Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith/Chapter 12

Table of Contents

Response to claims made in "Chapter 12: Master of Languages"

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie
Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.ch12.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 12: Master of Languages"

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Response to claim: 170 - Joseph did not originally intend to translate the papyri "by inspiration as in the past," and instead attempted to formulate an Egyptian alphabet and grammar

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph did not originally intend to translate the papyri "by inspiration as in the past," and instead attempted to formulate an Egyptian alphabet and grammar.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The evidence contradicts the author's assertion that the KEP and Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar were produced prior to the Book of Abraham.

Question: How was the text of the Book of Abraham produced by Joseph Smith?

The Book of Abraham was claimed to have been received by revelation

Richard Turley notes that the Book of Abraham was received by revelation:

"Very quickly, let me just say a few things about it very simple. Number 1, again, it was received by revelation."
Richard Turley, Questions Asked at 2010 Swedish Fireside

The questions surrounding the Book of Abraham are complex, and involve a number of disciplines and sub-disciplines, including: Egyptology (including Egyptian archaeology, Egyptian iconography, Egyptian religion, Egyptian history, papyrology, etc.), Syro-Palestinian archaeology, biblical studies, textual criticism, Mormon history, Mormon theology, English paleography and manuscript transmission, etc. As such, any approach to the Book of Abraham or the Joseph Smith Papyri must be conscious of how these various disciplines (with their respective methods) can be used, or misused, in studying the Book of Abraham.

19th century sources confirm that the text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation

Consider these two quotes, the first from John Whitmer, who was Church Historian from 1831 until his excommunication in 1838, and the second from Warren Parrish, who was one of the scribes during the translation.

John Whitmer said,

"Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records . . . which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints." [1]

Warren Parrish said,

"I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Hieroglyphicks [sic] as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration from Heaven." [2]


Question: Did Joseph use his seer stone to receive the text of the Book of Abraham in the same manner as he did for the Book of Mormon?

There is second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone in the translation of the Book of Abraham

There is also second-hand information that suggests Joseph Smith used his seer stone (or what came to be called the "Urim and Thummim") in the translation of the Book of Abraham; though these accounts must be accepted carefully because of their secondary nature.

Wilford Woodruff said,

"The Lord is blessing Joseph with power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim and Thummim ancient records and hieroglyphics old as Abraham or Adam which caused our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us." [3]

"The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation-the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, the gift of bringing to light old and ancient records." [4]

The official position of the Church is that the Book of Abraham is "an inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri." [5] Anything beyond this is speculation, and does not constitute official Church doctrine relative to the Book of Abraham's origins. Nevertheless, it's clear from the historical evidence that Joseph Smith was not attempting a scholarly translation of the Book of Abraham à la Jean-François Champollion or other Egyptologists, but rather produced a revelatory translation (see Richard Turley's comments below). The exact nature of this revelatory translation is uncertain, with various theories having been offered over the years.


Question: Were the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar produced prior to the Book of Abraham?

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers were produced after the Book of Abraham was dictated

A key assertion claimed by critics of the Church is that these documents were produced prior to the Book of Abraham manuscript, and that they therefore constitute a "smoking gun" that proves that Joseph was making up translations for Egyptian characters taken from the existing fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Critics often refer to these papers as the "translation documents" for the Book of Abraham, and believe that they were used specifically to produce the first three verses in Abraham, Chapter 1.

However, the earliest document in the KEP (pre-dating the recovery of the Joseph Smith Papryi from which the Book of Abraham was produced) assigns meanings to non-Egyptian characters, and a later document assigns new meanings to these same characters.

The earliest datable document in the collection is a letter from W. W. Phelps to his wife describing a selection of the "pure language". It is dated to May of 1835. The document contains a sequence of six characters, three of which may belong to a Masonic cipher. Each character is also given a name, a pronunciation and an explanation. However, what is significant is that all six of these characters appear in an identical order in other KEP documents, except they are given different names, sounds and explanations. None of these six characters come from the Papyri.

