Fun Finds in the Joseph Smith Papers Project

Fun Finds in the Joseph Smith Papers Project


The following is a little snarky at points, so you are fully warned about that. However, I hope that behind the snark, those of you who might feel offended at what I say can hopefully still feel the deep and abiding fascination I have with the individual behind each of these items and the creative vision he had whether or not that vision was itself divine.

Please take a moment to visit the pages linked to in the Joseph Smith Papers Project for each section first so that you can see the page in context. Context is important. Context is fair. Like it or not, this sort of research and exploration is exactly what the Joseph Smith Papers Project is about and seeks to promote: people interacting and engaging with the written word of Joseph Smith.

So Mote it Be

Explanation of Facsimile of Papyrus Drawing, Early 1842 (Page 2)

First off is this fun Masonic reference on the pages of translation for Facsimile 2. Joseph has set up four pages with numbers on them to explain the various aspects of the hypocephalus. As he's going through them, however, he appears to either run out of time or no longer wishes to continue as he abruptly stops interpreting things and instead starts saying that the items "cannot now be revealed unto the world". Then on the last item on the page he's working on (page 2 of 4, remember), he says

also.--- If the world can find out these nmbers, So mote it be,--- Amen.

The interesting phrase here is "so mote it be", which was turned into "so let it be" by the LDS Church many decades later.

"So mote it be" is an archaic English phrase from Freemasonry, which Joseph had officially joined on March 15, 1842, though his father and older brother Hyrum had been involved in the fraternity for many years before that. The explanations of the Egyptian hypocephalus in question were published late in the Nauvoo Times and Seasons on March 19, 1842 (they had originally been intended for publication on March 15, the same day Joseph received his first degree in Masonry). It has been proposed by some that the reason the explanations stop after number 7 is that Joseph was under pressure to get this page of material to the printers for publication.

The phrase is used to open and close various Masonic sessions and initiations. Its presence in this list of materials would be akin to me closing a presentation with the words "So say we all": you would certainly be correct in assuming that I am a huge nerd and a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica.

Apparently, Joseph Smith was also a huge nerd for Freemasonry, but I think most everyone already knew that.

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Egyptian Counting, circa July–circa December 1835

Ever wondered how the ancient Egyptians pronounced the number 42 (the answer to life, the universe, and everything)? According to Joseph Smith, the answer would have been:

Ni Tah Teh, or four times ten and 2

Unfortunately, from Wikipedia, that horrible cesspit of anti-Mormon lies, evil Egyptologists have reconstructed the sounds of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, which were representational of Egyptian consonants. They claim that forty and two would have been pronounced something akin to:

ḥAmí sínway

Huh... Those two descriptions don't really look all that similar at all. I think someone is making something up. Not to mention that Joseph also has some characters for the Egyptians numerals that look nothing like any form of Egyptians numeral systems yet discovered. Man, those Egyptologists are either really stupid or really dastardly, aren't they?

I Saw a Mighty Angls-man Fly

Sample of Pure Language, between circa 4 and circa 20 March 1832

This is a sample of "pure language" given by Joseph Smith. Apparently the pure language, besides sounding suspiciously similar to a Germanic language like English, can only be easily translated one way (English => Pure Language) because when it goes the other way (Pure Language => English) it becomes extremely long-winded.

Watch as the residents of early Kirtland are allowed to play with a divine version of Google Translate and immediately begin experimenting with the process just as many of us do today: what happens if we take the translation given to us and translate it back into English?

Q What are Angels called in pure language.

A Awmen Angls-men

Q What are the meaning of these words.

A Awmen’s Ministerring servants Sanctified who are sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awmen the greatest part of Awmen Son. Sons Awmen Son Awmen Admen

Reminds me a little bit of this awesome video.

Katumin, Princess of Egypt, died 980 BCE

Transcribed characters with English entries, circa July–circa December 1835

Here we have an attempt at some translation of Egyptian by either Joseph Smith or one/some of his followers. (Though if, as some apologists would have us believe, some of his followers were attempting this translation on their own without Joseph to help them, how did they come up with translations such as this? They'd be doing their best to honestly imitate the process used by Joseph, so in my mind whether or not Joseph himself produced this snippet is beyond the point: it arose in the same manner as other translations that Joseph attempted.) Whoever is behind the small snippet of translation (the Egyptian that is "translated" is transcribed onto the next page) was working very closely with ideas from the Bible, including the idea of reckoning time from the beginning of the world.

The two dates in question, if we assume that the translator is operating on the assumption that human history began roughly around the year 4000 BCE (a reasonable assumption for a Kirtand-era Mormon), then the two dates as given are 1038 BCE and 980 BCE. This is during the 21st Dynasty of Egypt. Apparently both King Onitas and his daughter Katumin have been excised from Egyptian history, possibly by corrupt and designing priests. Either that or they were actually Greek royalty as their Hellenic-sounding names would seem to indicate. (If so, then the chronology in this snippet is running extremely behind: Alexander's conquest of Egypt, which began a period of Greek royalty, occurred around 332 BCE.)

However you look at it, though, 28 years old is tragically young for someone in the higher classes of a major civilization. Poor Katumin! She was too young to die! Unfortunately, she doesn't appear to have ever been born, either, which is possibly just as tragic.

I know that the Joseph Smith Papyri and Kirtland Egyptian Papers are also up on the site, but those are a bit harder for your average reader to fully appreciate without some extra contextual information. Any other finds of interest that you are aware of that can be found within the project?

Tom Doggett

Tom Doggett

I'm a programmer, Ancient Greek reader, feminist, spouse and partner, and a dad.

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