Category Archives: All Addenda

Results from the Knowledge of LDS Church History Survey: Joseph Smith and Polygamy section


Results from the Knowledge of LDS Church History_final


Objective: To identify the percentage of members who were already aware that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and of select details, and the prevalence of resulting psychological conflict.

Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was administered to members and former members through social media.

Results: An evenly-distributed population of active to former members participated. Seventy-one percent reported having been previously made aware of Joseph’s polygamy, with 75% reporting resulting cognitive dissonance. Only 38%, 33%, 33%, and 28%, respectively, reported being made aware of polyandry, marriage to teenagers, persuasive proposals, and marriage to the wives of other faithful members, which induced high levels of dissonance (87-91%). Activity in the church was associated with the choice to not entertain doubt (p=0.0006), but not awareness of historical facts. Non-doubting members were more likely to not complete the survey (p=0.08).

Conclusion: Prior to the recent church essays, over two-thirds of LDS church members reported that they had previously been made aware of Joseph’s polygamy by church sources. The vast majority, however, had not been informed of details invoking near-ubiquitous psychological conflict.


Addendum #50- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (11:05-11:55)

joseph smith profile 1.8

ADDENDUM:  The film’s juxtaposition of depictions of the gold plates, followed by the story of Jesus’ visit to the Nephites in 3 Nephi 11, followed by Joseph telling his family stories of ancient American civilization conveys a false understanding through an inaccurate sequence of events.  The depiction may easily be understood by viewers that Joseph translated the plates, learned the story of Jesus coming to America during translation, and then related it to his family, a sequence of events that did not occur.

As FAIR openly admits and even argues, Joseph told stories about ancient America to his family prior to his receiving the plates, as documented by his mother.  These stories were “information that he was receiving from the angel Moroni” (FAIR) and not from the text of the Book of Mormon, which had not yet been unearthed, let alone translated through the peep stone and urim and thummim.  While the film doesn’t assert that Joseph’s stories were actually from the Book of Mormon, the sequencing suggests it.  This could be remedied by simply adding the words, “Before obtaining the plates, Joseph was given knowledge by Moroni or another angel of an appearance Christ himself made… (etc.)”  Addition of this qualifying detail will prevent viewers from incorrectly understanding that Joseph told the Book of Mormon story found in 3 Nephi 11 to his family at age 17.

However, this may be problematic, given that there is no documentation that Joseph ever told the 3 Nephi 11 story to anyone in the years before obtaining the plates.  While it could be true that the information contained in 3 Nephi 11 was simply related to Joseph verbally by an angel prior to his obtaining the plates, this is not suggested by the historical text, which only documents that Joseph, “would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelings, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them.”

Since there is no documentation that Joseph related the story of 3 Nephi 11 to anyone at age 17, the film could more correctly state that Joseph related certain cultural aspects of ancient America to his family in story and not extrapolate further, unknowingly.  More concerning, though, the film actually mislead viewers in this regard, for it specifically extols the details of 3 Nephi 11 (relating the account of Jesus’ visit to the Americas with such details as the calling of apostles, invitation to the crowd to touch the marks of the nails, and the miracles Jesus’ performed among them — JOINTLY told with visual material from film “The Testaments,” which depicts the event exclusively as it is told in 3 Nephi) and immediately thereafter using the pronoun “this” to allude precisely to what Joseph allegedly told his eagerly-listening family: “Joseph could describe this as if he had spent his whole life with them.”  The pronoun in the sentence directly modifies the story of Jesus’ visit to America.

This exaggeration and misrepresentation of the documented record takes literary license and tells a history that is not documented,  This can be easily corrected by full disclosure of what is actually documented:  Joseph told stories about ancient American war, religion, animal travel, etc. to his family during the years prior to his obtaining the plates presumably from angel Moroni (the historical accuracy of certain aspects of these stories lack substantive evidence by modern investigation [FAIR]).   Further information than this, stated or implied, is admittedly unsubstantiated and should be addended for historical accuracy.

Joseph’s story need not be embellished for millions to cultivate faith in it, but such embellishment will certainly prevent many members from sustaining their faith.

