Receiving and Translating the Book of Mormon
|It could be said that Mormon history starts with the translation of the Book of Mormon. On September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith, then seventeen years old, was in his bed praying when a light began to fill his room. A personage appeared in the light and began to speak to Joseph. He identified himself as a messenger from the presence of God, named Moroni. He told Joseph that God had a special mission for him to accomplish. The messenger then told Joseph of an ancient record buried in a nearby hill that contained an account of an ancient people who lived on the American continent. This record was engraved on gold plates and contained the everlasting gospel. Also buried with the plates were two stones in silver bows, attached to a breastplate, called the Urim and Thummim. God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the plates. After this, Joseph was shown the place where the plates were hidden, which was in a hill not far from Joseph’s home.After this night, every September for four years Joseph Smith was instructed to go to the Hill Cumorah to be taught by Moroni in preparation for his task. Finally, in September of 1827, Moroni gave the plates to Joseph to commence the translation. Emma, Joseph Smith’s wife, worked for a time as scribe during translation. The rumor of gold plates circulated through the region, and numerous attempts were made to steal the plates from Joseph.The attacks became so vicious, that Emma and Joseph went to stay with her family in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Martin Harris, a good friend of the Smith family, followed them to Harmony and acted as scribe for Joseph.After the translation was underway, Martin Harris asked Joseph if he could take what they had translated home to appease his family and show them the validity of what he and Joseph were doing. At the behest of Martin Harris, Joseph asked the Lord three times if sending the manuscript would be okay. Joseph was reluctant to do so, but he finally let Martin take the first 116 pages of the translation to show his family. While in Harris’ care, the manuscript was stolen. When Joseph found out, he was grief-stricken. As punishment, the gold plates and the Urim and Thummim were taken from him. Joseph sincerely repented of his mistake, and after a short period of time, the Lord forgave him.When the record was returned, the Lord instructed Joseph not to retranslate the lost material. Instead, Joseph was to translate from another section of the plates that covered the same period of time. The Lord had foreseen the loss of the 116 pages and inspired this second history in order to frustrate the designs of those who stole the manuscript. The Lord informed Joseph that men had the intention of altering it to show Joseph Smith a fraud when he attempted to retranslate. The retranslation would not match the original.In April of 1829 Oliver Cowdery began working as scribe for Joseph Smith. The translation proceeded more rapidly from that time forth. Persecutions resumed, so Joseph moved to Fayette, New York, and stayed in the home of David Whitmer. Translation continued until it was completed in July 1829. The golden plates and Urim and Thummim were then returned to the angel Moroni.
The Lord chose several men to be witnesses to the translation of the Book of Mormon. Three witnesses–Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer–were shown the gold plates by the angel who proclaimed its truth. Eight other witnesses, most from the Whitmer and Smith families, were shown the gold plates by Joseph Smith. The three witnesses and the eight witnesses signed their names as a testimony to the world of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and it has been published in every Book of Mormon since the first edition in 1830.
See also “The Translation Miracle of the Book of Mormon” by Elder Dellenbach