Some source material used in the KEP is taken from sections of the D&C

In the KEP, when a character in the Grammar is given multiple degrees, it does so usually by taking the source text and break it up into consecutive pieces. So, the first line might be the first degree, the second line the second degree, and so on. There is evidence that some of the source material in these explanations comes from sections of the D&C rather than the Book of Abraham.

Some of the Kirtland "Egyptian" Papers do not contain Egyptian at all

The "Egyptian Counting" document which is part of the KEP, like the grammar documents, has a character, a sound, and an explanation for each, yet none of the characters are Egyptian. Nor do they contain a single character from the Joseph Smith papyri.

The placement of a translation of the Book of Abraham prior to the production of the KEP renders the entire discussion regarding which document came before which other documents irrelevant

The production of the KEP after the Book of Abraham indicates that the KEP does not represent "translation documents" documenting a physical process by which translation was attempted.

It should be noted that this does not change the relationship of the Book of Abraham to the Joseph Smith Papyri. It does not address the issue of whether or not the text of the Book of Abraham was actually present on the Scroll of Hor (the "long scroll" theory), or whether the scroll was simply a catalyst for revelation (the "short scroll" theory).


Question: How does the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL) relate to the Book of Abraham?

The exact relationship between the documents referred to as the "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" and the Book of Abraham have not yet been determined

Professor Brian M. Hauglid of Brigham Young University is currently undertaking a critical text edition of the so-called "Kirtland Egyptian Papers," or, more properly, the "Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language" (or GAEL), in conjunction with scholars at the Joseph Smith Papers. [6] Professor Hauglid has published some preliminary thoughts on his research, in addition to comments made by other Mormon scholars. [7]

Before we pass judgment on the GAEL, including it's relationship to the Book of Abraham text, we should be patient and see what Professor Hauglid and other scholars will release in the future, per Brother Turley's advice. This remains a relatively under-studied area of the Book of Abraham debate, and it would be foolish to jump to conclusions before all the relevant data is presented for scholarly scrutiny.

"Again, this concept of translation if you look at the 7th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, it’s a translation of a parchment sent up by the apostle john in the new testament. There’s no evidence it was anywhere around Joseph at the time that he translated it. OK, so again, translation is not character for character translation like you and I think about it, OK?"


Response to claim: 171 - Joseph picked up the idea that there were plural gods when he learned in Hebrew class that Elohim was plural

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph picked up the idea that there were plural gods when he learned in Hebrew class that Elohim was plural.

Author's sources:
  • Author's opinion.
  • Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply the author's opinion.



Response to claim: 171 - Joseph developed the concept in the Book of Abraham that the earth was organized out of existing matter from Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph developed the concept in the Book of Abraham that the earth was organized out of existing matter from Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.

Author's sources:
  • Author's opinion.
  • Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The is simply the author's opinion.



Question: Could Joseph Smith's theology as described in the Book of Abraham have been influenced by Thomas Dick's book The Philosophy of a Future State?

Fawn Brodie suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State

This criticism was advanced by Fawn Brodie, who suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State. An excerpt from Dick’s work was published by Oliver Cowdery in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in December 1836,[8] therefore one could assume that Joseph had access to the book in the 1835-1836 timeframe during which the Book of Abraham was being produced. Dick's book was also in the possession of the Prophet by 1844, at which time he donated his copy to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute. [9]

It is also known that two of Dick's books were available in the Manchester Library, [10] although none of the Smith family were actually members of the library and were unlikely to have had access to its resources.[11] Based upon this circumstantial evidence, Brodie not only assumes that the Prophet must have read the book, but that he incorporated Dick’s ideas into the Book of Abraham.

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs, however, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs and were therefore available without having to read Dick’s work. Joseph Smith never made any public or written statements indicating that he was aware of or that he had ever read Dick’s book. The only evidence that even suggests the possibility is circumstantial and is based upon the appearance of several passages from A Philosophy of a Future State in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. More importantly, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick in A Philosophy of a Future State. It is therefore unlikely, contrary to Brodie’s speculation, that Joseph had been “recently reading” Dick’s work and that it made a “lasting impression” upon the Prophet.[12][13]


Question: How do the theological concepts of Joseph Smith actually compare to those of Thomas Dick?

