Home The Catalog of Accusations

Reformed Egyptian
by Woody Brison

Accusation: Joseph Smith said the plates were written in "Reformed Egyptian". No such language has ever existed. It's just hilarious.

The problem with this accusation is that it's more hilarious than its proponents suppose.

Examples: Isaiah Bennett, Inside Mormonism
The Nephites came from the Middle East and wrote in a mixture of Egyptian and Hebrew. Study of ancient Mediterranean cultures shows that this was not unusual, as we will see.

The Nephites used this system for their sacred records, and over the 1000 years of their history, they gradually modified it. Among other things, they changed the shape of the letters. At the end of their civilization, Moroni wrote the statement quoted at right.

When Joseph Smith translated this into the common English of his time and region, the word "reformed" meant 'reshaped'. Shape and form are the same thing. He didn't mean 'rehabilitated'.

Hieroglyphics (Greek term, means 'sacred engravings') was the old written language of Egypt. Early on there evolved two derivatives, hieratic and demotic. These systems were similar to hieroglyphics, but the shapes of the symbols were changed and simplified.

When the Jews returned from Babylon, they'd lost the original Hebrew alphabet. They wrote Hebrew, including their sacred records, using the Aramaic alphabet. I theorize that the Babylonians forbade them to write in Hebrew, to suppress intrigues.

The Greeks themselves, voyaging to Egypt, saw the hieroglyphics and borrowed some of the symbols, incorporating them into their written language.

Later Egyptians, Christians, evolved the Coptic alphabet from the Greek alphabet, adopting demotic symbols into it (and changing the shapes a bit.)

Greek Christians translated the Jewish Christians' writings (ie. New Testament) into Greek; they transliterated Jewish names (like ישוע, Yeshua) in the Greek alphabet (where it became Ιησου, eventually Jesus in English.)

The Romans copied the Greek alphabet, with some changes to usage and shapes.

Modern English uses the Roman alphabet, again with some changes to usage and shapes.

1Nephi 1:2) Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. (Nephi, at the beginning of Nephite history)

In 1830, when the Book of Mormon was published, the idea of ancient people mixing languages was unknown. Professor Anthon made fun of it – at the time, the leading authority on ancient languages in America.

Mormon 9:32-34) And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof. (Moroni, at the end of Nephite history)

Thus, English can rightly be said to be <drum roll...> reshaped Egyptian. It is HILARIOUS to read supposedly educated scholars pontificating that they cannot identify any "Reformed Egyptian" language, writing this complaint in <drum roll...> English.


1. Woody Brison is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but this website is not affiliated with the church. It may be thought of as an additional, somewhat independent witness.

2. I want this page to be as accurate as I can make it. If you have a correction, please email me.

3. All biblical quotations are from the King James unless otherwise noted.

Copyright 2014 Woody Brison. All rights reserved.