Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

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Philo Sofee
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Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Philo Sofee »

Dear Kerry,
So, we received word that you want to dialogue, and that, perhaps, you are being misunderstood, and improperly maligned with John Gee, your fellow Mormon Egyptologist apologist. You ask that agendas be put aside and lets just see the evidence. Well that sounds like a noble endeavor to us, without question, especially concerning the papyri, the Pearl of Great Price, and Joseph Smith's translations.
I'm not, however, at all sure you grasp what it is you are asking for. Perhaps a little background on us may give you some guidance on how to approach this is in order.
We are not the starry-eyed innocent Mormon youth of BYU-Hawaii, or BYU-Idaho to whom you peddle your wares in order to please the Brethren to whom you are employed. We already know you have pre-ordained conclusions you must arrive at in order to continue getting paid, and it appears to us you are twisting the facts, and cherry picking the evidence in order to show Joseph Smith was correct in his interpretations of egyptological materials. We are happy to be wrong, provided we are shown with good evidence. Evidence is what matters in issues such as these, evidence with full and valid proper context, at least to us.
We feel we have been deceived in so many ways and with so many matters after having given decades of our life's blood, time, talents, and money and efforts and we are probably still feeling raw and cheated, so we aren't probably going to genuflect for you and ask for an autograph. We will be rigorous and vigorous with critical thinking, analysis, comparison, calculation, probability, and historical, doctrinal, and philosophical investigation of what you claim is the truth with the Joseph Smith Papyri and Book of Abraham.
There are scientists, historians, theologians, atheists, sociologists, former Mormon apologists, former Mormon scholars, historians, mathematicians, non-Mormons, Christians, Jews, apostates, college professors, and every kind and stripe of people in which we all have ONE thing in common - Mormonism has deceived us, and pays its scholars to do the same. We are not testimony totin youth singing I hope they call me on a mission. We are angry (it waxes and wanes), disturbed, amused, and appalled by what you Mormon scholars/historians claim. We have been around the block. Your normal methods won't work here with us.
Dialoguing with us would be most welcomed, but understand... here you enter the real world, not the contrived Mormon world of testimony Mormon hero making the bosoms of youth burn with the Holy Ghost. Let no one without good evidence and full context enter here.
We're skeptical. No, I mean it! We are also persuaded to change our minds, and I mean that too, but only when legitimate evidence shows up and is analyzed, tested, questioned, mulled over, discussed with all possible ramifications, weighed and scrutinized. If that's fair you you, it's fair for us as to how to proceed with honest, open and full disclosure discussions concerning the papyri, Joseph Smith's translations and methods, and scripture.
Sometimes, we may leave you feeling insulted. Apologies in advance, but realize Mormon deception has left us raw, and sometimes viscerally short tempered, and ill prepared for stupidity masquerading as knowledge. We had that for years already. We want light and truth now.
Feel free to come and dialogue, share, learn, laugh, cry, and wonder with us over these issues if you desire. You are most welcome to, with this caveat. This ain't gonna be Sunday School.
Best to you and yours,
Former Mormon Apologist and Co-Founder of FAIR,
Kerry A. Shirts
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Shulem
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Shulem »

Yeah, me too. Let him come and discuss the controversies. Bring John Gee and Peterson.

I'll be right here and am fully prepared to repel their apologetics and demonstrate that the Book of Abraham is a fraud.

Shulem

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Philo Sofee »

His response to Ritner's withering response reminds me of Larry Morris's response years ago to Ritner's book. Something like "Can't we all just get along and be nice?" Yes we can Larry and Kerry, just as soon as you begin giving the full context and the truth...........
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by kairos »

Kerry- what a factual and true assessment of the situation you have just made!
Congratulations!

k

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Kishkumen »

I think it is very likely that scriptural fundamentalists believe that there is a real moral hazard in the average person abandoning a literal belief in the historical reliability of the scriptures. This is the underlying motivation for them to make the argument that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are ancient. Some guy named Joseph Smith is not impressive enough if he says, "I saw God and here is what He taught me." Take that same Joseph Smith and credit him with seeing the lives of ancient Israelites in their interactions with God, and then you have something. It is a branding thing. People like what is familiar and are generally fearful of the new. So the new must be packaged to look like the old before people will even try it. Everyone in marketing knows this, and ancient authors knew it too. Moses did not write the Torah. To think so is really silly. Moses did not write the Pearl of Great Price's Book of Moses either. Same issue. But people know who Moses is, and they want to hear more from him, so they will pay someone else to hear Moses-style ventriloquism. Think Spiritualism and you have a clearer example of the same impulse.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Physics Guy »

This is most of what I was trying to say in the other thread, that the ancientness of scriptures is a crucial part of the brand identity. Wine from a dusty bottle with a fancy label actually tastes better because you make sure to appreciate however it tastes. The source is part of the message.

