Joseph Smith translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim

I wanted to put together some historical accounts that show that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim in his translation of The Book of Mormon. This page shows accounts of those that were close to the prophet stating that he did in fact, use this in the translation of the text.

Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the two people closest to the translation, both make this claim. While I believe that Joseph did in fact use the Urim and Thummim as a tool to translate the text, I also believe that he used a seer stone as well, and will give some historical accounts of this on another page. The other accounts of his use of the seer stone seem to indicate to me that he probably starting using this tool after the loss of the 116 pages.

1. Joseph Smith – as recorded by Oliver Cowdery 1835
(The messenger) said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain, and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record. (Oliver Cowdery to W.W. Phelps, “Letter IV,” Messenger and Advocate, February 1835, 80)

2. Joseph Smith 1842
Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record by the gift, and power of God. (Joseph Smith, Church History, Times and Seasons 3(March 1, 1842):707)

3. Joseph Smith – as published by Daniel Rupp- 1844
Through the medium of the Urim and Thummim I translated the record, by the gift and power of God. (“Latter Day Saints,” in I. Daniel Rupp, comp., An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States (Philadelphia: J.Y. Humphreys, 1844), 406)

4. Martin Harris – as interviewed by the Iowa State Register -1870
By means of the urim and thummim “a pair of large spectacles,” as Mr. Harris termed them, the translation was made, and Mr. Harris claims to have written, of the translations as they were given by Smith, “116 solid pages of cap (foolscap). (A Witness to the Book of Mormon, Des Moines Iowa State Register, August 28, 1870)

5. Oliver Cowdery – as interviewed by Samuel Whitney Richards- 1907
He (Oliver Cowdery) represents Joseph as sitting by a table with the plates before him. and he reading the record with the Urim & Thummim. Oliver, his scribe, sits close beside to hear and write every word as translated. This is done by holding the translators over the words of the written record, and the translation appears distinctly in the instrument, which had been touched by the finger of God and dedicated and consecrated for the express purpose of translating languages. This instrument now used fully performed its Mission. Every word was made distinctly visible even to every letter, and if Oliver did not in writing spell the word correctly it remained in the translator until it was written correctly. This was a mystery to Oliver, how Joseph being comparatively ignorant could correct him in spelling, without seeing the word written, and he would not be satisfied until he should be permitted or have the gift to translate as well as Joseph. (Samuel W. Richards statement, May 21, 1907, holograph, 2-3, Church Archives)

6. David Whitmer as interviewed by Thomas Wood Smith -1879
I personally heard him state, in Jan. 1876 in his own house in Richmond, Ray Co. Mo…. that he saw Joseph translate, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim, time and again, and he (David) then produced a large pile of foolscap paper closely written in a very fair hand, which he declared was the manuscript written mainly by Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, as the translation was being read by the aid of the Urim and Thummim of the characters on the plates by Joseph Smith, which work of translation and transcription he frequently saw. (Thomas Wood Smith, Fall River Herald, March 28, 1879; cited in Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991, 10)

7. David Whitmer as interviewed by Eri B. Mullin -1880
Mr. D. Whitmer told me in the year 1874, that Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim when he was translating…

I for my part know he said that Joseph had the instrument Urim and Thummim. I asked him how they looked. He said they looked like spectacles, and he (Joseph) would put them on and look in a hat, or put his face in the hat and read. Says I, “Did he have the plates in there.” No, the words would appear, and if he failed to spell the word right, it would stay till it was spelled right, then pass away, another come, and so on. (Eri B. Mullin, Letter to the editor, Saints’ Herald 27(March 1, 1880):76)

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3 Responses to Joseph Smith translated the plates with the Urim and Thummim

  1. Pingback: Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon with a seerstone | LDS Scripture Teachings

  2. Pingback: The box was filled with tinker toys | LDS Scripture Teachings

  3. Pingback: A Timeline of the translation of the plates | LDS Scripture Teachings

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