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Book of Mormon Manuscript Excerpt, circa June 1829 [1 Nephi 2:2b–3:18a]

Book of Mormon Manuscript Excerpt, circa June 1829 [1 Nephi 2:2b–3:18a]

Nephi goeth up to jerusalem to bring the Records of the jews rebel against me also & if it so be that they rebell against me they shall be a Scourge unto thy seed to stir them up in the ways of remembernce & it came to pass that I Nephi returned from speaking with the Lord to the tent of my father & it came to pass that he spake unto me saying behold I have dreamed a dream in the which the Lord hath commanded m me that thou & thy Brethren shall return to Jerusalem for behold Laban hath the reckord of the Jews & also a genealogy of my forefathers & they are engraven upon plates of Brass wherefore the Lord hath commanded me that thou & thy Brethers should go unto the house of Laban & seek the reckords & bring them down hither into the wilderness & now behold thy Brethers murmur saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them but behold I have not required it of them but it is a commandment of the Lord therefore go my Son & thou shalt be favoured of the Lord because thou hast not murmured and it came to pass that I nephi said unto my father I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men Save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them and it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceding glad for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord and I Nephi & my Brethren took our Journey in the wilderness whith our tents to go up to the Land of Jerusalem and it came to pass that when we had gone up to the land of Jerusalem I & my Brethren did consult one with another & we cast lots which of us should go in unto the house of Laban & it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman & Laman went in unto the house of Laban & he talked with him as he sat in his house & he desired of Laban the Records which were engraven upon the plates of brass which contained the genealogy of my father & behold it came to pass that Laban was angry and thrust him out from his presence and he would not that he should have the records wherefore he said unto him behold thou art a robber and I will slay thee but laman fled out of his presence and told the things which laban had done unto us & we began to be exceeding sorrowful & my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness but behold I said unto them that as the Lord liveth & as we live we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have acconplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us wherefore let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord therefore let us go down to the Land of our fathers inheritence for behold he left gold & silver & all manner of riches & all this he hath done because of the commandment of the Lord for he knowing that Jerusalem must be destroyed because of the wickedness of the people for behold they have rejected the words of the prophets wherefore if my father should dwell in the land after that he hath been commanded to flee out of the land behold he would also perish [p. [4]]
<Nephi goeth up to jerusalem to bring the <Records> of the jews>

Insertion in unidentified handwriting. This line was added to describe the content of the page and was not part of the original dictation. (See Skousen, Original Manuscript, 25.)  


[rebe]l again[s]t me also & if it so be that they rebell against me they sha [ll b]e a Scourge unto thy seed to stir them up in the ways of remember nce & it came to pass that I Nephi returned from speaking with the Lord  to the tent of my father & it came to pass that he spake unto me saying  behold I have dreamed a dream in the which the Lord hath commanded m  me that thou & thy Brethren shall return to Jerusalem for behold Laban ha th the reckord of the Jews & also a genealogy of my forefathers & they are  engraven upon plates of Brass wherefore the Lord hath commanded me that  thou & thy Brethers should go unto the house of Laban & seek the reckords & bring  them down <hither> into the wilderness & now behold thy Brethers murmur sayi ng it is a hard thing which I have required of them but behold I have  not required <it> of them but it is a commandment of the Lord therefore go  my Son & thou shalt be favoured of the Lord because thou hast not murm ured

Oliver Cowdery handwriting ends; John Whitmer begins.  


and it came to pass that I nephi said unto my  father I will go and do the things which the Lord hath  commanded for I know that the Lord giveth no  commandments unto the children of men Save he  shall prepare a way for them that they may accom plish the thing which he commandeth them and  it came to pass that when my father had heard  these words he was exceding glad for he knew that  I had been blessed of the Lord and I Nephi & my Bre thren took our Journey in the wilderness whith our  tents to go up to the Land of Jerusalem and it came  to pass that when we had gone up to the land of  Jerusalem I & my Brethren did consult one with  another I & we cast lots which of us should go in [unto]  the house <of> Laban & it came to pass that the lot <[fel]l> upon  Laman & Laman went in unto the house of Laban  & he talked with him as he sat in his house &  he desired of Laban the Records which were engrave[n]  upon the plates of brass which contained the geneal ogy of my father that <&> behold it came to pass that Laba[n]  was angry and thr[u]st him out from his presence [and]  he would not that he should have the records wher[e] fore he said unto him behold thou art a robber and I  will slay thee but laman fled out of his presence  and told the things which laban had done unto us  & we began to be exceeding sorrowful & my brethren  where were about to return unto my father in the wilde rness but behold I said unto them that as the Lord  liveth & as we live we will not go down unto our  father in the wilderness until we have acconplished  the thing which the Lord hath commanded us  wherefore let us be faithful in keeping the comma[n] dments of the Lord therefore let us go down to the  Land of our fathers inheritence for behold he left go[ld]  & silver & all manner of riches & all this he hath don[e]  because of the commandment <of the Lord>

