Posts Tagged ‘Pearl of Great Price’
I was looking for a quote today that goes something like this: “The only beings to visit our planet are those who were once inhabitants here” (Update: Jeremy at the Seerstone provided the scripture as D&C 130:5). My search landed me on an article in the New Era from 1971 by Kent Nielsen. Like Truman Madsen who just passed away, Dr. Nielsen is an emeritus professor of philosophy from BYU. The article is entitled, “People on other worlds,” and is still fascinating although it was written almost forty years ago.
After a brief review of the basic cosmological configuration of our planetary neighbors, we are introduced to the simple math calculations used to deduce that we are not alone in our universe. There are uncountable billions and billions of stars and galaxies throughout space. If only one star in a million should have inhabitable planets, that would give us over 100,000 systems in our galaxy alone. Galaxies like ours exist in the billions. We are not the only life in this universe.
People on other worlds
Even with the advances of science in discovering planets around other suns that conceivably could harbor conditions favorable to human life, we simply have no way of knowing that there are any people out there besides us. Or do we? Latter-day Saints have known for over 170 years about the existence of people on other worlds. In fact, we also know that people from other worlds visit the earth and have been doing so for many years to deliver important messages.
Can you imagine the impact it would have upon civilization if our scientists announced that they have detected an approaching spacecraft from outer space? How would we be prepared for the visit of extra-terrestrial beings? I suspect that Latter-day Saints would take it all in stride. After all, we claim to have been the recipients of such visits for a long time. No, the visitors did not require the use of a spacecraft to reach our planet. Their method of travel is currently beyond us.
Prophets taught of other worlds
Brigham Young said, “…there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity.” The Apostle Paul knew that God had created other worlds. He wrote, “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds.” Moses and Enoch revealed more in the Pearl of Great Price:
The Lord said to Moses, “The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works.” Enoch said, “And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations…” Joseph Smith’s witness is similar.
God created countless worlds
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father— That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” What an amazing testimony! But wait, there’s more.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … he was once a man like us … God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. …If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and … God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. … And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … If Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?” Now that is deep doctrine!
Purpose of all these worlds
We don’t seem to talk much about this doctrine any more – that God was once a man as we are now. We tend to focus more on the idea that man can become like God. We are not alone in this teaching as it gives hope and motivation to many people besides Latter-day Saints who believe it. But the idea that God was once like us and passed through a period of mortality and testing is a bit much for some people to accept. President Hinckley even downplayed it in a news interview.
Nevertheless, as far as I know, it remains a basic fundamental doctrine of our church that helps to explain the purpose of life and all the potential inhabitable worlds that have been created. The worlds were created specifically to provide a home on which the posterity of the Gods could be tested and proven. Yes, we believe in multiple Gods, but limit our worship to our own Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ his son. We just do not teach about other Gods in our curriculum today.
Believed but not taught
I have often wondered about this unique way we have of doing things in our church. There are many things which we believe and are written about in historical sermons of former priesthood leaders. And yet, we do not include them in what we teach to investigators, new members, or even long-time members for that matter. However, just like the idea of a mother in heaven we do occasionally sing about our distinctive beliefs. A favorite hymn contains these words:
“If you could hie to Kolob
In the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward
With that same speed to fly,
D’ye think that you could ever,
Through all eternity,
Find out the generation
Where Gods began to be?”
We are Gods in embryo
We are of the race of Gods. We are of his species. God looks likes us. We look like him. He has two arms, two legs and a head with two eyes, two ears, a nose and a mouth. As Jesus said, “If ye have seen me, ye have seen the Father.” We are his sons and daughters and he loves us. The people who populate the other worlds out there are also his sons and daughters and look just like you and me. There are no green, bug-eyed monsters. They are also of the race of Gods.
The people who are out there are in different stages of their existence. Like us, some are passing through a temporal period. Others are living in worlds that have been celestialized and yet others inhabit a lower kingdom of glory. This process of living and dying and being resurrected has been going on forever. I can’t fathom that with my limited mortal brain but I know it is true. You and I are a part of that process of seeking to be like God and to inherit a glorious exaltation.
Space travel to the earth
Could a person from outer space ever come to visit the earth? Any Latter-day Saint knows the answer. Of course, visitors from outer space can come to earth! They’ve been doing it for many thousands of years. God and angels visited Adam. They visited prophets in the Old Testament and Apostles in the New Testament. The Book of Mormon has numerous accounts of angelic visitations and of the visit of Jesus Christ to the ancient American people. It is quite common!
