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VIDEO: The Discovery of the Book of Mormon | Scripture Central

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The Discovery of the Book of Mormon – powered by Happy Scribe

I’m here on top of a hill in upstate New York, a hill where a monument to an angel stands, an angel that led Joseph Smith to find an ancient American record that testifies of Jesus Christ. But how exactly was he led to the record? How was it translated? And what’s its significance for us today? Join me for the next few minutes as we explore the coming forth.

Of the Book.

Of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient record of a people in the Americas. It’s a 1,000 year account full of Prophets’ teaching of Christ, warning of war and destruction, and ultimately Christ’s visit to the Americas. This book has led millions to a deeper faith in Jesus. Naturally, many have wondered if it’s true or if it’s something Joseph Smith made up. Hi, my name’s.

Casey Griffis, and I research and write.

And teach about Church history.

One of the things I love to.

Do is visit the.

Early sites of the restoration. I’m getting ready to go on a trip to New York and Pennsylvania to visit the sites there. But before I go, I wanted to talk to an expert here at Dirkmont who can give me a little bit more context into the sites so I can have the best experience possible while I’m there.

Before we go explore the historical sites of the Book of Mormon, we’re going to talk to a fellow Brigham Young University professor about Joseph Smith and his family just before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

Hey, we’re planning a trip to Palmyra, and we want a little.

Context before we go there.

All right, yeah, let’s.

Talk about it. What can you.

Tell us? What are a few important things to know about the Smith family?

Well, I think it’s important to understand just how hard things have been for them by the time that they’re in Palmyra. Financial distress is always hovering over them. It’s not just financial. It’s not just are we going to keep a roof over our heads? It’s also social. They don’t really have the highest level of education. Religion is not just a side byproduct of the society they’re living in. It is everything. They live in a place that is caught up in the second great awakening.

The second great awakening was a time of religious excitement. Protestant ministers, B aptists, Methodists, and more would hold large camp meetings, fervently exhorting the people to save their souls by joining a faith.

It leads to a really big divide, I think, for not only for the community, but for Joseph personally. You can see how confusing that can be for a young man. He is going to these churches, and yet they are arguing something that’s pretty fundamentally different. He’s going to be this ping pong ball that’s being knocked back and forth. Were Joseph in a different religious environment? He likely would not have even asked the questions.

That he’s asking. How does he resolve all these voices that are talking to him?

Well, we’re here at the Joseph Smith Building on BYU’s campus, and they have the perfect place to discuss this. And we should probably go down there.

And talk about it.

Yeah, let’s go.

While leading me downstairs, Garrett explains that all this excitement confused young Joseph. He turned to the Bible and eventually came across a passage exhorting him to pray and ask God which church to join. This led to a remarkable experience called the first vision.

I thought this would be a great setting to talk about the first vision. This is a really unique space created when they built the building to remember Joseph Smith’s first vision.

So Joseph.

Is in this environment. He goes into the woods to pray. How does that affect.

Everything.

After?

Joseph is determined to do what the Bible says, that he is going to pray and ask God. He goes not very far into the woods. It’s away from everyone else. As he’s kneeling to pray, he hears a sound around him, leaps up, looks around him. As he goes back to pray, he describes in one of his accounts that there’s actually a power, an unseen power that tries to prevent him from speaking. He exerts all of his power and he’s finally able to speak the words of this prayer. He has that miraculous experience because he’s looking up and sees God and Jesus, he eventually asked the question that he had.

The answer Joseph received was surprising. He was told to join none of the churches. None had the full truth. But he was also told that the fullness would come at some future time.

In the end, none of those churches had all of the truth, and that that was something that was going to be revealed later.

The first vision was only the beginning. More truth would come, and that’s where the Book of Mormon comes in. So I part ways with Garrett and start my journey to Upstate New York to explore several historical and sacred sites.

We’re here today in.

Palmyra.

Which is still a quaint little village on the outskirts of Rochester, New York, just like it was back when the Smith family.

Lived here.

We’re passing the.

Famous.

Four.

Corners.

Churches where there’s a different denomination on every corner and then a Catholic Church just.

Down the road.

And even though these.

Churches don’t date to the time of Joseph.

Smith, it illustrates the religious.

Diversity in this area.

But now we’re heading to the Smith Farm, which is where the Smiths made their home.

Where.

He first found out about the Book of Mormon.

The historic Smith family farm consists of a visitor center, a reconstruction of the cabin where Joseph would have lived in during the first vision and the discovery of the Book of Mormon, as well as another Smith home built shortly after those initial events. It’s also next to the sacred Grove, the forest that young Joseph would have seen God the Father and Jesus Christ in. Just across the road also sits the Palmyra temple, whose windows actually open up to a view of the sacred Grove. It was here where the Smith family moved to build the New Life in upstate New York on the edge of the American frontier. Many church historical sites have a visitor center where guests can receive tours for missionaries or ask questions. They can also see various exhibits like artwork depicting these historical events or artifacts discovered from that time and location. Guests can also go outside and walk through the sacred sites and enjoy the nature. However, we’re here to explore the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, so I make my way behind the visitor center to a small log cabin. This is where the young Joseph would receive another amazing experience, and where we can really get into the history of the Book of Mormon.

The Smith spent several years clearing off all the trees from this area in order to make arable farmland. In fact, behind me is the.

Sacred Grove.

Where the father and son appeared to Joseph Smith.

But the story of.

The Book of Mormon really starts in this structure right here in this humble little log cabin where the Smith family lived.

This little 19th century frontier home would have housed all of Joseph’s family, his mom and dad, Lucy and Joseph, his five brothers, Alvin, Hyrum, Samuel, William, and Don Carlos, and his three sisters, Sifronia, Catherine, and Lucy. It’s a small home, but pretty typical of 19th century life.

This is a recreation of the home where the Smiths would have been living when in 1820, Joseph Smith has the first vision, and where they were still at in 1823 when another very special event happens just up these stairs.

Joseph and his siblings likely shared a room upstairs where Joseph had his remarkable experience.

It was most likely in this room, the night of September 21st, the 22nd, 1823, Joseph said that he had kneeled down to pray to know his standing before God because he hadn’t had a manifestation since the first vision. As he was praying, the room began to be filled with light and an angel appeared who introduced himself as Moroni. The angel Moroni.

Was the last prophet in the Book of Mormon.

He protected.

The ancient record of his people, the golden plates, and buried them in a hill in upstate New York. Some time after his death, he reappeared to Joseph as a resurrected and glorified being, describing to Joseph the important events about to occur.

The angel then said that God had a work for Joseph to do and that Joseph’s name should be had for good and.

Evil.

Among all nations. But most importantly, he told.

Joseph that there was a record.

And sealed in a hill not far from Joseph Smith’s house, and that the Lord intended for Joseph to.

Bring it forth.

The angel appeared and then reappeared three times throughout the night, giving the same instruction but sometimes adding on to it. By the time the last appearance ended, Joseph Smith said he heard the rooster Crow and realized that his interview with the angel had taken up the entire night. After spending almost the entire night listening to the angel’s instructions, Joseph Smith woke up and went out in the fields to work, but.

He was exhausted. Joseph’s dad, noticing how tired he was, asked him to go back home to rest.

While he was on his way there, he said he was crossing a fence, maybe like this one, where he collapsed, fell to the ground and saw the angel again. The angel repeated everything he’d already told Joseph, and then told him to tell his father, which he did. His father told him it was of God and to follow the angel’s instructions. And so Joseph set off down a road like this one on his way to the hill that the angel had described.

I end my visit at the Smith family historical site and make my way to our next location. Joseph Smith would have hiked about three miles south to a large hill. What would have taken him about an hour to hike? It only takes us a few minutes by car. Eventually, we arrived to a large visitor center built by the church. Like other sites, this visitor center has missionaries who can offer tours and answer questions. There’s also exhibits to learn more about Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon. Most strikingly, behind the Museum on top of the hill stands a large monument of Moroni, marking the discovery of the sacred buried record. We make our way up the hill through the forest of trails, perhaps very similar to what Joseph Smith would have hiked through.

Joseph Smith first came here on September 22nd, 1823, where he was led to find a record.

Joseph knew exactly where to go because of the vision of the angel that had been shown to him the night before. Here, Joseph saw a large stone which he moved with a branch. Under the stone, he beheld the golden plates, along with some other artifacts. At first, Joseph tried to grab the plates, but the angel stopped him and told him he was not yet ready to take them. He would need to wait and come back regularly to this location for several years.

Joseph Smith came to this hill every year on the same date, September 22nd, for four years until he received the record today known as.

