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Hofmann Question on Brazil Plates (Part 6 of 9)

In a previous conversation with Dr. Casey Griffiths, Casey said that a South American group used a Hofmann forgery to authenticate the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon. The late Dr. John Pratt pushes back on that charge, and we’ll talk about the Brazilian golden plates.

GT:  That’s a great place, because I wanted to go there too. Because Casey Griffiths in my recent interview said somebody asked for proof, and a copy of the Hofmann forgery was provided as proof, basically.

John:  Okay, let me review the Hofmann thing and then the answer. So, by the way, I have not studied this in detail. I read a certain paper and I’ll tell you my source, a man named Ian Cackler, is the man in Missouri who really wanted to know for himself about this Hofmann issue. He did detailed research and I will now summarize [it,] as best I understood. I read it to prepare for this. I had seen the plates. I knew it was true. So, I didn’t care about– I knew the Hofmann stuff, but I just thought, “Yeah, people are always…” I didn’t study it. Now, my main source is this one paper, so I’m quoting that. But, it made a lot of sense to me and he has all the references in there where you check it. I will send you the paper. I’ll email you the paper where you can provide it for any of your viewers that want to look at it. But, basically, well as you saw on your program, he showed the one main picture.

John:  There’s one main picture that is always shown that is believed to be Martin Harris’s copying of the characters. The man you were interviewing pointed out that that actually was not Martin Harris’, that was John Whitmer’s.

GT:  The Caracters document is what you’re talking about.

John:  The Caracters document, that has the word character, at the top, spelled without the H. That was actually from John Whitmer. So, the complaint, the proposed fraud, saying that, “Ah, the Brazilian guy has just copied the Hofmann forgery.”  There just wasn’t enough research done there. What they had was, they had that Caracters document that had some characters on it. They compared that to what Mauricio, apparently, provided at one time, and I don’t even have that myself. Not only were those characters on it, but some other characters were on it. Then, you look at the Hofmann forgeries, and those other characters are on the other Hofmann forgery. So they said, “Aha, he just copied the Hofmann forgery. That’s the whole [argument.]

GT:  So, let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. So, you’re saying that this document that was sent to Missouri was a combination of the Caracters document as well as the Hofmann forgery? Is that what you’re saying?

John:  No, I’m not. I’ll say it again. I’m saying that the characters–I just have to change it a little bit, and then it’ll be true, you were very close. The characters that Mauricio provided, some of which were on the Caracters document, and others were on the Hofmann forgery. So, people assumed that Hofmann used the real characters and just made up some other characters, and then that, “Oh, Mauricio is using those made-up characters. So, that would prove that he copied the Hofmann. But Hofmann was a much better forger than that.  He didn’t just make up characters.

John:  As the man you interviewed before said, there’s at least four sets of papers that had characters on them, known: the Charles Anthon one, the John Whitmer one, he had–I think he said three or four.  There’s three or four original sources. Hofmann knew about all of those sources. So, in other words, the characters that Hofmann used were mostly correct. They’re real characters and Mauricio knew about, not only the ones on the Caracters document, but some of those. So, now, how do you know whether Mauricio copied Hofmann or whether they both made copies of the real thing.  Here’s the answer. Hofmann confessed at the end on how he did it. I think what he did was really clever. He said, “Look.” He knows. He has these four documents. He’s taking characters off of, and he’s going to produce his forgery. He’s going to want to make it convincing that his was actually more authentic than the other ones. So, he says that he added some little extra seraphs. You know what seraphs are: the little extra things that aren’t part of the letter, sans seraph and seraph.

What do you think of his explanation?  Check out our conversation….

John Pratt tells why he disputes Hofmann forgery accusations.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with John.

590:  Brazil Golden Plates

589:  John Pratt’s Spiritual Journey

588:  Dating Problems with First Vision

587:  Dating First Vision

586:  Dating Christ’s Birth

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*The Chicago Experiment (Part 9 of 9)

What is the Chicago Experiment?  Back in the 1930s, LDS Church leaders sent employees to be trained in theology.  They came across some sticky theology topics such as evolution, the Documentary Hypothesis, and whether multiple people wrote Isaiah.  Would the Church re-entrench on faith, or accept secular methods to understand the Bible?  Dr. Casey Griffiths will tell us about his Ph.D. project and paper titled “The Chicago Experiment.”

