Talk about reading between the lines!

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Hagoth
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Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Wed May 17, 2017 8:23 pm

I saw this on Reddit and was yet again surprised (I don't know why it still surprises me!) to find another foundational LDS story that has been modified after the fact to make it more compelling. Here's a link to the source manuscript for the official version of Martin Harris' visit with Charles Anthon from the Joseph Smith Papers website. Notice that the part where Dr. Anthon is informed that part of the book is sealed and states that he "cannot read a sealed book" was obviously written in later with different ink and was actually added between the lines(!) presumably to reinvent the failed mission as fulfillment of Isaiah 29.

http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper- ... st-1834/11

Of course, Anthon's version of the story is so radically different it's almost hard to believe the two people were ever in the same room together.

If you remove the between-the-lines insert the story goes like this:

"He then said to me, let me see that certificate, I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it [to] him when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministring of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him, he would translate them. I left him and went to Dr Mitchel [Samuel L. Mitchill] who sanctioned what Professor Anthony had said respecting both the Characters and the translation.”

The removal of the prophesy fulfillment completely changes what happened here. Harris' description, according to Joseph's retelling of the story, was that Anthon identified the charactors as "Egyptian, Chaldeak, Assyriac, and Arabac."

In Anthon's own account he said, "It consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets. Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes, Roman letters inverted or placed sideways... any thing else but “Egyptian Hieroglyphics.”
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Palerider
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Palerider » Wed May 17, 2017 9:36 pm

Another aspect of this story is that the Rosetta stone had just recently been discovered, so how likely was it that either of the scholars mentioned would have been qualified to verify a translation as the story alleges?

From wiki:
"Study of the decree was already under way when the first full translation of the Greek text appeared in 1803. It was 20 years, however, before the transliteration of the Egyptian scripts was announced by Jean-François Champollion in Paris in 1822; it took longer still before scholars were able to read Ancient Egyptian inscriptions and literature confidently."

Did Anthon claim to be able to translate Egyptian or just be able to verify Egyptian characters when he saw them?
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Thu May 18, 2017 7:42 am

Palerider wrote:
Wed May 17, 2017 9:36 pm
Did Anthon claim to be able to translate Egyptian or just be able to verify Egyptian characters when he saw them?
Harris and Anthon make different claims about the meeting but they agree on some very interesting and problematic points. Even if Harris' account was accurate, the claim that Anthon asked him to bring the book so he could translate it was impossible. No one, at least in America, could have translated anything written in Egyptian.

But there's more!

According to Harris, Anthon identified some of the characters from languages that didn't even exist in Lehi's time. Arabic was first developed around the 3rd to 4th century AD. "Chaldeak" probably refers to a dialect of Syriac writing sometimes called "Chaldean" that dates to about 200 BC. (this is according to Wikipedia - I'm not claiming expertise).

So even if Harris' account was recorded exactly as it happened - and if Harris was telling the truth - it is not faith-promoting at all as it happened. It is actually pretty strong evidence that someone was trying to perpetrate a fraud. While he's trying to convince us that the characters were written in Egyptian, Harris admits that they were identified by an expert as samples from many other languages. Anthon claimed that the characters he saw looked like they were ignorantly copied from a book with samples of various ancient alphabets, and Harris' account supports that claim. Maybe Joseph realized this and did the thing that he had done so many other times, he embellished the story to make it seem miraculous.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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deacon blues
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by deacon blues » Thu May 18, 2017 7:50 am

Can the bolder writing between the lines be attributed to a specific person or date? In the JSP vol. that contains Manuscript Book #1 they attribute D&C revisions to various scribes of Joseph Smith. I don't have the particular volume of the JSP that you cite. I wonder if it's in the county library? I don't see anything in the source material that says when it was added or who wrote it.
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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Thu May 18, 2017 8:11 am

deacon blues wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 7:50 am
Can the bolder writing between the lines be attributed to a specific person? In the JSP vol. that contains Manuscript Book #1 they attribute D&C revisions to various scribes of Joseph Smith. I don't have the particular volume of the JSP that you cite. I wonder if its in the county library?
The link I included gives you a scan of the manuscript and a typed transcript. The source note says it contains "handwriting of James Mulholland, Robert B. Thompson, William W. Phelps, and Willard Richards," but doesn't specify who wrote what. I think this is very much like the revisions to Book of Commandments chapters, as you point out, that were intended to make them more miraculous and to enhance Joseph Smith's importance. Even though they were made by various scribes it's hard to imagine that any of them were done without direct oversight and dictation by Joseph himself.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Palerider
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Palerider » Thu May 18, 2017 9:29 am

