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It is not insignificant that Joseph Smith did virtually all of this work in the midst of seemingly endless distractions and in the face of sometimes open hostility. Nevertheless, following those breaks in the translation effort he apparently never looked at the previously dictated material nor had any portion of it read back to him for context or continuity. Furthermore, he was never known to have consulted any reference book of any kind during the whole of the translation experience (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 1997, 349).
“’When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, “Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?” When I answered, “Yes,’ he replied, “Oh! (I didn’t know). I was afraid I had been deceived.” He had such a limited knowledge of history at that time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls’ (Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,’ Journal of History, Jan. 1916, 454).
The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights…
“Emma Smith, who acted as an earlier scribe for Joseph, gave this account in 1856:
“’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.
“Although the Prophet would polish his skills over the years, Emma acknowledged that Joseph possessed only rudimentary literacy at the time he translated the gold plates:
“’Joseph Smith…could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else’ (A Treasured Testament,” Ensign, July 1993, 62-63).
Elder Packer explained, “My experience has been that a testimony does not burst upon us suddenly.”
“Do not be disappointed if you have read and reread and yet have not received a powerful witness. You may be somewhat like the disciples spoken of in the Book of Mormon who were filled with the power of God in great glory ‘and they knew it not’ (3 Nephi 9:20) (C.R., Apr. 2005, 6-7).
How important is the Book of Mormon to us?
Joseph Smith put it this way:
“Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations and where is our religion?
“We have none” (HC 2:52 Vol., 7).
When was the official name of the Book of Mormon changed to “The Book of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ?”
(CR, Oct. 1982)
By the way, the word testament means testimony!
There are a 100 different names and titles that describe Jesus Christ.
Almost 3,500 instances wherein the Savior is mentioned.
Contains 6,580 verses with 3,471 referring to the Savior.
There are 239 chapters and only 6 having no reference to the Savior (2 Nephi 25:26).
There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion:
1. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ.
2. It is the keystone of our doctrine.
3. It is the keystone of testimony.
(C.R., Oct. 1986, 4)
President Faust said that the Book of Mormon is the crowning gem in the diadem of our holy scriptures.
Joseph Smith introduced over 200 new words, including names, in the Book of Mormon through translation by the gift and power of God.
“No member of this church can stand approved in the presence of God, who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon (J. Fielding Smith, C.R., Oct., 61).
We are not told specifically how many of the Book of Mormon plates were sealed, but Elder Orson Pratt stated that it was two-thirds. This figure has been widely accepted because of the popularity of Elder Pratt’s writings (JD 3;347).
David Whitmer, one of the three special witnesses who actually saw the plates is reported to have said that “about the half of the book was sealed” (Poulson 2), Elder George Q. Cannon wrote that one-third of the plates were sealed (25), while the Prophet Joseph Smith simply stated, “The volume was near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed” (HC 4:537).
If the highest estimate is correct and two-thirds of the plates were sealed, that would mean there are the equivalent of 1,062 pages sealed since there are 531 pages in the current Book of Mormon. That would make a total of 1,593 possible pages had the whole set of plates been translated. Since Moroni engraved the sealed-portion plates as well as 51 pages in the Book of Mormon, his total of 1,113 pages written would be about 70 percent of the total plates delivered to Joseph Smith.
If the smaller estimate is correct, then the numbers would be lower with about 266 pages sealed, making a total of 797 pages. Moroni would then have written 317 pages, or approximately 40 percent of the plates handed to Joseph Smith. However much Moroni wrote, he clearly fulfilled a very important writing assignment, possibly even larger than his father.
If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that the message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God”….
The nature of the message of the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it” (Orson Pratt’s Works on the Doctrines of the Gospel, 1945, 107).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland wrote that the Book of Mormon “should be considered the most remarkable and important religious text to be revealed since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago. Indeed, in its role of restoring plain and precious biblical truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths about Jesus Christ and preparing the way for the complete restoration of his gospel and the triumphant day of his millennial return, the Book of Mormon may be considered the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world” (Christ and the New Covenant, 1997, 9-10).
On occasion this young prophet dictated his translation at white-hot speed, turning out as many as ten present-day pages in a sitting and ultimately producing the whole manuscript in something less than ninety working days. Those who have ever translated any text will understand what this means, especially when remembering it took fifty English scholars seven years (using generally superb and readily available translations for a starting point) to produce the King James Bible at the rate of one page per day.
