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WILLIAM WINES PHELPS
William Wines Phelps, aka WW Phelps.
| One of the great stumbling blocks for many who are seeking to understand the truthfulness of Book of Abraham are the pernicious rumors that the "Grammar of the Egyptian Alphabet and Language" had anything whatsoever to do with Joseph Smith purporting to translate Egyptian writings on Egyptian papyri that came from Egypt with Egyptian mummies. According to Joseph Smith, the account he was translating told of Abraham being in Egypt and teaching the Gospel to Egyptians living in Egypt, and was written in Egyptian on Egyptian papyri from Egypt. The History of the Church informs us that Michael Chandler, the traveling showman who sold Joseph Smith the Egyptian mummies and Egyptian papyri which were covered in Egyptian writings that came from Egypt, gave the Prophet a certificate indicating that Chandler had never before seen anyone able to give a better interpretation of Egyptian writings on Egyptian papyri from Egypt. |
However, do not be fooled into thinking that this project had even the slightest connection to Joseph Smith or the purported translating of writings in the Egyptian language.
Instead, it is quite clear that this whole mess of the GAEL was the project of one man, acting alone, who spontaneously went off reservation and decided to come up with his own ideas about the grammar and the alphabet of the Egyptian language, quite apart from, and unrelated to, his employment as scribe for the Prophet who was purporting to translate Egyptian writings from Egyptian papyri that came from Egypt.
That man was William Wines Phelps.
Pictured: a notorious rapscallion and a mountebank
Phelps was excommunicated twice during his lifetime. Once was in 1838 for self-dealing in land purchases that were supposed to be made for the Church. See: http://www.gospeldoctrine.com/Doctrinea ... %20120.htm
The second time was in 1847, when Phelps entered plural marriages that had not been authorized by church leadership. See: http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/NEW ... braham.htm
Wade Englund, Mormon apologist par excellence, is doing groundbreaking work to show that Phelps, the duplicitous roustabout, was on his own with the GAEL. See, e.g., http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/563 ... ct-leader/
And I think he is on to something. In fact, let's continue to put Phelps under the magnifying glass to see if there are other spurious claims about Mormon history in which Phelps is embroiled.
In the edition of the Doctrine and Covenants published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we find the following headnote to Section 132---the revelation on plural marriage:
Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.
And what might be the source of this information? You guessed it: that infamous scoundrel, W.W. Phelps.
Thirty years after the supposed fact, Phelps claimed in a letter to Brigham Young that Joseph Smith got a revelation authorizing plural marriage clear back in 1831.
And yet the Church has never canonized or published Phelps' conveniently remembering a revelation three decades ago that he just never bothered to mention before now. That's odd, considering that the LDS Church has the original of this letter in its possession. Phelps certainly had a motive to put words in Joseph Smith's mouth. For one, he had been excommunicated and re-baptized----for the second time----over the issue of plural marriage, and surely Phelps wanted to make it appear that he was sincerely trying to keep the commandments allegedly revealed to Joseph Smith. Second, Phelps suddenly deciding he needed to talk about a revelation that had not been mentioned to anyone for 30 years coincidentally happened at a time when the Brighamite faction of Mormonism was contending with other denominations of Mormonism over the practice of plural marriage. That would be a good time to get back in the good graces of the church president who had excommunicated you.
Phelps had a demonstrated history of rebellion and trying to justify himself holding on to Joseph Smith's coattails, as well as a pattern of duplicity. He engaged in self-dealing when he was supposed to be managing real estate purchases for the Church. As Wade Englund is showing the world, Phelps fabricated the GAEL totally on his own and without Joseph Smith involved in any way whatsoever. He entered unauthorized plural marriages. So why should we believe him when he suddenly remembered a heretofore unmentioned revelation to Joseph Smith thirty years ago allowing plural marriage?
