Notes from “Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon” (2)

Notes from “Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon” (2) January 5, 2020


On the Smith family farm near Manchester, NY
At the Joseph Smith Family farm near Palmyra, New York   (LDS Media Library)


A friend sent to me the following quotation from the prominent conservative economist Thomas Sowell, for whom I have enormous admiration:


“You can’t stop people from saying bad things about you. All you can do is make them liars.” 


I believe that he’s right.




John W. Welch, “Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon: ‘Days [and Hours] Never to Be Forgotten,’” BYU Studies Quarterly 57/4 (2018): 10-50.


As I said in my previous entry on this topic, it’s striking to look at specific Book of Mormon passages while keeping in mind the rapidity of the book’s production — which has Joseph Smith dictating approximately 4,492 words, nearly nine pages in the current standard English edition, per working day, apparently without any notes.  Here are some further examples of cases to consider, drawn from pages 41-43 of Jack’s important article:


  •  The lineage history of Alma’s genealogy is widely dispersed among passages that were dictated over the span of six weeks, from 11 April 1829 to 22 May 1829.  But the genealogical information is consistent.
  • The thirty names that are given in the Jaredite genealogy in Ether 1 are given running from Ether himself backwards in time to his ancestor Jared.  Then, that genealogy is effectively repeated in the other direction as the story of those Jaredite rulers, Ether’s ancestors, is given in Ether 2-11 in proper historical order.
  • The account of the terrible destruction at the time of Christ’s crucifixion that is given in 3 Nephi 8 was dictated on roughly 12 May 1829.  It fulfills the detailed prophecies recorded in 1 Nephi 19, which were dictated a month later, in June 1829.
  • “The antithetically parallel words of Alma the Younger as he came out of his three-day coma were translated in Mosiah 27 on about April 13, while his chiastic retelling of that conversion event twenty years later in Alma 36 (which was translated about ten days later on April 24, 1829) reincorporated many of the same distinctive words and phrases.”  (42)
  • “The seven tribes in the Nephite world (Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites) are listed three times in the Book of Mormon.  The first instance dictated by Joseph comes in a rather inconspicuous spot in 4 Nephi 1:38, translated about May 21, simply conveying a sense of complete inclusivity.  A page later, but coming from a century later historically, the same seven tribes are listed exactly in the same order in Mormon 1:8, now marking their division into two warring camps.  A third occurrence of this precise seven-tribe list comes later in the translation time frame in Jacob 1:13, where the reader now learns that this list had its cultural origins back in the days of Jacob.  Here, this tribally formative ordering serves other purposes, probably being based on Lehi’s final blessings to these seven lineages in 2 Nephi 1:28, 30; 2:1; 3:1 and coming about a month later in the translation, about June 24.”  (42-43)
  • John Hilton and others have shown that Alma’s teachings to his son Corianton in Alma 39-43 cite specific phraseology from the teachings of Abinadi in Mosiah 12-15 (translated around 10 April 1829)  thirteen times.  (Alma 39-43 is roughly 130 pages further into the standard English edition than Mosiah 12-15, and was translated approximately 26 April 1829).  “Those allusions make particular sense when one allows that Alma the Younger grew up listening to his father speak of the words and doctrines that he had learned from Abinadi himself.”  (43)



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