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Mar 3rd 2007

The Book of Abraham

This article was recently submitted to all-encompassingly for publication. It is one of a series of informational posts intended to address widely-held misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. –Admin

In 1799, near Alexandria, Egypt, Napoleon’s men found the soon famous Rosetta Stone. The stone provided a way to translate ancient Egyptian texts. This instigated a great interest in ancient Egypt and many expeditions to that land to make other great discoveries. An Italian named Antonio Lebolo found several mummies and two papyrus scrolls in Thebes. After Lebolo died, these artifacts were obtained by Michael Chandler of New York. Chandler soon found that no one could decipher the scrolls, but heard that a man named Joseph Smith had a special power that enabled him to translate ancient writings. In July 1835, Chandler took the mummies and scrolls to Kirtland, Ohio, where he asked the Mormon leader Joseph to translate a portion of the scroll. Joseph Smith then raised the $2400 to buy them from Michael Chandler soon began translating the texts. [FN1]

The Book of Abraham contains an account written by Abraham himself in first person. The book is divided into 5 chapters and two facsimiles (pictures) with accompanying explanations. The first chapter relates Abrahamís escape from priests who were attempting to sacrifice him on a pagan altar. The second chapter details Abraham leaving his home in Ur to go to Canaan and then later to Egypt, as instructed by the Lord. While en route to Canaan, the Lord makes a covenant Abraham that has become known as the Abrahamic covenant. Abraham promises the Lord that he will teach the gospel to his family and his neighbors, and the Lord promises him “property (see Abr. 2:6), posterity (see Abr. 2:9; Abr. 3:14), priesthood (see Abr. 1:18; Abr. 2:11), salvation (see Abr. 2:10), and preservation of records (see Abr. 1:31).” [FN1]

Chapters three through five of Abraham deal with the sun, moon and stars, pre-earth life, the creation of the world, and Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The account of the creation is similar to what is found in Genesis in the Old Testament, but in Abraham, the word organized is used instead of created, giving the impression that the earth was not created from nothing. Another unique teaching in this book is a description of Kolob, the greatest of all the stars. “Abraham learned that just as one planet or star is greater than another until one comes to Kolob ‘the great governing one’ (see Abr. 3:9)’ so, too, one spirit is greater than another until one comes to Jesus Christ ‘the great governing one’ (see Abr. 3:19, 24). A careful comparison of the characteristics of Kolob with the characteristics of Jesus Christ demonstrates that Kolob was, and is, a profound symbol of the Savior.” [FN1]

The Book of Abraham is published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) in a book of scripture called The Pearl of Great Price, along with The Book of Moses, some of Joseph Smith’s personal history, and other writings of Joseph Smith. The name “Pearl of Great Price” was chosen because of the book’s doctrinal contributions not to be found in any other book of scripture. It is printed with the Doctrine and Covenants and usually together with the Book of Mormon.

Other Links:

  • The Book of Abraham
  • The Book of Abraham Project
  • Mormon Beliefs
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    1 Andrew Skinner, “The Book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book,” Ensign, Mar 1997, 16

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