Brian Hauglid is a professor of ancient scripture at BYU. He has been a prominent Book of Abraham apologists, publishing in FARMS and other BYU outlets. This December, he and Robin Jensen, from the Church History Department, released the Joseph Smith Paper’s volume dedicated to the Book of Abraham. Accompanying this release and renewed interest in the topic, Hauglid has made a few statements worth consideration, given his history as an ardent apologist and his job title.
At a Benchmark Book discussion, Hauglid declares,
“There’s also an argument that the Book of Abraham was on papyri that we no longer have – it’s called the missing papyri theory – at least from my perspective, anyway, I’ve found evidence that argues against that they were working off of the papyri that we actually have in the Church today.”
At that meeting, he also concluded,
“We may have to do some paradigm shifting because of this book…when it comes to Joseph Smith as a translator.”
Brian Hauglid: For the record, I no longer hold the views that have been quoted from my 2010 book in these videos. I have moved on from my days as an “outrageous” apologist. In fact, I’m no longer interested or involved in apologetics in any way. I wholeheartedly agree with Dan‘s excellent assessment of the Abraham/Egyptian documents in these videos. I now reject a missing Abraham manuscript. I agree that two of the Abraham manuscripts were simultaneously dictated. I agree that the Egyptian papers were used to produce the BoA. I agree that only Abr. 1:1-2:18 were produced in 1835 and that Abr. 2:19-5:21 were produced in Nauvoo. And on and on. I no longer agree with Gee or Mulhestein. I find their apologetic “scholarship” on the BoA abhorrent. One can find that I’ve changed my mind in my recent and forthcoming publications. The most recent JSP Revelations and Translation vol. 4, The Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts (now on the shelves) is much more open to Dan’s thinking on the origin of the Book of Abraham. My friend Brent Metcalfe can attest to my transformative journey.
One user asks,
Dan and other scholars; David Bokovoy, Kevin Barney, and Brett Metcalfe respond.
Here are the reasons this statement is significant.
First, a scholar has changed their mind. This is always laudable and a difficult thing to do. Especially for something so close to us, such as our faith and religion.
Second, not only does Hauglid change his mind, he finds the evidence strong enough to call out those who argue otherwise.
Third, the manner by which he labels his colleagues and co-authors and co-editors. He places scare quotes around Gee and Mulhestein’s “scholarship” and describes it as abhorrent. These are very strong words to use in academia, claiming someone else’s work would not qualify. Here, he questions their very validity in higher education and publication.
Fourth, this vindicates Brent Metcalfe, who was previously barred from the Church History Library for around two decades starting in 1986 and excommunicated in the 1990’s for some of the work he did on the Book of Abraham and other Mormon Scholarship.
Fifth, Hauglid gave Dan Vogel a ringing endorsement. If a dichotomy of paradigm can be supported, the critical view gets the support of this BYU Professor, rather than his researchers who write for the Church Ensign.
Sixth, Hauglid is found in seven of the 46 footnotes from the Church’s Book of Abraham Essay. His paradigm shift affects some of the claims from the essay, such as the following.
It is likely futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession. Eyewitnesses spoke of “a long roll” or multiple “rolls” of papyrus.32 Since only fragments survive, it is likely that much of the papyri accessible to Joseph when he translated the book of Abraham is not among these fragments. The loss of a significant portion of the papyri means the relationship of the papyri to the published text cannot be settled conclusively by reference to the papyri.
Footnote 32 sends us to Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 213–14, 222. He specifically rejects this claim, now.
Footnotes 43, 44, and 46 all refer to some of Hauglid’s work. They support the essay’s claim that other ancient texts support the notion of Abraham teaching astronomy to the Egyptian priests, Abraham being saved by an angel from human sacrifice, and facsimile number 1 connected to Abraham. All these claims now come under question.
Also significant, are the dependence of the Church’s essay on the scholarship from Gee and Mulhestein. Gee is found in 11 of the footnotes, while Mulhestein in three of them. Hauglid’s paradigm shift casts into doubt many of the Church’s official narrative on the subject. Therefore, the Church, too, will need to learn and grow.
If this is a sign of where things are going, this is good news. The Church, which values truth, ought to embrace the data and see how it reveals Divinity, rather than forcing our preconceived divinity to fit observed reality, at the expense of ignoring some of that reality. As the Benchmark Book discussion states, we know more about Joseph Smith’s translation process through the Book of Abraham, than any other of Joseph’s work. The lessons we learn from the BoA should inform our knowledge of the production of the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon. At the very least, it required Joseph to study it out in his mind, filtering it through his 19th century rural American perspective. It indicates Joseph reaching for God, rather than God “fax machining” text to him.