Insertion in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery.  


for he knowing that  Jerusalem must be destroyed because of the wic kedness of the people for behold they have rejected the  words of the prophets wherefore if my father should dwe[ll]  in the land after that he hath been commanded to  flee out of the land behold he would also perish [p. [4]]
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JS’s history recounts that on the night of 21–22 September 1823, “a messenger sent from the presence of God” visited JS and “said there was a book deposited written upon gold plates

A record engraved on gold plates, which JS translated and published as the Book of Mormon. The text explained that the plates were an abridgement of other ancient records and were written by an American prophet named Mormon and his son Moroni. The plates ...

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, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent.” JS found the plates in a stone box embedded in a hill not far from the Smith residence, “under a stone of considerable size.”1

JS History, vol. A-1, 5, 7; see also Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VI,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Apr. 1835, 1:108–112; and Oliver Cowdery, “Letter VII,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, July 1835, 1:155–159.  


On 22 September 1827, after yearly visits to the spot, JS obtained the plates. He moved from Palmyra

Known as Swift’s Landing and Tolland before being renamed Palmyra, 1796. Incorporated, Mar. 1827, two years after completion of adjacent Erie Canal. Population in 1820 about 3,700. Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith family lived in village briefly, beginning ...

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, New York, to Harmony

Located in northeastern Pennsylvania. Area settled, by 1787. Organized 1809. Population in 1830 about 340. Population in 1840 about 520. Contained Harmony village (no longer in existence). Josiah Stowell hired JS to help look for treasure in area, Oct. 1825...

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, Pennsylvania, a few months later, and his wife Emma

10 July 1804–30 Apr. 1879. Scribe, editor, boardinghouse operator, clothier. Born at Willingborough Township (later in Harmony), Susquehanna Co., Pennsylvania. Daughter of Isaac Hale and Elizabeth Lewis. Member of Methodist church at Harmony (later in Oakland...

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and her brother Reuben Hale began recording JS’s dictation from the plates. From mid-April to mid-June 1828, Martin Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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, a supporter from Palmyra, was JS’s primary scribe and finished a considerable portion of the translation

To produce a text from one written in another language; in JS’s usage, most often through divine means. JS considered the ability to translate to be a gift of the spirit, like the gift of interpreting tongues. He recounted that he translated “reformed Egyptian...

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, but he then lost the transcription.2

Knight, Reminiscences, 4; Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289; JS History, vol. A-1, 9–10. JS and Harris stopped translating on 14 June, the day before Emma Smith gave birth to a son who either was stillborn or died shortly after birth.  


A messenger sent from God chastised JS for allowing the manuscript to be lost and took the plates from JS, but returned them “in a few days.”3

JS History, vol. A-1, 11.  


Rather than retranslating the lost pages, JS was directed to finish “the remainder of the work”4

Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:3]; see also Historical Introduction to Revelation, July 1828 [D&C 3].  


and apparently picked up where he and Harris had stopped, in the book of Mosiah. Although Emma Smith, JS’s brother Samuel Smith

13 Mar. 1808–30 July 1844. Farmer, logger, scribe, builder, tavern operator. Born at Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont. Son of Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack. Moved to Royalton, Windsor Co., Vermont, by Mar. 1810; to Lebanon, Grafton Co., New Hampshire, 1811...

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, and possibly others served as scribes for JS over the next several months,5 progress was slow and sporadic. JS moved forward in earnest only after Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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arrived to serve as his full-time scribe in early April 1829. During April and May 1829, JS and Cowdery apparently translated the portion of the Book of Mormon from Mosiah through the concluding book of Moroni.6

Not all of the plates were translated. According to Oliver Cowdery, a heavenly messenger had previously told JS that “a part of the book was sealed, and was not to be opened” until “the people of the Lord are prepared, and found worthy” to receive it. (Oliver Cowdery, “Letter IV,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Feb. 1835, 1:80; see also Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 111 [2 Nephi 27:21–22].)  


