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Radio Free Mormon: 062: The Book Of Abraham – Missing Scrolls, Catalyst Theories, and Bad Apologetics Part 1

Today we explore the Book of Abraham in Radio Free Mormon Style.  Bill Reel once again joins us and we proceed to lay out the following.
– Brief overview of the History of the Book of Abraham
– Why the critics say it is problematic
– What workarounds apologists have created to deal with those criticisms
– Why those workarounds are dead ends
– Evidences Apologists share
– Why those evidences have little credibility
– How the Church is adapting to the Problems


– We know because of Abraham 1:12 and 1:14 itself points to Facsimile 1 and the very text in the papyri following it as the source text of the book of Abraham

– We know from the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar document that if we choose to be rational and logical the most reasonable interpretation of that document is that it represents Joseph Smith’s translation of The Book of Abraham.

– An early Egyptologist named Gustavus Seyffarth viewed the missing papyrus in 1856 and described only the Hor text and Facsimile 3. He gave no indication of another text on the scroll, and in fact explicitly denied that the scroll contained a record of Abraham.

– Klaus Baer predicted that the missing portion of the Hor text would be around sixty centimeters. Others who have attempted the estimate of the missing length agreed almost exactly with Baer’s estimate.

In the end a Missing Scroll theory is simply a Red Herring.  Why we know that a missing scroll does not matter?  We know where Joseph was translating and it was on the existing papyri. There is a set of documents that the church has always had in its possession commonly referred to as the “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” by Joseph Smith. Most of us remember hearing a little bit about it growing up in the church but not really knowing what it was. It was only briefly and rarely mentioned in church. With the discovery of the missing papyri in 1966, critics claim that these documents show a definite link between the papyri and the actual text of the Book of Abraham. The manuscript is in the handwriting of William W. Phelps and Warren Parrish, scribes to Joseph Smith, Jr. It is a bound book with handwriting on 34 pages with about 184 blank pages remaining throughout the book. There are characters in a left hand column with English explanations to the right. Original in LDS archives. There are 4 pages in Joseph Smith’s handwriting.


– The Times and Seasons with Joseph Smith as Editor along with Mormonism’s heading to the Pearl of Great Price in the past claimed the papyri was the writings of Abraham.

– The Times and Seasons with Joseph Smith as Editor along with Mormonism’s heading to the Pearl of Great Price in the past claimed it was written by Abraham’s  own hand.  If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith about the identity of the author of the papyri characters.

– Joseph and his scribes wrote down the very symbols from the papyri we have along with a proposed meaning of those hieroglyphics and symbols in a document named Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar indicating strongly a literal translation.

–  Joseph Smith‘s translation and restoration of the facsimiles was incorrect. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for instructing Smith to incorrectly translate and restore the facsimiles.

–  The text of the Book of Abraham itself (1:12 and 1:14) declares that the source of the Book of Abraham has the Facsimile 1 fragment at its commencement, which is the Breathing Permit of Hor. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for instructing Smith to record verses in the Book of Abraham that incorrectly refer to the Facsimile 1 fragment.

–  The Small Sensen (Breathing Permit of Hor) characters are copied in order into the manuscripts where they are translated into the Book of Abraham. Therefore, Smith‘s own manuscripts indicate that the source of the Book of Abraham is the Small Sensen. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith to believe that the source of the Book of Abraham was the Small Sensen.

–  The Egyptian Alphabets end with two characters which appear in the manuscripts as the beginning of the Small Sensen and which translate into Abraham 1:1. Therefore, the Egyptian Alphabets indicate that the source of the Book of Abraham is the Small Sensen.  If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith to believe that the source of the Book of Abraham was the Small Sensen.

Book Of Abraham conundrum simplified –

Brian Hauglid on Mormon Discussion –

MormonThink Translation and Historicity Issues –

MormonThink Book of Abraham –

Episode Links:

Muhlestein lying about Abraham on the Lion Couch –

John Gee acknowledging he will hold back facts if they could hurt faith –

Brian Hauglid commenting about his shifted view –

Robin Scott Jensen on the Book of Abraham –

The Best Evidence for the Book of Abraham: Abraham in the Prayer Position –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 1 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 2 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 3 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 4 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 5 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 6 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 7 –


17 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 062: The Book Of Abraham – Missing Scrolls, Catalyst Theories, and Bad Apologetics Part 1”

  1. On the e-copy on, here is the into to Book of Abraham— still today:
    The Book of Abraham
    Translated from the Papyrus, by Joseph Smith
    A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.

    1. Do you sense that no one seems to see your position having much credibility? It requires to many allowances and belief in things that are not present. I am not saying it is untrue, only that is is deeply irrational and implausible

      1. Seems like Ed Goble has invested a vast amount of time and work into his research. Probably worth more than just a one line dismissal, after all we don’t like the double standard when others get dismissed.

