Janne M. Sjodahl recounts translation of BOA for LDS youth.

Feb 1929
Janne M. Sjodahl

Janne M. Sjodahl, "The Book of Abraham," Juvenile Instructor 64, no. 2 (February 1929): 78–79

Juvenile Instructor
Michael H. Chandler, W. W. Phelps, Janne M. Sjodahl, Leonard Wooley, Abraham, Joseph, Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery
Latter-day Saints, Reading Public


On July 3, 1835, a gentleman by the name of Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland and exhibited some Egyptian relics, consisting of four mummies, some rolls of papyrus and a few smaller fragments of writings. The whole collection had previously been exhibited in New York and Philadelphia, where it had attracted the attention of scholars as well as the general public.

The Saints in Kirtland purchased the mummies and the manuscripts. Upon closer scrutiny, the Prophet Joseph Smith found, to his joy, that he had before him writings of Abraham and of Joseph, the son of Jacob, and the Prophet notes in his diary under date of July 5, 1835 : "Truly we can say the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth." That was the estimate he placed on those finds.

Having ascertained the inestimable literary value of the rolls, the Prophet went to work, assisted by Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, to learn the meaning of the pictures and hieroglyphs inscribed on the papyri. On October 1, 1835, the Prophet had advanced in his work so far that he wrote : "During the research the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding."

We know from Genesis (12:10-20) that Abraham, during a time of famine in the land of promise, went to Egypt. In the Book of Abraham we are given to understand the special mission of the patriarch in Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped the sun and other heavenly bodies, and all kinds of objects, especially animals. Abraham came to declare the true God, and to teach the people that the sun and the stars and the planets, and all things that exist, are the creations of God, who alone is worthy of the reverence paid to the works of his hands. Hence the wonderful revelations recorded in the Book of Abraham concerning the structure and the government of the universe.

In the first chapter of the Book of Abraham it is noted that the people of Ur, the city of Abraham, in the land of Chaldeans, had become idolaters, and that they had an altar "by the hill called Potiphar's Hill," at the head of the plain of Olishem," on which they occasionally sacrificed men, women and children. It is also stated that the priests laid violent hands on Abraham, having selected him for a sacrifice on the altar, but that the Lord saved him from this fate and broke down the sanctuary.

This story of the Book of Abraham has, as I see it, been wonderfully corroborated lately. Explorers, representing the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the British Museum, have for some time been excavating the ruins of the City of Ur. They have found a number of objects, some from the very time of Abraham, indicating the existence, even in those early days, of a well advanced civilization. One of the directors of the expedition. Dr. Leonard Wooley, in a recent lecture in Stockholm on their archaelogical finds, said the city of Ur was quite a large city in its day, and that the products of its goldsmiths, stone cutters and engravers were far ahead of those found in Egypt during the first dynasty. The civilization of Ur came from some religion between the Euphrates and India, from the same place where the Egyptian culture originated, says Dr. Wooley, which would account for the identical features of the religious observances of the people of Ur and those of Egypt, as noted in the Book of Abraham.

But the most important feature of the city was what we may call the temple square. On this square evidences were found, according to Dr. Wooley, of an artificial hill, or mound, about 210 feet long, 120 feet wide, and 105 feet high. Such hills the Summerians constructed according to the explorer, in all their cities. This hill in Ur rose in terraces and. the altar stood on the top, where the moon god was worshiped.

In the sepulchres of kings, the excavators found, according to the explorer, evidences of human sacrifices, as well as valuable gold and silver utensils. The grave vaults contained rows of the remains of men and women, slain in order that they might accompany the king to the other side. Here we have the strongest possible corroboration of the history of the Book of Abraham. The altar, the hill on the "plain" or square, the human sacrifices and the reason for them, all this is found by the explorers, as stated in that book.

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