One can well say that's silly and wish that people would read everything with the authors' names withheld by the journal editor, but the paperbacks in the airport bookstore all have the author's name in bigger font than the title. Branding sells.

With a really old text like the Bible I think it's fuzzy enough who really did write the text that one can admit that it wasn't Moses while retaining a vague idea that it was composed by awesome ancient inspired guys of some kind. With the Book of Mormon it's either an actual Mormon or Smith, that dodgy guy from the 1830s. Smith himself doesn't help the brand much. He needs all the help he can get from association with the ancient Book of Mormon.

So no doubt it makes sense intellectually to read all scriptures Mormon and otherwise just as texts that were put together by some guy with whatever wisdom and piety he could command. It's not an easy sell to just tell people to think that way, though. Not many texts stand up well to double-blind peer review. Life is dull without brands.

Mormon religious tradition isn't less real than others just because it's younger than most. But I think of religious traditions as collections of memes, and it seems to me that the biggest meme in Mormon tradition is that Joseph Smith translated real ancient records. That's the core of the brand. If you take it away will there be enough left?

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Shulem »

I truly hope we are approaching the crossroads wherein the Church is going to make changes in how it represents the Book of Abraham. I think the Facsimiles are going to be excluded soon. Their days are coming to an end in Mormon canon. It's inevitable. The Church simply can't keep up that façade and defend them. They have to go. They are blatantly insulting and false.

As far as the text, the chapters? They can stay. I have no problem with that. I'll still offer my criticism and believe it's total garbage Smith made up and plagiarized but if the Church wants to have its own pseudepigrapha more power to them! That's their business -- who am I to deny them freedom of religion? But the Facsimiles are another story. They are taking funerary art from another religion and publishing slander. It's not acceptable. It needs to stop.

I think changes are coming and when the Facsimiles disappear then there won't be much left to comment about. The Church can have their silly Book of Abraham and apply it to their faith. I don't give a rat's ass.
Last edited by Shulem on Thu Aug 27, 2020 2:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Shulem »

QUESTION for Kerry Muhlestein:

FACSIMILE NO.1

How do you best describe your current convictions regarding remnants of what appears to be the markings of the lower portion of a headdress typically worn by Anubis?

[ ] There was originally a full headdress on the head of the figure
[ ] There was no headdress
[ ] I don't know, it's inconclusive
[ ] I choose not to answer the question

Thank you, I look forward to your courteous response!

Sincerely,

Shulem
Last edited by Shulem on Thu Aug 27, 2020 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Holy Ghost »

This is an outstanding thread, and the OP throws down the gauntlet as well as I have ever seen it interated. Mozeltov, Philo Sofee!

The posts in response by Kishkumen and Physics Guy are spot on. I particularly like the flare of the analogy: "Wine from a dusty bottle with a fancy label actually tastes better because you make sure to appreciate however it tastes." Physics Guy gets a two-for with that one; backhanded slap at the pretentiousness of the wine tasting culture, while putting down the appeal to the old because of its age somehow imbuing it with importance beyond that which it merits.

Apologetic 'scholarship' is like being all dressed with no place to go. It is like Gloria Swanson in full make-up and regalia descending the staircase of her home on (and in) Sunset Boulevard, imploring that she's "ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille." Feelings are not evidence. That bears repeating, feelings are not evidence.

Come here if you have the cajones, Mr. Muhlestein, but don't bring L. Tom Perry's briefcase bulging with nothingness. Come with evidences.
"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." Isaac Asimov

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Kishkumen »

Physics Guy wrote:
Thu Aug 27, 2020 7:48 am
This is most of what I was trying to say in the other thread, that the ancientness of scriptures is a crucial part of the brand identity. Wine from a dusty bottle with a fancy label actually tastes better because you make sure to appreciate however it tastes. The source is part of the message.

One can well say that's silly and wish that people would read everything with the authors' names withheld by the journal editor, but the paperbacks in the airport bookstore all have the author's name in bigger font than the title. Branding sells.

With a really old text like the Bible I think it's fuzzy enough who really did write the text that one can admit that it wasn't Moses while retaining a vague idea that it was composed by awesome ancient inspired guys of some kind. With the Book of Mormon it's either an actual Mormon or Smith, that dodgy guy from the 1830s. Smith himself doesn't help the brand much. He needs all the help he can get from association with the ancient Book of Mormon.

