I want to say to you, read the book, the Pearl of Great Price, and read the Book of Abraham. The Pearl of Great Price I hold to be one of the most intelligent, one of the most religious books that the world has ever had; but more than that, to me the Pearl of Great Price is true in its name. It contains an ideal of life that is higher and grander and more glorious than I think is found in the pages of any other book unless it be the Holy Bible. It behooves us to read these things, understand them: and I thank God when they are attacked, because it brings to me, after a study and thought, back to the fact that what God has given He has given, and He has nothing to retract." - Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report (April 1913), 74

"...it must be evident to all who seriously consider the matter, that if the Book of Abraham as given to us by Joseph Smith be true, it must have been translated by a greater than human power." - George Reynolds, The Book of Abraham: Its Authenticity Established as a Divine and Ancient Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1879), 4

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Book of Abraham "A Most Remarkable Book"

The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research ("FAIR") has recently produced a 70 minute DVD regarding the Book of Abraham (written and directed by Tyler Livingston, and edited by JD Julander).  The DVD also contains 30 minutes of bonus features. 

Per FAIR: "The Book of Abraham is considered a volume of holy scripture by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It has been a source of inspiration and edification for its readers for many generations. However, critics of the LDS Church have relentlessly attacked the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and the credibility of Joseph Smith as an inspired prophet and translator. This video produced by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) addresses some of these criticisms and puts forth evidence for the divine authenticity of this most remarkable book."

Purchase the DVD for $12.99 (tax included) here.

Edit: Now available online (full length + bonus features):

Young Woman's Journal - Book of Abraham History

In a serial article published in the Young Woman's Journal by the Guide Department, entitled "The Story of the Restoration," the history of the Book of Abraham, as it was then understood, was recorded as the twelfth installment of this history, under the title "Sacred Writings of Old."  This article was published in the 21st volume of the Young Woman's Journal, Issue number 12, in December 1910.


Astronomy of Abraham - Andrew Jensen

On January 16, 1891, Andrew Jensen delivered a lecture to the 'Student's Society' in the Social Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. His discourse focused on different aspects of Joseph Smith's prophetic calling.  This lecture was published the same year in The Deseret Weekly and also in the Millennial Star in several installments. A portion of his lecture relating to modern astronomy and elements of astronomy discussed in the Book of Abraham was published in The Deseret Weekly 42/12 (March 14, 1891): 355-356, and Millennial Star 53/16 (April 20, 1891): 241-242. Both extracts are provided below.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Apocalypse of Abraham - G.H. Box 1918

The following translation and commentary on The Apocalypse of Abraham was provided by G.H. Box, in 1918. The original text was probably written in Hebrew or Aramaic, from which a Greek version was made. The following translation is from a Slavonic text which was based on the Greek version. Box believes the date of the original composition to be the end of the first century, or beginning of the second century A.D. The date of the Slavonic text is probably from the fourteenth century A.D. I've included his comments as well as the translation to provide a greater context regarding the translation of the text.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Testament of Abraham

The following translation was published in the ninth volume of the Ante-Nicene Fathers in 1896, and was translated by W.A. Craigie, M.A., B.A..  Latter-day Saint scholars such as Hugh Nibley, Michael Rhodes, Kerry Muhlestein, Larry Morris, Brian Hauglid, Jared Ludlow, and others have noted parallels between The Testament of Abraham and The Book of Abraham - see here


Monday, August 15, 2011

BYU Academic Review - N.L. Nelson - 1885

Nels Lars (N.L.) Nelson was a professor of English at Brigham Young University. Graduating from the Brigham Young Academy in 1882, he was subsequently placed in charge of the intermediate department until serving for two years in the Southern States Mission from 1885 to 1887. Following his return, he taught full-time at the school until 1920. The following article on the Book of Abraham was published in the March 1885 issue of the school's periodical, The Academic Review.1


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Times and Seasons - John Taylor - 1843

The following comments were published by John Taylor, Apostle and Editor of the Times and Seasons, in the February 1843 issue of the LDS periodical. This issue included a notice from Elder Taylor that "further extracts" (subsequent to Abraham 5:21) would be forthcoming. Unfortunately, this is the last reference to the Book of Abraham in the Times and Seasons as there was no additional publication of scriptures from the Book of Abraham.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pearl of Great Price as Canon - Salt Lake Tribune - Oct 11, 1880

