The Pearl of Great Price was compiled from writings of Joseph Smith. It was first published in 1851 by Franklin D. Richards in Liverpool, England. A second edition was printed after the death of Brigham Young and was canonized at the time when John Taylor became President of the LDS Church in October 1880.
Contents of First Edition (1851):
Extracts from the Prophecy of Enoch . . . [now Moses 6:43 - 7:69]
The words of God, which he spake unto Moses . . . [now Moses 1:1-42]
[section with no heading] [now Moses 2:1 - 5:40; 8:13-30]
The Book of Abraham . . . (including Facsimile 1, 2 and 3 from the Book of Abraham)
An Extract from a Translation of the Bible . . . [now Joseph Smith - Matthew]
A Key to the Revelations of St. John . . . [now LDS D&C 77]
A Revelation and Prophecy . . . [now LDS D&C 87]
Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith . . . [now Joseph Smith - History]
From the Doctrine and Covanants of the Church
Commandment to the Church concerning Baptism [now LDS D&C 20:71, 37, 72-75]
The Duties of Members after they are received by Baptism [now LDS D&C 20:68-69]
Method of administering the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper [now LDS D&C 20:75-79]
The Duties of the Elders, Priests, Teachers, Deacons, and Members of the Church of Christ [now LDS D&C 20:38-44; 107:11; 20:45-59, 70, 80]
On Priesthood [now LDS D&C 107:1-10, 12-20]
The Calling and Duties of the Twelve Apostles [now LDS D&C 107:23, 33]
The Calling and Duties of the Seventy [now LDS D&C 107:34, 93-100]
Extract from a Revelation given July [sic], 1830 [now LDS D&C 27:5-18]
Rise of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [now LDS D&C 20:1-36]
"Times and Seasons," Vol. III, page 709 [now The Articles of Faith]
Truth [a poem by John Jaques]
Certain items (excerpts from revelations) contained in 1878 printing of The Pearl of Great Price when originally accepted in October 1880 as canon were subsequently removed prior to the book being voted upon again in 1902 in the administration of Joseph F. Smith. They were removed because of duplication since the revelations were contained in the 1876 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.
The Pearl of Great Price contains two books which claimed to have been written by biblical men. They are titled "Selections from the Book of Moses" (a biblical revision of the opening portion of the OT Genesis with additions) and "The Book of Abraham." Each book holds a different view of God. The Book of Moses clearly has one God who has created the earth and the Book of Abraham contains the view of the planning and creation of the world by a council of Gods. Since both books were dictated by Joseph Smith, this shows the development in the theology of Joseph Smith at two different periods of time.
To give some background relating to translating ancient languages it is important to understand that it was not until about 1835 that Joseph Smith is known to have commenced his study of Hebrew at Kirtland, Ohio. Prior to this there is no record that he had knowledge of Egyptian, Hebrew or Greek. As it relates to the Pearl of Great Price the following should be considered regarding Joseph Smith:
Book of Moses - did not know Hebrew
Book of Abraham - did not know Egyptian
Joseph Smith - Matthew - did not know Greek
Book of Moses
The Book of Moses is Joseph Smith's revision of the opening chapters of Genesis that includes revelatory material not contained in the Hebrew Old Testament. When this portion was printed in 1851 it contained excerpts from the revision. For the 1878 edition Orson Pratt, Sr. used the RLDS publication of the Holy Scriptures for the new edition of the Pearl of Great Price..
Book of Abraham
In the 1981 edition of The Pearl of Great Price there is no mention that the original papyrus from which Facsimile No. 1 was taken and the Egyptian characters from which the book was "translated" is now in the possession of the LDS church were obtained by the church in November 1967.
The Pearl of Great Price is the only LDS scripture with illustrations. There are three facsimile drawings, two with writings on them, that accompany the text of what is regarded as "The Book of Abraham." These drawings are those of Egyptian funeral records. These three drawings have been modified in various ways prior to the their first printing in 1842. Below are given some of the English translation of the Egyptian writings (characters) contained on these writings:
The Original Papyrus of the Facsimile No. 1 drawing.
The papyrus was damaged since it was at the outside of the roll while the original of Facsimile No. 3 was rolled on the inside. This papyrus was made for the deceased priest Horus (or Hor).
Facsimile No. 2. The original of this drawing was damaged and was "restored" as a complete picture. The damaged portion was filled in with characters from the papyrus next (on the left) of the original of Facsimile No. 1. The outer right portion contains part of the name of the mother of Horus, repeated twice. Joseph Smith Papyrus XI was used in preparing the recostruction of the drawing. The Egyptian characters for Sen-sen (Book of Breathings) was taken from the Horus papyrus to filled in a portion of Figure 14 that originally missing. That Joseph Smith worked with this same piece of papyrus is reflected on the Translation Manuscripts where some of the Egyptian characters and English text appear.
Name of the deceased for whom this illustration was made is the Figure 8 is (left middle of center drawing):
Facsimile No. 3.
