The Lost Book of Abraham



THIS IS THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM – A PART OF
THE SCRIPTURES USED TODAY BY THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – THE
MORMONS. BUT WHERE DID THIS BOOK COME FROM? JOSEPH SMITH, FOUNDER OF THE MORMON CHURCH,
CLAIMED TO TRANSLATE IT FROM AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN SCROLL THAT HE PURCHASED FROM AN ANTIQUITIES
DEALER IN 1835. SMITH CLAIMED THE SCROLL CONTAINED A LOST BOOK OF ABRAHAM – AN ORIGINAL TEXT
NEARLY 4,000 YEARS OLD. AT THE TIME, NO ONE IN AMERICA COULD READ
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN. BUT TODAY, EGYPTOLOGISTS KNOW EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS. SO WHAT WAS THIS
ANCIENT SCROLL? WAS IT A LOST BOOK OF ABRAHAM, OR WAS IT SOMETHING ELSE? STAY TUNED AND FIND
OUT FOR YOURSELF. IMAGINE YOURSELF HERE IN KIRTLAND, OHIO, IN
1835. YOU’RE IN THE WESTERN RESERVE. THE PEOPLE ARE FARMERS, BLACKSMITHS, AND MILLERS.
AND ABOUT twenty-five percent OF THE POPULATION is PART OF A FLEDGLING COMMUNITY WHICH WILL
COME TO BE KNOWN AS THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – THE MORMONS. JOSEPH SMITH, AND HIS FOLLOWERS, CAME TO KIRTLAND
IN EARLY 1831, AND THOUGH THE PEOPLE ARE POOR, THEY’VE BEGUN CONSTRUCTION ON AN ELABORATE
NEW TEMPLE. JOSEPH WAS A YOUNG MAN, BUT HE WAS ABLE TO INSPIRE PEOPLE, ABLE TO GENERATE
ENTHUSIASM AND RAISE MONEY. THE TEMPLE WAS EXPENSIVE AND TOOK GREAT SACRIFICE ON THE
PART OF THE PEOPLE TO BUILD.1 BUT NOW, JOSEPH NEEDS TO RAISE SOME MORE MONEY, AND WHAT HE
WANTS TO BUY MAY SURPRISE YOU. A TRAVELING ANTIQUITIES DEALER NAMED MICHAEL
H. CHANDLER HAS COME TO TOWN PEDDLING HIS WARES – AN EXHIBIT OF, OF ALL THINGS, FOUR
EGYPTIAN MUMMIES. IT WAS A SPECTACLE. FOR A SMALL PRICE YOU
COULD SEE FRAGMENTS OF MYSTERIOUS WRITINGS, THINGS FROM ANCIENT EGYPT, EVEN REAL, MUMMIFIED
HUMAN CORPSES, ALL OF WHICH HAD BEEN ON THE EARTH SINCE BIBLE TIMES! CHANDLER AND HIS
EXHIBIT WERE ALWAYS ABLE TO DRAW A CROWD. THE FOUR MUMMIES WERE THE MAIN DRAWING CARD,
BUT SEVERAL PROMINENT BRETHREN OF THE MORMON CHURCH BECAME EVEN MORE INTRIGUED BY THE SCROLLS
WITH MYSTERIOUS, ANCIENT WRITING – EGYPTIAN WRITING. FIVE YEARS EARLIER JOSEPH SMITH, THEIR PROPHET
AND LEADER, HAD PUBLISHED THE BOOK OF MORMON – A REMARKABLE WORK IN THAT JOSEPH SAID
HE HAD NOT ACTUALLY AUTHORED THE BOOK, BUT RATHER, HE HAD TRANSLATED IT FROM THE RECORDS
OF AN ANCIENT, PRE-COLUMBIAN CIVILIZATION. JOSEPH SAID AN ANGEL APPEARED TO HIM – AN
ANGEL NAMED MORONI, WHO PRESENTED JOSEPH WITH A SET OF GOLD PLATES. THE PLATES WERE SAID
TO HAVE BEEN INSCRIBED WITH A MYSTERIOUS LANGUAGE CALLED “REFORMED EGYPTIAN.”2
THE STORY IS THAT JOSEPH SMITH TRANSLATED THE GOLD PLATES “BY THE GIFT AND POWER OF
GOD.”3 BUT JOSEPH SAID HE WAS REQUIRED TO RETURN THE PLATES TO THE ANGEL AFTER COMPLETING
HIS TRANSLATION,4 SO THEY ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR INDEPENDENT EXAMINATION.
WHEN THE BOOK OF MORMON WAS PUBLISHED IN 1830, IT ESTABLISHED JOSEPH SMITH AS A PROPHET AND
“SEER” IN THE EYES OF HIS FOLLOWERS. JOSEPH HAD BROUGHT FORTH ONE VOLUME OF LOST SCRIPTURE
AND THEY BELIEVED GOD WOULD USE HIM TO RESTORE OTHER LOST SCRIPTURES: Edward H. Ashment: One of the original appeals,
I think, of early Mormonism, was Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet, seer, and revelator.
He had revealed to him a sacred book, he claimed, of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas,
and so it was the keystone of his religion. He had promised the Lord was opening up the
bowels of the earth and bringing forth ancient scriptures and would continue to do so because
we were living in the last days of the earth. WHEN MICHAEL CHANDLER ARRIVED IN KIRTLAND
WITH ANCIENT PAPYRUS SCROLLS COVERED WITH MYSTERIOUS, UNKNOWN WRITING, THE SAINTS WONDERED
IF THEIR PROPHET COULD DECIPHER THESE RECORDS. Edward H. Ashment: What happened was the enthusiasm
was there to think that these things had tremendous value, that the Lord indeed was bringing to
the Prophet Joseph Smith these documents for him to translate.
