Archive for February, 2012
Better quality image here.
This is my treatment of a facsimile taken from some Egyptian burial documents dated roughly 200 BC. These scrolls have a pretty long history. I’ll try to offer a brief overview of it.
This image (called a Hypocephalus) can be considered a symbolic cosmological map, usually given to mumified priests and kings to help them navigate the afterlife. This particular Hypocephalus was drawn on a scroll which was something like 40 feet long. The scroll contained several books including the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Book of Breathings, and some translated writings from ancient Hebrew Patriarchs such as Abraham and Joseph of Egypt.
Well sometime in the 1820’s, an archeologist (that term is used loosely; let’s call him what he is – a grave robber) uncovered two sarcophagi and eventually sold them to a man who took them on tour in the United States. In 1835, this man made his way to Kirtland, Ohio, where lived a young man rumored to have the ability to translate ancient documents. Kirtland, Ohio was the headquarters of a fledgling organization called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That young man was Joseph Smith, who had translated the Book of Mormon from an ancient American-Indian record about four or five years earlier.
Initially Joseph Smith was only mildly interested in the mummies, until he discovered that the burial documents contained, among other things, the books of Abraham and Joseph [of Egypt], sometimes quoted in the Bible and Book of Mormon but generally thought to be lost. Though neither Joseph Smith nor The Church had much in the way of material means, they somehow scraped together the money to purchase the sarcophagi, and Joseph Smith commenced the translation of the scrolls.
Joseph did complete the translation of the Book of Abraham, but the manuscripts have been lost. Luckily, about a quarter of his translation had already been printed, and it can now be found in the Pearl of Great Price.
As for the scrolls and mummies, after Joseph Smith was murdered in Illinois in 1844, they were given to his mother who set up a display people could come see for 25 cents. Joseph’s widow eventually remarried to a low-life who sold off a lot of Joseph’s property to tourists (sometimes while bedding their wives on the side). To make a long story short, one of the sarcophagi and its scroll wound up in a museum which burned to the ground, and the other sarcophagus just disappeared.
The piece of papyrus that this Hypocephalus was drawn on has survived. It found its way to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, who donated it to The Church a few years ago. Unfortunately it’s pretty badly damaged.
I made this image based on several sources, the primary source being Joseph Smith’s explanation of the various figures. The Facsimile that appears in the Pearl of Great Price was made from a wood print and doesn’t contain very much detail. The detail in this image was mostly based on my own interpretation, but I tried to make it as consistent with the explanations given by Joseph Smith as well as contemporary Egyptologists as possible.
It should be noted that the original Hypocephalus was almost certainly not created by Abraham, but was rather a retroactive attempt on the part of these priests to cover all of their cosmological and theological bases. It is evident that a part of the Book of Abraham that has been lost contains information revealed to Abraham by God concerning the cosmology of the Heavenly World (probably similar to what is found in Doctrine and Covenants section 76). This image was probably an attempt by the Egyptian priests to marry Abraham’s revelation with their own pagan conceptualization of the afterlife (hence they use images of Thoth to conceptualize Kolob or the Celestial, Amun for the Terrestrial, Ra for the Judeo-Christian Godhead, Horus for Heaven, etc).
Interesting side-note: Joseph Smith translated some of the hiroglyphic and hieratic used in this image, but some of it he refused, promising that the interpretation would be given at a later date. Most Latter Day Saints don’t realize that in at least one case, that prophecy has come true. Contemporary Egyptologists’ translations of figures 8-11 in the Book of Abraham bare an eerie resemblance to a phrase used in The Temple. Joseph Smith either translated the Book of Abraham by the gift and power of God, or he made it all up. Either way, he didn’t know Egyptian. So if he made it all up, how did he know to use that phrase when restoring the Temple Endowment? Hmm…
A few days ago, my childhood friend Rilee opened her mission call. Here is the video:
The assignment in a missionary’s call is given by way of revelation from God, through a divinely appointed Apostle of The Lord. All missionaries who understand this, and who have adequate faith in Jesus Christ, feel the power and wisdom of their call from the moment they find it out. It is this sublime and profound power that moved this sister to tears. And I must admit that I had to choke down tears when I read my call letter, as well.