This illustration had less damage in the original since it was in the inside of the roll of papyrus.
Figure 2 "characters above his head"[top line to the right of Figure 2] mentions the great Isis,
mother of the god
Figure 2 is Isis
Figure 4 "as written above the hand"[top line above hand of Figure 1]: mentions Maat
Figure 4 is Maat
Top three lines to the right of Figure 1: mentions words spoken by Osiris, Foremost of the
Figure 1 is Osiris
Figure 5 Explanation: "as represented by the characters above his hand" This drawing is the
deceased person identified as Horus in the characters above his hand [top two lines above hand of
Fig. 5]: Osiris Hor, justified forever (Klaus Baer)
Figure 5 is Hor (Horus) the deceased individual for whom the papyrus was made
Top three lines in front of Figure. 6: mentions words spoken by Anubis
Figure 6 is Anubis
Theodore Deveria, who was working at the Louvre Muesum in Paris, France, commenting on Figure 5 wrote, "The deceased led by Ma into the presence of Osiris. His name is Horus, as may be seen in the prayer which is at the bottom of the picture, and which is addressed to the divinities of the four cardinal points."
Klaus Baer translated the wording on the bottom of the facsimile as "O gods of . . . , gods of the Caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east, grant well-being to Osiris Hor, justified, . . .
The facsimiles are Egyptian funeral illustrations that come from after what is considered the biblical patriarchal era. If one were trying to establish polytheism (a belief in many gods) the Egyptian documents would support such idea. The facsimiles are strange as Abraham is considered by the world religions as having a belief in one God.
The Book of Abraham text does support a belief in polytheism or plurality of gods as LDS church members have referred it. The belief in many gods is contained in the story of the plan of the creation of the world in the words "the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth" (Abraham 4:1). In the LDS temple endowment the gods are identified as Elohim, Jehovah and Michael. These teachings go back to the year 1842 when the Book of Abraham was first published and when Joseph Smith first presented the endowment ceremony to a few of his close associates.
Stephen E. Thompson, an Egyptologist currently at Brown University, wrote the following concerning the relationship of the two vignettes written for Horus:
Let us begin with Facsimiles 1 and 3 of the Book of Abraham. A correct understanding of the original context and purpose of these scenes has been made possible by the recovery of the Joseph Smith Papyri from the files of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1967. Within this group of papyri is the original from which Facsimile 1 was derived. A study of the papyri shows that P.JS 1 was originally a vignette belonging to an Egyptian funerary text known as the First Book of Breathings, dating to the first century B.C., portions of which are also among the papyri recovered by the LDS church. A comparison of the material found in some of the Kirtland (Ohio) Egyptian papers with P.JS 1 and 11 indicates that the scene was damaged when Joseph Smith received it and that the missing portions were restored when Facsimile 1 was created. It is also very probable that Facsimile 3 served as the concluding vignette of this text. This conclusion is based on the fact that the name of the individual for whom this particular copy of the book of Breathings was prepared occurs as Horus in both P. JS 1 and Facsimile 3, that Facsimile 1 and 3 are similar in size,and that scenes similar to Facsimile 3 also occur in other known copies of the First Book of Breathings("Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 28 [Spring 1995]: 144).
For an overview on the "Book of Abraham" see Lanny Bell, "The Ancient Egyptian 'Book of Breathing,' the Mormon 'Book of Abraham,' and the Development of Egyptology in America," in Stephen E. Thompson and Peter Der Manuelian, eds., Egypt and Beyond: Essays Presented to Leonard H. Lesko upon His Retirement from the Wilbour Chair of Egyptology at Brown University, June 2005 (Providence: RI: Brown University, Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, 2008), 21-39.
The latest book on this topic is Robert K. Ritner, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition. Salt Lake City: Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2011. Limited edition.
Joseph Smith - Matthew
An English revision of KJV Matthew 23:39 and chapter 24.
Joseph Smith - History
Extracts from Joseph Smith's 1838-39 manuscript history. This history contains the story of his early visions. This history is an expansion of his earlier stories relating to his religious experiences in New York. It should be considered theological in nature and written as an official history. Since the first publication of Joseph Smith's story the account as recorded here has been considered scripture and accurate as the way it was recorded. Church presidents have said over and over again that Smith's first visionary experience is the foundation of the church.
The "excitement on the subject of religion" mentioned in the history was to have occurred prior to the first vision of Joseph Smith. Contemporary church records and publications place the excitement or revival in the Palmyra area as having taken place in 1824-25 and not prior to the spring of 1820 as the official history would have us believe. The historical documentation relating to the revival happening after the vision is not generally known by church members. Joseph Smith's account is considered to be accurate since he is telling the story which is now LDS scripture.
Articles of Faith
This set of thirteen articles were taken from a letter of Joseph Smith written in 1842. Though not original with Joseph Smith it contains beliefs that the church missionaries would discuss when preaching the restored gospel. Some of the wording has been slightly modified when compared with the printed letter. It should not be regarded as touching the higher principles and ordinances of the LDS church or priesthood.