Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon

In the earliest hours of 22 September 1827, Joseph Smith left his parents’ home in , New York, with his wife and traveled a few miles to a nearby hill. He later recounted that while at the hill, he unearthed a set of “,” whose existence had been revealed to him four years earlier by an angel. During his first encounter with the angel, Smith saw in a vision the location of the plates and was told that they contained an ancient record that God intended to bring forth to the world. When Smith attempted to acquire the plates after the angel’s first visit, the angel informed him that he must wait to receive them and should return to the same spot annually for further instruction. Finally, in 1827, Joseph Smith was allowed to take possession of the plates. Within two and a half years of obtaining them, he had produced a manuscript and published the Book of Mormon, an account of ancient inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere. A little over a decade after the publication of the Book of Mormon, the manuscript was deposited in the cornerstone of a then being built in , Illinois. When the manuscript was retrieved several decades later, it had sustained significant damage from water seepage. What was left of the manuscript was parceled out to various individuals in the final decades of the nineteenth century.
This volume of The Joseph Smith Papers features what remains of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon dictated by Joseph Smith. Of the nearly 500 pages that were placed in the cornerstone, portions of 232 pages survive, amounting to roughly 28 percent of the text. Some of what remains is badly faded, obscured, or otherwise damaged. This volume presents photographic and typographic facsimiles of each Book of Mormon fragment that can be identified and placed among the other leaves or fragments. This presentation allows researchers unprecedented access to the earliest text of the Book of Mormon. The transcripts and annotation in this volume rely upon years of earlier work by volume editor Royal Skousen as part of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This volume adds to that work by presenting high-resolution photographs of every page or identifiable fragment of the manuscript. The statement of editorial method on page xxvii herein provides a description of the differences between the transcription approach used in this volume and the approach followed in Skousen’s earlier work.
Joseph Smith and his contemporaries often spoke of his work dictating the Book of Mormon text from the plates as a divine or miraculous “translation.” Smith and his supporters testified that his ability to translate was a gift from God, which allowed him to dictate in English the text of an ancient history written in a forgotten language, even though he had no scholarly training. When mentioning the translation process, Joseph Smith stated on several occasions that he had translated the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God.”
If anyone directly involved in the translation described it in a contemporaneous diary, letter, or other record, that documentation has not been discovered. Though in this same period Joseph Smith dictated revelations that addressed the translation process, he presented those texts as containing the thoughts and words of God on the Book of Mormon translation, rather than his own. Smith himself never gave a detailed account of the translation, and all the available historical sources describing the process are imperfect—some are later recollections of those who participated in or observed the process, others are rumors that were reported shortly after the translation, and still others are secondhand accounts, preserved either in documents from the time period or in later reminiscences. Such sources are incomplete in part because Smith was assisted by at least seven scribes, meaning that he himself was the only person present for the entire translation. Because elements of the process—including the use of an instrument, the location of translation work, and the scribe assisting Smith—evidently changed over time, a witness who observed the translation only at a certain point in the process would be unable to describe what the process looked like at other stages. Nevertheless, the contours of Joseph Smith’s translation process can be discerned by studying the accounts of Smith and his associates and by comparing their assertions against one another’s and against the evidence in the original manuscript itself.
Translation Begins
Joseph Smith’s mother, , recorded that her son acquired the plates in the early morning of 22 September 1827. , a friend and early supporter, reported that Joseph Smith spoke that same morning of plates “writen in Caracters” and of his desire that they be translated. Knight also remembered the troubles that arose after Smith obtained the plates: “He [Smith] was Commanded not to let no one see those things [the plates]. . . . But many insisted and oferd money and Property to see them[.] But for keeping them from the Peopel they persecuted and abused them [the Smith family] and they ware obliged to hide them.” Many people in rural in Joseph Smith’s time believed they could exercise supernatural power—to find buried treasure, for instance—through the use of or divining rods or through prescribed rituals. Joseph Smith spent time in his youth digging for treasure with neighbors and friends, and many of his former treasure-digging associates felt they had a claim to the plates.
Neighbors in and nearby , New York, made “the most strenious exertions” to steal the plates from Joseph Smith. If Smith tried to translate the plates in Manchester during the final months of 1827, that activity is lost to history. According to family and friends, his main focus at that time was protecting and hiding the plates from those who sought to steal them. Eventually, the disruptions proved too great to bear; in late 1827, he and moved about 150 miles southeast to live near her family in , Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, where he could focus on translating the ancient record.
Once in , Joseph Smith began studying the plates closely. He recalled in 1832 that his neighbor arrived in Harmony and said that God “had shown him that he must go to with some of the characters” from the plates. Smith and Harris “proceeded to coppy some of them and he [Harris] took his Journy to the Eastern Cittys.” Smith recalled years later that when he arrived in Harmony, he “copyed a considerable number” of characters, along with translations of some of the characters, and Harris then arrived and took them to New York City. While in New York City, Harris visited scholars who were skilled with languages. He met with , a linguist who had studied several Native American languages, and Mitchill referred him to , a specialist in Latin and Greek.
and gave differing accounts of their encounter. Harris recalled that Anthon told him that the “translation was correct,” affirmed that the characters were “true characters,” and supplied a written certificate attesting to that. But when Harris told Anthon about the characters’ origin, Anthon retrieved the note he had just written and tore it up, “saying that there was no such thing now as ministring of angels.” Anthon’s accounts, however, suggest that he questioned the document and its origin story from the beginning and feared Smith was defrauding Harris of his money. Harris left empty-handed, having obtained neither an independent translation of the characters nor written confirmation of their authenticity. Nevertheless, Harris returned to with conviction that the work was divinely inspired, and he left behind his own family and farm in for a time in order to assist Smith in the translation effort.
Translation in Harmony
After returned to in April 1828, Joseph Smith began translating in earnest. He apparently spent about two months dictating a sizable portion of text. , , and Reuben Hale acted as scribes for this earliest portion of the manuscript. One source states that Harris wrote this portion, while Emma Smith recalled that she wrote “a part of it.” Because this portion of the manuscript was later lost, it is impossible to determine how much each scribe assisted.
and both stated that Joseph Smith used an object or instrument to assist in translation: he would place the instrument into a hat and, burying his face in the hat, would peer into the instrument. One of the instruments Smith used was apparently a set of two stones, at times called “spectacles” in early sources, that he said were recovered from the hill along with the plates. These spectacles were thought to be the “interpreters” that the Book of Mormon text says would be preserved with the plates. Decades later, Harris described these objects: “Two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round. . . . The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks.” Joseph Smith himself described the instrument as consisting of “two transparent stones.” , who remembered seeing the spectacles before her son’s move to , gave a description of the instrument that is similar to Harris’s: “2 smooth 3 cornered diamonds set in glass and the glass was set in silver bows conected with each other in the same way that old fashioned spectacles are made.”
