Book of Abraham/Timeline

Timeline of events related to the Book of Abraham and Kirtland Egyptian Papers

July 1, 1835 (approximate)

From John Whitmer's history of the Church

About the first of July, 1835, there came a man having four Egyptian Mummies, exhibiting them for curiosities, which was a wonder indeed, having also some words connected with them which were found deposited with the mummies, but there being no one skilled in the Egyptian language therefore could not translate the record. After this exhibition Joseph the Seer saw these records and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records which gave an account of our forefathers, much of which was written by Joseph of Egypt who was sold by his brethren, which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the Saints.
Book of John Whitmer 1832-1846

July 3-6, 1835

Messenger and Advocate—Joseph Smith interprets some characters from the papyri by revelation

The morning Mr. Chandler first presented his papyrus to bro.—Smith, he was shown, by the latter, a number of characters like those upon the writings of Mr. C. which were previously copied from the plates, containing the history of the Nephites, or book of Mormon.

Being solicited by Mr. Chandler to give an opinion concerning his antiquities, or translation of some of the characters, bro. S. gave him the interpretation of some few for his satisfaction.
Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 2:235.

History of the Church—Joseph Smith interprets some characters from the papyri by revelation

On the 3rd of July, Michael H. Chandler came to Kirtland to exhibit some Egyptian mummies. There were four human figures, together with some two or more rolls of papyrus covered with hieroglyphic figures and devices. As Mr. Chandler had been told I could translate them, he brought me some of the characters, and I gave him the interpretation, and like a gentleman, he gave me the following certificate:

Kirtland, July 6, 1835.

This is to make known to all who may be desirous, concerning the knowledge of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic characters in my possession, which I have, in many eminent cities, showed to the most learned; and, from the information that I could ever learn, or meet with, I and that of Mr. Joseph Smith, Jun., to correspond in the most minute matters.

Michael H. Chandler, Traveling with, and proprietor of, Egyptian mummies.
(History of the Church 2:235)

The Writings of Abraham and Joseph. Soon after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the mummies and papyrus, a description of which will appear hereafter, and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery as scribes, I commenced the translation of some of the characters or hieroglyphics, and much to our joy found that one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt, etc.,—a more full account of which will appear in its place, as I proceed to examine or unfold them. Truly we can say, the Lord is beginning to reveal the abundance of peace and truth.
(History of the Church 2:236)

July 19 (approximate)

Letter sent by W.W. Phelps to his wife—The papyri have not yet been translated

The last of June, four Egyptian mummies were brought here; there were two papyrus rolls, besides some other ancient Egyptian writings with them. As no one could translate these writings, they were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said they, the "rolls of papyrus," contained the sacred record kept of Joseph in Pharaoh's court in Egypt, and the teachings of Father Abraham. God has so ordered it that these mummies and writings have been brought in the Church and the sacred writing I had just locked up in Brother Joseph's house when your letter came, so I had two consolations of good things in one day. These records of old times, when we translate and print them in a book, will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon. There is nothing secret or hidden that shall not be revealed, and they come to the Saints. . . ."
W.W. Phelps Letters

July 19-31 1835 (approximate)

History of the Church—Work is underway on the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL)

The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.
(History of the Church 2:238)

  • Joseph is translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham

August 5, 1835

From the Cleveland Whig

We are credibly informed that the Mormons have purchased of Mr. Chandler, three of the mummies, which he recently exhibited in this village; and that the prophet Joe has ascertained, by examining the papyrus through his spectacles, that they are the bodies of Joseph (the son of Abraham,) and King Abimeleck, and his daughter.

  • Joseph is translating the record "through his spectacles." (referring to the original Nephite interpreters—this is in error, since Joseph did not possess the Nephite interpreters at this time. He did, however, have his seer stone.)

1 October 1835

Joseph Smith's Diary—Work is underway on the "Egyptian alphabet"

This after noon labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with brsr. O. Cowdery and W. W. Phelps: The system of astronomy was unfolded. (Diary of Joseph Smith, October 1, 1835, p.3)

This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter. (History of the Church 2:286)

7 October 1835

this afternoon recommenced translating the ancient reccords (Diary of Joseph Smith, October 7, 1835, p. 7)

(History of the Church 2:289)

24 October 1835

Mr Goodrich and his lady called called to see the antient Records also called at Doct. F G. Williams to see the mummies, Brs. Hawks & Carpenter from Michigan visited us & taried over Sunday and attended meeting[.]
(Diary of Joseph Smith, October 24, 1835, p. 9)

17 November 1835

exibited the Alphabet some of the ancient records to Mr. Holmes and some others, went with him to F G. Williams to see the Mumies, we then took the parting hand, and he started for home, being strong in the faith of the gospel of Christ and determined to obey the requirements of the same.

