CH. 11 – The Marvelous Book of Abraham

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The mistranslation of the “Book of Abraham” is the closest thing to a smoking gun I found while analyzing issues with the mormon church. The book, and its surrounding origin story has all the earmarks of a mediocre con. Its frankly sloppy errors are obvious, with laughable attempts at apologetic responses. This was a clear ploy by Joseph to strengthen his reputation and further convince others how he was a prophet.

During my life as a mormon, I was taught that the “Book of Abraham” was a book of scripture that Joseph Smith had translated from some papyrus scrolls he bought in 1835 from an Egyptian Exhibitionist named Michael Chandler. And while the image of Mr. Chandler streaking nude down the main street of Kirtland wearing only a pharaoh’s headdress strikes both intrigue and palpable fear into our souls, his exhibitionism was limited only to a display of four Egyptian mummies and some hieroglyphic-covered papyri. Joseph Smith and some other members pooled their money and bought the exhibition items for $2400, which in today’s market is close to $62,000.

I was taught that the scrolls literally contained the words of Abraham written by his own hand during his time period. That the diagrams illustrated the story of Abraham’s adventures, and that the translated text was divinely revealed scripture. Continuing in this new spirit of re-analyzing old belief structures to see if they held up to modern scrutiny, I took another look at the “Book of Abraham” to see how well it stacked up to its origin story and claims as told by the church.

I once heard this statement: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Which sounds clever and almost Snoop Doggishly poetic. But actually, just plain old regular ordinary evidence can be used to disprove a miraculous claim. I don’t need to be an expert in archaeology or DNA or linguistics or theology or geology or anthropology or Egyptology to see the obvious and often elementary evidence to disprove INcredible claims. The evidence is precisely that open and clear, all I had to do was look at it. When I did, it was as obvious as the “Wizard of Oz” switching from the dull and dreary black and white, to vibrant face-slappingly brilliant Technicolor.

Fo’ shizzle.

I think back to an early scene in “The Wizard of Oz” where Professor Marvel was tricking Dorothy into believing he could miraculously see magical things in his crystal ball. Using a few clues he derived by spying Dorothy’s suitcase, and rummaging around in her basket while her eyes were closed, he made claims that on the surface seemed miraculous. Yet in an almost Hitchcockian fashion, the film revealed to the viewer that the Professor was a charlatan, while Dorothy remained blissfully oblivious. Later in the film, the Professor’s doppelganger was revealed as the deceptive Wizard who had swindled an entire Land of Oz into believing he was all powerful, all knowing. Using grandiose pageantry, explosions, a giant angry head, and a booming authoritative voice, the land was ruled with an absolute unquestionable authority. It was like the 8th Grade all over again.

But even more importantly, the Wizard had effectively shut down any questioning by Dorothy and her traveling band. He demanded their blind obedience before he would help them. He set them a task he expected they would fail, and might even kill them in the process. Willing to kill a little girl and her Wonder Pets (and we’ll help you!) to retain power and keep his secrets.

Once the curtain was pulled back on the Wizard, he was exposed as a basically normal guy with little more than bad luck, a fantastic mustache, and penchant for manipulating others. Even his “gifts” to the Lion, Tin Man, and Scarecrow were in truth just a reveal that they had these inner capabilities all along. And yet he still somehow managed to take credit for their intrinsic gifts. And Dorothy? He admitted he had no real magic for her, and through his own buffoonery, stranded her in Oz.

Imagine what Dorothy was thinking at that moment, finding out that the Wizard was a lie, and that he left her to fend for herself. Did she feel betrayed? Lied to? Her life put at serious risk to protect The Wizard’s lie about who he was, or more accurately was not? How much had she sacrificed to get here? Was she angry about how obvious the Wizard’s deception all seemed to be in retrospect? Was she kicking herself for falling for it? Did she feel responsible for dragging along her companions into the lie with her? Sure, in the end her friends discovered that the true magic lay within themselves. Was that somehow the lesson for Dorothy as well?

Or was her lesson simply: Open your eyes!

Now that the curtain was pulled back on Joseph Smith and I was seeing him as the obvious con man that he was, what was the lesson for me?



Exmo: How I Killed the Mormon God, Chapter 11: The Marvelous Book of Abraham | ©2024 Aaron Case. All Rights Reserved.