Annotated Book of Mormon
Evaluated According To My Current Knowledge

Title Page

« Previous Next »

Book of Mormon Annotations

The Book of Mormon
An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi

The plates were not necessary for the translation of the Book of Mormon. The Church says most accounts of the translation indicate, “Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument” (Book of Mormon Translation).
And, “Joseph Smith soon turned to a method of translation that depended directly on the interpreters alone, so that the plates did not have to be viewed” (Translating the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript).

I wonder how Mormon and Moroni would have felt knowing the plates were a completely unnecessary artifact for the translation.

I wonder how Joseph would have responded if asked why he had the plates if he did not need them to do the translation. Think about it. He claimed that when retrieving the plates from one hiding place he was attacked by, fought off, and ran from men seeking the plates all while carrying the plates (A Period of Preparation, 1823–29). And, these plates seemed to have weighed 40-60 lbs. (A Golden Opportunity).

The persecution associated with the plates continued, for, “Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose [to get the plates from Joseph]. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible.” And consider the next sentence. “But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand” (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith—History, verse 60). What had he accomplished by them? Remember, Joseph did not look at them for his translation.

Some argue that Joseph needed the plates as a physical promoter of faith. Yet, prior to this he had seen and spoken with God the Father and Jesus Christ as a 14 or 15-year-old boy, was visited by the angel Moroni various times to receive instruction. Why would a person with sufficient faith for angelic visitation and to have God and Jesus appear to him need a physical prop to increase faith? Did the translation process require more faith than a visit from God?

Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereofSealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

When considering that these plates were “to come forth by the gift and power of God” remember that Elder Russell M. Nelson (of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time) explained the process by quoting this from Emma Smith:

“When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made any mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. Even the word Sarah he could not pronounce at first, but had to spell it, and I would pronounce it for him” (A Treasured Testament).

Remember Emma’s words when reading about things identified in the Book of Mormon that were not in the Americas at the time, like horses, elephants, steel, etc.

Regarding the plates being sealed and hid by Moroni, see the above observations about how the plates were not used in the translation.

An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Joseph Smith explained that “the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates” (History of the Church, 1:71).

The paragraph before this tells us that this was translated by the gift and power of God, and here it claims “the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven.”

If this is a reference to the Tower of Babel, it declares the account of that tower a literal and factual event. If true, this would mean that until about 4,200 years ago (according to Bible chronologies I’ve seen including those at there was only one language on the earth, then at the Tower of Babel event, all languages were confounded (except for the Jaredites). This is not compatible with what we know about the evolution of language. (See also Omni 1:22, Mosiah 28:17, Helaman 6:28, Ether 1:33)

Translated by Joseph Smith, Jun.

Some critics have pointed out that the original or an early editions of the book indicated on the Title Page that Joseph was the author and proprietor of the Book of Mormon. However, the term “author and proprietor” may have been used to comply with copyright law, rather than to indicate Joseph authored the book. I find this criticism weak and the defense plausible.


By “translated” it means, at least in part, “Joseph placed . . . The seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument”

(Book of Mormon Translation).

I think this meaning of “translated” is entirely unique to the Mormon restoration movement.


The method of placing a seer stone in a hat is apparently the same method Joseph had used earlier in the 1820s to seek buried treasure for pay. I think there are two possibilities regarding the treasure seeking: (1) that Joseph knew he could not see buried treasure with his stone, or (2) he actually believed he could see treasure with his stone. Either way, what does this say about the credibility of Joseph?

« Previous Title Page Next »