What the Mormon Church said about the
papyri? What they meant was ...
Less known than the Book of Mormon is the Mormon Church’s Book of Abraham. Yes, that Abraham. The biblical character who for some unfathomable reason is celebrated for his willingness to take a sacrificial knife to his son.
The Book of Abraham had an interesting provenance. Had. It just changed.
In 1835, traveling showman Michael Chandler brought some Egyptian papyri to Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, who claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon from ancient writings. Smith said the papyri contained writings of Abraham, purchased them from Chandler, and translated from them the Book of Abraham, which remains part of the of Mormon canon today.
It was a sad day for the church when the papyri were lost. Thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, scholars could at last translate Egyptian. Had the papyri been available, a new translation could have verified Smith’s claim.
It was an even sadder day for the church when the papyri were rediscovered. They turned out to be a common Egyptian funerary text that had nothing to do with Abraham.
Poor Mormon Church. When DNA disproved the Book of Mormon claim that Native Americans were Israelites, the church attempted an Orwellian, “Welllllll, we never said that exaaaactly ...” Now the church must Orwell itself an explanation as to why it’s okay that the Book of Abraham is not a translation of Chandler’s papyri when that’s exactly what Smith said it was. To read for yourself the church’s official, clumsy Book of Abraham two-step, click here.