On Sept 21, 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by a messenger from the presence of God that evening in the upstairs bedroom of his parents’ log home in Upstate New York. He was told that the angel was a resurrected being, a prophet of God from Ancient America. His name was Moroni and he told the young man that there was a “marvelous work and a wonder” our Father in Heaven wanted him to do.
This event occurred 3 ½ years after Joseph’s First Vision during which he had literally seen God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (in response to his prayer about which of all the local churches he should join). He was advised to not join any of the churches; the true church of Christ wasn’t on earth at the time due to the “falling away,” the so-called “apostasy,” that had occurred about sixteen centuries before.
Joseph was guided the next day to where an ancient record lay, written on plates of gold and buried in a hill called The Hill Cumorah, a small hill near his family’s home in Palmyra, New York. A set of translators called the Urim and Thummim was also hidden in the same rock cavity along with an ancient sword. He observed these items the very next day following Moroni’s visit, Sept. 22nd, 1823, but was forbidden from obtaining the plates for four more consecutive years, until Sept. 22nd, 1827. He returned annually to the same spot where he was instructed and prepared by the same heavenly messenger, Moroni, in preparation for the day when the record would be delivered into his hands.
What followed Joseph’s receipt of the ancient record was an accelerated but incredible experience during which he was guided in how to translate the record (with divine help) into the English language from the Reformed Egyptian text in which it was originally written. With the help of different scribes (a neighbor named Martin Harris, a teacher named Oliver Cowdery and his wife Emma Smith), the book was completed in just 74 working days, an astounding achievement. (Click Here for an interesting article on how and why Joseph used scribes). By the way: it took over FIFTY of the finest British scholars/translators SEVEN years to translate the Christian Bible into the King James Version thereof. It only took Joseph, an uneducated farm boy but with God on his side (and a few helpers), about 2 1/2 months to translate all 535 pages of what would become The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ (See Reference).
One thing that’s incredible about the story, despite the fact that there is no conceivable way for a boy with Joseph’s third-grade education to create or produce such a complex work on his own—despite all the other evidences that have since been confirmed and are being proven even as we speak (I’ll address these in future posts) … what touches me personally is the wonder and sincerity one sees in Joseph and hears in his testimony of these experiences. It wasn’t easy on the boy. Joseph suffered terrible persecution and injustices once he started telling those around him about the heavenly record and the overall work that he’d been called to do. Admittedly, most who heard the story thought he was crazy or possessed, or worse.
He never denied what had happened to him, though, despite being mocked and ridiculed his entire life, even being beaten and tarred and feathered multiple times, and eventually sealing his testimony with his blood as a martyr (he and his brother, Hyrum, were killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois in 1844).
As mentioned in a previous post, “The Prophet Joseph’s Own Testimony,” the sincerity and humility of Joseph’s own impressions are both impressive and moving. You can’t help but feel the spirit and the integrity of his words. (And I will be the first to admit, it’s an incredible story. If I didn’t know it was true, myself, through the multiple confirmations I’ve received, I’d probably have a hard time believing the story myself! That’s totally natural….). Understand me, when I say, I’m not ignoring the fact that it is a story that’s surprising and even fantastic. But, it is true and, at the same time, it’s difficult to hear and not wonder “could it actually be?” Personally, I believe you can feel the truth and conviction of it in Joseph’s words. If nothing else, it’s clear that he was sure of what he said and he himself marveled at the fact that he, a simple farm boy, had been called to share it. You can hear the pondering, poignancy, and quiet pleading in his voice. It just doesn’t smack of either the deranged rantings of a crazy man or the insincere deceptions of someone making up a story from scratch
“And while they were persecuting and reviling me and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely, my heart was asking, “Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I know that God knew it; and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it … and come under condemnation.”
Joseph Smith was sure of what he’d seen and of what he’d been called to do and, even though he didn’t have much education at all … even though he never completed more than the third grade in school (and any reasonable person should agree that there is no way he could have written such a monumental book, especially in less than three months—not with his education and inexperience) … even with all of this, he had faith and he did what he was asked. It’s really up to you, now, to find out for yourself if the story is true or not.
Some will try to say that he had one of his friends, like Sidney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdrey, write the volume for him, but there is zero evidence of this. And, even if there were, there are too many other proofs that nullify this claim, many of which we will address in detail in upcoming posts at a later date.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe that Joseph was called of God as a prophet, given the assignment, and that he had “assistance from above” to bring forth The Book of Mormon. We believe he translated the new scripture by the gift and power of God and that the book was and is in fact a gift to us all, a real and tangible proof, that the story was true. The “Promise of the Book of Mormon,” found in Moroni 10: 3-5, of which I’ve written previously, is the ultimate key to knowing its truthfulness for yourself. But, even without this, common sense suggests there has to be something more to the story. No third grader could have come up with the work, let alone a page thereof. It isn’t reasonable, despite how the naysayers or critics try to contend.
One interesting insight that we gain from Joseph’s scribes is how, while translating the book, he never had to repeat a single line and never had to be reminded where he left off when he returned to the translation after, say, a meal or sleeping or some other kind of break. He would pick up exactly where he left off, and start again unassisted, often sounding out words phonetically that he didn’t know how to spell (which were many). He would also ask questions or make comments like, “Did you know there were horses in America 2,000 years ago?” or “Did Jerusalem have walls around it?” It must have been an extraordinary experience for his wife and friends to sit and watch this work of the Lord unfold before their eyes. (They all commented repeatedly on how Joseph couldn’t, for example, dictate a well-written letter himself. But, while translating The Book of Mormon, he did so with confidence and power). It must have been incredible, to say the least. I’ll leave you with these thoughts. Click Below to watch a short video about Joseph’s lack of education:
And, if you have time, this video explains the little impossibility of The Book of Mormon being written by one single writer:
If you’d like to view additional details about this fact and a whole wealth of additional Mormon evidences, visit the extraordinary academic website, BookofMormonCentral.org.
Three questions for you to ponder about Joseph Smith, the prophet farm boy, in closing:
- Does it make sense that a young man with only a third-grade education could have written a book 535 pages long, especially in just seventy days? (we’ll talk later about all of the characteristics and archaeological proofs with which the book is replete).
- Would a man endure constant persecution throughout all of his life, and even death at the hands of his critics, for something that wasn’t true? (I really don’t think so).
- And, as Joseph’s testimony confirms, isn’t it reasonable to believe that a man who had seen the things Joseph claims to have seen would be more likely to stay faithful to his testimony, in spite of all the opposition, versus one who just made up a tale of his own? (It seems pretty obvious to me that, if the latter were true, he would have “lost heart,” eventually, it would have “lost its appeal,” long before he literally lost his life in defense of the story and mission he claimed to be called by God to do).
There are many more evidences to share with you to come. This one makes you think though, doesn’t it? It certainly does for me.
Thanks for following along with me.
Onward and upward,
Patrick Laing – Portland, Oregon USA