Ep 104 – Book of Abraham Spiritual plus Lesley Butterfield
On this episode, we dive into the actual content of the Book of Abraham in our continued examination of the history of the book. We read extracts of each chapter with a bit of study guide along the way. We cover Abraham’s story arc in the book, the deeper doctrines and teachings which come from the Book, and we examine some of the cultural milieu from whence the Book of Abraham arose. We cover Joseph’s rewriting of the Genesis creation narrative, racism within the books of Mormon canon, and the Hebrew root of ‘Kolob’. What would it take to get rid of some of these pieces of doctrine, canon, and theology in the modern Church? After that we’re joined by Lesley Butterfield of Unrighteous Dominion to discuss abuse in its many manifestations within the culture of the LDS Church.
Book of Abraham Study Guide
Book of Abraham and Facsimiles
Egyptian Human Sacrifice
Dynastic timeline of Egypt
Bible Chronology of Abraham
Kolob as Sirius
Improvement Era 1913 Kolob as Sirius
‘Kolob’ as ‘Man-whore’ “Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog”
The Vanity of Arts and Sciences by Agrippa
Astronomy and the Book of Abraham
First and Second Estate doctrine
Lesley Butterfield and Unrighteous Dominion
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
The Book of Abraham may be an obscure piece of Mormon canon, but it holds some pieces of doctrine and theology which set Mormonism apart from other Protestant sects of Christianity. It’s been interesting, the Book of Abraham is a tough subject to study from the chapel-attender’s perspective without getting lost down the rabbit hole of apologetics. There aren’t any general conference talks that I could find. There are plenty of apologists talking, writing, and making videos about it, but very little by way of official releases. That intro clip was from the YouTube channel 3 Mormons which is a few millennials talking about issues within the Church, and it’s funded by the Church, but even 3 Mormons isn’t official Church statement. The Book of Abraham is tough to nail down.
Today, we continue our 3-part examination of the Book of Abraham. Part one was the physical, tracking the papyri collection and the cultural milieu which brought Egyptology to prominence in Western cultures. For part 2, we’re going to examine the spiritual aspect of the book to see exactly what Mormon doctrine comes specifically from the claimed papyri pages the Church purchased from the Egyptian Antiquities dealer, Michael Chandler, in July 1835. We’ll be reading a number of extracts from it and using LDS approved study guides to try and garner an understanding of how Mormon doctrine evolved once this book was ‘translated’ and printed in March of 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. If you’re looking for the slam-dunk arguments which prove the Book of Abraham false, you’ll have to tune in to next week’s episode when we go through the logical aspect of the Book of Abraham, we’re focusing on the spiritual and doctrinal side for today.
Let’s dive right in. The introduction from the online version of the Book of Abraham says the following:
“A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”
That “purporting to be” was removed in 1878 in the 2nd edition, but we discussed that and the resulting effect last episode.
Anyone who reads through the Book of Abraham will find it sounds awfully similar to another book of Mormon scripture, Genesis. In fact, the majority of the Book of Abraham is merely a rewriting and interpolation of Genesis in many ways. To be clear, this book claims to be written by Abraham himself, but no writing by Abraham actually exists. What we know of Abraham’s life and timeline comes from the authors of the Pentateuch where he’s featured as a descendant of Adam and Eve, born in Ur, or present-day Mugheir, Iraq. Enoch descended from Adam, Noah and the flood followed Enoch, and the tower of Babel came soon afterward, which all preceded father Abraham. According to Genesis, with absolutely no contemporary records to verify this, Abraham was supposedly born around 2000 B.C.E., and was the father of Isaac, who he nearly sacrificed on the altar, and the grandfather of Jacob, who became Israel. All that happens within the first 40 chapters of the Book of Genesis.
It’s worth noting, these dates are only internally consistent and the majority of them were ascribed during the early enlightenment period by Archbishop Ussher. That means nearly all of the events I just described from the Bible only happen in the Bible which began as early Hebrew oral traditions. Around the purported time of Solomon’s temple in 1000 B.C.E. is when contemporary evidence of some biblical people and events actually come into play from non-bible author sources and many of the claimed dates are wildly inaccurate and falsifiable by these contemporary sources. If one were to assert that all of these people in Genesis are merely legends and myths, a person would be at extreme pains to disprove such a claim from any other source than the Bible itself.
