Mormons in the Vatican Library

I’ve posted about the Vatican Library’s exciting digitization project (here), but I found more information from the Mormons involved.

“Two weeks, eighty manuscripts, and a lot of gelato” - BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship

I’m thrilled to be in the Vatican Library with Daniel Becerra and Luke Drake, two of the Maxwell Institute’s Nibley Fellows who are PhD students of ancient Christian and Mediterranean religion. We’re currently working to preserve some of the oldest Syriac manuscripts in existence as part of a joint BYU-Vatican Library project.


Of the ten thousand Syriac manuscripts that are thought to survive, just fifty-one are dated before 600 A.D., and we’re currently working with ten of them! (Here’s the complete list). Ten beautiful vellum manuscripts written in a script that’s as clear today as when it was written nearly 1500 years ago.


We’re also working with some completely unique manuscripts from the Vatican collections, such as Vatican Syriac 110, which contains the only copy of a fourth century commentary on Genesis and Exodus

Ever since I inherited a few old (not relatively speaking here, they were only like 100 years old) books from my father and grandfather, I’ve had a bug for old books. I remember facing my anxiety that I’d ruin the books and looking through them. I remember the sense of panic as the binding of one of the books cracked as I turned to different sections.

Whenever I hear someone is preserving old stuff electronically, and I’ll be able to flip through the pages online without damaging anything, I get a little excited. Even though I don’t speak the languages being handled in this link, I can still appreciate the artwork, penmanship, look of the pages. Maybe someday someone will translate them into English.

Anyway, this article had to do with both mormons and Catholics, working together in a scholarly pursuit, so I thought I’d share.

Thanks NT. :slight_smile:

I too have a developing appreciation for any/all things of antiquity. Very fascinating!!!

Very detailed and labor intensive work, too. preserving history.

No kidding Marie. I went to a presentation given by Professor Donald Parry, a mormon guy who had been on the International Team of Translators for the Dead Sea Scrolls since 1994. He walked us through the process, which was fascinating. Every time someone proposes physically moving or touching the scrolls, every detail is carefully measured, planned out, scrutinized, argued over, and authorized.

If you’re going to work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, you start by forming agreements between the groups (colleges, scientific organizations, museums, foundations, project funders, and governments) involved. What portion of the scrolls will you work on, where will the work be done, timeframe, goals, etc. Then you figure out how to safely transport the scrolls. Then the scrolls spend 2-3 days in a special humid environmental chamber where the water content of the scrolls is raised to the point where they can be handled and unrolled without damaging them. Then you suit/mask/glove up, and handle the scrolls with special tools. You do your work, then they go back into the chamber to restore the conditions best suited for preservation.

Or, I can point a browser here, and play around with them on my laptop while sitting in my bed at midnight covered with a sheet.

So happy the Vatican Library is digitizing everything. So excited to have professional mormon scholars being a part of this important effort.

Did I mention I get excited about stuff like this? :smiley:

Thanks for the link!..

When I get pulled into this kind of fascinating scholarship, I find that my faith goes thru a transformation where both my intellect/critical thinking skills/study can reside side by side with my faith…

Thanks again for the link. Going there now… :smiley:

I’m gravely disappointed in this thread. Reports in the Wall Street Journal have been quite clear that the subcontractor performing the main phase digitization is a Japanese specialty house, not the LDS church. Follow link:

Certainly, a memo of understanding was signed last November for a very, very small project involving Syriac language manuscripts, see this link:

But the digitization will be done by the Vatican, not the Maxwell Institute. Some individuals who work for the prime Japanese contractor may be LDS. But, in all charity, let’s not spread the rumor that the Vatican Library opened its doors to Mormon microfilming.

Thank you for this. I thought it sounded fishy that the Vatican would entrust such a sacred project to those who have branded It “the whore of all the earth”.


Too bad the article requires a WSJ subscription. I would have liked to read it.

The only thing I got from the Mormon sourced articles is that a couple of Mormon students from BYU were assisting with the meta data for limited, and select, archive material. The type of things interns do for an archive digitization project. :slight_smile: Valuable to the project, sure, but not the center of it.

Article was published April 3rd to 13th in numerous world newspapers. Sorry the WSJ link didn’t work for you. Here are some others, same story…maybe one of these will be OK.

Thank you. :slight_smile:

Nice. I thank you as well. I had the same problem as Rebecca; though for me it is just that I am too cheap to pay the subscription fee. :smiley:


Good for the clarification. I remember the article by a Mormon a few years ago stating their great disappointment the Church began blocking them from getting sacred records of priests and religious going back a thousand years so they could not baptize them.

I remember a Mormon spending alot of time debating and gleaning information here at CAF, then showing us his webpage invalidating every point of the Eucharist…with our help.

I also remember the jubilation that the secular mayor of Rome allowed the Mormons to build a temple in the countryside of Rome, where St. Justin the Martyr described what happens at Mass in the Roman country side.

And how the Mormons hope this temple will inspire the great awe the world has for the Vatican and its library, greatest in the world…too much competitive attitude towards Christ’s Church by the Mormons.

I found the article initially suspicious and the Church placing itself on ground to have itself violated

We’ve come to view all Mormon celebrations that are related to Catholicism with a suspicious eye. We’ve seen it is to Mormons, a sign of victory.

I don’t think that was the intent of the OP in starting the thread.

From a Catholic view, if we remove our cynicism, we have can have hope that the LDS search for Christian knowledge eventually turns the light bulb on. The one that says “hey, look what has been here all along? What great apostasy?”

A nice ideal. The cynic in me says, the documents the Vatican has preserved for so long will be subject to the usual cherry picking by Mormons, and others.

Then there is one of our priests who tells us cynicism is in opposition to the virtue of hope. Doesn’t mean we should forgo prudence.

Surely you realize that Mormons aren’t the only Christians who take a cafeteria approach to Catholicism. :slight_smile:

I’m gravely disappointed in this response and many that follow. Neurotypical’s OP clearly stated that the LDS students were only working with ten (10) of the manuscripts in that huge collection. NT never claimed that “the Vatican Library opened its doors to Mormon microfilming.”

Then there is one of our priests who tells us cynicism is in opposition to the virtue of hope. Doesn’t mean we should forgo prudence.

Prudence against what?

Where is the harm in an article where two BYU students express gratitude at being allowed to assist in a very small part of a huge and wonderful Vatican project?

I’m glad that the Catholic church is lead by individuals with more generous spirits than some of those posting here.

Thanks for that (in bold) , Rebecca.

I struggle with cynicism in general. I will remember what your priest said.

I agree. I doubt that NT’s intent was anything other than being excited at the whole process. I appreciate his sharing of the link that goes to the digital DSS.s Truly fascinating!

Cynicism continues as long as baptism of the dead continue and the LDS contine to glean all that they can from the Church instituted by Christ, so that in time it can be called the one true Church.

Sorry, that is where I am at.

I will wait and continue to pray instead. And balanced with this cynicism is belief there are those within Mormonism who will become standardized with Protestant/Trinitarian Christianity sooner than we think.

About former Mormons becoming Catholic, the big hurdle is the block of reason and academic documentation that has been shown to Mormon apologists here so many times and documentation and ancient tradition of faith in its consistency for 2000 years meaning nothing to the Mormon way of thought.

Biggest challenge for them is not to become agnostic or atheistic.

Most just walk away from Christ and never look back…

Why is it important whether the Father has a body or not? Michaelangelo painted a corporeal God the Father on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel If that’s a heresy, it hardly seems like a damning one.

I agree. :slight_smile:

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