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Frederick G. Williams Copy of Abraham Manuscript, circa October 1835 [Abraham 1:4–2:6]

Frederick G. Williams Copy of Abraham Manuscript, circa October 1835 [Abraham 1:4–2:6]

HThat you may have an understanding of their gods I have  given you the fashion of them in the figures at the begining  which manner of figures is called by the Chaldians, Kah-lee –nos-—>
HAnd as they lifted up their hands upon me that they  might offer me up to and< and> take away my life behold I lifted up my  voice unto the Lord my God; and the lord harkened, and heard  and he filled me with a vision of the almighty and the angel of his  presence stood by my feet and immediately loosed my bands
HAnd his voice was unto me Abram Abram Behold  my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee and have come  down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy fathers  house, and from all thy Kinsfolks, in to a strange land  which thou knowest not of, and this because their hearts  are turned they have turned their hearts away from  me to worship the god of Elk Kee-nah and the god of  Zibnah and of Mah–Mach-rah– and the god of  pharaoh King of Egypt. Therefore I have come down  to visit them, and to distroy him, who hath lifted up his  hand against thee Abraham Abram my son to distroy thy take  away thy life, Behold I will lead thee by my hand  and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name  even the priesthood of thy father, and my power  shall be over thee; as it was with Noah so shall it be  with thee, that through thy ministry, my name shall  be known, in the earth forever, for I am thy God
HBehold Potiphers hill was in the land of Ur of Chaldea  and the Lord broke down the alter of Elk-Keenah and of the gods of the land, and utterly distroyed them gods of the land  and smote the priests that he died and there was  great morning in Chaldean and also in the  court of Pharaoh which Pharaoh signifies King by  royal blood. Now this King of Egypt was  a discendent from the loins of Ham and was a  partaker of the blood of the Cananitess by birth:  From this decent sprang all the Egyptians  and thus the blood of the Cannites was preserved  in the land
H
[p. 2]
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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 under what remain curious circumstances. In late June or early July 1835 some of the Saints in Kirtland, 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 reported on these events to his wife, Sally, then in Missouri: “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, another close associate of JS, and a William Frye of Illinois 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, Phelps, and JS’s scribes Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish 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, 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 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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