In the spring of 1820, God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ visited the boy prophet Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Angels came to deliver keys of the priesthoodto Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland temple in 1836. In our temporal existence we may not be able to travel to worlds beyond out own solar system but other beings in advanced phases of existence are not so limited. When Moroni appeared to Joseph, he saw “a conduit open right up into heaven.” Awesome!
Communication from space
Scientists have been listening for communication from space for years but they have yet to hear anything to indicate intelligent life. On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are very familiar with the process of receiving messages from outer space, transmitted by means that transcend beyond the normal method of communication. This is more than a future possibility. It is a present fact! Beings from outer space have been making great efforts to communicate with us every day.
They have been sending messages that are filled with wisdom and great intelligence. These are messages that come from superior beings, who have evolved way beyond our limited mortal capacities to think and to understand. They live in dimensions that we cannot begin to fathom. But they are willing to share with us knowledge that will transform our lives if we will just listen and apply what they say. Their intelligence is far beyond ours and yet is beneficent and kind.
They are coming to visit us
What’s even more astounding to realize is that these same intelligent beings will be visiting us very soon. The millennium is simply a period of time when earthly civilization will be brought under the government of superior beings from another world who will visit earth frequently to direct our affairs. “Christ and the resurrected Saints will reign over the earth during the thousand year period. They will not probably dwell upon the earth but will visit it when they please…”
But these beings who come from outer space, or another world, will not be aliens. They will be our brethren, who have lived upon this earth in mortality. What’s more, we expect a return of portions of this earth that have been broken off in times past when cataclysmic events sheared off that portion of the earth on which they resided. First the Ten Tribes, then the City of Enoch and last the portion that contains the Garden of Eden. Don’t believe it? Look it up in our history!
Summary and conclusion
The earth has received many visitors from outer space over the years. They do not come in spaceships and they do not wear spacesuits. They come from a plane of existence that we can only dream about and not yet comprehend. These are intelligent and magnificent beings that are glorified and exalted in their appearance and in their character. They love us. We are their children and their brethren. They have come to bring us messages of great joy if we but listen.
Visions of angels and Gods from other worlds are not something that I have experienced but I know such things have occurred. The influence of these beneficent beings fills the immensity of space and dwells here among us. These Gods have given us gifts that help us communicate with them. One of these gifts is the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is real and is the means by which God reveals truth to the mind and heart of man. Of this I and millions of others are unique witnesses.
In our Institute class this evening we are studying Joseph Smith – Matthew from the Pearl of Great Price. This is the chapter that foretells many of the events of the last days. Of course, this is Joseph Smith’s inspired version or re-translation of Matthew chapter 24. The prophet made more corrections to Matthew 24 than to any other chapter in the New Testament. I think that tells us something about the importance of the contents therein.
The last days are a topic of great interest to many people of many faiths. I know this because it is a common search term used by those who find and visit my blog. It is a topic about which I am extremely interested and always have been. As more and more signs of the times are fulfilled and some to a greater measure than ever before, we desire to know when the Lord will return. We wonder how long things can continue like this.
The end of the world
For this essay, I would like to focus on verses 22 to 37 of Joseph Smith – Matthew. These are the verses that deal with the prophecies about the end of the world. The earlier verses in the chapter are about the prophesied events of the destruction of Jerusalem in the days shortly after the death of the Savior. Note that verses 22 to 37 deal with the end of the world, not the end of the earth, which is not until after the millennium is over.
The end of the world is the end of wickedness. That is prophesied to come about with the return of the Savior which will usher in the millennium. Until the Savior returns the rule of wickedness in the world will only increase and get worse. Today, the persecution of those who believe in the Savior and follow his teachings is fairly mild. However, it will increase until the disciples of Christ cry unto the Lord for relief from the wickedness.
Wickedness abounds in the last days
There are many signs of the last days which I will not consider here. For example, the house of Israel must be gathered from the four corners of the earth. The gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world. There shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. There shall be wars and rumors of wars among all nations. There shall be false Christs and false prophets that even the very elect shall be deceived.
I have written previously about the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light. I have also written about the stars falling from heaven and the powers of heaven being shaken as well as the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. The verse I want to concentrate on is this: “And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold; but he that shall not be overcome, the same shall be saved.” Iniquity is wickedness or sin.
The saints must endure iniquity
“I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of Man has said that the mother shall be against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 3:391).
“I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God of Israel, anguish and wrath and tribulation and the withdrawing of the Spirit of God from the earth await this generation, until they are visited with utter desolation. This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328).