        Although, I’m aware of time constraints, but you are in the arena of this topic after all, doesn’t seem fair to just dismiss it as highly unlikely even if it is.

      2. Is that so Mr. Reel. Let’s see just how authentic and intellectually honest you are, Mr. Reel, and how far that authenticity goes. It seems that you ought to explore precisely what you mean in minute detail with every part of my paper in an actual intellectual exercise. I challenge you to take it apart piece by piece and demonstrate how it does not explain the evidence. Just because you don’t agree with it personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t explain the evidence in a deeply rational way. Outline in extreme detail on each and every point of my paper then what is deeply irrational about it. I challenge you to an intellectual duel then. Let’s see just how deeply irrational it is. I am not afraid of you Mr. Reel, by any stretch, and I am not afraid of engaging you on every detail of every point. If you are so

        1. By all means, come on the podcast and lets hear your theory. But it is an argument from absence? You get that right. It’s like we are at a murder scene and all the evidence points to the five out of six guys who could of done it as not doing it and you simply can’t allow the 6th guy to do it because he is your best friend. So you come up with a theory that can no be disproved but which also can not be shown to be true. An angel showed up and killed the dead man. What can I say? How can I fight your theory other than to say it is absurd. Meanwhile you are so tied to your theory that you are now absolutely tied to the innocence of your friend that both your theory and your friend’s innocence will be defended until your dying breath. But by all means. Come on. And that said, I had given you opportunities before and it was you who at the last minute backed out and shared your hesitation to do the recording. My only condition and it is not debatable is that you will be on with both me and Radio Free Mormon.

          1. Let me try to bring this conversation down to earth first on a level where we can perhaps both try to agree on.

            I will only consent to something only if you consent to let this thing entirely play out and be heard entirely on its own terms before you put your critic hat on. Though you are no longer in the Church, I know you are capable of letting something play out in a virtual world so to speak and tolerated on its own terms before you jump on it in a knee jerk reaction.

            Let me first appeal to your sense of logic, and build from there.

            I am a software engineer by profession and I think in terms of algorithmic thinking. And so, you must let the thing play out on its own terms, step by step before you pass final judgment. That is the only way that this thing will have its fair hearing.

            Are you familiar with a virtual machine, or an Einsteinian thought experiment? Are you willing to let it play out on its own terms, entirely, and without bias in that virtual world before you refuse to acknowledge rationality, because your judgment of rationality is on your terms?

            If you do not, there will be no conversation at all.

            Sir, you believe that it is an argument from absence, because you don’t understand the worldview. Judge it on its terms, but understand its terms first. Then cast judgement from your worldview afterworlds, after that thought experiment in that virtual world has ended. Then we shall see how it fares.

            I have conditions myself before I consent to be recorded or have some sort of debate. And that is, you must be familiar with how I think, and you must be willing to put yourself in my worldview as a thought experiment as if you were me. And you yourself must be familiar with (i.e. entirely conversant with) the basics of my claims and of my worldview. Once you understand that worldview, and its logic from start to finish, you are welcome to critique it. But that worldview comes along with the theory. The theory is to be judged by the point of view of this worldview, not entirely from the point of view of the ex-Mormon secular worldview, at least at frist. Why? Because everyone’s rationality lives on its own terms, whether you like it or not.

            When I feel you are entirely up to speed, and can repeat back to me according to my own understanding, and you understand what I actually mean by the words that I use, and comprehend what I say fully, then I consent to be recorded. Otherwise, this will be just me arguing against someone that has not only no empathy for my worldview, but someone that thinks they know my worldview before they actually do.

            I expect that my worldview will be judged in its own box where it exists, with its own assumptions.

            Science, as an example, is not to be judged by religious people, because it lives in a box outside of those concerns. Religious people can profit from science, but cannot intrude on science with such things as “intelligent design” in the science classroom.

            I am nothing like most apologists you have encountered before. I am somewhere on the spectrum between neo-apologist and transhumanist atheist, although I do not swing on the pendulum all the way to atheist obviously. But I model a lot of my thinking in my worldview after some things from Dawkins’ book God Delusion on how he speaks of the possibility of a race of Gods that must be highly evolved alien race, and that we are merely a colony of that race. I model a lot of my thinking after some things from the Mormon Transhumantist Association, and from such individuals such as Lincoln Cannon. I believe that God is an extraterrestrial superhuman entity that adheres to Lincoln Cannon’s New God Argument. I believe that the human soul is a dark-matter based lifeform from another world that is a symbiont that inhabits the human body. This is where I disagree with Lincoln Cannon. And I do not believe in a technological resurrection the way he does, but I believe in a literal resurrection.

