Ohio, and were building a church temple there.
Quite by chance, a traveling salesman named Michael Chandler was selling a collection of Egyptian mummies, various artefacts and, most significantly, two papyrus scrolls that had been wrapped in the arms of one of the mummified corpses. Chandler claimed they were all authentic artefacts that had been plundered from graves near the Egyptian ruins of Thebes by a deceased explorer, whose estate he was commissioned to sell. When he passed through Kirtland and displayed the scrolls, he was immediately brought to meet Joseph Smith.
The Book of Mormon was originally written in ancient Egyptian, according to Smith, and he had translated the Book of Mormon text on his own. His congregation was sure that if anyone could translate the writing on the papyrus scrolls, it was their prophet, Joseph Smith.
The salesman sensed the interest when Smith claimed to recognize the names of the biblical "Abraham" and "Joseph" on the scrolls. He made a requirement that the four unsold mummies he carried in his wagon would have to be part of the deal, take it or leave it. With the help of some investors, and their $2,400 (an estimated $75,000 in today's dollars), Joseph Smith had his Egyptian papyrus scrolls and began to translate them, much as he did before with The Book of Mormon.
"I have commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphs and much to our joy found that one of the scrolls contained the writing of Abraham. Another with the writings of Joseph of Egypt. A more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine and unfold them. Truly we can say the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.
-- Joseph Smith, July 5, 1835
For the next year, Joseph Smith continued working on the scrolls, claiming to have translated what would later become The Book of Abraham, a cornerstone of his work as a prophet and dogma in the evolving Mormon church.
[Above:] Sketched reconstruction of a portion of the papyrus scroll by Joseph Smith, used in translating The Book of Abraham. Smith claimed the reclining figure (4) was Abraham, about to be sacrificed on an altar by an Egyptian priest holding a knife (3).
[Above:] The actual scroll showing how Smith "drew in" portions of the images that were missing on the original.
[Above:] The actual scroll used by Joseph Smith to translate The Book of Abraham.
"This certifies that we have sold to Mr. P. Combs, four Egyptian mummies with the records of them. They were purchased by the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, at the price of twenty four hundred dollars in the year 1835. They were highly prized by Mr. Smith on account of the importance which attached in the record which was accidentally found in the breast of the mummies."
--Emma Smith (Bideman), May 26, 1856
Enter: The Rosetta Stone
The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian granodiorite stele inscribed with a decree issued at Memphis in 196 BC on behalf of King Ptolemy V. The decree appears in three scripts: the upper text is Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, the middle portion Demotic script, and the lowest Ancient Greek. Because it presents essentially the same text in all three scripts (with some minor differences between them), it provided the key to the modern understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Originally displayed within a temple, the stele was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier, Pierre-Francois Bouchard, of the French expedition to Egypt. As the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this hitherto untranslated ancient language.
Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating amongst European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria. Transported to London, it has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.
With little interest from America academia, the knowledge of ancient Egyptian did not arrive across the Atlantic in time to enlighten or discredit the translations made by Joseph Smith in the 1830s. Only much later were Egyptian scholars able to evaluate his work.
We know so much about ancient Egyptian burial practices today. The scroll that Jospeph Smith translated has been found and completely debunked.
Dr. Richard Parker of Brown University:
"This is a well-known scene from the Osiris mysteries, with Anubis, the jackal-headed god, on the left ministering to the dead Osiris on the bier... The apparent upper hand is part of the wing of a second bird which is hovering over the erect phallus of Osiris (now broken away). The second bird is Isis and she is magically impregnated by the dead Osiris and then later gives birth to Horus who avenges his father and takes over his inheritance. The complete bird [on the right] represents Nephthys, sister to Osiris and Isis. Beneath the bier are the four canopic jars with heads representative of the four sons of Horus..."Egyptologist Theodule Deveria was the first to identify the facsimiles found in the Book of Abraham as common to Egyptian funerary documents. Ancient Egyptians would bury or entomb their dead with a collection of hymns, spells, and instructions to allow the deceased to pass through obstacles in the afterlife.
What now for the Mormon Church?
In a recent documentary which interviewed many Mormons who had been made aware of this fraud, church members described entire families leaving the fold. If Joseph Smith was dishonest in his translations of The Book of Abraham (still a canon of the church) then he was likely dishonest about the Book of Mormon in its entirety.
General Authority and Church Historian B.H. Roberts recognized the gravity of the problem:
"... if Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be proven discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon, and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught."
-- Comprehensive History of the Church 2:138
No satisfactory answer has come from church officials. Some have attempted to claim that Smith arrived at his translation from other pieces of the scroll, yet unaccounted for. But Egyptologists, familiar with this death prayer, say that it is complete, from start to finish, and that only a few columns of text are missing at best.
Some apologists say that Joseph Smith was inspired to write The Book of Abraham, and that the hieroglyphics were merely guides, but Smith clearly stated otherwise in his diary.
This shocking news stirs up some interesting and frightening prospects when a member in good standing -- a Bishop, in fact -- of the Mormon church was narrowly defeated for most powerful office in the free world. Mitt Romney maintains his "World View" that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
Yes, there is a Santa Claus.