What Happened to the Mummies and Papyri?

Following the purchase of the mummies and papyri, Joseph Smith exhibited them in the Kirtland Temple where many people of every description came to marvel at the curious antiquities. 

Some time later, the mummies were given to the parents of Joseph Smith for safekeeping. Following the murder of Joseph at Carthage, Illinois, the mummies remained for several years in the possession of Lucy Mack Smith, who continued to exhibit them throughout Illinois. 

She charged a small fee for the privilege of seeing the mummies, and thus the few coins she made were used for her keep. Lucy Mack died in 1855, and the mummies, together with the papyri, became the property of Emma Smith, the prophet’s widow, who, with the encouragement of her second husband, Major L.C. Bidamon, sold them in 1856 to Mr. A. Combs. Mr. Combs did not hold on to the mummies very long. He immediately sold two of them, along with some papyri, to Edward Wyman, owner of Wyman’s Hall, or museum, in St. Louis. 

The mummies were on exhibit with the hieroglyphic writings at the museum. Soon the mummies were sold again, this time to Colonel John H. Wood. Two of the mummies found a final resting place at the Chicago Museum until Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked the lantern over, which caused the great fire that destroyed most of the city of Chicago. It was supposed that the museum papyri, and the mummies all disappeared in the raging fire. It is still unknown what happened to the rest of the mummies. It seems they disappeared without a trace. 

When Joseph Smith first acquired the record, he announced that the papyri contained the writings of Abraham and Joseph, both ancient biblical characters who had sojourned in Egypt. In 1842 he published the first time several continuing articles in the Times and Seasons, the Nauvoo journal. 

The articles were his translation of the papyri and were titles the Book of Abraham. The new book became part of the LDS canonized scripture now known as the Pearl of Great Price. The promised translation of the writings of Joseph (who was sold into Egypt according to the Bible) was never published until the Prophet Joseph Smith began the business of translation, which was interrupted by his murder. 

This is an excerpt from Treasures of the Ancients, which also provides information about The Sanpete Mummy Cave, The Kinderhook Plates, The Middle Bronze Age Tablet of the Wasatch, The Padilla Plates, and more.