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5 Things You Didn’t Know About How the Book of Mormon Came to Be

By Mormon.org
Replica of original copy of the Book of Mormon with a present day copy of The Book of Mormon

Many people know that the Book of Mormon is important to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—in fact, that’s where the nickname “Mormon” came from. Fewer people know that it’s an ancient record of God’s dealings with the people on the American continent and that Joseph Smith translated it from gold plates by the gift and power of God. What do you know about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon? Let’s take a look at five little-known facts.

1. The Book of Mormon was published soon after Joseph Smith translated it.

Unlike the Bible, the Book of Mormon was printed early in its history, and there are only two manuscripts that predate its first edition. Both of these manuscripts contain important clues to the textual history of the dictation and publication of this important work.

2. Less than 30 percent of the original Book of Mormon manuscript survives.

The first manuscript, or original manuscript, was created by Oliver Cowdery and others as Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon. This original manuscript was kept by Joseph Smith until 1841, when he deposited it into the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. When it was recovered from the cornerstone decades later, the manuscript had suffered severe water damage. The manuscript was handed out piecemeal, and much of what survives (about 28 percent of the known text of the Book of Mormon) is in fragments and difficult to read.

3. Joseph Smith directed his scribes to make a copy of the manuscript to keep the text safe.

The second copy, or printer’s manuscript, was created by Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, and a third, unknown scribe shortly after the completion of the Book of Mormon translation. This manuscript was taken to the printing office in Palmyra, New York, to set type for the first edition of the Book of Mormon. The Saints took just a few pages at a time to the print shop so that the manuscript was always safe. This manuscript, recently published by the Joseph Smith Papers project, offers readers a chance to analyze this important text.

4. Women assisted in the creation of both manuscripts.

Emma Hale Smith acted as scribe for a portion of the original manuscript. David Whitmer recalled that the yarn and ribbon that held the printer’s manuscript together belonged to his mother, Mary Musselman Whitmer. For David Whitmer, this yarn and ribbon represented the efforts of his mother and sisters in bringing forth the Book of Mormon.

5. Editors marked up the printer’s manuscript in preparation for the first and second editions of the Book of Mormon in 1830 and 1837.

They worked under Joseph Smith’s direction to add punctuation, correct spelling and grammar mistakes, and make other changes to enhance readability.

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was a long process that involved many people both inside and outside of the Church. While knowing the history of the Book of Mormon is helpful, what really matters is the book’s message—to be another witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ. We invite you to order your free copy today.