The answer, of course, is that we should not. Mormon apologetics is all about consistent standards and intellectual honesty. Therefore, having found Brother Englund's research on Phelps to be persuasive and well-grounded, I see no reason to attribute yet another episode of Mormon history to Joseph Smith when it was clearly Phelps going off reservation and making things up on his own.
| An old chestnut that anti-Mormons like to rehash ad nauseum (because old chestnut hash probably would make you nauseous) is that Mormons worship Joseph Smith. Apologists have had to make sure that people are disabused of this ridiculous notion. E.g., http://fairlds.org/apol/ai260.html |
Where do anti-Mormons come up with this?
Well, we need to understand that Latter-day Saints consider singing hymns to be worship. So says journalist cum internet defender of the faith, Scott Lloyd:
LDS Church News, Nov. 11, 1989
"Worship through music" has become a common expression among Latter-day Saints.
"It really is a very valid little phrase because music is one of the most effective ways we have to worship," commented Michael F. Moody, chairman of the general Church Music Committee."In a sacrament meeting, it might seem that members of the congregation have little opportunity to give expression outside of partaking of the sacrament and saying `amen' after the prayers. Beyond that, we have quite a bit of opportunity through the hymns to participate and express how we feel about the gospel. We have hymns that express praise and thanksgiving, and we have hymns that are prayers and supplication."
Modern prophets and apostles have also emphasized that singing hymns is a form of worship. For example:
Dallin H. Oaks, November 1994 Ensign
The First Presidency has said:
“Inspirational music is an essential part of our church meetings. The hymns invite the Spirit of the Lord, create a feeling of reverence, unify us as members, and provide a way for us to offer praises to the Lord.
“Some of the greatest sermons are preached by the singing of hymns. Hymns move us to repentance and good works, build testimony and faith, comfort the weary, console the mourning, and inspire us to endure to the end” (Hymns, 1985, p. ix).
The singing of hymns is one of the best ways to put ourselves in tune with the Spirit of the Lord.
But are there any hymns---a form of worship---praising Joseph Smith directly, and therefore suggesting that Mormons worship him? Let's be honest: yes. There is a hymn that is nothing but praising Joseph Smith. That hymn is #27, "Praise to the Man."
And who set up the Church so that anti-Mormons could come back and say that Latter-day Saints worship Joseph Smith? Who wrote this song?
That's right: W.W. Phelps.
It's all Phelps.
(I might point out, too, that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with composing the lyrics to "Praise to the Man." Nor is the life, mission, and death of Joseph Smith in any way related to the Church adopting "Praise to the Man" in its hymn books. As usual, it was just Phelps, all on his own.)
| Another fairly recent event where anti-Mormons tried to make heyday of an LDS leader's statement was when Gordon B. Hinckley gave an interview to Time magazine in 1997. In that interview, he was asked the following: |
Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follet discourse by the Prophet.
Q: ...about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?
A: I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it.
As I mentioned in another thread, FAIR righteously rushed to President Hinckley's defense to explain that Time had misquoted him. See: http://www.fairlds.org/Misc/Does_Presid ... trine.html
(Note: of course, the language that FAIR says was omitted makes President Hinckley look even more disingenuous, but never mind that right now.)
In any event, why should the Church have to explain itself to the likes of Time magazine, which was voluntarily interviewing the current President of the Church? Moreover, why should the Church ever have to explain anything to anyone?
Who put this idea out there that Mormons believe in a multiplicity of Gods who progress through the eternities from mortality to divinity?
Perhaps it is because, much like "Praise to the Man," a hymn that has no real relationship to Joseph Smith, another song made it in the hymnal that has become popular in certain circles, but is completely independent of---and unrelated to---anything Joseph Smith ever said. That song is hymn #284, "If You Could Hie to Kolob."
Completely independent of, and in no way whatsoever related to, anything that Joseph Smith ever said or claimed, somebody wrote a hymn talking about never being able to find the generation where gods began to be. And who would dare to compose such a thing, and give the impression that it was in some tangential way related to the theology that Joseph Smith eventually professed?
Yes, it was again William Wines Phelps.
It's always Phelps.
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