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The Salt Lake City Messenger N:o 78, Kesäkuu 1991
In our new book, Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, we
have compiled some very important information concerning the Pearl
of Great Price, a book accepted by members of the Mormon Church
as inspired scripture. It is, in fact, one of the four standard
works of the church.
Since most of the material contained in the Pearl of Great
Price was supposed to have been given to the Mormon prophet
Joseph Smith by divine revelation, it is considered more accurate
than the Bible. The "Book of Moses," contained in the
first part of the Pearl Of Great Price, purports to give
an account of the Creation which God originally gave to Moses
and later revealed to Joseph Smith.
In the 1965 printing of Commentary on the Pearl of Great
Price, by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, page xi,
we need go no further in our research than to
compare the story of the Creation of the earth and Man, and the
history thereof down to the time of the Flood as it appears in
the Book of Genesis (Old Testament) with these same writings,
unimpaired or unmarred by the incidents of time, contained in
the Pearl of Great Price, the Writings of Moses. At first
they both were the same; the one (Genesis) effaced by the wisdom
and carelessness of men, the other as it was revealed by God through
the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The second part of the Pearl of Great Price contains the
"Book of Abraham." It was supposed to have been written
on papyrus by Abraham himself about 4,000 years ago! According
to Mormon officials, this same papyrus fell into Joseph Smith's
hands and he began translating it in 1835.
The Pearl of Great Price also contains Joseph Smith's
"inspired" translation of a portion of the book of Matthew,
his own story concerning how God the Father and his Son Jesus
Christ appeared to him, and how an angel from God revealed that
some gold plates were buried near his home. Smith "translated"
these plates and published the contents under the title, The
Book of Mormon. The Pearl of Great Price concludes
with Joseph Smith's "Articles of Faith."
The Pearl of Great Price was first published in book form
in 1851 by Apostle Franklin D. Richards. Prior to Richard's compilation,
portions of the text he used had been published in early Mormon
publications. In 1880, the Pearl of Great Price was canonized
and at that time became one of the four standard works of the
One of the problems relating to the Pearl of Great Price
is the serious changes that have appeared in the text since it
was published in 1851. New elements have been added to the text
which were not in the original handwritten manuscript when it
was first dictated.
The portion of the Pearl of Great Price which has had
the most drastic alterations made in it is the "Book of Moses."
The Book of Moses is actually only a part of a far larger work
known as the "Inspired Version" of the Bible. Mormon
Apostle Bruce R. McConkie stressed that the Inspired Version was
given to Joseph Smith by revelation:
In consequence, at the command of the Lord and while acting
under the spirit of revelation, the Prophet corrected, revised,
altered, added to, and deleted from the King James Version of
the Bible to form what is now commonly referred to as the Inspired
Version of the Bible.... The first 151 verses of the Old
Testament, down to Genesis 6:13, are published as the Book
of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. But as restored
by the Prophet the true rendition contains about 400 verses
and a wealth of new doctrinal knowledge and historical data....
the marvelous flood of light and knowledge revealed through
the Inspired Version of the Bible is one of the great evidences
of the divine mission of Joseph Smith. (Mormon Doctrine,
1979, p. 383-84)
Actually, the Inspired Version of the Bible has been the
source of much embarrassment for the Mormon Church leaders. It
was never published during Joseph Smith's lifetime. In fact, his
wife, Emma, retained the manuscript and would not give it to Willard
Richards, who had been sent by Brigham Young to obtain it (see
History of the Church, vol. 7, p. 260).
Mormon Church leaders were never able to obtain the original
manuscripts of the Inspired Version from Joseph Smith's
widow. She, in fact, turned them over to the Reorganized Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saintsan offshoot of the Mormon
Church. This was a great blow to the Mormon leaders because they
considered the Reorganized Church to be an "apostate"
To the chagrin of the Mormon leaders, in 1867 the Reorganized
Church published Joseph Smith's Inspired Version of the Bible.
Brigham Young was very opposed to the idea of members of his church
receiving the Revision from an "apostate" organization.
Apostle Orson Pratt, on the other hand, wanted to accept it, and
this caused some conflict with President Young.
After the Inspired Version was published by the Reorganized
Church, it became obvious that there were serious discrepancies
between it and the chapters the Mormon Church had published in
1851 in the Pearl of Great Price.
According to James R. Harris, of the Mormon Church's Brigham
Young University, Brigham Young felt that the Reorganized Church's
publication was fraudulent:
The minutes of the School of the Prophets indicate
that President Brigham Young regarded the Revision "spurious"
and that he brought Elder Pratt to some level of agreement
with his position. (Brigham Young University Studies, Summer
1968, p. 374, n. 23)
President Young, on the other hand, had "high regard"
for the first edition of the Pearl of Great Price (see
The Story of the Pearl of Great Price, by James R. Clark,
After President Young passed away, the church leaders completely
repudiated his ideas concerning the accuracy of these books, for
they changed the text of the Pearl of Great Price to agree
with the Reorganized Church's printing of the Inspired Version.
In his M. A. thesis, written at Brigham Young University
in 1958, James R. Harris acknowledged that "every major change
in the American edition [i.e., the 1878 edition of the Pearl
of Great Price] appears in identical form in the Inspired
Revision." ("A Study of the Changes in the Contents
of the Book of Moses From the Earliest Available Sources to the
Current Edition," typed copy, page 225)
The fact that the Mormon Church leaders changed the text of the
Pearl of Great Price to agree with the Inspired Version
indicates that they felt the "apostate"' Reorganized
Church had a more accurate version of the scriptures than they
did! They, therefore, put more trust in the publication by the
Reorganized Church than they did in the word of President Brigham
Young, the 2nd Prophet, Seer and Revelator of the church.
It is rather interesting to note that Brigham Young died in
1877, and before a year had passed the new altered edition of
the Pearl of Great Price was published. It is also significant
that Orson Pratt, the apostle who disagreed with President Young
over the accuracy of the Inspired Revision, was the editor
of the 1878 edition.
In any case, in his M. A. thesis, James R. Harris freely
admitted that the text of the Pearl of Great Price was
"drastically" altered in 1878:
Orson Pratt was the Editor of the first American edition of
the Pearl of Great Price... The American edition was
more drastically changed than any previous publication by a
member of the Church. ("A Study of the Changes in the Contents
of the Book of Moses.... typed copy, p. 226)
From the standpoint of omissions and additions of words, the
American Edition is the most spectacular rendition.... Some
of the words added to the American edition had impressive doctrinal
implications. (Ibid., p. 224-25)
Although James R. Harris admits that serious changes were made
in the Pearl of Great Price, he feels that Joseph Smith
himself made the changes in manuscripts he worked on before his
death. In other words, he believes that when the Mormon leaders
changed the text of the Pearl of Great Price in 1878, they
were bringing it into conformity with changes Joseph Smith made
in the manuscripts during his lifetime.
Richard P. Howard, Church Historian for the Reorganized Church,
has released information which gives support to Dr. Harris' idea.
Howard, who has had access to the original manuscripts, shows
that there were a number of different manuscripts involved in
the production of the Inspired Version of the Bible and
that Joseph Smith often revised his own revisions and left
the manuscripts in a very confused state:
Many texts reveal that the process was not some kind of automatic
verbal or visual revelatory experience on the part of Joseph
Smith. He often caused a text to be written in one form and
later reworded his initial revision. The manuscripts in some
cases show a considerable time lapse between such reconsiderations...
A considerable number of places in NT #2 [as Mr. Howard now
numbers the manuscripts] show that initially Joseph Smith considered
certain texts in the King James Version to be either correct
or in need of slight revision, but that on later consideration
he decided to amend them further. Since the manuscript pages
were already written and filled to the extent that the later
corrections could not be included, the problem was solved by
writing the text out on a scrap of paper and pinning or sewing
it to the appropriate manuscript page. (Restoration Scriptures:
A Study of Their Textual Development, 1969, p. 93,
Therefore OT #3 represents a third draft manuscript of... Genesis 1-7,
a second draft manuscript of Genesis 8-24:42a, and a first
draft manuscript of the remainder of the Old Testament, although
revised considerably by interpolations written in later years
between the lines and on separate scraps of paper pinned to
the manuscript pages." (Ibid., p. 106)
...the manuscripts indicate rather clearly that Joseph Smith,
Jr., by his continued practice of rerevising his earlier texts
(occasionally as many as three times), demonstrated that he
did not believe that at any of those points of rerevision he
had dictated a perfectly inerrant text by the power or voice
of God.... It is thus unnecessary and could be misleading to
appear to claim 'direct' revelation in the determination of
the entire text of the Inspired Version as the preface
written for the 1867 edition apparently implied. (Ibid.,
Richard P. Howard's admission that Joseph Smith rerevised his
earlier text "occasionally as many as three times" is
certainly a serious indictment against Joseph Smith's work and
plainly shows that his "Inspired Version" is anything
but inspired. The fact that he could not make up his mind shows
that he was tampering with the Scriptures according to his own
imagination rather than receiving revelation from God.
Mormon writer Truman G. Madsen also admitted that Joseph Smith
"often revised a passage, later added to or amended it, and
then, in a third attempt, clarified it further." (Improvement
Era, March 1970, p. 70)
The many changes that had to be made in the "inspired"
renderings found in the Pearl of Great Price tend to undermine
confidence in Joseph Smith's work. As we indicated earlier, the
most drastic revision of the Pearl of Great Price was made
In our new book, Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, we
have photographically reproduced the original 1851 edition of
the Pearl of Great Price and carefully compared it with
the church's official 1989 printing. All of the changes that have
been made have been noted in handwriting. The reader, therefore,
can plainly see all of the words that were added, deleted or changed.
Moses or Joseph?
As one reads the first section of the Pearl of Great Price
(the "Book of Moses") the question arises as to whether
the words were actually spoken to Moses by God over 3,000 years
ago or if they came from the fertile imagination of someone who
lived in the 19th century.
To those familiar with the Bible, the phraseology of the document
has the ring of ancient scripture. Unfortunately, however, it
sounds just too much like the King James Version, which was first
published in 1611. Many of the verses, in fact, have been plagiarized
from the book of Genesis.
We have used the Mormon Church's own computer program, The
Computerized Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, to help us locate the verses which have been borrowed
from the Bible.
In Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, Appendix 2, we
show a large number of verses that have obviously been taken from
Genesis. The most serious problem, however, is that material has
also been taken from the New Testament.
In our book, Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon,
we have dealt with the presence of New Testament quotations in
Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, and since the situation is analogous
to that found in the Book of Moses, we quote the following from
It is very clear from the contents of the Book of Mormon that
while the author was not a trained Bible scholar, he was rather
familiar with the contents of the King James Version of the Bible.
Although Mormon apologists are reluctant to face the facts, the
evidence shows that Joseph Smith had the ability and the Biblical
knowledge required to write the Book of Mormon. According to Smith's
earliest account of his life, written in 1832, he claimed he began
studying the Bible when he was only about 12 years old....
From letters and comments we have received, it is obvious that
many believers in the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon
do not have a correct understanding of the plagiarism issue with
regard to that book. They often point out that some portions of
the Bible are similar or even identical to other portions and
feel that this demonstrates there is no problem with the Book
of Mormon using parts of the Bible.
It is true, of course, that such similarities do occur. For
instance, many of the words of Jesus are taken from the Old Testament.
In Deuteronomy 8:3 the following words of Moses are given: '...man
doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proccedeth
out of the mouth of the Lord doth he live.' In Matthew 4:4 these
words are attributed to Jesus: 'But he answered and said, It is
written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word
that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'
Since we have evidence that the book of Deuteronomy was in existence
before the time of Christ from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint
translation of the Bible made in [the] third century B. C.,
it is obvious that Jesus could have quoted from it. There are,
in fact, many quotations from it in the New Testament, and this
is the very thing we should expect to find.... in the examples
we have cited from the Bible, all of the cases of copying can
be explained by simply stating the obvious fact that the authors
used some known and available work.
The problem with regard to the Book of Mormon, however, is that
it has the ancient Nephites making extensive quotations from works
that were not even in existence at that time. In fact,
in the 1st and 2nd books of Nephi, the writings of the New Testament
are cited 600 years before they were written!...
To those who really consider the matter, it should be obvious
that the presence of many portions of the New Testament in the
Book of Mormon is more out of place than to find the following
words in a speech attributed to George Washington: 'Four score
and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent,
a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.' These words alone would be enough
to prove the speech a forgery.
While less than a century separated George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln, in the Book of Mormon we have Lehi quoting from the New
Testament book of Revelation almost seven centuries before
it was written! (The first quotation appears on the second
page of the Book of Mormon and is dated 'About 600 B. C.'
The book of Revelation is believed to have been written about
A. D. 90.)
It is clear that the author of the Book of Mormon was holding
a King James Version of the Bible in his hand when he produced
it. He, therefore, could not have lived in 600 B. C. When
all the evidence is examined, it is evident that he actually lived
in 1830some 2,430 years after Lehi was supposed to have
fled from Jerusalem. (Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book
of Mormon, pages 75, 79-81)
As we have already pointed out, Joseph Smith's Book of Moses
is also filled with material that has been plagiarized from the
New Testament. Moses 6:52, for example, has quotations from a
number of New Testament passages. Below we have set this verse
in regular type and added similar material found in New Testament
verses in bold type:
|And he also said unto him [Adam]:
If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and
believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized,
||and be baptized (Acts 2:38)
|even in water, in the name of mine
Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth,
||only begotten of the Father, full of grace
and truth (John 1:14)
|which is Jesus Christ
||which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians
|the only name which shall be given
under heaven, whereby salvation shall come
||there is none other name under heaven given
among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
|unto the children of men, ye shall
receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,
||ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
|asking all things in his name,
and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.
||Whatsoever ye shall ask... he will give it
you (John 16:23)
In Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, Appendix 1, the
reader will find over 150 parallels between the New Testament
and the Book of Moses. There are undoubtedly other parallels that
could be pointed out, but this should be sufficient to convince
the reader of the modern origin of "Book of Moses."
All of the evidence points to the inescapable conclusion that
the Mormon prophet was not working with an ancient text dating
back to the time of Moses; instead he was borrowing from the King
James Version of the Bible.
Joseph Smith's "Book of Moses" clearly bears all the
earmarks of a spurious document and reminds us of the works of
Paul Dunn. Like Dunn, Smith combined elements from more than one
source to create his story of the early history of the world.
He appropriated a large number of verses from the Old Testament,
modified them to serve his own purposes and then added elements
from a number of books in the New Testament.
In MormonismShadow or Reality? we have a chart showing
that there is a great deal of manuscript evidence for the Bible.
Some of it, in fact, dates back even before the time of Christ!
Joseph Smith's Book of Moses, on the other hand, is without documentary
support. The only handwritten manuscripts for the Book of Moses
are those dictated by Joseph Smith in the early 1830's.
As we have noted earlier, the Reorganized LDS Church has the
original manuscripts of the Inspired Revision. Richard
Howard, RLDS Church Historian, spent a great deal of time examining
these manuscripts and seems to have concluded that the "Christian"
material and the idea of putting the narrative into the first
person came from the mind of Joseph Smith:
Viewing these subjects as he did from the vantage point of
his own Christian background, Joseph Smith quite naturally would
have tended to read into the symbolic preChristian
language of the Old Testament certain uniquely Christian meanings.
Therefore the content of all three of the documents comprising
OT #1... reflects the nineteenth century theological terminology
of the prophet Joseph Smith. For example, references to the
Holy Ghost and to the Only Begottenterms arising from
the early Christian communityhelp one to see that even
at this early stage of development the text in a sense represents
Joseph Smith's studied theological commentary on the King James
Version of the early Genesis chapters of the Bible.
This has been most difficult for students to perceive because
of his practice, throughout the first... and the second... documents
of OT #1, of phrasing the language in the first person
singular, portraying God himself speaking to Moses the very
words which, in turn, were apparently being apprehended verbally
by Joseph Smith and dictated to his scribe in 1830, nearly three
thousand years later. However, Joseph's heavy reliance on the
early seventeenth century Elizabethan English language and style
of the King James Version throughout this second document makes
this verbal inspiration approach to the language of the early
Genesis chapters of his New Translation untenable. This becomes
even more apparent when one considers the very complex, centuries-long
process culminating in the King James text of 1611. (Restoration
Scriptures, page 77)
Book of Abraham
As we have indicated earlier, the second part of the Pearl
Great Price contains the "Book of Abraham," It was
supposed to have been written on Egyptian papyrus by Abraham himself
about 4,000 years ago! According to Mormon officials, this same
papyrus fell into Joseph Smith's hands and he began translating
it in 1835.
If the papyrus were really written by Abraham, its discovery
was probably one of the most important finds in the history of
the world. To say that the papyrus would be worth a million dollars
would be greatly underestimating its value, for it would be older
than any portion of the Bible.
For many years Joseph Smith's collection of papyri was lost and
there was no way to check the accuracy of his translation. On
Nov. 27, 1967, however, the Mormon-owned Deseret News
made the startling announcement that the collection had been rediscovered
in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The article went on to say:
"Included in the papyri is a manuscript identified as the
original document from which Joseph Smith had copied the drawing
which he called 'Facsimile No. 1' and published with the Book
of Abraham." The importance of this find cannot be overemphasized;
it, in fact, made it possible to put Joseph Smith's ability as
a translator of ancient Egyptian writing to an absolute test.