Joseph Smith was only 24 years old when the Book of Mormon was published. This was a very young age considering the Book of Mormon has endured 150 years of intense criticism.
He had limited resources. He did not live near any large cities which would have provided him opportunity to study in the libraries, museums, and universities. He lived miles away, deep in the American Frontier, on a small farm in a little village.
“Never does one man stand alone in establishing a new dispensation of revealed truth, or in carrying the burden of such a message and warning to the world. In every dispensation, from Adam to the present, two or more witnesses have always joined their testimonies, thus leaving their hearers without excuse in the day of judgment should the testimony be rejected” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. 1966, 436).
To consider that everything of saving significance in the Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s account of how it came forth is as sobering as it is true. It is a “sudden death” proposition. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward.
I am suggesting that one has to take something of a do-or-die stand regarding the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant 1997, 347-48).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks spoke about one’s need to read with the properly positioned heart and attitude: “What we get from a book, especially a sacred text, is mostly dependent on what we take to its reading --- in desire and readiness to learn and in attunement to the light communicated by the Spirit of the Lord” (C.R., Apr. 2006, 78).
Whenever possible I would rather have the reader focus directly on Book of Mormon language than on someone else’s language about it.
In fact, one could make a persuasive argument that no book should be written about the Book of Mormon, particularly if reading such a secondary work became an alternative for becoming immersed in the scripture firsthand (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant, 1997, preface).
As my great-great-great grandfather said of his own conversion in the earliest days of the Restoration, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so (George Q. Cannon, in Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6:174).
And this magnificent book was translated when Joseph Smith was barely a boy, a lad still coming of age.
To paraphrase Winston Churchhill, “Some boy, some book.”
Golden Plates on Display in BulgariaThe world's oldest multiple-page book — in the lost Etruscan language — has gone on display in Bulgaria 's National History Museum in Sofia and something about that book has particular interest for Latter-day Saints.
As is evident from the photograph, this book was created on metal plates that are bound together with metal rings similar to the original source documents that became the Book of Mormon.
The book dates back to 600 B.C., which is roughly the time that Lehi and his family left Jerusalem .
The small manuscript, which is more than two and a half millennia old, was discovered 60 years ago in a tomb uncovered during digging for a canal along the Strouma River in southwestern Bulgaria . It has now been donated to the museum by its finder, on condition of anonymity.. Reports say the unidentified donor is now 87 years old and lives in Macedonia. The authenticity of the book has been confirmed by two experts in Sofia and London, museum director Bojidar Dimitrov said quoted by AFP. The six sheets are believed to be the oldest comprehensive work involving multiple pages, said Elka Penkova, who heads the museum's archaeological department.
There are around 30 similar pages known in the world, Ms Penkova said, "but they are not linked together in a book". The Etruscans — one of Europe's most mysterious ancient peoples — are believed to have migrated from Lydia, in modern western Turkey, settling in northern and central Italy nearly 3,000 years ago. They were wiped out by the conquering Romans in the fourth century BC, leaving few written records. The long debated question about bound metal records existing in the Middle East 2500 years ago as claimed by the Book of Mormon can now be put to rest. Critics should take note and check that item off their list of objections to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith said “the title page was taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates” (HC 1:71).
The title page is one of the least studied and least understood parts of the Book of Mormon.
A “keystone” is the wedge-shaped piece of the crown of an arch that locks the other pieces in place (Webster Dictionary).
The writing went from right to left on the gold plates.
Why? Most men were right handed!
I Nephi is the doctrinal foundation of the Book of Mormon!
1. Did you have the opportunity to read the Book of Mormon while you lived on the earth?
2. Did you read the Book of Mormon?
3. Did you learn the great principles of righteousness contained in the Book Of Mormon?
It may be that if we can honestly answer “yes” to all of these questions, we might then hear those gladsome words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant:... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21) (Dan Ludlow).
1. All were witnesses of Jesus Christ.
2. All were tutored by supernatural beings.
3. All had a vision of our day and wrote especially for and to us.
4. All received heavenly counsel regarding what they should include in their writings.
5. All warned us that we will be held. accountable for what we do with their words.
May we come to feel as a whole people beckoned beyond the entry hall. May we go inside far enough to hear clearly the whispered truths from those who have “slumbered,” which whisperings will awaken in us individually the life of discipleship as never before.
Neal A. Maxwell
“The Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day. It will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will. It will be the most important book you will read in preparation for a mission and for life. A young (person) who knows and loves the Book of Mormon, who has read it several times, who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness, and who applies its teachings will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and will be a mighty tool in the hands of the Lord” (C.R., Apr., 1986, 56).
The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is the witness of the Holy Ghost. But there are also other evidences.
Those who do not want to accept the Book of Mormon as a record of divine origin must find a different explanation of how we got it. Most of them claim that Joseph wrote the book himself. You must keep in mind how impossible this would have been for Joseph.
He was a boy with limited education. He had much less schooling at this time in his life than any of you reading this.
Keep in mind their school years were the months they could not be in the field working.
The valleys of the Middle East are seen as places of refuge and strength --- even more than mountains. They are spoken of with love and hope in poetry and song (I Nephi 2:8-10).
Quarrels among families and friends over food, water, inheritances, and other domestic concerns are frequent. These commonly resulted in family divisions and even murder (I Nephi 3:29).
The hill country of Israel abounds in caves and cisterns which are used to store food and water. Since some are very deep, they were also used to contain prisoners. Some fugitives also found excellent hiding places in these caves (I Nephi 3;27).
There are mists of darkness in the Arabian Desert that are thick and make traveling very dangerous. These clouds of fog and dust make safe travel at night impossible. Even in the daylight such mists contribute to one’s getting lost (I Nephi 8:23).
A desert nomad’s campsite may endure only while the water lasts, or until pasture is gone. Then he must move to a new location (I Nephi 16:17).
Mourning at the death of a loved one was expressed by means of a ritual, as well as through individual and heart-felt grief. The tearing of garments, the wearing of sackcloth, the shaving of the head, and the wailing of the women were all customary and expected (I Nephi 16:34-35).
Eating raw meat and making no fires in the desert is a matter of self-preservation. Robbers infest the land, and it is dangerous to light a fire that might lead a thief to your camp, especially at night (I Nephi 17:2,12).
(Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 60-80)
How could Joseph Smith have known that such conditions and customs existed in the Middle East unless they were revealed to him while translating the Book of Mormon?
An interesting paradox that those so anxious to label us a non-Christian cult are offended by the Book of Mormon because it is so Christ-centered.
Jesus as the Son of God
Old Testament is silent
New Testament confusing
Book of Mormon resolves it
Jesus the Christ
Christ nor the word church appear in any modern translation of Old Testament.
Mosiah 3:5-10, Alma 7:10-12, Mosiah 3:8
Old Testament can’t match it (Isaiah 53).
The Fall of Adam
The Bible is superior in telling the story, yet contributes little to our understanding, no wonder the confusion in the Christian world.
The Book of Mormon is plain, 2 Nephi 2:22,25; Alma 42:5.
The Plan of Salvation
Not mentioned in the Bible or D&C, only Book of Mormon.
No clear explanation in the Bible, good on the events.
The Book of Mormon tells you why he suffered and how.
The word atonement is found only one time in the New Testament (Romans 5:11).
The Old Testament doesn’t mention the word.
Paul does a few times.
The Book of Mormon teaches what will happen (Alma 11:45, 40:23).
The Old Testament nothing, Book of Mormon plenty.
Baptism not found in Old Testament
New Testament, yes, but how was it performed?
Book of Mormon, yes!
Book of Mormon, Alma 41:3-4,14-15.
Gathering of Israel
Both have much to say, the Book of Mormon makes distinctive contributions.
2 Nephi 28:26-30
The Book of Mormon is superior to the Bible in teaching each of the doctrines of salvation considered.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed “that Lehi and Jacob excel Paul in teaching the Atonement; that Alma’s sermons on faith and on being born again surpass anything in the Bible; that Nephi makes a better exposition of the scattering and gathering of Israel than do Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel combined; that Mormon’s words about faith, hope, and charity have a clarity, a breadth, and a power of expression that even Paul did not attain; and so on and so on.”
The three and eight, who forever affixed their signatures to the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon declaring that they had, respectively, seen an angel and handled the plates of gold? Each of the three and several of the eight had difficulty with the institutional Church during their lifetimes, including years of severe disaffection from Joseph Smith personally. Nevertheless, none of them --- even in hours of emotional extremity or days of public pressure --- ever disavowed his testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon.
Martin Harris was asked in the last year of his life if he “believed the Book of Mormon was true.” He answered “No,” then reassured his initially surprised interrogator that he “knew” the book was true, which was greater than belief. “I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen, and I have heard what I have heard,” he said. “I saw the angel and the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated and heard the voice of God declare it was translated correctly” (Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant 1997, 348-49).