Today we explore the Book of Abraham in Radio Free Mormon Style.  Bill Reel once again joins us and we proceed to lay out the following.
– Brief overview of the History of the Book of Abraham
– Why the critics say it is problematic
– What workarounds apologists have created to deal with those criticisms
– Why those workarounds are dead ends
– Evidences Apologists share
– Why those evidences have little credibility
– How the Church is adapting to the Problems


– We know because of Abraham 1:12 and 1:14 itself points to Facsimile 1 and the very text in the papyri following it as the source text of the book of Abraham

– We know from the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar document that if we choose to be rational and logical the most reasonable interpretation of that document is that it represents Joseph Smith’s translation of The Book of Abraham.

– An early Egyptologist named Gustavus Seyffarth viewed the missing papyrus in 1856 and described only the Hor text and Facsimile 3. He gave no indication of another text on the scroll, and in fact explicitly denied that the scroll contained a record of Abraham.

– Klaus Baer predicted that the missing portion of the Hor text would be around sixty centimeters. Others who have attempted the estimate of the missing length agreed almost exactly with Baer’s estimate.

In the end a Missing Scroll theory is simply a Red Herring.  Why we know that a missing scroll does not matter?  We know where Joseph was translating and it was on the existing papyri. There is a set of documents that the church has always had in its possession commonly referred to as the “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” by Joseph Smith. Most of us remember hearing a little bit about it growing up in the church but not really knowing what it was. It was only briefly and rarely mentioned in church. With the discovery of the missing papyri in 1966, critics claim that these documents show a definite link between the papyri and the actual text of the Book of Abraham. The manuscript is in the handwriting of William W. Phelps and Warren Parrish, scribes to Joseph Smith, Jr. It is a bound book with handwriting on 34 pages with about 184 blank pages remaining throughout the book. There are characters in a left hand column with English explanations to the right. Original in LDS archives. There are 4 pages in Joseph Smith’s handwriting.


– The Times and Seasons with Joseph Smith as Editor along with Mormonism’s heading to the Pearl of Great Price in the past claimed the papyri was the writings of Abraham.

– The Times and Seasons with Joseph Smith as Editor along with Mormonism’s heading to the Pearl of Great Price in the past claimed it was written by Abraham’s  own hand.  If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith about the identity of the author of the papyri characters.

– Joseph and his scribes wrote down the very symbols from the papyri we have along with a proposed meaning of those hieroglyphics and symbols in a document named Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar indicating strongly a literal translation.

–  Joseph Smith‘s translation and restoration of the facsimiles was incorrect. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for instructing Smith to incorrectly translate and restore the facsimiles.

–  The text of the Book of Abraham itself (1:12 and 1:14) declares that the source of the Book of Abraham has the Facsimile 1 fragment at its commencement, which is the Breathing Permit of Hor. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for instructing Smith to record verses in the Book of Abraham that incorrectly refer to the Facsimile 1 fragment.

–  The Small Sensen (Breathing Permit of Hor) characters are copied in order into the manuscripts where they are translated into the Book of Abraham. Therefore, Smith‘s own manuscripts indicate that the source of the Book of Abraham is the Small Sensen. If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith to believe that the source of the Book of Abraham was the Small Sensen.

–  The Egyptian Alphabets end with two characters which appear in the manuscripts as the beginning of the Small Sensen and which translate into Abraham 1:1. Therefore, the Egyptian Alphabets indicate that the source of the Book of Abraham is the Small Sensen.  If the Catalyst Theory is correct, then God must be responsible for misleading Smith to believe that the source of the Book of Abraham was the Small Sensen.

Book Of Abraham conundrum simplified –

Brian Hauglid on Mormon Discussion –

MormonThink Translation and Historicity Issues –

MormonThink Book of Abraham – http://www.mormonthink

Episode Links:

Muhlestein lying about Abraham on the Lion Couch –

John Gee acknowledging he will hold back facts if they could hurt faith –

Brian Hauglid commenting about his shifted view –

Robin Scott Jensen on the Book of Abraham –

The Best Evidence for the Book of Abraham: Abraham in the Prayer Position –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 1 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 2 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 3 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 4 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 5 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 6 –

Dan Vogel’s Videos on the Book of Abraham Pt 7 –


15 Replies to “Radio Free Mormon: 060: The Book Of Abraham – Missing Scrolls, Catalyst Theories, and Bad Apologetics Part 1”

  1. My favourite argument against the Catalyst theory is recorded in the History of the Church (HC) Volume 3, Chapter 3.

    In the section called: Remuneration of the Prophet and Sidney Rigdon for Temporal Labors in the Church.

    The time is 1838.