JOSEPH SMITH SAID THAT HE COULD INDEED DECIPHER THESE SCROLLS. IN FACT, HE SAID THESE WERE
MORE THAN JUST ANCIENT EGYPTIAN ARTIFACTS. THESE WERE NONE OTHER THAN THE VERY WRITINGS
OF ABRAHAM AND JOSEPH, FAMOUS FIGURES FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT OF THE BIBLE. IF THIS WERE
TRUE, THESE SCROLLS WOULD BE A MOMENTOUS AND UNPRECEDENTED DISCOVERY, A PRESERVATION OF
WRITINGS FROM nearly 2000 YEARS BEFORE CHRIST.5 BUT WHAT WERE THEY REALLY? STAY TUNED AS WE
INVESTIGATE A REMARKABLE MORMON CLAIM – THE REDISCOVERY OF A LOST BOOK OF ABRAHAM. THE STORY BEGINS IN 1833 IN THE EASTERN UNITED
STATES, WHEN A MAN NAMED MICHAEL H. CHANDLER WAS COMMISSIONED TO SELL A COLLECTION OF ANCIENT
EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES. THE COLLECTION INCLUDED 11 MUMMIES, two PAPYRUS SCROLLS AND SEVERAL
SCROLL FRAGMENTS. THE ARTIFACTS HAD ORIGINALLY BEEN EXHUMED
BY A TOMB RAIDER NAMED ANTONIO LeBOLO IN THE EARLY 1820s FROM A BURIAL SITE ALONG THE BANKS
OF THE NILE RIVER, NEAR THE EGYPTIAN CITY OF THEBES. AFTER LEBOLO’S DEATH, HIS ESTATE
SHIPPED THE ARTIFACTS TO NEW YORK CITY, HOPING THEY COULD BE SOLD FOR A PROFIT. CHANDLER’S TRAVELS WITH THE ANTIQUITIES
INCLUDED STOPS IN PHILADELPHIA, BALTIMORE AND HARRISBURG, WHERE HE WAS ABLE TO SELL
SEVEN OF THE MUMMIES. HE ARRIVED IN CLEVELAND IN MARCH OF 1835 WITH THE PAPYRUS SCROLLS
AND four REMAINING MUMMIES. AN ARTICLE IN THE CLEVELAND ADVERTISER NEWSPAPER OF MARCH
26, 1835 NOTED CHANDLER’S INTEREST IN SELLING HIS REMAINING ARTIFACTS. Reading from Cleveland Advertiser: The exhibitor
permits as free examination of them as is consistent with their preservation. Specimens
of the ancient method of writing on papyrus, found with the mummies, are also shown by
Mr. Chandler, whose intelligent conversation adds much to the interest of the exhibition.
The collection is offered for sale by the proprietor. Cleveland Advertiser, March 26,
1835. Edward H. Ashment: Michael Chandler was apparently
acting as an agent for several businessmen in Philadelphia. And apparently the arrangement
was that he was supposed to display and sell these antiquities as he displayed them, and
keep a small commission for himself and send the remainder of the money back to the businessmen
in Philadelphia. Once he was out on the road he apparently lost contact with these businessmen,
and was dispensing of the antiquities as he went and keeping all the profits for himself.
He had heard about Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet and his abilities to translate languages,
and so he wended his way to Kirtland, Ohio and arrived there in July of 1835.
CHANDLER’S ARRIVAL IN KIRTLAND WAS DESCRIBED AT THE TIME BY WILLIAM W. PHELPS, A MEMBER
OF THE MORMON COMMUNITY, IN A LETTER TO HIS WIFE.
Voice of William H. Phelps: Four Egyptian Mummies were brought here; there were two
papyrus rolls beside some other ancient Egyptian writings with them. As no one could translate
these writings, they were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said
they, the ‘rolls of papyrus,’ contained the sacred record of Joseph in Pharaoh’s
court in Egypt, and the teachings of Father Abraham. God has so ordered it that these
mummies and writings have been brought into the church. July 20, 1835 Edward H. Ashment: That created a tremendous
value for these papyri. But Chandler was unwilling to sell them by themselves, that was all that
the Prophet was interested in. He insisted on selling the four mummies that were all
that were left now – everything. He was ready to unload the entire collection of antiquities
that he had left. Dr. Jan Shipps: Remember that this is a movement
that is sort of the religion of the book squared. Because not only is it the religion of the
book in the Old and New Testament, but the Book of Mormon as well. So there has to be
a real concern about texts. Text, text, text. And so text would appear, even to the ordinary
citizen of Kirtland, I would think, as much more critical than the mummies.
Edward H. Ashment: His selling price was $2400, which was an extreme sum in those day. Smith
didn’t have it. But since these were such valuable documents, Smith used two other people
to invest sums of money and they did and Chandler sold these antiquities to Joseph Smith, and
that’s how he came into possession of them. JOSEPH SMITH SAID THAT TO PROPERLY TRANSLATE
THE SCROLLS WOULD TAKE SOME TIME. BUT that A FEW OF THE EGYPTIAN FIGURES WERE IMMEDIATELY
RECOGNIZABLE TO HIM, AND HE INTERPRETED THESE FOR CHANDLER. CHANDLER THANKED HIM PROFUSELY,
AND SUPPLIED AN AFFIDAVIT ENDORSING SMITH’S SCHOLARSHIP.
Voice of Michael H. Chandler: This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning
the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters
in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and from
the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I find that of Mr. Joseph Smith,
to correspond in the most minute matters. TRANSLATION OF THE PAPYRI COMMENCED ALMOST
AT ONCE, WITH JOSEPH FOCUSING HIS ATTENTION ON ONE OF THE PAPYRUS SCROLLS WHICH HE IDENTIFIED
AS AN ANCIENT RECORD OF ABRAHAM. Voice of Joseph Smith: I have commenced the
translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy have found that one of
the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another with writings of Joseph of Egypt – a
more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold
them. Truly we can say, the lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.
July 5, 1835. IT WAS A REMARKABLE CLAIM. COULD ONE OF THESE
PAPYRI ACTUALLY BE A LOST RECORD OF THE PATRIARCHAL FATHER OF THE JEWISH, CHRISTIAN, AND ISLAMIC
RELIGIONS? AND DID JOSEPH SMITH REALLY HAVE THE ABILITY OR INSPIRATION TO TRANSLATE FROM
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN? AND COULD THESE SCROLLS BE WHAT JOSEPH SAID THEY WERE? IN THE WEEKS IMMEDIATELY AFTER PURCHASING
THE SCROLLS, JOSEPH THREW HIMSELF ENTHUSIASTICALLY INTO THE TASK OF TRANSLATION. HE RECORDS IN
HIS DIARY THAT HE BEGAN BY DEVELOPING AN ALPHABET AND GRAMMAR OF THE EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE. THE
TOWNSPEOPLE WERE DULLY IMPRESSED WITH THE WORK AND SCORES OF VISITORS WOULD CALL ON
THE PROPHET TO SEE FOR THEMSELVES THESE WONDERFUL THINGS.
Voice of Joseph Smith: I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet of the book of
Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients. July,
1835. Voice of Joseph Smith: In the afternoon I
waited on most of the 12 apostles in my house and exhibited to them the ancient records
and gave explanations. This day passed off with the blessing of the Lord. October 3,
1835. IN 1835 IN AMERICA THERE WAS NO ONE WHO COULD
READ ANCIENT EGYPTIAN. ALL KNOWLEDGE OF THE LANGUAGE HAD BEEN LOST FOR CENTURIES. ONLY
RECENTLY HAD THE FRENCH SCHOLAR JEAN-FRANCOIS CHAMPOLLION MADE A BREAKTHROUGH IN DECIPHERING
THE ANCIENT EGYPTIAN LANGUAGE. THE ROSETTA STONE – A TRI-LINGUAL INSCRIPTION IN GREEK,
EGYPTIAN HIEROGLYPHIC AND demotic – WAS THE KEY WHICH ALLOWED CHAMPOLLION TO UNLOCK
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN. BUT HIS WORK WAS FAR AWAY FROM THE PIONEERS OF RURAL OHIO.