With that said, we’re ignoring the discussion of biblical accuracy today in order to understand the contents of the Book of Abraham in context. It’s really just a nesting doll of religious fiction as a rewriting of a religious text.
Chapter one begins with this:
“In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my father, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence, and finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace; and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a high priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers, it was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time, yea, even from the beginning, or before the foundations of the earth, to the present time, even the right of the first born, on the first man, who is Adam, or first father, through the fathers, unto me.
2. I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers, concerning the seed.
This is coded language referring to what was known as the Melchizedek priesthood. That is the right of the fathers given to the first father, Adam, passed down from one father to the next, unto Abraham. These labels Abraham claims for himself, prince of peace, father of many nations, etc., all were ascribed to him long after his supposed death by the Hebrews. It would be like Einstein calling himself the greatest physicist who ever lived while he was in his teens, it just doesn’t make sense.
Chapter one continues to describe what the land of Egypt was like religiously at the time. Archaeologists note Egypt as a paganistic society but paganism has essentially become a catch-all term for most mysterious religions which predate monotheism. Abraham says this:
“My fathers having turned from their righteousness, and from the holy commandments which the Lord their God had given unto them, unto the worshipping of the Gods of the heathens, utterly refused to hearken to my voice; for their hearts were set to do evil, and were wholly turned to the God of Elkenah, and the God of Libnah, and the God of Mahmackrah, and the God of Korash, and the God of Pharaoh, King of Egypt; therefore they turned their hearts to the sacrifice of the heathen in offering up their children unto their dumb idols, and hearkened not unto my voice but endeavored to take away my life by the hand of the priest of Elkenah; the priest of Elkenah was also the priest of Pharaoh.
3. Now, at this time it was the custom of the priest of Pharaoh, the King of Egypt to offer up upon the altar which was built in the land of Chaldea, for the offering unto these strange Gods, both men, wo[m]en and children. And it came to pass that the priest made an offering unto the God of Pharaoh, and also unto the God of Shagreel, even after the manner of the Egyptians. Now the God of Shagreel was the Sun. Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of Pharaoh offer upon the altar, which stood by the hill called Potiphar’s Hill, at the head of the plain of Olishem.”
All of these names don’t map to anything Egyptians would have called their gods and priests. For lack of a better source, these names necessarily must have been dreamt up in the mind of Joseph Smith. There are some Greek and Hebrew sounding syllables, but the names Jo put into Abraham’s writing are unrecognizable to sounding like any specific language. These names are crucial, however, when it comes to Joseph’s ‘translation’ of the papyri. Facsimile 1 is the iconic picture of a figure lying on a lion table, which Jo called an altar, with a standing priest holding a knife up to the lying-down figure. There’s also a bird hovering over the head of the figure lying on the altar which is also explained in the Book of Abraham. This entire scene depicted in the papyri of facsimile 1 is described in the following passage:
“Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the Royal descent, directly from the loins of Ham. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bow down to worship Gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians.
4. And it come to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me, also, as they did those virgins, upon this altar; and that you might have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record. It was made after the form of a bedstead, such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, & also a God like unto that of Pharaoh King of Egypt. That you may have an understanding of these Gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures, at the beginning, which manner of the figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies Hyeroglyphics.
5. And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up, and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto the Lord my God; and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with a vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands, and his voice was unto me. Abram! Abram! behold, my name is JEHOVAH, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy fathers house, and from all thy kin-folks, into a strange land, which thou knowest not of,”
We just need to pause for a brief moment here. Human sacrifice in Egypt is hard to document. That’s not to say it didn’t happen, but merely that it’s hard to prove the circumstances by which it was performed. By the logic, or lack thereof, provided in the Book of Abraham, Abraham removed himself unto Egypt and consequently suffered some level of religious persecution which led to him being a sacrificial lamb on the altar shaped like a lion. However, modern Egyptology can only really document two types of human sacrifice and they seem rather rare in occurrence.
“Human sacrifice is not generally connected with ancient Egypt. There is little evidence of human sacrifice during most of the dynastic period of ancient Egypt... but there is some evidence that it may have been practiced in the Nile Valley during the 1st Dynasty and possibly also Predynastic Egypt.
The earliest known example of human sacrifice may perhaps be found in Predynastic burials in the south of Egypt, dated to the Naqada II Period. One of the discovered bodies showed marks of the throat from having been cut before having been decapitated.
The two definitions of human sacrifice that could be applied to the very early development of ancient Egypt are:
The ritual killing of human beings as part of the offerings presented to the gods on a regular basis, or on special occasions.