The current depiction incorrectly leads viewers to the understanding that the Book of Mormon story found in 3 Nephi 11 was told to Joseph’s family directly 3 years before Joseph ever received the plates.  Furthermore, the telling of these stories confirms that many of the descriptions of ancient America later found in the text of the Book of Mormon were known to Joseph years prior to the book’s translation and publication, which is said to have occurred in a short span of a “three-month period between April and June of [1829],” (LDS.ORG) demonstrating that the cumulative understanding communicated in the book evolved or was acquired over a much longer period of time.”Amusing_recitals”_of_ancient_American_inhabitants

Addendum #49- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (10:13-10:43)

joseph smith profile 1.7ADDENDUM:  Although the film dramatizes the visit of the angel Moroni as an unprovoked and surprising event to Joseph, historical context adds substantially to one’s understanding of the event and must no longer be omitted in correlated church materials and film depictions.  FAIR acknolwedges that Joseph was not at all unfamiliar with messages of valuable relics buried in the ground and the pursuit to unearth them.  In fact, he was intimately familiar with seeking for buried treasures and had not only been minimally involved with J. Stowell in treasure seeking, but had been seeking for buried treasure with a seer stone for years, often as his principle employment.  A subset of the general population at the time believed firmly in the reality of divination, seer stones, and magical thinking, etc., so it is appropriately argued that the mindset was a not-unheard-of component of early New England history.  Often stories of such fabled treasures included treasure guardians, in the form of ghosts, devilish minions, animals, etc.  FAIR acknowledges this as foundational history and affirms that, given Joseph’s involvement with treasure seeking, that there is no way to know whether Joseph first considered Moroni (whom he initially described as being the spirit of the Almighty) as one of these treasure guardians, as a divine messenger, or both.  Regardless, as modern members of the church consider the story of Moroni’s visitation and the discovery of the golden plates, each has a right to be presented the full contextual history, without having to wade through an occult historical record alone, and to be given such context by the same trusted church organization that first introduced the story to them and sanctified it in their hearts.  Members and investigators can still choose to believe that God used Joseph as an instrument to obtain and translate the plates, but such belief should be coupled by understanding of the historical truth.  This will likely modify the current pervasive characterization of Joseph and may require mental rationalizations of history, including, for example, that his treasure digging was divine preparation for unearthing the plates, that prior encounters with fictitious treasure guardians was a heralding of the actual divine encounter with Moroni, or that those he led to believe in his magical-world capabilities of divination and seer stone use were correct to believe him and that he alone among 19th century treasure seekers actually held divine seer powers which were later necessary for translation , etc.  Omission of such detail has created generations of believers whose faith is mal-contextualized.  Modern church members have a right to inform their individual, collective, and generational decisions of faith and orthodoxy with history that is fully disclosed.

Addendum #48- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (09:03-10:10)

joseph smith profile 1.6

ADDENDUM:  Although the film dramatizes the impact that Joseph’s telling of the first vision had both personally on his relationship with one particular minister, as well as on his family with the greater community surrounding their family, as FAIR acknowledges, there is no documentation that the first vision was related to anyone until 1827, 7 years after it was said to have occurred.  While the account that Joseph related years later can be taken at face value as historical, full disclosure of this lack of parallel evidence is needed.  Additionally, numerous accounts demonstrate that Joseph’s initial treasure-seeking endeavors focused on the finding of the gold plates without any telling of the first vision and that his efforts were initially devoid of any religious intent, which later increasingly grew with time.  Members of the church can choose to have faith in the first vision and its impact on the community as related by Joseph, but the telling of the story should include the full historical record, to contextualize the account and facilitate the  choice to exercise faith and believe that the vision occurred as is claimed.

Addendum #47- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (06:18-08:00)

The first vision 1.2

ADDENDUM:  The different accounts of the first vision are of equal historical legitimacy.  The church should teach the details of each account even if they favor one over the others.  In film, it would be reasonable to create film depictions of each account.  Even if they weren’t as widely dispersed as the others, the effort to create a media library that actually reflect the other accounts would legitimate them to all members, allowing the church and its members to better know and accept its true history.  such a film wouldn’t necessarily be shown in the Legacy Theater of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building with as much fanfare, but currently no film depictions of the other accounts even exist.

