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42 Questions


Question 37

When the Metropolitan Museum of Art gave the LDS Church the original papyri in 1967, why didn't the President of the Church undertake the task of completing the translation of the Book of Abraham instead of turning the papyri over to Dr. Nibley for "further research and study?  John Taylor said that Joseph promised to furnish the church with "further extracts from the Book of Abraham (Times and Seasons 4:95), but we know that he didn't accomplish what he promised.  So what is stopping the incumbent Seer from completing Joseph's work?  Dr. Nibley hasn't given us the further extracts; in fact, the First Presidency has disavowed any sanction or approval of what Nibley did do!  (See letter to John L. Smith, August 22, 1975.)

Response:   by John Tvedtness, applied to this question by Malin Jacobs

From John Tvedtness’ response to Question 11:

It is incorrect to say that the Church now possesses the "original papyri . . . of the Book of Abraham."  The small papyrus fragments obtained by the Church in 1967 were cut and mounted on paper backing in 1835, yet for many years after that time Joseph Smith - and later his mother - showed a rather long scroll as the source of the Book of Abraham.  One witness described the roll as some 15 feet in length, while another said that when extended to its full length it had to be unrolled through the door and into the next room.  As far as we know, this long roll was among the Egyptian artifacts sold to Colonel Woods for his museum in St. Louis after the death of the prophet Joseph's mother.  Woods later moved his museum to Chicago, where its contents perished in the great fire of 1871.  For more information, see John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo: FARMS, 2000).

Given that the papyrus source of the Book of Abraham was not recovered by the church in 1967, the questioner’s mention of Dr. Nibley, John Taylor, and the First Presidency, or anything they may have said or done with the papyri fragments that were recovered in 1967, is irrelevant.