Selected Teachings on
Book of Mormon Translation Timeline

The following timeline is based upon John W. Welch's excellent article entitled "The Miraculous Translation of the Book of Mormon," from Opening the Heavens, Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, p.77-213, (2005), Brigham Young University.

1827

September 21-22. Joseph obtains the plates from the angel Moroni.

October-November. Several attempts are made to get the plates from Joseph. The Smiths must guard their house. Joseph obtains $50 from Martin Harris and hires a man to move him and Emma to her parents' house in Harmony, Pennsylvania. They move to Harmony while transporting the plates hidden in a barrel of beans (see Account).

1828

December 1827-February 1828. Joseph begins limited translation of the plates with the scribal assistance of his wife Emma and her brother Reuben Hale.

February. Martin Harris arrives in Harmony as he and Joseph had previously planned. Joseph gives Martin a transcription of some of the characters from the plates with the translation of the same. Martin takes these to Palmyra, Albany, New York City, and Philadelphia and visits with Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill (vice president of Rutgers Medical School in NYC), Professor Charles Anthon at Columbia College, and others regarding the characters and their translation.

April 12. Martin Harris returns from to New York to Harmony and begins to scribe for Joseph as he translates the book of Lehi.

April 12-June 14. The translation of the book of Lehi is completed, resulting in 116 pages of translated text.

June 15. Joseph and Emma's first child, Alvin, was born but died shortly thereafter.

Late June or Early July. The 116 pages of the book of Lehi were borrowed and then lost by Martin Harris.

July 1. Joseph remains with Emma for two weeks after the death of their child. With Emma's insistence Joseph leaves for his father's farm in Manchester, New York. Martin Harris is called to the farm and confronted about the 116 pages. Martin confirms Joseph's deepest fears that they are lost.

July. Joseph returns to Harmony. The interpreters and the plates are taken from Joseph by the angel. The Urim and Thummim are returned to him briefly in order for Joseph to receive the Lord's chastisement in D&C 3. Portions of D&C 10 may also have been received around this time. Moroni promises Joseph that if he will repent and humble himself the Urim and Thummim will be returned to him on September 22 of that year.

September 22. Joseph again receives the Urim and Thummim from Moroni.

December. It is probably during this month that David Whitmer makes a business trip to Palmyra, where he meets Oliver Cowdery for the first time. He also learns about Joseph and the golden plates at this time.

1829

February. Joseph's parents, Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, come to visit him in Harmony. Joseph receives D&C 4 for his father. His parents return to Manchester, NY. Oliver Cowdery, who is boarding with the Joseph Smith Sr. family in Manchester as a school teacher, begins to hear from various sources hearsay about Joseph's remarkable spiritual experiences. Intrigued, he inquires of Joseph Sr. concerning the truth of these experiences. Joseph Sr. eventually lays out the details before Oliver who is delighted by what he hears. Oliver inquires of the Lord, receives a heavenly manifestation, and subsequently is inspired to assist Joseph in the Lord's work.

March. Emma acts briefly as scribe and a few pages are translated. Martin Harris visits Joseph in Harmony "seemingly for the prime purpose of being permitted to see the plates. According to other testimonies Martin had not seen the plates during the time he was writing for the Prophet, and he wanted to know of their existence" (Wayne C. Gunnell, "Martin Harris—Witness and Benefactor to the Book of Mormon," (master's thesis, Brigham Young University, 1955), 29-30). This visit precipitates the receipt of D&C 5 on behalf of Martin Harris (see Background to D&C 5). In this revelation Joseph is told to translate "a few more pages" and then to "stop for a season" (D&C 5:30).

April 5. Oliver Cowdery arrives in Harmony with Joseph's brother Samuel Smith. Joseph tells Oliver much about his own history (see Background to D&C 6-9).

April 6. Oliver records, "On Monday the 6th, I assisted [Joseph] in arranging some business of a temporal nature" ("Letter I," Messenger and Advocate, October 1834, 14).

April 7. Oliver begins writing as scribe to Joseph Smith and will remain so for the vast majority of the remaining Book of Mormon translation. They begin translating at or near Mosiah 1 (where Joseph and Martin Harris had left off) and the translation process accelerates rapidly from this point (see Background to D&C 6-9).

April. During this month, after beginning the translation with Oliver as scribe, Joseph inquires and receives sections 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the Doctrine and Covenants (see Background to D&C 6-9).

May 10. Joseph and Oliver go to Colesville, New York to obtain more provisions to translate but, obtaining none, return to Harmony. Ultimately Joseph Knight Sr. arrives in Harmony and provides them with writing paper (foolscap) and other provisions for translating. He visits them several times during the month of May and, during one of those visits, Joseph receives a revelation on his behalf (see Background to D&C 12).

May 10-15. The translation progresses steadily until they come to the account of the Savior's resurrected ministry in 3 Nephi.

May 15. Joseph and Oliver are ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood on this day and baptize one another. Oliver Cowdery reported the event that precipitated their ordinations and baptisms, "After writing the account given of the Savior's ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent," he and Joseph went and "called upon [the Lord] in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men" ("Letter I," Messenger and Advocate, October 1834, 15). Joseph Smith said, "We ... went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: [see D&C 13] (Joseph Smith—History 1:68).

May 15-May 25. As they near the end of translating Mormon's abridgment and Moroni's additions (Mosiah-Moroni), Joseph and Oliver wonder if they are to translate the book of Lehi again. Doctrine and Covenants section 10 was likely dictated in its final form during this time (see Background to D&C 10).

