The Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham lds.org essay advances the idea that Joseph Smith was using Egyptian papyri (the Breathing Permit of Hor is dated no earlier than 150 BCE) as catalyst for the text of the Book of Abraham (BoA). The catalyst theory is especially important now that top BYU scholars have begun arguing explicitly against the missing papryus theory. The catalyst theory is the primary fallback once we acknowledge that we have the papyrus used in preparing significant portions of the BoA manuscript, and we know how Egyptians are likely to have interpreted the text, which is acknowledged by most LDS scholars.

The situation is now somewhat analogous to this scenario (credit to /u/jamesallred for first creating the analogy, which I’ve expanded on a bit here):

Imagine that a person states that they are writing a biography about Thomas Edison using as source material a TV manual written in Korean (let’s assume they know no Korean). They reference the diagrams in the TV manual as corresponding to parts of Thomas Edison’s life in their text: “I will refer you to the representation [of Edison at work on the lightbulb] at the commencement of this record” which points to a labeled diagram of a television screen.

The person who originally wrote the BoA papyri, in all likelihood, was focused entirely on the mummification and resurrection process. It is reasonable to think that they had no intent of bringing Abraham into the equation at all. Similarly, the person who originally wrote the TV manual in Korean likely had no thought of Thomas Edison at all.

The kinds of parallels to Abraham and the facsimiles sometimes asserted by LDS apologists seem similar in nature to someone trying to defend the Edison biography like this:

Edison invented an efficient form of the incandescent light bulb, and even though the TV in this manual features an LED screen and display, older TV’s often made use of more modern incandescent light bulbs as part of their control panels. Also, the cathode ray tubes found in older TVs are structurally very similar to incandescent light bulbs in several respects. Hence, we must not be too hasty in dismissing the connection between Thomas Edison and the Korean TV manual.

I acknowledge that some of the evidence presented for the authenticity of the BoA is more like the Edison biographer—in the course of providing mistaken meaning for numerous aspects of the various TV diagrams in the manual—correctly guessing the general meaning of a couple aspects of one of the TV diagrams which they were incorporating into their Edison biography.

Taken together, is it any wonder that those who understand the Book of Abraham data in resolution find the apologetic arguments so unconvincing?

Acknowledgement: Adapted from this post by /u/jamesallred