the Mormon Claim
The Book of Abraham an Abject Fraud
The Book of Abraham (BofA) is a part of the PofGP, and thus one of the LDS scriptures (although it is not recognized as scriptural by other branches of Mormonism, including the second-largest group, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). In 1835 the Mormons were based in Kirtland, Ohio, near Cleveland. A non-Mormon in Philadelphia named Michael Chandler had inherited some mummies and associated Egyptian artifacts from a rich uncle, but what was Chandler going to do with them? (What would you do with them?? My wife probably wouldn't let me keep them!) Anyway, he heard about Joseph Smith's reputation for being able to translate Egyptian (Mormons claim that the gold plates were written with a "modified Egyptian" script) and so he loaded up and went to Kirtland. Upon arriving, the Mormon community became very excited when Smith announced that the two papyrus scrolls were the actual writings of Abraham and Joseph (son of Jacob) themselves! What a find! Before his death, Smith translated the "Abraham scroll" and that is what is now published in the PofGP, along with three "facsimile drawings" of artwork from the original collection. Following his death, the papyri were sold by his wife, and it was thought that they were destroyed in the great Chicago fire of 1871. This meant that Egyptologists have been unable to look at the original scrolls and cross-check Smith's description and translation.
The three "facsimile" drawings have been another matter, however. Egyptologists have always had two main complaints with them. First, they have claimed that the artwork all relates to an Egyptian document known as the Book of Breathings. As you all know, the Egyptians had a very elaborate system of beliefs about the afterlife, what with mummies and the pyramids. One facet of their beliefs developed at around the time of the Ptolemies, called the Book of Breathings. This document was a part of the larger Book of the Dead, which I don't fully understand, but that's okay. Suffice to say that the original artwork used by Smith all relates to these Ptolemaic-era Egyptian funeral documents. They have nothing whatsoever to do with Abraham or Joseph, nor could they given the time elements involved. Although the scrolls that Smith had to work from were lost, Egyptologists have long believed that they were nothing more than ordinary Egyptian funeral documents from that time period.
In 1967 it was announced by the LDS Church that the documents were not in Chicago at the time of the fire, and had been stored in a box in the New York Metropolitan Museuem for a number of years. I know that this sounds incredible, but I am not making this up! If you don't believe me go to your local library and ask for microfilms of the Salt Lake Tribune or the New York Times for November and December of 1967. Anyway, this has given scholars a chance to look at the original scrolls, and (you guessed it!) they are nothing more than ordinary Ptolemaic-era Egyptian funeral documents.
The bottom line is this: in 1835 Joseph Smith was presented with some ancient Egyptian papyri, and he knew nothing more about them than you or I would. But he claimed that they were written by Abraham and by Joseph, and his followers believed him because they didn't know any better. In the 165 years since then, Mormons have continued to believe his claim EVEN THOUGH it can now be checked and has been completely discredited.
The LDS Church knows this and so it tells members that they are not to read anti-Mormon literature. In a way, the Church is almost forced to do this because the BofA is such an obvious fraud that they can't tell their members to examine it fairly.
Avon, Indiana, USA