Answers to the Rest of the Author’s Claims

Before perusing some of my quick responses to other CES Letter claims, I want to make sure you are aware of the following resources. There are many LDS Scholars who have provided useful responses which are much more in-depth and extensive than my answers will be.

Check out the following resources:

http://debunking-cesletter.com

http://stallioncornell.com/blog/a-reply-from-a-former-ces-employee/

http://tarikdlacour.blogspot.com/2017/02/answering-letter-to-ces-director-1.html

There’s also a great Youtube series by Brian Hales called “CES Letter: A Closer Look”

And there’s much more out there.

My Response to some of the other “big claims”

Claim #1: The Temple Ceremony has Links to Freemasonry

Church critics argue that since similarities exist between Free Mason ceremonies and parts of the Temple ceremony then clearly Joseph stole the ceremony from the masons and didn’t receive it by way of revelation.

The truth, however, the rituals found in the Temple predate Freemasonry. Very similar practices can be found in ancient Egypt, among Coptic Christians, and even in ancient Israel.

Clearly there is a third, more ancient source, that both the Temple ceremonies and some Mason ceremonies are both drawing from.

Read the following article to learn more: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Freemasonry_and_the_Temple

Claim #2: Book of Abraham

Latter-day Saints certainly have to reevaluate the way we have traditionally thought that the Book of Abraham was translated. However, there’s a lot of key information that most people don’t know. For example, did you know that after Joseph’s death researchers discovered that many ancient Egyptian texts discuss Abraham? No one knew that when Joseph revealed the Book of Abraham.

And that’s just the beginning. Check out the following from the Church’s essay on the Book of Abraham.

The Book of Abraham and the Ancient World

A careful study of the book of Abraham provides a better measure of the book’s merits than any hypothesis that treats the text as a conventional translation. Evidence suggests that elements of the book of Abraham fit comfortably in the ancient world and supports the claim that the book of Abraham is an authentic record.

The book of Abraham speaks disapprovingly of human sacrifice offered on an altar in Chaldea. Some victims were placed on the altar as sacrifices because they rejected the idols worshipped by their leaders.35Recent scholarship has found instances of such punishment dating to Abraham’s time. People who challenged the standing religious order, either in Egypt or in the regions over which it had influence (such as Canaan), could and did suffer execution for their offenses.36 The conflict over the religion of Pharaoh, as described in Abraham 1:11–12, is an example of punishment now known to have been meted out during the Abrahamic era.

The book of Abraham contains other details that are consistent with modern discoveries about the ancient world. The book speaks of “the plain of Olishem,” a name not mentioned in the Bible. An ancient inscription, not discovered and translated until the 20th century, mentions a town called “Ulisum,” located in northwestern Syria.37 Further, Abraham 3:22–23 is written in a poetic structure more characteristic of Near Eastern languages than early American writing style.38

Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles of the book of Abraham contain additional earmarks of the ancient world. Facsimile 1 and Abraham 1:17 mention the idolatrous god Elkenah. This deity is not mentioned in the Bible, yet modern scholars have identified it as being among the gods worshipped by ancient Mesopotamians.39 Joseph Smith represented the four figures in figure 6 of facsimile 2 as “this earth in its four quarters.” A similar interpretation has been argued by scholars who study identical figures in other ancient Egyptian texts.40 Facsimile 1 contains a crocodile deity swimming in what Joseph Smith called “the firmament over our heads.” This interpretation makes sense in light of scholarship that identifies Egyptian conceptions of heaven with “a heavenly ocean.”41

The book of Abraham is consistent with various details found in nonbiblical stories about Abraham that circulated in the ancient world around the time the papyri were likely created. In the book of Abraham, God teaches Abraham about the sun, the moon, and the stars. “I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt,” the Lord says, “that ye may declare all these words.”42 Ancient texts repeatedly refer to Abraham instructing the Egyptians in knowledge of the heavens. For example, Eupolemus, who lived under Egyptian rule in the second century B.C.E., wrote that Abraham taught astronomy and other sciences to the Egyptian priests.43 A third-century papyrus from an Egyptian temple library connects Abraham with an illustration similar to facsimile 1 in the book of Abraham.44 A later Egyptian text, discovered in the 20th century, tells how the Pharaoh tried to sacrifice Abraham, only to be foiled when Abraham was delivered by an angel. Later, according to this text, Abraham taught members of the Pharaoh’s court through astronomy.45 All these details are found in the book of Abraham.

Other details in the book of Abraham are found in ancient traditions located across the Near East. These include Terah, Abraham’s father, being an idolator; a famine striking Abraham’s homeland; Abraham’s familiarity with Egyptian idols; and Abraham’s being younger than 75 years old when he left Haran, as the biblical account states. Some of these extrabiblical elements were available in apocryphal books or biblical commentaries in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but others were confined to nonbiblical traditions inaccessible or unknown to 19th-century Americans.46

Read more at https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng

Claim #3: Kinderhook Plates Controversy

The following resources pretty thoroughly answer any of the misunderstandings that people have had about this issue:

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wO0EUt4hI4
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ1eoW7-q9k
  • https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Forgeries_related_to_Mormonism/Joseph_Smith_and_the_Kinderhook_Plates#Question:_Why_does_History_of_the_Church_say_that_Joseph_Smith_said_.22I_have_translated_a_portion_of_them….22.3F
  • https://www.lds.org/ensign/1981/08/kinderhook-plates-brought-to-joseph-smith-appear-to-be-a-nineteenth-century-hoax?lang=eng

Go to the “extraordinary resources on polygamy” link in the article for responses to polygamy claims.