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By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus Part 7

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By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus Part 7

A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri — Part 7 (Appendix, Part 1)
Charles M. Larson


A Review and Discussion of
Robert and Rosemary Brown's Book
They Lie in Wait to Deceive
Mesa, Arizona: Brownsworth Publishing Company, 1981

As was discussed briefly in chapter 12 (p. 148-154), They Lie in Wait to Deceive is a work that relies primarily on the "red herring" technique. The authors, Robert and Rosemary Brown, attempt to "draw the scent away" from the damaging facts of the case against Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham. They do this by focusing upon an entirely separate issue -- the personal integrity and credibility of a man who had been expounding that case, Dee Jay Nelson.

The Browns' basic conclusion is that since the Book of Abraham was attacked by a disreputable man, it must therefore be a reputable work. While this is their most fundamental error, the Browns' book is seriously flawed in other ways as well. The types of errors they have committed throughout its pages fall into three categories:

(1) Simple Mistakes due to carelessness or lack of information. These are apparently honest mistakes, though their frequency is puzzling.
(2) Faulty Conclusions due to flawed or biased judgement.
(3) Deliberate Misrepresentations or Omissions apparently intended to portray their subject in the light they desire.

The purpose of this section is not to attempt a point-by-point examination of every error or misrepresentation the Browns have made in their book; such an undertaking would require far more effort than the results would be worth, and would make for extremely monotonous reading. Nor is this appendix intended to represent a "defense" of Nelson.

Still, if we are to make the claim that much of They Lie in Wait to Deceive is seriously flawed, it is appropriate to support that claim with specific examples. Here are a few to consider: Brown's Claim No. 1: Nelson was not asked by Dr. Nibley to help defend the LDS Church in the matter of the translation of the Joseph Smith Papyri (pp. 106, 113-115, and various other places). With the above statement, the Browns are attempting to respond to the issue of Hugh Nibley's letter to Nelson (shown on p. 53 of this book), in which he wrote that he saw no reason why Nelson "should not be taken into the confidence of the Brethren if this thing comes out into the open; in fact, you should be enormously useful to the Church." The Browns prefer to interpret this as follows:

Notice that the letter is dated June 27, 1967 -- five months before the church received the papyri. The papyri came into the church's possession in November, 1967. From the moment the church leaders learned that they may be the new owners of some of the original Joseph Smith papyri, it was a time of exciting speculation and anxious expectation -- not an attitude of cover-up as Nelson would like everyone to surmise from the aforementioned letter.

What, then, were they really discussing? It is certain that they were not referring to any translation as anti-Mormon writers would like to lead people to believe. The papyri had not even been received and translated yet!

The letter by Nibley states: 'But I am willing to bet you that you have reached premature conclusions about the Hypocephalus (Facsimile #2).'

Dr. Nibley and Nelson were discussing the hypocephalus -- What were the facsimiles from the Book of the Dead doing in the Book of Abraham? At that point in time, they didn't know. They had questions, but no answers.

From Dr. Nibley's comment, 'Brother, have you been around,' it appears that Nelson wasted no time giving his long list of phony credentials -- professor, World's Greatest Egyptologist, author, lecturer, movie maker, etc. With credentials like that, why shouldn't Nelson be 'taken into the confidence of the brethren' and be 'enormously useful to the church' in helping to find out some answers? At the date of this letter, June, 1967, there was no papyri and no way to find a relationship.

Providentially, the papyri came forth in November, 1967, five months after this correspondence with Nelson. The papyri tied everything together and explained the significance . . . The answer was simple. It contained important symbols clarifying the ancient apostate temple ceremony that Abraham participated in as mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Abraham (p. 115).

In arriving at the above conclusion the Browns mistakenly assume that the Metropolitan papyri collection was unknown to Dr. Nibley (and to Mormon leaders) at the time of this correspondence simply because the LDS Church had not yet received the papyri. But according to the January 1968 issue of Improvement Era (which the Browns are apparently aware of, since they make reference to it), the papyri had already been discovered and recognized by Dr. Atiya in New York in May, 1966. This was fourteen months before Nibley wrote his letter to Nelson. Moreover, in the Winter, 1967 issue of Dialogue Glenn Wade reported the following:

Dr. Atiya obtained photographs of the material in the file and returned to his home in Salt Lake City. He immediately got in touch with his good Mormon friend, Taza Peirce, and told her in confidence what he had discovered. A few days later the two of them met with President N. Eldon Tanner and the photographs were displayed. Later, the photographs were sent to Brigham Young University for inspection by Professor Hugh Nibley, who confirmed that the papyri were from the Mormon collection (p. 53).

