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Phelps Role in Book of Abraham Civil War (Part 7 of 8)

W.W. Phelps assisted with the translation of the Book of Abraham.  Amongst believing scholars, there is a bit of a civil war over the Book of Abraham, and Phelps plays a role in that dispute.  Dr. Bruce Van Orden will discuss why believing scholars disagree.

GT:  I know we talked a little bit about the Civil War. It seems like there’s kind of the Kerry Muhlestein/John Gee camp that basically say there’s some missing papyrus and that’s the real Book of Abraham.

Bruce:  I would say the Kerry Muhlestein is not quite as firm on that. He says it’s a possibility. John Gee is really strong on the fact that they’re probably–he’s not 100% sure, either. But, John Gee does believe that there were other papyri.

GT:  Okay. Then, you have kind of the more Robin Jensen/Dan Vogel/Brian Hauglid that are kind of more of the catalyst theory, is that fair?

Bruce:  Hauglid and Robin Jensen, yes, I’m with them. Dan Vogel, of course, believes that Joseph Smith was not a prophet in the first place. [Vogel doesn’t believe this was] really from God, but [Joseph] concocted this based on what he thought he was coming up with Egyptian alphabet and so forth.

GT:  So, as far as the Egyptian alphabet, because I think that there’s a big issue on the timeline there. If I remember right, and correct me if I’m wrong, Muhlestein and Gee basically say, these Egyptian characters were just like an outline, and that’s not really a translation.

Bruce:. That’s what they believe. I actually agree with them.

GT:  Oh, you do?

Bruce:  On that, that the Joseph Smith dictated the verbiage that’s more or less in the Book of Abraham, now. I believe it came from God. It was inspired. I don’t say that every word was written by Abraham, ever. But I believe it’s inspired writing and the Egyptian alphabet was more of a side project. I do. I agree with that.

GT:  Okay, because I think Vogel says, “No, this is the Egyptian character, and this is supposed to be the translation.”

Bruce:  Except, it really isn’t, except for what he thinks is in Abraham 1:1-3. I think that Phelps put that in there. I think he [Phelps] thought it was that. I don’t think that Joseph Smith thought that was. We don’t know.

GT:  Yeah.

Bruce:  But that’s only three verses.

GT:  So you think the first three verses of the Book of Abraham are Phelps translation.

Bruce:  It’s in his handwriting. I don’t think it’s necessarily Phelps translation. But once it was put in there, I feel that he thought that this project that he was working on, then that Joseph Smith may have participated into a certain extent, the Egyptian alphabet was different from the translation experience, I think. Then, Phelps superimposed what he thought was from the Egyptian figures, hieroglyphics, to those first three verses. We don’t have any other evidence that there’s a connection, specifically.

What are your thoughts on the Book of Abraham translation and the civil war among believing scholars?  Check out our conversation….

There is a civil war among believing scholars over the Book of Abraham.

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Bruce!

566: Phelps Role at Times & Seasons

565: Danites in Missouri

564: Mormon-Missouri War of 1838

563: Cleaning House in Kirtland: Phelps vs Marsh

562: Were Phelps Missouri Troubles Self-Inflicted?

561:  Jailed Before Joined

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Raiders of the Lost Mormon Cave (Part 1 of 6)

We’re continuing our archaeological excavations of Joseph Smith Senior, this time in New York.  I’m excited to introduce KC Kern and Greg Pavone, a couple of accidental archaeologists.  We’ll find out how a Church history vacation turned into an archaeological expedition in search of the Mormon Cave!

Greg:  Of course, that brought us to Palmyra, New York. In Palmyra, one of the authors that we were reading his material, was Dan Vogel. He had done a lot of research on Joseph Smith’s early dig sites. So, we started reading this and we were wondering, hmm, I wonder if we can find some of these some of these locations.

KC:  Yeah, this article, it was a Dialogue article, I think, from 1994. He actually had maps in it and stuff.  The land plots aren’t that big, relatively speaking, and so it was like, well, we can at least make an effort to try to see where this could have been.

Greg:  So, in addition to the main [places] like the Smith farm and the Sacred Grove and the temple, I think one day, we were just reading and saying, “Hey, this looks like it’s about here.” It was right behind where the current temple is, to a local house. We said, “Hey, we’re going to have to go. Let’s knock on the door.” Let’s knock on the door, essentially, and see if he’ll let us look around.