Dr. Robert K. Ritner: In the 1840s in the United States, the ancient Egyptian language
was virtually unknown. It had only been deciphered beginning in 1822 and that knowledge simply
had not crossed the Atlantic. So that few, if any, individuals in the United States would
have been able to understand even which sections of an Egyptian document might belong together.
What the various Egyptian scripts were, which way you read them – from left to right, top
to bottom. None of this would have been known. So, that almost any interpretation given to
an Egyptian document in 1842 or ’45 or ’50 or even 1860 would have been believable to
a general audience who would have no way of comparing it with the actual truth. BUT IN HIS DIARY, JOSEPH SMITH CONFIDENTLY
RECORDS DOING WHAT NO SCHOLAR IN AMERICA IN HIS DAY COULD DO – TRANSLATING ANCIENT EGYPTIAN
SCROLLS. Voice of Joseph Smith: This afternoon I labored
on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps,
and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by father Abraham
and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter.
October 1, 1835. Voice of Joseph Smith: This afternoon I re-commenced
translating from the ancient records. October 7, 1835 Voice of Joseph Smith: I returned home and
spent the day in translating the Egyptian records. A warm and pleasant day. November
19, 1835. Voice of Joseph Smith: Spent the forenoon
instructing those that called to inquire concerning the things of God in the last days. And in
the afternoon we translated some of the Egyptian records. November 24, 1835.
Voice of Joseph Smith: Spent the day translating. November 25, 1835.
Voice of Joseph Smith: At home. We spent the day in transcribing Egyptian characters from
the papyrus. I am severely afflicted with a cold. November 26, 1835. Dr. Stan Larson: Joseph Smith, in his diary
of July 1835, talked specifically about translating characters or hieroglyphics, and finding that
it was about – one was about Abraham and one was about Joseph – so there was a book
of Abraham and a book of Joseph. Edward H. Ashment: He, with a couple of his
scribes, began working on an Alphabet and Grammar of the Egyptian Language, and we have
documents some of which, one of which was written by Joseph himself with some additions
by Oliver Cowdery and another one in the handwriting of William W. Phelps, and we have in addition
some remarks made or small additions made in the handwriting of Warren Parrish. THROUGH THE AUTUMN AND EARLY WINTER OF 1835
JOSEPH continued to WORK ON THE PROJECT, AND THE MUMMIES AND THE SCROLLS WERE MOVED TO
AN UPPER FLOOR ROOM HERE AT THE KIRTLAND TEMPLE, WHERE JOSEPH CONTINUED WORK ON THE TRANSLATION.
BUT THE TRANSLATION PROJECT SOON TAPERED OFF, AND JOSEPH MOVED ON TO OTHER MATTERS RELATED
TO LEADING HIS COMMUNITY. HE ESTABLISHED HIS OWN BANK IN KIRTLAND, AND
ISSUED HIS OWN CURRENCY. BUT, IN 1838, WHEN THE VENTURE WENT BANKRUPT, JOSEPH FLED KIRTLAND
ON HORSEBACK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND NEVER RETURNED.
IN 1839 THE MORMON COMMUNITY RELOCATED TO A SMALL TOWN ON THE BANKS OF THE MISSISSIPPI
RIVER KNOWN AS COMMERCE, ILLINOIS. JOSEPH RENAMED THE TOWN NAUVOO, A HEBREW WORD MEANING
“BEAUTIFUL.” Dr. Jan Shipps: It was a place with two or
three houses and two stores, just a little tiny, wide spot in the road, but it was located
on a really pretty bluff. There were maybe twenty to thirty people there, and it became
the largest town in Illinois within five years. IT WAS IN NAUVOO THAT JOSEPH WOULD ACHIEVE
HIS GREATEST FAME. HE WAS THE MAYOR AND HAD HIS OWN MILITIA OF NEARLY 3,000 MEN; AT THE
TIME, THE TOTAL U.S. MILITARY was LESS THAN 9,000.6 AND THERE WAS EVEN A MOVEMENT UNDER
WAY TO NOMINATE JOSEPH FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE UNITED STATES. IT WAS IN NAUVOO THAT JOSEPH FINALLY PUBLISHED
HIS TRANSLATION OF THE ABRAHAM SCROLL. IT FIRST APPEARED IN 1842 IN THREE INSTALLMENTS
OF A MORMON NEWSPAPER CALLED THE “TIMES AND SEASONS.” IT WAS CALLED “THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM.” A
NOTE AT THE BEGINNING INTRODUCED IT AS “A TRANSLATION OF SOME ANCIENT RECORDS THAT HAVE
FALLEN INTO OUR HANDS, FROM THE CATACOMBS OF EGYPT, PURPORTING TO BE7 THE WRITINGS OF
ABRAHAM, WHILE HE WAS IN EGYPT, CALLED THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, WRITTEN BY HIS OWN HAND,
UPON PAPYRUS.” TODAY, THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM IS INCLUDED IN
A VOLUME OF MORMON SCRIPTURE CALLED “THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE.” IT IS CONSIDERED
INSPIRED SCRIPTURE BY THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, OF EQUAL AUTHORITY
TO THE BIBLE. THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM INCLUDES A CREATION STORY,
BUT IT’S DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT THAN THE BIBLICAL CREATION STORY found IN THE BOOK
OF GENESIS. WHERE THE BIBLE POINTs TO ONLY ONE TRUE CREATOR GOD, THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM
RECOUNTS A STARTLING NEW TWIST. Reading from Book of Abraham: And they went
down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and
the earth. Book of Abraham, chapter 4, verse 1. Reading from Book of Abraham: And the Gods
said among themselves: On the seventh time we will end our work, which we have counseled;
and we will rest on the seventh time from all our work which we have counseled. And
the Gods concluded upon the seventh time, because that on the seventh time they would
rest from all their works which they (the Gods) counseled among themselves to form;
and sanctified it. And thus were their decisions at the time that they counseled among themselves
to form the heavens and the earth. Book of Abraham, chapter 5, verses 2 & 3.
Dr. David Crump: Judaism and Christianity have always been monotheistic religions, there’s
one God, there’s one Creator. And if He had a council, it was a council of created
angelic beings that did His bidding by His sovereign authority. And the idea of equally
co-eternal beings working with him on a group project is totally unprecedented in Jewish
and Christian teaching. JOSEPH SMITH ANNOUNCED THAT HE WOULD PUBLISH
ADDITIONAL INSTALLMENTS OF HIS BOOK OF ABRAHAM, BUT HE NEVER DID. AND IN JUNE 1844 HE WAS
ASSASINATED. Dr. Jan Shipps: And a group of Mormon dissidents
published a newspaper called the Nauvoo Expositor, which accused Joseph Smith as Mayor, of taking
too much into his own hands, and there were some references in the Nauvoo Expositor to
the notion of plural marriage, so as mayor he sent the constabulary to destroy the newspaper.
