Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

The Origin of Mormonism or Why are There No Mormon Egyptologists? By: R. Wilcox

Just as modern Fundamentalism was a religious backlash against higher biblical criticism and Darwinian Evolution in the early 20th Century, the 2nd Great Awakening was a religious backlash against Deism in the early 19th Century.  Deism was not disbelief in God, but only in particular providence such as miracles and revelation.  Deists believed God’s will was embodied in the creation and natural law, so there was no need for further intervention by God into his perfectly self-sufficient creation.  Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were the most famous of our American Deists.  Jefferson rewrote the Gospels, leaving out all of the superstitious nonsense that doesn’t occur in nature, such as the dead rising from the grave.  The remainder he considered as a very fine moral guide.  If you remember: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” not “These are our God given rights” (Kors).
Many Religious cults appeared claiming intervention by God in their personal lives during the early 19th Century.  Most of the cults originated in upper New York, which became known as the Burned Over District. It was not burned over by fire, but by repeated religious revivals.  Some of these cults didn’t last a single generation: The Shakers who believed marriage was good, but sex was sinful.  The Oneidas who believed marriage was greedy, but sex was great.  The Millerites who believed the end of the world would happen on a certain day, and when it didn’t, it was known as The Great Disappointment.  I should mention a fraction of the apocalyptic Millerites became what we know today as 7th Day Adventists, who split again into the Branch Davidians or if you prefer those wackos from Waco.  Other of these cults survived to the present day, such as Christian Scientists who logically should have disappeared with the discovery of antibiotics.  But how do you get more in your face particular providence than the Mormons?  Not only do they claim Jesus came to America, but that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri all along (Allitt).
In 1827 Joseph Smith Jr. unearthed golden plates, on which the Book of Mormon was written, on Cumorah hill near Polmyra New York (Martin 187).  In Joseph Smith’s own words: “They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the whole (Hardy 1:200).”  The language the Book of Mormon is supposed to be written in an adapted form of Egyptian referred to by Mormons as reformed Egyptian.  Joseph from Egypt is supposed to have his book of prophesies recorded in the Book of Mormon.  Further, Joseph’s prophet descendents were taught this language of reformed Egyptian through the centuries (Hardy 1:198).  Since the golden plates are no longer available to be examined, we could assume it contains “Egyptian characters” from Joseph Smith’s statement.  Therefore it must be based on one of the four following Egyptian scripts:

  • Hieroglyphic – The earliest Egyptian script used from about 3100 BC to 94 AD.  The script is largely pictorial, yet the symbols can either actually represent the object or represent a sound.  Typically this script is carved in stone, and is used on monuments or in religious works.  The term comes from the Greek word hieroglyphic meaning sacred, carved letters (Davis 10).
  • Hieratic – The simplified version of Hieroglyphic written in black with a brush on sheets of papyrus or on bits of pottery.  The Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead were written in Hieratic.  These books contained spells and instructions for the deceased, and are buried with the dead, to help them in the afterlife. The term comes from the Greek word hieratika meaning priestly.  Hieratic was used until it was replaced by Demotic around 600 BC (Davis 21).
  • Demotic – This script was used in day-to-day secular functions.  Demotic is very cursive and is full of abbreviations.  A reed pen, introduced by the Greeks, was used to write the script rather than a brush.  The term comes from the Greek demotika meaning popular script (Davis 24).
  • Coptic – This script is a phonic pronunciation of Egyptian using 24 characters of the Greek alphabet and 6 characters from the Demotic script.  This script, a true alphabet with vowels and consonants, replaced all previous scripts by the 4th century, and started during the Roman and Christian occupation of Egypt (Davis 25-26).  <See appendix>

In Joseph Smith’s book, Pearl of  Great Price, he states he copied a considerable number of characters off the plates, translated them, showed them to Professor Anthon of Columbia University who “stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had seen translated from the Egyptian (Martin 197).”  Yet, in a letter in response to Smith’s claims, Professor Charles Anthon wrote:
The whole story about me having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be “reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” is perfectly false….The paper was in fact was a singular scrawl.  It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets.  Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways, were arranged in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle divided into various compartments, decked with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican Calendar given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived….the paper contained anything else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.” (Martin 197-98)

