August 8, 2008

Brian Hauglid: The Book of Abraham in apologetic Discussion

A documentary edition of all the papers associated with the Book of Abraham, etc. much like the Joseph Smith papers project is underway planned for release next year.

Hauglid will speak on helping those with questions about the Book of Abraham, learning how to talk with people about it, rather than addressing more technical aspects of the papyrus today. He says the issue is a huge club people use to hit us over the head with. It presents a challenge. Ad hoc arguments are used against the BoA. The devil is in the details in this assertion. (That's a little joke.) [audience laughs.]

He said he stands by the general arguments he made a few years ago, though he himself still has questions on the papyrus. He said can know for sure that these materials that we currently have are not those JS used to create the Book of Abraham.

Hauglid hopes to have a publication out next year on what has been going on which will open the gates again and get the flood waters roll along.

He is not an ink specialist or a pure textual critic. None of this work is done in a vacuum, however, and so people are pitching in. He wants to give a few suggestions on talking about BoA. He prefers a face to face discussion on the issue.

On the 2008 Bushman Seminar "Joseph Smith and His Critics"
Hauglid recently participated in the Bushman seminar. He said they didn't want to recreate the wheel; the information presented by FAIR and FARMS was educational to many of the participants. They all agreed, and are on the same page, that we are trying to work with neighbors, friends, family members, taking more of a pastoral approach. Regular concerned members were in mind.

A few things they found out:
Some people try to get help from FAIR and FARMS and didn't for some reason. They took a look at why some people weren't responding well to FAIR and FARMS, etc. They found that when people get online and start getting these questions they begin to lose trust, especially in feelings, in things of the Spirit, revelation, etc. Once you begin questioning that you are in a hard place. There are things not taught in Sunday School, or the Church is trying to hide things, some people keep plugging along, others quit the Church. Those who work through their issues actually end up being stronger at the end of the trial. They know there isn't an answer for everything, but you still know what you know.

A real-life experience from Hauglid:
Grew up in Minnesota, blue collar family, 5 siblings, dad an iron worker, mother waitress. Catholic for generations. In his teenage years H became a trial. Hated High School, couldn't hold jobs well. He feels like he wasted a lot of time then, should have been reading or something! At a low point he received a spiritual impression that helped him know that God loved him, encouraging him that God loved him. He began reading the New Testament. His younger brother was dating a Latter-day Saint. H approached Matt. 24 and was fascinated with it. He asked if Mormons knew about the 2nd coming, so he asked his girlfriend and she didn't know, but her dad had a good library. So through them he got Gerald Luind's Coming of the Lord. He liked it. He asked for more. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary by Bruce R. McConkie was next. He didn't know who "Neffee and Maronee" was at that point. His little brother began taking the discussions and the elders learned H had read those books. The elders then introduced him to the Book of Mormon. Received a witness, etc. and was baptized June of 1976. He obtained a testimony of the ward too, in other words, he was socially adjusted. His parents were incensed that he left the Catholic Church. He was assigned a home teacher. On the teacher's first and only visit he gave the most dynamite discussion on 2 Kings he had heard, about Elisha. The guy was sharp, clean-cut, articulate, and H wanted to be like him, he felt the Spirit. Soon he went to a 5-and-Dime and saw the same guy reading a Playboy. This affected him. He had a hard time squaring how he could feel the Spirit when talking to this guy. Now that he is older and has been a Bishop he understands, but at the time he really doubted the Spirit in that case. A Bishop looked at him and let him know the Church is not a haven for Saints but a hospital for sinners. H realized of course that no one is perfect. He has since had brushes with reality with the "real Church history" which he struggled with a little; became slightly cynical regarding some of those things, but he hung in there. The one-on-one experiences really made the biggest difference to him.

Another experience:
At a singles group talking about Islam some middle-aged guy came to him and asked about the Book of Abraham. "How can you stay a member of the Church with what you know about the Book of Abraham." This man had been a member, elder's quorum president, but lost his faith after seeing things about the BoA, thus decided the church was a fraud, etc. They talked about the facts they knew at the time, but he could tell the man was already a little too far gone. He brought out the problems we are aware of. We have this papyrus and JS used it to make the BoA, but when you look at it, there is nothing about the BoA on it. He had correct views on translation not matching on what we have, etc. He also talked about Facs. 3 about names above the heads of the characters. "I'm not converted to the method or the history here, I am converted to the gospel. I can separate the two." There is no conflict as he is trying to understand the issues.

The Internet is not accurate most of the time in full, though there may be factual information but then shifted to implicate the prophet. This plants seeds of doubt in sincere people. It can make them infected with doubt; Joseph becomes a liar, deceiver, fraud. They learn this while reading the criticism. There is so much misinformation and even disinformation (some placed to misguide people) on the Internet. Usually younger people or neighbors and friends will talk to him. What about the fact-to-face stuff, in addition to sitting and reading it, etc.

