Orson Pratt recounts translation of Book Of Abraham; associates it with Urim & Thummim.

Aug 25, 1878
Speech / Court Transcript
Orson Pratt
Scribed Verbatim

Orson Pratt, "The Book of Mormon," (25 August. 1878), Journal of Discourses 20 (Liverpool: William Budge, 1880), 64–66

Journal of Discourses
Orson Pratt, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Latter-day Saints, Reading Public

And notwithstanding his youth and inexperience in regard to the learning and wisdom of the world, he proved himself a great and mighty man of God; he not only was the instrument in the hands of God of bringing to light the Book of Mormon, but also received numerous other revelations which are contained in this book called the Doctrine and Covenants, a book that contains nearly as much reading matter as the Book of Mormon; and besides these you will find that many of the revelations were given by him which are found in what is called the new edition of the Pearl of Great Price, published by the Deseret News Office, which gives a knowledge of things that took place in the creation much more fully than what is described in the book of Genesis, giving an account of a great many occurrences and events that transpired before the flood, also giving us much information of the Gospel that was taught in those early ages, and giving us some very important prophecies, reaching down to the present period of the world, and also prophecies that reach down still further, from the present day to the end of the world. These are not the only revelations, given through this great modern Prophet. The Lord brought to light sacred records from the Catacombs of Egypt. After several hundred men had wrought and toiled for many months in digging down one of these vast structures, they entered into its interior; they found a great number of mummies—the bodies of persons that had been preserved since the catacomb was built, and some eleven of these mummies, well preserved, were taken out by these men, and they finally fell into the hands of a person named M. H. Chandler. They were sent from Egypt to Ireland, where it was supposed he resided, but learning that he resided in America, they were sent to him. After receiving the mummies he began to take off some of the ancient covering or wrapping, and to his astonishment he found upon the breast of one of these mummies a record written upon ancient papyrus in plain characters, written both in black and red inks, or stains, or colors. And the mummies and the records were exhibited by Mr. Chandler, in New York, Philadelphia, and many of the Eastern States of our Union; and thousands of people saw them, and among them many learned men; and these characters were presented to them, and not infrequently was Mr. Chandler referred to “Joe” Smith as they used to term him, who, they said, pretended to have translated some records that he found in the western part of New York, and that if Mr. Chandler would go and see him perhaps he would translate those ancient characters. Many of these references were made with the intention of ridiculing Mr. Smith; but it so happened that in traveling through the country he visited Kirtland, Ohio, where the Prophet Joseph Smith resided, bringing the mummies and the ancient papyrus writings with him. Mr. C. had also obtained from learned men the best translation he could of some few characters, which however, was not a translation, but more in the shape of their ideas with regard to it, their acquaintance with the language not being sufficient to enable them to translate it literally. After some conversation with the Prophet Joseph, Mr. Chandler presented to him the ancient characters, asking him if he could translate them. The prophet took them and repaired to his room and inquired of the Lord concerning them. The Lord told him they were sacred records, containing the inspired writings of Abraham when he was in Egypt, and also those of Joseph, while he was in Egypt; and they had been deposited, with these mummies, which had been exhumed. And he also enquired of the Lord concerning some few characters which Mr. Chandler, gave him by way of a test, to see if he could translate them. The Prophet Joseph translated these characters and returned them, with the translation to Mr. Chandler; and who, in comparing it with the translation of the same few characters by learned men, that he had before obtained, found the two to agree. The Prophet Joseph having learned the value of these ancient writings was very anxious to obtain them, and expressed himself wishful to purchase them. But Mr. Chandler told him that he would not sell the writings, unless he could sell the mummies, for it would detract from the curiosity of his exhibition; Mr. Smith inquired of him the price which was a considerable sum, and finally purchased the mummies and the writing, all of which he retained in his possession for many years; and they were seen by all the Church that saw proper to visit the house of the Prophet Joseph and also by hundreds of strangers.

The Prophet translated the part of these writings which, as I have said is contained in the Pearl of Great Price, and known as the Book of Abraham. Thus you see one of the first gifts bestowed by the Lord for the benefit of His people, was that of revelation—the gift to translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, the gift of bringing to light old and ancient records. Have any of the other denominations got this gift among them? Go and inquire through all of Christendom and do not miss one denomination. Go and ask the oldest Christian associations that are extant; go to Italy, headquarters, and ask the man that holds the greatest power and authority in the Romish Church, “Can you translate ancient records written in a language that is lost to the knowledge of man?” “No,” he would say, “we cannot, it is out of my power to do it.” Go to Russia inquire of the heads of the church of the Greek Catholics, if they can do this; and they will give you, substantially, the same answer. Then try the later, the present day denominations, inquire of every one of them, beginning with the Lutherans and the Calvinists, and the Church of England, and then put the same question to all of the branches that have sprung from them; as well as to those that have come into existence by other means; and the universal reply of the Christian denominations numbering some 400,000,000, would be that they have not the power to do it. . . . What man, I would ask further, among all the religions of the earth, for the last seventeen centuries, that has possessed the Urim and Thummim, the gift that would constitute him a seer and a revelator?

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