And the governor brought him into Carthage, Illinois and put him in jail, put him and
his brother in jail and then the governor turned his back and took the militia and went
to Nauvoo to see what was going on in Nauvoo, leaving the jail unprotected, and then other
militia with blackened faces came in and shot him. ON JUNE 27, 1844 HIS CELL WAS STORMED, JOSEPH
WAS SHOT, AND AS HE FELL FROM A SECOND FLOOR WINDOW, HE WAS FIRED UPON NUMEROUS TIMES.
NO ONE WAS EVER CONVICTED FOR HIS BRUTAL MURDER. IN 1846, UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF BRIGHAM YOUNG,
THE MORMONS MADE THEIR HISTORIC TREK FROM NAUVOO TO THE GREAT SALT LAKE VALLEY. AT THE
TIME THIS WAS ISOLATED FRONTIER TERRITORY FAR FROM THE JURISDICTION OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.
AND THOUGH JOSEPH SMITH WAS NO LONGER LEADING THE MORMONS, HIS BOOK OF MORMON, DOCTRINE
AND COVENANTS, AND PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, INCLUDING THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, ALL BECAME CANON, INSPIRED
SCRIPTURES ON PAR WITH THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS OF THE BIBLE. THEY ARE THE BASIS FOR THE UNIQUE
THEOLOGY OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST LATTER DAY SAINTS TO THIS DAY.
IN THE GREAT SALT LAKE VALLEY, THE MORMONS ONCE AGAIN PROVED THEIR ABILITY TO SETTLE
FRONTIER TERRITORY AND BUILD A THRIVING TOWN. THEY BEGAN WORK ON ANOTHER TEMPLE, THEIR GREATEST
YET. BUT THE SCROLL JOSEPH SMITH HAD IDENTIFIED
AS A LOST BOOK OF ABRAHAM, REMAINED IN ILLINOIS IN THE POSSESSION OF JOSEPH’S MOTHER, LUCY
MACK SMITH AND HIS WIDOW, EMMA. IN 1856, 12 DAYS AFTER LUCY’S DEATH, EMMA
SMITH, WHO NOW SEEMED TO HAVE AMBIVALENT FEELINGS ABOUT HER LATE HUSBAND, SOLD THE PAPYRI TO
A MAN NAMED ABEL COMBS.8 EMMA, NOW REMARRIED TO A MAN NAMED LEWIS C.
BIDAMON, PROVIDED AN AFFIDAVIT ATTESTING THAT THE ANTIQUITIES HAD BELONGED TO JOSEPH. Voice of Emma Smith: This certifies that we
have sold to Mr. A. Combs four Egyptian mummies with the records of them … [they] were purchased
by the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith at the price of twenty-four-hundred dollars in the
year 1835. They were highly prized by Mr. Smith on account of the importance which attached
to the record which was accidentally found enclosed in the breast of one of the mummies.
Emma Smith Bidamon, May 26, 1856 Jan Shipps: One of the things that is really
interesting about Emma Smith, she was engaged in the process of forgetting as she is in
the process of remembering. Because she has to forget that he introduced plural marriage
into Mormonism. Even though we know that she was at some of these ceremonies where he married
other women who were friends of his … friends of hers, and her husband married them as well,
she told her sons that it was Brigham Young that introduced plural marriage into Mormonism. TWO OF THE MUMMIES SOLD TO ABEL COMBS WERE
LATER ACQUIRED BY A CHICAGO MUSEUM THAT WAS DESTROYED IN THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE OF 1871.
IT WAS ASSUMED THAT THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPYRI HAD ALSO BEEN DESTROYED – LOST FOREVER TO
THE EMERGING KNOWLEDGE OF EGYPTOLOGY. FROM EARLY ON, NON-MORMONS WERE DUBIOUS OF
JOSEPH’S CLAIM TO HAVE RECOVERED A BOOK WRITTEN BY ABRAHAM 2,000 YEARS BEFORE CHRIST,
AND LOST FOR NEARLY 4,000 YEARS. A MAN NAMED WILLIAM WEST, WHO VISITED THE
MORMONS IN KIRTLAND AND VIEWED JOSEPH SMITH’S EGYPTIAN SCROLLS, EXPRESSED HIS DOUBTS IN
AN 1837 PAMPHLET.9 Voice of William West: Is it possible that
a record written by Abraham containing the most important revelations that God ever gave
to man, should be entirely lost by the tenacious Israelites, and preserved by the unbelieving
Egyptians? And by them, embalmed and deposited in the catacombs with an Egyptian priest?
I venture to say no, it is not possible. It is more likely that the records are Egyptian. IN 1859 A FRENCH EGYPTOLOGIST NAMED THEODULE
DEVÉRIA PROVIDED THE FIRST SCHOLARLY EVALUATION OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM.10 THE FOCUS OF DEVÉRIA’S CRITIQUE WAS 3 ILLUSTRATIONS,
OR FACSIMILES, THAT JOSEPH SMITH COPIED FROM HIS EGYPTIAN SCROLLS AND PUBLISHED AS PART
OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM. BELOW EACH OF THE FACSIMILES, JOSEPH PROVIDED HIS EXPLANATIONS
OF THEIR MEANINGS. ACCORDING TO JOSEPH, FACSIMILE 1 DEPICTS AN
IDOLATROUS PRIEST ABOUT TO SLAY ABRAHAM ON AN ALTAR. AND IN THE TEXT OF THE BOOK ITSELF,
THIS SCENE IS DESCRIBED AND SPECIFICALLY REFERRED TO. Reading from Book of Abraham: “And it came
to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they
did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I
will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.” Book of Abraham,
chapter 1, verse 12. BUT DEVÉRIA NOTICED THAT THERE WAS SOMETHING
WRONG WITH THE PICTURES – THEY CLOSELY RESEMBLED SCENES HE HAD COME ACROSS IN COMMON EGYPTIAN
BURIAL DOCUMENTS, BUT SMITH, ACCORDING TO DEVÉRIA, HAD COMPLETELY MISIDENTIFIED THE
CHARACTERS AND THE SCENES. IN FACSIMILE 1, SMITH LABELED THE STANDING
FIGURE ON THE LEFT AS A PRIEST, KNIFE IN HAND, ATTEMPTING TO SLAY ABRAHAM. IN REALITY, SAID
DEVÉRIA, THIS IS THE EGYPTIAN GOD ANUBIS ASSISTING THE RESURRECITON OF A DECEASED EGYPTIAN.
