An Examination of
Joseph Smith’s “Explanation” of Facsimile #2 in the Book
1835 Michael H. Chandler arrived in Kirtland, Ohio.
In his horse-drawn wagon he carried four Egyptian
with the mummies were included displays of the papyri rolls
found on the mummies themselves.
Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, was fascinated by
Chandler’s exhibit, so much so that his fledgling Church
purchased the entire display from Chandler for a large sum of
Joseph Smith said:
after this, some of the Saints at Kirtland purchased the
mummies and papyrus...and with W. W. Phelps and Oliver
Cowdery as scribes, 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...(Documentary History of the Church, 2:236,
It should be remembered that at this time the study of
Egyptian was, on a scholarly level, in its infancy.
Smith was claiming to be able to translate
what was, for all practical purposes, an unknown language.
Of course, he had claimed this same ability in
translating the Book of Mormon, which was said to have been
written in “Reformed Egyptian.”
That Smith was indeed claiming to translate in the
normal sense of the term can be seen from his own words:
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 (DHC 2:238).
Over the next nine years Smith continued to work on his
translation of the
Book of Abraham. The
work was included in the Pearl
of Great Price when it was accepted as Scripture in 1880.
The Book of Abraham is unique amongst the books of LDS
Scripture: it is the only book that contains illustrations in
the form of three “Facsimiles,” each with an
“Explanation” provided by Joseph Smith.
Since the actual papyri were thought lost (some of the
original papyri were found in 1967 and turned over to the LDS
Church), the “Facsimiles” provided the only means of
testing Joseph Smith’s translation, and his understanding of
the documents that were before him.
In this small tract we cannot discuss all the evidence
that now exists regarding the Book of Abraham, the papyri that
have been found, and the various explanations put forward by
defenders of Joseph Smith.
Instead, we wish to look at just one aspect of the Book
of Abraham, Facsimile 2 (found on the front of this tract),
and even more specifically, one section of this drawing and
what it really
Pearl of Great Price, marked and explained by Joseph Smith as figure
God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens
the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of
the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove.
Is this indeed a representation of the one true God
sitting upon His throne revealing the grand Key-words of the
Joseph Smith a man ahead of his time, able to decipher
Egyptian writings in a time when scholarship was just starting
to get a clue on the topic?
The object that Joseph Smith included in the Book of
Abraham is, in reality, a “hypocephalus,” a common item of
Egyptian funeral literature (all of the facsimiles in the Book
of Abraham are drawn from common Egyptian funerary documents).
It was placed under the person’s head, and was to aid
them in making the journey through the netherworld by bathing
their bodies in light. Many
examples of this kind of hypocephalus are to be found.
One of the many pagan gods pictured in this
hypocephalus is shown above as it appears in the current
edition of the LDS Scriptures.
Egyptologists tell us that this is the god “Min.”
Min is an “ithyphallic god,” that is, a sexually
aroused male deity, as the picture clearly indicates.
Min is the god of the procreative forces of nature.
Joseph Smith told us that the Egyptian god Min was in
point of fact the one true God.
And what is Min doing?
Joseph tells us that he is revealing the grand
Key-words of the priesthood, with the sign of the Holy Ghost
in the form of a dove before him.
In reality, he is holding up the “divine flail” in
one hand and is being approached by the figure Joseph Smith
identified as the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove.
In point of fact, Joseph’s hypocephalus was damaged
at the border so that only the head of the “dove” was
Joseph had to restore the picture.
Did he do so correctly?
No, he did not. The figure to the right provides us with the proper scene
from another hypocephalus (Leyden AMS 62).
The being that is approaching Min is not the Holy Ghost
in the form of a dove; it is yet another ithyphallic figure,
specifically, a serpent, probably the Egyptian God Nehebka,
presenting to Min the wedjat- eye, the symbol of good gifts.
The single LDS scholar who has written the most on the
Book of Abraham, Dr. Hugh Nibley, has written of Min:
As the supreme sex symbol of gods and men, Min
behaves with shocking promiscuity,
which is hardly relieved by its ritual nature...His sacred
plants were aphrodisiacal...and he is everywhere represented
as indulging in incestuous relationships with those of his
immediate family; he had
the most numerous and varied religious entourage of
all the gods, consisting
mostly of his huge harem...The hymns, or rather chanting of
his worshippers were accompanied with lewd dancing and
carousing...to the exciting stimulus of a band of sistrum-shaking
damsels (Abraham in Egypt, p. 210).
must be remembered that Joseph Smith said that this figure
represented God sitting on His throne! Incredible as it may seem, intelligent, well-read LDS are
fully aware of the true nature of the hypocephalus, including
the presence of Min and Nehebka (the vast majority of LDS,
however, are not). How do they explain this?
Mormon Egyptologist Michael Dennis Rhoades said,
Smith mentions here the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove and
God ‘revealing through the heavens the grand key-words of
the priesthood.’ The procreative forces, receiving unusual
accentuation throughout the representation, may stand for
many divine generative powers, not least of which might be
conjoined with blessing of the Priesthood in one’s
posterity eternally (BYU Studies,
Spring 1977, p. 273).
other words, since the God of Mormonism is sexually active,
begetting children in the spirit-world (indeed, God’s power
is often described by Mormons as being made of the power of
the priesthood and the power of procreation), and Min is
obviously sexually active as well, this then is the
We believe that Joseph Smith was utterly ignorant of
what was represented in the Egyptian papyri that lay before
him. Incapable of
translating the figures, he made things up as he went along,
claiming God’s direction and inspiration as his guide.
In the process he demonstrated his own inability as a
“prophet, seer and revelator,” for he grossly
misidentified each of the items not only in this Facsimile,
but in the other two as well.
Joseph Smith’s defenders today seek to find any
connection whatsoever between LDS belief and Egyptian
religion, even to the point of seeing in the sexually aroused
Min a picture of God upon His throne.
But to grasp at this straw is to ignore the Biblical
testimony to the one true God. Isaiah saw God upon His throne in Isaiah 6:1-10, but instead
of an incestuous god, surrounded by lewd dancing girls, the
angels surrounded His throne and cried, “Holy, holy,
describes the gods of Egypt as “idols” that tremble before
him (Isaiah 9:1); these false gods will literally be captured
by God in His wrath (Jeremiah 43:12).
God reveals the worship of these gods to be an
abomination that brings His wrath (Jeremiah 44:8), and
mentions one Egyptian god by name in speaking of the
punishment he will bring against Egypt (Jeremiah 46:25).
Those who worship such gods are “defiled” in
God’s sight (Ezekiel 20:7-8).
The Bible has nothing but contempt for the gods of
Egypt, which would include the abominable figure of Min,
identified by Joseph Smith as his God.
We will gladly admit that there is a similarity between
the pagan god Min and the Mormon doctrine of God developed in
the later years of Joseph Smith’s life.
What is equally clear is that the God of the Bible is
not similar to either Min, nor the LDS God.
As God Himself said:
“To whom will you
For further information contact:
Alpha and Omega Ministries
Phoenix, AZ 85069
(602) 973-4602 http://www.aomin.org