This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Thomas A. Wayment. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
Volume four of the Revelations and Translations series presents for the first time a transcription and complete photographic reproduction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ holdings of all the manuscripts, grammars, lexical aids, and other resources that were produced in the process of creating the book of Abraham. The publication of these materials comes at a timely moment for the Church and scholars working on the book of Abraham. The internal dynamics that are obvious in the Church’s Gospel Topics Essay on the book of Abraham are less determinative for this publication; the essay includes the claims that some translations “were not based on any known physical records” and that Latter-day Saint and other Egyptologists “agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham,” but it offers no cogent explanation of how this could occur. The publication of the grammar and alphabet materials alongside the text of the book of Abraham, however, represents a process by which Smith explored an unfamiliar language and sought to interpret it even though the language remained unknown to him. For decades, the grammar and alphabet have remained largely on the sidelines, as unwanted byproducts that were potentially produced by scribes who worked on their own. Now, these products are situated within Joseph Smith’s translation process without discrimination, and that will prove to be one of the most important contributions of this new volume.