Question: How was the text of the Book of Abraham produced by Joseph Smith?

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Question: How was the text of the Book of Abraham produced by Joseph Smith?

Pearl of Great Price Central, Insight #39: How Did Joseph Smith Translate the Book of Abraham?

The Book of Abraham was claimed to have been received by revelation

Richard Turley notes that the Book of Abraham was received by revelation:

"Very quickly, let me just say a few things about it very simple. Number 1, again, it was received by revelation."
Richard Turley, Questions Asked at 2010 Swedish Fireside

The questions surrounding the Book of Abraham are complex, and involve a number of disciplines and sub-disciplines, including: Egyptology (including Egyptian archaeology, Egyptian iconography, Egyptian religion, Egyptian history, papyrology, etc.), Syro-Palestinian archaeology, biblical studies, textual criticism, Mormon history, Mormon theology, English paleography and manuscript transmission, etc. As such, any approach to the Book of Abraham or the Joseph Smith Papyri must be conscious of how these various disciplines (with their respective methods) can be used, or misused, in studying the Book of Abraham.

19th century sources confirm that the text of the Book of Abraham was received by revelation

Consider these two quotes, the first from John Whitmer, who was Church Historian from 1831 until his excommunication in 1838, and the second from Warren Parrish, who was one of the scribes during the translation.

John Whitmer said,

"Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records . . . which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints." [1]

Warren Parrish said,

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

A more detailed essay describing the translation of the Book of Abraham was done by Pearl of Great Price Central and may be found by following the link above.


  1. John Whitmer, quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen, and David J. Whittaker, eds., The Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847 (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church Historian’s Press, 2012), 86.
  2. Warren Parrish, letter to the editor, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, cited in John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20, no. 1 (2008): 115, n. 4.