JMS Sunday School Lesson #2

Intro to the Book of Abraham

(1) An interesting history:
–In early 19C, an archeologist working for the French went home with eleven mummies, which he later sold. They ended up with Michael Chandler, who opened them, found papyri, toured the US with them, and sold them as he traveled.
–In 1835, JS purchased some of the papyri. Some were translated and now are the Book of Abraham. He said there were also writings from Joseph, but these were not translated and we don’t know where they are now.
–When JS died, the papyri ended up with his mother, then Emma, then a museum in Chicago where they were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. . . .
–. . . or so everyone thought, until some were found in 1966 in a NY art museum, at which point they were donated to the Church and are now in the archives . . .
–. . . and it was recognized that (1) the fragments date to about 200BC and (2) the text does not match the BoA but is a common funerary text.

(2) An interesting controversy:
–Needless to say, critics of the church have a field day with this information (one website announces, “The BoA proves that JS was a false prophet”); hence, I’m going to spend a very few minutes on it because of the Boy Scout motto.
–The fact that the date is nowhere near Abraham’s lifetime isn’t an issue because no one ever claimed that JS had the autograph.
–We do not have all of the papyri JS used (we have about 15%) and other ancient copies of these funerary texts have other texts on the same scroll.
–What did ‘translation’ mean to JS? The JST did not involve an original-language text; the BoM did not involve scholarly translation; perhaps the BoA was the same.
–The funerary text (and facsimiles) may be a corruption of the BoA restored by JS; there are several pieces of ancient Egyptian evidence associating Facsimile 1 and 2 with Abraham.
–We aren’t going to dwell on this, but it is important to be aware of the issues; if you are interested in more I can suggest a few websites and books.

[Note: I don’t know much about the BoA issue but I did want to provide a brief overview to my class. I have followed almost line-for-line Draper, Rhodes, and Brown’s The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary.]

Abraham 3

(1) Scan v1-21.
–I have sat through learned discussions of this section and I am convinced that anyone who claims to completely understand this passage is faking. (At least, I don’t understand it.)
–What I do understand is this: v15. Abraham is about to go into Egypt, where there is a high level of understanding of, and much interest in, astronomy and the Lord prepares him for what he will need for the challenges that he will face.
–Ask: Any experiences where you realized in hindsight that the Lord had prepared you with knowledge or wisdom that you would need for a specific situation?

(2) Read v22-28.
–There is a chiasmus in v22-23:

A before the world was
B noble and great ones
C God saw that these were good
D he stood in the midst of them
E “these I will make my rulers”
D’ he stood among . . . spirits
C’ he saw that they were good
B’ Abraham
A’ before thou wast born

–This suggests: the focus of the passage is on all of the noble ones, not just Abraham, emphasis on being in the presence of God, emphasis on their goodness as (literally) surrounding their choice as rulers.
–Foreordination can be a confusing idea for some people. But just like ordination today, it doesn’t force anyone to do something—it just gives them a responsibility and the capability to carry it out. (cf. Esther 4:14)
–The manual asks, “What might you have been foreordained to do?” which is a very interesting question.
–The manual also points out that we were all at this council, which is interesting.
–Ask: other thoughts on v22-23?
–Contrast v24 with the OT creation story: What differences emerge?
–In W1828, “prove” means to try or test. This is a very important verse inasmuch as it reveals the big Why? (and a lot of smaller Why?s, too). Thoughts?
–Lots of interesting language in v26; thoughts on “keep,” “estate” (W1828: fixed condition), “added upon,” and “glory.” “First estate” is used in Jude 1:6 in the context of fallen angels; it translates a rather generic GK word meaning “beginning.” My thought: our first estate (literally, pre-existence) is in God’s presence, so to keep it means to live in a way worthy to be in God’s presence. (I’m not so sure about “added upon” and “glory.”) Thoughts?
–Why “like untoâ€? in v27?
–Note how vague and incomplete v27-28 are; the Lord appears capricious in this account. (We’ll read Moses 4:1-4 in a minute where things are much clearer.) Any thoughts on why Abraham only gets this partial and confusing account here? My thought: perhaps this is a lesson to us that actions on God’s behalf that look capricious to us wouldn’t if we had more information.

Moses 4:1-4
(1) Read v1-4.
–V1 is really surprising info to a new convert: you would have thought that Satan’s plan was that NO ONE would return to the Father’s presence. Why does Satan propose this plan?
–What kinds of people would have been tempted by Satan’s plan? My thought: those who didn’t trust themselves, Christ, or God to get them back into God’s presence. Ask: In what ways might we act this way (i.e., wanting a ‘sure deal’ that requires nothing from us) today?
–What are some ways of describing the contrast between Satan and Christ based on v1 and v2?
–How could any spirit (let alone 1/3 of them!) stand right there in the presence of God and decide to follow Satan? Does this teach us something that is relevant today?
–Note that even the ickiest person on Earth chose, at one point, to follow Christ.
–Note the end of v4: there is no neutrality—anyone who doesn’t listen to the Father is a captive of Satan.

This week’s ‘precious morsels’ teach important truths about the preexistence.

2 comments for “JMS Sunday School Lesson #2

  1. Julie, your notes on the Abraham text and its relation to the Chandler mss. are very helpful. They deal with the issue quickly and accurately so that the class can get on to the lesson. Thanks.

  2. In early 19C, an archeologist working for the French went home with eleven mummies, which he later sold.

    The story is considerably more complicated than that — basically, the local French consul was making extra money selling off Egyptian antiquities on the side. But I agree that you probably don’t want to go into that level of detail. Just be advised.

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