Retainer sacrifice, or the killing of domestic servants to bury them along with their master.
-- Human Sacrifice, Jacques Kinnaer”
Then the book goes on to discuss how the foundation of Egypt was established as such an idolatrous paganistic culture of hedonism, turns out it’s because of racism.
“Now this King of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites, by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land.
7. The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which, in the Chaldea, signifies Egypt, which signifies, that which is forbidden. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterwards settled her sons in it: And thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land….
Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first Patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.
8. Now Pharaoh being of that lineage, by which he could not have the right of Priesthood,”
What, one may ask, was the curse that caused Pharaoh to not be able to hold the priesthood, and all the subsequent generations of descendants of Ham to have this same ban? Well, the Book of Mormon is nice enough to articulate it for us in extensive detail.
“6 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them because of their transgression and their rebellion against their brethren, who consisted of Nephi, Jacob, and Joseph, and Sam, who were just and holy men.
7 And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women.
8 And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction.
9 And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed.
10 Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him…
13 Now we will return again to the Amlicites, for they also had a mark set upon them; yea, they set the mark upon themselves, yea, even a mark of red upon their foreheads.
14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.
15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also.
16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed.”
That was Joseph’s theology coming out of 1829 when the BoM was written. His theology evolved and developed throughout early 1830 as he began his bible revision, which began publishing in 1832 with the Book of Moses, which was also canonized into the Pearl of Great Price with these passages.
“the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land and the land shall be barren and unfruitfull and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan for behold the Lord shall curse the land with much heat and the barrenness thereof shall go fourth <forth> forever and there was a blackness come upon all the Children of Canaan that they were dispised among all people…
Noah awoke from his wine and k[n]ew what his younger son had done unto him, and he said cursed be Canaan a Servent of servents shall he be unto his breatheren and he said blessed be the Lord God of Shem and Canaan shall be his servent and a vail of darkness shall cover him that he shall be known among all men God shall enlarge Japheth and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem and Canaan shall be his serven[t]”
People will often claim that Joseph was progressive considering he ordained a black man, Elijah Able, into the priesthood. It was Brigham Young who applied the curse of Cain to black people and barred them from getting the priesthood. Well, Joseph, like everybody in all the history of humanity, was a product of his time and culture. By the way, by contemporary accounts, Elijah Able was a rather white and delightsome African-American. The simple fact that Jo ordained someone his generation would call a ‘mulatto’ to the priesthood may be evidence of his profoundly racist ideas of righteousness being tied to skin color than it is a testament to his progressiveness. Just a different perspective worth consideration, that’s all. It should also be noted that Jo mislabeled one of the dark-skinned priests in Facsimile 3 to be a slave, seemingly reminiscent of his own views of People of Color’s role in early 19th-century American society.
The purposes of our examination of the Book of Abraham on the spiritual front today are to see what doctrine and theology was specifically derived from it, and we’re not even through the first half of the first chapter. The spiritual side of the BoA is much deeper than could be stated in this format. Let us continue our examination by moving into chapter 2. One last point of consideration before moving on, the introduction of the original 1842 printing of the BoA included facsimile 1, which I described as Abraham lying on a table to be sacrificed to the idolatrous priest Elkenah. Not only was this papyrus inaccurately interpolated by Joseph Smith when he pasted it to a thick piece of paper and drew his sketch of what he thought the papyrus should look like if it were complete, but it was also used to translate the contents of, at least, the first chapter of the BoA. The reading we’ve done describes and contextualizes Facsimile 1 and the original printing contained “Explanation of the Above Cut” with a translation of the image with all the names listed. It simply cannot be proven that the Book of Abraham was not ‘translated’ from Facsimile 1.
Chapter 2 contains this heading in the modern-day Book of Abraham from LDS.org
“Abraham leaves Ur to go to Canaan—Jehovah appears to him at Haran—All gospel blessings are promised to his seed and through his seed to all—He goes to Canaan and on to Egypt.”
