The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR – fairlds.org) held a conference Thurs., and Fri., in Sandy, UT. They had an impressive lineup of speakers. Some that were previously unknown to me, but gave as powerful—or more powerful—presentations than those that were known to me.
All in all, it was a great conference and held many amazing insights and explanations. For me it was a powerful spiritual boost and increased my desire to improve in various ways including studying the gospel with more focus and dedication. I also found it very accessible. Some might think I’m something of a scholar because of this blog, but that’s not the case, I’m nowhere near the level of scholarship that many of these presenters are. Yet most seemed very accessible, even to those who don’t study the kinds of subjects they spoke of, on a regular basis. I’d like to share notes and some links from the conference.
Before you stop reading because you don’t like apologetics, you should read some of my notes from Daniel C. Peterson’s closing presentation on Friday:
Apologetics goes back to greek term “apologeto” which means “defense.” Such as the famous “Plato’s Apology.” The meaning is “Plato’s Defense.” In English the “defense” definition is older than the “sorry” definition.
1 Peter 3:15 the word translated as “answer” has the same Greek root, thus it could be rendered “be ready always to give an apology (or defense) to every man that asketh you….”
Argument does not create conviction. But, if they people think you have no reason to back up your stance, they’ll never become convinced either.
Apologetics is the process of giving reasons for your opinion or stance on something. To disdain apologetics is a way of saying “I’m a blithering idiot.” This is because if you give reason for hating apologetics, you’re participating in apologetics. Therefore everyone participates in apologetics, its just a matter of whether you do it well or not. Missionaries supplying reasons why people should accept the gospel is apologetics. “You can’t not do it.”
The Kirtland Egyptian Papers by William Schryver
The organizers for FAIR said the audio of this presentation will be released within the week. So I’ll put a link to it here, when they get that done. But this was one of the big presentations of the conference, so I’ll give a brief overview of its important points.
The Kirtland Egyptian Papers are a collection of notebooks and other documents from the leaders of the Church around the time of the publication of the Book of Commandments (original D&C) and the revelation/translation of the Book of Abraham (Pearl of Great Price). They contain various “Egyptian” characters, with sound translations, as well as explanations of meaning.
Anti-Mormon’s have claimed since the 1950’s that these were being used to translate the Book of Abraham, and because the meanings of the symbols are incorrect, prove that Joseph Smith was faking the translation.
In spite of all these claims, as well as counter-arguments by the likes of Hugh Nibley, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers have never been studied with any depth. Schryver is a computer programmer and a statistician, and therefore approached his study from that background. He created tables and charts, breaking down the characters, their meanings, and sounds. He also ran statistical analysis on the vocabulary used throughout the explanations or meanings of the characters and found several important things:
- W. W. Phelps is the primary author and refers to the project in some letters.
- Many of the characters on not Egyptian at all, but Arabic, Sanskrit, and even from a Masonic cipher.
- The explanations refer to, and are dependent upon the first 3 chapters of the Book of Abraham and several revelations now in the D&C. In other words, those texts must have existed in English first, before these were created.
- The papers are a form of cipher key, to encode the previously mentioned English revelations, into something unrecognizable to most people, and thereby keep these sacred writings from public scrutiny and possibly destruction at the hands of persecutors.
Schryver’s scholarship and analysis is apparently pretty air-tight and lays to rest any of those accusations of it proving Joseph’s supposed fraud. It’s because these documents depend on the Book of Abraham existing already in English, that there’s no way to use them to say the reverse: that Joseph was fraudulently using them to translate Egyptian papyri into the Book of Abraham.
At the end of his presentation, he laid the subject open to other scholars, stating that he was no expert to fully understand the implications of the papers, but had now opened the door for much more scholarship. He said he’d write-up a paper on it all, then go back to his regular work and leave all the in-depth analysis for real scholars. Daniel Peterson, in his presentation that closed the conference Fri. evening, said he’d been looking on some message boards where anti-Mormon’s were commenting on the FAIR conference. One anti’s comment after Schryver’s presentation was “who ever cared about the Kirtland Egyptian Papers anyway?” A sure sign that this standard weapon in their arsenal had been effectively neutralized by Bro. Schryver’s analysis.
Articles at MormonTimes.com
Next, you can read a semi-brief reviews of some of the very interesting presentations at the Mormon Times website:
- Peter Watkins – A Mormon in the White House
- Matthew Roper – Joseph Smith & the Question of Book of Mormon Geography (seems to have solved question authorship of Times & Seasons articles naming Mesoamerica as the location of BoM – also suggests location was never actually revealed to Joseph Smith)
- Stephen Ricks – ‘What’s in a Name?’ Proper Names in the Book of Mormon (very interesting – meaning behind people’s/place’s names in the BoM)
- Jeffrey Bradshaw – The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses (comparison of ancient “Apocalypse of Abraham” text that existed only in Russian during Joseph Smith’s times, with Book of Abraham)
More to Come
I’d like to share more notes and thoughts on at least 2 of the presentations, and will do so in future posts. The first is David Bokovoy’s presentation on “Joseph Smith and the Biblical Council of Gods,” and the 2nd was my surprise favorite of the entire conference: Valerie Hudson “The Two Trees.” Valerie was previously unknown to me, and her presentation was so powerful and meaningful, that it helped me better understand some things I’ve been pondering for some time, as well as opened my mind to many completely new ideas. I can hardly wait to share what I’ve learned.