Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Marvel

Period of Preparation:

September 21, 1823, more than 3 years since the 1st vision, Joseph Smith prayed earnestly to
- 1. know God’s purposes for him
- 2. to pray for forgiveness of sins
- 3. for a manifestation that he may know his state before God

“In answer to his prayer Joseph saw a light appear in his room that grew brighter & brighter until the room was lighter than at noonday. A heavenly messenger appeared at his bedside, standing in the air, wearing a robe of exquisite whiteness”. This messenger was Moroni.

The next day, Joseph went to the hill where the Book of Mormon plates were buried. There he met Moroni and saw the plates, but was told that he would not receive them for four years. He was to begin an important period of preparation that would make him equal to the sacred task of translating the Book of Mormon. Joseph returned to the hill each September 22 for the next four years to receive further instructions from Moroni.

From this experience we learn that Joseph was eager, patient, and humble (teachable), but that he needed to be prepared for the work he was called to do. Like Joseph, we should feel this same eagerness in serving, and we must remain humble, that we may be taught the way the Lord would have us perform His work. Just as Joseph had to be prepared for the work the Lord called him to, we also must be prepared to accomplish the work we are called to. We must be prepared to recognize the spirit so we may do things as the Lord would have them done. This is true whether we are a Bishop, a Sunday school teacher or a scout leader.

On September 22, 1827 Joseph and Emma went to the Hill. Emma waited nearby while Moroni delivered the plates into the Prophets hands.

Period of Translation:

In December 1827 Joseph & Emma moved to Harmony and the Prophet began the work of translation. Then in February 1828 Martin Harris was inspired to go to Harmony to assist Joseph as scribe.

Plates: 6 inches wide, 8 inches long, “not quite so think as common tin”, @ 6 inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed.
Urim & Thummim: Delivered to Joseph with the records were 2 transparent stones set in the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate. “Through the medium of the Urim & Thummim I translated the record by the gift and power of God”

What role did the Urim & Thummim play in the translation of the Book of Mormon?

Neal A Maxwell- “The Prophet Joseph alone knew the full process [of translation], and was deliberately reluctant to describe details.” David Whitmer observed that as the Prophet used “divine instrumentalities” provided to help him “the hieroglyphics would appear, and also the translation in the English language…in bright luminous letters”.

Martin Harris related of the seer stone: “Sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin”.
Oliver Cowdery is reported to have testified in court that the Urim and Thummim enabled Joseph “to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates.”

Maxwell- “If by means of these divine instrumentalities the Prophet was seeing ancient words rendered in English and then dictating, he was not necessarily and constantly scrutinizing the characters on the plates” “The revelatory process apparently did not require the Prophet to become expert in the ancient language. The constancy of revelation was more crucial than the constant presence of opened places”.

“We do know that this faith-filled process was not easy, however. This fact was clearly demonstrated in Oliver Cowdery’s own attempt at translation”. … “Oliver failed because, lacking faith and works, he “took no thought save it was to ask”. He was not properly prepared to do it.

“Whatever the details of the process, it required Joseph’s intense, personal efforts along with the aid of the revelatory instruments. The process may have varied as Joseph’s capabilities grew, involving the work of translation.” Orson Pratt of the quorum of 12 apostles said “ Joseph told me that he used the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced at translation but that later he did not need it.”

A Marvel of Inspiration:

Marvel #1 - Speed. An estimated averate rate of 8 of our printed pages per day. The total translation time was about 65 working days. Comparison- It took more than 50 able English scholars 7 years, using previous translations, to produce the King James version of the bible- @ 1 page per day.

Marvel #2- Accuracy. Joseph rarely reviewed or revised what had already been done. Emma said “ 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.

Marvel #3- Unlearned. Joseph was translating an ancient record but had no knowledge of ancient things. Early in the work Joseph 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.

Marvel #4- No reference sources. Emma Smith said “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. Elizabeth Cowdrey said “Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe.” Emma also said “ Joseph dictated hour after hour with nothing between us”. None of the 12 people who participated or observed translation never mentioned Joseph’s having any reference materials present.

What do these marvels mean? The Book of Mormon came through, but not from Joseph Smith. Translation was a spiritual gift. The history and process is interesting to us and can help strengthen our testimonies, but the core of our testimony of the Book of Mormon must be based on the doctrines contained therein. The history and process by which the Book of Mormon was brought forth is truly a marvelous work and a wonder, but even more marvelous is the way lives are changed by adhering to the principles and doctrines found within the book.

What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?

We revere Joseph Smith Jr. as a prophet who was instrumental in the Lords work of the restoration, but we worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As described on the title page of the Book of Mormon, the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to the “convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.” The Book of Mormon is truly “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”. We can come unto Him by studying the doctrines and patterning our own lives after His. We come unto Him when we accept Him as our Savior & Redeemer.

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