This chapter goes on to describe Abraham taking Sarai to wife, and his brother, Nahor, taking Milcah to wife. Abraham, along with his nephew, Lot, and all their wives went from Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan. After that, Jehovah once again appears to Abraham and tells him that he and his family will depart Haran. Jehovah talks about how awesome he is knowing the end from the beginning, and the Earth is his footstool, etc. After Jehovah departs from Abraham, he says that he knows that God is super for real this time because he appeared face-to-face with Abraham and also saved him from being slain in Egypt by the idolatrous priest Elkenah. After that, Abraham and his family and newly acquired followers went from Haran to Jershon, to the land of Sechem, to Moreh, and finally to Canaan before deciding to go back to Egypt because the famine was too great. Abraham built multiple altars all along the way and had a few more visionary experiences with the Lord, during one of which, the Lord tells Abraham that Sarai was too beautiful to go into Egypt as his wife, and that he should tell everybody that she is his sister or else the Egyptians would kill him and steal her away. Not really sure how that works logistically, maybe they would vie for Abraham’s favor if they thought Sarai was his sister he could give away in marriage instead of having her for himself to be stolen by the idolatrous Egyptians, but I’m not exactly sure how to interpret it.
Chapter 3 gets pretty fun and it’s very crucial to deeper Mormon doctrine. This is truly one of the pearls in this book for everything contained therein. It begins with Abraham possessing the Urim and Thummim. It should be noted before proceeding that Jo and friends used the phrase Urim and Thummim in ways ancient Hebrews never did. The Hebrew priests used these stones, where Urim and Thummim translate to Light and perfection, to basically divine the future by casting them, whichever way they landed designated specific outcomes. Jo and friends used the term Urim and Thummim as a catch-all phrase for any seer stone used in the capacity of scrying. Jo putting Precious in Mr. Hat and staring into the darkness was how he used the Urim and Thummim and it could be reasonably assumed that this is the way Jo interpreted Abraham using the same implements, not in the way Hebrew priests actually used such stones.
“16. And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees; and I saw the stars also that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God; and there were many great ones, which were near unto it; and the Lord said unto me, these are the governing ones; and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me: for I am the Lord thy God, I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order of that upon which thou standest. And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the Revolutions thereof, that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest; this is the reckoning of the Lord’s time, according to the reckoning of Kolob.”
This passage has caused some confusion as well as generated some interesting apologetics and analysis. Essentially, the greatest star nearest the throne of God is Kolob. As early as 1913, an article appeared attempting to pinpoint in the night sky where this throne might be. In an article contained in a 1913 edition of The Improvement Era, titled “Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator,” written by Robert C. Webb, he articulated what Kolob could mean and where it might point.
“The explanation given in connection with this figure is that it indicates "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the Celestial." The form of this word would seem to suggest a Tamitic etymology, akin, perhaps, to the Hebrew word KALAB, a dog; whence, possibly, Sirius, the Dog-star, so called. According to the further explanation, it gives light to the sun and other bodies, through the medium of 2 2 and 2 3, which are called, collectively, Hah- ko-kau-beam. This curious word is also Hebrew, although judging from the spelling, the pronunciation is ex- pressed, rather than the direct trans- literation. It is the Hebrew, KOKOB, a star, KOKOBIM, stars; the syllable HAH, representing the definite article, whence, "the stars."
The justification for labeling Kolob as the Sirius star has Hebrew roots. In an article published by the Rothberg International School, Hebrew University, titled Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog, it goes through the Semitic root of Kolob, or, because Hebrew doesn’t have any vowels, klb. I think you’re going to like this.
“Keleb in Deuteronomy 23:19
The central locus of the discussion concerning the possibility that the word klb may refer to something other than a canine is in Deut 23:19
‘You shall not bring the fee of a whore or the pay of a keleb into the house of the LORD in fulfillment of any vow, for both are abhorrent to the Lord your God.’
The ancient commentaries and translations understood the Hebrew word keleb in its common meaning of “dog.” This remained the standard interpretation until the modern period. Since the nineteenth century, many biblical scholars have proposed that the term klb be understood here as referring to a male prostitute.”
So, let me just set the record straight here, to modern Hebrew scholars, one interpretation of this Book of Abraham passage would say that god and his harem of wives live on the planet nearest the star, man-whore. I’ll just let that sink in.
The second part of that passage talks about how days on Kolob are reconciled with days on earth. According to the Book of Abraham, one thousand years on earth is a single day on Kolob, which hearkens to a passage in genesis articulating roughly the same concept. The passage following that articulates even deeper the concept of how larger planets have longer days than smaller planets in their respective revolutions.