ANUBIS ALSO WAS DRAWN INCORRECTLY. HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PICTURED WITH THE HEAD OF A JACKAL
– NOT THE HEAD OF A MAN. Voice of Theodule Devéria: “The god Anubis
(who should have a jackal’s head) effecting the resurrection of Osiris.” Theodule Devéria,
1859.11 Dr. Lanny Bell: You would never imagine, as
an Egyptologist that the god, the black god on the left of this scene, had anything but
a jackal’s head. That’s just normal. He belongs in the scene. He belongs in the scene
as a jackal headed figure as well. JOSEPH SMITH HAD EXPLAINED ANOTHER OF THE
ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM – CALLED “FACSIMILE 3” – AS ABRAHAM SEATED ON
PHARAOH’S THRONE, LECTURING THE ROYAL COURT ON MATTERS OF ASTRONOMY.
BUT AGAIN, DEVÉRIA SAID JOSEPH’S EXPLANATION WAS COMPLETELY WRONG. FACSIMILE 3 WAS ALSO
A RENDITION OF A COMMON SCENE FROM EGYPTIAN BURIAL DOCUMENTS DEPICTING A DECEASED MAN
BEING LED INTO THE PRESENCE OF OSIRIS, THE EGYPTIAN GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD. Voice of Theodule Devéria: The deceased led
by Maat into the presence of Osiris – his name is Horus, as may be seen in the prayer
which is addressed to the divinities of the four cardinal points. Theodule Devéria, 1859.12 JOSEPH SAID THE CHARACTERS ABOVE THE MAN’S
HAND SPELLED HIS NAME – “SHULEM.”13 IN ACTUALITY, THE HIEROGLYPHICS GIVE HIS NAME
– “HORUS.” THERE IS NO MENTION OF “SHULEM” AT ALL. Dr. Robert Ritner: Devéria’s initial analysis
of Facsimile 3 is accurate. It is the result of the judgment scene in which the deceased
Horus is being brought into the presence of Osiris by Anubis who is mis-described in Facsimile
3 as being a slave. IN THE YEAR 1912, FRANKLIN S. SPALDING, THE
EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH, BROUGHT A NEW ROUND OF SCRUTINY TO THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM WHEN HE
ASKED EIGHT NOTED SCHOLARS OF EGYPTOLOGY TO EVALUATE THE THREE FACSIMILES. TO A MAN, THEY
AGREED THAT JOSEPH’S EXPLANATIONS WERE ERRONEOUS. SPALDING PUBLISHED HIS FINDINGS IN A BOOKLET
TITLED JOSEPH SMITH JR. AS A TRANSLATOR. THE SCHOLARS AGREED WITH DEVÉRIA’S VERDICT
OF 50 YEARS EARLIER. Voice of A. H. Sayce: It is difficult to deal
seriously with Joseph Smith’s impudent fraud …. Smith has turned the goddess Isis into
a King, and Osiris into Abraham. A. H. Sayce, Oxford University.
Voice of James H. Breasted: These three facsimiles of Egyptian documents in the ‘Pearl of Great
Price’ depict the most common objects in the mortuary religion of Egypt. Joseph Smith’s
interpretation of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very
clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and
absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization. Dr.
James H. Breasted, University of Chicago, Voice of Eduard Meyer: The Egyptian papyrus
which Smith declared to be the ‘Book of Abraham,’ and ‘translated’ or explained
in his fantastical way, and of which three specimens are published in the ‘Pearl of
Great Price,’ are parts of the well known ‘Book of the Dead.’ And although the reproductions
are very bad, one can easily recognize [these] familiar scenes. Dr. Eduard15 Meyer, University
of Berlin. THE NEW YORK TIMES TOOK NOTE OF SPALDING’S
FINDINGS AND ISSUED A BLISTERING TWO PAGE EXPOSÉ OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM IN ITS DECEMBER
29, 1912 EDITION. THE MORMON CHURCH COULD NOT REMAIN SILENT IN THE FACE OF THIS WITHERING
ATTACK ON THE CREDIBILITY OF JOSEPH SMITH AND THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM. IT OFFERED ASSURANCES
TO THE FAITHFUL IN A 1913 ARTICLE IN ITS’ MONTHLY MAGAZINE, THE IMPROVEMENT ERA. THE AUTHOR, PROFESSOR JOHN HENRY EVANS, ARGUED
IT WASN’T FAIR TO JUDGE THE CREDIBILITY OF JOSEPH’S BOOK BY ONLY REVIEWING THE REPRODUCED
FACSIMILES. EVANS INSISTED THAT TO DO ANY REASONABLE CRITIQUE WOULD REQUIRE ACCESS TO
THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS THEMSELVES. Voice of John Henry Evans: Now, as a matter
of fact, the hieroglyphics submitted to the scholars constitute less than one seventh
of the book of Abraham, and that only an accompaniment of the text. The question therefore, becomes,
Is anyone justified in drawing a conclusion respecting an entire manuscript from a statement
which was made with respect to only a very small part of that manuscript? Before they
would be warranted in saying that the entire book of Abraham was not properly translated,
they would have to examine the original papyrus, or a copy of it. John Henry Evans, Improvement
Era, February, 191316 BUT THE ORIGINAL JOSEPH SMITH PAPYRI WERE
GONE – ALMOST SURELY DESTROYED IN THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE OF 1871. OR WERE THEY? BUT IN THE SPRING OF 1966 A DRAMATIC DISCOVERY
WAS MADE RIGHT HERE IN NEW YORK AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. THE CURATOR OF THE MUSEUM’S
DEPARTMENT OF EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITIES – DR. HENRY G. FISCHER – APPROACHED A VISITING
RESEACHER FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF UTAH – PROFESSOR AZIZ S. ATIYA – WITH A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT:
THE MUSEUM HAD IN IT’S ARCHIVES ELEVEN PAPYRUS FRAGMENTS THAT HAD ONCE BELONGED TO MORMON
FOUNDER JOSEPH SMITH!17 FISCHER DIDN’T KNOW HOW THE MORMON CHURCH
LEADERS WOULD REACT TO THIS NEWS AND HE WAS LOOKING FOR AN INTERMEDIARY. HE WONDERED IF
DR. ATIYA, A RESPECTED NON-MORMON FROM SALT LAKE CITY, WOULD ASK THE MORMON CHURCH LEADERS
IF THEY WOULD BE INTERESTED IN ACQUIRING THE PAPYRI. NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM
AND THE MORMON CHURCH PROCEEDED, AND ON NOVEMBER 27, 1967 THE MUSEUM PRESENTED THE ANCIENT
SCROLLS TO THE CHURCH. AN ARTICLE IN THE DESERET NEWS OF SALT LAKE
CITY ANNOUNCED THE GIFT OF ELEVEN PAPYRUS FRAGMENTS, LONG BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN DESTROYED
IN THE CHICAGO FIRE OF 1871. WITH THE PAPYRI WAS THE ORIGINAL 1856 LETTER SIGNED BY THE
MORMON PROPHET’S WIDOW, EMMA SMITH, CERTIFYING THAT THE DOCUMENTS HAD BELONGED TO JOSEPH
SMITH. BUT DID THESE ELEVEN FRAGMENTS INCLUDE THE
SCROLL JOSEPH SMITH IDENTIFIED AS A LOST BOOK OF ABRAHAM? IF SO, THERE WOULD FINALLY BE
AN OPPORTUNITY TO VINDICATE HIS MIRACULOUS CLAIM OF HAVING DISCOVERED AND TRANSLATED
A DOCUMENT FROM THE FATHER OF JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, AND ISLAM.