Addendum #46- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (03:50-04:08)

joseph smith profile 1.5

ADDEDNUM:  The film mentions Joseph’s uncle Jesse Smith of Salem, MA, affectionately by deriving a story of a retained seashell, alluding to a time that Joseph spent with him at the seaside, years previously, after his leg operation.  The film paints Jesse as an affectionate uncle without mentioning how potently he opposed what Joseph later did.  A letter written from Jesse to Hyrum in response to a letter from Joseph Smith, Sr. is included above, demonstrating his disdain.  The film should not make reference to Jesse Smith in such an affectionate and affirming way without providing further information of his opposition to Joseph’s behavior.  The film omits at least the following details demonstrated by the letter:  Jesse’s opinion was that Joseph pretended his discoveries, that he was involved in clear foolish deception, that Joseph’s paternal grandfather was greatly afflicted by his behavior, and that he mocked the alleged use of spectacles to decipher hieroglyphics.  The church can ignore Jesse’s criticisms but should not unilaterally allude to only favorable aspects of his relationship with Joseph and his family.!/paperSummary/letterbook-2&p=65

Addendum #45- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (02:32)

joseph smith profile 1.4 (accessed 13 AUG 2014)

Addendum #44- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (01:51-01:59)

joseph smith profile 1.3 (accessed 13 AUG 2014)

Addendum #43- Full-Length Film: Joseph Smith, The Prophet of the Restoration (01:12-01:48)

joseph smith profile 1.2

FAIR references (all accessed 13 AUG 2014):

Smith family money digging 

1826 court

First vision 1827

Joseph Sr’s dream

Addendum #42- Liahona December 2008, Friend Page 10-11, Cartoon Depiction of The Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith

liahona dec 2008 1.1

See Addenda #40 and #41 for more details about the martyrdom.

Addendum #41- Primary 5, Chapter 37, Joseph and Hyrum are Martyred (Part 2)

Primary 5 Chapter 37.2

Addendum #40- Primary 5, Chapter 37- Joseph and Hyrum are Martyred

Primary 5 Chapter 37.1 (accessed 3 Aug 2014) (accessed 3 Aug 2014)

Full text: Nauvoo Expositor (accessed 3 Aug 2014)

Addendum #39- Endowed From On High, Temple Preparation Seminar, Chapter 3, Temple Work Brings Great Blessings into Our Lives

temple 1.1

Addendum #38- Children’s Songbook, Page 88, On A Golden Springtime

children's songbook 1.1

For the different accounts of the first vision, see Addendum #11

Addendum #37- Hymns, #26, Joseph Smith’s First Prayer

hymns 1.1

For the different accounts of the first vision, see Addendum #11

Addendum #36- Nursery Manual, Behold Your Little Ones, Chapter 26, I Will be Baptized and Confirmed

nursery 1.2

Addendum #35- Nursery Manual, Behold Your Little Ones, Chapter 21, Joseph Smith Saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ

nursery 1.1

For accounts of First Vision, see Addendum #11

Addendum #34- Joseph Smith History 1:56 and Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, Joseph Smith History

money-digging 1.1 (apologist view) (apologist view) (critical view)

Exact text of court record published in (numerous sources, including) Tuttle, Daniel S. “Mormons” in a Religious Encyclopedia, ed.  Philip Schaff (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883), 2:1576 [see figure above].  Re-published copy of text from Brodie, Fawn.  No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith. 1941. Appendix A is used and highlighted above because of its improved legibility.

Addendum #33- Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual, Chapter 3, Succession in the Presidency

teachings of the living prophets 1.1

Addendum #32- Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants (2nd page)

doctrine and covenants 1.3

Click to access 2009_Brigham_Youngs_Teachings_On_Adam.pdf

Addendum #31- Introduction to The Doctrine and Covenants

doctrine and covenants 1.2

Click to access scripture-comparison_eng.pdf

Addendum #30- Preach My Gospel, Chapter 3, Lesson 5, Laws and Ordinances, Priesthood and Auxiliaries

priesthood restoration 1.1

Addendum #29- Preach My Gospel, Chapter 3, Lesson 5, Laws and Ordinances, Eternal Marriage

polygamy 1.2

Addendum #28- Preach My Gospel, Chapter 3, Lesson 5, Laws and Ordinances, Callings

tithing and finances 1.1

Addendum #27- Preach My Gospel, Chapter 3, Lesson 1, The Restoration

Book of Mormon Translation 1.5

Addendum #26- Preach My Gospel, Chapter 1, What is My Purpose as a Missionary

Book of Mormon Translation 1.4

Addenda #24 and #25- Our Heritage, Chapter 9, The Expanding Church and Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Teacher Manual, Lesson 42, Continuing Revelation to Latter-day Prophets

prophets after joseph 1.1.

