A response to exmormon.com on reformed Egyptian

I've tried to condense the arguments that James and Randy provide. James says,

"The point is: Considering the said above, there is a copy of writing (the characters given to Martin Harris, which he showed Charles Anthon ("Anthon Transcript") for validation, and in doing so even proves BoM prophesy) of the BoM, which have contents of Hebrew and Egyptian, however reformed or corrupted they may be. If they wouldn't have even the slightest remnants of both, what sense would it make to called them reformed Egyptian??? And if you read the LDS materials closely, as already said above, you'll have lots of info, but they never get down to the real issue: Let's compare the Harris characters with Hebrew, Egyptian (Hieratic, Demotic whatever), Semitic languages in general). Just this question is brushed aside in this manner (for example):"

The simple answer is, if you compare the Harris characters with enough samples of Egyptian, you find remnants of both.

"The "standard-work" for learning ancient Egyptian (at least at German and English Universities) is Sir Alan Gardiner's "Egyptian Grammar", Oxford, 1979, 3rd edt. Gardiner states: "No less salient a characteristic of the language is its concision; the phrases and sentences are brief and to the point." P.4 He is here talking about Middle Egyptian.>"

The standard work for learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs may be Sir Alan Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar but it is not the standard work for learning Egyptian Demotic. That would be Wilhelm Spiegelberg's "Demotische Grammatik". From this and another couple of sources well known to Demoticists 68 years ago, Ariel Crowley found 94 comparisons between the Harris characters and samples of Egyptian, and to paraphrase him, these were just the complicated ones.

"In his "Since Cumorah", SLC, 1967, Nibley mentions this topic only very shortly. He there gives two small examples of hieroglyphic and demotic writing, which IMO are rather misleading. The casual reader will see his example as proof how space can be saved in using demotic characters instead of hieroglyphics. I actually wanted to copy a plate from Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar here but have trouble getting it condensed (!) after scanning it. I turns out as 2.8 MB picture! Not sure how to work it out. On the plate one can compare how "space-saving" the "corrupt" demotic may be, remembering that "reformed Egyptian" must have been even more condensed even than demotic! The plate pictured by Gardiner gives you one the opportunity to compare all three Egyptian writing styles including (!) their inscriptions.>"

The writer's example of comparison of Gardiner's presentation of the three writing systems is disingenuous. A discussion of electronic file size of the .jpg file has nothing to do with the compactness of one writing system over another. If he had wanted a smaller file, he could have saved it at a lower resolution.

It is also false for a few other reasons. One, you can't be a "casual" reader when it comes to understanding Demotic. The search for these symbols is demanding and tedious. Two, the writer's argument suffers from sampling error. Using one example from one book gives an inaccurate--by being underrepresentative--presentation of the whole picture. Three, the writer says, "But it isn't (!) as compact as one might expect." Not being up to his expectations and not being compact, are two different things.

Randy said:

"AFAIK, the few characters from JS' "Anthon transcript" have never been found to have any meaning or translatability. Since that transcript is the only known authentic example that JS claimed to be the BOM's "Reformed Egyptian"---and it can't be matched with any known language or translated into anything intelligible---then it means that JS, the producer of the transcript, is a fraud until someone can show why he isn't."

Referring back to the Crowley article, the evidence on its face suggests that detractors aren't looking very hard. James quotes Randy as saying:

"I'm not and never was an expert on ancient Egyptian, forget Demotic! But I was well trained in Middle Egyptian and in doing scientific research. I had the great luck of being educated with two (!) others students at the Egyptological Seminar, Göttingen, Germany. I compared in between my studies, summing up to months in amount, the Harris-Anthon "caractors" with ancient Demotic and similar documents, which would be copies or prints. I further had the great chance to visit the Egyptological Seminar at Copenhagen, Denmark with fellow students and professors. Because of my special interest in original Demotic documents (for obvious reasons! :-)) I was the only student, with my professor (Westendorf) allowed to view and handle Demotic documents the Danish had in a large safe. The rest of the team were out on a drink btw! I again compared my caractors, Westendorf and the Danish professor, of whom I can't remember the name anymore, watching on. They became curious and so I explained. None had ever heard of Joseph Smith etc. We compared together. My eyes could see the hard facts. Not one shred of similarity, the other two agreed."

This is error due to small sampling, the characters are there if you look for them long enough and hard enough. They are found in milestone works by leaders in the field. The Crowley article and its references is proof of that. The writer goes on to say:

"Not too long ago "luck" struck! Along came, to be bomber and killer of three people, Mark W. Hofmann and "left the transcript in custody of the Church Historical Department for preservation and for further studies to determine its authenticity." (Ensign, June 1980, p. 74). Hofmann had "found" Joseph Smith's Family Bible and bingo(!), right in the middle of the Bible a copy of a transcript of BoM gold plate characters. The Ensign shows the document. It was also printed in full color on the inside covers of the July 1980 Ensign. Here one can also find a full blown article on the finding. On 22 April 1980 Hofmann showed the characters to the First Presidency (Kimball, Tanner, Romney) plus Hinckley and Packer! See the picture in the June 1980 Ensign, p. 74! Making a long story short, even though Kimball used a modern-day "Urim and Thummim", looking-glass, actually a magnifying glass, none of the "Lord's chosen" translated one bit of the document, even worse, never detected a fraud and big hoax. Even later, after Hofmann had bombed and killed people, church officials were dishing out money to buy Hofmann's fairy-tale materials. Well granted, Kimball didn't have the "gift of translation" for the given opportunity, for whatever reason, what about the gift of discernment e. a. the Holy Ghost. The Church had a brilliant chance and failed like a pre-schooler! It does not "fit"."

I would say three things here. Historically it is born out that the Lord raises up a prophet for a specific purpose or set of purposes to deal with certain issues. If that were not the case, throughout the history of the Old and New testaments, as well as the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon, there would have only needed to have been one prophet who could have set forth everything at the beginning. Secondly, why would that prophet need in 1980 to have the gift of discernment given to him when Ariel Crowley had already been raised up in 1942 to begin the work which has since then been largely ignored by the non Mormon community? God will not resort to supernatural means when earthly diligence, hard work and perseverance will accomplish a task. And thirdly, prophets are human. They make mistakes and the scriptures, both old and new, attest to that. And even if the Savior didn't make mistakes, ancient unbelievers thought he was of the devil anyway. So it's better for us if we don't condemn the prophets for it, lest we be condemned on our own judgment day.

Finally James and Randy say:

"Rather it seems more likely, as has been suggested already, that Smith did not want to present Hebrew characters, because there were lots of people who might know Hebrew. Nobody could read Egyptian yet. And if he labeled it "Reformed" he was even safer. And for extra insurance, claim that the Hebrew was also modified. And, to top it all off, claim that any mistakes are due to the language difficulty."

At this point in the research, which began in 1942 by Ariel Crowley, there were and are enough correlations to support the reformed Egyptian hypothesis. However, the research is difficult work, to obtain, let alone understand, and anti-Mormons casually ignore evidence which contradicts their assertions.