OF COURSE, THERE WAS ALSO THE POSSIBILITY OF UNDERMINING THAT CLAIM. THE SAINTS WAITED EXPECTANTLY, AND HELD THEIR
BREATH. JOSEPH SMITH HAD DICTATED HIS TRANSLATION
OF THE ORIGINAL PAPYRI TO HIS SCRIBES IN THE 1830’S. IT WAS IMPORTANT TO IDENTIFY WHETHER
OR NOT THE PAPPYRI FOUND IN THE 1960S WERE THE SAME ONE’S HE USED DURING THIS PROCESS.
THE FIRST CLUE WAS THE MOST OBVIOUS. THE TORN PICTURE FOUND IN ONE OF THE FRAGMENTS WAS
AN IDENTICAL MATCH TO THE FAMILIAR PICTURE IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM. IN
FACT, THE TEARS ON THE ORIGINAL CORRESPONDED EXACTLY TO WHERE THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM DRAWING
SEEMED TO GO AWRY. Dr. Lanny Bell: When you have the modern state
of the papyrus today, in front of you today, or the photographs of it, or whatever, and
you compare it with the Facsimile 1 you can see that where Facsimile 1 starts to become
un-Egyptological, unexpected from an Egyptological point of view, is pretty much along the line
that the present break, or destruction of the papyrus. So there’s every reason from
that point of view to believe that the present conditions of the papyrus itself is as it
was in the time of Joseph Smith. Dr. Robert Ritner: If you took a painting
of Madonna and child and you tore off the heads of both figures and you replaced them
with a dog and a cat, it would be as obvious to us now that this was wrong as the replacing
of the clearly jackal head with a human head on this Egyptian piece because we know what
these images actually look like. In the same way, we know that those figures would never,
under any circumstance, hold a knife. And that’s critical to the text itself because
it’s not merely decoration for this text, it goes to the core of the supposed story
that accompanies it. And if you take the knife away, you’ve taken the story away as well.
And clearly the knife had no reason to be there. THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM ITSELF MENTIONS THAT THIS
SCENE APPEARED “AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE RECORD” – IN OTHER WORDS, AT THE BEGINNING
OF THE SCROLL. EGYPTIAN READS FROM RIGHT TO LEFT, AND JOSEPH SMITH, WHO WAS AT THE TIME
STUDYING HEBREW, WHICH ALSO READS FROM RIGHT TO LEFT, MUST HAVE SURMISED THIS. IT SEEMED
CERTAIN THAT THIS PIECE WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE SCROLL USED BY JOSEPH SMITH. THEN, ANOTHER DISCOVERY. A SEQUENCE OF CHARACTERS
ON A SECOND PIECE OF PAPYRUS MATCHED EXACTLY A STRING OF CHARACTERS WRITTEN IN THE LEFT
COLUMN OF THE TRANSLATION MANUSCRIPTS. IT APPEARED THAT, AT JOSEPH’S DIRECTION,
HIS SCRIBES COPIED THESE CHARACTERS FROM THE PAPYRUS ONE BY ONE. JOSEPH THEN DICTATED THE
MEANING, OR TRANSLATION, OF EACH ONE – OFTEN WHOLE PARAGRAPHS FROM A SINGLE HIERATIC CHARACTER.
WHEN DR. KLAUS BAER, PROFESSOR OF EGYPTOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, EXAMINED THE
PAPYRI FRAGMENTS, HE DETERMINED THAT THIS SAME PIECE HAD AT ONE TIME BEEN ATTACHED TO
THE PIECE CONTAINING FACSIMILE 1 – THE FIBERS AND EDGES MATCHED EXACTLY.19 A THIRD PIECE WAS FOUND WHICH INCLUDED, THE
SAME NAME – “HORUS”20 –WRITTEN IN THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF FACSIMILE 3. ALTHOUGH
THE FACSIMILE 3 PICTURE WAS NEVER FOUND, IT IS AT THE END OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, AND
IS ALSO A VERY FAMILIAR SCENE. TOGETHER, THESE FOUR PIECES FORM VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE SCROLL
IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM. FINALLY, SCHOLARS COULD MEET THE CONDITIONS
SET FORTH BY JOHN HENRY EVANS WAY BACK IN 1913. NO LONGER WOULD THE CRITIQUE OF THE
ACCURACY OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM RELY ON THE FACSIMILES ALONE. NOW EGYPTOLOGISTS COULD
READ THE PAPYRI FOR THEMSELVES, AND SEE WHETHER THEY CONTAINED THE STORY OF AN EVIL PRIEST’S
ATTEMPT TO SACRIFICE ABRAHAM ON AN ALTAR, OR AN ACCOUNT OF CREATION BY A MULTIPLICITY
OF GODS. IN 2001 DR. ROBERT RITNER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR
OF THE EGYPTOLOGY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, WAS COMMISSIONED TO DO A COMPLETE TRANSLATION
OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM SCROLL.21 Dr. Robert Ritner: What this document really
is, is an extended prayer on behalf of a deceased Egyptian priest which begins with an invocation
to the god of mummification probably. Certainly with a picture of the god of mummification
to ensure his continued existence, to ensure the priest’s continued existence in the
next world. And then it’s followed up by a series of statements where, ‘Oh, deified
Horus, may you walk as you had done in life, may your ears function, may your eyes function,
may the gods receive you.’ Long series of invocations on this. Essentially insuring
that this dead priest is able to function in death as he had in life, but now as part
of a company of the ancient Egyptian gods. Abraham is not mentioned once. Dr. Lanny Bell: Uh, from the evidence that
we have today, it’s quite safe to say that Joseph Smith did not have the Book of Abraham
or the Book of Joseph in front of him in the form of these papyri because they bear no
relationship to the contents of the stories or to his translation. WE WANTED TO GET AN OFFICIAL MORMON EXPLANATION
OF HOW THE CHURCH TODAY UNDERSTANDS THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM. HOWEVER, THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST
OF LATTER DAY SAINTS DECLINED OUR REQUEST FOR AN INTERVIEW.22 MICHAEL PURDY OF THE CHURCH’S
PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT DID REFER US TO THIS BOOK BY MORMON EGYPTOLOGIST JOHN GEE
[A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon
Studies, 2000)]. DR. GEE PUTS FORTH THE POSITION THAT OTHER
THAN THE ORIGINAL OF FACSIMILE 1, THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPYRUS FRAGMENTS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH
IN 1967 WERE, “NOT THE PORTION OF THE PAPYRI THAT CONTAINED THE TEXT OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM.”23
HE CLAIMS THE SCROLL JOSEPH USED WAS ORIGINALLY 10 FEET LONG, AND THAT THERE WAS A LARGE SECTION
THAT IS NOW MISSING, THAT MAY HAVE CONTAINED THE LOST BOOK. Dr. Robert Ritner: There’s certainly no
reason that this particular book of breathing scroll should be expanded much beyond the
surviving length. I’ve now read the entire document from the beginning to end and made
out what one could make out on the poor copy of the final vignette. The most that is missing
from this text is simply two columns worth of Egyptian hieratic. And possibly a small
vignette. But other than that, there would be nothing more that would inflate its length
much beyond its current size. It is both unprecedented and unreasonable to assume that an intrusive
text about a completely different matter – a narrative history of Abraham and his descendents
– would have been inserted into a document whose beginning, middle and end is devoted
specifically to the resurrection of an Egyptian priest. It would disrupt the document. It
would have nothing to do with its content. It would be unprecedented and no other document
would have such a thing. And the narrative style of the Book of Abraham does not correspond
to Egyptian verbiage. It’s not the kind of thing that Egyptians would say and they
would not say it in that way. And it certainly would never appear in such a context as this.
