In light of Joseph's language study, the Egyptian grammar appears as an awkward attempt to blend a scholarly approach to language with inspired translation. Like Abraham, Joseph wanted to be one who "possessed great knowledge." He began his career as a prophet by translating gold plates inscribed in "reformed Egyptian." As late as 1842, he worked on the translation of papyri from an Egyptian tomb. The allure of the ancient comes through in the revelation to Oliver Cowdery about "those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred." Beyond the Book of Mormon people, other Israelites had kept records that would flow together in the last days. The sealed portion of the gold plates was yet to be revealed, and revelations to sundry others had generated caches of records, all part of the Lord's work, all to be recovered in time. Translation gave him access to the peoples of antiquity.
Full of wonders as it was, the Book of Abraham complicated the problem of regularizing Mormon doctrine. The Doctrine and Covenants was meant to stabilize Mormon beliefs, but in the very year of its publication, the papyri rode into Kirtland in Michael Chandler's wagon, bringing news of Abraham from the tombs of Egypt. Every attempt to regularize belief was diffused by new revelations. Who could tell what would be revealed next--what new insight into the patriarchal past, what stories of Abraham, Moses, or Enoch, what glimpses into heaven? Joseph himself could not predict the course of Mormon doctrine. All he could say he summed up in a later article of faith: "We believe all that God has revealed, all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God."
Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 290-293