One of the many benefits of blogging is that I get to know lots of very interesting people that are much smarter than me.
Many of them bring things to my attention that they have noticed.
Some have special scripture and church history searching skills.
Others have a gift of seeing things in the scriptures that are not apparent to the casual reader.
I have not done a “Notable Emails” post for a while.
Today I thought I would pass on two of my most recent correspondences.
Extracting A greater Interpretation from Scripture through Poetry
One of the emails is from Edward Faunce, a brilliant attorney and Pastor of a Restorationist Branch in California.
Many years ago the RLDS church went through a radical reform, questioning the status of Joseph Smith Jr. as a prophet of God and rejecting the Book of Mormon as divinely inspired scripture.
Ultimately they changed their name to the Community of Christ in an attempt to start fresh and distance themselves from their doctrinal past, opting to continue accepting the divinely inspired calling of Joseph Smith and the truth claims about the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
At that time there were numerous members of their church who rejected the changes and chose to stick with the fundamental beliefs of the restoration.
One very high profile family was brought before a church disciplinary court because they were not willing to submit to the heresies being promoted they the current leaders who had taken the church organization hostage.
Ed represented this courageous family in their dispute with the RLDS/Community of Christ Church.
Someday I am going to provide a synopsis of that amazing event and show some remarkable legal defenses that Ed put forth from the scriptures of the restoration. His defense was pure genius IMO.
Today I am going to share an email I recently got from Ed and a poetic rendition that he did of Section 88 (LDS) (Section 85 RLDS).
Loved your post today. The interplay between DC sections 76 and 88 (RLDS 85) are remarkable.
I continually work at formatting the DC sections in an attempt to make them more understandable and to display the incredible poetic structures, lists, parallel lines etc.
Accordingly, I’m attaching a pdf copy of my latest efforts on DC 85 “the Olive Leaf”. I know it is long, but so much is in it.
I love reading Ed’s poetic versions of the revelations that Joseph Smith Jr. received because new insights always jump out of me when I do.
I encourage you to take a look at Section 88 with new eyes and a new perspective as you read this poetic version. See if anything jumps out at you that you have not previously noticed as you read the poetic format.
You can read it by clicking on the following link
Taking a Critical Look at the Book of Abraham
The next email is from a person that uses the screen name of Mike. He has done some remarkable research on the content and translation timeline of the Book of Abraham.
In a nut shell, he has observed that the first part of the translation took place during a more revelatory time of Joseph’s ministry while later portions of it were translated during a less revelatory time.
I personally have not studied his suppositions deeply yet and I have no final opinion on his speculation. However, I love how he has learned to search every word of a proposed revelation deeply on it’s own merits to determine just how inspired it is.
I have always warned about taking an all or nothing approach to accepting a source as being inspired or non-inspired.
His thought process regarding this issue is a great example of parsing through every doctrinal concept of a proposed revelation without taking anything for granted.
Here is his email to me:
I wrote this up and apologize in advance for its length. If you have a chance to read it, I would really appreciate your thoughts. The crux of it is I think Abraham 4-5 is not inspired. I think Abraham 1 – 2:18 is inspired. I’m still investigating the portion in between. I lay out my reasons below:
I’ve been studying the creation accounts and I’m curious about your take on my concerns about the Book of Abraham account. I know that you have defended Abraham as scripture, so I went back and re-read your article “Reading Abraham While God Winks”. I believe the Book of Abraham is a mixed bag, it is true scripture in parts and it is the uninspired work of Joseph in other parts!
What struck me was the passage that your article highlights as a key to understanding D&C 110 and the Gospel of Abraham is in Abraham 2:9-10. That is the portion of the Book of Abraham that I have the most confidence in. If you look at the Joseph Smith Papers project, we are missing the manuscript of the translation of Abraham. We have only a few documents from the 1835 work:
William W. Phelps and Warren Parrish copy covers Abraham 1:1-2:18 from ~July to ~November 1835
Frederick G. Williams copy covers Abraham 1:4-2:6 from ~July to ~November 1835
Warren Parrish copy covers Abraham 1:4-2:2 from ~July to ~November 1835
Apart from these, we don’t have the rest from the 1835 work. The first manuscript includes the portion that you identified as so insightful and a key to unlocking D&C 110. I have great confidence this is part of the inspired work because it was done during Joseph’s revelatory sweet spot, it contains new light and is relevant to our day.
