53992015

Book of Abraham Excerpt, circa October 1835 [Abraham 1:4–2:6]

Therefore a knowledge of the begining of creation and also of the planets, and of the stars, as it was made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day.
HAnd I shall endeaver to write some of these things, upon this reccord, for the benefit of my posterity, that shall come after me
HNow the Lord God caused the famine to wax soar in the land of Ur insomuch that Haran my brother died: but Terah my father yet lived in the land of Ur of the chaldees. And it came to pass; that I Abram took Sarai to wife, and Nahor my brother took Milcah to wife
HWho was the daughter of Haron
HNow the Lord had said unto me Abram get the out of thy country, and from thy kindred and from thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew thee: Therefore I left the land of Ur of the chaldees to go into the land of canaan; and I took Lot my brothers son, and his wife, and Sarai my wife; and also my father followed after me unto the land which we denominated Haran. And the famine abated, and my father tarried in Haran and dwelt there, as there were many flocks in Haran; And my father turned again unto his idolitry: Therefore he continued in Haran
Now the Lord had said unto Abram me get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy fathers house unto a land that I will shew thee. Therefore I left the land of Ur of the chaldees to go into the land of canaan, and I took Lot my bro son and his wife and sarah my wife and also my father follod me unto the land which we denominated Haran and the famine abated, and my father tarried in Haran and dwelt there as there were many flock in Haran, and my father turned again unto his idolitry Therefore he continued in Haran but I Abram and and Lot my brothers son prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared
[p. 4]
Therefore a knowledge of the begining of creation  and also of the planets, and of the stars, as it was  made known unto the fathers, have I kept even  unto this day.
HAnd I shall endeaver to write some of these things,  upon this reccord, for the benefit of my posterity,  that shall come after me
HNow the Lord God caused the famine to wax soar in the land  of Ur insomuch that Haran my brother died: but  Terah my father yet lived in the land of Ur of  the chaldees. And it came to pass; that I Abram  took Sarai to wife, and Nahor my brother took  Milcah to wife
HWho was the daughter of Haron
HNow the Lord had said unto me Abram get the out of  thy country, and from thy kindred and from  thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew  thee: Therefore I left the land of Ur of the chaldees  to go into the land of canaan; and I took Lot  my brothers son, and his wife, and Sarai my  wife; and also my father followed after me unto  the land which we denominated Haran. And the  famine abated, and my father tarried in  Haran and dwelt there, as there were many  flocks in Haran; And my father turned again  unto his idolitry: Therefore he continued in  Haran
Now the Lord had said unto Abram <me> get thee  out of thy country and from thy kindred and from thy  fathers house unto a land that I will shew thee. Therefore I left  the land of Ur of the chaldees to go into the land of canaan, and I took Lot  my bro son and his wife and sarah my wife and also my father follod  me unto the land which we denominated Haran and the famine  abated, and my father tarried in Haran and dwelt there as thy there were  <many> flock in Haran, and my father turned again unto his idolitry  Therefore he continued in Haran but I Abram and  and Lot my brothers son prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared
[p. 4]
Previous
Napoleon Bonaparte’s late-eighteenth-century adventures, depredations, and exploits unintentionally inaugurated an age of exploration and inquiry into Egyptian antiquities. Subsequently, sometime between 1817 and 1821, an Italian explorer, Antonio Lebolo, uncovered a tomb near Thebes, Egypt, containing a large cache of mummies and papyri. Later, eleven of the mummies were sent to New York City

Dutch founded New Netherland colony, 1625. Incorporated under British control and renamed New York, 1664. Harbor contributed to economic and population growth of city; became largest city in American colonies. British troops defeated Continental Army under...

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under what remain curious circumstances. In late June or early July 1835 some of the Saints in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio, purchased four Lebolo mummies and associated papyri from Michael Chandler, an antiquities dealer visiting the area. (Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 1.) JS’s close associate William W. Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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reported on these events to his wife, Sally, then in Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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: “On the last of June four Egyptian mummies were brought here. With them were two papyrus rolls, besides some other ancient Egyptian writings. . . . They were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said that the rolls of papyrus contained a sacred record kept by Joseph in Pharaoh’s court in Egypt and the teachings of Father Abraham.” Phelps added, “These records of old times when we translate and print them in a book will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon.” (William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Phelps, Liberty, MO, 20 July 1835, in Journal History of the Church, 20 July 1835, CHL.)
Later that year, in response to public excitement prompted by “erroneous statements” circulating in the press concerning the Egyptian artifacts, correspondence between Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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, another close associate of JS, and a William Frye of Illinois

Became part of Northwest Territory of U.S., 1787. Admitted as state, 1818. Population in 1840 about 480,000. Population in 1845 about 660,000. Plentiful, inexpensive land attracted settlers from northern and southern states. Following expulsion from Missouri...

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was printed in the December 1835 issue of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Published under the heading “Egyptian Mummies – Ancient Records,” Cowdery’s letter to Frye endeavored to set the record straight concerning “a quantity of ancient records.” After reviewing the circumstances surrounding acquisition of the artifacts and describing some papyri in detail, Cowdery observed in closing, “When the translation of these valuable documents will be completed I am unable to say; neither can I give you a probable idea how large volumes they will make. . . . Be they little or much, it must be an inestimable acquisition to our present scriptures.” (“Egyptian Mummies – Ancient Records,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Dec. 1835, 2:223–227.)
By the time the Messenger and Advocate account was published, JS, Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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, Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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, and JS’s scribes Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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and Warren Parrish

10 Jan. 1803–3 Jan. 1877. Clergyman, gardener. Born in New York. Son of John Parrish and Ruth Farr. Married first Elizabeth (Betsey) Patten of Westmoreland Co., New Hampshire, ca. 1822. Lived at Alexandria, Jefferson Co., New York, 1830. Purchased land at...

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had invested portions of the previous six months working with the Egyptian materials. JS’s journal for the period from October to December 1835 contains nine entries recording activity directly associated with the Egyptian documents. One product of their endeavors was a draft transcription of what was designated the Book of Abraham, a first-person narrative recounting a portion of the life of the biblical patriarch Abraham.
The text featured here represents the Abraham text drafted in fall 1835 and is in the hand of Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, who served as one of JS’s scribes at that time. It consists of two pages, front and back, covering what is now referred to as Abraham 1:4−2:6 in the Pearl of Great Price. The text of the first line may be related to the Egyptian materials acquired from Chandler, but nothing definitive has been determined. The manuscript also contains nineteen Egyptian hieratic characters (a cursive form of hieroglyphics) in the left margins. These hieratic characters were taken from the papyri purchased from Chandler, but their exact significance and relationship to the text remains undetermined.
That the text is organized into paragraphs with some punctuation, and that it contains several cancellations and insertions of the sort often associated with recopying a document, suggests that it may have been transcribed from an earlier draft. The manuscript has been in the possession of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the Nauvoo period. (Hauglid, Textual History of the Book of Abraham, 64–65.)
Note: When an Egyptian hieratic character appears on the manuscript, it is represented by a stylized “H” in the transcript. The transcript of the Book of Abraham excerpt presented here is used with generous permission of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. It was published earlier, with some differences in style, in Brian M. Hauglid, A Textual History of the Book of Abraham: Manuscripts and Editions (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2010), 66–81.

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