Hagoth wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 8:11 am
deacon blues wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 7:50 am
Can the bolder writing between the lines be attributed to a specific person? In the JSP vol. that contains Manuscript Book #1 they attribute D&C revisions to various scribes of Joseph Smith. I don't have the particular volume of the JSP that you cite. I wonder if its in the county library?
The link I included gives you a scan of the manuscript and a typed transcript. The source note says it contains "handwriting of James Mulholland, Robert B. Thompson, William W. Phelps, and Willard Richards," but doesn't specify who wrote what. I think this is very much like the revisions to Book of Commandments chapters, as you point out, that were intended to make them more miraculous and to enhance Joseph Smith's importance. Even though they were made by various scribes it's hard to imagine that any of them were done without direct oversight and dictation by Joseph himself.

The portion you reference was written approximately 10 years AFTER the incident and Martin Harris had apparently left the church at this time, so he wasn't even involved in the recounting that Joseph either wrote himself or that he dictated to one of his scribes. The whole thing stinks of embellishment.
And you are correct, very few scholars in the world could even begin an attempt at a translation of Egyptian at the time Anthon saw the characters. Anthon was a noted "Grammarian" not a linguist. So the bit about his approving the "translation" is a total fabrication.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Thu May 18, 2017 9:51 am

Palerider wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 9:29 am
The portion you reference was written approximately 10 years AFTER the incident and Martin Harris had apparently left the church at this time...
Thanks, Palerider. How do we know when this addition was made?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Palerider
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Palerider » Thu May 18, 2017 3:10 pm

Hagoth wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 9:51 am
Palerider wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 9:29 am
The portion you reference was written approximately 10 years AFTER the incident and Martin Harris had apparently left the church at this time...
Thanks, Palerider. How do we know when this addition was made?
Hey Hagoth, I was referring to the general portion of the history that you referenced.

We may not know when the addition between the lines was made. The "source document" states that the history itself was started in 1839 and one would assume that since the Harris/Anthon story comes early that it was probably written in 1839-40. Martin Harris was excommunicated in 1837 and then re-baptized in 42. The addition is also written in a different hand than the original.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

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asa
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by asa » Thu May 18, 2017 4:04 pm

Palerider wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 9:29 am
Hagoth wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 8:11 am
deacon blues wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 7:50 am
Can the bolder writing between the lines be attributed to a specific person? In the JSP vol. that contains Manuscript Book #1 they attribute D&C revisions to various scribes of Joseph Smith. I don't have the particular volume of the JSP that you cite. I wonder if its in the county library?
The link I included gives you a scan of the manuscript and a typed transcript. The source note says it contains "handwriting of James Mulholland, Robert B. Thompson, William W. Phelps, and Willard Richards," but doesn't specify who wrote what. I think this is very much like the revisions to Book of Commandments chapters, as you point out, that were intended to make them more miraculous and to enhance Joseph Smith's importance. Even though they were made by various scribes it's hard to imagine that any of them were done without direct oversight and dictation by Joseph himself.