The Tanners also dealt with the entire subject in great detail in Mormonism: Shadow or Reality. The fact is that Hugh Nibley was not only aware of the existence of the "original PGP manuscripts" (i.e., the Book of Abraham papyri) -- though he claimed to not know their location -- but that he even had pictures of them for a least a year before his letter to Nelson.*

Once it is understood that the existence of the papyri was already known within a very small, select circle of Latter-day Saints at the time of the Nibley-Nelson correspondence, and that any information about them was being withheld from the public until the Church could find a way to portray them favorably, the true meaning of Dr. Nibley's letter is quite easy to comprehend. Nibley was seeking Nelson's future cooperation if and when the existence of the original P.G.P. manuscripts were ever to become public knowledge, since there were "parties in Salt Lake (i.e., critics of the Book of Abraham) who are howling for a showdown on the P.G.P."

The existence of the manuscripts did, of course, become public knowledge in November 1967, as a result of which Nelson was evidently "taken into the confidence of the Brethren" so that he could be "enormously useful to the Church."

This brings up another contention the Browns make.

Brown's Claim No. 2: Dee Jay Nelson was not commissioned by President N. Eldon Tanner to translate the Joseph Smith Papyri (pp. 127ff, 147, and other places).

The Browns are very insistent about this point, but one can only speculate as to why they feel this issue is important. It may be a desire to hold on to their image of Nelson as a man who, in 1968, acted completely on his own initiative without any official encouragement from anyone in authority in LDS circles; or, perhaps they simply cannot accept the embarrassing thought that a prominent LDS leader, while supposedly possessing the gift of spiritual discernment, was taken in by Nelson's list of pretended accomplishments. Whatever their reasons, they report that the entire incident (as they heard Nelson relate it in a lecture) struck them as highly suspicious in a number of ways:

... It was during this lecture that Nelson told how he first heard of the Joseph Smith Papyri, and how he went to Brigham Young University to see Dr. Hugh Nibley. After chatting with Dr. Nibley for a while, Nibley took Nelson to see the display of the papyri ... Nelson then claimed that Nibley gave him a letter of introduction to President N. Eldon Tanner of the First Presidency of the LDS Church. Nelson said that he spoke to President Tanner about fifteen minutes and then President Tanner said: 'I think you are the man to do the job; you are the one to translate the papyri.' Nelson said, 'We made a deal.' 'If I would just translate the hieroglyphics into their modern English equivalent, that the Church would publish the work.'

When Nelson made these statements, I knew that something was wrong! I have been in the Church long enough to know that no General Authority of the Church would make a decision like that by himself, especially that fast. I am sure that he would counsel with some of the other Authorities and most likely, would take the matter before the entire Quorum of the Twelve (Apostles) for a decision ... (Introduction, p. vi )

Certain that Dee Jay Nelson had just been caught in a lie, Robert Brown writes that he decided the next morning to place a phone call to President Tanner in Salt Lake City in order to determine whether or not Nelson had received any such "commission" from him:

. . . President Tanner stated that it was not true, so I asked him if he would send me a telegram to that effect.


This reply was good enough for me . . . (Ibid.)

At this point the Browns appear convinced they have produced "proof" -- through President Tanner's telegram -- that the events Nelson had described could not possibly be true; even going so far as to conclude that no such meeting between Nelson and Tanner ever took place. Such a meeting, they point out, would have been totally unnecessary since "the papyri was [already at that time] available to the public and all were invited to try their hand in the translation." Their justification for such reasoning, though, turns out to be based on a rather weak chain of false assumptions.