Addendum #16 Old Testament Gospel Teaching Manual, Chapter 19, The Reign of the Judges (both male and female)

women in the church 1.1

Addendum #12- Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, Official Declaration 2

black and priesthood 1.1

Addendum #10- Artwork: Joseph Translating the Book of Mormon, Number 2

Book of Mormon Translation 1.2



Addendum #9- Artwork: Joseph Translating the Book of Mormon, Number 1

Book of Mormon Translation 1.1

Addendum #8- Gospel Topics Essay, Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

Book of Abraham Chaper 1.1

Addendum #5- Gospel Principles, Chapter 17: The Church of Jesus Christ Today

The Church of Jesus Christ Was Taken from the Earth

  • Why was the Church of Jesus Christ removed from the earth shortly after the Savior’s death and Resurrection?

When Jesus lived on the earth, He established His Church, the only true Church. He organized His Church so the truths of the gospel could be taught to all people and the ordinances of the gospel could be administered correctly with authority. Through this organization, Christ could bring the blessings of salvation to mankind.

After the Savior ascended into heaven, men changed the ordinances and doctrines that He and His Apostles had established. Because of apostasy, there was no direct revelation from God. The true Church was no longer on the earth. Men organized different churches that claimed to be true but taught conflicting doctrines. There was much confusion and contention over religion. The Lord had foreseen these conditions of apostasy, saying there would be “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. … They shall … seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11–12).

The Lord Promised to Restore His True Church

  • What were some of the conditions in the world that prepared the way for the Restoration of the gospel?

The Savior promised to restore His Church in the latter days. He said, “I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).

For many years people lived in spiritual darkness. About 1,700 years after Christ, people were becoming more and more interested in knowing the truth about God and religion. Some of them could see that the gospel Jesus taught was no longer on the earth. Some recognized that there was no revelation and no true authority and that the Church that Christ organized did not exist on the earth. The time had arrived for the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored to the earth.

  • In what ways is the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel a “marvelous work”?

New Revelation from God

  • When Joseph Smith received his First Vision, what did he learn about God?

In the spring of 1820, one of the most important events in the history of the world occurred. The time had come for the marvelous work and wonder of which the Lord had spoken. As a young boy, Joseph Smith wanted to know which of all the churches was the true Church of Jesus Christ. He went into the woods near his home and prayed humbly and intently to his Heavenly Father, asking which church he should join. On that morning a miraculous thing happened, as recorded in four separate accounts written (at the earliest) 12 years after the event. [1]  In one of these accounts, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith.  In that account, the The Savior told him not to join any church because the true Church was not on the earth.  He also said that the creeds of present churches were “an abomination in his sight” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19; see also verses 7–18, 20). Beginning with this event, there was again direct revelation from the heavens. The Lord had chosen a new prophet. Since that time the heavens have not been closed. Revelation continues to this day through each of His chosen prophets and members are invited to seek personal revelation to confirm in their own hearts what they hear from church leaders. [2]  Joseph was to be the one to help restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Why was the First Vision one of the most important events in the history of the world?

Authority from God Was Restored

  • Why was the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods necessary?

In restoring the gospel, God again gave the priesthood to men. John the Baptist came in 1829 to confer the Aaronic Priesthood on Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery (see D&C 1327:8), as Joseph first taught 3 years later in 1832 and first included in revisions of church documents 6 years later in 1835. [3, 4] Then Peter, James, and John, the presidency of the Church in ancient times, came and gave Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the kingdom of God (see D&C 27:12–13), although the actual date was never known. [3] Later, additional keys of the priesthood were restored by heavenly messengers such as Moses, Elias, and Elijah (see D&C 110:11–16). Through the Restoration, the priesthood was returned to the earth. Those who hold this priesthood today have the authority to perform ordinances such as baptism. They also have the authority to direct the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

For teachers: Bearing testimony invites the Spirit. As part of this lesson, bear your testimony of the Restoration and give others the opportunity to do the same.