            If you agree to these terms, I agree to your terms. But this means that you must fully read my material, and entirely understand it, and actually take the time that it really takes to comprehend it, and talk to me about it to make sure you understand it fully, before I am to be recorded.

            You must read my paper from start to finish that has been submitted to Mormon Interpreter, from start to finish. You must read my foundational articles on my Book of Abraham Blog from start to finish. You must read my material on my Alphabet Origins blog from start to finish, and not skip any part. And you must fully comprehend it on its own terms, and I will test you to see if you comprehend it.

            Only then will you record me. Are we agreed on these terms?

            1. you don’t get to set the terms on another’s venue. Your theory will continue to lie in a state of non-consideration dormancy until your are willing to be its advocate in a recorded conversation under the terms I have laid out or until another public venue takes interest. Otherwise your theory sits on a dusty shelf and you keep insisting to your audience of 7 that your not getting a fair shot. Your tone has rubbed me the wrong way because you scream me and everyone else has dismissed you and your mad that no one takes your theory seriously but then you want to set the terms on which your theory is presented. Do that on your own time on your own site.

              I will take this no further except on the terms I am setting here. You have a two hour slot of my time. Radio Free Mormon will be included. You can have up to one hour to present your theory and the remaining time RFM and I control by asking you questions. Then when those two hours are up, thats it.

              What I do to prepare for the interview are not your terms to set.

              Last chance otherwise we are done. Start your own podcast. Write a peer reviewed paper. Do the leg work yourself and if you have and it hasn’t taken off be willing to ask why. But you have my terms and its your only chance to get people excited on my venue.

        2. Do you sense that perhaps you don’t understand my position and never did to know if it has credibility? That’s what I sense. Let me explain it to you, and let’s see if you can still say the same thing after I explain it to you on the phone, Mr. Reel, or I could just drive down to St. George. You tell me how you want to do it, and then after I explain it to you, you can still claim if you want that it is deeply irrational and implausible. I charge that you don’t know the first thing about it to understand exactly what it is to be able to judge it. I charge that you have not given it any thought to be able to know what level of rationality it has. I charge that you never read anything in any detail to understand even the basics of what my claims are.

      3. Thanks for this information. I am reviewing with much curiosity. At this point I do see there is some fascinating scholarly effort and work out there the gives credible backing to what Joseph Smith had done with the scrolls. Sure many will debate to the contrary and keep regurgitating the same old criticism at the BofA. Therefore, I would have to disagree with Bill on his response to you. We need an open mind on both side of the fences.

      4. Ed, in his deep analysis of the translation process, the artifacts put forth by Dan Vogel in his 7 part series on the BoA on YouTube don’t allow space for your notions. In the latest BoA JSP publication there is no room left for those who deny that JS claimed that Abraham himself wrote the hieroglyphics. Sorry, but your BoA musings are dead and will never be resurrected.

        1. Obviously you don’t understand the first thing about my position, or you wouldn’t say things like “Abraham himself wrote the hieroglyphics.” Abraham himself did not write the hieroglyphics on the Hor papyrus. If you knew anything about my position, or understood it, you would not say stupid things like that.

    2. The missing manuscript Brian is refering to is a manuscript of the BoA translation that both scribes were supposedly copying not the missing Egyptian paypryus. Listen to Dan’s presentation closely. It is obvious that is what Brian’s quote refers to in the quote you cite. This fact doesn’t discount much of your arguments.

      Other people than this good podcasts.
      The real smoking gun is JS got all the translations from Egyptian wrong that we have the characters and JS translation and the Egyptian grammar makes no sense at all.

    3. I’ve only listened to this first section so Bill/RFM may address these points later on. No apologetic egyptologist (Gee, Muhlestein, Rhodes)disputes that the papyrus is Hor’s breathing permit. That’s why they come up with their various theories. And they is why Peterson’s point about Hauglid not being an egyptologist is completely irrelevant. Brian’s points are from the analysis of the KEP relative to what everyone agrees is on the papyrus.

      The is another point that deserves a lot more scrutiny than what you gave. When I spoke with Brian he mentioned that he was brought into MI as a visiting fellow specifically for this BOA JSP project. How come MI didn’t use their senior research fellow from within, John Gee?
      – Had Gee already lost credibility within MI to conduct this project with high scholastic standards?
      – Was Gee afraid of adversely affecting revenue feeding into his BoA apologetic fellowship where wealthy members donate money for him to write apologetic books and deliver apologetic speeches?
      Not sure what the actual answer is but it is stunning that MI felt they needed to bring in an outsider

    4. I enjoyed this podcast very much, but I believe you made one mistake. The Lyin Couch is where Mormon Apologists go to invent their lies. By the way, the couch is upholstered in whole cloth.

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