Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

To the Reader
As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I , by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon; which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again—and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again, for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and [p. [iii]] behold ye shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words. I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will shew unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the Devil. Wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, I have, through his grace and mercy, accomplished that which he hath commanded me respecting this thing. I would also inform you that the of which hath been spoken, were found in the township of , Ontario county, New-York.
The Author. [p. iv]


  1. 1

    The Book of Mormon opens with the account of two prophets, Lehi and his son Nephi. Their records and the records of around one thousand years of history were abridged by Mormon, one of the last prophets of the Book of Mormon, from whom the volume of scripture gets its name. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 151–152, 529 [Words of Mormon 1:3–6; Mormon 6:6]; Title Page of Book of Mormon, ca. Early June 1829.)  

  2. 2

    Several sources, including Lucy Mack Smith’s history, claim that Martin Harris’s wife, Lucy, took the manuscript and did not return it. Eber D. Howe, who provided an early account of the events, was ambiguous about whether the manuscript was destroyed or preserved. He wrote that early church members “sometimes charged the wife of Harris with having burnt it; but this is denied by her.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 134; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 22; see also Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 45–46.)  

    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.

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

  3. 3

    From this point to the penultimate sentence of the preface, much of the text quotes or paraphrases a revelation received a few months earlier concerning the translation. (Compare Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:10–43].)  

  4. 4

    The first six books, or subsections, of the Book of Mormon, namely the first and second books of Nephi and the books of Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Omni.  

  5. 5

    In September 1827, JS removed the plates from a hill in Manchester Township. (See JS History, vol. A-1, 8; and Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VII,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, 1:158.)  

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

  6. 6

    Consistent with the wording of the United States copyright statute for “securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors” of the same, JS identified himself as “author” of the Book of Mormon. (See An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by Securing Copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the Authors and Proprietors of Such Copies, during the Times Therein Mentioned [31 May 1790], Public Statutes at Large, 1st Cong., 2nd Sess., chap. 15, p. 124–126; and Wadsworth, “Copyright Laws and the 1830 Book of Mormon,” 83.)  

    The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845. . . . Edited by Richard Peters. 8 vols. Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846–1867.

    Wadsworth, Nathaniel Hinckley. “Copyright Laws and the 1830 Book of Mormon.” BYU Studies 45, no. 3 (2006): 77–99.