A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

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Doctor Scratch
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A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Doctor Scratch »

It's Friday, which means that the folks at "Mormon Interpreter" are doing everything in their power to keep their weekly streak alive. This week, we get an article entitled "'We May Not Understand Our Words': The Book of Abraham and the Concept of Translation in The Pearl of Greatest Price" by John S. Thompson, who apparently works for the Church's Seminaries and Institutes of Religion. The article is a review of Givens' and Hauglid's book, "The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture. I don't know about you, but it seems as if arguments over the Book of Abraham have really been ratcheting up lately--perhaps due to Brian Hauglid's appearance on the "Radio Free Mormon" podcast.

In any case, the argument is a typical, nitpick-y smear piece that targets Givens for not adhering to the Mopologists' definition of orthodoxy. Plus, Hauglid is attached to the project, and the Mopologists hate him, so of course one would expect an article like this. To Thompsons credit, he at least takes some time to heap some praise on Givens:
Recently, the popular and gifted writer Terryl Givens (with some assistance from Brian Hauglid) addressed some of the controversy surrounding Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Abraham in his [Page 3]commentary on the Pearl of Great Price, a Latter-day Saint scriptural collection containing, in part, a few of Joseph Smith’s revealed translations.4 As is typical of Givens’ works generally, the book makes accessible some of Joseph Smith’s cultural and theological contexts and provides balanced textual and reception histories of the Pearl of Great Price’s various components. His writing style is approachable and engaging and gives readers much to ponder.
Note the passive-aggressive swipe at Hauglid: "some" assistance. And I think that Thompson is also owed some credit for his restraint: I didn't catch any instances of him harping on the fact that the authors use the term "Mormonism" or that they label the Book of Abraham "controversial." Recall how apoplectic the Mopologists were over Grant Palmer's use of the term "insider." At least Thompson has maintained his composure.

But the review is undeniably nitpicky, and you can easily see why the Mopologists would have a problem with the book:
Thompson wrote:As will be shown, Givens’ attempt at a balanced portrayal of some of the difficulties and controversies surrounding the Book of Abraham eventually gives way to his ultimate conclusion that, at least in this case, it does not appear that Joseph Smith provided an English translation of an ancient text written by Abraham after all. Rather, for Givens, the evidence demonstrates that the Prophet mistakenly thought he was translating an ancient writing of Abraham from characters that were actually part of an ancient Egyptian text known as a Book of Breathings, while simultaneously creating a modern story of Abraham in his own fertile, if not divinely inspired, mind.
In other words, Givens and Hauglid have adopted a stance that is totally contrary to Gee's. I have no doubt that they see this as a grave threat: it's one thing if Hauglid--a borderline apostate, in their view--has gone "rogue" on this issue, but Givens? That puts them in a very tough spot. Thompson spells the problem out rather explicitly:
However, due to his and Brian Hauglid’s associations with Brigham Young University and because of the high consumption of Givens’ works in the Latter-day Saint faith community, it is important to raise awareness of the evidence that contradicts their attempt to alter the language of that community in this moment. This is not to cast a shadow over everything else these fine scholars have done, but it is important to demonstrate that the conclusions that these and other scholars make with respect to the Book of Abraham translation are not as inevitable as they portray.
Well, hey: at least this is nicer than insinuating that they are apostates. And Thompson forges ahead with criticisms like this:
Thompson wrote:Since Givens assumes that the EA and the GAEL are an integral part of Joseph Smith’s effort to produce the original Book of Abraham manuscript, he stresses that “the process by which [Joseph Smith] produced the Book of Abraham was of a different category altogether from that of his 1829 production of the Book of Mormon.”31 The Prophet “wrestled with the Book of Abraham, using seer stones or not, on and off for seven years,”32 and “his approach was one that combined prolonged and collaborative intellectual effort along with ‘direct inspiration of Heaven,’ as one transcriber noted.”33

[SNIP!]

