Sunday, March 30, 2008

Perplexities of the Preferred Account

Part 7 of a series on Martin Harris and the Anthon Transcript
(for the whole series, click here)

I lied--this is not going to be my last post in the series. I sure hope this isn't becoming my Gospel Hobby! But I just read Chanson's post Why "Reformed Egyptian" at Latter-day Main Street and I was intrigued by another aspect of the Anthon Affair.

I have belabored the fact that the stories of Martin Harris and Charles Anthon differ in particulars. Isn't it interesting that if we give credence to the official version of Harris' story, a problem is raised that is not present if we accept Anthon's claims:

JS-H Account--Harris brought the transcript to Anthon to have the characters verified. Anthon identified them as Egyptian characters (perhaps comparing them to books he had in his possession.) Anthon provided a certificate to the effect, but ripped it up when Harris told him how Joseph Smith had obtained the characters.

This version opens up the possibility that when the suggestion that the characters resembled Egyptian made it back to Joseph Smith, he then introduced the idea that the plates were written in "reformed Egyptian" into the Book of Mormon text. (see John Hamer's comments #7 and #9 here.)

Anthon Account--Anthon insisted that he did not identify the characters as resembling Egyptian. In his letters, he writes: "The whole story about my having pronounced the Mormonite inscription to be 'reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly false." and "I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject, since the Mormonite excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but 'Egyptian Hieroglyphics.'"

Part 6 of this series postulated that Anthon's version of events fits better with the prophecy in Isaiah 29. Here I would like to add that Anthon's version protects Joseph from claims that parts of the Book of Mormon text came from ideas he got from the Professor's examination of the transcript. It seems that apologists should be pleased that we have Anthon's side of the story!

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