Book of Mormon Translation

I get a lot of questions about how Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. I have a section on that topic in the Whatever Happened book.

Today I want to mention three points to consider.

1. Only the Title Page is a literal translation. 

Joseph Smith’s History, circa June – October 1839 [Draft 1], here, reads,

“I would mention here also in order to correct a misunderstanding, which has gone abroad concerning the title page of the Book of Mormon, that it is not a composition of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation, but that it is a literal translation taken from the last leaf of the plates, on the left hand side of the collection of plates, the language running same as the <all> Hebrew <wr[i]ting> language <in general>. And that no error can henceforth possibly exist I give here the Title so far as it is a translation.”

With some wording changes, the same passage appears in History, circa June 1839-circa 1841 [Draft 2], here.

“I wish also to mention here, that the Title Page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; and not by any means the language of the whole running same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said Title Page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the Title Page of the English Version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the Title Page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.”

In History, circa 1841, fair copy, in the handwriting of Howard Coray, Joseph Smith’s history reads:

“I wish to mention here that the title page of the book of Mormon is a literal translation taken from the last leaf on the left hand side of the collection of plates which contained the record that has been translated. The language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writings writings; and that said title page is not a modern composition. Therefore in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it I give below that part of the title page which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the book of Mormon recorded on the plates.”

Those who have read Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates? know the significance of the phrase “Original Book of Mormon.” It was not in the 1839 draft, but it was in Draft 2. Howard Coray omitted it, but it appears in the Times and Seasons, Oct. 15, 1842, here.

“I wish also to mention here, that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.”
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This is significant for two reasons. First, it refutes the idea that Joseph merely read the words off the stone in the hat. He was making a “literal translation” from the plates themselves.

Second, it implies that the rest of the translation may not have been literal. I’ll discuss this more in upcoming posts.
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2. Gospel Topics essay on Book of Mormon translation.

The essay, found here, is a good overview. Unfortunately, it starts off with the inaccurate quotation of Joseph Smith, which was actually Wilford Woodruff’s summary of a day’s teaching and not a direct quotation. I’m working on an annotated version of the essay.
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3.. Conference in Logan.

In March 2017 there was a conference at Utah State (Logan, Utah) titled “New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation.” I had a conflict so I couldn’t attend, but videos from the session are now available. Info is here: http://religionnews.com/2017/05/03/mormon-scholars-debate-joseph-smiths-role-in-translation/

I’ll have more to say on this soon, but I just wanted to give the information now.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

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