The Church is true. It is governed by Jesus Christ, through inspired leaders who hold the keys to revelation and Priesthood in the latter days.
This video was taken by my parents on ２１日１２月２０１１年. This is the opening of my mission call.
A full-time proselytizing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a no small undertaking. Not only will a missionary be asked to leave his home, travel to a distant and possibly strange land, and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ all day, every day for two years, all on his own dime – but leaders of The Church will require him to meet a standard of personal conduct that frankly is just not practiced in today’s society. What’s more, he will undergo a rigorous screening process to determine whether he is physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of carrying out the demanding work of mission life. He will be interviewed by several local leaders and asked specific questions regarding his personal worthiness, in which he will be expected to answer honestly many deeply personal inquiries into his moral conduct. The answers to these questions will determine whether or not he is eligible to serve. If he is found unworthy or unable, he may face a deeply discouraging struggle against his particular shortcomings, which he may or may not be able to conquer. During this time, he must try to find his place among a legion of his friends and neighbors who all seem to be conspicuously aware that he is not on a mission. And if he succeeds in overcoming these trials, then the hard part begins.
On a particular day specified in his mission call, he will report to one of seventeen Missionary Training Centers, most often the one in Provo, Utah. He will wake up early and work harder than he ever has in his entire life. He is told when to wake up, when to eat, when to exercise, when to study (which is the bulk of what he will do), when to shower and practice teaching and do laundry and write letters and sleep. During this time, if he failed to fully repent of any serious misdeeds, the guilt brought about by the constant exposure to the Holy Ghost will sear his conscience, and he may be spiritually unable to complete his tour of duty in the MTC. Even if he can, the physical and mental demands place an unprecedented level of stress on his young adult mind, which is sometimes more than even perfectly healthy people can endure.
Oh, and through every moment of this, he must learn to live with and abide the constant presence of a mission companion who he is sure must have been fathered by the Devil himself.
When he finishes his training in the MTC, though, it’s a piece of cake. All he will need to do then is spend every waking moment teaching and preparing to teach people who probably hate him, or at least find him and all Mormon missionaries annoying. He will have to suffer persecution for his beliefs, have his nearest and dearest convictions scrutinized, ridiculed, and mocked. He will be called to stand toe-to-toe with some of the brightest minds in academia and defend his faith. He will face rejection on a daily basis, in volumes he never imagined possible. He will suffer discouragement, depression, doubt, frustration, humiliation. He will become homesick. He will miss his bed, his mother, his girlfriend, his dog. His dog may die, and his girlfriend may send him a “Dear John,” and that’s if he’s lucky. If he is unlucky, he will receive a lengthy letter explaining how his mother was diagnosed with a fatal and degenerating neurological condition, and may or may not survive long enough to see him come home. He will struggle with crushing feelings of inadequacy when he gives the work his all, and despite everything he cannot see that he is having any success.
By now you must be wondering “WHY?! Why would ANYONE voluntarily subject themselves to this?! How can perfectly intelligent, reasonable people put themselves through this kind of tribulation?”
The answer to this question is the single most important answer to any question that has ever been asked, and it is the reason I am writing to you today.
Because it’s true.
In 1820, a fourteen-year-old boy walked into the woods, knelt down, and prayed to know where he could find the true Church of Jesus Christ. In answer to his humble supplication, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him, there in the Sacred Grove, and informed him that the true Church did not exist on the earth, but it would soon be restored. And it was. Ten years later, the Book of Mormon was published in the English language, translated by the gift and power of God from an ancient record of Christians in the New World. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was organized a year after that, and the true Priesthood Authority was restored to earth. With it came the power and authority to perform Baptism, to cast out evil spirits, to heal the sick, and administer the sacred ordinances necessary to qualify for exaltation, through the saving grace of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
I testify that these things are true. I know they are true. And because they are true, I readily and wholeheartedly accept the call to serve issued to me by living Prophets and Apostles in the latter days. I know full-well that I cannot comprehend the challenges that I must soon encounter. It matters not to me. I shall march forward with Faith, and meet these challenges head on, relying not upon my own strength and cleverness to carry me through, but upon the merits of Jesus Christ, with whom all things are made possible.