To begin with, the Browns argue that Nelson would have to be "unfamiliar with LDS Church policy or he would know that 'commissions' are not given as he claims." To support this view they describe the elaborate series of review and decision making steps -- all involving the highest governing bodies of the Church --that would have to take place before any formal commitment could be made to bind the money or services of the LDS Church to any important course of action. As to the question of Nelson's being "commissioned," then, they sum it up this way:

It is Church policy for leaders throughout the Church ... to 'set apart' members who are called to do a specific work. This is done by two or more of the brethren holding the Priesthood placing their hands upon the head of the one called and delivering a blessing which asks for the Spirit of the Lord to guide and direct them in their work. Members are set apart for all jobs, whether teacher, camp director, clerk, Counselor, Bishop, Stake President, etc. Nelson claims he was 'commissioned', but makes no mention ever of being set apart to do the translation. He never mentions who the brethren were that set him apart. Nelson is obviously not familiar with the LDS Church government! (p. 108, emphasis in original)

Perhaps the confusion here arises over the use by both Nelson and the Browns of the term 'commission,' which suggests a formal arrangement, while Nelson's account of events indicates an understanding that was anything but formal. However, the Browns unnecessarily complicate the issue even further by confusing it with the term "calling," which describes an officially authorized job or position within the Church. This is formally and ceremonially bestowed upon members until such time as they are officially "released" from said job or position. This procedure of "setting apart" would hardly be used informally when a person is simply asked by one in authority to do something helpful, nor would it be necessary when a person offers to do something like produce a translation of some original Pearl of Great Price manuscripts that have finally "come out into the open." If it was with such a complicated impression of arrangements in mind that Robert Brown posed his questions over the telephone to N. Eldon Tanner, it is not surprising that President Tanner could quite truthfully deny he had ever authorized or participated in any such thing.

Still, the Browns cannot seem to get away from their conviction that Nelson just could not have been sent by Hugh Nibley to President Tanner's office for a meeting in order to obtain a set of photographs of the papyri, since they do not believe the photographs had ever been restricted:

When the LDS Church received the papyri, it was put on display for all to see and color reproductions were given upon request. Scholars were also invited to translate it. Nelson tries to make a big issue out of Dr. Nibley having given him a copy of the reproductions as if he was the only one able to get such secret inside information! (pp. 166-167)

Because of this belief, the Browns were suspicious of Nelson's mention in his lecture of having been given a note of introduction from Dr. Nibley to President Tanner, suggesting that he (Nelson) be given a set of photographs. They strongly disagree with what Nelson and other critics claim this note represents:

This note purports to be a letter of introduction to President N. Eldon Tanner and is always shown in anti-Mormon literature to give credence to Nelson's claim that he met with President Tanner and obtained his commission to translate the papyri. Where on the note, then, is President Tanner's name? President Tanner's name does not appear anywhere on it! Who says this note was a letter of introduction? Nelson says, that's who! This was merely a note instructing a secretary or clerk at the library to give Nelson copies of the papyri. It was not necessary for Nelson to have a note because the papyri were available to the public, but Nelson insisted on having one so Dr. Nibley gave him one. (p. 113, emphasis by Browns; they make another statement almost identical to this again on p. 129)

If the Browns are correct about this, then they are also correct in pointing out that there would have been no reason at all for Nelson to see N. Eldon Tanner, or for President Tanner to personally provide Nelson with photographs, or for any sort of "commission," request, arrangement, or whatever, to be made between the two of them.

On the other hand, if they are incorrect, then what really did happen? The central question at issue here is whether or not Nelson really was sent to Tanner by Nibley, and if so, why?

Assuming for a moment that he was sent -- or at least that he could have been -- we will do a little "backward planning" and see what we come up with:

If Nelson were not expected to do something with them that would be "enormously useful to the Church," he would not have been given copies of photographs that were still being restricted. And, if photographs of the complete set of papyrus fragments were not being restricted at that time, Nelson would not have needed to be sent to President Tanner to obtain them.

And, if Nelson was not sent to President Tanner to obtain the photographs, then Dr. Nibley's note was not intended as a "letter of introduction" for Nelson to Tanner.