In the course of the translation, Smith also used a seer stone that was in his possession before he obtained the plates. Both the spectacles and the seer stone were at times called interpreters, and the biblical term was later used to refer to both instruments as well. Before Joseph Smith switched to using primarily the seer stone for translation, recalled that Smith often used the stone instead of the spectacles “for convenience.” Harris also remembered that only the specific stone Smith used would work for translating. An interviewer later recorded Harris’s account of a time when he tested Smith by replacing the instrument Smith ordinarily used with a similar-looking stone. During a break in the translation work, Harris “found a stone very much resembling the one used for translating, and on resuming their labor of translation, Martin put in place the stone that he had found.” When they resumed translating, Smith was silent for some time and then exclaimed, “Martin! What is the matter? All is as dark as Egypt.” Harris confessed to switching the stones and explained that “he had done so . . . to stop the mouths of fools, who had told him that the Prophet had learned those sentences and was merely repeating them.”
Some accounts discuss the mechanics of this earliest translation work. told her son later in her life, “I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.” She continued, “When acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.” In another interview, she added more details: “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.” A particular memory remained with Emma throughout her life: “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 was afraid I had been deceived.’”
An 1881 article based on ’s reminiscences recounted what he had observed and inferred of the translation process: “By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin, and when finished he would say, ‘Written,’ and if correctly written, that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.” Both Harris and testified the translation was given to Joseph Smith by divine means.
Several accounts from other observers suggest that a partition separated Smith from his scribes during an early phase of the translation process but that later they worked with nothing separating them. Sallie McKune, a neighbor to the Hale and Smith families in , recalled “nails used for hooks to hang blankets on during the translation of the golden bible.” Sources that relate ’s experiences also mention a sheet dividing the translator from the scribe. “Harris declares,” reported one local newspaper, “that when he acted as amanuenses, and wrote the translation, as Smith dictated, such was his fear of the Divine displeasure, that a screen (sheet) was suspended between the prophet and himself.” It is possible that these accounts refer to the time Smith spent copying characters from the plates before the actual translation began. He took care that no one else saw the plates, as he said the angel commanded. Accounts from either do not mention or specifically refute the presence of a sheet or other barrier between translator and scribe. While Joseph Smith appears to have ceased separating himself from his scribes at some point in the process, there are no accounts that report the plates being visible to the scribe during translation; indeed, one account states that the plates themselves were wrapped in a cloth when there was no barrier present.
Shortly before was to give birth to her first child, felt driven to prove to his family the legitimacy of the translation. He convinced Joseph Smith to allow him to return to with the pages of translated English text to show to his wife, parents, brother, and sister-in-law. Smith was initially reluctant to let Harris take the manuscript. Harris asked Smith several times to take his request to God in prayer, and finally Harris was given permission. On 15 June 1828, shortly after Harris departed with the manuscript, Emma Smith delivered a who either was stillborn or died shortly after birth, and the labor left her near death. Over the next three weeks, as the Smiths grieved the loss of their child and Emma slowly began to recover, Joseph Smith grew increasingly concerned that he had not heard from Harris. Once her condition started to stabilize, Emma encouraged her husband to travel to to determine what had become of the manuscript. In Manchester, Joseph Smith discovered that the fruit of their collective efforts—the single copy of the manuscript—had been stolen during Harris’s stay in Palmyra. Neither the circumstances of the loss nor the ultimate fate of the manuscript is known.
, who was still living in when the loss occurred, recalled in her 1845 history that her son returned to almost immediately after learning the manuscript had been lost: “We parted with heavy hearts; for it now appeared that all which we had so fondly anticipated, and which had been the source of so much secret gratification was in a moment fled, and fled forever.” She further stated, “I well remember that day of darkness, both within and without: to us at least the heavens seemed clothed with blackness, and the earth shrouded with gloom.”
Following the loss of the manuscript in the summer of 1828, Joseph Smith recalled, “The Plates was taken from me by the power of God and I was not able to obtain them for a season.” He also recalled that the interpreters he had unearthed with the plates were taken from him at this time. It was apparent to Smith’s family and friends that his ability to translate was tied not just to his obedience but also to his possession of the plates and the interpreters.
The period following the loss of the manuscript was a time of mourning the lost text but also, as Smith reported later, a time of repentance and divine forgiveness. He stated that shortly after the manuscript was lost, an angel, whom he identified in later records as Moroni, came to him, temporarily returning the interpreters so that he could seek divine guidance by revelation. The resulting communication told Smith that while he was “chosen to do the work of the Lord,” it was possible that he could fall. His responsibility was to “repent of that which thou hast done & he [God] will only cause thee to be afflicted for a season & thou art still chosen & will again be called to the work.” The angel then took the interpreters back, according to Smith’s account, and later returned both the interpreters and the plates after a period of “much humility and affliction of Soul.”
did not learn that her son had received the plates again until she and her husband, , visited in early September 1828. Immediately upon seeing her son, she sensed his easy and relaxed manner, which she interpreted to mean that “something agreeable” had occurred. Indeed, Smith told his mother that he had been “humble and penitent” and had received the ability and opportunity to translate again. Lucy Mack Smith recorded that it was with delight that her son stated he had “commenced translating,” with ’s assistance.
During the latter part of 1828, however, Smith’s financial obligations and duty to provide for his family prevented him from doing much translating. A friend and believer stated that Smith “could not translate But little Being poor and nobody to write for him But his wife and she Could not do much and take Care of her house.” Winter 1828–1829 appears to have passed with less translation than Smith had hoped for. According to several entries in an account book belonging to ’s brother David Hale, Joseph Smith spent several days in fall 1828 and winter 1828–1829 laboring to pay off debts.
Still, Joseph Smith expected that a way would be opened for him to translate the plates. recorded that when the angel returned the plates to Smith, he also promised “that the Lord would send [him] a scribe.” Smith may have looked for fulfillment of that promise in the arrival of his father and brother in early 1829. The Smith men came from to by way of the , New York, home of believers and . Joseph Knight Sr. recalled accompanying and Samuel to Harmony in January and giving Joseph Smith “a little money to Buoy [buy] paper to translate.” Samuel remained in Harmony, apparently serving as a scribe for the translation. Knight returned to Harmony in March and spoke with Smith “about his translating and some revelations he had Received.” Perhaps one of the revelations he referred to was the one instructing Smith that “when thou hast translated a few more pages . . . then shalt thou stop for a season even untill I command thee again.”
It is impossible to tell from what remains of the manuscript how much was translated during the fall of 1828 and the ensuing winter. Textual evidence suggests that when work resumed after the loss of the initial portion of the manuscript, Joseph Smith and scribes and began in the book of Mosiah, roughly a third of the way into what was later published as the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, the original manuscript for the book of Mosiah is no longer extant, making it impossible to determine who was serving as scribe when work resumed. By the next point in the surviving manuscript—the tenth chapter of the book of Alma, which immediately follows Mosiah—the text is in the handwriting of an individual whom Joseph Smith would meet in early April 1829: .
