"Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon"
Perhaps Joseph Smith is most famous for his
translation of the
Book of Mormon,
another testament of Jesus Christ. But where did Joseph Smith get
the gold plates and how did an uneducated farm boy translate the
How did Joseph Smith get the gold plates?
On April 21, 1823, as Joseph Smith prayed in his
bedroom desiring to know his standing before God the
Moroni appeared to him. "He called me by name, and said unto
me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and
that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do
there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an
account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source
from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the
everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior
to the ancient inhabitants."1
In a vision Joseph Smith saw the location of the
plates, buried under a rock in the hill Cumorah. He was told that he
could not remove the plates yet because the time was not right. The
angel Moroni also said that he could not show the plates to anyone
unless instructed by the Lord. The angelic visitor returned three
times during the night and instructed Joseph Smith.
The next morning
Smith went to the fields to work, exhausted his father sent him
back to bed, as he was returning home he fell down and the angel
Moroni appeared again and repeated his message of before. The angel
told Joseph Smith to tell his father everything that had happened.
Joseph's father believed him and sent Joseph to
the site where he uncovered the plates along with the Urim and
Thummim. Joseph was forbidden to remove the plates and told to bury
them again. Each year for four years the angel Moroni returned and
instructed Joseph Smith and each year Joseph Smith went to the site.
Then on the 22nd of September 1827, Joseph Smith
received the gold plates. During the next two years Joseph was
forced to hide the plates from those who wanted to profit from the
sale of the gold.
During the translation period other people saw the
gold plates and witnessed of them. The testimonies of the three and
eight witnesses can be found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon.
After Joseph Smith was finished translating the
gold plates they were delivered back into the hands of the angel
How did Joseph Smith translate the Book of
Joseph Smith had only three years of formal
education, yet the Book of Mormon is a complex and articulate work.
He did not have the knowledge necessary to have written the book
himself. The only explanation is that
Smith used the power of God to translate the Book of Mormon from
the gold plates he received from the angel Moroni. Contained with
the plates were the Urim and Thummim, ancient seer stones that
Joseph Smith used in the translation of the plates. Although not
explained in the Bible the Urim and Thummim are mentioned in the
following references. (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8;
1 Sam. 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65)
The translation was not a simple task. Joseph
Smith was required to concentrate and have faith. The actual details
of how the gold plates were translated are not known, but his
scribes give information about the process.
While he was translating
Smith would sit with the plates and verbally give the
translation. Some witnesses say that the Urim and Thummim were
placed in a special breastplate, which Joseph then looked through
when viewing the plates.
Concerning the translation Emma said, "After
meals, or after interruptions, [Joseph] would at once begin where he
had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any
portion of it read to him. He had neither manuscript nor book to
read from, [and] if he had anything of the kind he could not have
concealed it from me"2 The other scribes agree with Emma that the
Bible nor any other book were used by Joseph Smith during the
The translation took only three months. During
that time Oliver Cowdery acted as the primary scribe, although
occasionally the prophet's wife Emma and a few others acted as
Oliver Cowdery declared, "That book is true.
wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains
the everlasting gospel, and comes in fulfillment of the revelations
of John where it says he saw an angel come with the everlasting
gospel to preach to every nation, tongue and people. It contains
principles of salvation. And if you will walk by its light and obey
its precepts you will be saved in the everlasting kingdom of God." 3
For more information about Joseph Smith see
The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith - American
Fulfilled Prophecies of Joseph Smith
BBC - Religion & Ethics - The Story of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith - Lightplanet
Joseph Smith - bellsouth
Smith, Jr. - Wikiquote
Joseph Smith: Prophet, Revelator, Human; Interview with Richard
(1) JS-H 1:33-34
(2) "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Herald, Oct. 1, 1879,
(3) Reuben Miller Journals, 184849, 21 Oct. 1848; Historical
Department, Archives Division, The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints; hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives; spelling
and punctuation modernized.