There are 13 thoughts on ““We May Not Understand Our Words”: The Book of Abraham and the Concept of Translation in The Pearl of Greatest Price”.

  1. “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.” Isn’t this the same thing as saying that Joseph Smith’s revelations must be a product of his “frenzied mind?” Joseph’s Smith’s spiritual gift is so remarkable that even brilliant scholars can explain it. So his gift must be continually discounted. I remember Hugh Nibley saying something to the effect that, “… there is only one thing that interests me about JS… how does he do the things he does!” Nibley’s many books and lectures, especially his BoM lectures constantly highlight JS jaw-dropping prophetic brilliance.

    I loved reading your response to the Givens / Hauglid book. And I loved reading Kent P. Jackson’s response (in Journal 40) to the Adam-Clarke Wayment / Wilson-Lamont charges.

    Your efforts are very much appreciated by me. I’m sure preparing your response was very time-consuming.

    I first learned about Terryl Givens in 2005 during the Worlds of JS Smiththonian conference. His presentation there was awesome. His BYU speech “Lightning from Heaven” is awesome. “By The Hand of Mormon” / “When Souls Had Wings…” / His other talks & research on Pre-Mortal Existence have (for me) all been awesome. His many other YouTube presentations including his recent 4-part Maxwell lectures are … yes… awesome.

    I’m not quite sure whether my current high opinion of Terryl Givens should be modified based on your book review. I’ll purchase / read it / decide for myself…. but your review raises some important concerns.

    Thanks goodness we still have faithful LDS scholars who are not embarrassed by the “apologetics” label!

    Thank you Brother Thompson!

  2. I want to say something clearly and for the public record: Terryl Givens is a believing Latter-day Saint. He is also prodigiously talented. I don’t always agree with him, but I always find him worth reading and hearing. I consider him a friend.

  3. Thank you for your article. The Book of Abraham Is a blessing to me today and I am grateful to the Prophet Joseph for revealing it. The words and truths contained therein invite the Spirit and open me to contemplating God and His will and plan for His children. To attempt, even in good faith, to transform the Book from an inspired revelation from Abraham of ancient origins to an 18th century contextualized work strikes me as, at the least, potentially harmful to members of our faith. If that is where the facts were to take us, so be it; God will provide. But, as shown in the article, the facts do not take us to that premise. Unless and until there is more, then, why publish such?

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments so far. I do want to be clear for my part: While I disagree with Givens’ use of and neglect of several sources pertaining to the Book of Abraham, I still hold him in high regard as a scholar, a person of faith, and I am grateful for many things he has done to help us see the beauty of the gospel.

    • Yes, I agree. He’s done a great deal to strengthen appreciation of our faith and of the scriptures. But in this case, it’s reasonable to respectfully disagree. Thank you, Dr. Thompson!

    • John,
      As pleased as I am with your paper, I cannot agree with your comment. The scriptures, including The Pearl of Great Price/Book of Abraham are of too great worth to us to let them be devalued to the point of fiction (your word) by anyone, no matter how charitable we might feel. So is the restored gift and power of seership/translation, which we must not allow to be sullied by scholars.

      In what I have read of Givens’ writings, I struggle to find truth as taught by the prophets and apostles (and CES), but instead much mixture with the philosophies of men. Sam’s comment stated well my own experience and resultant views. Elder Cook’s Tuesday BYU Speeches address counseling us to shun the philosophies of men does also. I find no “beauty” in falsehood. BofA issues are but a part of his departures from long-settled gospel truths.

      Givens believes Joseph Smith went to the churches and worldly organizations (like masonry) of his day to locate and borrow what became the Restoration. See the final pages of Kent Jackson’s piece from several weeks ago to read his refutation of that notion. And I could go on and on.

      To paraphrase your expression, if you find disagreement and neglect within one subject/area, are you not likely to find it in others (as I have)? How much more effort ought we spend sifting Givens when others (like yourself) present no such troubling mixtures?

      • Mr. Horne-Can you honestly say you have read this book? You have said in your blog you don’t follow Givens so I already know the answer. You also say ” in what I have read of Givens’ writings”. Which means you don’t read his books but these reviews and comments. Your opinion is of him and his work is worthless. You say that I need to “proofread and reason” can YOU please tell us what “less illiterate” means? How can something be less than nothing? It also helps to actually read what people write and not read into what they write. For example Givens never says, “scriptures are fictional” YOU say that he says. It helps to not make claims about others that they don’t make. It is called a strawman argument. Finally Mr. Horne, you also say that, “I am no one’s judge” then stop being one. You don’t get to decide if someone is dissenting, you have never been sustained as a common judge in Israel, I would throw it there that you have never even met Givens. People who have are saying he isn’t a dissenter so stop judging him. It isn’t your place. Contrary to your book, you don’t determine doctrine. You never have and you never will. Trust in the leaders of the Church to worry about the doctrines. We look to them and not to “it looks to me”. They were sustained, not you.

  5. Givens’ work is a real-time example, in my opinion, of how the Great Apostasy took hold anciently. For by rejecting the historically authentic claims of the BOA as well as the book’s divine origin in modern times, he is undeniably “[taking] away from the (restored) gospel . . . many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord . . .” (1 Nephi 13:26).

    In essence, by denying the divine & ancient origins of the BOA, Givens’ is also denying the singular doctrines and covenants revealed in the BOA, and presenting such faithless conclusions as facts. His words will undoubtedly further undermine and ultimately overthrow the faith of some in the prophetic calling & ministry of Joseph Smith and, by extension, the apostolic authority of the Brethren.