“17. And the Lord said unto me, the planet, which is the lesser light, lesser than that which is to rule the day, even the night, is above, or greater than that upon which thou standest, in point of reckoning, for it moveth in order more slow: this is in order, because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, therefore, the reckoning of its time is not so many as to its number of days, and of months, and of years. And the Lord said unto me, now, Abraham, these two facts exist, behold thine eyes seeth it; it is given unto thee to know the times of reckoning, and the set times, yea the set time of the earth upon which thou standest, and the set time of the greater light, which is set to rule the day, and the set time of the lesser light, which is set to rule the night.
18. Now the set time of the lesser light, is a longer time as to its reckoning, than the reckoning of the time of the earth upon which thou standest; and where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still; and thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob, is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which, Kolob, is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order of that upon which thou standest. And it is given unto thee, to know the set time of all the stars, that are set to give light, until thou come near unto the throne of God.”
Had the Book of Abraham been truly written by Abraham, this would be a monumental piece of Mormon and Christian prophecy if we’re extremely generous with the interpretation. Essentially, this was the astrological interpretation of Kepler’s law of planetary motion. Bigger planets further from a star revolve and move slower than planets closer to a star. This was a messy way of saying it and the passage could be interpreted multiple ways, but that’s what I take from it. Now, if this was indeed written 3500 years before Kepler was alive, as the Book of Abraham claims to be, this would be a monumental piece of prophetic scripture. But, if we consider a number of markers in Jo’s life, not least of which is the fact that he died with a Jupiter talisman on his person, we can see his affinity towards astrology and this passage falls into the realm of astrological nonsense which means a lot to those reading it who know the interpretation of all the words, but to outside readers like us seems like brain vomit from Joseph Smith.
Using the stars to divine the nature of God, gods, or the direction of the universe has been a widely practiced endeavor throughout many human cultures. Astrology was one of Jo’s many fascinations and it is tied directly with many of the occult ceremonies and practices which Jo held a certain predilection for. Speculative Masons were often steeped in astrology and many of the early astronomers were themselves Masons. Alchemy was another of these schools of thought being passed around Masonic lodges. Astrology has often been called the daughter of astronomy, and likewise alchemy could be called the daughter of chemistry. These are the speculative and conjectural nonsense fields of pseudo-science which were often accompanied by the much harder descriptive and operative sciences, many of which were passed from generation to generation in Masonic lodges. Jo’s affinity for Christian astrology was likely honed upon his official induction into Masonry, and the years he’d spent cultivating this playground inside his own mind were likely shaped by his associates who practiced the occult, alchemy, astrology, and had garnered that intelligence from Masons while in lodge. Yet one more piece to the Masonry and Mormonism puzzle which exhibit just how inextricably tied they are.
To wrap this back into the astrology in the Book of Abraham; this book was written and published post-Copernicus, Kepler, and Newton. The so-called revelations in the Book of Abraham of planetary motion, often used in apologetic ways, speaks nothing to the actual astronomy which had developed long before the birth of Joseph Smith, and merely offers platitudinous astrology which Agrippa rightly labeled as nothing more than entertainment when he wrote this around 1530 in The Vanity of Arts and Sciences:
“Yet these Fortune-tellers [astrologers] do finde entertainment among Princes and Magistrates, from whom they receive considerable salaries; whereas there is indeed no sort or generation of men more pernicious to a Commonwealth, than those that undertake to prognosticate by the Stars, by Dreams, or any other Artifices of Divination, and scatter the Prophesies about…”
Wise words speaking from the grave nearly half a millennium ago. Astrology and alchemy paid the bills because it was the quackery that sold books, while astronomy and chemistry were doing the real work behind the scenes. I’m sure we can see analogs of this same idea permeating our culture today. It’s somewhat heartening to know that selling fake news has always paid better than selling facts; it’s not just a recent trend.
Chapter 3 finishes with God, Jehovah, showing more visions to Abraham with the following passage:
“19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.
20 The Lord thy God sent his angel to deliver thee from the hands of the priest of Elkenah.
21 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.
22 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;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
This is the introduction of the first and second estate doctrine. The idea of the angels who kept versus relinquished their first estate is in the New Testament, Jude, chapter 1 vs 5-6:
“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.”
One way to understand this estate doctrine is by using the term existence. Mormon doctrine teaches that we’re all infinite spirits who are granted the first estate in the premortal existence. Those who abandoned that premortal first estate left with 1-3rd the hosts of heaven and went down to outer darkness with Lucifer. Those who retain their first estate are granted their second estate when they are born on Earth, mortal existence is the second estate; or a spirit receives their second estate upon receiving their physical body and all the opportunities for experience and development mortality affords. This second-estate doctrine is specific to Mormonism alone and it’s only provided in the Book of Abraham.
