Book of Mormon/Translation
This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.
|Book of Mormon|
Book of Mormon & Bible:
|FAIR Wiki Topical Guide|
|FAIR web site|
|FARMS web site|
Book of Mormon Translation
- What do we know about the method used to translate the Book of Mormon?
- Were the plates sometimes not in the room while Joseph was translating them?
- Critics claim that each sentence and word in the 1830 Book of Mormon "had supposedly come directly from God."
It is important to remember that what we do know for certain is that the translation of the Book of Mormon was carried out "by the gift and power of God." These are the only words that Joseph Smith himself used to describe the translation process.
As Elder Russel M. Nelson stated in the July 1993 Ensign, the "details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known." We do know, based upon witness accounts, that Joseph employed instruments designated for that purpose: The Nephite interpreters and his own seer stone. Many have offered their own opinions about how these devices "functioned" in the process, but it should be kept in mind that these opinions are given by people who never performed the translation process itself: They can only report on what they observed the Prophet doing at the time. We also know that at some later point in time, both the Nephite interpreters and Joseph's seer stone were referred to using the term "Urim and Thummim." Whether Joseph used the "original" Urim and Thummim (i.e. Nephite interpreters or "spectacles") or his own seer stone to perform this sacred task is beside the point, and it does not diminish the power of the resulting work. One should read the Book of Mormon itself and evaluate its message rather than get wrapped up in the detail of its exact method of translation.
In 1993, Elder Russell M. Nelson stated that "[t]he details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known." 
All that we know for certain is that Joseph translated the record "by the gift and power of God." (DC 135:3)
We are given some insight into the spiritual aspect of the translation process, when the Lord says to Oliver Cowdery:
"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." (DC 9:8)
Beyond this, the Church does not take any sort of official stand on the exact method by which the Book of Mormon translation occurred. Joseph Smith himself never recorded the precise physical details of the method of translation:
"Brother Joseph Smith, Jun., said that it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; and also said that it was not expedient for him to relate these things" 
- The lost 116 pages—
Critics assert that Joseph Smith did not retranslate the 116 lost pages of the Book of Lehi because he knew that he could not reproduce the exact same text. They claim that alterations in a different handwriting to the stolen manuscript would have been readily apparent. Some suggest that the writing of the 116 pages served as an “apprenticeship” to allow Joseph to improve his writing skills. (Link)
- Anthon transcript—
What do we know about the Anthon transcript and the translation of the Book of Mormon? What is the current scholarly thought on the transcript? Didn't Charles Anthon deny having "validating" the characters? (Link)
- Description of the plates—
A variety of persons who handled and/or saw the plates left descriptions. We list these descriptions in this sub-article. (Link—Statements by witnesses)
- Chronology of events—
A chronology of events related to the Book of Mormon translation and publication. (Link)
- Chronology of translation methods—
We have a number of accounts of the translation process from the perspective of various contemporary second-hand witnesses who viewed the Prophet as he dictated to his scribes. The only person other than Joseph who attempted to directly translate was Oliver Cowdery. Oliver, however, did not record any details regarding the exact physical process that he employed during his attempt—we only have the spiritual aspect of the process. (Link)
- Mainly italics altered in the portions dependent on the KJV?—Some have claimed that the differences between the KJV and the Book of Mormon text (in, for example, the Isaiah passages in 2 Nephi) differ mainly in the italics of the KJV version. (Link)
- Tight versus loose translation—
Was the Prophet provided with the exact wording of every sentence in the Book of Mormon or was he simply given impressions which he then dictated within the context of his own understanding? (Link)
- Relationship between the Nephite interpreters, seer stones and the "Urim and Thummim"—
What physical aids were employed by the Prophet during translation? (Link)
- Artistic depictions of the Book of Mormon translation—
People are sometimes troubled when they see artists' depictions of the Prophet and Oliver sitting at a table while Joseph views the plates as they sit in plain sight. Obviously, the plates never sat exposed in plain view, and these artistic interpretations originate purely in the mind of the artist. Some accounts indicate that the plates sat on a table covered with a cloth "in plain view," with Emma indicating that she actually moved them around in order to perform her household chores. (Link) 
- Location of the plates during translation—
Some witness accounts suggest that Joseph was able to translate while the plates were covered, or when they were not even in the same room with him. Therefore, if the plates themselves were not being used during the translation process, why was it necessary to have plates at all? (Link)
- Relationship of the JST to the Book of Mormon—
Some passages from the Bible (parts of Isaiah, for example) were included in the Book of Mormon text. However, the same passages were later revised for the Joseph Smith Translation of the Holy Bible. In some cases these passages are not rendered identically. Critics claim that if the JST was an accurate translation, it would match the supposedly more 'pure' Isaiah text possessed by the Nephites. (Link)
- [note] Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign (July 1993), 61. off-site
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:220. BYU Studies link
- [note] Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:541–542.
- [note] Interview of Emma Smith by her son Joseph Smith III, "Interview with Joseph Smith III, 1879," in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 1:539.