Understanding the Book of Mormon’s Translation

Though translating with a seer stone may seem odd, what matters most is that the Book of Mormon was translated by the power of God.

The Book of Mormon was translated "by the gift and power of God." - Joseph Smith

Photo courtesy of Katrina Cole

Never-before-seen pictures of Joseph Smith’s first seer stone are found in “Joseph the Seer” in the October 2015 Ensign and Liahona. Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr., with coauthors from the Church History Department, Robin S. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, explain the origin of the words seer stone, Urim and Thummim, and interpreters. The article helps readers understand how the translation process really happened.

Most importantly, the article points out that regardless of the details of the translation process, God is the ultimate source of the Book of Mormon’s translation.

You might have heard that Joseph Smith used other stones besides the two found with the golden plates to translate the sacred record. What is the truth? In addition to the Urim and Thummin, which were the two stones deposited with the plates, Joseph had three seer stones from other sources. For convenience, he often used one of his single seer stones in the translation process instead of the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph didn’t have to look directly at the plates to translate; the plates often sat covered as he looked through the seer stone to receive revelation.

These facts may leave you asking more questions. Speaking to a crowd who questioned the translation details, Joseph redirected their question to what is most important. He said the Book of Mormon, which testifies of Jesus Christ, “was translated by the gift and power of God.”

Read “Joseph the Seer,” by Richard Turley, Robin S. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, in the Ensign or the Liahona.

Sources: Ensign and Liahona

feature image courtesy of the joseph smith papers

—Tacy LeBaron, Mormon Insights

Find more insights

To learn more about the actual translation process, “Book of Mormon Translation,” an article released by the Church in 2014.

Explore more little-known facts about the translation of the Book of Mormon in “From Darkness unto Light.”

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4 Comments

  1. It was really interesting to read the whole article about the Book of Mormon’s translation. There were a few things that i didn’t know about, even if i have been a member of the church for many years, so i’m grateful for the link to a great read. But also, just as it Joseph said, the most important thing to remember is that the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God.

  2. I used to think that using stones for the translation of the Book of Mormon was so strange. Now I understand that the Lord works according to His will. Today, things like seer stones, or even diving rods, seem weird but in Joseph Smith’s day, it wasn’t that strange. When this article was published, I really started to understand all of this.

  3. Moses used a burning bush that did not consume. What if the Prophet had used an ignited tumbleweed? What if he’d used a talking horse? Where is faith today?

  4. I am taking a History of the Early Church class at BYU, and we talked extensively about seer stones. One thing that really struck me about the seer stone was that it was an tangible instrument to help Joseph believe that he could translate and help others believe him. He probably did not need the plates or the seer stones (after all the book of Moses was translated with no instruments or documents at all), but they gave him the confidence to translate. That has really helped me reconcile the translation process.

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