When Joseph Smith formed the Mormon church on April 6, 1830, he granted himself (in the name of God) the title of “Translator” along with “Prophet” and “Seer.”
Prophet…Seer…Translator. Those are audacious titles for an uneducated farm boy.
The LDS Church’s formation was, of course, on the heels of Joseph Smith publishing the Book of Mormon, which Joseph claimed to have “translated” from golden plates written in “reformed Egyptian,” which Joseph “brought forth” on the heels of a failed career as a treasure digger, wherein Joseph claimed to have the power to locate buried treasure….a power he never really had.
Joseph Smith learned from his days as a treasure digger (and perhaps from Luman Walters and Sally Chase) that claiming to have special powers was incredibly useful in increasing popularity during an age when many were inclined to believe in the occult or supernatural.
To repeat, Joseph Smith’s early career as a treasure digger was built on obtaining power and influence by claiming to have a power that he didn’t actually have.
The ongoing success of Joseph Smith’s 1830 claim to possess the power of translation, of course, was dependent upon his “translations” never being invalidated by experts. The safety of Joseph’s reputation as a “Translator” was conveniently aided by the fact that: 1) in the case of the Book of Mormon, the angel Moroni conveniently took the golden plates back up to heaven and 2) in the case of the Book of Abraham, no one at that time could read Egyptian.
Never did Joseph Smith actually translate something meaningful that could be verified by experts. At least not verified while he was alive.
But make no mistake — Joseph Smith’s claim to have the power to translate ancient languages via special powers from God was core to his ability to gain followers throughout his life as a prophet, just as his power to find hidden treasure was crucial to his ability to gain followers as a young man.
Fast forwarding to 2020….as the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible have now all been demonstrated conclusively – beyond all reasonable doubt – to be non-ancient plagiarisms, the Mormon church and Mormon apologists such as Terryl Givens, Richard Bushman, Spencer Fluhman, and Patrick Mason are scrambling to foster an alternative hypothesis/narrative — most commonly referred to as the “Catalyst Theory.”
For those who don’t know, the “Catalyst Theory” is a new hypothesis maintaining that Joseph Smith did not, in fact, translate the Book of Mormon from golden plates as he always claimed – and as we were all taught, as Mormons, for over a century. Nor did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Abraham from the Egyptian papyrus he purchased in 1835 – again, as he and God both claimed, and as all Mormons were taught for over a century. Instead, the “Catalyst Theory” maintains that Joseph DID NOT translate either the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham, but instead, God placed the plates and papyrus in Joseph Smith’s possession for the sole purpose of inspiring him to directly channel revelation from God to create the scriptures.
This is a super-convenient hypothesis, as it gets both Joseph Smith and God off the hook for all the massive errors, anachronisms, and plagiarisms that have now been found in ALL of Joseph’s produced scripture. We can now safely blame “Joseph the man” for all of the errors, anachronisms and plagiarisms in Mormon scripture, and more importantly, rescue the thoroughly disproven Book of Abraham “translation” as a “revelation,” not a translation.
In his General Conference talk entitled “The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon,” Elder Ulisses Soares stated,
“The translation process of the Book of Mormon was also a miracle. This sacred ancient record was not “translated” in the traditional way that scholars would translate ancient texts by learning an ancient language. We ought to look at the process more like a “revelation” with the aid of physical instruments provided by the Lord, as opposed to a “translation” by one with knowledge of languages.” – April, 2020.
This, my friends, is gaslighting.
For Mormons and non-Mormons who are genuinely seeking truth, the “Catalyst Theory” is dead on arrival for the following reasons:
- The “Catalyst Theory” is a transparently desperate attempt by both the Mormon church and its apologists to dismisses the MOUNTAIN of historical and scientific evidence that has been assembled over the past century to conclusively disprove the historicity of the Book of Abraham, the Book of Mormon, and the Joseph Smith Translation. This step is crucial, as….
- The “Catalyst Theory” is a transparently desperate attempt to salvage Joseph Smith’s dying credibility in the Internet age.
- Perhaps the strongest evidence that the “Catalyst Theory” is a position born of desperation, not integrity, is that the Mormon church and its apologists have been dragged kicking and screaming over the past 100 years to arrive at the point where they could acknowledge that the Books of Mormon and Abraham are not credible as historical documents, all whilst excommunicating the courageous scholars along the way who literally forced them to this position (e.g. Fawn Brodie, Brent Metcalfe, David Wright, Grant Palmer).
- The “Catalyst Theory” completely contradicts what God, Joseph Smith, and the scriptures themselves told/tell us regarding what Joseph Smith was doing with the plates and papyrus. God, the scriptures, and Joseph Smith all told us that Joseph Smith was, indeed, translating. If God wanted to use another word to describe what Joseph Smith was doing (e.g. “revealing” or “channeling”) – God could have easily told Joseph to use those words. If God can give Joseph words as specific as Curelom, Cumom, Zelph, and Zarahemla, he certainly could have given Joseph an alternative to the words “Translator” and “Translation.” But he didn’t. In scripture, God himself declared Joseph Smith to be a translator, not an “inspired syncretist” as Terryl Givens, Richard Bushman, Spencer Fluhman, and Patrick Mason all want us to believe now. God also declared the Books of Mormon and Abraham to be “Translations” – not “revelations.”
- Why would God go to the trouble of preserving and delivering the plates and the papyrus to the hands of Joseph Smith, if he wasn’t going actually use them in his translation? That makes no sense.
- If Joseph can magically “translate” without any source documents in his hands, as he did with both the Book of Moses and with D&C Section 7, then why would Joseph need the plates or the papyrus from which to “translate” in the first place?
- The “Catalyst Theory” is a total “bait and switch” that makes God out to be a trickster God, and makes Joseph Smith out to be a fool who did not even understand what he was doing while he was doing it. It requires us to believe that God let Joseph Smith think that he was translating when he wasn’t, and allowed Joseph to tell everyone – IN SCRIPTURE – that he was translating, when he really wasn’t. This theory makes God a deceiver, and Joseph Smith a fool. Not a good look for either.
- The “Catalyst Theory” contradicts the teachings of every Mormon prophet, seer, and revelator from Joseph Smith to today. If they all can get something as fundamental as scriptural “translation” wrong, what else have they gotten wrong?
- Since when were Givens, Bushman, Fluhman, and Mason called to lead/educate the church with a new theory on Joseph’s powers, and on the nature of scripture? Isn’t that why we have prophets and scriptures — to lead and teach us? Why are our “prophets, seers and revelators” relying on apologists to teach us the true nature of scripture and revelation?
- On a side note, if Joseph Smith failed so miserably and completely to translate Egyptian in the Book of Abraham in 1835 – as Egyptologists have consistently demonstrated since the 1850s, why in the WORLD would we think that Joseph Smith had the power to translate “reformed Egyptian” into the Book of Mormon in 1829….before he even began his efforts to learn Egyptian with the Book of Abraham?
- Also as a side note, if Joseph Smith could just use his seer stone in a hat to translate the Book of Mormon golden plates from Egyptian to English, and if he had already successfully translated the Book of Mormon from Egyptian into English, why couldn’t Joseph do the same with the papyri? Why was there even a need for him to create the Egyptian Grammer and Alphabet? Why did it take Joseph so many years to produce the Book of Abraham if he learned how to translate Egyptian with the Book of Mormon?
It. All. Is. Literally. Ridiculous.
Consequently, I hearby declare the “Catalyst Theory” to be a desperate, disingenuous, un-authoritative, silly, and illogical hypothesis….that is logically and ethically dead on arrival.
Grateful for all of you truth seekers out there.