Translating with Oliver Cowdery in Harmony
In the fall of 1828, a young schoolteacher named Lyman Cowdery was appointed to fill a teaching position in the area. Upon finding that other responsibilities prevented him from fulfilling the appointment, he asked the school board if his brother could take his place. The board agreed, and Oliver Cowdery began teaching sometime in October 1828, taking lodging for a time with the and family. Cowdery soon heard rumors of gold plates. When he asked Palmyra residents how they knew that the plates existed, they stated that they had seen the place where the plates were unearthed. Cowdery took advantage of his access to the Smith family and asked them to explain.
Given the antagonism of their neighbors, and her husband were reluctant to share their son’s experiences with their new acquaintance. According to Lucy Mack Smith’s reminiscence, eventually gained the trust of the Smiths, who explained to him “the facts which related to the plates.” What Cowdery heard so resonated with him that he told “that he had been in a deep study upon the subject all day, and that it was impressed upon his mind, that he should yet have the privilege of writing for Joseph.” Cowdery stated that this feeling was “working in [his] very bones.” Cowdery told Lucy Mack Smith and her husband, “There is a work for me to do in this thing and I am determined if there is to attend to it.”
journeyed to beginning in late March 1829, arriving there on Sunday, 5 April 1829. Though Cowdery and Joseph Smith had never met, Cowdery explained to Smith his interest in the plates and was quickly taken into Smith’s confidence—on 6 April, he helped Smith with the paperwork to complete the purchase of a home, and on 7 April, he began assisting with the translation of the Book of Mormon.
In an 1834 letter to leader , recalled his experience with the translating process: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom!” Besides affirming that the translation was done under divine influence, Cowdery added a brief description of the process: “Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites whould have said, ‘Interpreters,’ the history, or record, called ‘The book of Mormon.’”
Sometime in April, at a time when Smith and were working “with little cessation,” Cowdery “became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him.” He believed that such a power was acquired not through study but through the bestowal of a gift from God. In response to Cowdery’s desire, Smith dictated a revelation that promised Cowdery that he could “translate all those ancient Records which have been hid up which are Sacred.” Smith dictated another revelation in April that explained to Cowdery that translation was not what he had first supposed: “Behold I say unto you, my son, that, because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant Joseph, even so I would that you should continue until you have finished this record.” The revelation informed Cowdery that God removed the gift of translation from Cowdery because “you did not continue as you commenced,” or he supposed that God “would give it unto you, when you took no thought, save it was to ask me.” The revelation continued, “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.”
The days of Smith and working in with few interruptions were productive but short-lived. Cowdery remembered that after about five weeks, Smith had completed the books of Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman, plus some of 3 Nephi. The productivity would not last. stated later that “evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph’s life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world.” Cowdery, who had previously written to his friend regarding his involvement in the work, wrote again, this time asking Whitmer for a place where he and Smith could translate. Whitmer arrived in Harmony shortly after he received the letter and offered to allow Smith and Cowdery to translate in his parents’ home, free of charge. Leaving , who would join them at some later time, the three men journeyed about one hundred miles north to , New York, arriving about 1 June 1829.
Translating in Fayette
The Whitmers welcomed Joseph Smith and . remembered that arrived in “a short time after Joseph and Oliver came.” The Whitmers’ early belief and support were important to Joseph Smith, and they provided connections to neighbors who were “friendly, and disposed to enquire in to the truth of these strange matters, which now began to be noised abroad.” In fact, Smith recalled that “many opened their houses to us, in order that we might have an opportunity of meeting with their friends for the purpose of instruction, and explanation.”
At least two additional scribes, ’s older brothers and , assisted Joseph Smith with translation in . Because so many leaves of the manuscript have been lost or severely damaged, it is unclear where Smith and were in their translation work at the time they moved to Fayette. Analysis of the original manuscript suggests that after completing the translation through the book of Moroni, Smith returned to the beginning of the story, translating what are now the books of 1 Nephi through the Words of Mormon. The portion of the mansucript now called 1 Nephi includes the first text with handwriting from any Whitmer scribe.
Hosting the Book of Mormon translation efforts proved challenging to the Whitmers. Supporting two or three additional individuals was not without expense and added to the domestic burdens of the matriarch, . Her grandson John C. Whitmer said that she once encountered a stranger while doing her chores. This man, who she later concluded was an angel, “explain[ed] to her the nature of the work which was going on in her house,” whereupon “she was filled with unexpressible joy and satisfaction.” recalled that his mother told him the words of the angel served as recompense for her sacrifices: “You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors, but you are tried because of the increase of your toil,” she was told. “It is propper therefore that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.” The messenger then showed her the gold plates containing the text of the Book of Mormon.
The work of translation at was observed by several members of the Whitmer family. , who was present in the family home and was later married to , recalled that she “was familiar with the manner of Joseph Smith’s translating the book of Mormon. . . . I often sat by and saw and heard them translate and write for hours together. Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe while he was translating. He would place the director in his hat, and then place his face in his hat, so as to exclude the light,” and then read the words “as they appeared before him.” , who was frequently interviewed later in his life, was fairly consistent in his description of the translation as he observed it: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat,” Whitmer wrote, “and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine.” What Smith saw in the stone, of course, was not observable by Whitmer, but Smith may have explained the process to him. “A piece of something resembling parchment would appear,” Whitmer continued, “and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.” Like other believers, Whitmer understood this process as divine, concluding, “Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.”
As work on the original Book of Mormon manuscript neared completion, Smith began preparing for the book’s publication. On 11 June 1829 he secured a copyright for the work, and by the end of that month, the title page was published in a newspaper, the Wayne Sentinel. Also in June, three men—, , and —testified that they were shown the plates by an angel of the Lord and that they heard the voice of God declare that the Book of Mormon had been translated by divine power. At about the same time, eight individuals—three Smith men and four Whitmer men, plus (the husband of )—testified that Smith had shown them the plates. He allowed them to handle the plates and examine the engraved characters. Formal statements that recorded the experiences and bore the names of all eleven men were published with the Book of Mormon. These shared experiences, along with more private experiences such as those of , gave new believers confidence that the plates were genuine and the translation was of God.
About a month after Smith and moved from to , they completed the translation. A month later, in early August 1829, Smith asked Cowdery to begin making a complete copy of the Book of Mormon text. It was mostly from this second manuscript—often called the printer’s manuscript—that printers set type for the published Book of Mormon in late 1829 and early 1830.
Use and Legacy of the Manuscript
The creation of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon ushered in important changes for early believers in Joseph Smith’s religious message and became an important symbol for those who would join the church. The manuscript is a crucial source for scholars and others interested in better understanding the translation, publication process, and text of the Book of Mormon.
