Richard Bushman’s Views on the Book of Abraham

Joseph Smith PapyriProbably all of you have already read Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, so this isn’t anything new to you. But I wanted to replicate his discussion and explanation for the Book of Abraham in its entirety here. If I merely summarize, I’ll run the risk of interpreting and I want to avoid that risk. Later on I’ll use this as the basis for future discussion that I can refer back to. So here it is: Richard Bushman’s take on the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Book of Abraham that it inspired.

The Abraham texts gave Joseph another chance to let his followers try translating. While working on the Book of Mormon in 1829, Joseph invited Oliver Cowdery to translate: he tried and failed. Now with the Egyptian papyri before them, Joseph again let the men with the greatest interest in such undertakings – Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Warren Parrish, and Fredrick G. Williams – attempt translations. … Continue reading

The Turing Principle

A Turing MachineIn my last two posts on Computational Theory, I first explained the Church-Turing Thesis which can be summarized as the idea that all (full-featured) computers are equivalent.  I then went on to summarize some Computational Theory principles we can study and research once we assume that the Church-Turing Thesis is true. This research is primarily based around the limits of what a Turing Machine can do or how fast it can perform.

In this post I’m going to explore some of the philosophical ramifications of the Church-Turing Thesis, if it were to actually hold true. And at least so far (with one interesting exception) it has held true. Though in the end, I suspect many readers will feel they need to ultimately reject the Turing Thesis. But even if it does ultimately prove false, the very fact that it holds true in every case we know how to currently devise still makes it an useful scientific principle, for now. Continue reading

The Priesthood Ban – A Response to Jettboy and TT

This is a post I wrote back on March of 2012 and was originally titled “The M* Post I’ll Probably Never Post – The Priesthood Ban.” In light of the Church’s recent statement on the ban, Jettboy’s article on it, and TT’s response to M* in reaction to Jettboy’s article, I have decided to post it after all. I then added an afterward directly as a response to Jettboy’s and TT’s posts.

I was in an online conversation with a numbers of Mormon friends. The question of the priesthood ban came up. Immediately (as is to be expected) there was an eruption of competing explanations offered. I wanted to give my two cents on these explanations and explain why none of them work for me.

First, let’s remember that the LDS Church’s official teachings (as comes from the Church leaders) is that we do not know why the priesthood ban existed. So anything I say is pure speculation and should be taken that way. Indeed, in my opinion everyone that insists on publicly speculating – including myself – should be publically flogged. Continue reading

The “Open Letter” to the Prophet of the Mormon Church

LetterAndrew Ainsworth on his Facebook page had a link to something called “An open letter to President Thomas S. Monson: Prophet of the Mormon Church.” Andrew adds, “Hoping this will lead to positive results.”

If what Andrew is hoping for is further dialogue on the subjects the letter brings up, then I’m about to give him some (small) positive results. However, I’m going to make the case that this letter is more destructive then constructive and that Andrew is wrong to support it.

I am not going to link to the letter because, frankly, I don’t want to raise its Google ranking. But it’s easy enough to find if you’re curious. I am going to analyze this letter and ask some question and encourage comments. I am going to make the case that this letter is being specifically written from (and can only be read as) a non-believing view point and that it is primarily a stunt at anti-Mormon publicity rather than a serious attempt to resolve the problems it outlines. I will do this by outlinging the specific claims the letter makes and making brief comments. Possible extended future points for discussion will be mentioned.

Who Is Writing this Letter?

The letter claims it represents “We are a part of a community of thousands of current and former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Continue reading

Introduction to Computational Theory: Areas of Research

A Turing MachineIn my last post I started explaining the theory of computation, starting with its central principle: The Church-Turing Thesis. In this post, I’m going to explain several areas of research in computational theory that, as per the Church-Turing Thesis, are based on the realization that all (full featured) computers are equivalent.

Turing Machines as Simplified Computers

Since Turing Machines are known to be equivalent in expressive power to modern computers, it turns out this means that Turing Machines can serve as a very simplified version of a modern computer — or any conceivable computer!

This makes Turing Machines quite useful for exploration of the Theory of Computation. Mathematicians have been able to come up with ‘programs’ written for Turing machines and then – because Turing Machines are so simple – come up with consistent ways of how to measure how fast the program runs given any number of inputs. Continue reading