Criticism of Mormonism/Books/By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri

Table of Contents

Response to "By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri"

A FairMormon Analysis of: By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, a work by author: Charles Larson

Response to claims made in "By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri" by Charles Larson

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This is an index of claims made in this work with links to corresponding responses within the FAIR Wiki.

Part I - Background

Response to claims made in By His Own Hand upon Papyrus, "Chapter 1: How It All Began"

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Chapter 2

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 2: The Book of Abraham: A Timely Document"

Response to claims made in By His Own Hand upon Papyrus, "Chapter 3: Charges and Rebuttals"

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Chapter 4

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 4: The Papyri Rediscovered"

Part II - The Papyri Speak for Themselves

Chapter 5

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 5: An Identification and the Critical Link"

Chapter 6

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 6: The Beginning of Disappointment"

Chapter 7

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 7: The Evidence of the Papyri"

Chapter 8

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 8: The Book of Joseph"

Chapter 9

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 9: Translating Egyptian"

Chapter 10

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 10: A Close Look at the Facsimiles"

Part III - LDS Reactions

Chapter 11

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 11: The Intellectual Approaches"

Chapter 12

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 12: All Is Well"

Chapter 13

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 13: The Criteria for Rationalization"

Part IV - Conclusions and Directions

Chapter 14

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 14: Facing the Truth"

Chapter 15

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 15: Moving Beyond Rationalizations"

Chapter 16

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 16: Does It Really Matter?"

Chapter 17

Summary: Claims made in "Chapter 17: The Alternative"

The Charles Larson "restoration" of Facsimile 1

Summary: The book "...by his own hand upon papyrus" presents a "restoration" of Facsimile 1 (p. 65), which purports to be "based upon the modern study of Egyptology, and similar scenes in numerous existing papyri." However, the recent availability of high-definition images of the papyri on the Church History website now provides the opportunity to compare the Larson restoration with the original. There are a number of discrepancies which indicate that the restoration contains a number of significant inaccuracies. We examine those inaccuracies in this sub-article.


About this work

Charles Larson is the author of the well-known but deeply flawed anti-Mormon book "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus": A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri. This book has been reviewed by LDS Egyptologists who hold degrees in the field. One reviewer summed up Larson's work:

Larson's historical method is as follows: Invent evidence, read minds, attribute motives, misquote sources, argue from circumstantial evidence—or better yet—argue from no evidence....
If Larson stumbles as a historian, he falls flat on his face as an Egyptologist. He betrays no knowledge of any foreign language, yet offers to guide us through Egyptian, "a unique area of study that is extremely difficult to master."
—John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors," p. 99.

The only qualifications listed for Larson at his publisher's web site are "former Mormon and Brigham Young University graduate." He has no training in Egyptian studies, despite his works on the Book of Abraham.

Reviews of author's work(s)

John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors"

John Gee,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1992)
This book is a rehash of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's arguments from the late 1960s, which are an elaboration of the arguments of Franklin S. Spalding in 1912, which are essentially a highly polemicized form of T. B. H. Stenhouse's arguments of 1873, whose main argument along this line was borrowed from Jules Remy's arguments in 1861, which were translated from the French edition, whose main argument was taken from the short commentary of Theodule Deveria in 1856.


The argument built up in these works runs as follows: (1) Joseph Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from Reformed Egyptian. (2) The book of Abraham was written in the same language as the Book of Mormon. (3) The Kirtland Egyptian Papers demonstrate that Joseph Smith thought the book of Abraham was on Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI, and X. (4) Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI, and X have been identified by Egyptologists as a Book of Breathings. (5) The Book of Breathings is not the book of Abraham. (6) Therefore Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian. (7) Therefore Joseph Smith was not a prophet. (8) Therefore Latter-day Saints should leave the Church and adopt "Biblical Christianity" (i.e., Protestant Fundamentalism; pp. 189-90). As will be demonstrated below, premises 2-3 are not true, and conclusions 6-8 are also not true.

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Michael D. Rhodes, "The Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture"

Michael D. Rhodes,  Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, (1992)
The book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price periodically comes under criticism by non-Mormons as a prime example of Joseph Smith's inability to translate ancient documents. The argument runs as follows: (1) We now have the papyri which Joseph Smith used to translate the book of Abraham (these are three of the papyri discovered in 1967 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and subsequently turned over to the Church; the papyri in question are Joseph Smith Papyri I, XI, and X). (2) Egyptologists have identified these three papyri as being the text of the Book of Breathings, an ancient Egyptian religious text. (3) A translation of the Book of Breathings shows that it is not the book of Abraham. (4) This proves that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian. (5) Therefore Joseph Smith was a false prophet, and the Church he founded also cannot be true. The book . . . By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, by Charles M. Larson, is the most recent publication to take up this argument. These arguments are not valid. In fact there is a growing body of research that supports the authenticity of the book of Abraham, and I will cover some of the more important findings of this research.

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