After the introduction of the second estate, the Book of Abraham pays a very brief homage to a doctrinal treatise captured in the Book of Moses, also part of the Pearl of Great Price. This theological claim states that Jesus and Lucifer are the literal sons of Elohim and both proposed a plan to God. Jesus’ plan was that of free and independent agency among the embodied spirit children of God. Lucifer’s plan, however, offered no agency, but merely made us all robots to execute the will of the father, making us all essentially robots, but there wouldn’t be any death or sickness, pain or suffering on earth, and all the spirits would return to the presence of God after the bodily death. No judgement, no separation of kingdoms, nothing bad ever happening, we’d all just be Adams and Eves in an eternal garden of Eden in Jackson County, Missouri. God chose Jesus’ plan and Lucifer was so upset with the decision that he departed heaven, bound for outer darkness, which is when a third of the hosts of heaven departed with Lucifer.
The passage is as follows:
“23. And the Lord said, who shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man, here am I, send me. And another answered and said, here am I, send me. And the Lord said, I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate, and, at that day, many followed after him.”
There’s an interesting shift from chapter 3 to chapters 4 and 5. Everything in the Book of Abraham so far has been Abraham interacting with the world around him and with the Lord his God. Singular, Lord, God. Chapters 4 and 5, however, recount one of the Genesis creation narratives, but with every entry of God replaced with Gods. This is interesting for a few reasons. It wouldn’t be until the King Follet discourse that Joseph publicly preached on the infinite regress of gods and the nature of Elohim god, but it was back in Liberty Jail in 1839 when he first used the word gods instead of god to describe his personal notion of his personal creator. One of his letters to the saints during their exodus to Illinois said gods instead of God which stands out prominently when compared to every other public sermon Joseph ever gave.
One possible reasoning through which to interpret this shift in Liberty Jail could be due to Joseph Smith’s own self-reflection while locked up with nothing to do other than think. God had forsaken his prophet-servant and all the thousands of Mormons in their time of need. He’d given prophecy after prophecy that the Mormons would conquer their enemies and that he would be a Mahomet of this generation, yet there he was, locked in jail while the Mormons suffered in sickness and death during the winter exodus to their next promised land. I think Jo felt abandoned by his god and was forced to truly ponder the existence of god in ways he’d never done before. Thus, the first invocation of gods instead of God. That’s how I view it, but I don’t really have any other marker or evidence other than the actual timing and language to substantiate it beyond a reasonable doubt.
And really, would that be surprising? A lot of people who believe in God ponder why bad things happen to them when they’re at rock bottom. Why would god let this happen to me? Of course, in Jo’s case, why would god let these terrible things happen to his chosen saints and his servant?
Modern D&C 121 is one of Joseph’s letters to the saints in Quincy from Liberty Jail and it starts with:
“O God! Where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? How long shall thy hand be stayed and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens, the wrongs of thy people, and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries? Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened towards them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion towards them?..
A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many Gods, they shall be manifest; All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be revealed and set forth upon all who have endured valiantly for the Gospel of Jesus Christ”
The Book of Abraham is essentially a revision of the Genesis narrative with God replaced by Gods, and it happened 3 years after this Liberty Jail letter, when it seems like Jo was at rock bottom and having some kind of major existential crisis. He’d come a long way since then. He’d gotten back up after falling down and now, in Nauvoo, he had a whole new metropolis built as a monolith to the unwavering fealty the Saints had sworn to their prophet.
Let’s read a snapshot of the Book of Abraham compared to the Genesis creation myth.
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”
“And then the Lord said, let us go down; and they went down at the beginning, and they organized and formed, (that is, the Gods,) the heavens and the earth. And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate; because they had not formed anything but the earth: and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the faces of the water.
24. And they said, the Gods, let there be light, and there was light. And they, the Gods, comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided from the darkness, and the Gods called the light day, and the darkness they called night.”
And it continues like that for 2 chapters, rewriting the entire Genesis narrative. It is interesting to note, the Book of Abraham ends with Eve being made from Adam’s rib and Adam naming all the creatures gods gave him dominion over. This leads one to believe it was a work in progress and would be furthered at a later time.