Before the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph Smith and those who believed in the accounts of his religious experiences interacted mainly through informal conversations. Their small gatherings may have begun with spoken stories of heavenly messengers, supernatural visions, and buried plates. But the written text gave new power to the young religious movement. The written text allowed the network of believers to grow as more people became familiar with the Book of Mormon text through copied excerpts or private readings. The Book of Mormon translation not only created a text on which the body of early believers could rely—it also shaped the record keeping of the nascent church.
Even before the Book of Mormon was completely translated, the original manuscript was used in early proselytizing efforts. recalled that wrote several letters to him while translation was underway in . The first apparently included Cowdery’s witness of the truth of Smith’s stories and informed Whitmer that Cowdery planned to act as scribe for Smith. In the second letter, Cowdery gave Whitmer “a few lines of what they had translated.” Whitmer showed the letters to his family, who all became convinced that the work was divinely inspired. One report stated that Joseph Smith visited George Crane, “a Quaker of intelligence, property, and high repectability,” and showed him “several foolscap quires of these so-called translations, for his perusal and opinion.” Around the same time, a man named Solomon Chamberlin heard rumors of the Book of Mormon and sought out the Smith home in , New York. Chamberlin remained for two days with the Smith family, who instructed him “in the manuscripts of the Book of Mormon.” In these encounters, the Book of Mormon manuscript served as evidence of Joseph Smith’s divine calling well before the printed book could be shared by missionary-minded followers.
As the translation neared completion, Smith dictated a revelation in which God told , “I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true: Wherefore you know that they are true; and if you know that they are true, behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in them are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock.” The revelation implied not only that the Book of Mormon contains divine wisdom but also that the book would serve as a foundation for the church, which had yet to be organized. When received word that the translation was complete, she, her husband, and traveled to the Whitmer home. Once gathered, they spent the evening “in reading the manuscript.” She later recalled that they “were greatly rejoiced for it then appeared to us who did not realize the magnitude of the work which could hardly be said at that time to have begining; as though the greatest difficulty was then surmounted.” For early supporters of Joseph Smith, the original manuscript was recognized as the culmination of years of collective effort. But the manuscript of the Book of Mormon also pointed to the future, when the growing faith community would depend not only on a seer who saw visions and a prophet who spoke the will of God but also on a revelator who recorded scripture for the direction and use of a growing church.
Latter-day Saints continued to venerate the manuscript itself long after the text of that manuscript was available in print. A reminiscent account described the day in 1841 when Joseph Smith placed it in the cornerstone, saying that Smith “came up with the manuscript of the Book of Mormon and said that he wanted to put that in [the cornerstone], as he had had trouble enough with it.” , who observed the cornerstone ceremony, was struck “with amasement” by Smith’s comment about the manuscript because Robinson “looked upon it as a sacred treasure.” The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon may have reminded Smith of the persecution that had hounded him much of his life, but for Robinson and others like him, the manuscript represented faith in the prophet who translated it.
Over forty years after the original manuscript was placed in the cornerstone, Lewis Bidamon, ’s second husband, retrieved it. Unfortunately, the care that had been taken to make the cornerstone watertight proved insufficient. reported that told him, “Major Bidamon had taken down the wall and opened the stone, and found the manuscript ruined. It had gathered moisture, and much of it had become a mass of pulp, and only small portions of it were legible.” As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Utah passed through the Midwest, they visited and often acquired portions of the manuscript from Bidamon. Pieces of the manuscript survived through the efforts of these individuals and some of their descendants, who preserved various pages and fragments.
The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon is the only surviving firsthand, contemporaneous testament to events of the translation. The manuscript offers invaluable evidence that can be compared with secondhand accounts and later reminiscences or suppositions about the translation process. For instance, several individuals recalled Smith correcting the spelling of the scribes during the dictation process. , who observed the translation process in his home, stated that Smith was able to discern mistakes scribes made while taking dictation. Certainly some spelling was corrected at the time of dictation; for instance, in the book of Alma, “Zenock” was changed to “Zenoch” by . But analysis of the manuscript itself suggests that such corrections were rare; moreover, not all errors and inconsistencies were corrected. For instance, the name “Amalickiah” in the book of Alma was not consistently spelled the same way. As another example of the value of the original manuscript, lengthy quotations from the Bible in the Book of Mormon text raise the question of whether Joseph Smith’s scribes copied some passages directly from the Bible. Close study of the manuscript indicates that the Bible passages that appear in the extant pages were dictated, not copied.
The manuscript also confirms or supports numerous details from accounts of the translation. Textual evidence in the manuscript shows that acted as scribe for the majority of the extant manuscript, which matches his own description of the process. recalled years later that his brother served as scribe for Joseph Smith as well, and John Whitmer’s handwriting does in fact appear in what is now the book of 1 Nephi. , an early believer in Joseph Smith’s message, recorded that he supplied lined paper for the translation effort. The surviving portions of the manuscript reveal several different types of lined paper, which supports the idea that Smith was procuring paper in the midst of the translation process. Such correctives and confirmations of reminiscent accounts and scholarly theories illustrate the primacy of the original manuscript in establishing the history of the Book of Mormon translation.
Finally, the original manuscript offers a crucial data point in understanding the evolution of the Book of Mormon text. It is impossible to know how carefully the scribes captured the words of the Book of Mormon first spoken by Joseph Smith. Having access to the extant portions of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, however, allows readers the chance to assess the accuracy of the textual transmission through all subsequent editions. Even though the majority of the original manuscript is no longer extant, comparison of the extant text with the printer’s manuscript shows the care with which the copyists did their work. And while some scribal errors were introduced to the printer’s manuscript, the text shows virtually no signs of editing between the initial dictation of the original manuscript and the printing of the 1830 edition, except for spelling corrections, minor word changes, and the introduction of punctuation and capitalization. The majority of the 1830 edition was typeset from the printer’s manuscript, so the printed text was already one step removed from the original manuscript. This distance was only increased when the second edition (1837) was set from the 1830 edition, with some consultation of the printer’s manuscript but no known reference to the original manuscript. As more editions were printed—particularly after the original manuscript was deposited into the cornerstone and became unavailable to those publishing later editions of the text—a number of small, unintended errors made their way into the Book of Mormon text. In spite of these errors, the text has remained remarkably stable up to the present day.
The same autumn that Joseph Smith placed the manuscript into the cornerstone of the , he said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any Book on earth & the keystone of our religion & a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other Book.” The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon offered a touchstone to a nascent faith community, and what remains of the manuscript continues to provide an irreplaceable witness to Joseph Smith’s most consequential work of translation.
  1. 1

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 105.  

  2. 2

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4–5; JS History, vol. A-1, 4–8.  

  3. 3

    See Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Aug. 1890, 314–316.  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  4. 4

    The original locations of some small fragments containing inscribed characters have not been identified; such fragments are not included in this volume but may be viewed at josephsmithpapers.org.  

  5. 5

    Much of this earlier work has been published as Royal Skousen, ed., The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001); Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 6 vols. (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2004–2009); and Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009). Between the publication of Skousen’s transcript in 2001 and the publication of this volume, Skousen made a number of corrections to the transcript. A list of those corrections can be found in Appendix 3: Transcript Updates since 2001.  

  6. 6

    For more information on the photographs in this volume, see “Note on Photographic Facsimiles.”  

  7. 7

    Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3]; Preface to Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829; Testimony of Three Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, pp. 463–464; Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 538 [Mormon 9:32–34].  

  8. 8

    JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835. Joseph Smith consistently described the translation this way throughout his life. Three individuals who acted as witnesses to the plates described Smith’s work similarly. (See, for example, Preface to Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829; JS, Kirtland, OH, to Noah C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 4 Jan. 1833; JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:707; and Testimony of Three Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, pp. 463–464.)  

  9. 9

    See, for example, Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3]; and Revelation, Apr. 1829–D [D&C 9].  

  10. 10

    JS History, vol. A-1, 9, 13–15, 22; Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289; JS History, ca. Summer 1832, [6]; Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:14; James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2].  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  11. 11

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 105–107.  

  12. 12

    Knight, Reminiscences, 3.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  13. 13

    JS History, vol. A-1, 7; C. M., “The Original Prophet,” 229; W. D. Purple, Reminiscence, 28 Apr. 1877, in “Joseph Smith, the Originator of Mormonism,” Chenango Union (Norwich, NY), 2 May 1877, [3]; see also Walker, “Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting,” 429–459; Ashurst-McGee, “Pathway to Prophethood,” 74–78, 194; and Taylor, “Rediscovering the Context of Joseph Smith’s Treasure Seeking,” 18–28.  

    “The Original Prophet. By a Visitor to Salt Lake City.” Fraser’s Magazine 7, no. 28 (Feb. 1873): 225–235.

    Walker, Ronald W. “The Persisting Idea of American Treasure Hunting.” BYU Studies 24, no. 4 (Fall 1984): 429–459.

    Ashurst-McGee, Mark. “A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet.” Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 2000.

    Taylor, Alan. “Rediscovering the Context of Joseph Smith’s Treasure Seeking.” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 19, no. 4 (Winter 1986): 18–28.

  14. 14

    See “Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon”; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 48–52, 61; and Ashurst-McGee, “Moroni: Angel or Treasure Guardian?,” 44.  

    Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.

    Ashurst-McGee, Mark. “Moroni as Angel and as Treasure Guardian.” FARMS Review 18, no. 1 (2006): 34–100.

  15. 15

    JS History, vol. A-1, 8.  

  16. 16

    See, for example, Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 5, [8]–[10]; and Knight, Reminiscences, 3.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  17. 17

    JS History, vol. A-1, 8–9.  

  18. 18

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5.  

  19. 19

    JS History, vol. A-1, 9. Some individuals who interacted with Harris in New York City made no mention of an English translation accompanying the copied characters that Harris showed to scholars. (Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Eber D. Howe, Painesville, OH, 17 Feb. 1834, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 270–272; Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Thomas Winthrop Coit, New Rochelle, NY, 3 Apr. 1841, in Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 233; Turner, History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris’ Reserve, 215; “Golden Bible,” Gem, of Literature and Science [Rochester, NY], 5 Sept. 1829, 70.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Clark, John A. Gleanings by the Way. New York: Robert Carter, 1842.

    Turner, Orsamus. History of the Pioneer Settlement of Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase, and Morris’ Reserve; Embracing the Counties of Monroe, Ontario, Livingston, Yates, Steuben, Most of Wayne and Allegany, and Parts of Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming. To Which Is Added, a Supplement, or Extension of the Pioneer History of Monroe County. . . . Rochester: William Alling, 1851.

    Gem, of Literature and Science. Rochester, NY. 1829–1833.

  20. 20

    Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Eber D. Howe, Painesville, OH, 17 Feb. 1834, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 270; Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Thomas Winthrop Coit, New Rochelle, NY, 3 Apr. 1841, in Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 233; MacKay, “Git Them Translated,” 95–98. Smith’s later history implies that Harris first visited Anthon and then Mitchill. (JS History, vol. A-1, 9.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Clark, John A. Gleanings by the Way. New York: Robert Carter, 1842.

    MacKay, Michael Hubbard. “‘Git Them Translated’: Translating the Characters on the Gold Plates.” In Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges, 83–116. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015.

  21. 21

    JS History, vol. A-1, 9.  

  22. 22

    Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Eber D. Howe, Painesville, OH, 17 Feb. 1834, in Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 270–272; Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Thomas Winthrop Coit, New Rochelle, NY, 3 Apr. 1841, in Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 233–238; Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to “Rev. and Deor Sir,” 12 Aug. 1844, in “A Fact in the Mormon Imposture,” New-York Observer (New York City), 3 May 1845, [1].  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Clark, John A. Gleanings by the Way. New York: Robert Carter, 1842.

    New-York Observer. New York City. 1829–1912.

  23. 23

    “Golden Bible,” Gem, of Literature and Science [Rochester, NY], 5 Sept. 1829, 70; [John A. Clark], “Gleanings by the Way. No. VI,” Episcopal Recorder, 5 Sept. 1840, 94; JS History, vol. A-1, 9.  