A comparison of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick shows major contrasts

Thomas Dick was a Scottish born minister, writer, astronomer and philosopher, whose published works in the early 1800’s attempted to reconcile science with Christianity. Dick believed that "mind and matter" were the two basic principles of the universe.[14] Dick believed God was of "a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form."[15] The reason for the existence of matter is to allow the mind to be able to focus on God through the observance of his creations.

According to Dick:

[F]or the Creator has ordained, as one part of their mental enjoyments, that they shall be furnished with the means of tracing the mode of his operations, and the designs they are intended to accomplish in the different departments of nature.[16]

The following is a comparison and contrast of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick.

Concept Thomas Dick Joseph Smith
Creation None but that Eternal Mind which counts the number of the stars, which called them from nothing into existence, and arranged them in the respective stations...[17] Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God... [18]
Intelligences The Creator stands in no need of innumerable assemblages of worlds and of inferior ranks of intelligences, in order to secure or to augment his felicity. Innumerable ages before the universe was created, he existed alone, independent of every other being, and infinitely happy in the contemplation of his own eternal excellencies.[19] I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen. Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; (Abraham 3:21-22)
Nature of God a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form.[20] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens![21]
Ability to comprehend God But the eternity, the omnipresence, and the omniscience of the Deity, are equally mysterious; for they are equally incomprehensible, and must for ever remain incomprehensible to all limited intelligences.[22] It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. [23]


Response to claim: 171 - Joseph developed the idea that matter was "eternal and indestructible" from Thomas Dick's work

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph developed the idea that matter was "eternal and indestructible" from Thomas Dick's work.

Author's sources:
  • Author's opinion.
  • Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

This is simply the author's opinion.



Question: Could Joseph Smith's theology as described in the Book of Abraham have been influenced by Thomas Dick's book The Philosophy of a Future State?

Fawn Brodie suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State

This criticism was advanced by Fawn Brodie, who suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State. An excerpt from Dick’s work was published by Oliver Cowdery in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in December 1836,[24] therefore one could assume that Joseph had access to the book in the 1835-1836 timeframe during which the Book of Abraham was being produced. Dick's book was also in the possession of the Prophet by 1844, at which time he donated his copy to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute. [25]

It is also known that two of Dick's books were available in the Manchester Library, [26] although none of the Smith family were actually members of the library and were unlikely to have had access to its resources.[27] Based upon this circumstantial evidence, Brodie not only assumes that the Prophet must have read the book, but that he incorporated Dick’s ideas into the Book of Abraham.

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs, however, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs and were therefore available without having to read Dick’s work. Joseph Smith never made any public or written statements indicating that he was aware of or that he had ever read Dick’s book. The only evidence that even suggests the possibility is circumstantial and is based upon the appearance of several passages from A Philosophy of a Future State in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. More importantly, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick in A Philosophy of a Future State. It is therefore unlikely, contrary to Brodie’s speculation, that Joseph had been “recently reading” Dick’s work and that it made a “lasting impression” upon the Prophet.[28][29]


Response to claim: 172 - Joseph's concept of Kolob being "near the throne of God" and its control of the reckoning of time came from Thomas Dick

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph's concept of Kolob being "near the throne of God" and its control of the reckoning of time came from Thomas Dick.

Author's sources:
  • Author's opinion.
  • Thomas Dick, Philosophy of a Future State.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph's concepts actually contradicted many of those put forth by Thomas Dick.

Question: How do the theological concepts of Joseph Smith actually compare to those of Thomas Dick?

A comparison of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick shows major contrasts

Thomas Dick was a Scottish born minister, writer, astronomer and philosopher, whose published works in the early 1800’s attempted to reconcile science with Christianity. Dick believed that "mind and matter" were the two basic principles of the universe.[30] Dick believed God was of "a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form."[31] The reason for the existence of matter is to allow the mind to be able to focus on God through the observance of his creations.

According to Dick:

[F]or the Creator has ordained, as one part of their mental enjoyments, that they shall be furnished with the means of tracing the mode of his operations, and the designs they are intended to accomplish in the different departments of nature.[32]

The following is a comparison and contrast of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick.