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read this article on the Book of Abraham:
“The Work of Translating”: The Book of Abraham’s Translation Chronology
It contains a lot of options for how the book was translated. After reading that and with my concerns I’ll mention below about the creation account, I believe that while publishing Abraham in 1842, Joseph altered the original translation from 1835. Specifically, I believe he re-wrote much of the creation account using his own knowledge and understanding of Hebrew which he had gained through his own studies. I don’t believe he was inspired to do so – at least not for our benefit. I believe this was part of the fulfillment of delivering the Saints over to Satan.
I believe that the quote in D&C 121:28 is in reference to the Saints being handed over to Satan. There is no pressing question or doubt about whether there be one God or many gods. Throughout the scriptures, the doctrine of one God is manifestly clear. The scriptures highlight the oneness of the Father and the Son. The scriptures do not present them as multiple Gods. Why, in 1839, would this be such an important question to have answered? The only reason I can see is that it is because the Saints were being handed over to Satan, and that is a doctrine of Satan’s, not of God’s.
With this in mind, I have been looking for those things after 1839 which support the wrong answer to that question. I see the King Follett discourse as doing that. I also see the Book of Abraham’s creation account in 1842 doing that.
I didn’t originally doubt the creation account in the Book of Abraham. I had begun to study the creation accounts from a new perspective and I wanted to put all of the scriptures together. I took the KJV, the JST, and the Book of Abraham versions and lined them up, verse by verse so I could see them all together. I then started to go through them line by line to see the changes that were made. It was interesting to me what different things jumped out to me. The KJV and Abraham are in the 3rd person, but the JST is in the 1st person. Going through the JST changes to the KJV, there’s not a huge amount of alterations. The creation account is mainly intact and to me the changes shed more light in key areas.
The Abraham account is jarringly different. It uses a plurality of gods throughout it. It also has a few other changes I’ll note below which individually may not seem off, but when I look at them as a whole it does damage to the creation account.
After I had started this analysis, I began watching Chuck Missler’s series on Genesis. I believe he spends something like eight episodes on just the creation. As he would highlight different portions of the KJV and draw insights I hadn’t seen before, time after time those same portions were still there in the JST. But many were missing or altered in the Abraham version. It was actually this process that made me research about the translation process of Abraham to see if it was all from the early part of Joseph’s ministry or if it had been done in the latter part of Joseph’s ministry where I think he was fulfilling the prophecy from the Book of Commandments and delivering the Saints over to Satan.
KJV Genesis 1:5 and JST Genesis 1:8 both use the same sentence “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Chuck Missler points out that this doesn’t really describe a normal day. It’s covering the evening and the morning. A full day would go from evening to evening or from morning to morning. I’ll never do as well as Chuck Missler at explaining this, but he goes back to the Hebrew text and shows that evening and morning can be terms used to associate with chaos and order. That each day of creation was a process of taking chaos and creating order out of it. Thus, the evening was the original state of chaos. And the morning was the amount of order God had done.
If you have a chance to re-watch that series, he has a great graphic showing how the creation account just keeps adding order. I think it’s no coincident that in the inspired JST, the same sentence is used and the same insights Chuck Missler found is available to us.
When we get to the Book of Abraham, this isn’t the case: Abraham 4:5 “…And it came to pass that from the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day; and this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called day and night.”
This changes the original text to match our concept of a day. It goes from evening to evening. By itself, this is a small change, but the changes keep adding up.
