Jeffrey R. Holland: "All I’m saying is that what got translated got translated into the word of God"

Table of Contents

Elder Holland's interview with BBC reporter John Sweeney in March 2012: Book of Abraham


An example of what I am talking about is the recent discovery of the papyrus scrolls from which Joseph Smith was presumed to have translated the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Modern scholars, looking at the scrolls, found nothing they considered to be similar to that book. I remarked at the time that such a finding didn't bother me in the least. God doesn't need a crib sheet in the form of a papyrus scroll to reveal Abraham's thoughts and words to Joseph Smith, with any degree of precision He considers necessary for His purposes. If the only function of the scrolls was to awaken the Prophet to the idea of receiving such inspiration, they would have fulfilled their purpose.

—Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist, p. 46
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Question: How did Elder Holland respond during a BBC interview when asked how the Book of Abraham was translated?

Elder Holland responded that he did not know the method of translation, but that it was translated into the word of God

During a BBC interview with John Sweeney in March 2012, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was asked about the Book of Abraham:

Sweeney: Mr. Smith got this papyri and he translated them and subsequently as the Egyptologists cracked the code something completely different...

Holland: All I'm saying...all I'm saying is that what got translated got translated into the word of God. The vehicle for that I do not understand and don't claim to know and know Egyptian.

Critics of the Church accuse Elder Holland of lying on this point. However, the Church has known and publicly acknowledged since 1968 in the Improvement Era that the papyri fragments that the Church has in its possession do not match the text of the Book of Abraham since 1968. This has been known publicly for over 45 years. This isn't something new. Elder Holland knows this.

Elder Holland's statement is consistent with what the Church says about the translation of the Book of Abraham

Furthermore, Elder Holland's statement is consistent with what the Church itself says on this subject in the The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual. Elder Holland said "what got translated got translated into the word of God." The manual says, "The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the book of Abraham is not found in an analysis of physical evidence nor historical background, but in prayerful consideration of its content and power."

One of the Church's new Gospel Topics essays, "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," reiterates both that the Book of Abraham is not found on the existing papyri fragments, and that Joseph produced the Book of Abraham through revelation, similar to the manner in which the Book of Mormon was produced:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham...

Neither the Lord nor Joseph Smith explained the process of translation of the book of Abraham, but some insight can be gained from the Lord’s instructions to Joseph regarding translation. In April 1829, Joseph received a revelation for Oliver Cowdery that taught that both intellectual work and revelation were essential to translating sacred records. It was necessary to “study it out in your mind” and then seek spiritual confirmation. Records indicate that Joseph and others studied the papyri and that close observers also believed that the translation came by revelation. As John Whitmer observed, “Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records.” [1]


Parrish (1838): "I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Heiroglyphicks as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of Heaven"

Warren Parrish:

I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Heiroglyphicks as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of Heaven.[2]


John Whitmer: "Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records"

John Whitmer:

About the first of July 1835 there came a man having four Egyptian Mummies exhibiting them for curiosities, which was a wonder indeed! having also some r[e]cords connected with them which were found deposited with the Mummies, but there being no one skilled in the Egyptian language therefore could not translate the record, after this [e]xhibition Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records, which gavee an account of our forefathers, even Abraham Much of which was written by Joseph of Egypt who was sold by his brethren. Which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints.[3]


Woodruff (1842): "The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam"

Wilford Woodruff:

Truly the Lord has raised up Joseph the Seer of the seed of Abraham out of the loins of ancient Joseph, & is now clothing him with mighty power & wisdom & knowledge....The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam.[4]

See FairMormon Evidence:
More information of the translation of the Book of Abraham


When did the Church disclose that the Joseph Smith Papyri were an Egyptian funerary text?

Summary: Critics of the Church often assert that the Church did not identify the Joseph Smith Papyri as an Egyptian funerary text until after Egyptologists examined them. They also claim that the Church is hiding or "covering up" the papyri's actual contents. Both assertions are incorrect. In fact, the Church ran a multi-part series with color pictures of the papyri in the Improvement Era (the predecessor to the Ensign) less than two months after they were received from the Metropolitan Museum.[5] The series repeatedly affirmed that the recovered papyri contained Egyptian funerary materials and not the text of Book of Abraham. Although the article erroneously identified the papyrus as the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," it was later correctly identified as a "Book of Breathings."

Notes

  1. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics" on LDS.org (2014).
  2. Letter to the Editor dated 5 February 1838, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, Vol. II, No. 14–15
  3. "John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847," The Joseph Smith Papers
  4. Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 19 February 1842
  5. Improvement Era (January 1968).