Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Mummy's Curse

Give most human teenagers a choice of either taking a class in Mormon scripture from some pasty white guy or taking a class in space-alien philosophy from strangely-dressed people who mummify humans and pets in their garage, and which do you think they will choose? Mark twain called The Book of Mormon “Chloroform in print”. Alien mummification, however, is the stuff that adolescent dreams are made of; well…this and some other stuff. Sure LDS seminaries sometimes cater to the “other stuff” of teenage dreams, but they don’t get caught at it any more often than core curriculum teachers, and I’m sure the Summum church's teachers would be no less likely to provide “special instruction” to a few students.

History was poised on the brink of allowing a select few high school students in Draper Utah to make the Mummy-Mormon choice. Unfortunately it appears as if the Canyon School District has thrown cold water on these dreams for the time being.

The Canyon School District is the district that contains Alta High school. I wrote about Alta High School’s exciting school spirit a few months ago.

The mummifiers are none other than members of the now famous Summum church. The Summum church became famous last year when the US supreme court ruled that their free-speech rights were not being violated by Duchene county (UT) when that county refused to put a monument to the Summum church’s seven principles next to the existing public monument to the Ten Commandments.

The choice was to come in the form of a seminary building. Canyon School District is building a new high school in Draper, and had set aside land for a seminary. The Summum church officially petitioned to have a Summum seminary next to the new high school, but so did the LDS church. The Canyon School District decided that there would be no seminary on the land it had purchased and labeled “seminary” on preliminary drawings.

I do not know of any public high schools in the state of Utah that do not have an LDS seminary adjacent to them. There may be one or two, but I would be surprised if it was more than that. According to the Salt Lake tribune: “83,634 of Utah’s 150,572 high school students were enrolled in seminary classes”. It takes an awfully large number of seminary structures to accommodate that many students.

I have a feeling that the LDS church will find a way to get some land adjacent to the new high school in Draper; they will simply get their adjacent land from someone other than the Canyon School District.

The coolest thing about mummies might indeed be the fact that the brains of the mummified person are removed from their skull using a hook, but mummies would be so very cool even without this manipulation. Mummies are so cool that for many years they were thought to posses magical powers. Mummia was a preparation made from ground mummies, and was thought to have medicinal properties. As late as 1908 E. Merk offered mummia powder in its catalogue. However, the best source of mummia was from “fresh” Egyptian mummies crushed to order. I have not been able to find any particular mention of which parts of the mummified corpse were more tasty or more effective.

If I were the Summum seminary teacher I would make sure that the seminary had several mummies. The Summum compound in Salt Lake features the mummified remains of the church’s founder “Corky” on public display in a squat copper-colored pyramid. The church mummifies pets for a small donation. I’m sure they could mummify a few things for their seminary. Even mummified road-kill would be more interesting than Mormon scripture.

Since they are apparently not going to get their seminary space Summum’s next move might be to compete with the school lunch program.

The LDS church has special reason to be afraid of the draw Egyptian mummies have. Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon church) himself bought four Egyptian mummies from a traveling mumia peddler in 1835. They were the last four of a set of 11 mummies one Michael Chandler had been trying to hock for two years. Chandler sold Smith the four mummies along with five papyrii which served to prove they were real Egyptian mummies. Smith forked over $2,400 dollars for the lot; what a steal.

The papyri were needed to prove the Egyptian mummies were real because many mumia peddlers were trafficking in counterfeit mumia. In the cases of the powdered material the mumia could be cut with any number of things; that was one reason why whole (or identifiable parts) were preferred. In the case of whole mummies more contemporary substitutes were often passed off as the real thing. This mumia falsa was a common blight on the trade in more genuine snake oil.

Imagine the delight experienced by the followers of Joseph Smith when he explained that their donations to his church had not only purchased some dried corpses from across the sea, but that they had also purchased magical scriptural documents. It appears as if the papyri that Smith bought were actually written by Abraham. That’s right…father of the abrahamic religions! How auspicious!

Abraham had a lot to say on the papyri. He spoke of Kolob, of pre-mortal existence, gave specifics about the stuff the universe was created from, but my favorite is the consistent use of the polytheistic notation of “Gods”. If Abraham was a polytheist it would explain why he was so quick to accept god’s being of two minds on the subject of his son. But I digress.

Translating papyri is somewhat different than translating ephemeral golden plates. The papyri were not magiced away after the translation. This left the possibility that someone else would come along and use a technology that yielded more accurate translations than the seer stones Joseph smith used.

Sure enough, in 1966, the papyri were re-discovered. The translation of the papyri proved to be almost as awkward as the soon-to-be-discovered Salamander Letter would be.

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