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Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829

PREFACE.
To the Reader
As many false reports have been circulated respecting the following work, and also many unlawful measures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me, and also the work, I would inform you that I translated

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...

View Glossary
, by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written, one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon;1

The Book of Mormon opens with the account of two prophets, Lehi and his son Nephi. Their records and the records of around one thousand years of history were abridged by Mormon, one of the last prophets of the Book of Mormon, from whom the volume of scripture gets its name. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 151–152, 529 [Words of Mormon 1:3–6; Mormon 6:6]; Title Page of Book of Mormon, ca. Early June 1829.)  


which said account, some person or persons have stolen and kept from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to recover it again2

Several sources, including Lucy Mack Smith’s history, claim that Martin Harris’s wife, Lucy, took the manuscript and did not return it. Eber D. Howe, who provided an early account of the events, was ambiguous about whether the manuscript was destroyed or preserved. He wrote that early church members “sometimes charged the wife of Harris with having burnt it; but this is denied by her.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 134; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 22; see also Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 45–46.)  


—and being commanded of the Lord that I should not translate the same over again,3

From this point to the penultimate sentence of the preface, much of the text quotes or paraphrases a revelation received a few months earlier concerning the translation. (Compare Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:10–43].)  


for Satan had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God, by altering the words, that they did read contrary from that which I translated and caused to be written; and if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other words, if I should translate the same over again, they would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accomplish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and [p. [iii]]
PREFACE.
To the Reader
As many false reports have been circulated respec ting the following work, and also many unlawful mea sures taken by evil designing persons to destroy me,  and also the work, I would inform you that I translated

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...

View Glossary
,  by the gift and power of God, and caused to be written,  one hundred and sixteen pages, the which I took from  the Book of Lehi, which was an account abridged from  the plates of Lehi, by the hand of Mormon;1

The Book of Mormon opens with the account of two prophets, Lehi and his son Nephi. Their records and the records of around one thousand years of history were abridged by Mormon, one of the last prophets of the Book of Mormon, from whom the volume of scripture gets its name. (See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 151–152, 529 [Words of Mormon 1:3–6; Mormon 6:6]; Title Page of Book of Mormon, ca. Early June 1829.)  


which said  account, some person or persons have stolen and kept  from me, notwithstanding my utmost exertions to reco ver it again2

Several sources, including Lucy Mack Smith’s history, claim that Martin Harris’s wife, Lucy, took the manuscript and did not return it. Eber D. Howe, who provided an early account of the events, was ambiguous about whether the manuscript was destroyed or preserved. He wrote that early church members “sometimes charged the wife of Harris with having burnt it; but this is denied by her.” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, 134; Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 22; see also Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 45–46.)  


—and being commanded of the Lord that  I should not translate the same over again,3

From this point to the penultimate sentence of the preface, much of the text quotes or paraphrases a revelation received a few months earlier concerning the translation. (Compare Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10:10–43].)  


for Satan  had put it into their hearts to tempt the Lord their God,  by altering the words, that they did read contrary from  that which I translated and caused to be written; and  if I should bring forth the same words again, or, in other  words, if I should translate the same over again, they  would publish that which they had stolen, and Satan  would stir up the hearts of this generation, that they  might not receive this work: but behold, the Lord  said unto me, I will not suffer that Satan shall accom plish his evil design in this thing: therefore thou shalt  translate from the plates of Nephi, until ye come to that  which ye have translated, which ye have retained; and [p. [iii]]
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JS, Preface to Book of Mormon, [Manchester Township

Settled 1793. Formed as Burt Township when divided from Farmington Township, 31 Mar. 1821. Name changed to Manchester, 16 Apr. 1822. Included village of Manchester. Population in 1825 about 2,700. Population in 1830 about 2,800. JS reported first vision of...

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, Ontario Co., or 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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, NY, ca. Aug. 1829]. Featured version, titled “Preface,” typeset [ca. Aug. 1829] for Book of Mormon, [iii]–iv. For more complete source information, see the source note for the Book of Mormon.

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