    I don’t care if that’s not his intent, because that is the outcome. And the fact that he’s draped in the sheep’s clothing of being approved by BYU/the Church makes his writings all the more spiritually dangerous. I personally wish he wouldn’t be allowed to publish such spiritual dribble anymore under the guise of BYU/Church sanction, so that not one more member would get caught in his snare thereby having their faith undermined and ultimately overthrown.

    Thank you John Thompson for calling out Givens’ apostate theories to hopefully prevent others from accepting them as gospel.

  6. John, thank you for a very carefully reasoned response. I suspect that the chapter on the Book of Abraham was largely written by or guided by Brian Hauglid, who has disappointed many with his shift toward more naturalistic origins of the Book of Abraham. I hope Givens will be able to consider the thoughtful and well supported opposing views you have presented and be able to reconsider his acceptance of such views, for there is significant evidence that Hauglid is wrong and that many of the standard arguments against the Book of Abraham are based on errant assumptions.

    Thanks for bring so much clarity to the issues you raised here.

  7. Dennis. Try reading the book, it helps. What is wrong is with being a “protestant” in the Church? I have counted over ten prophets and apostles who were ministers for other religions, there is one who was Muslim. God does not seem to care. Does it bother you that Elder Taniela Wakolo was baptized in 1994 and later serving as a Stake President, Mission President, Area Seventy and now General Authority and you have never and with your attitude will never serve as any of those callings? What were you doing in 1994? I hope you were reading the October 1994 Ensign that has the Elder Oaks BYU talk about, “Our Strengths can our downfall” I, and others, have come to believe that your extreme self righteousness is your undoing. You have even claimed you would leave the church if one obscure interpretation was adopted at large. You can’t be that spiritually stable yourself. Elder B.H. Roberts said, ” “I find my own heart strengthened in the truth by getting rid of the untruth, the spectacular, the bizarre, as soon as I learn that it is based on worthless testimony” (Madsen, p. 363) Personally speaking I would rather read Givens than be ever read Dennis’ worthless opinion.

    • Whiz,
      First, I suggest you proofread and reason out your comments before posting them so you can come across less illiterate.

      Second, you are welcome to agree with Givens that the scriptures are fictional. Most dissidents and dissenters do.

      And we are taught not to aspire to high office in the church.

      Lastly, I ask this rhetorical question of anyone who cares to ponder it: is unbelief in the scriptures as the word of God–a belief that any of the four standard works (scriptures) are fiction–a step onto the road to apostasy? I know how I answer.

      And thanks again John and Interpreter for the highly useful piece.

      • For all interested in commenting. Please be civil in your discussions. These are becoming comments about commenters and no longer about the article.

  8. I don’t know who John Thompson is, but I strongly commend his review of Givens’ writings, and Interpreter for publishing it. John was much more diplomatic than I would have been in his critique, but still made the right points–using scripture and quotations from the Prophet to do so, accompanied by sound logic and reasoning.

    I have come to believe that Terryl Givens is probably the best Protestant in the Church and possibly the best teacher of the philosophies of men also. As John noted in several places, I also fear the consequences of Givens’ theories on his readers–especially those that are unsuspecting and unsophisticated members. This material could well blindside them and diminish their faith in what they hear from President Nelson on this subject.

    From my reading of this review, it looks to me like Givens is providing the church’s critics (anti-Mormons) with the fodder they seek to use as weapons to cause members to doubt the divine authenticity of the standard works, the scriptures. They will eat his stuff up as they are Wayment’s and Wilson-Lemon’s:

    “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.”

    Was Hauglid a good source for help in these writings of Givens’? Hauglid has publicly stated he does not believe the Book of Abraham is scripture. I say to Givens: it is not fiction, but eternal truth.

    On occasions in past decades the First Presidency has officially asked members of the Church to sustain The Pearl of Great Price as the “Word of God” in General Conference, by the formal raising of the right hand. I am no one’s judge, but I ask myself, given the quotations from Givens’ writings shared in this review, would Givens be able to raise his hand to sustain The Pearl of Great Price (which includes the BofA) as the “Word of God” if he believes it to be fiction? His views are contrary to those of the church and its leaders.

    Can you write one thing in “Mormon Studies” and believe its opposite in your personal / church associations?. Givens is not the only scholar/academic to whom this entirely appropriate question may be put. John quoted Elder Holland’s counsel to NAMI, which this review indicates they are not following.
    Tithing-paid scholars should be writing papers/books that strengthen faith in the divine mission of Joseph Smith; strengthening the faith of members that he did indeed translate the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham by the gift and power of God; that he did not know the ancient languages of the texts he translated; that he needed the power of the Holy Spirit and the interpreters to translate; that he was given the English words by these means–God was deeply involved in all of it.

    In contrast to Givens’ theorizing, the prophets and apostles have born witness and raised their hands in formal sustaining of the scriptures as the word of God in the plain and simple meaning.

    I have had the Holy Spirit come upon me in intense, all-consuming power to reveal to me that the Book of Mormon is just what it says it is and that Joseph Smith translated it just as he said it did.

    Despite any scholarship from anyone, I therefore know Givens is wrong and the prophets are right. And I again commend and thank Interpreter for posting this review and also the one written some weeks ago by Kent Jackson.
    Critics were stretching out their hands to grab unproven theories about the JST relying on and plagiarizing Clarke’s commentary, and as they closed their fists Kent Jackson stole their hopes; now John has done that same thing to Givens. Well done and thank you.

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