The portion you reference was written approximately 10 years AFTER the incident and Martin Harris had apparently left the church at this time, so he wasn't even involved in the recounting that Joseph either wrote himself or that he dictated to one of his scribes. The whole thing stinks of embellishment.
And you are correct, very few scholars in the world could even begin an attempt at a translation of Egyptian at the time Anthon saw the characters. Anthon was a noted "Grammarian" not a linguist. So the bit about his approving the "translation" is a total fabrication.
Pale Rider you do Anton an injustice. He was not a grammarian as that term is presently used. He was , as his friend Edgar Allen Poe, said "the foremost classical scholar in America ' and perhaps the world. He in addition to be called the brightest mind ever to graduate from Columbia was a long term professor of the classics translating both Latin and Greek works and producing multiple classic dictionaries. He produced multiple seminal translations of Virgil ,Horace ,Caesar as well as Cicero and the Anabasis of Xenophon . I use to look at his commentary and notes to his translation of the Anabasis when i was reading it ( it is a great work by the way ) It happens that I went to Columbia and have seen his picture which still has a place of prominence in the Faculty club. I was always amused to think that his major fame today arises out of an hour long visit with a simple farmer.Your statement about the state of Egyptian studies is also not entirely correct either. Champollion first published his initial translations and studies showing the phonic values of characters in 1822 and published more demonstrating he could translate the Rosetta stone in 1824. By the time he went to Egypt in 1829 he had great success in translating random inscriptions ( the discovery channel has an interesting episode about him ) . While there is no proof that Anthon was up to date on Champollion's work he read french and was the greatest linguistic scholar in America so it is not too much of a stretch to think he had some familiarity with the decipherment saga. In addition he may have thought , ego manic that he was , that he was qualified to pass at least preliminary judgement on the characters.
Last edited by asa on Thu May 18, 2017 5:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

asa
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by asa » Thu May 18, 2017 4:10 pm

Incidentally it is true Harris was out of the church for an extended period but upon his return he not only reaffirmed his testimony as one of the 3 witnesses but so far as I can determined he never, whether in or out of the church ,contradicted the published story of his meeting with Anton. Lets look at all the evidence rather than summarily dismissing that which doesn't fit our favorite narrative.

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Palerider
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Palerider » Thu May 18, 2017 7:16 pm

asa wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 4:04 pm
While there is no proof that Anthon was up to date on Champollion's work he read french and was the greatest linguistic scholar in America so it is not too much of a stretch to think he had some familiarity with the decipherment saga. In addition he may have thought , ego manic that he was , that he was qualified to pass at least preliminary judgement on the characters.
Asa,

I meant no disrespect to Anthon. I had read enough in wiki to recognize his respectable position at Columbia. But as you point out there is no proof that he would have been even remotely able to offer a confirmation of the TRANSLATION allegedly shown to him by Harris in 1829. It might be well to remember that no telephones, internet, text messaging, etc., existed in the world at the time and since Champollion didn't even get his work on a hieroglyphic dictionary published until 1832.

From wiki:
"...the stories of the Rosetta Stone and the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs diverge, as Champollion drew on many other texts to develop an Ancient Egyptian grammar and a hieroglyphic dictionary which were published after his death in 1832."

Are you aware of any correspondence between Anthon and Champollion?

In essence I think my basic conclusion is correct. I may have been a little unfamiliar with all of Anthon's capabilities but I highly doubt translating Egyptian at this particular time of his life was one of them. If you know of any facts that will help me to re-evaluate my "narrative" please feel free to share so that I can make immediate corrections. ;)
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

George Washington

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Thu May 18, 2017 9:03 pm

asa wrote:
Thu May 18, 2017 4:04 pm
"the foremost classical scholar in America ' and perhaps the world. He in addition to be called the brightest mind ever to graduate from Columbia was a long term professor of the classics translating both Latin and Greek works and producing multiple classic dictionaries.
Thank you for pointing that out Asa. This is why I get so annoyed when Mormon scholars and teachers write off Anthon's own accounts of the meeting as unreliable or that he was intentionally insincere for the purpose of thwarting God's work. All experts are painted as minions of Satan when they don't say what we want to hear. Centuries of Bible scholarship are shrugged off by the Gospel Doctrine teacher in the same way. After all, the 14 fundamentals tells us to pay not attention to people who have "earthly credentials or training."
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

asa
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by asa » Fri May 19, 2017 3:27 pm

Thanks for the kind remarks Hagoth. Palerider I had written a lengthy response to your inquiry but it got lost. Suffice to say i am not aware of any correspondence but Young ( the English chap who was trying to decipher the rosette stone) was publishing on the issue ,including discussing Champollion's work in 1823. Anthon became quite familiar with Champollion's work at some point because he quoted extensively from Champollion's work in the Classical Dictionary he published after his meeting with Harris. Several sources suggest that both Mitchell and Anthon were knowledgeable about Egyptian antiquities and attempts to decipher the language . This should be no surprise. The Rosette stone had been the most popular item in the British museum since 1805 ( it still is). The Philae obelisk generated huge excitement in England which it was re- erected there in 1820 . It of course was covered with hieroglyphs . There was a constant flow of Egyptian antiquities into England throughout the early 1800s .Ultimately however none of this matters . Harris came to Anthon and Michell as either a skeptic or a believer in need of additional evidence. Whatever they told him (whether they understood the characters or not) was enough to eliminate his doubts and turn him into a true believer. After a few hours with each of them he was quite willing to literally bet the farm on Josephs veracity. That is the real importance of this story. He sought confirmation of the authenticity of the characters and apparently in his mind he got it.