As the only scribal witness reporting how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham, Parrish’s testimony should not be so glossed over. Writing down the translation “as” Joseph Smith received it “direct” from heaven does not sound like there was any “prolonged and collaborative intellectual effort” in this process. Contrary to Givens’ belief that the Book of Abraham translation “was no spontaneous channeling of a finished product by any stretch,” Parrish’s testimony, one of the principal sources that really matters, does indeed sound like the Book of Abraham was produced in much the same way Joseph Smith brought forth the Book of Mormon — by simply dictating, or spontaneously channeling, the translation as he received it from heaven.
Weird, right? And to think: Thompson is accusing *Givens* (there is scarcely any additional mention of Hauglid--I wonder why?) of "glossing over" evidence?? I doubt there is anyone familiar with the history of the production of the Book of Abraham who would debate the proposition that "collaboration" was involved. Thus, it seems like Thompson is splitting hairs.

Later, Thompson takes issue with the fact that the others refer to the Book of Abraham as a product of "bricolage":
Thompson wrote:Givens likens Joseph Smith’s effort to “translate” the Book of Abraham to bricolage. Bricolage is the art of repurposing objects into a new interpretation or new creation of the present — a modern example is the genre of art known as “junk art” or “found art.” As such, bricolage abandons any effort to understand the used object’s original setting or purpose. Such is not necessary, for bricolage is an appropriation and new creation, an improvisation loosely based on the shape or color of the object, not what the object actually is. Givens declares that bricolage “was the very basis of [Joseph Smith’s] methodology of Restoration.”48

Since the original setting and purpose of objects are of no concern in bricolage, Givens proposes that the Book of Abraham may have been a sort of improvisation based on what the papyri merely suggested, not what they really were.
Boy, Givens is really rubbing it in. Thompson is far more polite than the typical Mopologist, but you can tell that he doesn't appreciate this kind of stuff. Here he just stops short of accusing Givens of calling Joseph Smith a liar:
Givens is proposing in this section that the Egyptian papyri and their vignettes may have inspired Joseph Smith to produce a modern work that he falsely attributes (the meaning of the term pseudepigrapha) to Abraham.
(italics ibid)

Later, Thompson puts Givens in the same category as David Bokovoy, and insinuates yet again that there is a whiff of apostasy in the whole thing:
Thompson wrote:Beyond the facsimiles, Givens goes much further with this term and suggests to his readers that the entire Book of Abraham text can be viewed as bricolage as well. He admits that this amounts to calling the Book of Abraham a modern pseudepigrapha as David Bokovoy has done. In other words, the Book of Abraham is a modern, thus fictional, creation of Joseph Smith’s own mind, and “falsely attributed” to Abraham.
The good old "faithful fiction" idea, eh? And now it has gained traction with Teryl Givens of all people! How will the Mopologists respond? The answer seems to be: "they won't" or "their answers will be lame," as in this paragraph from the closing section of Thompson's review:
Thompson wrote:In order to fully engage the academy, historians and theologians in the field of Mormon Studies, like Givens, must write under the premise that Joseph Smith’s revelations reflect his own natural understanding, creativity, and development. The Book of Mormon and Bible expansions, for example, can only be indicative of the Prophet’s own 1829–1831 theological understanding and culture (the time period when he produced these texts) and thus are to be examined and interpreted within that specific period to ascertain meaning. The idea that some of Joseph Smith’s revelations might actually be, as he claimed, divinely-aided translations of records from ancient prophets who may have had a more complex [Page 43]theology than his own, or that his revelations might actually be, as he claimed, the words of a divine being whose ways and thoughts are higher than his own are not admissible. To work within any of these parameters is deemed “apologetic,” and it is currently trendy to simply dismiss or ignore such approaches, even among scholars within the Church.
LOL! "currently trendy"? When was Mopologetics *ever* 'trendy'? And remember: this whole thing about undermining what the prophets said is *exactly* the same tactic that Meldrum, Neville, and the other Heartlanders have used against the Mopologists. In that respect, the Mopologists and the Mormon Studies crowd share something in common: they are both willing to follow the evidence in such a way that it undercuts things that Joseph Smith et al. actually said.

In any case, the article concludes with an epic outpouring of butt-hurt, complete with Thompson quoting from Elder Holland's alleged "spanking" speech to the Maxwell Institute. And yet again, he stops just short of accusing Givens of apostasy:
In a natural and gradual way, Latter-day Saints examining Joseph Smith’s translations from a Mormon Studies perspective, in contrast to other approaches, such as ancient studies, will eventually define and understand the same words in the text so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling questions by an appeal to the sources. Like the Brother of Jared feared, we are arriving at a point where “we may not understand our words.”
All of this is quite stunning, when you think about it. The Mopologists are taking quite a huge risk here in going after Givens in this way. True: this article doesn't contain anywhere near the vitriol that it would have if it had been written by Gee or Midgley or Smoot. Still, you can pretty clearly see where this was aimed, and the perspective it's coming from. If the Mopologists lose Givens as even a half-hearted "ally," then who do they have left?

In any case, it will be very, very interesting to see what unfolds in the wake of this admittedly quite vicious "review."
"If, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Philo Sofee »

This is gold! Mopologists have their hands full with their own. That's because, like good lil Morms, anyone who thinks differently than they do cannot possibly be totally faithful like them. Oh those others may be at 90% faithful but that just means what they say cannot be as accurate as Mopologetics beliefs and faith. It's positively humorous to one who has seen the light and stopped drinking their Kool Aid, I assure you. The uppity up uppence is sooooo obvious. I'm sure the Lord is so much more proud and likely to give those 100%ers in faith the Keys of the Celestial Kingdom Library, rather than those 90% skunks. They get toilet cleaning duty.
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Doctor Scratch »

It's absolutely remarkable that they would go after *Givens*--of all people!--in this way. This is one of the most stunning things that they've done this year. You have to expect that there will be significant fallout from this.
"If, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Gadianton »

Thank you for shoring up your own impressive publishing record with this article, Doctor.

I confess, I'm reeling here -- "junk art" -- Lol! This might be the most masterful description of the Book of Abraham ever. I have to give a full +1 to Thompson for thinking of it. Dr. Thompson, you are welcome to stop by my office any time for a pour of Scotch.

I do, however, wonder if Thompson's criticism is fully thought through. The apologists really are going "all in". It's either a literal translation or bust. And this seems to be the dictate of John Gee, with others in power backing him. One wonders if they are sealing off other apologetic avenues by this black-and-white demand?

Junk art is one variety of repurposing, and it's easy to think of repurposed symbols that seem more final in their new lives than previous uses. One should be cautious about getting a swastika tattoo, for instance, independent of the variety of meanings it might hold. I wonder about poor John Tvedness and his mnemonic theory. This is also a "repurposed symbol" theory, but it's one that is compatible with literal history. Is the problem "repurposing symbols" or denying a literal history? Thompson saws off a branch with plenty of green.

And what about the Ghost Committee? To add credibility to the Book of Mormon as a 15th century document, Skousen goes beyond just grammar. Skousen says that, essentially, that the Book of Mormon is 15th century "junk art" when he argues that it's "expansions" are 15th century ones, not 19th century -- "witch burnings" comes to mind as the prime example. Are the apologists throwing 300,000$ worth of research under the bus by printing this article?
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Moksha »

I hope this does not have a chilling effect on other LDS writers knowing they will have potshots taken at them by the Interpreter Foundation.
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Shulem »

Philo Sofee wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 1:09 am
This is gold! Mopologists have their hands full with their own. That's because, like good lil Morms, anyone who thinks differently than they do cannot possibly be totally faithful like them. Oh those others may be at 90% faithful but that just means what they say cannot be as accurate as Mopologetics beliefs and faith. It's positively humorous to one who has seen the light and stopped drinking their Kool Aid, I assure you. The uppity up uppence is sooooo obvious. I'm sure the Lord is so much more proud and likely to give those 100%ers in faith the Keys of the Celestial Kingdom Library, rather than those 90% skunks. They get toilet cleaning duty.

