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"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 ancient record?

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 Angel 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… He said 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 Joseph 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 Moroni.

How did Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon?

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 Joseph 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 Joseph 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 translation process.

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 scribes. 

Oliver Cowdery declared, "That book is true. … I 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 below:

The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith - American Prophet
Joseph Smith Daguerreotype
Fulfilled Prophecies of Joseph Smith
JS-H 1
BBC - Religion & Ethics - The Story of Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith - Lightplanet
Joseph Smith - bellsouth
Joseph Smith, Jr. - Wikiquote
Joseph Smith: Prophet, Revelator, Human; Interview with Richard Lyman

(1) JS-H 1:33-34
(2) "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Herald, Oct. 1, 1879, p. 290.
(3) Reuben Miller Journals, 1848–49, 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.





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