It couldn’t possibly be more out of place. ANOTHER MORMON SCHOLAR, MICHAEL D. RHODES
OF BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY, WRITING IN THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORMONISM, ARGUES THAT JOSEPH
SMITH MAY HAVE RECEIVED THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM BY DIRECT REVELATION FROM GOD AND ONLY USED
THE PAPYRI TO ILLUSTRATE WHAT HE LEARNED FROM REVELATION.
RHODES WRITES, “…WHEN STUDYING THE EGYPTIAN PAPYRI PURCHASED FROM MICHAEL CHANDLER, JOSEPH
SMITH SOUGHT REVELATION FROM THE LORD CONCERNING THEM AND RECEIVED IN THAT PROCESS THE BOOK
OF ABRAHAM. HE MIGHT THEN HAVE SEARCHED THROUGH THE PAPYRI IN HIS POSSESSION TO FIND ILLUSTRATIONS
SIMILAR TO THOSE HE HAD LEARNED BY REVELATION.” 24 Dr. Stan Larson: Now days it seems popular
to say that, well, Joseph Smith didn’t claim to be translating, he just saw these illustrations
and then was inspired with the text of the Book of Abraham. But it doesn’t say in Joseph
Smith’s diary he kept at the time he was looking the pictures or the illustrations
and then was inspired to give to give a story that we now know as the Book of Abraham, but
rather, that he was translating these characters. From the Diary of Joseph Smith: This afternoon
I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps,
and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by father Abraham
… This afternoon I re-commenced translating
from the ancient records … I returned home and spent the day in translating
the Egyptian records … Spent the forenoon instructing those that
called to inquire concerning the things of God in the last days … Dr. Stan Larson: It seems clear – it doesn’t
just seem clear, it is clear from this statement – that he was making the translation from
characters or hieroglyphics. MICHAEL RHODES, OF BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY,
ALSO CLAIMS IN THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MORMONISM THAT JOSEPH SMITH’S EXPLANATIONS OF THE
FACSIMILES ARE ACCURATE: QUOTE, “…THE PROPHET’S EXPLANATIONS OF EACH OF THE FACSIMILES
ACCORD WITH PRESENT UNDERSTANDING OF EGYPTIAN RELIGIOUS PRACTICES.”25
Dr. Robert Ritner: I want to be absolutely clear on this. There simply is no justification
for the kind of interpretations that appear in Facsimile 1 or Facsimile 3. They are wrong
with regard to the hieroglyphs. They are wrong with regard to the gender. They are wrong
with regard to the understanding of what the scene actually represents. And where they
are used in the body of the text, they are wrong there as well. In short, there is no
historical validity for the interpretations in that book. None whatsoever. Dr. Lanny Bell: You cannot find outside discussion
of this particular set of facsimiles, any Egyptologist who would be discussing it in
this way. Dr. Stan Larson: But the thing about that
that’s interesting is that none of those theories in the Church existed, no one ever
talked about them, no one even thought them until after, that is the post-November 1967
time period where people are coming up with new explanations.
Dr. David Wright: When one looks at the evidence simply with common sense it becomes clear
that Joseph Smith claimed that he was translating from these documents, but in fact there is
no correlation between his Book of Abraham and these ancient documents. And therefore
it simply can’t be a translation. All of the other explanations have grown up in order
to sort of put the finger in the dyke, as it were, to prevent the dyke from breaking.
But the clear evidence is that Joseph Smith did not translate this document. It’s not
a document from antiquity. THE FOUNDATION FOR ANCIENT RESEARCH AND MORMON
STUDIES – F.A.R.M.S. – SPECIALIZES IN THE DEFENSE OF THE MORMON SCRIPTURES. WE WANTED
TO INTERVIEW THEIR EXPERTS ON THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, BUT THEY DID NOT RESPOND TO OUR REPEATED
REQUESTS FOR AN INTERVIEW.26 SINCE WE COULDN’T GET AN OFFICIAL RESPONSE
FROM THE MORMON CHURCH LEADERSHIP, WE WENT TO FIND OUT HOW RANK AND FILE MEMBERS OF THE
CHURCH FEEL ABOUT THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM TODAY. Garth Aamodt: The Book of Abraham makes no
illusions that it’s some kind of allegorical scripture. It clearly states that it is written
from Abraham, by Abraham, and in the perspective of Abraham’s life and times. Ann Rash: From what I understand the Book
of Abraham is writings written by the prophet Abraham in his time and that it was recovered
by Joseph Smith, and then later translated. Marshall Moore: That’s how I interpret it,
that is how I believe it to be, that Joseph Smith called as a prophet, when he was, was
instructed to translate, and in this case the Book of Abraham, were direct words from
Abraham translated by the prophet Joseph Smith so that we could gain knowledge we did not
previously have. Garth Aamodt: The Book of Abraham, that we
believe is the story of Abraham again, just a few chapters, only five chapters, which
interestingly enough, although it shares some insights about Abraham, it actually is the
only source in all four of the standard works that really delves into some key doctrines
that become pivotal to the LDS faith. Chief of these is the concept of the pre-existence,
and the nature of man, and our relationship to God. Many of these things, of course, are
hinted at in other of the standard works. But I would say the Book of Abraham nails
it the best, and makes it the clearest, and is most easily understood.
Ann Rash: I know that there’s a lot of evidence both ways, that can go both ways. As there
is about a lot of things. Cancer research, this causes cancer, this doesn’t. And I
know that it can be confusing, but I think that what it boils down to is asking God for
yourself and praying about it and studying it out because that’s what Heavenly Father
wants us to do. Not merely for us to ask, but to study it out and to work and show him
that we really want to know. Marshall Moore: I don’t know the history
of how the Book of Abraham came into the hands of Joseph Smith. All I know is that we believe,
and I believe, that he was called to be a prophet in the latter days, and that if the
Lord wanted him to have that information and translate it and put it into Scripture for
our day, then that’s what He wanted him to do. Rachel Carlsruh: Well, I think you should
always question. I don’t think God expects us not to question. Yes, we should always
question. … because God gave us our minds for a reason and come to some conclusions
and ask him, Hey, I think this, am I right? And he does answer us, I know he does. IN THE END, THE QUESTION PERSISTS – DOES
ALL THIS REALLY MATTER? SHOULD A NON-MORMON HAVE THE RIGHT TO QUESTION THE CHURCH ON ISSUES
OF DOCTRINE OR SCHOLASTIC INTEGRITY? Dr. Richard Mouw: What Mormonism is trying
to teach us, if it were true, it’s so important that we check the truth of those claims against
the historical documents that are the basis for those claims.
Dr. Craig Blomberg: Central to Mormonism’s religious claims is the claim that Joseph
Smith was a true prophet of God. If that follows, then everything he says must be true. If that
falls then nothing that he says necessarily is true. Dr. Richard Mouw: Now that the veracity of
his claims about what those documents say is widely questioned even within the Mormon
community, we have legitimate questions to raise with Mormon scholars about their new
spin about what was going on with the Book of Abraham.
IN THE FACE OF THIS MOUNTAIN OF EVIDENCE, HOW ARE FAITHFUL MORMONS TO STAND? HOW DOES
ONE RECONCILE THE WORDS OF THE PROPHET WITH THE EVIDENCE OF HISTORY? AT LEAST FOR SOME
MORMONS, THESE DISCOVERIES RAISE TROUBLESOME QUESTIONS.
Michael Marquardt: My view used to be just like the regular members of the church, that
this is a record of Abraham, just like it’s published in the Pearl of Great Price. And
when the papyri was turned over to the church in 1967 I was pretty well satisfied that this
is the actual papyrus that Joseph Smith used. The publication of it confirmed that. But
when the Egyptologists started translating it you get a different view. Brent Metcalfe: A friend of mind mentioned
to me years ago and I think there’s a tremendous amount of truth in this. Nothing will disturb
an LDS member more than finding out that Brigham Young taught the Adam-God theory, than having
some modern Mormon apostle lie about it. And so the church really doesn’t do anything,
any value for their members by sanitizing the facts of the Book of Abraham. I think
that we are in a unique position today where we have a tremendous amount of understanding,
Egyptology resources, etc., that we can go to for understanding these manuscripts. Dr. Richard Mouw: When it comes right down
to it, the real question is, are the truth claims, the claims that Mormons make about
God, about human beings and how a human being can be right with God, are those claims credible?
Are they the kind of things that we ought to bet our lives on? GARY AND SARAH WEBB LIVE IN DRAPER, UTAH WITH
THEIR TWO YOUNG CHILDREN. BOTH WERE LIFELONG MEMBERS OF THE MORMON CHURCH. GARY WAS HEADING
INTO HIS SENIOR YEAR AT BYU WHEN HE CAME TO A LIFE CHANGING CONCLUSION.
Gary Webb: I even remember the spot, when I came to the conclusion the faith of my childhood
was untrue, I remember I was outside sitting on the lawn reading the book about the Book
of Abraham and the evidence was so overwhelming, there was no place for doubt – this is anti-Mormon,
or this is something somebody fudged together. It was very clear and well documented and
even with the evidence I’d already heard with LDS Egyptologist denying Joseph Smith’s
translation it really became the final straw for me, and I realized I wasn’t going to
spend the rest of my life pretending to believe something that wasn’t true. And I realized
that I was going to have to make some changes that were not going to be easy. THOSE CHANGES WERE NOT EASY FOR THE WEBB’S,
THERE WAS CONSIDERABLE PRESSURE FROM THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR FRIENDS TO RECONSIDER THEIR
NEW CONCLUSIONS. Sarah Webb: I was just remembering it was
a really difficult time for us, but we’ve gotten past the anger and into discovering
more about the truth instead of lies we were stuck in for a while.
WHILE GARY AND SARAH HAVE LEFT THE MORMON CHURCH, THEY HAVE NOT LEFT FAITH ALTOGETHER.
Gary Webb: Sarah and I have some friends who have left the LDS church and have basically
given up any faith they had at all and any kind of belief in God. That’s kind of sad
for us because, although it’s easy to understand because once you’ve put your faith and trust
in something for so long and then find out your beliefs were not verified but rather
they’re unfounded, it can make it difficult to trust again, and that’s kind of like
throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and saying well if the LDS church isn’t
true than the Bible isn’t true and there is no Jesus Christ and no God and all these
things are not one in the same. IN 1835, JOSEPH SMITH PURCHASED SCROLLS FROM
MICHAEL H. CHANDLER. AT THE TIME NO ONE KNEW WHAT THOSE MYSTERIOUS ANCIENT EGYPTIAN SCROLLS
ACTUALLY WERE. NO ONE COULD READ THE TEXT, AND NO ONE HAD SEEN ANYTHING OF THE SORT BEFORE.
BUT JOSEPH SMITH CLAIMED THAT HE COULD READ THEM, THAT HE COULD TRANSLATE THEM. Voice of Joseph Smith: I have commenced translation
of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy have found that one of
the rolls contained the writings of Abraham …
THE EVIDENCE AGAINST THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE BOOK
OF ABRAHAM CAN NOT HELP BUT RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT JOSEPH SMITH’S OTHER TRANSLATIONS,
SUCH AS THE MORE FOUNDATIONAL BOOK OF MORMON. FOR SOME, SINCE JOSEPH’S TRANSLATION OF
THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM, WHICH CAN BE TESTED, HAS BEEN FOUND TO LACK CREDIBILITY, THEN HOW
CAN WE ACCEPT HIS TRANSLATON OF THE BOOK OF MORMON, WHICH CANNOT BE TESTED? SCHOLARS HAVE
NEVER HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO EXAMINE THOSE ORIGINALS. AND SINCE THE GOLDEN PLATES WERE
RETURNED TO THE ANGEL MORONI, APPARENTLY, THEY NEVER WILL.

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