|Book of Mormon
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
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 thereof—Sealed
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,
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
www.churchofjesuschrist.org) 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
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
(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?