    Gem, of Literature and Science. Rochester, NY. 1829–1833.

    Episcopal Recorder. Philadelphia. 1831–1919.

  24. 24

    JS History, vol. A-1, 9.  

  25. 25

    Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289–290; JS History, vol. A-1, 9; Hiel Lewis, “Prophet Smith’s Family Relations,” Salt Lake Daily Tribune, 17 Oct. 1879, [2].  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

    Salt Lake Daily Tribune. Salt Lake City. 1871–.

  26. 26

    “A Witness to the Book of Mormon,” Daily Iowa State Register (Des Moines), 28 Aug. 1870, [4]; Briggs, “Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” 454; Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289–290. Emma Smith later recounted that while she acted as scribe, Joseph Smith questioned the existence of a wall around Jerusalem. Because the only extant portion of the Book of Mormon text that mentions a wall around Jerusalem (1 Nephi 4:4) is in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, it seems clear that Emma acted as scribe for at least some of the lost portion of the manuscript. (Briggs, “Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” 454.)  

    Daily Iowa State Register. Des Moines. 1869–1872.

    Journal of History. Lamoni, IA, 1908–1920; Independence, MO, 1921–1925.

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  27. 27

    Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289; “Golden Bible,” Gem, of Literature and Science [Rochester, NY], 5 Sept. 1829, 70.  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

    Gem, of Literature and Science. Rochester, NY. 1829–1833.

  28. 28

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 5; JS History, vol. A-1, 7.  

  29. 29

    Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 217, 328, 546 [Mosiah 28:20; Alma 37:21–24; Ether 4:5].  

  30. 30

    “Mormonism—No. II,” Tiffany’s Monthly, Aug. 1859, 165–166; see also [John A. Clark], “Gleanings by the Way. No. VI,” Episcopal Recorder, 5 Sept. 1840, 94.  

    “Mormonism,” Tiffany’s Monthly 5 (May 1859): 46–51; (July 1859): 119–121; (Aug. 1859): 163–170. Tiffany's Monthly. New York City. 1856–1859.

    Episcopal Recorder. Philadelphia. 1831–1919.

  31. 31

    JS, “Church History,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:707.  

  32. 32

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 5, [7]–[8].  

  33. 33

    See “Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon”; Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:14; “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1]; and Woodruff, Journal, 27 Dec. 1841. The earliest recorded use of the biblical term Urim and Thummim to describe the instrument Joseph Smith used for translation dates from 1832. (“Questions Proposed to the Mormonite Preachers and Their Answers Obtained before the Whole Assembly at Julien Hall, Sunday Evening, August 5, 1832,” Boston Investigator, 10 Aug. 1832, [2]; see also Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:21; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; [William W. Phelps], “The Book of Mormon,” The Evening and the Morning Star, Jan. 1833, [2]; Van Dam, The Urim and Thummim; and Ashurst-McGee, “Pathway to Prophethood,” 312–316, 325.)  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Boston Investigator. Boston. 1831–1904.

    The Evening and the Morning Star. Independence, MO, June 1832–July 1833; Kirtland, OH, Dec. 1833–Sept. 1834.

    Van Dam, Cornelis. The Urim and Thummim: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997.

    Ashurst-McGee, Mark. “A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet.” Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 2000.

  34. 34

    Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 13 Dec. 1881, [4]; Emma Smith Bidamon, Nauvoo, IL, to Mrs. Pilgrim, 27 Mar. 1870, in John Clark, “Translation of Nephite Records,” Return, 15 July 1895, 2; see also David Whitmer, Interview, Chicago Inter-Ocean, 17 Oct. 1886, quoted in “David Whitmer Reviewed,” Saints’ Herald, 13 Nov. 1886, 707.  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  35. 35

    Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289, 290.  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  36. 36

    Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” 454. Though the original manuscript contains some spelling corrections, there are also many misspelled words throughout the manuscript.  

    Journal of History. Lamoni, IA, 1908–1920; Independence, MO, 1921–1925.

  37. 37

    Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 13 Dec. 1881, [4].  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  38. 38

    “The Early Mormons,” Broome Republican (Binghamton, NY), 28 July 1880, [1].  

    Broome Republican. Binghamton, NY. 1822–1869.

  39. 39

    “Gold Bible, No. 6,” Reflector (Palmyra, NY), 19 Mar. 1831, 126, italics in original; see also Charles Anthon, New York City, NY, to Thomas Winthrop Coit, New Rochelle, NY, 3 Apr. 1841, in Clark, Gleanings by the Way, 233.  

    Reflector. Palmyra, NY. 1821–1831.

    Clark, John A. Gleanings by the Way. New York: Robert Carter, 1842.

  40. 40

    MacKay and Dirkmaat, From Darkness unto Light, 91.  

    MacKay, Michael Hubbard, and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat. From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015.

  41. 41

    Emma Smith recorded that she took dictation from her husband, “hour after hour with nothing between us.David Whitmer, who observed the translation in Fayette, New York, stated that a curtain provided privacy from visitors but that it did not separate Smith from the scribe. (Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289, italics added; “The Book of Mormon,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885, 3; see also Emma Smith Bidamon, Nauvoo, IL, to Mrs. Pilgrim, 27 Mar. 1870, in John Clark, “Translation of Nephite Records,” Return, 15 July 1895, 2; and Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” 454.)  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

    Chicago Daily Tribune. Chicago. 1872–1963.

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

    Journal of History. Lamoni, IA, 1908–1920; Independence, MO, 1921–1925.

  42. 42

    Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 290.  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  43. 43

    JS History, vol. A-1, 9.  

  44. 44

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [1]–[2]; Lucy Mack Smith History, 1845, 126–127; JS History, vol. A-1, 9.  

  45. 45

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [5]–[8]. Martin Harris and several others believed that his wife, Lucy Harris Harris, had stolen the manuscript, but their accounts differ as to whether she burned it or gave it to others. (See, for example, Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 22; [John A. Clark], 31 Aug. 1840, “Gleanings by the Way. No. VII,” Episcopal Recorder, 12 Sept. 1840, 98; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 134; [James H. Reeves], “Old Newspapers—No. 24,” Palmyra [NY] Courier, 24 May 1872, 3; and “W. R. Hine’s Statement,” Naked Truths about Mormonism [Oakland, CA], Jan. 1888, 2.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

    Episcopal Recorder. Philadelphia. 1831–1919.

    Palmyra Courier. Palmyra, NY. 1845–1874.

    Naked Truths about Mormonism: Also a Journal for Important, Newly Apprehended Truths, and Miscellany. Oakland, CA. Jan. and Apr. 1888.

