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Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP)


Joseph Smith and his five scribes (Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Warren Parrish, Willard Richards, and Frederick G. Williams) created the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) as working documents for translating the Egyptian papyri. The KEP served as a source for the Book of Abraham.

An Overview of the KEP

In addition to the published facsimiles in the Book of Abraham, we can examine Joseph’s translation of some portions of the surviving papyri.

The remainder of the 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.

Joseph Smith

— Joseph Smith

Mormonism founder
History of the Church, Vol. 2, p. 238

Examining the Translation Manuscripts

The manuscripts copy characters from the ‘Abraham Roll’—inventing characters where the papyrus is damaged or missing—along with Joseph’s translation of them. This section highlighted below comprises the text of Abraham 1:1-2:18.

Abraham Roll

The 'Abraham Roll'. Joseph Smith translated from this roll and said it "contained the writings of Abraham". It is the source of Abraham 1:1 - 2:18, Facsimiles 1 and 3. This roll is from the Egyptian Book of Breathing, for the deceased named Hor.

The 'Abraham Roll' → to the Translation Manuscripts → to the Book of Abraham

Comparing Translations

This example compares Joseph’s translation from the Translation Manuscript C, page 3 (which became Book of Abraham, Ch. 1).

Papyrus Manuscript Joseph Smith Egyptology

[v. 11] therefore they were killed upon this altar.
[v. 12] And it was done after the manner of the Egyptians, and it came to pass, that the priests, laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those Virgins, upon this altar, and that you might have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation, at the commencement of this record.


[v. 13] It was made after the form of a bed-stead such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods, of Elkkener. Zibnah Mahmachrah and also, a god like unto that of Pharaoh King of Egypt
[v. 14] that you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fassion of them, in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is called by the Chaldeans Kahleenos.


[v. 15] And as they lifted up their hands, upon me, that they might offer me up, and take away my life, behold I lifted up my voice, unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened, and heard, and he filled me with a vision of the Almighty and the Angel of his presence, stood by my feet, and immediately loosed my bands.


[v. 16] And his voice was unto me, Abram, Abram, behold my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee, away from thy fathers house, and from all thy kins-folks, into a strange land,

[page 4]

which thou knowest not of, [v. 17] and from all this because they have turned their hearts away from me, to worship the god of Elkkener, and the god of Zibnah, and of Mahmachrah, and the god of Pharaoh King of Egypt; therefore I have come down to visit them, and to destroy him who hath lifted up his hand, against thee, Abram my son to take away thy life; [v. 18] behold I will lead thee, by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee, [v. 19] as it was with Noah, so shall it be with thee, that through thy ministry, my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God.



In addition to the Book of Abraham facsimile translations, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) allow us to examine Joseph Smith’s accuracy in translating Egyptian characters.

The whole work was, "largely a piece of imagination and lacking in any kind of scientific a value."

I. E. Stephen Edwards

— I. E. Stephen Edwards

Vice President, Egypt Exploration Society
Keeper of the Dept. Egyptian Antiquities, British Museum
Letter dated June 9, 1966, as quoted in By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, p. 43

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