10 questions with John Gee

*Updated: Feb. 2, 2018

In January 2018, I had the privilege to interview John Gee, author of “An Introduction to the Book of Abraham.

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.

John Gee, courtesy of BYU Religious Studies Center

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10 questions and answers about Joseph Smith and seer stones

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.

Seer stone, Photo Source: josephsmithpapers.org

The following 10-question Q&A was originally published in the Deseret News on Feb. 26, 2017. Continue reading “10 questions and answers about Joseph Smith and seer stones”

10 questions with R. Eric Smith (addendum)

After receiving interview responses from R. Eric Smith and Matthew J. Grow for an upcoming “10 questions,” it occurred to me I may have forgotten an important question.

Experts are often asked the same questions over and over. Yet are there questions they wish someone would ask?

As it relates to the Council of Fifty minutes, I asked R. Eric Smith this very question in an addendum to the “10 questions” interview.

Photo courtesy of R. Eric Smith

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The Council of Fifty minutes on perfect revelation

The Council of Fifty minutes include a fascinating quote on “perfect revelation,” or whether a revelation requires perfect wording to be the word of God.

The Council of Fifty was an exclusive organization founded by Joseph Smith in 1844. The minutes of the council were published by the Church Historians Press in 2016 as part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. The minutes include a wide variety of topics ranging from spiritual teachings to discussions about Indians to desires to form a new government.

The context for the quote is a series of discussions within the Council of Fifty about drafting a new constitution. The committee was somewhat paralyzed by fear of making a mistake and thus had difficulty getting started. One of the viewpoints shared was that of Brigham Young, who commented on Joseph Smith’s prophetic authority.

Included in his commentary is a fascinating quote about the word-for-word perfection of revelation. Continue reading “The Council of Fifty minutes on perfect revelation”

Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham

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.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the book is Continue reading “Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham”