Question: Did Joseph Smith believe that Abraham wrote the text on the papyrus himself?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith believe that Abraham wrote the text on the papyrus himself?

Joseph Smith believed that the writing on the papyrus was done by Abraham himself

But is it troubling that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries may have assumed an autographical nature of the text? This depends on oneʼs assumptions. If one is inclined towards a fundamentalist assumption (which is also a presentist assumption) about Prophets, or that Prophets must be 100% right 100% of the time or else they are not Prophets at all, then one could cite this as evidence of Joseph Smithʼs fraud. If one believes that Prophets must always be right lest they compromise their prophetic calling, then this is problematic for Joseph Smith.

There is no evidence that Joseph Smithʼs understanding of the dating of the papyrus came from revelatory or divine means

However, in order to establish that Joseph Smithʼs prophetic abilities are hampered or called into question by this possible assumption of his, one must first cite evidence that Joseph Smithʼs understanding of the nature of the papyrus (namely, whether or not it dated to the time of Abraham) came from revelatory or divine means. Only then can one question Joseph Smith. It would be folly to criticize Joseph the Prophet when merely Joseph the speculator or Joseph the assumer was speaking. If the Prophet Joseph Smith never claimed on a prophetic or revelatory basis to know if the papyri was a holograph of Abraham, then one cannot attack him for a position he never took.

The Prophet had a mistaken speculation

If on the other hand the Prophet did base his belief on a holographic nature of the papyri on purely human speculation or thought, then it only necessitates that the Prophet had a mistaken speculation. As Michael Ash has demonstrated at length, Prophets, especially those of the LDS tradition, have never claimed infallibility. If one acknowledges the fact that Joseph Smith never himself claimed infallibility or omniscience, and does not carry such a fundamentalist assumption about the nature of Prophets, then this is all much ado about nothing. Returning to Ash’s article once again:

Now this issue is very similar to that of Book of Mormon geography. It is very likely that Joseph Smith believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography--it made sense to his understanding of the world around him. Such a misinformed belief or most likely misinformed belief, according to modern scholarship, makes him no less a prophet. It simply provides us with an example of how Joseph, like any other human, tried to understand new information according to his current knowledge. So, likewise, with the Abrahamic papyri.[1]

Joseph Smith's assumptions about the dating of the papyri are independent of the actual authenticity of the Book of Abraham

Furthermore, Joseph Smith’s own assumptions or thoughts about whether or not the papyri was holographic in nature is independent of the actual authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Regardless of what Joseph Smith or others may have thought as per the nature of the text (if it be holographic or not) such has no implications for what the text itself actually claims or whether Joseph Smith was able to actually translate such by the gift and power of God.

Thus, the whole question revolves more around one’s assumptions about Prophets than the actual Book of Abraham.


  1. Ash, "Book of Abraham 201."