The next big change that drew my attention was in KJV Genesis 1:10 (“…and God saw that it was good.”) and JST Genesis 1:14 (“And I, God, saw that all things which I had made were good.”). Chuck Missler calls this seeing that it was good as blessing of the work. Abraham instead has “…and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.” While a small change, it seems to indicate that Abraham’s Gods are not omnipotent. There seems to be the possibility that the could have been disobeyed. This could be seen as nitpicking, in that the KJV and JST could hold out the possibility that God’s work could have been bad rather than good. However, from the perspective of Chuck Missler where that statement is a blessing of the work, it takes that doubt away. In Abraham’s version, it isn’t a blessing.
I then went back to the first day, because God had blessed his work then as well. KJV Genesis 1:4 and JST Genesis 1:7 both have the same use of ‘good’ which can be thought of as the blessing of the work. How does Abraham do it? Much differently: Abraham 4:4 “And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; …”. Comprehended is a weird word here. What is it supposed to mean? Did the Gods create something they hadn’t understood? Were they surprised the light was bright? What were the Gods expecting the light to be?
Throughout the account, Abraham changes the ‘good’ blessing to observing that the Gods had been obeyed. See Abraham 4:10, 4:18, 4:21, 4:25, 4:31. In 4:21, they finally say ‘good’ only after observing that their creations would obey them. I can see the logic in obeying God (Gods) as being good. But if we look at God saying it was ‘good’ as a blessing, then having Gods fretting about if they would be obeyed is a much different narrative.
The next big change is in KJV Genesis 1:26 “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”. Here in the KJV we have a plural with the word God. What does the JST do? JST Genesis 1:27 “And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so.” The inspired version makes it clear that the Father and the Son are involved in the creation. We know from Lectures on Faith that they are each a personage, so we can see where the plural in the KJV comes from.
I think these verses are where the inspired JST really makes important changes and it’s where the Abraham account lacks them.
KJV Genesis 1: 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
The original goes from plural to singular.
JST Genesis 1: 29 And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them.
The inspired version is consistent with other scriptures that God used the image of the Only Begotten to create man. The plural to singular makes sense as it is the Father and the Son involved here.
Abraham 4: 27 So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.
It sticks with the plural here rather than singular, not the image of the Only Begotten – ‘Only’ is singular!
There’s also a subtle change here from ‘created’ to ‘organize’ and ‘form’. These are very similar words, but both the KJV and JST stick with ‘create’. I think that is more appropriate. Both the KJV and JST use ‘form’ later on when man’s physical body is formed from the dust of the earth. This is probably minor, but it stuck out to me for some reason.
Here’s one of the worst part of the Abraham account:
Abraham 4:28 “…And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply…”
What a stark contrast to KJV Genesis 1:28 “…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply…” and JST Genesis 1:30 “…and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply…”. The big change is that in the KJV and JST God is commanding them to be fruitful. In the Abraham account, the Gods are going to do it for man. They are going to be the cause. As we know from the full creation account, it is due to Adam and Eve exercising their agency that they fell and it was after that point where they began to be fruitful and to multiply. Abraham tells us that the Gods are going to cause this to happen.
Well, who caused the Fall to happen? Wouldn’t it be correct to lay that at the feet of Satan, having tempted Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit? This is pretty close to a smoking gun as far as who is writing the Abraham account. It’s the one who caused that to happen.
I know that it was all part of God’s plan, but for God to claim that He caused it, would deny the agency He had given to man. The wording in Abraham is just way off to me.
There are some more subtle changes in Abraham, but the next big one is from JST Genesis 2:5-6. This is where new light is shed on the creation and we learn that the first 7 days are talking about a spiritual creation. It explains why we see some of the same things being repeated in Genesis chapter 2. Unfortunately, Abraham sticks with the KJV and doesn’t include this new information.
Why didn’t Abraham’s account include this key piece of information? It should have matched the JST, but it doesn’t.
The final big change in Abraham’s account is that he reverses the order of when God separated Eve from Adam. Adam is a composite being in the express image of the Only Begotten. He currently has no help meet, Eve is still composite with him. Adam gets to observe God creating all the animals and Adam gets to name them. This is all done as a composite being. There may be a good reason why Adam needed to remain as a composite being in order to witness this creation and name all the animals.