  46. 46

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 132, 134.  

  47. 47

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, [6].  

  48. 48

    JS History, vol. A-1, 10.  

  49. 49

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [9]–[11].  

  50. 50

    JS History, vol. A-1, 10.  

  51. 51

    Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3:9–10].  

  52. 52

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, [6]. Smith’s later history states that he received the plates and interpreters again “a few days” after dictating the revelation in July 1828. (JS History, vol. A-1, 11.)  

  53. 53

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 135; see also Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [8]. Lucy Mack Smith later remembered that her son was to receive the plates “again on the 22 of september,” but records indicate he likely received them before that time. Lucy recalled her son having the plates in his possession when she and her husband visited Harmony in September 1828, and they had already returned to Palmyra by 11 September, when one of their children was treated by a local doctor there. (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [9]; Gain C. Robinson, Account Book, microfilm copy, CHL.)  

    Robinson, Gain C. Daybook C, Sept. 1827–Feb. 1830. Business Records from Palmyra, NY, 1801–1864. Microfilm. CHL.

  54. 54

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 135–136, 138.  

  55. 55

    JS History, vol. A-1, 11. In mid-August 1828, Smith purchased a penknife and a pocketbook on credit. It is possible that these purchases indicated Smith was preparing for some writing. (Staker and Jensen, “David Hale’s Store Ledger,” 100, 101.)  

    Staker, Mark L., and Robin Scott Jensen. “David Hale’s Store Ledger: New Details about Joseph and Emma Smith, the Hale Family, and the Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies 53, no. 3 (2014): 77–112.

  56. 56

    Knight, Reminiscences, 5.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  57. 57

    Staker and Jensen, “David Hale’s Store Ledger,” 101–105.  

    Staker, Mark L., and Robin Scott Jensen. “David Hale’s Store Ledger: New Details about Joseph and Emma Smith, the Hale Family, and the Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies 53, no. 3 (2014): 77–112.

  58. 58

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 138.  

  59. 59

    Knight, Reminiscences, 5.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  60. 60

    JS History, ca. Summer 1832, [6]; Staker and Jensen, “David Hale’s Store Ledger,” 105.  

    Staker, Mark L., and Robin Scott Jensen. “David Hale’s Store Ledger: New Details about Joseph and Emma Smith, the Hale Family, and the Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies 53, no. 3 (2014): 77–112.

  61. 61

    Knight, Reminiscences, 5.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  62. 62

    Revelation, Mar. 1829 [D&C 5:30].  

  63. 63

    As published, the Book of Mormon begins with the books of 1 Nephi through the Words of Mormon and then proceeds from the book of Mosiah through the end of the volume. But it is clear that 1 Nephi was not translated first because part of 1 Nephi is in the handwriting of John Whitmer, who could not have served as scribe until late May or June 1829.  

  64. 64

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [12].  

  65. 65

    James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2].  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  66. 66

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 7, [12].  

  67. 67

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 141.  

  68. 68

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [1].  

  69. 69

    Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:14; Agreement with Isaac Hale, 6 Apr. 1829; JS History, vol. A-1, 13.  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  70. 70

    Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:14, italics in original.  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  71. 71

    JS History, vol. A-1, 15, 16.  

  72. 72

    Revelation, Apr. 1829–B [D&C 8:11].  

  73. 73

    Revelation, Apr. 1829–D [D&C 9:1, 7–8].  

  74. 74

    Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:15; JS History, vol. A-1, 17–18.  

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

  75. 75

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [8].  

  76. 76

    “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1]; JS History, ca. June–Oct. 1839, [3]; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [8], [10]; James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2].  

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  77. 77

    James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2].  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  78. 78

    JS History, ca. June–Oct. 1839, [4].  

  79. 79

    JS History, vol. A-1, 22; James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2].  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  80. 80

    John C. Whitmer, Statement, in [Andrew Jenson], “The Eight Witnesses,” Historical Record, Oct. 1888, 621.  

    The Historical Record, a Monthly Periodical, Devoted Exclusively to Historical, Biographical, Chronological and Statistical Matters. Salt Lake City. 1882–1890.

  81. 81

    Joseph F. Smith, New York City, NY, to John Taylor et al., [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 17 Sept. 1878, draft, Joseph F. Smith, Papers, CHL; Stevenson, Diary, 23 Dec. 1877; 9 Feb. 1886; 2 Jan. 1887.  

    Smith, Joseph F. Papers, 1854–1918. CHL. MS 1325.

    Stevenson, Edward. Journals, 1852–1896. Edward Stevenson, Collection, 1849–1922. CHL. MS 4806, boxes 1–4.

  82. 82

    John C. Whitmer, Statement, in [Andrew Jenson], “The Eight Witnesses,” Historical Record, Oct. 1888, 621; Joseph F. Smith, New York City, NY, to John Taylor et al., [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 17 Sept. 1878, draft, Joseph F. Smith, Papers, CHL; Stevenson, Diary, 23 Dec. 1877; 9 Feb. 1886; 2 Jan. 1887.  

    The Historical Record, a Monthly Periodical, Devoted Exclusively to Historical, Biographical, Chronological and Statistical Matters. Salt Lake City. 1882–1890.

    Smith, Joseph F. Papers, 1854–1918. CHL. MS 1325.

    Stevenson, Edward. Journals, 1852–1896. Edward Stevenson, Collection, 1849–1922. CHL. MS 4806, boxes 1–4.

  83. 83

    Elizabeth Whitmer Cowdery, Statement, 15 Feb. 1870, in William McLellin, Independence, MO, to “My Dear Friends,” Feb. 1870, CCLA. The last part of this statement is cut off because a portion of the page on which it was written is missing. Only the top half of the next line is visible. There is no evidence that a curtain was in use to separate Smith from his scribe during the later portion of the translation.  

    McLellin, William E. Letter, Independence, MO, to “My Dear Friends,” Feb. 1870. CCLA.

  84. 84

    Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 12.  

    Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.

  85. 85

    J. L. Traughber Jr., “Testimony of David Whitmer,” Saints’ Herald, 15 Nov. 1879, 341.  

    Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.

  86. 86

    Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 12; see also “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1]; and James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2]. Whitmer is the only witness who mentions a parchment and one of the few witnesses or early associates of Joseph Smith who gave a detailed description of what Smith saw in the seer stone. Martin Harris was reported to have said that “by aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet.” (Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” Deseret Evening News [Salt Lake City], 13 Dec. 1881, [4].)  

    Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  87. 87

    Whitmer, Address to All Believers in Christ, 12.  