Casey:  Basically, prior to 1930, there are no professional religion scholars in the Church. We have your Orson Pratt and your B.H. Roberts who are really amazing, but pretty much self-taught, but don’t hold divinity degrees. Joseph Merrill, who is the person that starts the seminary program, becomes Church Mission of Education and is starting the Institute [of Religion] program. Joseph Merrill is a college professor. He’s a professor of physics. He’s [thinking,] “If we’re going to have people that teach college level, they need to have a degree in religion.” But where does a Mormon guy go in the 1920s to get a degree in religion? BYU is still a small little school that doesn’t offer any degrees in religion. So, Merrill gets this idea, partially inspired by Sidney Sperry, that he’s going to send a bunch of scholars to the University of Chicago.  At Chicago, they’re going to get degrees in Divinity and then come back and kind of spread the wealth, and we’ll have professionally trained religious educators in the Church.

Casey:  Well, in the 1930s, there’s still quite a bit of bias against Latter-day Saints, and the only Divinity School that would accept Latter-day Saint students had to be a really liberal one. So, the conflict here is that the University of Chicago is incredibly theologically liberal, and the Church is incredibly theologically conservative. But, if we want to have people trained in the field of religion, the only school that will accept them is a liberal school.  So, these guys are there and, by the way, they’re there at the same time Martin Luther King’s mentor is there.  They’re intermingling with black scholars.  They’re intermingling with scholars from different faiths.  They all have this overwhelmingly positive experience at the University of Chicago. It’s just when they come back and they have to interact with the conservative Church, there’s some major conflict.

Casey:  You have some people that are able to negotiate it really successfully, like Sidney Sperry. Sidney Sperry strikes the right balance between being conservative, but also moving the work forward. He really professionalizes his religious education, inspires a lot of great people like Hugh Nibley. They come onto the scene a little bit later. Then, there’s other people like Heber Snell, that just really struggle. There’s a whole story, like I said, there, in that they come back and spend their career Snell, is an Institute director, Sidney Sperry is pretty much the religion guy at BYU. It’s interesting to see what trajectory they take. Sidney Sperry, takes his scholarly training and turns it on the Doctrine & Covenants and the Book of Mormon. He writes the first pretty good scholarly stuff about the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants. He’s using the tools of higher biblical criticism on Latter-day Saints scripture, and he’s using it in the apologetic way to prove that the scriptures are true. Hebrew Snell become so enamored with higher biblical criticism that he really doesn’t like restoration scripture.  He wants to focus on the Bible. We have letters from Heber Snell, where he was like, “I can’t believe that they teach the Book of Mormon alongside real subjects, at this institute.  You’re like, “You’re an institute teacher, buddy, do you know who signs your checks?” But it shows that as late as the 20th century, we still hadn’t quite nailed down what our identity was. There were guys like Heber Snell that basically wanted us to sort of accept restoration scripture as an interesting hobby, but the main meal is the Bible. Then, there’s guys like Sidney Sperry that say, “No, restoration scripture is just as interesting, inspirational and complex as the Bible, it needs to be at the table right alongside them.”

Check out our conversation….

The Chicago Experiment: Is it a good idea for seminary and institute teachers to get a theology degree?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Dr. Casey Griffiths!

526: Future of Church History

525: Orson Pratt’s Unsung Role in Church History

524: From Word of Wisdom to World Faith

523: Entry Level Chuch History

522: CSI:  Carthage Jail

521: Swimsuits, Gold Medals, & Blacks

520: Recycling Hofmann Forgeries

519: Mormon Interfaith Council

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Future of Church History

Historians don’t usually talk about the future, because they are historians!  In our next episode with Dr. Casey Griffiths, he will talk about what he thinks will be the biggest future events in church history, as well as what some events of the recent past will make impacts in future Church history.  Check out our conversation….

Casey:  Even the things that are happening right now, it’s difficult to kind of pull back and say, “How big a deal is this going to be in 20 years? Are we even going to think twice about it? Or is it going to be something that really becomes huge in the history of the Church, the way it works.  The Family Proclamation, which we put in, has had big ripple effects. The Perpetual Education Fund, which we put in, isn’t talked about as much anymore, though, I do think that if you look at the long-term effects of the Perpetual Education Fund, it’s going play a big role in the development of the Church, especially the International Church. So, it was a fun thought experiment to kind of sit down and have conversations. We, by the way, it wasn’t just the three of us. I was walking into people’s office and saying, “Give me your top five events.” They usually, the First Vision coming forth, the Book of Mormon, Priesthood is restored. I go, “Okay, give me your top five in the 20th century. Give me your top five in the last 20 years.”

So what are your top 5 events in the last 20 years?  What do you see in the future of Church history? Check out our conversation.

What will the future of Church history look like? Dr. Casey Griffithsshares what he’s looking for.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Casey!

525: Orson Pratt’s Unsung Role in Church History

524: From Word of Wisdom to World Faith

523: Entry Level Chuch History

522: CSI:  Carthage Jail

521: Swimsuits, Gold Medals, & Blacks

520: Recycling Hofmann Forgeries

519: Mormon Interfaith Council