Question: Was every word of the Book of Mormon translation provided directly from God?

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Question: Was every word of the Book of Mormon translation provided directly from God?

Witnesses to the translation each had their own view of the process

Was Joseph Smith provided with the exact wording of every sentence in the Book of Mormon? Was he simply given impressions which he then dictated within the context of his own understanding? Was it some combination of the two methods?

Joseph's wife Emma related her own experience:

When my husband was translating the Book of Mormon, I wrote a part of it, as he dictated each sentence, word for word, and when he came to proper names he could not pronounce, or long words, he spelled them out, and while I was writing them, if I made a mistake in spelling, he would stop me and correct my spelling, although it was impossible for him to see how I was writing them down at the time. .?. . When he stopped for any purpose at any time he would, when he commenced again, begin where he left off without any hesitation, and one time while he was translating he stopped suddenly, pale as a sheet, and said, "Emma, did Jerusalem have walls around it?" When I answered, "Yes," he replied, "Oh! I was afraid I had been deceived." He had such a limited knowledge of history at the time that he did not even know that Jerusalem was surrounded by walls.[1]

Scholars have examined and debated the issue of a "tight" versus "loose" translation method for many years. Although it is an interesting intellectual exercise, the exact process by which words and sentences were formed has no bearing upon the fact that the book was dictated by the "gift and power of God."[2].

In fact, Joseph's model of revelation is one in which God speaks to men after the manner of their language so that they can come to understanding (D&C 1:24). Thus, we should simply study the matter out as best as we can to understand how it came about (D&C 88:77-79) without precluding the possibility that Joseph/the Lord used language familar to Joseph to render the translation in a way that would teach contemporaries most effectively while staying as close as possible to the ancients as possible to not threaten the general integrity of the translation in connection to the plate text.


  1. Emma Smith to Edmund C. Briggs, "A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856," Journal of History 9 (January 1916): 454.
  2. Scholars have proposed reconciliations of both views. See Neal Rappleye, Dynamically Equivalent Translation and the Book of Mormon <> (accessed 29 March 2019)