Christ’s Church Was Organized Again

  • What events led to the organization of the Church on the earth again?

On April 6, 1830, the Savior again directed the organizing of His Church on the earth (see D&C 20:1). His Church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 115:4), but was actually first named “The Church of Christ” in 1830, then was changed to “The Church of the Latter-Day Saints” in 1834, and then ultimately changed to its current name in 1838. [5] Christ is the head of His Church today, just as He was in ancient times. The Lord has said that it is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (D&C 1:30).

Joseph Smith was sustained as prophet and “first elder” of the Church (see D&C 20:2–4). Later the First Presidency was organized, and he was sustained as President. When the Church was first organized, only the framework was set up, although the ambiguity surrounding appropriate leadership after the death of Joseph Smith led to numerous factions splintering and forming separate churches. [6, 7]  That members of the church that followed Brigham Young grew into the  The organization that continued to would develop as the Church continued to grow. [7]

Addendum: There were multiple at least 4 accounts of the first vision, of which the 1838 version is most commonly cited, with significant differences and discrepancies between the accounts.  The name of the church went through multiple revisions and renamings, each of which in a context of controversy and disagreement among members of the church at each timepoint.  The Priesthood restoration documentation occurred retrospectively after many years, which emphasizes that immediately after 1829, the majority of members were not aware of its occurrence.  At the time of succession, the church splintered into multiple factions based on doctrinal differences, which has now grown into multiple smaller organizations that fall within the umbrella of the LDS movement, namely the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and others.








Addendum #4- Gospel Topic Essays, Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

The Papyri

After the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, the Egyptian artifacts remained behind. Joseph Smith’s family sold the papyri and the mummies in 1856. The papyri were divided up and sold to various parties; historians believe that most were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Ten papyrus fragments once in Joseph Smith’s possession ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.24 In 1967, the museum transferred these fragments to the Church, which subsequently published them in the Church’s magazine, the Improvement Era.25

The discovery of the papyrus fragments renewed debate about Joseph Smith’s translation. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. Joseph Smith had published the facsimiles as freestanding drawings, cut off from the hieroglyphs or hieratic characters that originally surrounded the vignettes. The discovery of the fragments meant that readers could now see the hieroglyphs and characters immediately surrounding the vignette that became facsimile 1.26

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments.27 Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.

Of course, the fragments do not have to be as old as Abraham for the book of Abraham and its illustrations to be authentic. Ancient records are often transmitted as copies or as copies of copies. The record of Abraham could have been edited or redacted by later writers much as the Book of Mormon prophet-historians Mormon and Moroni revised the writings of earlier peoples.28 Moreover, documents initially composed for one context can be repackaged for another context or purpose.29 Illustrations once connected with Abraham could have either drifted or been dislodged from their original context and reinterpreted hundreds of years later in terms of burial practices in a later period of Egyptian history. The opposite could also be true: illustrations with no clear connection to Abraham anciently could, by revelation, shed light on the life and teachings of this prophetic figure.

Some have assumed that the hieroglyphs adjacent to and surrounding facsimile 1 must be a source for the text of the book of Abraham. But this claim rests on the assumption that a vignette and its adjacent text must be associated in meaning.  The text of the Book of Abraham (chapter 1, verses 7-17 [1]) directly references facsimile 1, assisting the reader to understand the depiction of the priest of Elkenah and the various idolatrous gods.  Additionally, Joseph translated the facsimiles themselves and these were also confirmed to be an incorrect translation. [2]   In fact, it was not uncommon for ancient Egyptian vignettes to be placed some distance from their associated commentary.30

Addendum:  There is no factual way to refute that Joseph’s translation was incorrect, as confirmed by all notable Egyptologists.   Arguments that the text is unrelated to the papyri are false because the text directly references the facsimiles and the facsimiles themselves were incorrectly translated.

