The Book of Abraham

Do the Book of Abraham and Kinderhook Plates prove that Joseph Smith was a fraud?

Reference Links

Book of Abraham Info and Resources
The Kinderhook Plates

Video Transcript

In 1835 Joseph Smith purchased some authentic Egyptian scrolls from a traveling antiquities dealer, and claimed they were written by the very hands of the biblical figures of Abraham and Joseph.

That same year Smith translated from the papyrus what he called the Book of Abraham, which was later canonized by the Mormons in the Pearl of Great Price. This included three facsimiles with explanations as to how they were pertinent to the text.

The Book of Abraham lays the groundwork for many Mormon doctrines, including the plurality of Gods, the preexistence, the exaltation of man, and blacks not being able to hold the priesthood. It also mentions the Kolob, the star nearest to where God lives.

The papyri were thought to have been lost in the Chicago fire of 1871, but were found in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966 along with an affidavit from Joseph Smith’s wife that these indeed belonged to him.

When examined by Egyptologists, it was found to be a common Egyptian funerary text from over a thousand years after the time of Abraham. There was absolutely no relationship between Smith’s Book of Abraham and the actual Egyptian writing on the papyri.

Even Smith’s interpretations of the facsimiles were incorrect. For example, here Smith describes an Egyptian priest trying to kill Abraham, but in actuality, it is the god Anubis resurrecting Osiris from the dead.

Since this would conclusively prove that Joseph Smith lied about being able to translate ancient documents, and apparently made up the Book of Abraham, Mormons went into damage control. Defenses of the Book of Abraham include that it was all symbolic and Smith figured out the true meaning to Smith received a revelation that was inspired by viewing the papyri.

But this is clearly in opposition to the claims of Joseph Smith and the traditional church belief that he made a literal translation from the text. He even wrote a small book on the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, which is totally inconsistent with the non-literal argument.

And this isn’t an isolated case. In 1843, Smith was brought the Kinderhook plates, 6 small pieces of brass with mysterious writings on them. Smith claimed to translate some of them and found them to be an ancient document from a descendent of a Pharaoh.

But as it turned out, they were actually forgeries created for the specific purpose of exposing Smith as a fraud. They have even been examined by modern scientists and proven to not be of ancient origin. The LDS defense of this is to claim that all of the records that tell of Smith translating them are lies.

So when Joseph Smith’s claims as a translator have actually been able to be tested, they have failed. Which of course calls into question the integrity of the Book of Mormon. There’s more at