Concept Thomas Dick Joseph Smith
Creation None but that Eternal Mind which counts the number of the stars, which called them from nothing into existence, and arranged them in the respective stations...[33] Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God... [34]
Intelligences The Creator stands in no need of innumerable assemblages of worlds and of inferior ranks of intelligences, in order to secure or to augment his felicity. Innumerable ages before the universe was created, he existed alone, independent of every other being, and infinitely happy in the contemplation of his own eternal excellencies.[35] I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen. Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; (Abraham 3:21-22)
Nature of God a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form.[36] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens![37]
Ability to comprehend God But the eternity, the omnipresence, and the omniscience of the Deity, are equally mysterious; for they are equally incomprehensible, and must for ever remain incomprehensible to all limited intelligences.[38] It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. [39]


Response to claim: 173 - Joseph wrote the Book of Abraham in order to justify denying the priesthood to Blacks

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph wrote the Book of Abraham in order to justify denying the priesthood to Blacks.

Author's sources: Author's opinion.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph actually conferred the priesthood upon several black men. The Book of Abraham talks of the lineage of Pharaoh being denied the priesthood.



Response to claim: 174 - Joseph taught that "one third of the spirits had been neutral" in Heaven

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

Joseph taught that "one third of the spirits had been neutral" in Heaven.

Author's sources: Orson Hyde, "Speech before the High Priests," Nauvoo, April 27, 1845 printed as a pamphlet by the Millennial Star office, July 1845, p. 27.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph Smith never taught that blacks had been "neutral" in Heaven.

Question: Was the idea that Blacks were neutral in the "war in heaven" ever official doctrine?

The "neutral in the war in heaven" argument was never doctrine. In fact, some Church leaders, starting with Brigham Young, explicitly repudiated the idea

This idea was repudiated well before the priesthood ban was rescinded. President Brigham Young rejected it in an account recorded by Wilford Woodruff in 1869:

Lorenzo Young asked if the Spirits of Negroes were Nutral in Heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said No they were not. There was No Nutral spirits in Heaven at the time of the Rebelion. All took sides. He said if any one said that He Herd the Prophet Joseph Say that the spirits of the Blacks were Nutral in Heaven He would not Believe them for He herd Joseph Say to the Contrary. All spirits are pure that Come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cane are Black Because He Commit Murder. He killed Abel & God set a Mark upon his posterity But the spirits are pure that Enter their tabernacles & there will be a Chance for the redemption of all the Children of Adam Except the Sons of perdition. [40]

The First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith also rejected this idea

there is no revelation, ancient or modern, neither is there any authoritative statement by any of the authorities of the Church … [in support of the idea] that the negroes are those who were neutral in heaven at the time of the great conflict or war, which resulted in the casting out of Lucifer and those who were led by him. [41]

Joseph Smith never taught the idea that those born with black skin were "neutral" during the war in heaven

Brigham Young, when asked this question, repudiated the idea. Wilford Woodruff recorded the following in his journal:

December 25, 1869: I attended the School of the Prophets. Many questions were asked. President Young answered them. Lorenzo Young asked if the spirits of Negroes were neutral in heaven. He said someone said Joseph Smith said they were. President Young said no they were not. There were no neutral spirits in heaven at the time of the rebellion. All took sides. He said if anyone said that he heard the Prophet Joseph say that the spirits of the Blacks were neutral in heaven, he would not believe them, for he heard Joseph say to the contrary. All spirits are pure that come from the presence of God. The posterity of Cain are black because he commit[ted] murder. He killed Abel and God set a mark upon his posterity. But the spirits are pure that enter their tabernacles and there will be a chance for the redemption of all the children of Adam except the sons of perdition. [42]

The idea that anyone who came to earth was "neutral" in the premortal existence is not a doctrine of the Church. Early Church leaders had a variety of opinions regarding the status of blacks in the pre-existence, and some of these were expressed in an attempt to explain the priesthood ban. The scriptures, however, do not explicitly state that the status or family into which we were born on earth had anything to do with our "degree of valiance" in our pre-mortal life.

Other religions would not have had reason for such a teaching because they do not believe in the pre-existence or the "war in heaven."

