Thursday, October 11, 2012

Joseph Smith and the Plates, Pt. 3 - Translation

Items unburied by Joseph Smith
This is part three in my posts about Joseph Smith and the plates.  The focus of this post will be on the language of the plates as well as the translation process of Joseph Smith.

The Language.
The language on the plates is made known by Moroni, the final prophet to write on the plates.  He writes:

"And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.  And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record." (Mormon 9:32-33)

The first prophet to write on the plates was Lehi, a man that grew up in the great city of Jerusalem.  He left with his family to the Western Hemisphere, teaching the Hebrew and Egyptian language to his children so that they could read the scriptures on the brass plates that they took with them.  Nephi, son of Lehi, writes:  "I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father... Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:1-2).

The family of Joseph Smith did not come from Egypt or Jerusalem or any of the lands round about there.  Joseph Smith was a farm boy in New York that went to school just long enough to learn English.  He could not read or write Egyptian, let alone this reformed Egyptian that the plates were written in.  And so he needed a way to translate the plates.

In the first post about Joseph Smith I wrote "the angel showed the 17-year old boy the plates, as well as the other things buried with them."  One of the other things buried with them were interpreters, called the Urim and Thummim.  Another prophet in the Book of Mormon, Ammon, teaches about these interpreters:

"I can assuredly tell thee...of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God." (Mosiah 8:13)

The translation of the gold plates were done by Joseph Smith and many assistants.  Joseph would, using the Urim and Thummim, read the ancient record and say the English translation to his assistant, who would then write it down on paper.  This is the process that was used until the completion of the translating the 600+ pages.

More on Joseph Smith and Translation:
Joseph Smith Papers
Translating the Plates
Urim and Thummim

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