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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Book of Abraham has a fascinating history. For example, Joseph Smith charged visitors to see four mummies he purchased with the scrolls of Abraham. The topic also raises a number of questions, such as whether the Egyptian manuscripts catalyzed Joseph’s Smith’s revelatory process.
Let’s Talk About the Book of Abraham is an easy-to-read summary of the important gospel topic. In this interview, Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein looks at the history of Abraham’s book, discusses the facsimiles, and weighs the limitations of current theories—including his own.
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw breaks down some of today’s most important questions from the Pearl of Great Price and introduces the 2020 Interpreter Foundation conference, “Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses.” He is also the author of Freemasonry and the Origins of Latter-day Saint Temple Ordinances and the lead editor of Hugh Nibley Observed.