KC:  There was a description of a hill. In the article, it was called Old Sharp, so we’re just like, “Okay, we got to find Old Sharp Hill.” We could kind of see there was a temple, and there was a residential house and it looked like the hill was somewhere in between. We just [thought,] “Well, how do we get there?”  There didn’t seem to be an access road or anything, so we were just like, “Yeah, let’s just go ring the doorbell and see if we can get some directions.”

Greg: It was a little intimidating, at first. He kind of came across as an old crotchety gentleman. I was a little intimidated. But he let us in, and he ended up being very friendly.

KC:  I should add that when we knocked on the door, he didn’t come to the door. He just yelled from the back and said, “Come in.” So, we just kind of start stepping into a stranger’s house.  We still couldn’t see his face. He was sitting in his chair with the newspaper and he kind of looked over it. We said, “Hey, we’re doing a little research.  We’re looking for this hill called Old Sharp.”  Then, he kind of looks up and he’s like, “Are you two Mormon?”

“Yes, we’re trying to follow the trail of Joseph Smith here.”

Then, he was quite a character. I said, “We’re looking for Old Sharp.”

He’s like, “I’ll tell you one thing, Joe Smith was digging back in those hills.”

Greg:  He actually ended up [being nice.] That hill we were on was Old Sharp, which is his property, and that Joseph Smith had dug on his property. He said, “I can prove it to you.”  We went out back and there were, indeed, impressions in the ground. Next to the impressions, there were large piles of dirt. He claimed those were dug by Joseph Smith.

Check out our conversation….

Greg Pavone & KC Kern talk about a sight-seeing trip in which they learned about the Lost Mormon Cave in New York.

If you missed our previous conversations with Dr. Mark Staker, don’t miss those discussions of his digging in Vermont.

537: Staker Weighs in on First Vision

536: Lucy’s Dreams, Joseph’s Rational Religion

535: Smith Farmers Were Spiritual, Not Religious

534: When Joseph Met Lucy

533: Smith Family Farm in Vermont

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*Staker Weighs in on First Vision (Part 5 of 5)

In a previous conversation with historian Dan Vogel, he indicated visions of Jesus were common among Methodists in Joseph Smith’s day and questioned why a Methodist minister would object to Joseph’s account of a vision.  I asked Dr. Mark Staker to weigh in on that issue, and Mark tells why he thinks a minister may have been upset.  BUt to hear this conversation, you need to be signed up for our newsletter at .

Mark:  Joseph goes to the woods and he begins to pray. What happens? Power falls on him. He says, “an unseen power comes to me that binds my tongue so I can’t speak.”  [This is] exactly what the ministers are telling him is going to happen, happens. And what does he do? He prays that God will release him from this power, and no sooner does he pray asking God to release him from this power, that he sees a light. Then he sees the Father. The Father introduces the Son to him, and tells him, “This is my beloved Son, hear him.” Well, the difference between Joseph and all those Methodists who had exactly that same experience was Joseph recognized that power was not what he wanted. It was not of God, and no sooner did he recognize that and asked to be delivered from that, that he has an experience, unlike any experience that anybody else has had. That’s what makes him different than everybody else.

Mark:  Imagine when he goes back and tells a Methodist minister, “I went out, began to pray, and you know that power you told me was going to fall on me, that’s the devil.” Is that Methodist minister going to like that? No, naturally he’s going to condemn that, because that’s critical of everything he’s been teaching people and telling him to go out and experience. Imagine that he then says, “And then God, the Father, and Jesus Christ came and appeared to me.”  That’s going to contradict all these others who’ve been saying that we don’t have visions like that these days. So, both of those extremes, Joseph’s experience counters, and contradicts, and that everybody is not going to like him, when he begins telling about those details, which is why he waits for so many years to do so because the initial experience was so negative.

GT:  So, you would agree with Steven Harper that it was a Methodist minister that condemned him?

Mark:  That’s the minister that he would know. That’s the one that he would go to, and we know some of those ministers that were in the area that spring in 1820 that he could possibly have gone to.

What do you think of this scenario?  Check out our conversation….

Was the First VIsion in 1820, 1823, or some other year?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Mark!

36: Lucy’s Dreams, Joseph’s Rational Religion

535: Smith Farmers Were Spiritual, Not Religious

534: When Joseph Met Lucy

533: Smith Family Farm in Vermont