The scriptures themselves do not state that anyone was neutral in the pre-existence.


Response to claim: 175 - The Book of Abraham facsimiles are ordinary funeral documents

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

The Book of Abraham facsimiles are ordinary funeral documents.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The Church announced in the official Church magazine, the Improvement Era, that the papyri were Egyptian funerary documents in 1968.



Question: What did the Church announce in 1968 when the Joseph Smith papyri fragments were discovered?

The Church noted that the papyri fragments did not contain the Book of Abraham, except for Facsimile 1

The Improvement Era described the papyri, but never claimed they represented the source for the Book of Abraham, except the original of Facsimile 1:

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[43]

Egyptian.papyri.rediscovered.funeral.documents.improvement.era.jan.1968.p12.jpg


Response to claim: 179 - It was reported that some of the men were drunk during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple

The author(s) of No Man Knows My History make(s) the following claim:

It was reported that some of the men were drunk during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda and/or spin - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

There is no actual evidence of drunkenness at the Kirtland Temple dedication. Ironically, during the first Pentecost, the Apostles were also accused of being drunken. "Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine." (See Acts 2:13-15)



Question: Was the "Pentecost" at the Kirtland Temple dedication actually a drunken orgy?

There is no contemporaneous evidence of drunkenness at the Kirtland temple dedication or associated events

Were there really spiritual manifestations attending the dedication of the Kirtland temple? There have been allegations that it was in fact a drunken orgy. [44]

There is no contemporaneous evidence of drunkenness at the Kirtland temple dedication or associated events. There is extensive evidence from both leaders and lay members of a miraculous spiritual outpouring. An early apostate, John Corrill, minimized or dismissed accounts of drunkenness. Another apostate, Winchester, continued with the Church until Nauvoo, and only later reported the drunkenness about which he mentioned nothing for five years. McLellin is the richest source for the charges of drunkenness, but an examination of his account makes it clear that he speaks of only one meeting in the temple, and the problem was at worst confined to a few members who unintentionally fell under the influence of wine on an empty stomach.

Subsequent critical authors have often relied on Wyl or accepted such remarks uncritically, and have ignored a rich vein of contemporary source material attesting to the Pentecost of Kirtland. While the critics are anxious to dismiss reports of spiritual manifestations by any means necessary, theories of mass drunkenness are simply not up to the task.

At the first Pentecost, the Apostles were also accused of being drunken

It is ironic that critics refer to the Kirtland Temple dedication as some form of "Pentecost" for the early Church, when, at the first pentecost, the Apostles were also accused of being drunken. "Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine." (See Acts 2:13-15)

4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?

8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,

10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,

11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?

13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine. Acts 2:4-13 (emphasis added)

In November 2002, an early account of the dedication of the Kirtland temple surfaced, confirming the spiritual outpouring. This account provides an excellent contemporary window into the event:

Sunday evening after joseph spoke opened & told them the day of penticost was continued the the [sic] Brethren began to to prophesy many prophesied in the name of the Lord then began speaking in tongues and it filled as it were the whole house, perhaps there were forty speaking at once cloven tongues of fire was seen to sit on many of them an hand was seen laid upon one when he spake in tongues to the lamanites many Visions seen, one saw a pillow or cloud rest down upon the house bright as when the sun shines on a cloud like as gold, two others saw three personages hovering in the room with bright keys in their hands, and also a bright chain in their hands....[45]

There is no contemporaneous record of drunken behavior associated with the Temple dedication

Significantly, there is no contemporaneous record of drunken behavior associated with the dedication. A great deal was written about miraculous events, but the stories of drunkenness occur only later. One LDS historian noted:

...Latter-day Saints, like so many other Christians of the 1830s, regarded intemperance as a serious transgression, and there is no evidence that any of the visions described by numerous witnesses followed the consumption of large amounts of wine. Contemporary testimonies of these events are so numerous that they cannot be dismissed with such an oversimplification.[46]

