Friday, January 7, 2011
Despite its foreboding title, Robert Charles Webb's book The Case Against Mormonism, is an apologetic work defending Mormonism against the common anti-Mormon arguments prevalent at the time it was published. Webb himself was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but was favorable to their cause.1 The book was published in 1915 in New York, and came mostly as a response to Reverend Henry C. Sheldon, a Professor at Boston University, who had written a book entitled A Fourfold Test of Mormonism.2 Sheldon briefly discusses the Book of Abraham Facsimiles and the responses of Egyptologists consulted by Reverend Franklin S. Spalding, and previously by Jules Remy. Webb's book briefly addresses these particular issues, as well as Sheldon's approach, and this portion of Webb's book is included below.3
1 Robert Charles Webb is a pseudonym for James Edward Homans. Homans was a Harvard graduate who had studied at the Harvard Divinity School. He was an Episcopalian, and was a writer by profession. He was friendly towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and had published articles and books relating to Mormonism previous to this publication, and subsequent thereto. See "Robert C. Webb," by Kevin Barney, By Common Consent; also see "The Story of Research on The Pearl of Great Price," by Sidney B. Sperry, in Pearl of Great Price Conference, December 10, 1960, James R. Clark, Conference Director (Department of Extension Publications, Adult Education and Extension Services, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 1964), 6-11; additionally, see James E. Talmage Diary, dated December 1, 1915 (typescript in my possession): "About noon I received a call, as per prior arrangements, from James E. Homans. We lunched together and spent some time in the discussion of the work on which Mr. Homans has been for some time engaged, the preparation of articles and books on subjects relating to Mormonism. Mr. Homans delivered to me today a copy of a 157 page work entitled "The Case Against Mormonism" by himself. Instead of his own name he uses on the title page the pen-name, Robert C. Webb, under which he has written in this particular field of literature. The book is a reply to a little work which appeared somewhat over a year ago, entitled, "A Fourfold Test of Mormonsim" by Prof. Henry C. Sheldon, of Boston University. The Webb's [sic] reply is published by L.L. Walton of the Sturgis and Walton Company. In company with Mr. Homans I visited the offices of Sturgis and Walton, and ordered five hundred copies of "The Case Against Mormonism" to be shipped at once to the office of the Deseret News, Salt Lake City."
2 A Fourfold Test of Mormonism, Henry Clay Sheldon (Abindgon Press, New York City, NY 1914), 23-25
3 Henry C. Sheldon's book is not included in the Documents on this blog because there is nothing original produced in his writing. He simply summarizes Remy's findings, which is available here; and Spalding's findings, which will be forthcoming.
In 1855, Jules Remy (a Frenchman) and Julius Brenchley (an Englishmen) visited Salt Lake City. Upon their return home they presented to Theodule Deveria "drawings which we borrowed from the Mormons [the Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham]" with a request that he would translate them from Egyptian into French. Deveria obliged, and his translation made in 1859 was subsequently published by Jules Remy in 1860 in his book Voyage Au Pays Des Mormons.1
At the time of translation, Deveria was a young Egyptologist working in the Louvre Museum. He first took an interest in Egyptology at the age of seventeen and subsequently obtained an education from the College of France. In 1850 he performed some Egyptian translations for the Sevres Museum (Paris, France), and in 1851 he began working in the print room in the National Library. In 1855, Deveria began work at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and five years later he was appointed as Assistant Curator of the Egyptian Museum (at the Louvre).2 Before turning thirty years old, Deveria, described as a "young savant," provided Remy with his translation of the facsimiles.3
The following pages are extracted from the 4th volume of Bibliotheque Egyptologique ("Egyptological Library" for French Egyptologists). The tome was published under the direction of Gaston Maspero, another French Egyptologist. These volumes collected scattered writings of Egyptologists, such as Deveria, and combined them for publication. As such, Deveria's translation of the Facsimiles is republished from Remy's book previously mentioned, in the Bibliotheque Egyptologique collection, under the title Memoires et Fragments (Memories and Fragments). The portion relating to the translation is included below. A translation is not provided here; however, since Remy's publication (which is the same as below) was republished in English in 1861, which is available here.
