• The Papers
  • Revelations and TranslationsInterim Content
43991265

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]

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 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.

Facts