The ceaseless smiling Mormon ads on Patheos have generated a fair bit of discussion on these blogs, and I have learned a good deal about this new religion.

One of the details was the authorship of the Book of Abraham–one of the books in the Mormon scriptures. It’s a fascinating story. In 1830 or thereabouts a traveling sideshow entrepreneur turned up at Joseph Smith’s fledgling Mormon community in Ohio and sold Smith some Egyptian mummies and a couple of papyrus manuscripts. Smith proceeded to ‘translate’ the manuscripts and told his people they were none other than the stories of the patriarchs Abraham and Joseph from their sojourn in Egypt, and they were actually written in the very hand of Abraham and Joseph themselves. Smith went on to translate the scrolls and add them to the Mormon scriptures.

Time went on and Smith ended up being murdered by a mob in Illinois, and his estranged wife sold the mummies to a museum in Chicago where they were destroyed in a fire and everybody thought the manuscripts were destroyed too. But they turned up in 1966. By now the scholarship of ancient Egypt had advanced (thanks to the Rosetta Stone) so Smith’s translation of the manuscripts could be checked. Turns out they were just some pretty standard Egyptian burial documents.

Smith’s story was totally and completely and breathtakingly bogus.

You can learn all about this in detail by watching the interesting video here.

None of this surprises me too much, but the comments I received from Mormons are what I found most intriguing. Read more.