That day is at the doors
Although some might say that the Civil War fulfilled some of the words of these prophecies, I believe that we have not yet arrived at the day when the terrible scenes portrayed in these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith will be satisfied. He says the persecution will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Was that fulfilled as the early saints were driven from Missouri and Nauvoo? I suspect that it refers to a yet future day.
We know that the gospel must be preached in all the world. Obviously, it has not yet reached China and the Middle East counties to the extent that it has in the Americas, Europe and the “Islands of the sea.” The Lord will escalate the work of spreading the gospel to those nations in these last days through miraculous means. Part of that miracle is the Internet. I am convinced that many will be converted by what they find on the web.
Summary and conclusion
There are many who are filled with doom and gloom. They predict the end of civilization as we know it any day now. The headlines scream of the impending collapse of our economic infrastructure as well as the demise of our ecological environment. Could these be the false prophets that the Lord warned us against in Joseph Smith – Matthew? I am more concerned about the love of men waxing cold and iniquity abounding than I am with the economic ruin and environmental disaster that is the hue and cry of the day.
There is not much you and I can do about the events of the world around us. What we can do something about is our own preparation for the return of the Savior and the end of the world or the destruction of the wicked. Let us treasure up the word of the Lord in our hearts and seek to live in humility and obedience to the commandments given that we may live in peace and harmony in our homes and be prepared for events of the last days.
In Institute class last night we studied Abraham chapter three. If you are not familiar with the Pearl of Great Price, this is the chapter that contains one of the most glorious and powerful doctrines of the LDS faith about our premortal or pre-earth life.
Somebody correct me if they know otherwise, but I believe we are unique among the Christian world in our belief in the purpose of life that is based on this chapter. We believe that we have always existed as intelligences, and were placed in spirit bodies before being born into mortality.
And we will prove them herewith
“Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.”
Source: Abraham 3:22-26
The purpose of life
There have been volumes written about the significance of these verses. The simple summary is that we are here on this earth as spirits within physical bodies to be tried and tested. We are here to see if we will be true to the light and truth that we received in our pre-earth life.
No, we do not believe in reincarnation. This is our first and only opportunity for mortality. We were among the noble and great ones that the Lord showed to Abraham in these verses. We are here to develop faith, which is power and to increase in intelligence, or light and truth.
We agreed to this test
“Premortality is not a relaxing doctrine. For each of us, there are choices to be made, incessant and difficult chores to be done, ironies and adversities to be experienced, time to be well spent, talents and gifts to be well employed. Just because we were chosen ‘there and then,’ surely does not mean we can be indifferent ‘here and now.’
“In fact, adequacy in the first estate may merely have ensured a stern, second estate with more duties and no immunities! Additional tutoring and suffering appears to be the pattern for the Lord’s most apt pupils. (See Mosiah 3:19; 1 Pet. 4:19.) Our existence, therefore, is a continuum matched by God’s stretching curriculum.
“Agreeing to enter this second estate, therefore, was like agreeing in advance to anesthetic—the anesthetic of forgetfulness. Doctors do not de-anesthetize a patient, in the midst of what was previously authorized, to ask him, again, if it should be continued. We agreed to come here and to undergo certain experiences under certain conditions.”
Source: Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, October 1985
The glory of God is intelligence
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
And every man who receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;
And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.
The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
Light and truth forsake that evil one.
Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.
But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.”
Summary and Conclusion
For most members of the LDS church this is not new doctrine. We grow up with this stuff, having been taught it all our lives. But for those who are not of our faith, this is new and different. I submit that it is also one of the most powerful doctrines that we offer to the world.
We know our purpose in life. We know that this life is a test. We know we are here to prove ourselves faithful and worthy of the glory that God wants bestow upon us. We prepare for the glory by learning all we can, increasing our intelligence in order to receive more light and truth.
Carol and I started to attend a Summer Institute class on the Pearl of Great Price this last week. If you haven’t attended an Institute class recently and there is one in your area, I highly recommend it. A roomful of single college age students discussing the gospel is very different from even the best Gospel Doctrine class. The discussions are livelier and the enthusiasm is almost palpable.
The instructor is a man I highly respect who seems to be well at ease in front of a classroom of forty students. He is a former Bishop and is the Senior High Counselor in our Stake. He manages his own flower growing business and has been teaching Institute part-time for many years. It could have just as easily been a sister teaching. We have some wonderful women seminary and institute teachers in our ward and stake.
The spirit was strong and the instruction was superb. Carol and I were the only “old” people in the room but we felt right at home since we are both perpetual students. There is just something special about being in an Institute class with the same kids that I serve each week as the ward clerk of the local young adult ward in our stake. I know something of the challenges they face. I pray for them each week in Bishopric meetings.
Things that I probably once knew
Even though I have seriously studied the Pearl of Great Price at least a dozen times and have taught from it in Seminary myself, I learned things I had never heard before. For example, in Moses 1:12-14, we read, “And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.”
The phrase “son of man” escaped me until it was pointed out by our instructor. Compare that to the response from Moses in verse 13: “And it came to pass that Modes looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?” Did you catch the implied differences?
What did Satan look like? He looked just like Jesus but without the glory. Somehow Satan appeared to him in a manner that Moses could see him with his natural eyes as we read in verse 14: “For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?”
How we got the Book of Moses
If you have ever looked at the first chapter of Moses, you realize that it is not found in the Bible. Chapters two through eight are similar to the first six chapters of Genesis, but have a whole lot more added for clarification. Joseph was commanded of the Lord to translate or revise the Bible. He worked on it for many years from shortly after the church was organized until just shortly before his death in 1844. The work was revelation and it was performed by a prophet of God.
I wonder why we don’t get the same kind of flack about the Book of Moses that we do with the Book of Abraham. I have written previously about how some people struggle with the Book of Abraham, getting stuck on the idea that it was not a valid translation from the papyri. I have suggested that the papyri that was used to translate the Book of Abraham has not been found. Eyewitnesses describe the original papyri and it is not the same as the recovered fragments.
That Joseph didn’t need any actual source material to reproduce lost ancient scripture is shown by Moses chapter one. Just as the work of translating the latter part of the Book of Mormon was done without the Urim and Thumim or seer stones, when Joseph started translating the Bible he did so without the aid of anything other than prayer, righteous living, a commandment from God, the exercise of the prophetic gift of revelation and acting as a seer.
Study guides are extremely helpful
As I have taught in the CES program over the years, I have just been amazed at the great material that the church has put together for the use of the volunteer instructors. We’re not really volunteers as we are asked to teach, but it is not really a calling. The manual for the Pearl of Great Price contains exceptional resources. In there you can read about two other points our instructor made the other night that I’m sure I knew at one time but had forgotten.
In verse 11 of chapter one we read that Moses was transfigured before the Lord. That word needs defining. Our instructor pointed out that the same thing happened to Joseph Smith when he was visited of the Father and the Son during the First Vision. He was transfigured. That was how he was able to endure the presence of God, just as Moses was. I am glad to see that some church manuals still quote from Mormon Doctrine, one of my favorite encyclopedic references.
“Transfiguration is a special change in appearance and nature which is wrought upon a person or thing by the power of God. This divine transformation is from a lower to a higher state; it results in a more exalted, impressive, and glorious condition. . . .By the power of the Holy Ghost many prophets have been transfigured so as to stand in the presence of God and view the visions of eternity” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 803).
Jehovah spoke to Moses
The personage who spoke to Moses was the premortal Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. Being one with Heavenly Father, Jesus at times speaks as if He were God the Father. This is known as divine investiture, whereby Christ is invested with authority to speak for and in behalf of the Father. President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “All revelation since the fall has come through Jesus Christ, who is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. . . .
“He is the God of Israel, the Holy One of Israel; the one who led that nation out of Egyptian bondage, and who gave and fulfilled the Law of Moses. The Father has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 1:27).
When God had completed his dialog with Moses, he left him for a little while. “And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Modes was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.”
Summary and conclusion
I love the Pearl of Great Price. Some people say or write that they find the doctrine of the church boring. I can’t imagine why. I find it fascinating. It is sad to realize how many people do not study the scriptures each day, but I know it is a large part of the membership of the church. I attribute that mostly to the very busy lives we lead. For others it displays an appalling lack of commitment or motivation. Yes, it is work to study the gospel each day but it is worth it.
I am grateful for the prophet Joseph Smith who translated the Bible and restored lost scripture as found in the first chapter of the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. The works he produced are evidence of his divine calling as a prophet of God. The Pearl of Great Price is a wonderful Book of Scripture that contains so much doctrine and ancient history that teaches us so much about how God deals with prophets like Moses, Abraham and Enoch.
There are many study guides to help with understanding the scriptures. Some can be found at Deseret Book, others on the church web site, but the best guide is the Holy Spirit. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt 18:20). Such is the case with an Institute class or a Gospel Doctrine class. If you are struggling to find the motivation to study the gospel by yourself during the week, go join an Institute class.
