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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mémoires D’un Mormon, by Louis A. Bertrand

Memoirs Of A Mormon, written by Louis Alphonse Bertrand, was published in Paris, France, in 1862. Bertrand was a convert of John Taylor's, and assisted the future prophet in translating the Book of Mormon into French. Additionally, he was involved with the church periodical L'Etoile du Deseret [The Star of Deseret] while serving as a Mission President over France. For biographical information on Brother Betrand,1 visit here and here.

Within Bertrand's book, he discusses the two volume publication of Jules Remy's, Voyage Au Pays Des Mormons (translated into English and published in two volumes as A Journey to Great Salt Lake City), which included a translation of the Book of Abraham facsimiles, and marked the first published scholarly criticism against Joseph Smith's explanations provided for the figures in the facsimiles.  Bertrand's response to Remy and Deveria is provided below (including translation from French into English).

My thanks to Michael W. Homer for directing me to this reference, and to Griffin Cammack for providing some assistance in translating the text.

Beginning with the first full sentence in the top paragraph:

Finally the book contains serious scientific objection against the work of Joseph.  We reproduce it without being mitigated by anything.

On July 5, 1835, the founder of Mormonism bought Egyptian mummies and papyrus, which he translated a dozen pages in the Times and Seasons in 1842 under the title: The Book of Abraham. "Translation of ancient records written on papyrus, from the catacombs of Egypt, have fallen into our hands, and which appeared to be written by Abraham when he was in Egypt.  Joseph Smith translated the papyrus.  We find in The Pearl of Great Price (Liverpool, 56 pages 8vo), the English translation of the writings of Abraham, with three facsimiles of the papyrus.  Mr. Remy has submitted these facsimiles for examination to Mr. Theodule Deveria, a young Egyptologist from the Louvre Museum, who found that these papyrus contained the funerary rituals of Osiris."  His published interpretation with respect to that of Joseph Smith, differs completely.  After this appeal to science, Remy concludes triumphantly with these words: "After the revelations that we have done, if the Mormons continue to believe that their prophet did not know how to lie, they agree, at least, that the divining power of the Urim-Thummim is not infallible." 

We see that the objection is more serious.  But

now that science has spoken, who will tell us that his verdict is final?  Who will undertake to prove to us that the rules laid down by Champollion to decipher Egyptian glyphs are immutable?  We do not know by what means Joseph has studied these papyri, which he has, moreover, translated a few pages.  There is, we confess frankly, a difficulty that the future will clarify without doubt.  But it goes too fast and too far in claiming to this incident secondary and rather obscure, a Waterloo Scientific Mormonism.  This Waterloo will be accomplished when a new Oedipus has explored, and deciphered the glyphic monuments scattered on the banks of the Hudson Bay to those of La Plata, and finding the invalidation of the facts attested by the Book of Mormon.  We expect this test with full confidence, hoping to civilization and to scholars of the ancient world the time and opportunity to do it.

1 The image of Louis Bertrand is from The Improvement Era, 11/2 (Dec 1907):88


  1. I cannot thank you enough for this blog! You present some fantastic material and I sincerely hope that you will keep it up. I plan on reading every single source that you provide.

    I must admit, I am new to the Book of Abraham debate. It was just a few months ago that some friends sent me a whole slew of anti-Book of Abraham material and to be honest, my general lack of understanding on Egyptian history/religion made it hard for me to sift through it all (and I have a Master's Degree in history!). Anyway, your site is an EXCELLENT starting point and I appreciate your perspective. Thanks again! I will be listing your blog on both of mine!

  2. Thanks Brad. I'm glad others can appreciate what I am trying to do. I have a LONG ways to go, but I'm slowly making headway. Right now I'm primarily working on putting up public domain source material, and linking to copyrighted material where available online (see BoA Bibliography). Once I have all the sources available online, I plan on actually addressing specific issues.