At the beginning of this section in the Book, it constructs Facsimile 2 with the translation of its meaning below. Facsimile 2 is the circular sigil known to Egyptologists as a hypocephalus. This is the funerary permit for Horus-Re to be allowed into the afterlife, but Joseph applied it to the passages in the Book of Abraham rewriting of the Genesis creation narrative.
Jo claimed the hypocephalus depicted the following items:
Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.
Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creations, near to the celestial or the place where God resides
Is made to represent God sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing, also, the grand Key words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden,…
Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian, signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time.
It continues on until it terminates with Figures 8-21 claiming they’ll be revealed at a later date. The reason this is relevant is due to the placing of its printing and the text of the Book of Abraham which follows. The rewritten creation myth is based on this facsimile and Abraham teaching Pharaoh about astronomy is based on Facsimile 3, and we’ll discuss these in depth next episode. Due to the simple fact that these facsimiles were printed where they were and were ‘translated’ according to Jo’s translation method with the explanations which reflects the content in the Book of Abraham, this utterly eviscerates any claim that the Book of Abraham text was based on something other than the facsimiles. We’ll discuss the apologist and Egyptologist claims next week, but it is just important to note this crucial fact as we wrap up discussion of the content of the Book of Abraham today. These facsimiles served to be the inspiration for the content in the Book of Abraham, and we needn’t appeal to the missing portion of the papyri collection to surmise where else the content could have come from.
The factual claims against the Book of Abraham say nothing of its impact on Mormon doctrine and theology. Without the Book of Abraham, we don’t have Kolob, or man-whore by modern Hebrew scholarship, we don’t have the first and second estate doctrine, we don’t have gods being the creators of earth, we don’t have the sacrificial narrative of Abraham by the Egyptian idolatrous priest, we don’t have god descending in the form of a great bird to rescue Abraham from his sacrificial predicament, we don’t have the temple ceremony passion narrative of God commanding Jehovah to go down and create earth in the 7-day period, nor do we have our spirits being called ‘intelligences’ that are organized in the first estate before we’re physically born into our second estate, and, we don’t have the further retrenchment of the teaching that dark skin is the mark of the curse of Cain, and white skin is associated with righteousness. The Book of Abraham is so crucial to deep Mormon theology that to abandon it would excise so many beliefs that it would render Mormon doctrine fundamentally different. Even the study guide I found on the LDS.org teaching manuals site spent the first 15 paragraphs defending the authenticity of the papyri and the ‘translation’ method Jo used to bring the Book of Abraham into existence. The fact of the matter is, Jo’s theology mutated in extreme ways during the Nauvoo period, and the Book of Abraham is yet one more marker of that evolution. When we start plucking some of Jo’s teachings out of modern-day Mormonism, one wonders where we should stop removing pieces and patching over them. Should the church do something more than ‘disavow’ old racist teachings? Should they say the Book of Abraham was a creation solely of Joseph Smith and not actually written in the hand of Abraham as Jo claimed? Should the church abandon the idea of Kolob and god being a human being who was once mortal just like we are today? If we pluck out too many of these pieces, Jo ceases to be the prophet the Church claims him to be today. If the Church can disavow or abandon some of Jo’s teachings, why not more of them…. Why not all of them? Why even need Joseph Smith for anything other than the demonstrably fallacious Book of Mormon?
The Church is trapped. They can’t get rid of any of the Book of Abraham without getting rid of major pieces which set Mormonism apart from all other mainstream Protestant Christian sects. Now they’re in a sunk cost fallacy with these doctrines, seemingly hoping that one day it will all make sense and people will stop abandoning the Church because of its false claims and teachings. One day, if they just withstand the bleeding for long enough, Jesus will return and every piece of Mormon scripture and doctrine will make sense to everybody in the world. The rapture will happen, Mormonism will finally be proven to be the one true religion, if they can just stand up to or wholly ignore criticisms from the outside world filled with Natural Men who are enemies to God and have been from the fall of Adam.
I’m of the opinion that a major reformation needs to happen in the Church, and it needs to be top-down. Any bottom-up reformation will become a schism and breakoff faction, this needs to be a top-down restructuring of doctrine, theology, practices, and membership requirements. The Church needs to rip off this bandaid already so it can properly clean and dress the wounds and heal without the infection plaguing the next patchwork bandage put in place. I don’t reasonably see this happening any time in the future, this is a pipe-dream. But every day they stick to their guns is another disaffected member, another person hurt by institutionalized racism, and another family who finally says they’re done with the church and sends in their resignation letters. Every day that passes without fundamental issues being addressed and immoral doctrines being exorcised and apologized for, is another tithing envelope left empty. This train-wreck may be fun to watch fantasizing about how it ends, but the damage and pain this wreck is causing every day is objectively immoral and disgusting when we see our fellow human beings suffer through it every single day, regardless of their beliefs.