Suck my Lysolic nipple, bitch!

Image

There goes Abraham down the drain . . . .

Down.

Down.

Down.

Abraham! Oh baby.
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Doctor Scratch
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Doctor Scratch »

Gadianton wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 2:37 am
And what about the Ghost Committee? To add credibility to the Book of Mormon as a 15th century document, Skousen goes beyond just grammar. Skousen says that, essentially, that the Book of Mormon is 15th century "junk art" when he argues that it's "expansions" are 15th century ones, not 19th century -- "witch burnings" comes to mind as the prime example. Are the apologists throwing 300,000$ worth of research under the bus by printing this article?
That's a great point, Dean Robbers: why is it okay to support a theory that Elizabethan language magically found its way into the Book of Mormon (via a Ghost Committee no less!) but it's not okay to think of the Book of Abraham as "bricolage"? I'm reminded of one of Dr. Peterson's favorite quotes, about how "small minds" focus on people rather than ideas. You can see, via the example of Skousen's unrelentingly whackadoodle Ghost Committee theory, what the Mopologists' "ideas" amount to. At the end of the day, they've always been about people and politics: coups, trying to seize power, trying to crush their enemies. The subtext of this latest article, of course, is Brian Hauglid and their attempts to demonize him.

I will add that it seems to me as if Dr. Peterson is completely exhausted, and lacks the ability to carry on as Mopologist in Chief. He barely had the energy to even mention this week's 'Interpreter' offerings. I guess that his advice-defying vacations didn't restore him to his "full self"? How unfortunate. He claims on his blog that he "interviewed" people for his stupid "Witnesses" project, and I wonder if he did these interviews in person, even as Utah's governor has been ordering extreme measures to control the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
"If, while hoping that everybody else will be honest and so forth, I can personally prosper through unethical and immoral acts without being detected and without risk, why should I not?." --Daniel Peterson, 6/4/14
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Shulem »

Doctor Scratch wrote:
Sat Nov 14, 2020 5:35 am
He claims on his blog that he "interviewed" people for his stupid "Witnesses" project, and I wonder if he did these interviews in person, even as Utah's governor has been ordering extreme measures to control the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
Makes me wonder how many people will die from Covid because of Dan's silly project. 1? 2? More??
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Tom »

Doctor Thompson writes:
Contrary to Givens’ assertion, Joseph Smith does not actually translate any of the text in Facsimile #3 either. For example, he interprets Fig. 5 as “Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand,” but Joseph Smith does not actually tell us what the characters say, only that they are representative.
And the footnote:
To be consistent with his general use of the vignettes, it is reasonable to believe that Joseph Smith may have simply viewed the Shulem of Abraham’s day as symbolically “represented by” both the character and its caption in Facsimile #3, not that the Egyptians themselves would call this figure Shulem. Similarly, Joseph Smith indicates that the name for the figure that he reinterprets as Pharaoh is “given in the characters above the head” but does not actually translate the text above the head. Notably, there actually is a name given above the head, and the name and character in this moment is Isis who indeed does symbolically “represent” pharaoh in the ancient Egyptian religion. She represents the pharaoh so deeply that her name actually means and is spelled with the hieroglyph for the seat or throne of pharaoh.
9.95 for the mental gymnastics here.
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Re: A New Smear Article: Interpreter Targets Givens and Hauglid

Post by Philo Sofee »

Dr. Scratch
I'm reminded of one of Dr. Peterson's favorite quotes, about how "small minds" focus on people rather than ideas.
Ironically he built his entire career on doing just that! From Tryke to Metcalfe to and including Dehlin and now Hauglid.
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