1 Voyage au Pays des Mormons, Jules Remy (2 Vols., E. Dentu, Paris, France, 1860), 2:462; reprinted in English, A Journey to Great Salt Lake City, Jules Remy (2 Vols., W. Jeffs, London, England, 1861), 2:539. Various discussions and summaries of Deveria's translation have been dated to 1856 (John Gee,* et multis aliis) through 1860 (McOmber**). I have indicated that the translation was done in 1859, based on Footnote 1 of pg 195. It states "Ecrit en 1859...," which translates as "written in 1859."
* "A Tragedy of Errors" [Book review of Charles Larson's, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri], by John Gee, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (FARMS [Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies], Provo, UT), 4/1 (1992):94
** A Study of Criticisms of the Book of Abraham, by Calvin D. McOmber, Jr., Master's Thesis Presented to The Department of Bible and Modern Scripture of Brigham Young University (1960), 18
2 Memoires et Fragments, Theodule Deveria (Gaston Maspero, Ed.), (Ernest Leroux, Paris, France 1896): vi-viii
3 The Book of Abraham: Its Authenticity Established as a Divine and Ancient Record, George Reynolds (Deseret News Printing and Publishing, Salt Lake City, UT 1879), 44
4 Image of Deveria is taken from Memoires et Fragments, frontispiece
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The first published description of the acquisition of mummies and papyri by the Church from Michael Chandler, was in the LDS Church periodical Messenger and Advocate. This publication reproduces a letter written by Oliver Cowdery to William Frye, regarding the mummies and papyrus, with some observations and speculations on the acquired materials. The letter was published in Messenger and Advocate 2/3 (December 1835):233-237. This letter was also reproduced, in part, in the History of the Church; however, B.H. Roberts (editor) provides this information in the first person narrative (i.e., Joseph Smith), rather than the actual author, Oliver Cowdery.1 The information below provides some very important details in assisting to identify the materials then owned by the Church, and adds context to understanding the papyri currently owned by the Church.
1 History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, B.H. Roberts, Ed., (Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT 1904), 2:348-351.
Thomas Brown Holmes [T.B.H.] Stenhouse, a British convert, and one time missionary companion to Lorenzo Snow, was the first Mission President over the Swiss Mission.1 While serving as Mission President, he edited a pro Latter-Day Saint periodical entitled Le Reflecteur (The Reflector), and published a book entitled Les Mormons Et Leurs Ennemis (The Mormons and Their Enemies),2 which was written for the purpose of defending the faith and exposing popular anti-Mormon arguments that were promulgated at that time. Despite these accomplishments, Stenhouse later became disaffected and apostatized from the church, and with his wife Fanny, joined the Godbeite movement.3 In 1873 he published an expose against the church, presumptuously entitled, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons.4 Within the book he devotes a chapter to the Book of Abraham, borrowing freely from Jules Remy's publication, wherein, Joseph Smith's explanations of the figures in Facsimiles 1-3 are juxtaposed with M. Theodule Deveria's transation of the same.5 This was done for the purpose of trying to prove that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian. The comparison is prefaced by a brief history of the mummies and papyri in church history.
Stenhouse's publication has become a standard for anti-Mormons who wish to attack Joseph Smith's ability to translate. His publication has frequently been employed by Joseph's critics over the past 130+ years, although the translation comparison never receives attention past the surface level differences. A response to Stenhouse's publication (which had a much broader dissemination than Remy's book), was provided by Elder George Reynolds, a Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Reynolds was the first person to attempt to understand the meaning of the Egyptian explanations for the purpose of identifying similarities between Egyptian beliefs and Joseph Smith's explanations of the Facsimiles. Reynolds also discusses other historical issues in connection with the Book of Abraham, offering a scholarly approach to defending the authenticity of that book of scripture. His response was published serially in the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, beginning in 1879, and also published that same year in booklet form, in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this sense, Reynolds was the first apologist for The Book of Abraham.
1 Church Chronology, Andrew Jenson (Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT 1899), 41
2 Les Mormons Et Leurs Ennemis (The Mormons and Their Enemies), T.B.H. Stenhouse (Imprimerie Larpin et Coendoz, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1854)
3 "The Stenhouses and the Making of a Mormon Image," by Ronald W. Walker, Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974):51
4 The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons, T.B.H. Stenhouse (D. Appleton and Company, New York, NY 1873)
5 Whether Stenhouse first became aware of Remy's French edition or English edition of his book is uncertain; however, Stenhouse was apparently fluent in French, since his previously mentioned book was published in French, and either edition would have sufficed for his purposes. Deveria was a French Egyptologist who worked at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.