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featured-image > An excerpt from the volume that will never be written for LDS youth...

The room was smaller than I'd expected, but then again they seemed to all be like that. It was night and the room was lit by candles and lamps. It still surprised me how bright that could make a room in the 19th Century, though. The light was yellow and comforting with how it flickered. The room felt alive. I felt a little annoyed at having to close my eyes for the prayer.

I was also surprised at how crowded the room felt. There were over two dozen people in the room. It would have felt like a comic convention panel but the chairs weren't nearly so organized, having been rather hastily assembled from various rooms in the building. Still, the crowding feeling from too many people was a welcome change from the chill of the springtime evening outside.

Being in the crowded room had also helped keep most of the mosquitoes outside; I'd been told by Heber they were always a common annoyance even at this time of year on the Mississippi.

Reflecting on something as simple as mosquitoes, I suddenly found it sadly ironic that while I knew all about the danger that mosquitoes could spread, not a soul of the people around me knew that diseases could spread by these winged insects. Heber had actually explained to me that the illnesses which spread among the Saints when they first settled the swampy river lands had arisen from “bad air” rising from the stagnant waters!

If only I'd somehow arrived earlier so that I could warn the refugees from Missouri! Or perhaps even earlier so that I could have given Zion's Camp the simple directive to boil their water and keep everyone well-hydrated.

A few years ago I'd looked up how to deal with cholera victims on the Internet one afternoon after learning about the disastrous cholera epidemic that had hit Zion's Camp in Seminary. If they'd just boiled their water and kept those suffering from fevers and diarrhea well-hydrated they'd probably have pulled through! The reflection on my Internet study gave me pause now that I was sitting in that 19th Century room. Now it was possible to warn people! I wondered if that would be thwarting the divine plan, however. I knew that Zion's Camp had been the crucible from which the original Twelve and presidents of the Seventy had eventually emerged. Also, Joseph had prophesied that God would curse the camp for wickedness and that they would die “like sheep with the rot” as the video had emotionally portrayed. If everyone who caught the cholera had survived would that still be an affliction?

From what I'd read about cholera I thought it would still have been a pretty oppressive punishment to suffer through it.

I snapped himself out of my silent musings, however, as the prayer ended.

The Prophet arose. “Brethren,” he said, “I thank you for your prayers. In this time of trial and uncertainty I rejoice exceedingly to have such loyal friends.” I couldn't tell whether or not the Prophet had planned his words ahead of time. The words sounded polished and smooth and yet the Prophet paused before some words as though searching for the right thing to say. Maybe that's how it sounds to both seek and receive inspiration, I thought.

“We are beset on every side by our enemies. They speak lies of us. They make false claims of us.” The Prophet's face was twisted into a terrible anger and yet I wasn't really surprised. Ever since the underground river had sucked me from the 21st Century to deposit me, choking and spluttering, on the banks of the Mississippi I'd continually felt the pressure of thousands of anxious people wandering the crowded town (yes, “town”; I'll never be fully comfortable calling it a “city” after living in Denver). I still hadn't seen any mobs or militias (apart from the immense and well-armed Nauvoo Legion, led by the Prophet) since I'd arrived, but it's all that anyone seemed to talk about.

“But they will fall, and soon. Brethren, I have something important to tell you.” I silently sat up straighter to listen. Here it is, I though, he's going to tell them that he won't be with them much longer. He's going to talk about the martyrdom. These people need to be prepared for what is going to happen. Joseph is going to leave and Brigham Young will step up to the plate. I had been pretty surprised that Brigham Young wasn't as well-regarded by the citizens of Nauvoo as I had expected. They merely saw him as a member of the Twelve, and everyone saw a member of the Twelve as nothing more than a special type of missionary. I figured I must have missed some scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants. Again, I wished my great-uncle Brother “P” was here: he'd tell me exactly how the many differences I was seeing between the Church in Nauvoo and the Church in 21st Century Utah weren't really differences or how they didn't really matter. As it was, though, it often seemed almost like a different church. So an angry scowl on Joseph's face was merely par for the course in the alien landscape.

The Prophet's face softened into the firm face of determination. “Brethren, in this world of lies and traitors we face hardships and persecutions. Our enemies seek to punish us for the sins of counterfeiting and polygamy. As we all know neither are a symptom of evil among this people.” I thought back to the explanation the Prophet had given me earlier about why he could publicly deny what was occurring among some of the brethren privately; while I still felt a bit of doubt I chose to set it aside for a while. The counterfeiting claim was something new to me, however. I'd never heard that claim; why were people accusing the Saints in Nauvoo of counterfeiting? Counterfeiting what? But that would have to wait; the Prophet had already continued.

“This present world is one controlled by the powers of evil, but it will soon fall, brethren. We know that the time is short, and that the kingdom of God is approaching. But this approaching kingdom will not, and cannot, do the job alone. We are called to set up a kingdom of God on the earth in this day in anticipation of God's coming Kingdom. Brethren of this Council, we are called to prepare the world for the kingdom of God and for that to occur we must already have a kingdom here ready to receive it!”

