Greg Trimble convinced me to do this

Well, Greg and the teachings of some apostles. And the Holy Ghost. And this question posted online:

Is it true that Steven C. Harper and others in the history department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are transitioning the narrative about the Book of Mormon, so that it came through ‘revelation’ and not through ‘translation.’

The person who posed—pun intended—the question presumed to answer for me. So I hereby speak for myself.

It took me awhile to show up

I’ll grant that. Here are my excuses: I’m a historian by training and by personality, so I like to observe and analyze and describe the debates, but prefer not to get involved, especially when the quality of the dialogue decomposes in the comments. Plus, I’m an introvert. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. But I’m motivated most of all by the identity Mormon described best:

“I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life” (3 Nephi 5:13).

So I’m late but I’m here now. This is my first post. Subscribe if you want to be notified of the next one: Did Joseph Smith obey the Word of Wisdom? And the one after that, and the one after that. I’m not going away. I’m not changing sides.

The answer to the question above?

No. I’m not transitioning the narrative about the Book of Mormon. I’m telling the history as Joseph and Emma and Oliver did.

The question poses a false dilemma. It assumes that the Book of Mormon either came through revelation or translation. But it didn’t. The translation of the Book of Mormon came to Joseph Smith by revelation.

The question assumes there is conflict between the past and the present, the new and the old, between revelation and translation. There isn’t.

I have studied what Joseph Smith said about translating. I have studied the manuscript Oliver Cowdery wrote as Joseph dictated. I have studied the copy Oliver made for the printer. I have studied the statements of the people who witnessed Joseph translating the Book of Mormon.

Here are a few facts from all the evidence:

Joseph often said he translated by the gift and power of God—meaning the revelation/translation of an unknown ancient language through a stone or stones (either worked).

Oliver Cowdery wrote almost all of the Book of Mormon as Joseph Smith dictated it with the aid of seer stones but without books or notes between April 7 and June 11, 1829.

The records of those who knew Joseph Smith best show that they believed these things most.

That’s how I know the story. But this is how I know the story is true:

I read the Book of Mormon myself shortly before my mission. When I finished I did what the last chapter said I should. I knelt and said a simple prayer with faith in Jesus Christ, a sincere heart, and real intent. God answered my prayer with the thought: “You already know it’s true.” And that thought was accompanied by a feeling, a desire, an intense desire, to affirm the thought. I did know. I didn’t want to deny it. I never have wanted to fight it. It’s true.

I don’t have an answer for people who have asked God with faith in Christ, a sincere heart, and real intent, and not experienced what I did. I don’t deny their experience, or lack thereof. I don’t know why their prayer wasn’t answered as mine was. I just know that mine was.

I don’t know beyond a shadow of a doubt

I have shadows of doubts all the time. I just choose to not let doubts define me. I choose faith for that. I choose faith because I am better, happier, and holier when I live by the teachings of the Book of Mormon. I feel the Holy Spirit when I read it and try to do what it teaches me. I feel God’s love when I listen to Nephi explain how easily he was beset by sins, and how he trusted God and felt His love. I feel it when I listen to Enos, Alma, Amulek and others.

Their stories are the reason I became a born again Christian on my mission, where I internalized the Book of Mormon’s teaching that I am saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. So I testify that the Book of Mormon was translated from Reformed Egyptian by God’s revelation to Joseph Smith. I love the Book of Mormon and invite others to love it too.

Finally, notice how the question assumes that I’m much smarter and more capable and influential than I actually am. I’m ok with that part.


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