And, if Nibley's note was not directed to N. Eldon Tanner, then that note should not be expected to turn up, along with one of Dee Jay Nelson's business cards, attached to a memorandum from President Tanner's office files which states that photographs of the papyri were there given to Nelson "at the suggestion of Dr. Hugh Nibley" on January 5, 1968.

But there is just such a memorandum. It was discovered, according to a letter by N. Eldon Tanner to Wilbur Lingle dated May 18th, 1977, after an "extensive search" in a previously unsearched file in the Church's (or possibly Tanner's own) archives by the same secretary from President Tanner's office who had originally made the memorandum some nine years earlier (see picture on p. 199).

A copy of the memorandum, note, and business card was enclosed with the letter to Mr. Lingle, and has since been frequently reproduced and widely circulated, along with portions of President Tanner's letter.

What is incredible is that this memorandum was already fairly well known at the time the Browns were preparing the first edition of They Lie in Wait to Deceive. In fact, they even quoted Nelson's reference (several sentences long) to it when they transcribed their tape recording of his lecture on page 186 of their book. It seems remarkable that they would miss picking up on this, or fail to check into it before proposing their own version of things.

Obviously, then, the meeting between Nelson and Tanner did actually take place, and the purpose of the meeting was to provide Nelson with copies of the papyri upon Nibley's written recommendation. It is also obvious that these copies had to have been, at that time at least, restricted items in order for such precautions to be necessary to obtain them. And, while the question may remain unclear of whether or not a "commission," arrangement, agreement, request, offer, or favor was ever arrived at with the same understanding by both parties, it is also obvious that Nelson would not have had to meet with a General Authority of the LDS Church and present Dr. Nibley's recommendation in order to receive restricted photographs if he were not expected to do something with them that would benefit the LDS Church.

The only thing in this respect that Dee Jay Nelson could possibly have been expected to do, based on the representation he had given of himself and his abilities, was to produce a translation. -- Provided, of course, that the Church had not already made arrangements to obtain one, which leads us to yet another careless misimpression that the Browns create in their effort to discredit Nelson.

Brown's Claim No. 3: Nelson's translation was not 'the first to be published' -- Dr. Klaus Baer's, Dr. Richard A. Parker's, and Dr. John A. Wilson's translations preceded Nelson's! (pp. 106, 110-111, 131, etc.)

In making the above statement, Robert and Rosemary Brown appear to be trying to strengthen their case for the claim we just discussed by attempting to "prove" that the LDS Church could not possibly have needed Nelson's services, since other "Egyptologists were invited to translate" the papyri just as soon as "the papyri were turned over to the Mormon Church." Another reason for taking this position seems to stem from some sort of desire on the Browns' part to imply Nelson must have been incapable of translating the papyri on his own. By portraying Nelson as being incompetent with Egyptian, they evidently hope to lessen the impact of the arguments he presented against the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. To demonstrate their point, the Browns state the following:

Nelson and his supporters, like to make it sound as if he was ... the first to translate and publish the Egyptian document. In reality, the first scholarly publications were by Dr. Klaus Baer, Dr. Richard Parker, and Dr. John A. Wilson (p. 110).

On the next page they again repeat this point:

However, Nelson had the work of Baer, Parker, and Wilson available to him in preparing his own translation of the text of the papyri. The aforementioned three eminent Egyptologists had published their translations in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought before Nelson published his" (p. 111).

The Browns then go on to explain:

Dr. Baer published his translation, 'The Breathing Permit of Hor, a Translation of the Apparent Source of the Book of Abraham,' in Dialogue 3 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 109-134. After this time, Nelson asked Dr. Baer for help in his translation (Ibid).

According to the Browns' reasoning, then, Nelson's first published translation had to be based on the work of Baer, Parker, and Wilson. Their work did not appear until after the Summer and Autumn issues of Dialogue came out, so Nelson's work could not have preceded them.

Incredibly though, just prior to making the above statement, the Browns mention that Nelson's "preliminary work with the Facsimiles in the Papyri was praised by Hugh Nibley in Brigham Young University Studies, Spring, 1968, p. 247."

How could Hugh Nibley possibly have been praising Nelson's work in an article published in the spring of 1968, if Nelson's work had been based on articles that did not appear until the summer and autumn of 1968?

