Question: What do we know about the chronology of the Book of Mormon translation and publication?

Table of Contents

Question: What do we know about the chronology of the Book of Mormon translation and publication?


Spring 1820
First Vision
21 September 1823
Joseph receives a visit from Moroni—three that night, and one the next day. He is directed to and sees the plates for the first time. He is forbidden to take the plates at that time.[1]
Next four years
Joseph is to return to the hill once a year for four years for instruction, prior to receiving the plates.[2] Joseph never identified the hill as “the hill Cumorah,” but this designation was common among the early Latter-day Saints.[3]
18 January 1827
Joseph marries Emma Hale.[4]
22 September 1827
Joseph receives the gold plates from Moroni.[5]
December 1827
Joseph and Emma move to Harmony, Pennsylvania (Emma's parents' home).[6]
January 1828
Joseph translates some characters.[7]
February 1828
By this date, Martin Harris takes characters with translation to Charles Anthon.[8] See also Anthon transcript
12 April to 14 June 1828
The "Book of Lehi" (Mormon's abridgement) is translated; 116 pages total with Martin Harris as scribe.[9]
15 June 1828 
Emma and Joseph's first child (a son) is born and dies within hours. For a few weeks, Joseph is constantly at Emma's bedside, fearing she too may die.[10]
June 1828
Martin Harris loses 116 pages.
July 1828
Joseph goes to Manchester; interpreters and plates taken from him because of the loss of the 116 pages. The Urim and Thummim were returned to Joseph for him to receive D&C 3; they were then again taken away, though he regained the plates and interpreters "in a few days."[11]
22 September 1828
Plates and interpreters returned to Joseph by this date.[12]
December 1828
David Whitmer goes to Palmyra and meets Oliver Cowdery.
February 1829
D&C 4; Lord appears to Oliver Cowdery (approx. date)
February/March 1829
Joseph begins sporadically translating, with Emma as scribe
5 April 1829
Oliver arrives in Harmony to meet Joseph.[13] Soon after, he writes David Whitmer, saying that he is convinced that Joseph does have the plates.[14]
April 7 – end of June 1829
Joseph translates the Book of Mormon with Oliver as scribe.[15]
  • Translation begins on the 7th of April—two days after Oliver arrived.[16]
  • 15 May 1829 – Oliver and Joseph receive the Aaronic priesthood; Oliver indicated that their asking about baptism was stimulated by translating 3 Nephi.[17]
  • 1 June to 1 July – Due to persecution, David Whitmer moved Oliver and Joseph to his parents' homestead (Peter Whitmer, Sr.) in Fayette. [18]
  • 11 June 1829: Joseph registers the copyright via the title page.[19]
  • June 1829: 3 witnesses, 8 witnesses see the plates.See also: Book of Mormon witnesses
July 1829
Egbert B. Grandin and Thurlow Weed (a printer in Rochester) decline to print the Book of Mormon
August 1829
  • Grandin learns that Martin Harris and Joseph have gotten a quote from Elihu F. Marshall, another printer in Rochester;[20] he thus agrees to print the book since he realizes that if he doesn't, someone else will.[21]
  • Martin Harris' farm is required as collateral to reassure Grandin (mortgage dated 25 August)[22] after local residents approach him, threatening to boycott sales of the Book of Mormon. Grandin fears that he will not be paid for the large volume of books he is printing.[23]
6 November 1829
Printer's manuscript prepared up to Alma 36.[24]
16 January 1830
Document signed granting Martin Harris the first money back in sales, until his $3000 security against his farm is repaid. Harris ultimately has to sell 151 acres of the farm on 7 April 1831 to cover the costs.[25] It is not known whether he ever recouped the cost of printing the first edition of the Book of Mormon.[26]
26 March 1830
First public sale of the Book of Mormon[27]
6 April 1830
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized

Notes

  1. Joseph Smith History 1:29–49.
  2. Joseph Smith History 1:53–54.
  3. See Rex Reeve, Jr., and Richard O. Cowan, "The Hill Called Cumorah," in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint History (Provo: Brigham Young University Department of Church History and Doctrine, 1992), 71–91, cited in James E. Smith, "Nephi's Descendants? Historical Demography and the Book of Mormon (Review of Multiply Exceedingly: Book of Mormon Population Sizes by John C. Kunich)," FARMS Review of Books 6/1 (1994): 255–296. off-site
  4. Joseph Smith History 1:57
  5. Joseph Smith History 1:59.
  6. Donald L. Enders, "Two Significant Sites of the Restoration," Ensign (September 1998), 30.
  7. Joseph Smith History 1:62.
  8. Joseph Smith History 1:63.
  9. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A New Prophet and a New Scripture: The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (January 1988), 6. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Gold Plates and Printer’s Ink," Ensign (September 1976), 71.
  10. Lucy M. Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, edited by Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1958), 124.
  11. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:23. Volume 1 link; Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 124. ISBN 1573452319.
  12. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 157. ISBN 1573452319.
  13. Joseph Smith History 1:66.
  14. Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.
  15. John W. Welch, "'How long did it take Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon?', I Have a Question," Ensign (January 1988), 46.
  16. Joseph Smith History 1:67.
  17. Joseph Smith History 1:72. John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information”, FARMS, 1986, 33–37.
  18. David Whitmer interview with a reporter of the Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, cited in Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.
  19. Anonymous, "The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (December 1983), 31. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 155. ISBN 1573452319.
  20. Larry C. Porter, “A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831,” diss., Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1971, 86–87. See also: Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:58–71. Volume 1 link
  21. Anonymous, "Discovery: Historic Discoveries at the Grandin Building," Ensign (July 1980), 48.
  22. Richard Lloyd Anderson, "Gold Plates and Printer’s Ink," Ensign (September 1976), 71.
  23. Donald L. Enders, "Two Significant Sites of the Restoration," Ensign (September 1998), 30.
  24. Based on a letter from Oliver to Joseph of this date. See Anonymous, "The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," Ensign (December 1983), 31. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 155. ISBN 1573452319.
  25. Discussed in D&C 19:28. See also Richard Howard, “Martin Harris’ March 1830 Commitment to Book of Mormon Publication,” Saints Herald (March 1980): 28.
  26. Dennis L. Largey (editor), Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 135. ISBN 1573452319.
  27. Larry C. Porter, "From a Book Coming Forth," Ensign (July 1988), 42.


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims