"By the Gift and Power of God"


A . . . marvel of the translation process is that although he was intensely involved in translating an ancient record, the Prophet Joseph himself was clearly unschooled in things ancient. For example, early in the work he came across words concerning a wall around Jerusalem and asked Emma if the city indeed had walls. She affirmed what Joseph simply hadn't known. (See E. C. Briggs, "Interview with David Whitmer," Saints' Herald, 21 June 1884, 396.)
He knew nothing, either, of the literary form called chiasmus, which appears in the Bible at various places and, significantly, also appears in the Book of Mormon. . . .
. . . We marvel that the Prophet Joseph Smith worked completely without referring to any other sources. None of the 12 people who either participated or merely observed mentioned Joseph's having any reference materials present. . . . Since the Prophet dictated openly, these individuals would have been aware of any suspicious behavior or procedures. Emma was emphatic on this very point: 'He had neither manuscript nor book to read from, [and] if he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me' ("Last Testimony of Sister Emma," 289, 290).
Thus the Book of Mormon came through, but not from, Joseph Smith!...
A . . . marvel of the Book of Mormon translation process is that from what we know, rarely would Joseph go back, review, or revise what had already been done. There was a steady flow in the translation. . . .
Emma Smith said of the inspired process: 'After meals, or after interruptions, [Joseph] would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him' ("Last Testimony of Sister Emma," Saints' Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 290). One who has dictated and been interrupted must usually resume by inquiring, 'Now, where were we?' Not so with the Prophet!
If one were manufacturing a text, he would constantly need to cross-check himself, to edit, and to revise for consistency. Had the Prophet dictated and revised extensively, there would be more evidence of it. But there was no need to revise divinely supplied text. Whatever the details of the translation process, we are discussing a process that was truly astonishing!"...
The Prophet Joseph Smith worked by the gift and power of God amid numerous interruptions, bitter persecutions, and even the 'most strenuous exertions' to wrest the actual plates from him (JS—H 1:60). His was not the tranquil life of a detached scholar in some sheltered sanctuary where he could work at his uninterrupted leisure. Chores had to be done. His family had to be cared for. Joseph was so conscientious that the Lord counseled him: 'Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end' (D&C 10:4).
Many who read the Book of Mormon understandably desire to know more about its coming forth, including the actual process of translation. This was certainly so with faithful and loyal Hyrum Smith. Upon inquiring, Hyrum was told by the Prophet Joseph that 'it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon' and that 'it was not expedient for him to relate these things' (History of the Church, 1:220). Thus what we do know about the actual coming forth of the Book of Mormon is adequate, but it is not comprehensive.
Our primary focus in studying the Book of Mormon should be on the principles of the gospel anyway, not on the process by which the book came forth.

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