The Lost Book of Abraham


Uploaded by aaronshaf2006 on 26.06.2007

Transcript:
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.