Book of Abraham

I would like to hear from LDS who have done some study into the origins of The Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith claimed in his journals that he translated it from the Egyptian papyri scrolls he purchased from a traveling salesman. Those scrolls were lost until 1967 when they were rediscovered in a museum. Egyptologists translated those rediscovered scrolls and revealed they have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with Abraham or anything in the BoA. Some LDS have argued that the rediscovered scrolls were not the same ones Joseph used to translate the BoA, saying the original scrolls are still lost, but we do know for certain that the facsimiles on the rediscovered scrolls are the same ones in the BoA because they are identical. Egyptologists also translated the facsimiles and concluded that Joseph Smith got those completely wrong as well. In other words, he had no ability to read ancient Egyptian pictographs. These facsimiles are still included in the cannon of LDS scripture today even though we know with 100% certainty that Joseph Smith’s translation of them are entirely incorrect. It is also known that in Joseph Smith’s day no one in America had the ability to translate ancient Egyptian.

How do LDS deal with this controversy and reconcile the fact that at the very least the translation of the facsimiles in the BoA are entirely false, yet still included as part of scripture? Why have those facsimiles not been removed?

It also seems highly unlikely that the rediscovered scrolls on which the facsimiles appear are not the very same scrolls Joseph used to translate the BoA given the fact the facsimiles on the rediscovered scrolls are the same ones in the BoA. Why would Joseph include facsimiles from some other scroll that had nothing to do with the BoA? It seems much more likely that the rediscovered scrolls are in fact the originals.

Finally, given the fact that Joseph Smith mistranslated the facsimiles, why would anyone believe he was capable of translating ancient Egyptian writing as he claimed he did?

Well, I’m not Mormon, but… my wife is and I used to be. However, I was only Mormon for about 13 months (20 years back) and never really heard anything about the Book of Abraham at the time. It wasn’t much discussed or studied, out of embarrassment perhaps. I recently met with my wife’s bishop (a decidedly unpleasant encounter for another thread) and I brought up the Book of Abraham controversies. The dialogue went basically like this:

BISHOP: Well, we don’t really emphasize the Book of Abraham these days.

ME: But you still consider it scripture. And if we can see that Joseph Smith likely falsified the Book of Abraham translation, then that casts doubt on the Book of Mormon translation as well, which in turn undermines the entire Mormon religion. The Book of Abraham false translation is the smoking gun of Joseph Smith’s fraud.

BISHOP: We don’t know that Book of Abraham translation is false.

ME: But every Egyptian scholar agrees that there’s no correlation between the papyrus and Joseph Smith’s supposed translation.

BISHOP: Oh, these experts change their minds all the time. One decade they think one thing and the next decade they think another.

ME: That may be true in some fields, but not in linguistics. It’s not like there’s new discoveries happening in the ancient Greek language that fundamentally changes the meaning of Plato’s Republic. Ancient languages… that’s a fairly stable field.

WIFE (interjecting on behalf of her failing bishop): But Joseph Smith was “inspired” to write the Book of Abraham by God. Why is that so hard to believe? Don’t you believe that Luke was inspired by God to write his Gospel?

ME: But the difference is that Luke didn’t take a New York City phone book and “pretend” that he was translating it into the Gospel According to Luke.

So anyway, that’s some idea of how Mormons view the Book of Abraham controversy. It’s a bunch of ancient Egyptian pictures that God used to inspire Joseph Smith to write his scripture with. If the golden plates were suddenly uncovered and similiarly revealed to be bogus translations, I’m certain that Mormons would use this same fool-proof defense.

A sinner,
Jamin B

Hey Chris-WA,

I am not Mormon but I read a newspaper article from the Associated Press about this. Here’s a couple of quotes from that article which showed up in my local paper on July 18. (The article said that these quotes are taken from an essay put out by the LDS church on this topic).

Concerning God and Joseph Smith:

“They catalyzed a process whereby God gave to Joseph Smith a revelation about the life of Abraham, even if that revelation did not directly correlate to the characters on the papyri.”

“The Lord did not require Joseph Smith to have knowledge of Egyptian. By the gift and power of God, Joseph received knowledge about the life and teachings of Abraham.”

Interestingly, in the introduction to the Book of Abraham it reads : “Translated from the papyrus, by Joseph Smith. A Translation of some ancient records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.”

Here is a link to the essay recently released by the LDS church on their website.

LDS church leadership is moving towards the idea that the papyri were the catalyst for the revelation of the Book of Abraham while moving away from Joseph translating papyri that where written by the actual hand of Abraham. This is, of course, denying what Joseph Smith clearly taught about the BOA, much like the LDS church denying what Joseph Smith said about Cumorah. If Joseph Smith was wrong about Cumorah and the BOA, what else was he wrong about?

The LDS church cannot get away with decononizing the Book of Abraham because many of their unique doctrines come straight from from the BOA (pre-mortal existence, plan of salvation, etc). They are in a real pickle.