May 25. Oliver baptizes Samuel Smith and the translation continues. Hyrum Smith visits a few days later. Joseph inquires of the Lord in behalf of his older brother Hyrum and he receives D&C 11 (see Background to D&C 11).

May 16-31. Joseph and Oliver may have gone to Colesville during this time. It is most likely that they receive the Melchizedek priesthood from Peter, James, and John during this time (likely as they were returning from Colesville). It is during this time that Joseph receives a commandment to ask David Whitmer to bring he and Oliver down to his (David's) father's house in Fayette, New York. David arrives in Harmony and is convinced of Joseph's divine inspiration.

June 1-3. Joseph and Oliver move with David Whitmer from Harmony to Fayette, Seneca County, New York, to the home of Peter Whitmer (David's father). Emma Smith comes a short time afterward.

June 4-June 30. Joseph and Oliver recommence translation the day after their arrival in Fayette. The translation was finished in the upstairs room of Peter Whitmer's home by July 1. Some of the Whitmers (John Whitmer especially) help as scribes during this period.

June 11. The copyright for the Book of Mormon is secured at the office of the Federal Distric Court Clerk, Richard R. Lansing. The application contains the title page of the Book of Mormon. This demonstrates that before this date Mormon's entire abridgement (Mosiah-Mormon 7) and Moroni's additions (Mormon 8-9, Ether, & Moroni) have been translated, including the title page inscribed by Moroni.

June 5-14. Joseph receives Doctrine and Covenants 14, 15, and 16 around this time on behalf of David Whitmer, John Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer, Jr. (see Background to D&C 14, 15, 16). Doctrine and Covenants 18 is also then received for Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer (see Background to D&C 18).

June 15. Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, and Peter Whitmer, Jr. are baptized around this date.

Mid-June. The translation of the Book of Mormon is complete (see D&C 17:6). Doctrine and Covenants 17 was received around this time (see Background to D&C 17).

June 20. The Three Witnesses see the plates around this date (see Accounts). A few days later in Manchester, New York, near the Smith log home, the Eight Witnesses see and handle the plates (see Accounts). Lucy Mack Smith says that she also, at one point, saw and handled the plates (see Accounts).

June 26. The Wayne Sentinel publishes the Book of Mormon title page. Probably around this time Martin Harris approaches E. B. Grandin about publishing the book. Grandin declines due to its high potential for unfavorable financial loss.

July. Thurlow Weed, owner-editor of the Rochester Telegraph, is approached twice but likewise declines to print the book. The printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon is begun by Oliver Cowdery.

June-August. Doctrine and Covenants 19 is likely received around this time (see Background to D&C 19).

Late August. Martin Harris mortgages his farm. Around this time the contract with E. B. Grandin is likely signed. It is agreed that five thousand copies would be printed (a very unusually high amount in that day). Harris promises to deliver $3,000 to Grandin within eighteen months. If Harris defaults, his land is to be "sold at public auction to satisfy the demand" (Larry C. Porter, "A Study of the Origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the States of New York and Pennsylvania, 1816-1831" (Ph.D. diss., BYU, 1971; BYU Studies, 2000), p.88). When asked years later if he ever lost any of the $3,000 Martin said, "I never lost one cent. Mr. Smith paid me all that I advanced, and more too" ("Testimonies of Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris," Millennial Star, vol. 21, p.545).

August 25. Hyrum Smith delivers the first manuscript installment and typesetting commences. The original typesetter is John H. Gilbert and proofs are printed by J. H. Bortles until December when Grandin hires Thomas McAuley. McAuley and Bortles do the remaining press work until March 1830.

October 4. Joseph returns to Harmony.

November 6. Oliver writes in a letter to Joseph in Harmony, "The printing goes rather Slow yet as the type founder has been sick but we expect that the type will be in and Mr. Granden still think[s] <he> will finish printing by the first of feb[r]uary." "P S I have Just got to alma['s] commandment to his son in coppying the manuscrip," [Alma 36?].

1830

January. Abner Cole (alias Obediah Dogberry), in his Palmyra Reflector, January 2, 13, 22, prints several extracts of the Book of Mormon from sheets he stole at Grandin's printing office (where his own newspaper was printed). Because of this Joseph returns to Palmyra from Harmony to assert his copyright privileges in order to stop this unauthorized publishing of sections of the Book of Mormon.

January 16. Joseph Smith enters into an agreement with Martin Harris which reads, "I hereby agree that Martin Harris shall have an equal privilege with me & my friends of selling the Book of Mormon of the Edition now printing by Egbert B Grandin until enough of them shall be sold to pay for the printing of the same of until such times as the said Grandin shall be paid for the printing the aforesaid Books or copies[.]" ("Note on the sale of the Book of Mormon, now printed," January 16, 1830, Simon Gratz Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia)

March 26. The printing and binding are finished and the book is offered for sale to the public. Prices at Grandin's Bookstore seem to range from $1.25 to $1.75 per book.

April 6. The Church of Christ is organized. On this day the Lord bears witness that He gave Joseph Smith "power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon" (D&C 20:8). The Lord also declares that the salvation of our souls hinges upon our acceptance or rejection of the Book of Mormon. "And those who receive it in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life; but those who harden their hearts of unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation" (D&C 20:14-15).