In the KJV and JST it is after all the animals are created that God causes a deep sleep to come upon Adam and he separates Eve from him. The Abraham account reverses this and separates Eve from Adam before all the animals are created. I don’t know the full significance of this, but it can’t be both. Either it was done before all the animals were formed or it was done after. The KJV and JST have it happen after. Abraham has it happen first. If Abraham were inspired of God, God’s word would be consistent.
Perhaps the only significance of this is to act as a red flag for those of us who pursue it, to see one more inconsistency, and possibly a needless one at that. But it could also be much more significant.
Regardless, it doesn’t make sense that God would provide two conflicting accounts. One is true and one is false. For all the other reasons I have outlined, I have concluded that the bulk of this account is not inspired from God.
I believe the first part of the Book of Abraham is inspired and true. I believe the last two chapters are not inspired or correct. Abraham 2:19 through the end of chapter 3 is something I’m still contemplating. It could be inspired, but I think each passage needs to be carefully inspected and tested against the rest of the scriptures. We need to follow the Spirit and seek guidance on just what parts are true and what aren’t.
Appreciate your time and any thoughts you have on this.
This was my response to Mike
After my first quick read, your research seems remarkable to me and you seem to have some valid concerns. I am going to need to do a deep dive into this as soon as I get a chance.
I have noticed a distinct difference in tone and portions of content between the Abraham account of creation vs the Biblical (JST) over the years but I just assumed one was a general account and the other provided more specifics…
To me, Lectures on Faith supports the Abraham narrative of other gods being involved in the creation when it says,
“It was by faith that the worlds were framed. God spake, chaos heard, and worlds came to order, by reason of the faith there was in him.”
I suspect the term “chaos” is referring to other intelligences or spirit entities involved in the creation process. ( I realize you believe that chaos represents the elements from which the world was created, and that may be true, however, it is also possible that chaos has reference to intelligences that are obeying a command to organize the earth/world)
Section 121 is a curious revelation because after verse 28 which poses the question of whether or not there are other gods and suggests the answer will be in the future, verse 32 then reveals that in fact, the “eternal God” stood in the “council of gods” before the world was!!!! Again, we have a secondary confirmation of the Abraham narrative.
In fairness to the concept of other gods, Michael Heiser a Christian bible scholar has done a magnificent job of showing that in fact it was well documented anciently in the OT that there were other gods, ie, the “sons of God” (who would obviously be gods).
Anyway, your research is fascinating and well worth consideration. In fact I may make a blog out of your email as it brings up some very important observations and it is a real life example of how we need to parse every bit of scripture and never assume that every part is true just because one part is true.
Thanks for sharing.
PS Have you listened to any of Mike Heisers lectures on multiple gods?”
This was Mike’s reply
I appreciate your consideration and feedback. I’ve started watching some of Michael Heiser’s lectures but I don’t think I’ve gotten to the ones on multiple Gods. I’ve seen some of his lectures on the days of Noah and the sons of God, which I found very provocative. I’ll keep searching his lectures for that info.
Since coming across your blogs I’ve taken a new approach to drop my previous traditions and look at everything anew and look for evidence from the scriptures. I’m surprised how often I have come across something new and/or not been able to find the scriptural basis for my past beliefs. It’s also opened my eyes to non-LDS Biblical scholars and how much value there is in diving deep into the word of God.
Again, I am not saying I necessarily agree with Mike’s suppositions about the Book of Abraham. I am forwarding his research to stimulate thought and remind everyone that the gospel plan requires all of use to check all doctrines against the established foundational word of God.
Mormons have been indoctrinated and conditioned to check their brains at the door and blindly accept what they are told by current leaders of the church, regardless of what the word of God says. That is contrary to what the Savior and His holy scriptures have counseled us to do.
Previous Notable Emails
Notable Emails #28- “Why do we need prophets and apostles when they refer us to scholars for doctrine and church history understanding”Notable Emails #27 “what makes you so sure JS was not just a charlatan from the beginning?”
Notable Emails #23 “Woe to the rebellious children, saith the Lord, that take counsel, but not of me; and that cover with a covering, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin”: The LDS Temple Garment