    The Council investigated the matter, and instructed the Bishop to make over to President Joseph Smith, Jun., and Sidney Rigdon, each an eighty-acre lot of land from the property of the Church, situated adjacent to the city corporation; also appointed three of their number, viz., George W. Harris, Elias Higbee and Simeon Carter, a committee to confer with said Presidency, and satisfy them for their services the present year; not for preaching, or for receiving the word of God by revelation, neither for instructing the Saints in righteousness, but for services rendered in the printing establishment, in translating the ancient records, etc., etc. Said committee agreed that Presidents Smith and Rigdon should receive $1,100 each as a just remuneration for their services this year.

    Notice how there is a very clear point made that the salary that JS and SR were to receive was for temporal work, not things related to preaching the word of god, revelations, etc.

          1. No, I’m better, I’m General Paul H. Dunn. Stand at attenshun, son!

  2. Excellent, excellent summary of the issues! I was confused about the Book of Abraham for so long, and I now realized it was because of the apologists’ convoluted and unnecessarily complicated arguments. It really is much more simple than they would like it to be.

  3. In this broadcast behind enemy lines, Bill mentions Brian Hauglid’s new position that Abraham Ch. 1 through Ch.2 v.18 was produced in 1835 but Ch.2 v.19 through Ch. 5 was produced in Nauvoo. Bill then says this is a huge development but never goes on to say why. I’m curious as to the significance of this position change?

    1. missing scroll apologists (Gee and Muhlestein) require the BoA to be finished in Kirtland otherwise Joseph has too much hebrew training after that and it deeply hurts their version of how inspired Joseph was.

  4. Could the catalyst theory also be called the Dumbo theory? God gave JS a feather to hold in his trunk in the form of a scroll so he could deliver the “word” but never needed it in reality? He was never the wiser, but we now have superior understanding?

    1. sure, but then you still must deal with Abraham himself in 1:12 and 14 declaring that the papyri was used and the facsimiles were connected….. How do you dismiss Abraham’s own words?

      1. Although I guess that, by extension, accepting the catalyst theory would in turn say it was okay to use fake gold plates to “translate” the BoM. “As long as it’s inspired” is the focus of the church essay.

        I just want to know why all the prophets since 1967 haven’t finished what Mr. Smith said that “the prophet” would do with the remainder papyri??? Yes, he died, but didn’t a successor pick up “the mantle”??? They used other people’s hard earned money to get them back…

  5. Yah, it’s ridiculous. I can’t respect the lengths one most go to try and keep it all together.

    But I think the Dumbo Theory for the BoA has a nice ring to it!

  6. Imagine if, under your ‘electric chair’ example, future scholars find out that today we allow religious priests to meet with individuals about to be executed. I imagine those future scholars, could claim, ‘look how religiously intertwined these killings are … must be some form of religiously motivated human sacrifice’.

  7. What I find most troublesome is that the church claims to have published the found papyri in the 1960’s and that they were open to the debate surrounding this topic. However, if you go to the Improvement Era article, the rhetoric is quite different. First, and I quote “The fact that Dr. Atiya made the discovery and so energetically attests to the manuscript’s authenticity as that which Joseph Smith used in part in the translation of the Book of Abraham is of no little importance.” Makes the argument for a missing scroll theory null and void. Second, and I quote “I met directly with President Tanner, who had said the Church was very, very interested and would do anything or pay any price for them.” Why would an apostle and prophet be so excited and willing to pay any amount for something that was NOT used in the translation of the BoA? Third, and I quote “purchased by the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith at the price of twenty four hundred dollars in the year eighteen hundred thirty five they were highly prized by Mr. Smith on account of the importance which attached to the record which were accidentaly found enclosed in the breast of one of the Mummies.” (Mr. Smith accidentally put the receipt of the purchase in the breast of one of the mummies, uh hum ah GROSS!) The Chicago Museum actually never had record of the other two mummies nor any of the scrolls and in fact Mr. Coombs’ heir brought the scrolls to the metropolitan museum and sold them in the 1940’s. So how are there missing scrolls? Lastly, and I quote, “They are a remarkably powerful and tangible testimony to the truthfulness of the Prophet’s clear and simply told story that he had in his hands some original papyri documents, some of which he used in producing the Book of Abraham” and that “the Prophet promised “further extracts from the Book of Abraham” than those writings that we already have, but martyrdom cut short his publication of new materials.” (Why didn’t the “Prophets” since 1967 finish what Mr. Smith preserved for them?) And finally, they were turned over to Mr. Nibley for further study and publication (which never came and isn’t discussed further).

    This IE article is vitally important to this topic, but not in a since that the church has been openly talking about this for the last 50 years. It was at a minimum misleading and casting light that the papyri used by Mr. Smith was actually found in 1967-but then for the next 50 years continues to say that the facsimiles used to translate the BoA are still missing.

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