The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion, and everything hinges upon its truthfulness. If it is fake, then the Prophet Joseph Smith is affected, and everything falls apart.
Joseph Smith claimed that he received the gold plates from the Angel Moroni and, through the gift and power of God, translated it into what became known as the Book of Mormon, named after the prophet Mormon, who lived somewhere around 350 A.D. and was the majority author of the book.
The critics of the book and the church do not like this claim and have come up with multiple theories as to other possible solutions for its creation. The most common proposals claim that it was borrowed and plagiarized from someone else, including Solomon Spalding, Ethan Smith (no relation), Sidney Rigdon, and even Oliver Cowdrey, because critics cannot accept that Joseph Smith could’ve produced this book. There must’ve been someone else involved.
Some claim Joseph must’ve been an absolute savant with a photographic memory, while others claim he is a complete dunce. It’s incredible the lengths people will go to try and disprove it.
Let me shift gears for just a second.
I have been involved in art and design practically since I was born. Everything I have created went through a specific process: I dreamed up something in my head, drew some sketches, made detailed plans, and then did the final creation, whether it was a poster, drawing, electric sign, or backyard shed. Everything that I have created has gone through that same process.
I follow that process when creating a book, article, website, or video. The last website I made took 20 hours for a single page! I can’t tell you how many changes I made!
I call it the creative process, and everything created must follow that pattern.
Every idea I have had got changed once it got put on paper. Sometimes the changes were dramatic. Every famous author, film director, and designer has gone through the same process of removing entire paragraphs, x-ing out words or phrases, and trying to get down to the most crucial element they want to get across. In the past, the editing floor was covered with strips of film that no longer supported the story. Looking over the notebooks and workbooks of famous authors is easily verifiable, as entire pages are sometimes ripped out of their books because they no longer fit the desired outcome. Architects go through tremendous changes to meet building codes and supply chain problems.
Often, a time or a budgetary constraint causes a change to occur. But there is, without exception, a creative process for anything created.
Joseph Smith claimed that he used a Urim and Thummim device to help translate the record. Later he used a stone because the previous devices were returned due to losing the 116 pages. But he had learned to translate by then, so Joseph no longer needed them.
Oliver Cowdrey would write down every word Joseph spoke at about 22 words at a time. Once he finished those 22 words, another set of words was revealed. Whenever they would stop to take a break, they would come back and immediately begin where they left off, and Joseph would never even ask what was written before.
Joseph’s wife Emma claimed that Joseph couldn’t create such a thing independently because he could barely even write a comprehensive letter. She witnessed much of the events as a translator before Oliver arrived. She marveled at how this took place and testified of the entire process. Once Oliver came into the picture, it was approximately 63 days from the start to finish of our current book.
This results in an astonishing nine pages per day of translation!
Many have claimed that JRR Tolkien created a masterpiece with his Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, which he did, but it took him 14 years, and there are numerous examples of the creative process in his works. But as ingenious as that work was, it doesn’t even come close to being the Word of God revealed in the Book of Mormon.
While we do not have an exact outline of how the translation process worked, we do have the results, and they are what we have come to know as two different manuscripts: the Original Manuscript and the Printer’s Manuscript. Most of the original manuscript was destroyed, being buried in a box underneath the Nauvoo House, where water ruined everything but about 28% of it. They created the printer’s manuscript as an exact duplicate not to lose the original, as had happened with the previous experience of losing 116 pages. We have both sets and can easily see they are exact duplicates.
Here’s what we observe written on that printer’s manuscript, of which we have the entire thing.
- It is written in one long sentence.
- There is no punctuation whatsoever.
- No periods or commas or paragraphs, just one long sentence.
- Nothing is crossed out except for a few minor spelling changes.
- No paragraphs are removed.
- Nothing is x-ed out.
- It is all evidence of the translation being dictated to the scribe.
The whole point is to show that nothing of the creative process is exhibited. It wasn’t invented or designed in any way, shape, or form by Joseph or Oliver, or anyone else. It was a translation of an existing record. All the claims against Joseph fall apart when you look at the hard evidence of the printer’s manuscript. Most people only look at the document and see writing on the page, but the reality is they are witnessing an incredible miracle.
This result could only come about by the process, he claimed. He could not have plagiarized anyone. This book is so complicated and contains some very intricate and incredible Hebrew writing styles of which Joseph Smith would’ve known nothing. One of the most stunning is Chiasmus, and Alma chapter 36 is one of the best examples of chiasmus anywhere in the world. Critics have tried to do everything they can to diminish and discredit this work, but it’s impossible. You and I don’t speak in a fashion where we start a story, go through 13 different points in order, and then finish the story in a reverse of those 13 points ending where we started!
We especially only do that with corrections or removals, or additions. This profound piece of literature alone testifies to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon!
And once we add the three and eight witnesses of the plates and their marvelous experience, this becomes the most rock-solid testimony that this is true. As you will recall, the three witnesses saw the angel, saw the plates, and heard the voice from God declaring that they must bear record of it throughout the world and, if they ever denied their testimony, would suffer severe consequences.
The eight witnesses only saw the plates and turned over the leaves, but they bore witness that they had seen them. That is 11 witnesses who would stand up in any court of law testifying that the gold plates exist. The fact that we have the printer’s manuscript showing no creative process but a profound translation process proves that the Book of Mormon is true.
Now it is up to us to take this evidence and do something with it. Are we going to fight against it, ignore it, or diminish those who believe it? Or will we recognize what the Lord has done to bring us his word in these latter days? Are we going to read its pages and ponder its profound messages? Will we ask God if it is true and use these powerful witnesses as a foundation of faith?
In 1832 the Lord condemned the church members for taking lightly the things he had revealed to them. This condemnation was severe and warned of dire consequences if they did not repent. In 1986 the prophet of the church, Pres. Ezra Taft Benson said this condemnation still rested upon the church 154 years later!
When I heard him say that, I realized I had not used it for my guide. Oh, I had read it and taught from it and taken classes on it, but I had not used it the way God intended. Pres. Benson’s urged us to read the Book of Mormon every day, promising that we would feel closer to the spirit and be able to solve the problems we face in life. It has been 37 years since that warning, and I’m here to tell you I have tried my best to live up to this suggestion. I’ve only missed 65 days of reading this marvelous book. I can’t tell you how many incredible experiences I’ve had reading it! I encourage everyone to do the same thing. It is God’s word, written for you! Yes, YOU!
I bear testimony that this book is true, and I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
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