During the 1880 October Session of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in connection with certain revelations being added to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price was also sustained by the conference as "revelations from God," and was implicitly sustained as one of the standard or canonical works recognized by the Church as scripture. The following excerpt relating to this sustaining is extracted from page four of the October 11, 1880 issue of the Salt Lake Tribune.  A full copy of this page of the paper can be seen here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Parley P. Pratt on The Book of Abraham

The following comments were published by Parley Pratt, Apostle and Editor of the Millennial Star, in the 1842 issue of the LDS periodical, as a preface to the publication of the Book of Abraham. Elder Pratt's comments provides some of the history of the finding of the papyri and mummies that the Church purchased in 1835.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Apocalypse of Abraham

The following translation of the Apocalypse of Abraham, from the Romanian text, by Dr. Moses Gaster, was published in the Transactions of The Society of Biblical Archaeology in 1893.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ulterior Motives of Reverend Franklin S. Spalding

Reverend Franklin S. Spalding1

Almost 100 years ago, Reverend Franklin Spencer Spalding, an Episcopalian Bishop in Utah, published a 36 page booklet that was circulated amongst LDS officials, college professors, high school teachers, and students.2 The pamphlet was meant to discredit the Book of Mormon by illustrating that Joseph Smith's ability to translate the facsimiles contained in the Book of Abraham could not hold up to the scrutiny of Egyptologists. If Reverend Spalding could successfully illustrate that Joseph did not translate Egyptian accurately, then it may be inferred that his translation of the Book of Mormon should not only be called into question, but dismissed altogether. Apparently it did not occur to Reverend Spalding that the success of his experiment was dependent on some logical fallacies, a subject that will be addressed in a later posting; nevertheless, Spalding's efforts elicited quite a response in relation to some potentially serious implications for the Book of Abraham.

Friday, January 7, 2011

RC Webb - The Case Against Mormonism

Despite its foreboding title, Robert Charles Webb's book The Case Against Mormonism, is an apologetic work defending Mormonism against the common anti-Mormon arguments prevalent at the time it was published. Webb himself was not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but was favorable to their cause.1 The book was published in 1915 in New York, and came mostly as a response to Reverend Henry C. Sheldon, a Professor at Boston University, who had written a book entitled A Fourfold Test of Mormonism.2 Sheldon briefly discusses the Book of Abraham facsimiles and the responses of Egyptologists consulted by Reverend Franklin S. Spalding, and previously by Jules Remy. Webb's book briefly addresses these particular issues, as well as Sheldon's approach. This portion of Webb's book is included below.3

1 'Robert Charles Webb' was a pseudonym for James Edward Homans.  Homans was a Harvard graduate who had studied at the Harvard Divinity School.  He was an Episcopalian and was a writer by profession. He was friendly towards the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and had published articles and books relating to Mormonism previous to this publication, and subsequent thereto; see Kevin Barney, "Robert C. Webb," By Common Consent; also see Sidney B. Sperry, "The Story of Research on The Pearl of Great Price," in Pearl of Great Price Conference, December 10, 1960, ed. James R. Clark (Provo, UT: Department of Extension Publications, Adult Education and Extension Services, Brigham Young University, 1964), 6-11; additionally, see James E. Talmage Diary, dated December 1, 1915 (typescript in my possession):  "About noon I received a call, as per prior arrangements, from James E. Homans.  We lunched together and spent some time in the discussion of the work on which Mr. Homans has been for some time engaged, the preparation of articles and books on subjects relating to Mormonism.  Mr. Homans delivered to me today a copy of a 157 page work entitled "The Case Against Mormonism" by himself.  Instead of his own name he uses on the title page the pen-name, Robert C. Webb, under which he has written in this particular field of literature. The book is a reply to a little work which appeared somewhat over a year ago, entitled, "A Fourfold Test of Mormonsim" by Prof. Henry C. Sheldon, of Boston University.  The Webb's [sic] reply is published by L.L. Walton of the Sturgis and Walton Company. In company with Mr. Homans I visited the offices of Sturgis and Walton, and ordered five hundred copies of "The Case Against Mormonism" to be shipped at once to the office of the Deseret News, Salt Lake City."
2 Henry Clay Sheldon, A Fourfold Test of Mormonism (New York: Abindgon Press, 1914), 23-25
3 Henry C. Sheldon's book is not included in the Documents on this blog because there is no original insights produced in his writing; he simply summarizes Remy's findings, which is available here; and Spalding's findings, which is available here.

