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Summary

To produce a text from one written in another language; in JS’s usage, most often through divine means.1 JS considered the ability to translate to be a gift of the spirit, like the gift of interpreting tongues.2 He recounted that he translated “reformed Egyptian” characters from gold plates into the English text of the Book of Mormon by the “gift and power of God.”3 JS also related that in 1823 an angelic messenger revealed to him the location of the gold plates and an instrument consisting of “two stones in silver bows” that had been prepared “for the purpose of translating the book.”4 The Book of Mormon itself referred to such “interpreters,” which were to be kept with the plates.5 JS explained that he used the pair of stones found with the plates in his translation of the Book of Mormon.6 Eyewitnesses reported that he also used a dark brown seer stone.7 JS referred to the pair of stones found with the plates as “spectacles,” and he later referred to these stones and his other seer stones with the term “Urim and Thummim,”8 the name of the divining instrument used by the high priest of Israel in the Bible.9 JS worked on the translation of the gold plates until summer 1829.10 On 6 April 1830, the day JS organized the Church of Christ, he also dictated a revelation that stated he would be known not only as a revelator but also as a seer and as a translator.11 From June 1830 to July 1833, he worked on a revision or “new translation” of the Bible, using the King James Bible rather than ancient writings as his original text.12 His work included both revisions and, especially within the book of Genesis, lengthy expansions.13 JS apparently did not use a stone in his translation of the Bible.14 In July 1835, after members of the church purchased several ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls, JS commenced translating some of the characters and stated that one of the scrolls contained the writings of the biblical patriarch Abraham.15 JS worked intermittently on translating some of the papyri for the remainder of the year, though his exact process of translating is unclear.16 Portions of this translation were first published in March 1842.17 JS and other church members, as encouraged by an 1833 revelation, also sought to acquire conventional translation skill through the academic study of other languages, including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and German.18

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