So no doubt it makes sense intellectually to read all scriptures Mormon and otherwise just as texts that were put together by some guy with whatever wisdom and piety he could command. It's not an easy sell to just tell people to think that way, though. Not many texts stand up well to double-blind peer review. Life is dull without brands.

Mormon religious tradition isn't less real than others just because it's younger than most. But I think of religious traditions as collections of memes, and it seems to me that the biggest meme in Mormon tradition is that Joseph Smith translated real ancient records. That's the core of the brand. If you take it away will there be enough left?
True. I have to admit that what you are saying is probably the case for many people. They want to believe in absurdities. If there is nothing to look at as a bonafide miracle, then they pack their bags and light out. So, yes, there will always be those people who want to believe that someone out there is looking through a stone or a glass into other realms/times and revealing hidden things to us. That said, I also think there are a few people who place their energy and effort into obtaining the experience of the divine themselves, not just leaning on the purported words of Abraham, Moses, or John the Baptist. I think the real genius of Joseph Smith is to be found in creating a system for cultivating that kind of experience, not in simply handing over allegedly ancient texts.

Now, I am not saying that you or anyone else has either to believe in or value what Joseph Smith has done; I simply want to point out that the question of whether he produced an ancient text or not is really less at the center of the whole thing than one might think. At best, I think it is important for there to be a certain willingness to suspend disbelief. Some of the more educated and sophisticated members of those who are less inclined to believe in an ancient Book of Mormon, etc., usually still leave room open for the possibility. Here is where the desire for the mystery and miracle is an important part of the whole. No doubt it was very important for Smith to claim that he translated ancient texts. Who cares otherwise?

The miracle can be located in the epiphany, but people want to have a reason to think the epiphany is worth achieving.

Many systems have their amazing texts, their seers, their secret teachings, and their epiphanies. People come to believe they were abducted first by believing that others have been abducted. If there was no belief in the possibility, and then the reality, of alien abduction, then they would be much less likely to put themselves in a state of readiness to have such an experience themselves. The key is the experience, but one must often have a certain faith in order to obtain the experience. I would bet that Mormonism is similar in that one must first believe that Joseph really was able to do amazing things before one can have a conversion that will lead to replicating those kinds of experiences. I know it worked that way for me.
"Petition wasn’t meant to start a witch hunt as I’ve said 6000 times." ~ Hanna Seariac, LDS apologist

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Lemmie »


People come to believe they were abducted first by believing that others have been abducted.
:biggrin:

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Gadianton »

Yeah, that's a pretty good line.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Philo Sofee »

Holy Ghost wrote:
Thu Aug 27, 2020 2:05 pm
This is an outstanding thread, and the OP throws down the gauntlet as well as I have ever seen it interated. Mozeltov, Philo Sofee!

The posts in response by Kishkumen and Physics Guy are spot on. I particularly like the flare of the analogy: "Wine from a dusty bottle with a fancy label actually tastes better because you make sure to appreciate however it tastes." Physics Guy gets a two-for with that one; backhanded slap at the pretentiousness of the wine tasting culture, while putting down the appeal to the old because of its age somehow imbuing it with importance beyond that which it merits.

Apologetic 'scholarship' is like being all dressed with no place to go. It is like Gloria Swanson in full make-up and regalia descending the staircase of her home on (and in) Sunset Boulevard, imploring that she's "ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille." Feelings are not evidence. That bears repeating, feelings are not evidence.

Come here if you have the cajones, Mr. Muhlestein, but don't bring L. Tom Perry's briefcase bulging with nothingness. Come with evidences.
Thank you, that is very nice to say. But RFM has demonstrated the Mormons want no part of truth and reality. They want their mythology over truth, their fantasy over reality. They are simply not capable of coming here and dialoguing, and they know it, and we know it. They cannot win, the evidence refutes them. It actually is just that simple now.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

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They are ____ or the brethren who control them are ____ or both. Let's not stare at the stains on their pants as they run away. The latest exchange is embarrassing enough for them.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Physics Guy »

The thing about the old wine bottles is, that they really work.

I believe that some people really can taste wine in incredible detail. Some people have perfect pitch, too. I have a mild case of red-green color blindness, tinnitus, and a palate dulled by chronic sinusitis. None of these is a really bad case but I make no pretensions to sensory acuity in general. Plus I just don’t notice stuff. So I believe real wine experts exist but I know I’m not one.

Most other people aren’t, either. Most people can’t tell red wine from white if they’re served at equal temperature in the dark. So people go a lot by cues to how wine is supposed to taste.

But taste is a subjective experience anyway. It makes no sense to say, “That wine didn’t really taste good, you just thought that it did.” Or at least it doesn’t make much sense. Worrying about how genuine an inherently subjective experience really is, that’s some tricky stuff.

