Earlier this year (July 2014), the LDS Church published another essay for its Gospel Topics section of their website. Its title is ‘Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham’. The essays have touched on a number of controversial subjects and this time around proved no different. This latest essay was yet another stab at covering up truth and making excuses for a book in their beloved canon.
The Book of Abraham found its way into the LDS scriptures in 1842, but wasn’t canonized for almost another 40 years (1880). The book has been a source of controversy from its inception based on two simple facts: it’s origin and Smith’s interpretation.
Origin of the Book of Abraham
Michael Chandler, a traveling salesman, found his way to Smith’s neck of the woods near Kirtland, OH in 1835 and for $2,400 sold Smith a mummy and some papyri his uncle, Antonio Lebelo, had discovered in a tomb while excavating ancient artifacts in Thebes.
The Church said that somehow the scrolls ended up in the possession Chandler giving readers the impression they knew nothing about the way Chandler ended up with the artifacts without giving any hint at the detailed info they have in their possession. Neither did they report that a high school teacher in Utah was fired for writing a book on the subject. See Charles M. Larson’s ‘By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus’.
When Joseph opened the scrolls the Church commented that ‘much to our joy [we] found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham’ . Their excuse for this work gives more exhaustive explanations than necessary (not a surprise there) and unashamedly extols the handiwork of their mighty prophet Joe.
The Church said that Smith claimed he had ‘no expertise in any language’ , but was called by God to speak words ‘sent from heaven’. Not missing the chance to malign God’s word, they said the Bible could only tell a story of the covenant relationship God had with Abraham during Abraham’s life, but thankfully Smith revealed this covenant began before the ‘foundation of the world’.
With that synopsis alone, we can ascertain this book holds no historical value at all yet they took the liberty to explain further;
“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.”
Not sure which non-Mormon scholars disagreed on the interpretation, suffice it to say there isn’t one single non-Mormon Egyptologist that will agree with the Church. Surprisingly, they admitted the books are funerary texts dating between the 3rd and 1st century, but along with their statement, they also qualified their position of calling it scripture;
“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…”
Those two statements pretty much sum up the book of Abraham.
The vignettes don’t mention his name, they weren’t written during Abraham’s lifetime and non-Mormon experts agree they have nothing to do with Abraham.
I can assure you that my mother isn’t going to read their essay, nor would she be able to follow along in their unending web of lies.
Unfortunately for her and other Mormons, excuses for Joe’s lies mask the real issue here. Telling people that Joe only had access to some of the papyri is misleading and spurious. Why would it be futile to assess his ability? Everyone should be put under the microscope when claiming such things as Joseph Smith did.
‘It is likely futile to assess Joseph’s ability to translate papyri when we now have only a fraction of the papyri he had in his possession… it is likely that much of the papyri accessible to Joseph when he translated the book of Abraham is not among these fragments…’
What do fragments that came up missing after Joe’s time have to do with the content he did translate and the ‘scripture’ they’ve published?
They make more excuses by stating Smith’s studies ‘may have led to a revelation about key events’ and further went on to say that throughout history people have been sacrificed and killed for not worshiping the same god the majority of a society was at the time.
We have to ask what that has to do with not translating the papyri correctly and uttering false prophecies. One more thing…
Towards the end of this essay they stated the book ‘cannot be settled by scholarly debate concerning the book’s translation and historicity…’
I’ve got a newsflash for the Church. Yes it can.
For more info on the book of Abraham, you can read our 3-part series here.