My focus over the last dozen posts has been in answering, even if only for myself, some of the more common objections to LDS doctrine or practices. One that you can find frequently in lists made by critics of the Church is the validity of The Book of Abraham as found in The Pearl of Great Price, part of the canonized scripture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an authority on the subject. I write this from the point of view of a common, regular member of the church. I don’t have a problem with the Book of Abraham and never have. To me it is scripture and I love the things I have learned from it over the years. I just want to understand what the objections are and how they can be easily answered by a simple kind of guy like me.
How we got the Book of Abraham
The Book of Abraham is a translation of some Egyptian papyri containing the writings of the prophet Abraham. The papyri came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835 and contain writings of the patriarch Abraham. The translation was published serially in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842, at Nauvoo, Illinois. See History of the Church, vol. 4, pp. 519-534.
In July 1835, an Irishman named Michael Chandler brought a traveling exhibition of four Egyptian mummies and papyri to Kirtland, Ohio. The papyri contained Egyptian hieroglyphics. The ability to translate Egyptian to English had not yet been discovered or developed. Chandler asked Joseph Smith to look at the scrolls and give some insight into what was written on them.
After reviewing the papyri and giving Chandler a description of parts of the scrolls, Joseph Smith and others purchased the four mummies and at least five papyrus documents. Joseph declared that two of the scrolls contained the writings of Abraham and Joseph of Egypt. He translated the majority of the Book of Abraham text in July of 1835 with some minor revisions in 1842.
Loss and recovery of the papyri
After Joseph Smith’s death, his mother maintained the mummies and papyri, even showing them to interested visitors on occasion. After her death in 1856, Emma sold them to Mr. Abel Combs. Combs then sold two mummies with some papyri to the St. Louis Museum. In 1863 they went to the Chicago Museum, where they were apparently burned in the Great Chicago Fire.
The other mummies were lost, but some papyri survived. In 1947, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired some additional papyri from a daughter of Combs’s housekeeper. Aziz Suryal Atiya of the University of Utah found eleven fragments of the remaining papyri in May 1966, after he recognized the image of Facsimile 1 in the Pearl of Great Price on one of them.
The three main objections
Critics claim that the translation is a fraud. The original papyri containing some of the source material for the Book of Abraham has been found and translated. The content has been shown to be an Egyptian funeral text known as the Book of Breathings. There does not appear to be any connection to Abraham. His name does not appear anywhere in the papyri or the facsimiles.
Critics claim that the facsimiles are interpreted incorrectly. In fact, they do not seem to bear any similarity to translations provided by modern Egyptologists of the text in the figures. These critics claim that this proves that Joseph had no prophetic gift and was a fraud. They have called for the church to denounce the Book of Abraham as an embarrassment and stop covering it up.
Critics claim that the content of the Book is pure imagination. They claim that what is found in Joseph Smith’s translation is inconsistent with what we know about Abraham and ancient Egypt from the Bible and other sources. In the book are found many unique and important LDS doctrines, including the exaltation of man, plurality of gods, priesthood, and a pre-mortal life.
My three simple answers
I do not believe that the original source material used to translate the Book of Abraham has been found like the critics claim. What has been recovered was only part of the collection. The papyri that Joseph used to translate the Book of Abraham was either destroyed in the great Chicago fire or has yet to be found. There is also the theory that it was a revelation and not a translation.
I prefer to accept Joseph’s translations or interpretations of the figures and text in the facsimiles over what modern Egyptologists have produced. There are so many things that we don’t know about ancient Egypt. The discovery and study of the antiquities that are still being produced is a relatively new science. Perhaps the figures were symbolic and not to be interpreted literally.
As noted previously, I love the content of the Book of Abraham for the very reason that critics complain that it cannot possibly be correct – because it is not contained in creeds of orthodox Christianity. The Book of Abraham provides a rich and deep foundation for understanding the purpose of life. It truly is a blessing from God to have this scripture to increase my testimony.
Summary and Conclusion
I know the topic is so much more complex than I have presented in this brief post. This has been a subject of criticism for almost 150 years but one which the majority of the members of the Church have been unaware. Even those like me that are aware of the controversy don’t seem to be concerned or affected by the criticisms or the implied consequences if proven true.
For some, there are many unanswered questions about the Book of Abraham. I do not have any. For me, it is sufficient that Joseph said he translated the book from papyri that fell into his hands. I believe him. I can even accept the theory that he may have just used the papyri as a catalyst to trigger revelation. The Book of Abraham is scripture and I accept it as doctrine.
For more information please refer to Jeff Lindsay’s exceptional and exhaustive coverage of the controversy, including excellent answers to the objections and recent new favorable evidence. Two additional great sources are the Book of Abraham Project and the BYU Maxwell Institute.
Additional material from FAIR: