Papyri and Presumptions: A Careful Examination of the Eyewitness Accounts Associated with the Joseph Smith Papyri


Papyrus, Scrolls, Mummies, Mormon history, Religious studies, Handwriting, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Inspiration, Books, Historical accounts


In 1967 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City presented The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with ten papyri fragments. These papyri were glued to 1830’s period scratch paper on which architectural plans for an LDS temple to be built in Independence, Missouri, and maps of the Kirtland, Ohio, area were drawn.1 These unique drawings, coupled with the presence of the original of the Book of Abraham’s Facsimile One on one of the fragments, along with a receipt from Emma Smith, led to the conclusion that these were some of the papyri Joseph Smith purchased from a traveling exhibition of Egyptian antiquities.2 The existence of these fragments was unexpected, since it was previously believed that all of Joseph Smith’s papyri had been destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The rediscovery sparked a great deal of research. Resulting investigations determined that after Emma Smith had sold the papyri to Abel Combs, he gave a small portion to his housekeeper before selling the majority of the papyri to a museum in St. Louis. Her descendants sold their collection to the Metropolitan Museum. This led to the collection’s eventual resurfacing in the public eye.3 At this point the papyri were numbered, with each fragment receiving the name Joseph Smith Papyrus (abbreviated as JSP) I, II, and so on

Original Publication Citation

“Papyri and Presumptions: a Careful Examination of the Eyewitness Accounts Associated with the Joseph Smith Papyri,” Journal of Mormon History 42/4 (2016), 31-50

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor