I want to say to you, read the book, the Pearl of Great Price, and read the Book of Abraham. The Pearl of Great Price I hold to be one of the most intelligent, one of the most religious books that the world has ever had; but more than that, to me the Pearl of Great Price is true in its name. It contains an ideal of life that is higher and grander and more glorious than I think is found in the pages of any other book unless it be the Holy Bible. It behooves us to read these things, understand them: and I thank God when they are attacked, because it brings to me, after a study and thought, back to the fact that what God has given He has given, and He has nothing to retract." - Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report (April 1913), 74

"...it must be evident to all who seriously consider the matter, that if the Book of Abraham as given to us by Joseph Smith be true, it must have been translated by a greater than human power." - George Reynolds, The Book of Abraham: Its Authenticity Established as a Divine and Ancient Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1879), 4

Friday, January 7, 2011

RC Webb - The Case Against Mormonism

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. This portion of Webb's book is included below.3

1 'Robert Charles Webb' was 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 Kevin Barney, "Robert C. Webb," By Common Consent; also see Sidney B. Sperry, "The Story of Research on The Pearl of Great Price," in Pearl of Great Price Conference, December 10, 1960, ed. James R. Clark (Provo, UT: Department of Extension Publications, Adult Education and Extension Services, Brigham Young University, 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 Henry Clay Sheldon, A Fourfold Test of Mormonism (New York: Abindgon Press, 1914), 23-25
3 Henry C. Sheldon's book is not included in the Documents on this blog because there is no original insights produced in his writing; he simply summarizes Remy's findings, which is available here; and Spalding's findings, which is available here.

Theodule Deveria - Memoires et Fragments

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 in 1860 by Jules Remy 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

 Theodule Deveria4

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Messenger and Advocate - December 1835

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.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.


TBH Stenhouse - The Rocky Mountain Saints

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.