Mormonism and Eternal Truth

Truth is not only
violated by falsehood;
it may be equally
outraged by silence.
(Henri-Frederic Amiel)



In July, 1835 a man named Michael Chandler was exhibiting Egyptian mummies in Kirtland, Ohio. Inside their coffins were papyri inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphics, which at that time were indecipherable. Joseph Smith declared that one of these scrolls contained the writings of Abraham and another the writings of Joseph of Egypt. On the strength of this the LDS purchased the exhibit (History of the Church, Vol. 2:236).

Smith completed his ‘translation’ of the Book of Abraham. Some time later the LDS lost trace of the papyri and it was presumed that they had been destroyed in a fire in Chicago in 1871.

In October, 1880 the Book of Abraham was canonized by the LDS and included in the Pearl of Great Price.

During the spring of 1966, Dr. Aziz S. Atiya came across some Egyptian papyri in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. There were no doubts about their being those used by Joseph Smith. Firstly there was a statement with them signed by Emma Smith Bidamon to the effect that she was the former wife of Joseph Smith. (After his death Emma had married Lewis Bidamon on 23rd December, 1847 in Nauvoo.) Secondly they had been glued on to stiff backing paper of nineteenth century vintage. And on the backs were drawings of a temple and maps of the Kirtland, Ohio area. Thirdly they were positively identified by the LDS as being the papyri used by Smith in his translation of the Book of Abraham. On the 27th November, 1967 they were handed over to the LDS church in a public ceremony. The story was covered by The Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

In the interim scholars had completed their work on the Rosetta stone discovered in 1799 and another stele that had come to light in 1866. As a result Egyptian hieroglyphics could be translated by any of the major universities of the world. The LDS felt that at long last they would be able to prove to the world that their Book of Abraham was genuine scripture.


Thomas Ferguson was a devout defender of the Mormon faith. Because of his legal training he felt that an investigation of the papyri would be more objective and impartial if the experts weren’t aware of their connection with the LDS. So he obtained photos of them from Hugh B. Brown, first counselor in the LDS First Presidency. Then in his private capacity he took them to Henry L. F. Lutz, Emeritus Professor of Egyptology at the University of California in Berkeley. Lutz identified them as funeral scripts that had been used by Egyptian idolaters during a far later period than that of the Book of Abraham.


Every single specialist in Egyptology who has viewed Joseph Smith’s work has declared his translation to be fraudulent. They unanimously agree that the papyri are nothing more than well known pagan burial scripts. Here are some of their remarks:

“… What he calls the ‘Book of Abraham’ is an Egyptian funeral text, probably not older than the Greek ages.” (Dr. Friedrich Freiheer Von Bissing, Professor of Egyptology, University of Munich)

“It is difficult to deal seriously with Joseph Smith’s impudent fraud.” (Dr. A. H. Sayce, Oxford, England)

“I have examined the illustrations given in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’. In the first place, they are copies (very badly done) of well known Egyptian subjects of which I have dozens of examples. Secondly, they are all many centuries later than Abraham.” (Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie, London University)

“Joseph Smith’s interpretation of them as part of a unique revelation through Abraham, therefore, very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization.” (James H. Breasted, Ph.D., Haskell Oriental Museum, University of Chicago)

“The Egyptian papyrus which Smith declared to be the Book of Abraham, and ‘translated’ or explained in his fantastical way, and of which three specimens are published in the ‘Pearl of Great Price’, are parts of the well known ‘Book of the Dead’. Although the reproductions are very bad, one can easily recognize familiar scenes from this book.” (Dr. Edward Meyer, University of Berlin)

“The Book of Abraham, it is hardly necessary to say, is a pure fabrication.” (Dr. Arthur C. Mace, Assist. Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y.)

“ … the explanatory notes to his facsimiles cannot be taken seriously by any scholar, as they seem to be undoubtedly the work of pure imagination.” (Rev. Prof. C. A. B. Mercer, Ph.D., Western Theological Seminary, Custodian Hibbard Collection, Egyptian Reproductions.

According to Klaus Baer, Associate Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute the LDS’s papyrus was about a deceased man, Hor, who had been named after the Egyptian god Horus.


The LDS could not refute these findings. So they insisted that the rediscovered papyri could not have been those that had been used by their prophet. But the characters inscribed on them matched those in Smith’s translation dictionary. And the same drawings that are on the papyri are displayed in the Book of Abraham (although Smith’s explanations of what they represent are incorrect.)

Regardless of their excuses, the Hebrew nation guarded their scriptures jealously. If this supposed scripture had existed it’s hardly likely that they would have lost it or have neglected to include it in their biblical record. Furthermore, idolatrous Egyptians wouldn’t even have considered placing copies of Hebrew scriptures in their coffins. They meticulously followed their own entrenched pagan practices when it came to entombing their dead.

For a deeper study on this subject, Charles M. Larson’s book By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus is available for free on the Internet in PDF. Egyptology and the Book of Abraham by Stephen E. Thompson can also be downloaded for free from http://www.mormonthink.com/backup/boadialogue.pdf

The following link leads to an article that discusses the circumstances surrounding the publication of the Book of Mormon:

The Book of Mormon Deception

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Copyright © 2013 by Yvonne Gibbs. All rights reserved.

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