Supposedly Joseph Smith Jr. made his translations by using magical “seer stones” called Urim and Thummim (Martin 195,198).  Too bad Joseph Smith didn’t use them to read French or else he could have actually have learned Egyptian hieroglyphics, since Jean – Francois Chamollion  published a decipherment of them in 1822.  Or Smith could have at least looked into the 1819 Supplement to the fourth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and found a partial decipherment by Thomas Young (Davis 50-54).
According to the Book of Mormon, a group known as the Jaredites sailed to the New World on eight barges after the tower of Babel fell (Tanner 2:717).  Once in the new world, the Jaredites split and became two huge civilizations: the Jaredites, and the Nephites that split off of them.  They built great cities, ships and slew each other by the millions  (Marlin 199).  Yet no archaeological evidence of these civilizations has ever been found.  The only physical evidence of their existence was the golden plates that no one has ever seen except Joseph Smith Jr.
The Smithsonian Institute gave the following reason why the Book of Mormon has no basis in the history of the New World.  The native inhabitants of America crossed a land bridge over the Beiring Straight in a series of migrations during the last Ice Age 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.  These people had Mongoloid physical characteristics.  Mongoloid means having come from Eastern, Central and Northeastern Asia.  If the Native Americans were descended from the Lamanities, as claimed by the Book of Mormon, they would have Caucasoid physical characteristics since they originated in the Mediterranean area.  Skeletal remains of Native Americans are uniformly of the Mongoloid physical type, which can be determined by examining their skulls.  <see appendix>  The first Caucasoid physical type to reach the American continent were Norsemen around 1000 AD, and no Old World scripts were ever found in the New World dating before 1492 except for a few Norse rune-stones found in Greenland.  Contrary to the Book of Mormon, no Old World domesticated plants and animals were introduced to America such as: wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chicken, horses, and donkeys before Columbus arrived in 1492.  Iron, steel, glass, silk and the compass were introduced to the New World with the arrival of Columbus, not a product of the native inhabitants as told by the Book of Mormon.  Southern Mexico did have metallurgy, but their alloys involved gold, silver and copper, but not iron (Martin 200-201).
One standard to judge if a religion is a cult is: Does this religion accept the validity of other religions, or do they believe they have a monopoly on divine grace and only their own chosen beliefs are valid?  Catholicism publicly stated it no longer saw Protestantism as heretical during the 2nd Vatican Council.  Catholicism allows, if not encourages, parishioners to participate in Passover with Jews to better understand Christ.  Islam acknowledges Christianity has a right to exist, even al-Qaida and the Taliban.  These Muslim extremists rationalize attacks on America by viewing us as wholly secular and not religious at all.  Buddhists freely admit Buddhism is not for everyone.  Mormonism doesn’t.
Joseph Smith Jr. wrote he was visited by two angels that told him, “All religious denominations believed in incorrect doctrines.  And none of them were acknowledged by God as his church and kingdom.”  This view didn’t end with Joseph Smith Jr. but is an essential Mormon belief today as demonstrated by the Mormon practice of proxy baptisms.  Proxy baptism is when a Mormon, usually a teenager, is baptized in someone else’s name that has died.  It is believed that this can bring non-Mormons into the highest heavens with them.  “In fact the reason why Mormons are such ardent collectors of genealogical information from the whole rest of the world is cause they have in mind the ambitious project of baptizing everybody.  It has caused some hard feelings recently because holocaust survivors don’t like the idea that members of their families who have died in the camps should be baptized as Mormons” (Allitt).
Why do People join or stay in cults when the cult’s beliefs are so far fetched?  I have a two part theory.  First is what Nietzsche called “the awfulness of being,” which I understand to mean no one wants to think of themselves as an invisible dot, on an invisible dot, on an invisible dot, infinitely small in the universe.  A belief in anything is preferable to that rational.  Second is that there is a distinction between intelligence and wisdom.  Intelligence may be the sum of information in your head, but wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge.  I came to this conclusion that Easter weekend when all of those webpage designers committed suicide to jump aboard the spaceship traveling in the tail of the comet Hail-Bop.  For example, I may not be able to design web pages, but when my mother told me that when she mentioned my extensive biblical research to our visiting Jehovah’s Witness, the Witness replied, “That is fine, but he really should have some guidance from a church to make sure he comes to the right conclusions and interpretations.”
“That’s funny,” I told my mother.  “That is the exact same argument the Catholic Church used against Martin Luther and Protestantism.  I don’t think she was trying to convert us to Catholicism do you?”  My mother said I was dangerous.  I like being that way.

Allitt, Patrick N.  “American Religious History.”  The Teaching Company.  Emory
U.  Audiocassettes.  2001.
Davies, W. V. Egyptian Hieroglyphs.  Reading the Past.  6.  Great Britain: U of
California P, 1995.
Hardy, Grant R., and Robert E. Parsons.  “Book of Mormon Plates and Records.”
Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture, Doctrine, and Procedure of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  4 vols.  New York: Macmillan,
Iscan, Yasar Mehmet, and Susan R. Loth.  “Scope of Forensic Science.”
Introduction to Forensic Sciences.  Ed. William G. Eckert.  2nd ed.  New York:
CRC P, 1997.
Kors, Alan.  “The Birth of the Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 17th and 18th
Century.”  The Teaching Company.  U of Pennsylvania.  Audiocassettes.  1989.
Martin, Walter.  “Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints: the Mormons.”  The
Kingdom of the Cults.  1965.  Ed. Hank Hanegraaff.  Minneapolis: Bethany,

  1. 177-243.

Tanner, Morgan W.  “Jaredites.”  Encyclopedia of Mormonism: The History, Scripture,
Doctrine, and Procedure of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  4
vols.  New York: Macmillan, 1992.

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