Category Archives: Book of Abraham

Addendum #19, Gospel Topics Essay “Race and the Priesthood”

black and priesthood 1.3

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

https://www.lds.org/topics/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.

1. https://www.lds.org/topics/first-vision-accounts?lang=eng&query=first+vision

2. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/obedience-to-the-prophets?lang=eng

3. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/12/the-restoration-of-the-aaronic-and-melchizedek-priesthoods?lang=eng

4. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2013/01/great-and-marvelous-are-the-revelations-of-god?lang=eng

5. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1996/12/the-restoration-of-the-aaronic-and-melchizedek-priesthoods?lang=eng

6. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1981/04/the-joseph-smith-iii-document-and-the-keys-of-the-kingdom?lang=eng&query=reorganized

7. https://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/09/nineteenth-century-break-offs?lang=eng&query=jospeh+smith+III

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

https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng#30

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.

References

1- https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/1?lang=eng

2-https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng#30

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

https://www.lds.org/manual/the-pearl-of-great-price-student-manual/the-book-of-abraham?lang=eng

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

References:

1. https://www.lds.org/topics/translation-and-historicity-of-the-book-of-abraham