My husband and I (both college professors)converted to the LDS Church approximately 15 months ago. Since that time we have been looking forward to partaking in the blessings of the temple. However, we now find ourselves very troubled by serious deficiencies in the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Credible Egyptian language experts have unanimously concluded the Facsimiles definitely do not contain the text of the Book of Abraham. For example, Facsimile 1 is a common funerary text and contains no references to Abraham. Facsimile 2 is a Hypocephalus or “magic disc” placed under the head of the deceased. Egyptologists have translated this to be the Hypocephalus of Sheshonk, from approximately 663-525 B.C. This means that Facsimile 1 and 2 are from two different mummies, from different time periods! Facsimile 3 is a typical judgment scene taken from chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead. The obvious mistranslations, Hebrew transliterations, and inaccurate artistic renditions exposed by eminent Egyptologists (e.g. Baer, Deveria, Spalings’s scholars, Ritner, et.al.) are troubling. We are very interested in your scholarly views on this topic.
Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham, as your experts point out, are certainly not from the text translation of the papyrus made by Joseph Smith. The translation of those three facsimiles, as far as the prophet was willing to reveal them, are given in the explanations accompanying each facsimile. Four mummies were in the hands of the prophet. They each contained papyri, and we don’t know how many, or what they contained. The part that was given the title of the Book of Abraham dealt principally with the creation and the account of the early descendants of Ham and the discovery of Egypt. The book is self consistent and contains much doctrine found in no other scripture. As you study the book carefully and prayerfully you will find much deep doctrine confirmed by the Spirit to be truth and which is very satisfying to the soul. As a very minor, but significant point, consider the passage in Abraham 2:7—
For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains–Depart hence–and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly.
We see the key words, sea, wind, fire and mountains. These are the four elements later formalized by the Greeks to be the four elements of which all existence was composed–water, air, fire and earth. The Lord is speaking to men according to their understanding.
It also may be well to consider that among the most prominent Egyptologists held in respect by their colleagues are members of the Mormon Church.
It is well to remember in these criticisms that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God, perhaps the greatest prophet that ever lived, and that the church that he founded is indeed the very kingdom of God on the earth, and the only organization on the earth containing all the power and authority for the salvation and exaltation of man. The dominion of Satan fights against the kingdom of God, and all the sophistry of men is aligned against the Kingdom. It is really foolish to pit secular learning against the revealed word of God. We could go head to head, battling on the turf of academia, using the weapons of the adversary, but if we were to do so we would be adopting the artifacts of Satan. Rather we should challenge the adversary to battle on the turf of the kingdom using the principles of eternal life rather than the sophistry of man.
You are both college professors. I and many other faithful LDS members have advanced university degrees. But we realize that the universities are equipped to deal only with telestial knowledge, that they cannot deal with celestial knowledge and have not the power to save a single person. My opinion is that we should never try to judge the prophets by the professors, but rather just the other way around.