Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham from Egyptian hieroglyphics has long been a problem f or questioning Mormons, but the church's recent essay on the subject ("Mormon essay: Abraham essay may not be literal translation," July 8) may not help much.
It requires members to be linguistic contortionists. The church insists that "translate" doesn't really mean translate, though that's exactly what Joseph Smith said he was doing. Rather, they claim, he was just "inspired" to write this additional scripture to their Pearl of Great Price.
The essay may temporarily divert attention from an otherwise inescapable issue. Smith also presumed to interpret two of the facsimiles (the Egyptian pictures, see Book of Abraham, p. 28 and p. 42) that are identical in the Book of Abraham to those found on the manuscript (with the exception of some foolish tinkering by Smith). Egyptologists long ago stated that there is no correlation whatever between the Egyptian figures and what he said they meant.