Meaning: From a secular perspective, the explanations provided from the church and its apologists are actual attempts at deception because they argue that adjacency of the text to the figures to which it alludes can be called into question, however, this does not negate the fact that the facsimiles are, in and of themselves, an incorrect translation, and that they are directly referenced in the text of the Book of Abraham.  From a faithful perspective, belief in the doctrines expounded in the the Book of Abraham is a personal choice and cannot be refuted historically.  Believing that the book could have been received similarly to how other revelations were received does not violate historical evidence.




Addendum #3- The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual, The Book of Abraham.

Who Is Abraham and When Did He Live?

Adam and Eve and the Fall (approximately 4000  B.C.), Enoch (approximately 3000  B.C.), Noah and the Flood (approximately 2400  B.C.), and the tower of Babel (approximately 2200  B.C.) preceded Abraham’s time. Abraham, who was born in about 2000  B.C., was the father of Isaac and the grandfather of Jacob, whose name was changed toIsrael. (See Bible Dictionary,“chronology,” 635–36.)

How Did the Church Obtain the Book of Abraham?

On 3 July 1835 a man named Michael Chandler brought four Egyptian mummies and several papyrus scrolls of ancient Egyptian writings to Kirtland, Ohio. The mummies and papyri had been discovered in Egypt several years earlier by Antonio Lebolo. Kirtland was one of many stops in the eastern United States for Chandler’s mummy exhibition. Chandler was offering the mummies and rolls of papyrus for sale and, at the urging of the Prophet Joseph Smith, several members of the Church donated money to purchase them. In a statement dated 5 July 1835, Joseph Smith, declaring the importance of these ancient Egyptian writings, recorded: “I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham. … Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth” (History of the Church, 2:236).  Use of the word “Translation” here does not denote the typical definition of changing a text from one language to another by expert knowledge.  Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham [1].

How Did the Prophet Translate the Ancient Writings?

The Prophet Joseph Smith never communicated his method of translating these records. As with all other scriptures, a testimony of the truthfulness of these writings is primarily a matter of faith. The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the book of Abraham is not found in an analysis of physical evidence nor historical background, but in prayerful consideration of its content and power.

Why Did the Prophet Joseph Smith Say He Translated the Writings of Abraham When the Manuscripts Do Not Date to Abraham’s Time?

In 1966 eleven fragments of papyri once possessed by the Prophet Joseph Smith were discovered in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. They were given to the Church and have been analyzed by scholars who date them between about 100  B.C.and A.D.  100. A common objection to the authenticity of the book of Abraham is that the manuscripts are not old enough to have been written by Abraham, who lived almost two thousand years before Christ. Joseph Smith never claimed that the papyri were autographic (written by Abraham himself), nor that they dated from the time of Abraham. It is common to refer to an author’s works as “his” writings, whether he penned them himself, dictated them to others, or others copied his writings later.

What Did the Prophet Joseph Smith Do with His Translation?

The book of Abraham was originally published a few excerpts at a time inTimes and Seasons, a Church publication, beginning in March 1842 at Nauvoo, Illinois (see Introductory Note at the beginning of the Pearl of Great Price). The Prophet Joseph Smith indicated that he would publish more of the book of Abraham later, but he was martyred before he was able to do so. Concerning the potential length of the completed translation, Oliver Cowdery once said that “volumes” would be necessary to contain it (see Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1835, 236).

In addition to hieroglyphic writings, the manuscript also contained Egyptian drawings. On 23 February 1842, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked Reuben Hedlock, a professional wood engraver and member of the Church, to prepare woodcuts of three of those drawings so they could be printed. Hedlock finished the engravings in one week, and Joseph Smith published the copies (facsimiles) along with the book of Abraham. Joseph Smith’s explanations of the drawings accompany the facsimiles.

What Happened to the Mummies and the Papyri?

After the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the four mummies and the papyri became the property of Joseph’s widowed mother, Lucy Mack Smith. At Lucy’s death in 1856, Emma Smith, the Prophet’s wife, sold the collection to Mr. A. Combs. Several theories have been offered regarding what happened subsequently to the mummies and the papyri. It appears that at least two of the mummies were burned in the great Chicago fire of 1871 (see B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. [1909–11], 2:380–382).