JS and Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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relocated to the Peter Whitmer Sr.

14 Apr. 1773–13 Aug. 1854. Farmer. Born at Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer and likely Maria Salome. Member of Presbyterian church. Married Mary Musselman, before 1798, in Pennsylvania. Lived in Lebanon Township, Dauphin Co., by...

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home in Fayette

Located in northern part of county between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. Area settled, by 1790. Officially organized as Washington Township, 14 Mar. 1800. Name changed to Fayette, 6 Apr. 1808. Population in 1830 about 3,200. Population in 1840 about 3,700. Significant...

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, New York, in early June 1829 and promptly resumed the translation. “It was a laborious work,” recalled David Whitmer

7 Jan. 1805–25 Jan. 1888. Farmer, livery keeper. Born near Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Raised Presbyterian. Moved to Ontario Co., New York, shortly after birth. Attended German Reformed Church. Arranged...

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, “for the weather was very warm, and the days were long and they worked from morning till night.”7

James H. Hart, “About the Book of Mormon,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 9 Apr. 1884, 190.  


While the timetable of the translation is not known with certainty, analysis of the manuscript suggests that JS translated the portion from the first book of Nephi through Words of Mormon—what became the first part of the Book of Mormon—at the Whitmer home during June. This was in accordance with a revelation that had instructed JS to translate “the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi,”8

Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:41]; see also JS History, vol. A-1, 21–22. Most scholars of the Book of Mormon believe that JS and Cowdery translated the portion from Mosiah to Moroni first, and the portion from the first book of Nephi to Words of Mormon second. (See, for example, Welch, Opening the Heavens, 100–101, 115–117; and Metcalfe, “Priority of Mosiah,” 396–399.)  


which covered the same time period as the pages lost by Harris

18 May 1783–10 July 1875. Farmer. Born at Easton, Albany Co., New York. Son of Nathan Harris and Rhoda Lapham. Moved with parents to area of Swift’s landing (later in Palmyra), Ontario Co., New York, 1793. Married first his first cousin Lucy Harris, 27 Mar...

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, a manuscript that JS made no effort to retranslate. The representative sample selected for inclusion in this volume is taken from this portion of the manuscript JS and Cowdery produced, now known as the “original manuscript.”9

A complete transcript of the extant parts of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon has been published as Royal Skousen, ed., The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon: Typographical Facsimile of the Extant Text (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Brigham Young University, 2001).  


The featured text is primarily in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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, but it also contains short passages inscribed by John Whitmer

27 Aug. 1802–11 July 1878. Farmer, stock raiser, newspaper editor. Born in Pennsylvania. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Member of German Reformed Church, Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, most likely in Seneca...

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and one unidentified scribe, who replaced Cowdery for brief periods. This selection exhibits the traits typical of the original Book of Mormon manuscript, most noticeably a lack of punctuation. After the translation, scribes added chapter numbers and the typesetter added paragraph breaks and punctuation to the printer’s manuscript as it was being prepared for publication.10

Skousen, “Translating the Book of Mormon,” 75–82, 85–87; Skousen, Original Manuscript, 1:25. Decades later, eyewitnesses Emma Smith, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer recalled details about the translation process, mentioning, for example, that JS spelled out difficult proper names when necessary. (Joseph Smith III, “Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 289–290; Edward Stevenson, “One of the Three Witnesses,” Deseret News [Salt Lake City], 28 Dec. 1881, 762–763; “Mormonism,” Kansas City Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, 1; see also “Joseph Smith Documents Dating through June 1831.”)  


The text transcribed here, as with other extant portions of the original manuscript, exhibits very few signs of editing. It contains spelling errors characteristic of each particular scribe. The Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers will extend this analysis and present the complete text of the extant portions of the original manuscript and the complete text of a second manuscript, the “printer’s manuscript” that was copied from the original for use by the typesetter.
The text featured here begins on the third manuscript page (second leaf) of what in the published Book of Mormon was titled “The First Book of Nephi: His Reign and Ministry.” The first leaf is no longer extant. Page 3 picks up the narrative of the record at the point when Nephi’s father, Lehi, acting under inspiration, departs the Jerusalem area with the assurance that if he and his family are righteous they will be led to a promised land. This is the inaugural event in the multigenerational family saga that dominates most of the Book of Mormon. In the lost manuscript, the story was presumably told from the perspective of the father, Lehi, whereas here it is told from the perspective of the son, Nephi.

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