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Book of Abraham Cornerstone Pearl of Great Price

Book of Abraham: What Have Scholars Learned?

The Book of Abraham is a volume of holy scripture translated by Joseph Smith. The text is unique because we possess some of the Egyptian papyri the Prophet may have used during his translation. However, the text on extant fragments doesn’t align with what’s found in the book—and that’s led to many debates. Ultimately, the Church says that the book’s power lies in study, prayer, and personal revelation. This article walks you through some of the latest research findings, including exclusive From the Desk interviews.

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Book of Abraham Latter-day Saint History Theology

What Is the Dispensation of the Gospel of Abraham?

The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in this final dispensation included the restoration of the Abrahamic Covenant, the renewal of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their almost limitless posterity. Those promises are set forth in the Old Testament (Genesis 13:14-16; 15:1-6; 17:1-8; 26:1-5; 28:1-4). In many ways, however, the promises are stated with greater clarity in the Book of Abraham, as contained in the Pearl of Great Price. Here Abraham is promised that if he and his posterity remain faithful to God, they will be given the gospel, the priesthood, an endless and eternal posterity, eternal life, the continuation of the family into eternity (exaltation), and a land inheritance (Abraham 2:8-11, 19). These are “the promises made to the fathers,” to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see Joseph Smith-History 1:38-39 and D&C 2; compare D&C 27:10).

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Book of Abraham Pearl of Great Price

The Foreordination of Abraham

The Book of Abraham includes an account of the foreordination of Abraham as one of God’s noble and great ones. Latter-day Saints often interpret these verses as a reference to rulers in God’s earthly church, but there are also other potential meanings. For instance, the verses may refer to divine members of God’s heavenly council. In this interview, Stephen Smoot discusses the history, theology, and ancient Egyptian context of Abraham’s foreordination.

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Book of Abraham

The Pure Language Project and the Book of Abraham

The Egyptian Language Documents (ELD) might not have been intended to aid Joseph Smith in translating the Book of Abraham. Instead, two BYU professors argue that the Egyptian Alphabet, Grammar and Alphabet, and Book of Abraham Manuscripts are associated with a “pure language project” initiated by the Prophet in 1832. In this interview, Michael MacKay and Daniel Belnap explain more and delve into the implications of their new article in the Journal of Mormon History titled “The Pure Language Project.”

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Book of Abraham Pearl of Great Price

The Ancient Owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri

It might seem unlikely that we can know anything about the ancient owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri. However, the Book of Abraham scrolls included names and genealogies indicating that the owners were ancient Egyptian priests. In this interview, Kerry Muhlestein explains what we know about these ancient Egyptians—and how their circumstances may have made them uniquely aware of extra-biblical Abrahamic traditions.

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Book of Abraham Pearl of Great Price

What Egyptian Papyri Did Joseph Smith Possess?

Witnesses recorded seeing more Joseph Smith Papyri than we currently have—and a sizeable portion perished in the Great Chicago Fire. Nonetheless, we know a great deal about the surviving records—including their potential impact on the translation of the Book of Abraham and the origins of Latter-day Saint temple rites. In this interview, Kerry Muhlestein explains what we know and don’t know about the Prophet’s Egyptian Papyri.

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Book of Abraham Pearl of Great Price

Abrahamic Legends in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism

Latter-day Saints have a unique scriptural canon because it includes accounts of Abraham in the Old Testament—and the Book of Abraham. But there are also many other extrabiblical traditions. For example, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all have unique legends about the Old Testament patriarch. In this interview, BYU’s John Gee explains that the Book of Abraham could be the genesis for later stories found outside the Bible.

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Book of Abraham Joseph Smith Pearl of Great Price

How Did Joseph Smith Translate the Book of Abraham?

Joseph Smith began his translation of the Book of Abraham in 1835. However, he left no record of the process, making it impossible to know the precise mechanics. We do know that the translation likely included a mix of secular learning and divine revelation. And we know that he revised his initial translation, even incorporating Hebrew after studying the Biblical language. In this interview, Stephen O. Smoot discusses the complexity of the Prophet’s translation and marvels at the inspired final product.

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Book of Abraham Pearl of Great Price

The Ultimate Book of Abraham Bibliography

The Book of Abraham comprises only 15 pages of printed scripture, but there are hundreds of books, periodicals, and other articles detailing its history and theology. This Book of Abraham bibliography compiled by Stephen Smoot, John Gee, Kerry Muhlestein, and John Thompson organizes some of the most important sources on topics such as the Joseph Smith papyri, the ancient world of the Egyptians, and the facsimiles found in the Pearl of Great Price.