To lend whatever support they can to their claim, the Browns quote a portion of a letter written to them from Dr. Baer dated 22 October 1980 (shown on pp. 37-38, and elsewhere in their book) in which Baer writes that, after he had been asked to prepare his translation for Dialogue:

He [Nelson] wrote me on 19 August and included drawings for his pamphlet on the 'Eye of Ra' [note: this would be the Facsimile No. 2 drawing as it appears in the Book of Abraham -- author]. I replied on August 22 with some general comments and annotations and corrections on the drawings. . . . There was some more correspondence during the remainder of 1968 regarding his next two pamphlets, again mainly concerned with the reading of the Hieratic; this was acknowledged, e.g. in 'Appendix 2' of THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPYRI, Part 2."

Robert and Rosemary Brown were evidently trying so hard to read their own interpretation into Dr. Baer's letter that they failed to understand what he was talking about. His meaning is perfectly clear if one simply considers what he says Nelson was working on in August of 1968 -- his "Eye of Ra" booklet, and later his Joseph Smith Papyri, Part 2. The Browns could, and should, have known that Nelson published a total of four booklets on the subject:

1. The Joseph Smith Papyri -- A Translation and Preliminary Survey.This appeared in April 1968 and was advertised for sale in the Salt Lake Tribune on April 6, 1968. This is the work which Nibley praised that spring in BYU Studies as "a usable and reliable translation of the available papyri that once belonged to Joseph Smith."
2. Joseph Smith's Eye of Ra. This was a study and translation of the hypocephalus of Facsimile No. 2, and is the subject about which Dr. Baer says Nelson first contacted him in August of 1968. This booklet appeared in print the following month, September of 1968.
3. The Joseph Smith Papyri, Part 2 . This booklet also came out in September, 1968, and dealt with what Nelson referred to as "additional and significant discoveries concerning the fragments." 4. A Translation and Study of Facsimile No. 3 in the Book of Abraham. This was the last of Nelson's booklets, and came out in February, 1969. The reader will notice that Nelson's first booklet, which Nibley himself described as providing "a usable and reliable translation of the available papyri that once belonged to Joseph Smith" could not possibly have been what Nelson was conferring with Baer about in August -- four months after Nelson's own study was published, and that Nelson could not possibly have "had the work of Baer, Parker, and Wilson available to him in preparing his own translation."

While one could conceivably argue that Nelson may have been able to use the Dialogue material in his later works (which would not be at all improper, provided the source was acknowledged), the Browns are completely out of line to insist, that "the work of Baer, Parker, and Wilson actually pre-dated that of Nelson" or that "Nelson's translation was not 'the first to be published'" when the material from their own book proves otherwise!

The Browns could have also caught their error if they had actually read Dr. Baer's article in the Autumn 1968 issue of Dialogue. On p. 118, n. 34, he commented:

So far as I know, Nelson, The Joseph Smith Papyri, p. 42, was the first to point out that the bird above the head of Osiris clearly has a human head and therefore must be his ba [soul is the nearest English equivalent]. In 'Facsimile No. 1,' it is drawn with a falcon's head, and I must confess with some embarrassment that I also 'saw' the falcon's head before reading Nelson's study."

They should have also picked up on Baer's comment in the Ogden Standard Examiner article of March 29, 1980 (which they reproduced on p. 224 of their book):

As to the papyri in question, Baer said Nelson's translation is 'essentially' correct. Baer said he prepared a translation of the same papyri, after being contacted by Nelson in 1968, and the translations say basically the same thing" (emphasis added).

And finally, in a footnote on page 152 of their book, the Browns mention one of Hugh Nibley's references for his 1975 book The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri as "Parker, Richard A. ' The Book of Breathings,' Mimeogr. or Xerox copy of typed mss. signed, April 26, 1968." This was the first translation that either Baer, Parker, or Wilson had provided, the first that Nibley received from any of them, and it was dated 20 days after Nelson's translation was in print and first advertised! Regardless of what the Browns may think of Nelson or what claims about himself Nelson may have invented, the facts bear out the position that Nelson was "the first to translate and publish the Egyptian document." The failure of the Browns to realize this (and other points) is evidence not only of sloppy research, but of a personal hostility that appears to have obscured their ability to evaluate matters accurately, or interpret them impartially.