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Palerider
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Palerider » Fri May 19, 2017 7:12 pm

The interesting thing about Anthon is that even the church is beginning to doubt his abilities to interpret Egyptian.
See:
www.lds.org/church/news/speaker-gives-n ... n?lang=eng

My problem with the account is that there isn't one (so far as I can tell, please correct me if I'm wrong) from Martin himself. We're taking Joseph's word for what he says Martin told him and Joseph is a known deceiver.

I don't doubt the trip took place and that Martin met with probably three different scholars. Lucky Mack Smith confirms the trip happened. I just doubt that there was any "translation" shown to any of these men or that they could have verified it to be correct.
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily."

"Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light."

George Washington

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Fri May 19, 2017 7:59 pm

asa wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 3:27 pm
After a few hours with each of them he was quite willing to literally bet the farm on Josephs veracity.
Until he read the parts in the BoM about a literal hell of fire and brimstone ;) After that he needed a little bit of arm twisting.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by asa » Sat May 20, 2017 12:02 am

Palerider wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 7:12 pm
The interesting thing about Anthon is that even the church is beginning to doubt his abilities to interpret Egyptian.
See:
www.lds.org/church/news/speaker-gives-n ... n?lang=eng

My problem with the account is that there isn't one (so far as I can tell, please correct me if I'm wrong) from Martin himself. We're taking Joseph's word for what he says Martin told him and Joseph is a known deceiver.

I don't doubt the trip took place and that Martin met with probably three different scholars. Lucky Mack Smith confirms the trip happened. I just doubt that there was any "translation" shown to any of these men or that they could have verified it to be correct.
Anthon's own account demonstrates that he was shown the "characters". You can decide which account is more believable oops sorry you already have. But what we can agree upon because all witnesses vouch for this is that Harris took the "characters" to two of the foremost scholars in America ,had a conversation with them about the "character" and their authenticity and came away convince Joseph was credible and bet his farm on it. Even Anthon in his 1841 statement adds to his earlier statement and acknowledges he gave Harris a written statement expressing his views on the authenticity of the characters. Thus further affirming the accepted narrative. Thus the only variation we have here is what Anthons opinion was. All of the other details are agreed upon by both parties . Anton had every reason not to admit he had given a positive statement. In 1840 that would have been like coming out in favor of Scientology. A death knell for his professional reputation. Harris had his idiosyncrasies but he shows a consistent level of skepticism about the Book of Mormon until after his interview with Anthon . Then he was all in.Those are the undisputed facts. Now tell me which narrative fits those facts the best. Anthons actual linguistic abilities make no difference. The issue is what Harris understood him to say. Skepticism is understandable but any narrative needs to fit the facts . Yours doesn't

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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by asa » Sat May 20, 2017 12:19 am

Hagoth wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 7:59 pm
asa wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 3:27 pm
After a few hours with each of them he was quite willing to literally bet the farm on Josephs veracity.
Until he read the parts in the BoM about a literal hell of fire and brimstone ;) After that he needed a little bit of arm twisting.
Clever but snarky and of course most importantly untrue

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Sat May 20, 2017 2:10 pm

asa wrote:
Sat May 20, 2017 12:19 am
Hagoth wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 7:59 pm
asa wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 3:27 pm
After a few hours with each of them he was quite willing to literally bet the farm on Josephs veracity.
Until he read the parts in the BoM about a literal hell of fire and brimstone ;) After that he needed a little bit of arm twisting.
Clever but snarky and of course most importantly untrue
I think it's absolutely true. Martin, being a universalist, was very upset when he read the press proofs talking about a literal fiery hell. He insisted that Joseph give him a "commandment," by which he meant revelation. The result was D&C 19, in which God lets Martin in on the little secret, because he is special, that he usually only shares with his apostles - that the fiery hell is just a trick he uses to scare people into being good for his name's glory and he doesn't tell everyone because they're not ready for the meat:
19: 7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. 8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. 9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.

