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Literature / The Pearl of Great Price

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The Pearl of Great Price is a miscellaneous collection of writings by Joseph Smith which are important in the Latter-day Saint movement. It is considered Sacred Scripture by quite a few churches in the movement, including the largest denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Two of the books in The Pearl of Great Price are extracts from the Joseph Smith Translation (JST) of The Bible: The Book of Moses (from the Book of Genesis) and Joseph Smith—Matthew. The JST was Joseph Smith's attempt to use revelation to restore certain parts of the Bible believed to have been lost over the years, so these chapters often expand on the original text.


The origins of the Book of Abraham are hotly debated in secular and apologetic circles. Suffice it to say, Joseph Smith got a hold of some papyri and said it had some writings from the prophet Abraham. He translated these writings, which include details on Abraham's travels Canaan and Egypt, and his vision of the creation and the cosmos. Later, after the Rosetta Stone enabled the translation of hieroglyphics, it was demonstrated to say nothing of the sort. The standard apologetic response these days is that the papyrus served as a sort of focus for Smith to receive a new revelation.

One of the last books in The Pearl of Great Price is "Joseph Smith—History", which is Joseph Smith's standardized account of his early life and the founding story of the Latter-day Saint movement, including the First Vision and the discovery of The Book of Mormon after the visitation of the Angel Moroni.note  The Pearl of Great Price also includes the Articles of Faith, a short creed which Joseph Smith originally sent to a newspaper editor.


The Pearl of Great Price contains examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: The Books of Moses and Abraham add more details on the Creation and Fall of Adam and Eve.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The Book of Moses expands on the Creation story in the Book of Genesis, though whether this counts as an "adaptation" or "restoration" depends on whether one believes Joseph Smith was inspired to write it.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: After word gets out that Joseph Smith had a vision, everyone starts to persecute him.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: The sons and daughters of Adam and Eve began to "divide two and two in the land ... and they also begat sons and daughters," (Moses 5:3).
  • Cain and Abel: The Trope Namers appear in Moses 5.
  • Dark Is Evil: Just as Joseph Smith starts praying, an evil power confronts him in the form of a thick darkness.
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  • Deal with the Devil: Cain and Lamech both enter into covenants with Satan to kill for personal gain.
  • The Descendants of Cain: The book describes a vision in which "the seed of Cain were black" and thus set apart from all of Adam's other descendants (Moses 7:22). The scripture also states that Canaan's children were all cursed with a despicable "blackness" (Moses 7:8), and explains that the Egyptians were forbidden the priesthood because their Canaanite descent through Ham's daughter Egyptus "preserved the curse in the land," apparently referring to the curse of Ham (Abraham 1:23—27).
  • Deus ex Machina: God and Jesus Christ appear to Joseph Smith at the very moment he's about to give up to the power of a thick darkness.
  • Fallen Angel: How Lucifer became Satan, as described in Moses 4:3—4. Essentially, Satan rebelled against God's plan for humanity, so God and Jesus Christ cast him out and down to earth. He would be allowed to tempt humanity, and each person would have to choose if they wanted to follow Satan or God.
  • Flaming Sword: Cherubim uses one to stop Adam and Eve from partaking of the Tree of Life.
  • Go and Sin No More: In Moses 6:52—53, The Lord teaches Adam the Gospel of Christ, and then forgives him for his transgression in the Garden.
  • Human Sacrifice: An idolatrous priest tries to sacrifice Abraham, but the Angel of the Lord rescues him.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The book's title is a reference to the Parable of the Pearl in Matthew 13.
  • Meaningful Rename: Cain and Lamech becomes known as Master Mahan in Moses 5 after they enter into a covenant with Satan.
  • Mood Whiplash: A thick darkness first envelops Joseph Smith when he starts to pray and he starts to sink into despair, but he keeps on praying until God and Jesus deliver him from the darkness.
  • Speech Impediment: Enoch mentions that he is "slow of speech" in Moses 6:31.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The Book of Moses tells the creation story as it was given to Moses, while the Book of Abraham tells it when the Lord shows Abraham all things.

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