    Whitmer, David. An Address to All Believers in Christ. Richmond, MO: By the author, 1887.

  88. 88

    Copyright for Book of Mormon, 11 June 1829; News Item, Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, NY), 26 June 1829, [3].  

    Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.

  89. 89

    Testimony of Three Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, pp. 463–464; Appendix 4: Testimony of Three Witnesses, Late June 1829.  

  90. 90

    Testimony of Eight Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, p. 464; Appendix 5: Testimony of Eight Witnesses, Late June 1829.  

  91. 91

    Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., [589], [590]. David Whitmer recalled that he, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris signed the statement recording their experience. The statements of the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses as found in the printer’s manuscript contain signatures copied by Cowdery. (Joseph F. Smith, New York City, NY, to John Taylor et al., [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 17 Sept. 1878, draft, Joseph F. Smith, Papers, CHL; Testimony of Three Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, pp. 463–464; Testimony of Eight Witnesses, in Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830, p. 464.)  

    Smith, Joseph F. Papers, 1854–1918. CHL. MS 1325.

  92. 92

    See “Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon”; “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1]; and Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 158.  

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

  93. 93

    Textual evidence indicates that the original manuscript was used to set type for the portion of the book from chapter 13 of Helaman through chapter 9 of Mormon. (Skousen, “Why Was One Sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon Set from the Original Manuscript?,” 93–103.)  

    Skousen, Royal. “Why Was One Sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon Set from the Original Manuscript?” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 2 (2012): 93–103.

  94. 94

    For example, around the time the translation of the Book of Mormon was complete, Joseph Smith dictated a revelation that instructed Oliver Cowdery to “rely upon the things which are written.” In response to that directive, Cowdery created the “Articles of the Church of Christ.” This document, which quotes extensively from the recently finished Book of Mormon, instructed believers on ways to “build up” the church. (Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:3–5]; “Articles of the Church of Christ,” June 1829.)  

  95. 95

    “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1].  

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

  96. 96

    Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 37; see also Stephen S. Harding, Milan, IN, to Thomas Gregg, Feb. 1882, in Gregg, Prophet of Palmyra, 40.  

    Tucker, Pomeroy. Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism: Biography of Its Founders and History of Its Church. New York: D. Appleton, 1867.

    Gregg, Thomas. The Prophet of Palmyra: Mormonism Reviewed and Examined in the Life, Character, and Career of its Founder, from “Cumorah Hill” to Carthage Jail and the Desert, Together with a Complete History of the Mormon Era in Illinois, and an Exhaustive Investigation of the “Spalding Manuscript” Theory of the Origin of the Book of Mormon. New York: John B. Alden, 1890.

  97. 97

    Chamberlin, Autobiography, 8–10. Chamberlin eventually collected the first sixty-four pages that had been printed, or the first four gatherings, and “preached all that [he] knew concerning Mormonism.”  

    Chamberlin, Solomon. Autobiography, 1858. CHL.

  98. 98

    Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:2–4].  

  99. 99

    Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 8, [10].  

  100. 100

    Foote, Autobiography, 2 Oct. 1841; see also JS, Journal, 29 Dec. 1841; and Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Aug. 1890, 315.  

    Foote, Warren. Autobiography, not before 1903. Warren Foote, Papers, 1837–1941. CHL. MS 1123, fd. 1.

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  101. 101

    Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Aug. 1890, 315.  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  102. 102

    See also, for example, Sarah M. Kimball, Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, to George Reynolds, [Salt Lake City, Utah Territory], 19 July 1884, in George Reynolds, “History of the Book of Mormon,” Contributor, July 1884, 5:366.  

    Contributor. Salt Lake City. 1879–1896.

  103. 103

    Ebenezer Robinson, “Items of Personal History of the Editor,” Return, Aug. 1890, 316.  

    The Return. Davis City, IA, 1889–1891; Richmond, MO, 1892–1893; Davis City, 1895–1896; Denver, 1898; Independence, MO, 1899–1900.

  104. 104

    See Source Note to Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, ca. 12 Apr. 1828–ca. 1 July 1829.  

  105. 105

    James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 25 Mar. 1884, [2]; Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” 454.  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

    Journal of History. Lamoni, IA, 1908–1920; Independence, MO, 1921–1925.

  106. 106

    “Mormonism,” Kansas City (MO) Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, [1].  

    Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.

  107. 107

    See Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, ca. 12 Apr. 1828–ca. 1 July 1829, p. [288].  

  108. 108

    Skousen, “Translating and Printing the Book of Mormon,” 91. The first two instances were spelled “Amelechiah”, and Cowdery corrected the next two instances to read “Amalickiah”; thereafter, the spelling varied.  

    Skousen, Royal. “Translating and Printing the Book of Mormon.” In Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness, edited by John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris, 75–76. Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, Brigham Young University, 2006.

  109. 109

    Skousen, “Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon,” 377–378.  

    Skousen, Royal. “Textual Variants in the Isaiah Quotations in the Book of Mormon.” In Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch, 369–390. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1998.

  110. 110

    Cowdery relayed to a gathering of Latter-day Saints in 1848 his role in the Book of Mormon: “I wrote with my own pen the intire book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the prophet.” (Miller, Journal, 21 Oct. 1848.)  

    Miller, Reuben. Journals, 1848–1849. CHL. MS 1392.

  111. 111

    P. Wilhelm Poulson, “Interview with David Whitmer,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City), 16 Aug. 1878, [2].  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

  112. 112

    Knight, Reminiscences, 5, 6.  

    Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.

  113. 113

    Cowdery made roughly three mistakes per manuscript page while copying text from the original manuscript to the printer’s manuscript. (Skousen, “Oliver Cowdery as Book of Mormon Scribe,” 54–56.)  

    Skousen, Royal. “Oliver Cowdery as Book of Mormon Scribe.” In Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, edited by Alexander L. Baugh, 51–72. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009.

  114. 114

    See Source Note and Historical Introduction to Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830.  

  115. 115

    Skousen, “Why Was One Sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon Set from the Original Manuscript?,” 93–103. Because more of the printer’s manuscript survives, the volume of The Joseph Smith Papers that presents that manuscript traces the significant differences between the manuscripts and the Joseph Smith–era printed editions of the Book of Mormon. (See Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, ca. Aug. 1829–ca. Jan. 1830; for a more complete presentation of the differences, see Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon.)  

    Skousen, Royal. “Why Was One Sixth of the 1830 Book of Mormon Set from the Original Manuscript?” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 2 (2012): 93–103.

    Skousen, Royal. Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. 6 vols. Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2004–2009.

  116. 116

    Woodruff, Journal, 28 Nov. 1841.  

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.