What to do? A few thoughts:

1) Treat the person with respect.
One-on-one can help avoid this. After the Bushman symposium 3 people approached him on the BoA. He noticed that the important thing is that their questions do not make them bad Mormons, etc. Ask away. The three were appreciative of that. They had tough questions, however, but were sincere. So he treated them as such, of course. Sometimes, though, we are so anxious to answer the question that we forget to actually listen. This leads to the perception that you aren't really listening to them. It can be personal, so it becomes us to answer with love. This should be obvious, coming from people who believe in the Savior. Matt Roper mentioned the scripture at the Bushman seminar, "as all have not faith, teach one another."

2) Treat questions seriously
Instead of saying "that's a dumb question" or "oh, that old thing?" "Just pray and read the scriptures," or "that isn't important to faith." These answers can be insulting or can give the impression that you have something to hide or are confused or wrong, etc. Hauglid read excerpts from a letter of a doubting Latter-day Saint who wrote to a Bishop. The Bishop handed it to a counselor who responded in a very regrettable way. For example, because the letter misspelled Banking in the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society, the respondent said "Did he burn the cookies?" The counselor also mocked the writer and flat out called him an apostate. The writer said he had been praying, etc. and didn't know that he could stay in. The counselor told him that was false, and he must not have been sincere. Hauglid said this is a lost opportunity. Sometimes we do need to say "I don't know," especially when we don't know. Something like that would be better than a snarky response or a quick dismissal.

Hauglid talked about the name above the figure in facsimile 3, the JST calls it Pharaoh, but it is actually a name, etc. There are good questions we don't have perfect answers to. However, even with those answers we still can't know exactly what that means, or proves JS is a true prophet.

3) Sometimes we must acknowledge that the critics are right on some things.
We know JS did a little treasure seeking, that he had multiple wives, etc. We have those facts, but don't have to use them in the same way the critics do. They can have a hay day with some of this, but we must be very cautious and careful and plod through what our responses will be. We don't want to completely discredit the critics because, of course, they do present some facts or some truths.In researching the Kinderhook plates, many LDS believed that they were genuine for 130 years (until 1980 when they were determined a fraud.) Some have dismissed Clayton. However, Clayton was a very accurate source. Suppose JS did "translate" something from them? First, he may have believed, himself, that they were OK. He looked and tried for inspiration but got nothing. Perhaps he constructed something from it as best he could for a moment, conjecture. No inspiration led to no inspiration. Perhaps he was looking at them as a scholarly pursuit, and he wanted to test it out. Maybe he did both. We don't know. Why stick to one answer when it may be better and more accurate to allow other possibilities. It is no different with the Book of Abraham.

The critics are right: The papyrus attached to Facs. 1 doesn't translate to the BoA, it is a straight up conundrum. 

However, the critics assertion that the manuscripts are dictation manuscripts is something with which Hauglid disagrees. So what are they, then? Catalyst theory is possible, that Joseph thought that is what the characters meant, etc. Hauglid doesn't really agree with that theory. The deeper he gets in the manuscripts, the more he sees that the simple explanation that JS was a fraud is too simplistic. He doesn't have a problem with these problems, they are a mystery but he is still OK.

4) Try to help them focus on what is IN the Book of Abraham, not just on how we got the Book of Abraham
According to H, that is the best witness to the book. Historically and doctrinally, and spiritually, the contents of the book is the best witness.

The text fits well in Middle Bronze Age period, famines, northern Ur of Chaldees, Egyptian influence there, etc. So it fits well historically. He found 35 themes in the Book of Abraham that are in other sources on Abraham but are not in the Genesis account. These things don't prove the BoA, but they place it in an interesting setting, especially compared to what JS had to work with.

Foreordination, priesthood, premortal, etc. very interesting, etc.

Personal experience shows that face-to-face work is the best way to help seekers. Treat them with respect and take them seriously. Dogmatism and innuendo can smack of snobbery, etc. It is better to acknowledge good arguments. There is much more to the BoA than its origins. It fits will within antiquity, contains powerful doctrines, and can be known as true through the Spirit.

See Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, edited by John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee.

Questions and Answers:

Q- What about Dr. Gee's missing scroll theory, Abraham 1:12
Joseph Smith added the line himself, or the line itself was part of the translation. H thinks the line was a redaction by JS himself. There were witnesses who saw a ling scroll, which was burned in the Chicago fire, apparently. H said we are arguing from absence of evidence so it can't really be proven, only conjectured. Abr. 1:12 a 19th century redaction, H believes. Still, it is common where the pictures and texts don't match in Egyptian, etc.

Q- How could JS have been so lucky putting astronomy and the famine into the text?
H said he doesn't think it is luck. The natural man knows not the ways of God. Spiritual conviction overrides rational investigation. There are times when we can know things above our rational or empirical faculties.

Q- What about it strengthens your faith?
H loves looking at the manuscripts. This is the first time all the information will really be put out to everyone. It will be a reference book, rather than an interpretive work, etc. The Book of Abraham papers will be like the Joseph Smith papers. We may not solve all the problems or answer all the questions, but I hope we keep the faith, anyway.


Mark IV said...

Wow. This is just fantastic.

Blair, thank you once again for taking notes and making them available to all of us. This really is a great service, and I appreciate it a lot.

LifeOnaPlate said...

No sweat. Transcripts will be forthcoming; I'll be getting them going for FAIR within the next few weeks. I appreciate the thanks, Mark.

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