Maybe it would be best to advocate for understanding and sympathy. The Church and its leadership are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the majority of doctrinal issues. Members are stuck with either consuming anti-Mormon literature and abandoning their exaltation and eternal glory, or just burying their head in the sand and acknowledging that there may be problems, but the Church is so good and helps so many people. ExMormons are stuck with friends and family members believing in a racist, misogynistic, and damaging cult but they can’t talk to their friends and family about it because it just causes fights. This religion is a dividing force amidst an already divided species of animals we call human beings. This religion shoves a wedge between people in all sorts of relationships and causes more heartbreak and depression than it can offer through meaningless platitudes about what happens when we die. This religion take money from the poor and funds billion-dollar for-profit business endeavors, while people all over the world thirst and starve to death and never get treated for common illnesses. This religion is a malignant parasite and it impacts everybody differently on a personal level, yet causes the same anger and pain for so many people in and out of it. Everybody is a victim of this religion, even those at the very top who have no easy way out of these very problematic issues without losing face. The leadership doesn’t want to feel like they’ve misled people and the members don’t want to feel like they’ve been misled, but the Church’s doctrines, theology, and scripture are leading EVERYBODY astray and causing people to lose sight of truly important issues facing humanity. The institution needs to humble itself and reform, or the hemorrhaging will only get worse as access to information world-wide increases.
Keep an eye out to watch the slow and morbid collapse of Talos at some indeterminable point in our future.
Lesley Butterfield is a Registered Nurse and survivor advocate who works with victims of abuse across a variety of settings. She’s helped contribute to coverage surrounding abuse in several news and media outlets including, Buzzfeed, Good4Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune, The New Yorker, and Voxx. She has also appeared as a guest on Mormon Happy Hour and Rational Faith's podcasts, speaking on women's issues, spiritual abuse, and the cultural mechanisms which enable abuse within the Mormon context. Recently, her Op-Ed, entitled, "Open Letter to the LDS Patriarchy," was published in the Salt Lake Tribune, which garnered national attention. She’s also spoken to the state legislature as part of her advocacy efforts.
She serves on her local Special Education Advisory Committee and is a member of The Attachment and Trauma Network, The National Organization of Victim Assistance, Break The Silence, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health America, and American Alliance of University Women.
She is the creator of UnrighteousDominion.org, which is a platform for survivors of spiritual abuse with the Mormon church to safely and anonymously share their stories.
Lesley, welcome and thank you so much for joining us!
I want to start with a quick question, and it may possibly be the most important question of our conversation, with all the advocacy and networking you do, how do you find time to eat or sleep?
First off, I want us to level the playing field for the purposes of this conversation. Let’s all work with the same definition of spiritual abuse within the LDS Church. Can you define that for us?
How does emotional and mental abuse manifest itself within the Church and, quite frankly, in many faith traditions?
It seems as if this abusive system is baked into the religion itself. When spiritual exaltation and reaching the celestial kingdom is always the end goal, a lot of mechanisms can be subconsciously employed by the religion itself to coerce the members into abusing each other or themselves. How much do you think this abuse is simply a product of a religious structure, and can a religion exist without some level of abuse like this?
As someone who’s been working in this field for years now and has contributed so much to the conversation, do you have some pointers for us to help us start conversations about abuse within the Church and other faith traditions when the opportunity may arise?
Dovetailing off the last question, what are some common mistakes people make when trying to talk about these crucial, yet often polarizing, issues?
I want to broach the McKenna Denson subject as it’s an ongoing lawsuit the Church and Denson are currently amidst. From everything coming out of the Denson case, what are your takeaways from the situation and what do you think her case has revealed about the Church and the way it treats issues of abuse?
Personal story conversation for patrons
Lesley, I want to thank you for joining us for this important subject that affects so many people. I want to give you a chance to talk about unrighteous dominion and any other projects you’re currently working on. Can you tell us about that and also let people know where they can find your online presence?
Any concluding thoughts you’d like to leave us with in light of our discussion?
Lesley Butterfield, thank you again for joining us.
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