Perhaps the best indication of this is expressed in their vague allusions to some sort of relentless "anti-Mormon" conspiracy that is out to "distort truth" at the expense of the Mormon Church. The frequency of passages like, "Such a stand by the anti-Mormon element is devoid of truth (as usual) but makes such an exciting story that it keeps them in business! It is their 'bread and butter!'" -- p.166, stand out throughout their book, and are as unconvincing in and of themselves as the occasional "evidence" they present in an attempt to support their paranoia. And, though all so-called "anti-Mormons" are thus lumped together under the Brown's scathing condemnation, they become particularly vitriolic when referring to specific individuals. Nelson is but one example, and Jerald and Sandra Tanner are another.

A good illustration of this can be seen in chapter nine of their book, entitled ''Errors and Distortions By Dee Jay Nelson and Jerald and Sandra Tanner.'' On p. 154 (first ed.) a cartoon of an old-fashioned apothecary-type scale appears -- the sort that has two trays on either end suspended from an arm that is balanced in the middle. On the left hand side (in the dark) the tray is labeled "LIES, DECEPTION, PARTIAL TRUTHS, MISQUOTATION, MISREPRESENTATION, ETC." On the right hand side (in the light) the tray is labeled "PRAYER, TRUTH, THE FACTS." Back on the left side is a smiling cartoon figure of Nelson sitting out on the far end of the balance arm, adding his weight to it, while a man and a woman (the Tanners) are pulling downward on a rope that is also tied to the left arm of the scale. Thus the "bad guys" (meaning the "anti-Mormons") are shown battling desperately, using every dirty trick in the book, to overcome all that is good, honest, virtuous, praiseworthy, and so forth (meaning the Mormon Church). On the next page, they begin:

The founding fathers of our great country created a system of checks and balances in the hopes of promoting honesty. The leaders of the LDS church are occupied using their time and talents in building up the kingdom of God here on earth. For them to spend their time answering all the baseless charges that can be thought up against the Mormon church would be too time consuming and non-productive -- especially when the truth can be found through prayer. Therefore, the church has done very little to check the lies and distortions of truth propagated by the anti-Mormon elements.

This particular chapter also shows the Browns arriving at a number of patently false and misleading conclusions which they could have easily avoided, had they not been so intent upon discrediting those they see as being "the enemy."

A prime example is the following charge which they make on page 159. Brown's Charge No. 4: "Dee Jay Nelson Confuses Identity of Canopic Jars." This appears to strike the Browns as a very significant point, enough so that they seem to desire to impress it strongly upon their readers. By attempting to demonstrate that "Nelson has extreme difficulty trying to identify the four canopic jars correctly in his lectures and also in print," he is again made to appear incompetent with Egyptian in order to foster their erroneous belief that it is somehow Nelson, and Nelson alone, who has been responsible for "creating a false case against the Book of Abraham." To do this, the Browns present a chart listing four instances in which Nelson named the canopic jars under the embalming table in Facsimile No. 1 (these are accurately identified and discussed on p. 99 of this book). When compared to an identification of them provided by Dr. Klaus Baer, it can be seen that only one of Nelson's identifications corresponds with Baer's. Of the other three instances, two have the second pair of names reversed from the order given by Baer, and the other has the first two names as well as the second two transposed.

Obviously, then, the Browns are correct -- Nelson did mix up the names of the canopic jars! They write:

You will note that Nelson cannot remember the names of the canopic jars! (Errors are in parenthesis.) His booklets were published by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Modern Microfilm Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1968, which means that he has been familiar with their identity for at least the last twelve years and still he can't remember their correct names! His answers weren't right in most of his publications, but he messed them up even worse in his Mesa lecture -- He was 100% wrong! (p. 159, emphasis Browns')

Then, convinced they have just struck a fatal blow to whatever claim to credibility Nelson may have ever had, the Browns simply cannot resist the urge to twist the knife a little:

It would seem that Nelson could make far better use of his time if he would spend his time studying Egyptian instead of running Joseph Smith down. However, studying Egyptian has not been as lucrative for him as his baseless anti-Mormon campaigns (p. 160, emphasis Browns').