The Book of Mormon. During these four years, Joseph Smith was not only instructed by the angel Moroni, but he also had time to grow and mature, eventually marrying Emma Hale, who would accompany him to the hill to retrieve the plates. Emma once recorded, I once felt of the plates as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper and would wrestle with the metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book. Attempts were made to translate the plates. There were also attempts made by others to steal the plates, sometimes by means that threatened their lives. Eventually, due to this persecution, Joseph and Emma would move about 130 miles Southeast to Emma’s family’s farm. It takes us a couple of hours to travel what would have taken Joseph and Emma multiple days. We drive up into the Appalachian Mountains along the Susquehanna River to where Emma’s father’s farm would have been. Today, the Isaac Hale Farm consists of a reconstruction of Isaac Hale’s home, along with other buildings and locations we’ll get into later. These locations along the Susquehanna River are where Joseph and Emma could have some temporary peace while attempting to translate the plates.

It’s here that Joseph.

And Emma.

Come to escape the persecution in Palmyra, Joseph and Emma moved to their cabin right here where the majority of the translation takes place, where Joseph and Emma make their first home.

The exact details of how the translation happened are not known for certain, but we do know that Joseph used sacred objects, sometimes called Urim and Thumbem, due to their similarities with biblical objects, also called Urim and Thumbem. For years, Joseph had exercised faith in objects such as seer stones to aid him in his work. Now, he was to use his gift for the purpose of translating an ancient sacred record. Joseph would insert these objects into a hat for the purpose of blocking out light, and he would see the translation of the plates. He’d then dictate them to a scribe such as Emma Smith or Martin Harris.

Here in the winter of 1828, with Emma and Martin Harris acting as scribe, Joseph Smith produces a large manuscript from the translation. They are continuing at a good pace until June of 1828, when disaster strikes. Martin Harris asked if he can take the manuscript back to Palmyer to show it to his wife to convince her.

Of the truthfulness of the work.

And almost immediately after he leaves, the manuscript is lost.

Known today as the Lost 116 P ages, this event was devastating to Joseph Smith. The angel took the plates for a season until Joseph sufficiently repented and he lost the power to translate. This was a hard time, and it was coupled with an even more tragic event.

In the meantime, back here in Harmony, Emma Smith gives birth to their first child who dies almost immediately after being born.

Just a few hundred feet away from the Smith home is a cemetery where members of Joseph’s family are buried. Here stands the gravestone of Joseph and Emma’s child. Life expectancy was lower back then. Only five of their 11 children lived past the age of two. Coupled with the loss of the manuscript, this was an especially hard time for Joseph and Emma. Joseph eventually received the plates back from the angel. This time, Joseph would wait just over a year before really diving into translating the golden plates.

The second phase of translation picks up in the spring of 1829 when a young schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery arrives at Joseph and Emma’s home here in Harmony in the company of Joseph’s.

Brother, Samuel. What’s amazing about this meeting was that Joseph had not even met Oliver before this event. Oliver had moved to the area and heard rumors of Joseph Smith. He’d met with Joseph’s family and asked them questions. Eventually, Oliver would pray and discover that God wanted him to help Joseph. He sought out Joseph, and the two strangers would begin translating together, beginning almost from scratch after the loss of the first manuscript.

Joseph and Oliver immediately strike up a friendship and dive into the work of the translation the very next day after he arrived, beginning an amazing and miraculous process that produces almost the entire manuscript of the Book of Mormon in a short period of time.

Oliver would accord, These were days never to be forgotten. To sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom. Day after day, I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth as he translated the history or record called the Book of Mormon.

About 70 % of the translation of the Book of Mormon takes place here in this little home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

Joseph and Oliver Cowdery would sit at a table like this one. Joseph would sit on this side using the Nephite interpreters of the Sears zone, and he would dictate the text of the Book of Mormon to the scribe, usually Oliver Cowdery, who was sitting right here. Joseph would dictate sentence after sentence, wait until Oliver had written it down. The scribe would write down the sentence, read it back to him to make sure it was.

Correct, and then they’d move on to the next sentence. Only about 20 % of the original manuscript that Oliver wrote exists. The value of discovering this document would be in the millions. The printer’s manuscript, the document that Oliver copied the original onto, was purchased for $35 million and then donated to the Church. Researchers studied the remaining documents and discovered that Oliver would systematically write down each sentence as if being dictated, then pause for confirmation of the words. Evidence like this strongly demonstrates that the translation of the Book of Mormon happened just as Joseph said.

The entire process may have involved them working around nine hours a day, and they produced the entire 531 page book, entire text of the Book of Mormon as.

We know it is produced.

In just under three months of time.

While many famous authors have written masterpieces, it took many of them years to write. Some of them already had experience writing. Researchers have used word studies such as stylometry to examine the words in the Book of Mormon and found them to be more complex than many contemporary authors of that time. Further stylometric studies have shown that the words don’t match Joseph Smith’s own writing or those of his associates, suggesting it was not written by them. The Book of Mormon is complex with timelines, geographies, flashbacks, genealogies, and ancient Hebraic poetry styles such as chaiism, some that range an entire chapter. It includes deep intertextual relationships with the Bible and references to ancient America, such as roads, cement buildings, complex governments, and warfare, previously unknown. It’s impossible to imagine a 24 year old with no experience in writing producing such a book in only three months and basically a first draft.

This is not only a fruitful time for translation, it’s a fruitful time for revelation. Several sections of the Doctrine Covenants are received here in.

Harmony, Pennsylvania. These revelations include sections within the Doctrine and Covenants. These revelations not only add to the complexity of Joseph Smith’s busy schedule, but also add a witness to his revelatory power.

Maybe most importantly, one of the most important incidents that happens during translation happens when Joseph and Oliver are both reading and learn about the Savior giving authority to baptism. Joseph and Oliver both start asking questions about where this authority comes from and how a person receives it. They want to know how they can obtain this authority, so they retire to a Grove.

Of.

Trees near where they’re translating and pray to ask the Lord how to.

Obtain the authority. Just north of the Isaac Hale Farm is the priesthood restoration site. Here lies the proposed location the Joseph and Oliver went into and received an amazing experience.

An angel appears to them who identifies himself.

As John.

The Baptist from the New Testament, and he gives them.

The authority.

Of the Aaronic priesthood. He directs them to go down to the nearby Susquehanna River, where they bapt.

Each other.

And then afterwards ordain each.

Other to the priesthood. Another monument stands next to the Joseph Smith home, representing John the Baptist as an angel appearing to Joseph and Oliver, giving them the same authority Jesus had in the Bible. Shortly after this time, Joseph Smith was visited by more angels from the New Testament, such as Peter, James, and John, who gave him more priesthood power to organize the Church. It’s significant that Joseph received this authority while translating. If the Book of Mormon is true, then not only was Joseph Smith a prophet, but the authority he was given suggests the Church that Joseph organized was true as well.

Now, they’re only in harmony for two months during the translation when persecution increases.

Because.

Of rumors about the so called.

Gold Bible.

So at the end of May, early June, they travel up to Fayette, New York, where they stay with a friendly.

Family, the Whitmers.

And that’s where the last month of translation takes place. The Whitmers.

Were friends of Oliver Cowdery. While translating with Joseph, Oliver would write to David Whitmer about the translation. David tried to convince his family to agree to host Oliver and Joseph. At first, they were hesitant, partly due to the fields that needed to be plowed. But upon waking up one morning and seeing the fields miraculously plowed, they took it as a sign and hastened to prepare for Joseph’s arrival. It was here where Joseph and Oliver hoped for peace while they finished up the translation of the Book of Mormon. The Whitmer Farm Historic Site consists of a Chapel with a Museum for visitors to learn more about this special location. And just next to this sits a recreation of the Whitmer home.

Increasing persecution forced Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to relocate here to Fayette, New York, where they stayed with the Whitmer family. The Whitmers were a friendly family that took Joseph Smith and Oliver into their home here at the Peter Whitmer Senior Farm is where the last month of translation took place.

A unique story about this location is about Mary Whitmer, the matriarch of the Whitmer family. She had been working, perhaps more than usual due to Oliver and Joseph living in the home. One day she went outside, apparently frustrated about the amount of work, when a man approached her. He was apparently an angelic messenger, and he showed her the golden plates, making her potentially the first witness of the plates besides Joseph Smith. Soon thereafter, Moore would behold the plates.

And another very significant event occurs here as well.

Somewhere in the woods.

Near the Peter Whitmer Senior Farm is where the three witnesses, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery, were taken to a place where the angel appeared to them and showed them the plates and the artifacts associated with translation. They heard the voice of God testify that the record was true. And their witness is in the front of every copy of the Book of Mormon to this day.

And just soon after, Joseph would show eight more witnesses the plates and let them hold and handle them. The witnesses all described the plates to be about 60 pounds, 6 inches by 8 inches with silver D shaped rings. Some have wondered how the golden plates could possibly have weighed only 60 pounds. One convincing theories that the plates were made of a Meso American gold alloy called tombaga, which was a mixture of gold, silver, and copper, and very prevalent in ancient times. The witnesses left behind powerful statements that confirmed their experience of seeing tangible plates. Martin Harris, after being accused of seeing an imaginary vision, replied, Gentlemen, do you see that hand? Are you sure you see it? Are your eyes playing a trick or something? No? Well, as sure as you see my hand, so sure did I see the angel and the plates. David Whitmer would say, No, sir, I was not under any hallucination, nor was I deceived. I saw with these eyes and heard with these ears. I know whereof I speak. And Oliver said simply, At the time we saw the record of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us by an angel of great and glorious light, who ascended out of the midst of heaven.

Now, if this is human juggling, judge me. Joseph felt a burden being lifted from him. Finally, others beheld the plates. He wasn’t alone. With the translation complete, it was now time for them to work on the printing of the Book of Mormon. It took Joseph months to prepare the Book of Mormon for printing. He found a printer in Palm Bayer by the name of E. B. Brandon. Brandon would overcharge Joseph, but he was determined to print it. Martin Harris would eventually sell much of his land to fund the printing, adding another witness to his testimony of the Book of Mormon. I head back to the city of Palmyra, where the Brandon Print Museum is located. Enclosed in this modern building is the original E. B. Brandon building. Visitors can see for themselves how the Book of Mormon was printed and learn more about its early history. I tour the museum with paintings of E. B. Brandon and other historic exhibits. Guests can take guided tours by missionaries and learn more about this exciting time. But there’s just one room I’m interested in today, the room where it all may have taken place, the printing of the Book of Mormon.

It’s here in the offices of E. B. Brandon, where the Book of Mormon was set to type and then printed 16 pages.

At a time on proofs like this.

That were then folded.

And glued and sewn together.

To bind the Book of Mormon. In fact, on a printing press, much like this, with the actual ink stains still on the.

Floor, where the Book of Mormon.

Was produced. Process took from about the fall of 1829 to March 26 of 1830 when the first copies.

Of the Book of Mormon went on sale.

And a person was able after that to go in and find a copy of the Book of Mormon, just like this.

One, to read and pray for themselves.

The Book of Mormon.

Has been in.

Print continuously ever since 1830. And just like a person back then could go and find a copy, today it’s easy for a person to even find an.

Electronic copy of the Book of Mormon.

To read its contents and then to pray and ask God.

If the book is true. To finish up the story of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, I fly back to Utah to meet Reed Moon, a collector of rare Latterday Saint artifacts, to show me a very rare and valuable artifact related to the printing of the Book of Mormon.

Reed, good to.

See you. Good to see you. Reed has a museum where he displays collected artifacts and props related to anything from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, to Church history in the Book of Mormon. There’s even a statue here of Joseph Smith’s younger brother, Samuel Smith, the first missionary to carry forth the Book of Mormon. Today, Reed is inviting me to see part of his Church history collection, and he takes me back to where he has stored two very special artifacts related to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

This is one you can see from the title page.

1830, Brandon.

Press, right.

There, printed by E. B. Brandon, For the Author, Palmyra, 1830. It’s always nice when there’s an ownership inscription. This person, when they got their book, proudly put their name at the top, Hyrum Smith’s book. He’s actually one of the eight witnesses and brother of the Prophet. It’s hard to beat this copy. I have another one.

Okay, let’s take a look.

Now, this one shows more wear, but I would almost be disappointed if it didn’t because this is the copy that Samuel Smith took on all of his missions. First missionary, he has his ownership book plate in the front, and I like the placement of the witness page at the end. It says, The end. Then here’s the witness, testimony of the three witnesses. Now, both Hyrem and Samuel were witnesses, the eight witnesses. Samuel’s name is right below Hyrem’s at the bottom. He opened and told this story so many times. To make it easy, he has starred and underlined his name, saying, That’s me. I am that Samuel H. Smith. These two copies, just incredible. Hyrum Smith’s copy, Samuel Smith’s copy. Would you like to hold both copies?

Wow. Well, this is history right in your hands. A copy of the Book of Mormon that was held and used by the first missionary and taught from by the first missionary, and someone that was deeply involved in the coming forth of Book of Mormon. This is the end result. What a treasure. Well, Reed, thank you so much. These are just absolutely wonderful. I’m so grateful for your willingness to share them with us and with our audience.

You’re very welcome and come back anytime.

I thank Reed for this special visit to see these historic items. There’s so much more one could say about the Book of Mormon. We haven’t even gotten into its actual content, its account of a people from the ancient past, and what exactly it is in the book that brings so many readers to a deeper relationship with Christ. It’s coming forth was full of large and small miracles meant to pique our curiosity and cause us to pick up a copy, hard back or digital, and read it for ourselves asking, Is it of man or is it of God?

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