Fancy bottles may not be as active an ingredient in wine as the alcohol is but I think they compete with the esters. At least for most people. And I think an awful lot of our thoughts and feelings are like this.

That’s a humbling perspective to me, because in one way it’s silly. We’re all snobs who like things for dumb reasons. But on the other hand that cynical judgement undermines itself. If we’re supposed to look only at the product itself and not regard its source or its package, then consider our thoughts and feelings about a product—or about anything—as a product themselves.

What difference does it make to our thoughts and feelings whether they came from dumb causes? They are what they are, and if they’re good then we owe thanks to whatever spawned them whether it be small or great. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about a supposed tavern conversation between William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson on the sources of Shakespeare’s characters. The poem acknowledges that the charming accounts might have been drunken rambling but takes the attitude,
Kipling wrote:... if half of it were liquor
Blessed be the vintage!
And if half the taste of the liquor were in the label, blessed be the labeler.

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by malkie »

Physics Guy wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 1:46 am
...
But taste is a subjective experience anyway. It makes no sense to say, “That wine didn’t really taste good, you just thought that it did.” Or at least it doesn’t make much sense. Worrying about how genuine an inherently subjective experience really is, that’s some tricky stuff.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Stem »

Excellent letter.

Muhlestein has no intention to engage. Ritner pointed out a million things in the podcast series some of us listened to. Muhlestein mentions an item or two, without mentioning Ritner, and without an attempt to engage what specifically was being said, and then complains about the lack of engagement. He's simply signaling to apologists and using authority (in this case by virtue of his degree) to pacify any questioners. I don't know Muhlestein and I do not care hardly at all about the Book of Abraham. I still think it's about as useful to a Mormon as is 3/4ths of the OT. They simply are largely ignored. For some reason I've followed it to some degree or another and during workouts I listened to the Ritner podcast (it was good). Anyway, I don't know why any Mormon would care at all, anyway.

The Mormon Church could say tomorrow, "the Book of Abraham isn't scripture. I mean we like some of it, but it's not scripture. We're going to take it out of the cannon, even if we believe that one passage we keep quoting. We'll quote it and use it, but the rest, I mean, it's kind weird and may not really represent anything true about the real old time Abraham. Just know, believers, Joseph didn't really elevate it as scripture and it was only elevated as such because back in the 19th century after Joseph died there were some speculations and those took on a life of their own sometimes. But they didn't mislead anyone. I mean it's fine. We're in control and get it. You know? So just keep on believing and reading your scriptures. You can read the Book of Abraham, just don't worry too much about it. And Jesus loves you, don't forget."

And the members largely wouldn't blink an eye. I mean certainly some will be appalled and upset (Gee and Muhlestein will basically lose their jobs), but most won't care. I"m only pointing this out to suggest that's why Muhlestein gets away with it--no one cares.

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Dr Moore »

It would be interesting to see a side-by-side comparison of the tactics deployed by Hamblin (to Jenkins), and Muhelstein (to Ritner, without naming Ritner).

Avoid the direct questions
Hold up the ignorance of scholarship ("there is so much we don't know")
Complain about the venue
Question the accuser's sincerity
Refuse to admit even the most obvious as evidence "against"
Demand to admit purely internal evidence "for"

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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

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For an idea of how Kerry M. would reply to Kerry S., head on over to the Mormon Dialog board. They have a 15 page thread going on the RFM/Dehlin interview of Ritner. It gives me a headache to read their arguments. Someone actually threw out the argument that Muhlestein made in his blog post, that Ritner should not assume that Joseph incorrectly reconstructed facsimile 1 because it is likely the scroll was damaged after Joseph made the facsimile, and therefore it always had a human head on the priest, and he is trying to sacrifice Abraham etc. It's all so stupid. I appreciate what Ritner is doing, and we can't expect his arguments to convert hardcore believers. It's like Carl Sagan (if he was alive) trying to convince flat earthers they are wrong. You can't force people to stop believing what they desperately want to believe. At some point they have to decide for themselves to join the rest of us in the real world.
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Re: Open Letter to Kerry Muhlestein, Mormon Egyptologist

Post by Shulem »

DarkHelmet wrote:
Fri Aug 28, 2020 11:49 am
For an idea of how Kerry M. would reply to Kerry S., head on over to the Mormon Dialog board. They have a 15 page thread going on the RFM/Dehlin interview of Ritner. It gives me a headache to read their arguments.
It makes me want to puke. I've read some of it and it's pretty hard to take. This is what the cult does to people. They are a vicious lot too. I wouldn't post on that diseased board if my life depended on it. Those people are scum of the earth. Liars and cheats.

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