In the early spring of 1966, Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, a University of Utah professor, discovered several fragments of the book of Abraham papyri while doing research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. These fragments were presented to the Church by the director of the museum on 27 November 1967. The current whereabouts of the other mummies and the other portions of the papyri are unknown (see H. Donl Peterson, “Some Joseph Smith Papyri Rediscovered (1967)” inStudies in Scripture, Volume Two, 183–85).

What Is the Significance of the Book of Abraham?

The book of Abraham is an evidence of the inspired calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It came forth at a time when the study of the ancient Egyptian language and culture was just beginning. The scholars of the 1800s had scarcely begun to explore the field of Egyptology, and yet, with no formal training in ancient languages and no knowledge of ancient Egypt (except his work with the Book of Mormon), Joseph Smith began his translation of the ancient manuscripts, although translation is globally agreed to not correctly describe the record and it is now thought to have been received by some other form of revelation and not linguistic translation [1].  His knowledge and ability came through the power and gift of God, together with his own determination and faith.

The book of Abraham reveals truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ that were previously unknown to Church members of Joseph Smith’s day. It also casts a bright light upon difficult passages found in other scriptural texts.

Addendum:  The Book of Abraham cannot be considered a translation of ancient papyri.  Egyptologists agree that the published text in the Pearl of Great Price does not correctly correspond to the hieroglyphics nor the facsimiles, which are therein referenced.

Meaning: From a secular perspective, the Book of Abraham represents one of the most potent weaknesses arguing against the divine origins of Mormonism, given that a canonized document purported to be translated and widely understood as such for generations of church instruction, has now definitively been proven be incorrect.  From a faithful perspective, the significance of the Book of Abraham and the doctrines therein can still be accepted and believed as a divinely-received revelation, despite it not being a historcially-valid document.

Personal Impact:  pending




Addendum #2- Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, Chapter 35, A Mission of Saving

1. President Brigham Young guided the rescue of the Martin and Willie handcart companies.

Display the picture of the Martin handcart company. Summarize the first paragraph under “Handcart Pioneers” on page 77 of Our Heritage. Then share the following account as told by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I take you back to the general conference of October 1856. On Saturday of that conference, Franklin D. Richards and a handful of associates arrived in the valley. They had traveled from Winter Quarters with strong teams and light wagons and had been able to make good time. Brother Richards immediately sought out President Young. He reported that there were hundreds of men, women, and children scattered over the long trail. … They were in desperate trouble. Winter had come early.  After admonishment from their church leaders that God would protect their party, hundreds chose to depart Nebraska in late summer, despite their knowledge of late departure and guaranteed  unprotected travel through harsh mountain winter.  Their leaders, “Prophesied in the name of God that we should get through in safety. Were we not God’s people, and would he not protect us? Even the elements he would arrange for our good.”   Snow-laden winds were howling across the highlands. … Our people were hungry; their carts and their wagons were breaking down; their oxen dying. The people themselves were dying. All of them would perish unless they were rescued.

“I think President Young did not sleep that night. I think visions of those destitute, freezing, dying people paraded through his mind. The next morning he came to the old Tabernacle which stood on this square. He said to the people:

“‘I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak. … It is this. … Many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them. The text will be, “to get them here. …

“‘That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess. It is to save the people. …

“‘I shall call upon the Bishops this day. I shall not wait until tomorrow, nor until the next day, for 60 good mule teams and 12 or 15 wagons. I do not want to send oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in this Territory, and we must have them. Also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. …

“‘I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you. Go and bring in those people now on the plains’ (in LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen,Handcarts to Zion [1960], 120–21).

“That afternoon, food, bedding, and clothing in great quantities were assembled by the women. The next morning, horses were shod and wagons were repaired and loaded. The following morning, … 16 mule teams pulled out and headed eastward. By the end of October there were 250 teams on the road to give relief” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1996, 117–18; or Ensign, Nov. 1996, 85–86).

Point out that the Martin and Willie handcart companies had done all they could to reach the Salt Lake Valley, but they could go no farther. They needed to be rescued. Without the rescue parties, they all would have died.