Although the Mormon Church tried to slow down the dissemination
of material with regard to the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri, within
six months from the time the Metropolitan Museum gave the papyri
to the church, the Book of Abraham had been proven untrue! The
fall of the Book of Abraham was brought about by the identification
of the actual piece of papyrus from which Joseph Smith claimed
to "translate" the book.
The identification of this fragment as the original from which
Joseph Smith claimed to translate the Book of Abraham has been
made possible by a comparison with Joseph Smith's Egyptian
Alphabet and Grammar handwritten documents by Joseph Smith's
scribes which we photographically reproduced in 1966.
Noted Egyptologists Richard A. Parker and Klaus Baer have translated
this papyrus fragment and found that it is in reality the Egyptian
Book of Breathings. Other Egyptologists have confirmed that it
is nothing but the Book of Breathings. Even the Mormon apologist
Hugh Nibley has admitted this identification. In fact, he has
even made his own translation of the text (see The Message
of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, p. 18-45).
It is obvious, therefore, that the papyrus Joseph Smith claimed
was the "Book of Abraham" is in reality an Egyptian
funerary text known as the "Book of Breathings." It
is a pagan document which is filled with magical practices and
the names of Egyptian gods and goddesses. It has absolutely nothing
to do with either Abraham or his religion.
As in the case of the "Book of Moses," Joseph Smith
plagiarized extensively from the Old Testament in creating his
"Book of Abraham." He modified many of the verses which
he lifted from the King James Version of the Bible. Strange as
it may seem, he used quite a number of the same verses he had
previously incorporated into his "Book of Moses." In
many cases, however, he altered them in a different way than he
had in his earlier work. Some of these changes were made because
of his study of the Hebrew language, but a significant number
were made because he had changed his views of the Godhead.
Toward the end of his life (June 16, 1844), Joseph Smith
gave a speech in which he publicly taught that "the [Hebrew]
word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way throughGods."
(History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 476). The
word Elohim is used many times in Genesis. It is found, for example,
in Genesis 1:3. It is interesting to compare this verse from
the King James Version of the Bible with Joseph Smith's "translation"
in the books of Moses and Abraham.
In the Bible we read: "And God said, Let there be light..."
Joseph Smith changed this to read as follows in Moses 2:3: "And
I, God, said: Let there be light..." Notice that Joseph
has added the word "I," thus making it even more apparent
that the verse is referring to only one God. In the Book of Abraham,
however, Joseph Smith completely reversed his position with regard
to this matter, for in Abraham 4:3 we read: "And they
(the Gods) said: Let there be light..."
In our book, Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price, we photographically
demonstrate how Joseph Smith continued to cast doubt on his earlier
work (the Book of Moses) throughout the 31 verses of Abraham,
Chapter 4. In this chapter Joseph Smith consistently translated
the word Elohim as "the Gods."
In the same book we also show that Smith added elements from
other sources into his Book of Abraham. A good example is the
fact that he put the "anti-black" doctrine, which was
commonly held in his day, into the mouth of Abraham! Until 1978
the Mormon leaders banned blacks from the priesthood and would
not let them be married in their temples. The Book of Abraham
1:21-27 was often used to support this discriminatory doctrine.
The Book of Moses was also cited because it states that blacks
were put under a curse.
While the Pearl of Great Price is filled with problems,
the other two books of scripture which Joseph Smith produced are
also laced with serious errors. Mormon apologists, of course,
would like us to believe otherwise. Milton R. Hunter, for example,
made this fantastic claim concerning Joseph Smith's works:
The Prophet Joseph Smith produced for the world
three new volumes of holy scriptures... and, in addition, he revised
the Bible. No prophet who has ever lived has accomplished such
a tremendous feat. There are only 177 pages in the Old Testament
attributed to Moses, while Joseph Smith either translated through
the gift and power of God or received as direct revelation from
Jehovah 835 [pages]. (Deseret News, Church Section, July 18,
1970, p. 14)
While we must agree that Joseph Smith produced a great deal of
material that purports to be scripture, it does not appear that
this material bears any evidence of divine inspiration. For those
who would like to learn more about the problems in Joseph Smith's
"scriptures," the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and
Covenants, we recommend our books Covering Up the Black Hole
in the Book of Mormon and Major Problems of Mormonism.
For a very detailed study of the changes, plagiarism and other
problems found in the Pearl of Great Price the reader should
have our new publication Flaws in the Pearl of Great Price.