One of the brethren leaped to his feet. He yelled, “If we are to create a kingdom, then its monarch must be you, Brother Joseph! I will have no other than God's chosen prophet for my earthly king!” It was Willard Richards, who still amused me with his portly belly constrained by his tight clothing. Nobody had ever told me that Willard Richards could have stood to lose a few pounds. There was a general murmur of consent among those gathered.

The Prophet smiled and nodded for Willard to sit. The entire interruption had gone so smoothly that I wondered only for a moment whether it had been planned. But that was silly: I was seeing how the Spirit operated among these early Saints.

The Prophet smiled and called up a large number of men from the assembled Council of Fifty to the front of the room. (I'm still not clear on where the name came from: there were obviously less than fifty people in attendance that night, though I'd been told that it was rare for everyone to assemble together. Perhaps the name held more of a symbolic meaning, or perhaps they actually had fifty people as members. I wonder who belonged and if this Council continued after Joseph's death? It seemed like a wide variety of people; I could have sworn that I'd even seen more than a couple Native Americans in the room. I'll have to find that out sometime.)

The Prophet sat down on a chair and my heart thrilled as they anointed Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Lord, to be the Prophet, Priest, and King over the entire world to rule it until the return of the Savior. A secret government, complete with a secret king! It was amazing!

I wondered how it would fit into the approaching martyrdom and decided to ask Joseph about that next time I was able to get a private discussion with him. Hopefully he'd respond better than last time when he had chuckled at my warning. The cavalier attitude has been disconcerting, but I reminded myself that Joseph needed to keep up the spirits of the members of the Church. He'd probably just been giving me a subtle message that knowledge of the future was not something to be carelessly thrown around. It was amazing how wise the prophet was...

If you're confused this would probably make more sense if you'd read an extensive time-travel series written for LDS youth with a similar "footwear" title (though that series is distinct from the hypothetical volume described in this post and it is the intellectual property of its author).

#Mormon #JosephSmith #TennisShoes #RealMormonHistory

Oliver Cowdery Characters 1835

English{For it grieveth me that I should lose this tree & the fruit thereof
Hebrew{fin Zemim ezmon E Zur Oms ifs veris exzer ensvonis vineris
Englishbrethren I bid you adieu
Hebrew{ifs E Zamtri
{ The Book of Mormon
[Two characters]
} { the interpretation of languages
[Two additional characters]
Written & Kept for profit & learning [Signature]

Book of Mormon characters copied by Oliver Cowdery, circa 1835, Church History Library.

This page can also be found in The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828 – June 1831, Appendix 2: Copies of Book of Mormon Characters, p. 362.


This is a page written by Oliver Cowdery describing the Hebrew behind two short phrases from the Book of Mormon and four characters presumably from the golden plates with their corresponding translation.

The page consists of two parts. First are two scriptures from the Book of Mormon (Jacob 5:13, 7:27) each followed by what their underlying “Hebrew” was supposed to be. The second part is the interpretation of four Nephite characters; two of which mean “The Book of Mormon” and the other two “the interpretation of languages”. There doesn't seem to be any particular relationship between the English/Hebrew translations and the English/character translations.

Oliver's notes are also reproduced near the end of a letter written by Fredrick G. Williams (there's a lot more that could be said about this letter that I'd like to go into later).

As the English/Hebrew/Characters are the same between these two letters it seems likely that they share the same source. Likely this source is 1835 in the School of the Prophets held in Kirtland, Ohio. Why 1835? Because in January 1836 a Jewish rabbi, Joshua Sexias, arrived in Kirtland and began a multi-month course on Hebrew. I think it goes without saying that the “Hebrew” in this paper is nothing of the sort and as such probably belongs to the period in the School where they were waiting for their Hebrew teacher to arrive and were already working on learning Hebrew and Greek on their own.

As Joseph Smith was both in charge of and a partcipant in the School of the Prophets I find it worrisome that this page has no real connection to either ancient Egyptian (the written language of the Book of Mormon) or ancient Hebrew (the spoken/written language of the earliest characters of the Book of Mormon), both of which we might reasonably expect Joseph to have some familiarity with as the book's translator.

#Mormon #JosephSmith #SillyFakeHebrew


The following is a little snarky at points, so you are fully warned about that. However, I hope that behind the snark, those of you who might feel offended at what I say can hopefully still feel the deep and abiding fascination I have with the individual behind each of these items and the creative vision he had whether or not that vision was itself divine.

Please take a moment to visit the pages linked to in the Joseph Smith Papers Project for each section first so that you can see the page in context. Context is important. Context is fair. Like it or not, this sort of research and exploration is exactly what the Joseph Smith Papers Project is about and seeks to promote: people interacting and engaging with the written word of Joseph Smith.

So Mote it Be

Explanation of Facsimile of Papyrus Drawing, Early 1842 (Page 2)

First off is this fun Masonic reference on the pages of translation for Facsimile 2. Joseph has set up four pages with numbers on them to explain the various aspects of the hypocephalus. As he's going through them, however, he appears to either run out of time or no longer wishes to continue as he abruptly stops interpreting things and instead starts saying that the items “cannot now be revealed unto the world”. Then on the last item on the page he's working on (page 2 of 4, remember), he says

also.—– If the world can find out these nmbers, So mote it be,—– Amen.

The interesting phrase here is “so mote it be”, which was turned into “so let it be” by the LDS Church many decades later.

“So mote it be” is an archaic English phrase from Freemasonry, which Joseph had officially joined on March 15, 1842, though his father and older brother Hyrum had been involved in the fraternity for many years before that. The explanations of the Egyptian hypocephalus in question were published late in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons on March 19, 1842 (they had originally been intended for publication on March 15, the same day Joseph received his first degree in Masonry). It has been proposed by some that the reason the explanations stop after number 7 is that Joseph was under pressure to get this page of material to the printers for publication.

The phrase is used to open and close various Masonic sessions and initiations. Its presence in this list of materials would be akin to me closing a presentation with the words “So say we all”: you would certainly be correct in assuming that I am a huge nerd and a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica.

Apparently, Joseph Smith was also a huge nerd for Freemasonry, but I think most everyone already knew that.

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Egyptian Counting, circa July–circa December 1835

Ever wondered how the ancient Egyptians pronounced the number 42 (the answer to life, the universe, and everything)? According to Joseph Smith, the answer would have been:

Ni Tah Teh, or four times ten and 2

Unfortunately, from Wikipedia, that horrible cesspit of anti-Mormon lies, evil Egyptologists have reconstructed the sounds of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were representational of Egyptian consonants. They claim that forty and two would have been pronounced something akin to:

ḥAmí sínway

Huh... Those two descriptions don't really look all that similar at all. I think someone is making something up. Not to mention that Joseph also has some characters for the Egyptians numerals that look nothing like any form of Egyptians numeral systems yet discovered. Man, those Egyptologists are either really stupid or really dastardly, aren't they?

I Saw a Mighty Angls-man Fly

Sample of Pure Language, between circa 4 and circa 20 March 1832

This is a sample of “pure language” given by Joseph Smith. Apparently the pure language, besides sounding suspiciously similar to a Germanic language like English, can only be easily translated one way (English => Pure Language) because when it goes the other way (Pure Language => English) it becomes extremely long-winded.

Watch as the residents of early Kirtland are allowed to play with a divine version of Google Translate and immediately begin experimenting with the process just as many of us do today: what happens if we take the translation given to us and translate it back into English?

Q What are Angels called in pure language.

A Awmen Angls-men

Q What are the meaning of these words.

A Awmen’s Ministerring servants Sanctified who are sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awmen the greatest part of Awmen Son. Sons Awmen Son Awmen Admen

Reminds me a little bit of this awesome video.

Katumin, Princess of Egypt, died 980 BCE

Transcribed characters with English entries, circa July–circa December 1835

Here we have an attempt at some translation of Egyptian by either Joseph Smith or one/some of his followers. (Though if, as some apologists would have us believe, some of his followers were attempting this translation on their own without Joseph to help them, how did they come up with translations such as this? They'd be doing their best to honestly imitate the process used by Joseph, so in my mind whether or not Joseph himself produced this snippet is beyond the point: it arose in the same manner as other translations that Joseph attempted.) Whoever is behind the small snippet of translation (the Egyptian that is “translated” is transcribed onto the next page) was working very closely with ideas from the Bible, including the idea of reckoning time from the beginning of the world.

The two dates in question, if we assume that the translator is operating on the assumption that human history began roughly around the year 4000 BCE (a reasonable assumption for a Kirtand-era Mormon), then the two dates as given are 1038 BCE and 980 BCE. This is during the 21st Dynasty of Egypt. Apparently both King Onitas and his daughter Katumin have been excised from Egyptian history, possibly by corrupt and designing priests. Either that or they were actually Greek royalty as their Hellenic-sounding names would seem to indicate. (If so, then the chronology in this snippet is running extremely behind: Alexander's conquest of Egypt, which began a period of Greek royalty, occurred around 332 BCE.)

However you look at it, though, 28 years old is tragically young for someone in the higher classes of a major civilization. Poor Katumin! She was too young to die! Unfortunately, she doesn't appear to have ever been born, either, which is possibly just as tragic.

I know that the Joseph Smith Papyri and Kirtland Egyptian Papers are also up on the site, but those are a bit harder for your average reader to fully appreciate without some extra contextual information. Any other finds of interest that you are aware of that can be found within the project?

#Mormon #JosephSmith #JosephSmithPapersProject #SillyFakeEgyptian