A few interesting asides about Egyptian and the Pearl of Great Price

02.05.2016 | Blair Hodges

A page from the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language. See Hauglid’s “The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Project.”

One of the most interesting puzzles in Joseph Smith’s documentary record involves the Egyptian language. The story of Joseph Smith acquiring Egyptian funerary documents is rather well known. Lesser-known are his efforts, along with several scribes, to work out a sort of Egyptian alphabet and grammar. In a recently published essay, Willes Center director Brian Hauglid analyzes Joseph Smith’s Egyptian project alongside the translation of the Book of Abraham. The complex paper is available to download here. It’s based on the presentation Hauglid delivered during the 2013 Church History Symposium, also available in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World. As an interesting aside, Hauglid points out that Junius Booth (the father of assassin John Wilkes Booth) likely acquired two mummies from the same mummy collection that Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints purchased theirs in 1835 (according to research by Brian Smith). As a more interesting aside, Hauglid is working with Terryl Givens on a volume about the Pearl of Great Price for Oxford University Press. Its theme will be similar to Givens’s earlier book By the Hand of Mormon, a sort of reception history of the Book of Mormon. The book is still in the early stages without an estimated publication date. In the meantime, you can read Hauglid’s paper on the Book of Abraham and Egyptian project here.