I served a two year mission to Germany from 1990-92. I was a TBM through and through, and I worked hard to find those who were seeking for the truth. Once in a while, I would ask someone we met while going door to door, “If our church was true, would you want to know?” I was surprised when I heard this response for the first time: “No, I don’t want to know.” I asked her, “Why not?” She said: “If it’s true, I’ll have to change my life and do whatever your church asks. That’s not something I am prepared to do.” That was something that never made sense to me. Doesn’t everyone want the truth, and then want to follow wherever that leads?
Something that has always piqued my interest is the Book of Abraham. I knew the story behind how the church bought the Egyptian mummies and the papyri, and then Joseph Smith said he translated them. We even have the bonus of the three facsimiles, which were drawings taken from the papyri, and then Joseph Smith explained what the symbols and drawings meant. A few years ago I had read some of what fairmormon.org had said about it, and their explanations seemed OK. Fast-forward to January of this year. I wondered, was there anything else to read online about the Book of Abraham? I always assumed that because the church is true, no facts I could read would change that. Soon I was reading at MormonThink.com and the CES Letter how Egyptologists can easily translate and identify the facsimiles, along with the remaining parts of the papyri found in 1966. These are ordinary funerary documents, found with lots of other mummies, having nothing to do with Abraham. Abraham isn’t mentioned anywhere in the papyri. I then learned the LDS church wrote an essay about the Book of Abraham, and it backed up everything I had read from supposedly “anti-Mormon” sites:
None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.
I was shocked beyond belief, and I exclaimed out loud to no one in particular: “It’s all a fraud!” My desire for knowledge had lead me to realize Joseph Smith had made it all up. It doesn’t speak to his motive, but to me it’s clear evidence that he didn’t translate the Book of Abraham like he said he did. At this point I was asking myself, if the evidence is so clear that the Book of Abraham is a fraud, what else is there I don’t know? It turns out there was a LOT I didn’t know, but I’ll save that for other posts.
At this point I had a decision to make. Like Morpheus’ offer to Neo in “The Matrix”, I could either take the red pill and embrace “the sometimes painful truth of reality” or take the blue pill and return to being a TBM, staying in the false (but comfortable) reality I had known my whole life. For me, there was no question. Just like I wanted potential investigators to do while on my mission, I want to follow the truth wherever it goes. Even if it means I’ve been dedicating large amounts of time and money to something that’s false, I had to be willing to admit I’ve been wrong all these years.I know for some, cognitive dissonance can make it too painful to look at the truth of church history and origins. I had assumed the church was true, and in fact I thought I knew the church was true. But when truth and facts slapped me in the face, I personally had no choice but to admit the truth. And believe me, this goes a lot deeper than just the Book of Abraham, but it’s a heck of a way to swallow the red pill and begin to break out of the false reality of the church. I have since known people or read about people who just can’t go there. The thought the church could be false is painful, and it keeps them from hearing or reading anything contradictory that could be in opposition to their view of the church. In my opinion, this is why Elder Holland sometimes becomes angry when he defends the church (skip to 33:20). It hurts his brain to even think it’s possible it’s not true. I don’t believe people in this state are dumb, or cowards. It’s just where they’re at. We all have different viewpoints and experiences. For me, I choose to follow the facts wherever they lead me, while recognizing others may see the same facts and come to different conclusions. I’m totally cool with that, which may sound strange, but it’s how I see things. I can only take care of myself, and be true to what the evidence tells me.