22 For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish.
Then he threatens him because of his reluctance about selling his land:
15 Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.

20 Wherefore, I command you again to repent, lest I humble you with my almighty power; and that you confess your sins, lest you suffer these punishments of which I have spoken, of which in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree you have tasted at the time I withdrew my Spirit.
Then he gets to the bottom line:
26 And again, I command thee that thou shalt not covet thine own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon, which contains the truth and the word of God—
Then he reiterates that if Martin doesn't come up with the money, he will be destroyed and have everything will be taken away from him anyway:
33 And misery thou shalt receive if thou wilt slight these counsels, yea, even the destruction of thyself and property.

34 Impart a portion of thy property, yea, even part of thy lands, and all save the support of thy family.

35 Pay the debt thou hast contracted with the printer. Release thyself from bondage.
I think it's pretty clear what's going on here. God/Joseph is watering down scripture that is disturbing to the guy with the money, and at the same time trying to intimidate him into coming up with the cash. I think if this was really God talking He could have found a more loving and graceful way to go about it.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Thoughtful » Sat May 20, 2017 2:14 pm

Palerider wrote:
Fri May 19, 2017 7:12 pm
The interesting thing about Anthon is that even the church is beginning to doubt his abilities to interpret Egyptian.
See:
www.lds.org/church/news/speaker-gives-n ... n?lang=eng

My problem with the account is that there isn't one (so far as I can tell, please correct me if I'm wrong) from Martin himself. We're taking Joseph's word for what he says Martin told him and Joseph is a known deceiver.

I don't doubt the trip took place and that Martin met with probably three different scholars. Lucky Mack Smith confirms the trip happened. I just doubt that there was any "translation" shown to any of these men or that they could have verified it to be correct.
Am I reading this article correctly?

Harris took the transcript to Anthon who claimed he could read it but actually couldn't. Then he took it to Mitchell, was welcomed back... but .... what?

Nothing. Mitchell was familiar with Egyptian, but the story cuts off there. This sounds like a carefully worded implication that Mitchell has verified the account, without actually telling what Mitchell decided when seeing the characters.

With past behavior being the best predictor of behavior, this makes me think the newsroom is implying Mitchell validated it, but actually he possibly told Harris off?

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Hagoth
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Re: Talk about reading between the lines!

Post by Hagoth » Sat May 20, 2017 6:08 pm

Thoughtful wrote:
Sat May 20, 2017 2:14 pm
Harris took the transcript to Anthon who claimed he could read it but actually couldn't.
Even if either man could read Egyptian, it wouldn't have helped. Both Anthon and Harris tell us that the characters were a mish-mash of several randomly mixed languages, some of which didn't exist in Lehi's time. Even if we pursue the Anthon-was-evil-and-trying-to-hamper-the-work theory, we still have the official church-sanctioned version of the story telling us that the characters were "Egyptian, Chaldeak, Assyriac, and Arabac," the main difference being that Anthon said there was NO Egyptian.
Thoughtful wrote:
Sat May 20, 2017 2:14 pm
This sounds like a carefully worded implication that Mitchell has verified the account, without actually telling what Mitchell decided when seeing the characters.
Mitchell, like most people of the time, already believed the general story told in the Book of Mormon, that superior white people built the Eastern Woodlands mounds and were then killed off by dark-skinned savages who were ancestors of the Indians. He knew Harris was already interested in his story, but I believe that's all we know about the meeting. Mitchell, like Anthon also apparently failed to send Martin away with any corroborating documentation, but he was probably a little less harsh in his exchange with Harris. I imagine Martin went home with mixed emotions. On the one hand he couldn't find anyone who could verify that the characters actually said anything, but on the other he met some experts who recognized them as actual characters from ancient writing systems. The rest of the story crystallized in the writing of it, ten years later, and the even later between-the-lines (and almost certainly apocryphal) addition of the sealed book subplot.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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