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Book of Mormon/Book of Abraham

By Eric Johnson

Two things were discussed on the show with Sean McDowell concerning the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham:

  1. The Book of Mormon translation

Recommended articles:

Did Joseph Smith use the Seer Stone…Or Didn’t He?

Joseph Smith and the Seer Stone: The Art of the Book of Mormon Translation Process

Gospel Topics Essay: The Book of Mormon 

Book of Mormon Translation: Though Questions Persist, One Thing is Clear

2. The Book of Abraham translation

Gospel Topics Essay: Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham

According to what Scott has explained, “it’s not unreasonable to view their emergence as a miracle from God and why it’s reasonable to view them as real and reliable

The version of Joseph Smith translating the plates on the front cover of the church magazine Ensign in February 2001


The problem is that “translation” has a meaning. When I say I am translating from the Bible, one would assume that I have considered the best and most reliable biblical manuscripts and that I have taken this source to make my translation. However, Joseph Smith was somehow able to create a translation of both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham without literally considering the words on the papyrus.

For the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was pictorially portrayed as running his finger over the gold plates and translating them. However, a Gospel Topics essay showed that this was not the case. Instead, Smith put a seer stone (a magic rock) into a hat and the words lit up. If the plates were not needed, then why did Joseph Smith even need to discover the plates in the first place?

As far as the Book of Abraham, Egyptologists say that the “translation” given by Joseph Smith is nowhere close to what was written on the Egyptian papyri.

The Gospel Topics essay states, “Neither the Lord nor Joseph Smith explained the process of translation of the book of Abraham, but some insight can be gained from the Lord’s instructions to Joseph regarding translation. In April 1829, Joseph received a revelation for Oliver Cowdery that taught that both intellectual work and revelation were essential to translating sacred records. It was necessary to “study it out in your mind” and then seek spiritual confirmation. Records indicate that Joseph and others studied the papyri and that close observers also believed that the translation came by revelation. As John Whitmer observed, “Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records.”

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery translate the Book of Mormon. Notice how the plates are covered in a bag and Smith’s hand is on the top hat, as if he just looked at the stone and is giving the “translation” to Cowdery. This is the December 2017 edition of Ensign.

Once more, a person’s blind faith is requested. Unfortunately, as the church itself admits, “There are no official Church explanations for the

This is a similar portrayal from the January 2020 Ensign magazine.

Abraham facsimiles besides the Prophet Joseph Smith’s explanations that accompany them.” (The Pearl of Great Price Teacher Manual: Religion 327, 35.) Knowing if it is a book really written by Abraham requires great faith, as a church history manual says that, “like the Book of Mormon, the book of Abraham is its own evidence that it came about through the gift and power of God.” (Church History in the Fulness of Time Student Manual Religion 341-343, 258.) The Mormon is instructed to believe the prophet because he says he’s a prophet who 1) saw God; 2) was given the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham and “translated” these; and 3) received direct revelation from God (D&C). The Bible never requires that we have blind faith. We have evidence to make a wise decision—such as the bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). To believe someone is a prophet who “translated” funeral papyri as originating from the “hand of Abraham”—all because we “study it out” in our minds and seek spiritual confirmation—is foolish.

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