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The Book of Mormon, an Ancient Scripture: Who Wrote It and How Was It Translated?

The Book of Mormon contains records written by ancient prophets. It teaches about faith in Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon contains records written by ancient prophets. It teaches about faith in Jesus Christ.

What is the Book of Mormon about?

The Book of Mormon is a sacred record that Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, consider to be scripture in addition to the Bible. Its coming forth was an essential part of the history of Mormonism. The Book of Mormon is about the history of two great civilizations of people who lived in the ancient Americas. One of these civilizations immigrated to the Americas from Jerusalem in 600 BC, and the other emigrated from the Near East at a much earlier time (see What is the Book of Mormon video).

The Book of Mormon records portions of these two civilizations’ social and political history. More importantly however, the Book of Mormon is about God’s dealings with these ancient peoples and testifies of God’s love for and mercy toward all His children. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of Jesus Christ’s gospel (see Joseph Smith—History 1:34). The greatest event recorded in the book is the account of Jesus Christ’s visit to the Americas after His death and Resurrection.

Who wrote the Book of Mormon?

Latter-day Saints believe that the Book of Mormon contains portions of records written by many ancient prophets (see “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon”). These prophets engraved their records on golden plates. Their records were compiled and abridged into a more concise record by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The Book of Mormon bears his name. After Mormon’s death, his son, Moroni, completed the record and buried the plates to protect them.

Where did the Book of Mormon come from?

On December 23, 1805, centuries after the deaths of Mormon and Moroni, another pivotal event in the history of Mormonism occurred when a boy named Joseph Smith was born. When Joseph was 17, Moroni, then an angel, appeared to him as he was praying (see Joseph Smith—History 1:27–33). Joseph was told by Moroni that the ancient record he and his father had completed was written on golden plates and buried in a hill near Joseph’s home in rural New York. Moroni also told Joseph that God had a special mission for Joseph to complete, that Joseph was to obtain the plates, and that God had prepared a way for them to be translated.

What role does the Book of Mormon play in the history of Mormonism?

The translation of the Book of Mormon was truly a miraculous event in the history of Mormonism. Joseph Smith, a poor farm boy, had very little formal education. He lacked the ability to translate the record on his own, so he needed divine assistance.

To help Joseph in the important task of translating sacred scripture, God had prepared instruments. Two of these instruments were called the Urim and Thummim—a pair of special stones or “interpreters” that Joseph found buried with the plates (see Joseph Smith—History 1:35). Similar instruments were used by prophets in the Old Testament (see Exodus 28:30). Joseph used these stones to interpret and dictate the record to scribes. Joseph also used another stone, called a seer stone, to aid in the translation. He testified that he was only able to translate the book “by the gift and power of God” (“Book of Mormon Translation,” Gospel Topics, topics.lds.org).

Today, the Book of Mormon has been translated from English into over 100 languages (see “Book of Mormon in 110 Languages,” Ensign, May 2015, 137). It has helped millions of people around the world draw closer to Jesus Christ and learn of His gospel.

How can I learn more?

The Book of Mormon is about faith, repentance, and finding true happiness. The Book of Mormon is also about God’s love for all His children, including you. To learn more about the Book of Mormon, and to request a free copy, visit mormon.org.