Gee is perhaps today’s most well-known Mormon Egyptologist and has been gracious enough to sit down for an interview to share his thoughts and experiences about the intersections of faith and scholarship.
While working on a review of a book about Joseph Smith and seer stones, my daughter came home from church and told me they had talked about seer stones in Sunday School. “The teacher said we should believe Joseph Smith was a prophet,” she said, “even though he made mistakes like using seer stones.”
The comment provided a good opportunity to discuss how seer stones were not a mistake, but rather a common tool of the age in which Joseph Smith lived – though he certainly came to use seer stones in ways previously unheard of.
It also gave us more time to talk about how new thoughts can appear threatening and we should be patient with those who are trying to reconcile historical truths with religious beliefs.
John Gee is perhaps the leading Mormon commentator on the Book of Abraham – a portion of Mormon scripture that is simultaneously vital to the Mormon belief of premortal existence and heavily debated inside of academic circles. As a believing Mormon with a Ph.D. in Egyptology from Yale University, Gee brings a wonderful mix of perspectives to the discussion.
“An Introduction to the Book of Abraham” is precisely that – an introduction of the issues most important to both believers and scholars. The book is quite matter-of-fact in its tone, although there is the sense of subtle chastisement for both believers and scholars who approach the book with bias and extremism. As a result, the reader never feels compelled to come down on either side of any issue. Instead, the book serves quite nicely as an informative introduction regardless of any preconceived opinions.
The book is rather short, but not necessary entirely conducive to concise and understandable descriptions of common questions about the topic. In an effort to secure quotes about popular questions that could easily fit within the narrative tone of the article, I contacted the authors for an interview.
Frederick consulted with Mackay and responded to the three questions I posed on November 05, 2016.