Immediately afterwards, the storm broke on his followers. They eventually were driven from their homes and were forced to flee to the wilderness of the West. They left behind them their temple, which was soon burned, their homes, and many of their most precious possessions.
Among the precious possessions left behind were the mummies and the priceless papyrus scrolls of Abraham and Joseph, which were left in the custody of a trustee. Tragically, this trustee allowed these invaluable treasures of antiquity to get out of his hands and when an attempt was made to recover them it was found impossible. Unsympathetic members of Joseph Smith's family are believed to be the ones who sold the Egyptian relics to one or more museums.
Two mummies and "part of the records" were traced by Dr. James R. Clark to the St. Louis Museum which is believed to have acquired them between 1851 and 1856. The two mummies are described in the St. Louis Museum Catalogue of 1859 as a "a female, about forty - the other, that of a boy, about fourteen." However, it seems that the entire contents of the St. Louis Museum were moved to Chicago in 1863 and the Egyptian exhibit became part of the Wood Museum in that city. The mummies are listed on page 42 of the 1863 catalogue of the Chicago Museum - usually referred to as the Wood Museum - with exactly the same description as that given for them in St. Louis. There is documented evidence that these two mummies were at the Wood Museum as late as 1869, and it has therefore been assumed that they were destroyed in 1871 when this museum was consumed in the Great Chicago Fire of that year. If they were not destroyed, no one has been able to locate them since.
The major question therefore remains, what happened to the other two mummies and the rest of the papyrus records? Charles Haggerty, an associate researcher with Dr. James R. Clark and the Librarian of the public library at Danville, Illinois, wrote August 29, 1950: "I have traced the other two mummies and at least one or two bits of papyrus to the Philadelphia Museum. This was in the same building known as the Philadelphia Arcade in which Michael Chandler exhibited the mummies in 1834 or 35." Ever since this exciting news reached Brigham Young University the search has been intensified. Someone, somewhere, probably without even knowing the value of these antiquities, is in possession of these two mummies and what is undoubtedly the oldest scriptural record to be discovered thus far. The current attempt to locate this material is probably the most important single project in historical research being carried on today.
The painful disappointment of not having the writings of Joseph to study today is ameliorated by the fact that we know he left a comprehensive record of his experiences in Egypt and also a scriptural history of all the patriarchs who had preceded him. Someday, in the wisdom of God, we shall have these writings again.
W. Cleon Skousen - The Third Thousand Years pages 179-181