If the BOA papyri are a catalyst for anything, they are a catalyst for the disaffection of Mormons who are “leaving in droves”, as per Marlin K. Jensen.

Ahh, the BOA. Don’t waste your time with trying to understand it or Mormonism. There are just as many reasons for it as there are versions for smiths first vision. Mormonism is ever changing. The best we can do is pray for their conversion. :slight_smile:

Sounds like the bishop knows the church is in trouble about the BoA. If anything he should be defending it just like he would defend the Book of Mormon or the D&C. Now they don’t really emphasize the Book of Abraham anymore? What the heck is that supposed to mean?

By the way, how close is your wife to leaving the Mormon church?

Just amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately for LDS that would say Joseph didn’t really translate the BoA from the papyri scrolls, all LDS historical records on the subject say the opposite. Joseph Smith himself, and other witnesses, leave no doubt that the BoA was** translated from the scrolls**. I don’t know how the church leadership today thinks they can get away with making up this new explanation.

Good luck on that one. It has been tried before, recently, in fact, without a single response.


Well, many LDS have spent consider effort on these forums defending various aspects of the Mormon faith. Perhaps the absence of any defence of the Book of Abraham indicates they know there are serious problems with the book.

Oh yes, they know. They know so well that the LDS leaders are beginning to teach that problems with the BoA are not troubling because “our faith does not stand or fall on the Book of Abraham”.

Doesn’t it? If the BoA is admittedly less than what Joseph Smith testified that it is then it casts serious doubt on Joseph as a prophet, or even as an honest man.

It also casts even more doubt on the already shaky origin of the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s claims associated with it.

Paul (formerly LDS, now happily Catholic)

Clearly that’s not an option for them as doing so would totally destroy Joseph Smith’s credibility as a true prophet and the whole church would come down in a heap. No, they have to somehow work around the obvious and provable difficulties with the BoA. They are already doing this with their latest explanation of the BoA as arriving revelation and not translation. Truly a minefield to walk through. With the amount of information available on the web with more and more LDS looking into these issues for themselves everyday, the church leadership must know they are in deep trouble.

Sadly, she is not at all close to leaving the Mormon church. She was born and raised in it. Most of her family are Mormon. Most of her friends are Mormon. Her social life revolves around the church. Mormonism was a stabilizing force in her childhood, adolescence, and adult years. For her, to give up Mormonism would be like giving up her identity… to become an apostate, which I suppose is the worst thing you can be in Mormon eyes. I’m perfectly happy being a Mormon apostate, but the stuff that bothers me about Mormonism (the Book of Abraham false translation, Joseph Smith’s polyandry, Brigham Young’s bigotry, etc.) doesn’t seem to bother her at all. While I don’t see her ever leaving Mormonism for mere Christianity, I also don’t want to underestimate the power of the holy spirit. Stranger things have happened.

However, I will say that my wife does seem to have a good deal of respect for Catholicism. She’s joined me at Mass, made most of her way through Catholicism for Dummies, and tolerates me listening to Catholic Answers podcasts during our long drives. Truth be told, I could probably do well to follow her example and try to show more respect for her faith… but it’s a struggle because while I do respect certain Mormons, I don’t have much respect for Mormonism.


I was raised LDS (multi-generational, going way back to BY) and in the exact same boat as you as regards my wife’s approach to her Mormonism. She acknowledges all of the problems but doesn’t care. I often fall into periods of dark despair and hopelessness. I need to follow your example better when you say “I also don’t want to underestimate the power of the holy spirit”.

They aren’t going to de-canonize anything. The official stance is that it doesn’t matter what the original papyri actually means. What matters is Joseph’s spiritual message which the papyri inspired. Problem solved. :rolleyes:

So the LDS Church is claiming that what JSmith taught and claimed was not true.

Pretty much. So what else was Joseph not entirely truthful about? :hmmm: His first vision? His prophetic mission? The Book of Mormon? Polygamy? :hmmm:

I see it as a way of saying, without using these words, that Smith had no credibility when he claimed the way he translated the papyri, really wasnt the way the BoA came about…


None of it matters. The only thing that matters is what one feels in his heart. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

It’s like the little boy on South Park said, “you mean Mormons know about this stuff and they still believe?”

What they are saying is that because the text of the BOA doesn’t match what is on the papyri that it, the text, must have come some other way and that way was by revelation from God. I guess if you really stretched it you might say there is a small chance that could have happened. They also said that the word translate had a different meaning in Smiths day. I suppose they are saying that it meant revelation. What’s interesting about that is they don’t have a problem saying Smith “translated” from gold plates the Book of Mormon. Another of the hundreds of contradictions that is Mormonism. The real nail in the coffin of the BOA is that Smith included with the text, three facsimiles from the papyri. He included in the BOA an explanation of the characters that were on these facsimiles and Egyptologists say his explanations are all wrong. I wonder why they failed to mention anything about the facsimiles in their BOA article. Oh, I forgot about “lying for the Lord” an important Mormon policy. :confused:

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