Notes

  1. John Whitmer, quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847 (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 86.
  2. Warren Parrish, letter to the editor, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, cited in John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 115, n. 4.
  3. Wilford Woodruff journal, February 19, 1842.
  4. Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 20:65.
  5. The Pearl of Great Price–––Introduction (2013 ed.). Elsewhere official Church publications say concerning the Book of Abraham: "The book of Abraham is a translation that the Prophet Joseph Smith made from some Egyptian papyri." Old Testament: Gospel Doctrine Teacher's Manual (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1996), 1.
  6. These documents are free to view online at the Joseph Smith Papers website.
  7. Brian M. Hauglid, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2010), 1–20, 225–231; “Thoughts on the Book of Abraham,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011), 245–258; Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence," 195–203; Hugh Nibley, "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers," reprinted in An Approach to the Book of Abraham, The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley: Volume 18, ed. John Gee (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2009), 502–568.
  8. Oliver Cowdery (editor), "ON THE ABSURDITY OF SUPPOSING THAT THE THINKING PRINCIPLE IN MAN WILL EVER BE ANNIHILATED," (December 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3:423-425. (An extract from "Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.") It should be noted that the November 1836 date given for this article given by Brodie in No Man Knows My History on page 171 is incorrect.
  9. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute," BYU Studies 14, no. 3 (1974) off-site
  10. Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 3 (1982), 333–356.
  11. John Brooke, The Refiner's Fire (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 207.
  12. Hugh Nibley, No, Ma'am, That's Not History: A Brief Review of Mrs. Brodie's Reluctant Vindication of a Prophet She Seeks to Expose (Bookcraft: 1946). off-site
  13. Jones, pp. 94-6.
  14. Edward T. Jones, The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith, Master's Thesis, 1969, p. 27.
  15. Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of a Future State (New York: R. Shoyer, 1831) p. 188.
  16. Dick, p. 212.
  17. Dick, p. 192.
  18. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977) p. 350.
  19. Dick, p. 52.
  20. Dick, p. 188.
  21. Smith, p. 345.
  22. Dick, p. 183.
  23. Smith, p. 345.
  24. Oliver Cowdery (editor), "ON THE ABSURDITY OF SUPPOSING THAT THE THINKING PRINCIPLE IN MAN WILL EVER BE ANNIHILATED," (December 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3:423-425. (An extract from "Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.") It should be noted that the November 1836 date given for this article given by Brodie in No Man Knows My History on page 171 is incorrect.
  25. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute," BYU Studies 14, no. 3 (1974) off-site
  26. Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 3 (1982), 333–356.
  27. John Brooke, The Refiner's Fire (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 207.
  28. Hugh Nibley, No, Ma'am, That's Not History: A Brief Review of Mrs. Brodie's Reluctant Vindication of a Prophet She Seeks to Expose (Bookcraft: 1946). off-site
  29. Jones, pp. 94-6.
  30. Edward T. Jones, The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith, Master's Thesis, 1969, p. 27.
  31. Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of a Future State (New York: R. Shoyer, 1831) p. 188.
  32. Dick, p. 212.
  33. Dick, p. 192.
  34. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977) p. 350.
  35. Dick, p. 52.
  36. Dick, p. 188.
  37. Smith, p. 345.
  38. Dick, p. 183.
  39. Smith, p. 345.
  40. Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 9 vols., ed., Scott G. Kenny (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1985), 6:511 (journal entry dated 25 December 1869). ISBN 0941214133.
  41. First Presidency letter from Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose, to M. Knudson, 13 Jan. 1912.
  42. Wilford Woodruff's Journal, entry dated Dec. 25, 1869.
  43. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–13. off-site (emphasis added)
  44. This criticism is advanced by Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 179. ( Index of claims ); William E. McLellin, multiple accounts; Benjamin Winchester, "Primitive Mormonism," Salt Lake Tribune (22 September 1889): 2; Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 308–309. (citing McLellin); Theodore Schroeder, "Mormonism and Intoxicants," American Historical Journal 3 (1908): 238-249 (citing Wyl).
  45. Steven C. Harper, "Pentecost Continued: A Contemporaneous Account of the Kirtland Temple Dedication," Brigham Young University Studies 42 no. 2 (2003), 4–.
  46. Milton V. Backman, Jr., The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 309. ISBN 0877479739 GospeLink (requires subscrip.)