But before we leap blindly to the same conclusions the Browns have drawn here, let us look into the issue a little bit closer, both from the standpoint of the significance of their data as well as from the accuracy of it.

To begin with, one should normally be able to expect any presentation of fact to be as accurate as possible, but everyone knows that even under ideal conditions this will not always happen. The realization that errors do occur -- even though we are looking for accuracy -- is a concession to our own humanness that a reasonable person is willing to make. As it happens, in the midst of giving this example, the Brown have themselves unwittingly provided the means to demonstrate this point. Recall that, after they presented their chart of Nelson's identifications on page 159 of their book, they wrote, ". . . His answers were not right in most of his publications, but he confused them even worse in his Mesa lecture -- He was 100% wrong!"

... In his Mesa lecture? Just above their chart, the Browns listed references indicating that the identification mentioned on line 2 of their chart (the one that they show as being "100% wrong,") was made during "Nelson's Bakersfield, Calif., lecture (see p. 157)." A quick flip of the page back to p. 157 confirms, if the Brown's transcript is accurate, and we have no reason to suppose that it is not, that Nelson made the identification listed on line 2 during "his Bakersfield, Calif. lecture on Feb. 29, 1980."

... During his Bakersfield lecture? The Browns mention elsewhere that they live in Mesa, and that they attended Nelson's lecture there at the Central Christian Church, 315 North Hobson, at 7:30 p.m. on the evening of February 22, 1980. They even included a transcription of this lecture in their book on pages 184-207 -- but indicate that their "tape ran out" just as Nelson was beginning to discuss the Book of Abraham, leaving them with no canopic jar identification to quote. So, since the dates are also different, it would seem quite likely that the "Bakersfield CA lecture" mentioned on page 159 and quoted from on page 157 actually did take place in Bakersfield, California.

... But the Browns said Mesa ... even though they must have meant Bakersfield.

If we were to judge the Browns (or their editor, or their proofreader, or their printer) by the same uncompromising standard which they are condemning an error made by Nelson, we would have to say these people must be so unable to recognize landmarks and buildings they cannot even tell the difference between the city of Bakersfield, California and their own home town of Mesa, Arizona!

Such a charge (based on a simple slip) would be ridiculous, of course. And so is the charge made by the Browns.

But that is not all. As it turns out, the standard by which they evaluated the accuracy of Nelson's identifications -- the identification provided by Dr. Klaus Baer (Dialogue, Autumn 1968) -- is itself in error. In the Summer 1968 issue of Dialogue, on page 86, Richard A. Parker (Chairman of the Department of Egyptology at Brown University) identified the canopic jars as: "... representative of the four sons of Horus, human-headed Imseti, baboon-headed Hapy, jackal-headed Duamutef, and falcon-headed Kebehsenuf." In the Browns' book, Baer identified the jackal-headed jar as the god "Qebehsenuef"* and the falcon-headed jar as the god "Duamutef," when they should have been named the other way around. Klaus Baer is recognized as one of the most competent Egyptian philologists living, and yet he is evidently not above occasionally mistaking one minor Egyptian deity for another. Questioned about this varied identification, Dr. Baer pointed out that in one Egyptian tomb, that of Nefretari, three different identifications occur. Dr. Baer adds, "even a queen of Egypt couldn't get consistent, careful decisions in such matters." (Journal of Pastoral Practice, V, No. 2, 1982, pp. 117-118) Would the Browns be as quick to condemn him in the same spirit as they condemn Nelson?

Or, for that matter, would they condemn a member of their own camp, such as Dr. Hugh Nibley? The Browns give a reference on page 154 to one of Nibley's Improvement Era articles (note: written back during his own admitted "skirmishing and sparring for time" period) in which Nibley is attempting to "open doors" to "possibilities" that would tie Joseph Smith's identifications of the canopic jars to geographic regions surrounding Egypt. The reference is to page 86 of the August 1969 issue, which happens to contain a chart by Nibley listing the canopic deities in an order identical to that which the Browns have supplied as "Dr. Klaus Baer's identification," with the jackal as "Kebhsenef" and the hawk as "Duamutef." Interestingly though, only four pages earlier in the same article (on p. 82), Nibley wrote:

... The four children of Horus began as stars in the northern sky; their names Imsty, Hpy, Dwamutf, and Qbhsnuf designated the four stars of the Dipper bowl and seem to go back to the earliest times, when they are also identified with the major cosmic deities.