Addendum:  It is important to emphasize the faith of the members of the Willie handcart companies.  Numerous party members warned of the impending winter conditions and admonished the saints to stay in Nebraska for another season.  Church leaders admonished party members to proceed onward, promising that they would be protected and safe from the elements [1].  Opposing voices were reprimanded and silenced to minimize their influence.

Meaning:  From a secular perspective,  knowing that church leaders advocated for a late summer departure and knowingly promoted the application of faith to oppose rationale fear of death and summering is extremely concerning.  While is does not refute the appropriateness of rescuing the handcart company, it does call into question the appropriateness of priesthood leader influence and to what degree rationale thought should be supplanted by faith.  From a faithful perspective, the death and morbidity of the handcart companies may be viewed as a necessary sacrifice resulting in a faith-promoting experience inspiring generations.


1. (Journal Entry August 13, 1856)


Addendum #1- Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, Chapter 1, Our Father in Heaven“

Beginning with Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the true knowledge of God has been restored in our day.

I am very grateful for the 1838 account of the first vision, in which the Father and the Son appeared to the youthful prophet and again restored to man the true knowledge of God.3

Through Joseph Smith’s First Vision, “the true knowledge of God” was restored.

It should be remembered that the entire Christian world in 1820 had lost the true doctrine concerning God. The simple truth which was understood so clearly by the apostles and saints of old had been lost in the mysteries of an apostate world. All the ancient prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ had a clear understanding that the Father and the Son were separate personages, as our scriptures so clearly teach. Through apostasy this knowledge was lost. … God had become a mystery, and both Father and Son were considered to be one unknowable effusion of spirit, without body, parts, or passions. The coming of the Father and the Son placed on the earth a divine witness who was able by knowledge to restore to the world the true nature of God.4

The 1838 account of the [first] vision of Joseph Smith made it clear that the Father and the Son are separate personages, having bodies as tangible as the body of man. It was further revealed to him that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, distinct and separate from the personalities of the Father and the Son [seeD&C 130:22]. This all-important truth staggered the world; yet, when we consider the clear expressions of holy writ, it is a most astounding and wonderful fact that man could have gone so far astray. The Savior said, “My Father is greater than I;” [John 14:28] and he invited his disciples, after his resurrection, to handle him and see that it was he, for, said he, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” [Luke 24:39.] The apostles clearly understood the distinct entities of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to which they constantly refer in their epistles; and Paul informed the Corinthians of the fact that when all things are subjected to the Father, “then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” [1 Corinthians 15:28.]

In the 1838 account of the first vision, Joseph Smith beheld the Father and the Son; therefore he could testify with personal knowledge that the scriptures were true wherein we read: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” [Genesis 1:27.] This was to be understood literally, and not in some mystical or figurative sense.5

Addendum:  There are several (at least 4) different recorded accounts of the first vision given by Joseph Smith, which contain some contradictory information.  Although the first vision occurred in 1820, the first recitation of the vision was not documented until 12 years later in 1832 [1], and subsequent version were recorded in 1835 [2], 1838 (most common) [3], and 1842[4].  The personages appearing to Joseph in these encounters are different and the significance of this is debated.  In 1832, Joseph reported that two unidentified personages appeared sequential (and not simultaneously) to him, that the second verbally referenced Jesus Christ, and that he thereafter saw many angels during the vision.  In 1835, Joseph recorded that “the Lord” appeared to him without mention of the Father.  The 1838 account is the one most commonly known and taught, and the 1842 account records the appearance of two personages of exact likeness.
Meaning:  From a secular perspective the discrepancies of accounts as well the prolonged time between when the vision occurred and when the vision was reported are problematic and suggest that the vision may have been changed over time and that is certainly less important (and perhaps unknown) in the early church than it currently taught.  From a faithful perspective, the discrepancies may be explained by the difficulty of retelling a story so many years later.  While acknowledging that historical discrepancies exist, the later emphasis of subsequent church leaders on the 1838 rendition highlights attention on the significance the Church wants members to place on God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate personages.

1-The Joseph Smith Papers.  Accessed 7/3/14.

2-The Joseph Smith Papers. Accessed 7/3/14.

3-The Joseph Smith Papers. Accessed 7/3/14.

4-The Joseph Smith Papers. Accessed 7/3/14.