I returned home and spent the day dictating and comparing letters.
(Diary of Joseph Smith, November 17, 1835, p. 45)

Exhibited the alphabet of the ancient records, to Mr. Holmes, and some others. Went with him to Frederick G. Williams', to see the mummies. We then took the parting hand, and he started for home, being strong in the faith of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and determined to obey its requirements. I returned home and spent the day in dictating and comparing letters.
(History of the Church 2:316)

19 November 1835

I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records: on this has been a warm & pleasant day (Diary of Joseph Smith, November 19, 1835, p. 47)

I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records. A warm and pleasant day.
(History of the Church 2:318)

20 November 1835

in morning at home: the weather is warm but rainy, we spent the day in translating, and made rapid progress

At Evening, President Cowdery returned from New York, bringing with him a quantity of Hebrew books for the benefit of the school, he presented me with a Hebrew bible, lexicon & grammar, also a Greek Lexicon and Websters English Lexicon.
(Diary of Joseph Smith, November 20, 1835, p. 47)

At home in the morning. Weather warm and rainy. We spent the day in translating, and made rapid progress.

In the evening, President Cowdery returned from New York, bringing with him a quantity of Hebrew books, for the benefit of the school. He presented me with a Hebrew Bible, Lexicon, and Grammar, also a Greek Lexicon, and Webster's English Dictionary.
(History of the Church 2:3l8)

24 November 1835

in the afternoon, we translated some of the Egyptian, records;
(Diary of Joseph Smith, November 24, 1835, p. 49)

In the afternoon we translated some of the Egyptian records.
(History of the Church 2:320)

25 November 1835

spent the day in Translating.
(Diary of Joseph Smith, November 25, 1835, p. 50)

Spent the day in translating.
(History of the Church 2:320)

26 November 1835

Spent the day in translating Egyptian characters from the papyrus, though severely afflicted with a cold.
(History of the Church 2:320)

December 1835

Upon the subject of the Egyptian records, or rather the writings of Abraham and Joseph, I may say a few words. This record is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part, red ink or paint, in perfect preservation. The characters are such as you find upon the coffins of mummies, hieroglyphics, &c. with many characters or letters exactly like the present, (though probably not quite so square,) form of the Hebrew without points.
(Messenger and Advocate vol. 2, no. 3, 234.)

30 January 1836

Attended school as usual, & waited upon several visiters & showed them the record of Abraham Mr Seixas our hebrew teacher examined them with deep interest & pronounced them to be original beyound all doubt, he is a man of excellent understanding & has a knowledge of many languages which were spoken by the Ancients[.] (Diary of Joseph Smith, January 30, 1836, p. 148)

3 February 1836

attended our hebrew lecture P. M. & studied with O. Cowdery & Sylvester Smith P. M. received many visiters & showed the records of Abraham[.] (Diary of Joseph Smith, February 3, 1836, p. 150)

17 February 1836

attend[ed] the school and read and translated with my class as usual, and my soul delights in reading the word of the Lord in the original, and I am determined to persue the study of languages untill I shall become master of them, if I am permitted to live long enough, at any rate so long as I do live I am determined to make this my object, and with the blessing of God I shall succed to my sattisfaction, this evening Elder Coe called to make some arangements about the Egyptian records and the mummies, he proposes to hire a room at J[ohn] Johnsons Inn and exibit them there from day to day at certain hours, that some benefit may be derived from them I complied with his request, and only observed that they must be managed with prudence and care especially the manuscripts[.] (Diary of Joseph Smith, February 17, 1836, p. 157)

1837 "A Few Interesting Facts Respecting The Rise and Progress and Pretentions of the Mormons," Pamphlet written by William S. West (Hostile source)

The Mormons have four mummies, and a quantity of records, written on papyrus, in Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were brought from the catacombs near Thebes, in Egypt. They say that the mummies were Egyptian, but the records are those of Abraham and Joseph, and contain important information respecting the creation, the fall of man, the deluge, the patriarchs, the book of Mormon, the lost tribe, the gathering, the end of the world, the judgment, &c. &c. This is as near as I can recollect; if there is an error I hope some of the Mormons will point it out, and I will recall it. These records were torn by being taken from the roll of embalming salve which contained them, and some parts entirely lost; but Smith is to translate the whole by divine inspiration, and that which is lost, like Nebuchadnezzar's dream, can be interpreted as well as that which is preserved; and a larger volume than the Bible will be required to contain them. For further account of these mummies and records, see Mormon Advocate, of December, 1835.

It is possible that a record written by Abraham, and another by Joseph, containing the most important revelation that god ever gave to man, should be entirely lost by the tenacious Israelites, and preserved by the unbelieving Egyptians, and by them embalmed and deposited in the catacombs with an Egyptian priest, there to lay in oblivion for may ages, and finally obtained by Antonio Lebolo and brought to Kirtland, Ohio, and bought by the Mormons, that Joseph Smith, the money-digger, might add them to his fictitious bible, and blasphemous revelations!! I venture to say no, it is not possible.

("A Few Interesting Facts Respecting The Rise and Progress and Pretentions of the Mormons," William S. West)