Theodule Deveria - Memoires et Fragments

In 1855, Jules Remy (a Frenchman) and Julius Brenchley (an Englishmen) visited Salt Lake City.  Upon their return home they presented to Theodule Deveria "drawings which we borrowed from the Mormons [the Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham]" with a request that he would translate them from Egyptian into French. Deveria obliged, and his translation made in 1859 was subsequently published in 1860 by Jules Remy in his book Voyage Au Pays Des Mormons.1 

At the time of translation, Deveria was a young Egyptologist working in the Louvre Museum. He first took an interest in Egyptology at the age of seventeen and subsequently obtained an education from the College of France. In 1850 he performed some Egyptian translations for the Sevres Museum (Paris, France), and in 1851 he began working in the print room in the National Library. In 1855, Deveria began work at the Louvre Museum in Paris, and five years later he was appointed as Assistant Curator of the Egyptian Museum (at the Louvre).2 Before turning thirty years old, Deveria, described as a "young savant," provided Remy with his translation of the facsimiles.3

 Theodule Deveria4

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Messenger and Advocate - December 1835

The first published description of the acquisition of mummies and papyri by the Church from Michael Chandler, was in the LDS Church periodical Messenger and Advocate.  This publication reproduces a letter written by Oliver Cowdery to William Frye, regarding the mummies and papyrus, with some observations and speculations on the acquired materials.  The letter was published in Messenger and Advocate 2/3 (December 1835):233-237.  This letter was also reproduced, in part, in the History of the Church; however, B.H. Roberts (editor) provides this information in the first person narrative (i.e., Joseph Smith), rather than the actual author, Oliver Cowdery.The information below provides some very important details in assisting to identify the materials then owned by the Church, and adds context to understanding the papyri currently owned by the Church.


TBH Stenhouse - The Rocky Mountain Saints

Thomas Brown Holmes [T.B.H.] Stenhouse, a British convert and one time missionary companion to Lorenzo Snow, was the first Mission President over the Swiss Mission.1 While serving as Mission President, he edited a pro Latter-Day Saint periodical entitled Le Reflecteur [The Reflector], and published a book entitled Les Mormons Et Leurs Ennemis [The Mormons and Their Enemies],2 which was written for the purpose of defending the faith and exposing popular anti-Mormon arguments that were promulgated at that time. Despite these accomplishments, Stenhouse later became disaffected and apostatized from the church, and with his wife Fanny, joined the Godbeite movement.3 In 1873 he published an expose against the church, presumptuously entitled, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons.4  Within the book he devotes a chapter to the Book of Abraham, borrowing freely from Jules Remy's publication, wherein, Joseph Smith's explanations of the figures in Facsimiles 1-3 are juxtaposed with M. Theodule Deveria's transation of the same.5  This was done for the purpose of trying to prove that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian. The comparison is prefaced by a brief history of the mummies and papyri in church history.

Stenhouse's publication has become a standard for anti-Mormons who wish to attack Joseph Smith's ability to translate. His publication has frequently been employed by Joseph's critics over the past 130+ years, although the translation comparison never receives attention past the surface level differences. A response to Stenhouse's publication, which had a much broader dissemination than Remy's book, was provided by Elder George Reynolds, a Seventy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Reynolds was the first person to attempt to understand the meaning of the Egyptian explanations for the purpose of identifying similarities between Egyptian beliefs and Joseph Smith's explanations of the Facsimiles. Reynolds also discusses other historical issues in connection with the Book of Abraham, offering a scholarly approach to defending the authenticity of that book of scripture. His response was published serially in the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star, beginning in 1879, and also published that same year in booklet form, in Salt Lake City, Utah. In this sense, Reynolds was the first apologist for The Book of Abraham.