Here he identified the deities in their correct order.*

Now if Browns had been familiar with Nibley's article, and also with the Dialogue article by Parker, they would have been aware of this conflict of identifications; and even if they themselves were unsure which identification was correct, we would have expected them to be as concerned about these discrepancies as they were with Nelson's. Should the fact that they fail to mention it at all be taken to mean that they did not read the very material they are attempting to reassure questioning Latter-day Saints with; or is this a case of intentionally withholding unfavorable information -- something the Browns themselves would categorize as "intended deception?"

They make use of the expression, "a clear case of intended deception" in this same chapter when they attempt to demonstrate an elaborate scheme on the part of both Nelson and the Tanners to obscure the fact that, in at least two of Nelson's booklets (The Joseph Smith Papyri and Joseph Smith's Eye of Ra), Nelson had indicated that he agreed with Joseph Smith's interpretation of the four sons of Horus when they appeared on Facsimile No. 2 as representing "this earth in its four quarters"** (which was the thesis Nibley was advocating in the Improvement Era article just mentioned).

The basis for their charge is simply that when Nelson was describing the canopic jars and their funerary function in his lecture, he neglected to mention that, in Egyptian mythology, the four sons of Horus were also considered to be the gods of the four cardinal points of the compass, a point which he had mentioned in two of his booklets, and which had apparently struck him as being similar to a rather singular portion of the Joseph Smith explanation on Facsimile No. 2. (It should be noted that, at the time these pamphlets were written, Nelson was himself a Mormon and was likely looking for whatever points of similarity he could find, even remote or coincidental ones -- just as Hugh Nibley was doing.) The Tanners are likewise criticized by the Browns for failing to mention this when quoting Nelson's description of canopic jars in their 1972 edition of Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? The Browns write:

"Jerald and Sandra Tanner in their book, Mormonism: Shadow or Reality, are very typical of all anti-Mormon propagandists. They like to quote out of context or distort the truth entirely" (p. 157).


"WHAT!!! NELSON SAID JOSEPH SMITH IS CORRECT IN HIS INTERPRETATION? You certainly didn't get that idea from reading Tanner's account of Nelson's quote in MORMONISM: SHADOW OR REALITY did you! In Nelson's lecture, he forgot he agreed with Joseph Smith, too. Why didn't the Tanners use the entire reference? Why did they omit the part where Nelson verifies the fact that Joseph Smith did correctly identify the four canopic jars? In case there is any doubt in your mind that this is a clear case of intended deception, Nelson made this same statement in his other booklet . . ." (p. 158, emphasis Browns').


Isn't it easy to see that both Nelson and the Tanners are guilty of deception? They knew what they were doing. They just didn't count on anyone checking their references so closely (p. 159).

Here again, part of the Browns' ire seems to stem from their own unwavering acceptance of the "Any Egyptian Connection" brand of rationalizations offered by Hugh Nibley. To say, as the Browns do, that "Joseph Smith did correctly identify the four canopic jars" would be stretching the actual truth far beyond its limit, and to repeat the fact that Nelson at one time recognized a similarity of treatment on one aspect of this point (as did Samuel A. B. Mercer during Spaulding's 1912 study) would have very little bearing on a description of the funerary function of canopic jars, or on the identification of their correct Egyptian names. Moreover, neither Nelson nor the Tanners can fairly be accused of withholding the information, since the Browns themselves admit that "The Joseph Smith Papyri and Joseph Smith's Eye of Ra [both of which mention this subject] by Dee Jay Nelson have been published by the Tanners for years" (p.159).

It makes little sense for someone to "publish for years" something they use as a reference if they are "counting on" people not checking into it.

This theme of "deception by the Tanners" is carried on by the Browns in an even more unconvincing manner in yet another charge they make:

Part 1   Part 2    Part 3    Part 4    Part 5    Part 6    Part 7    Part 8