Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration

Cornerstone content. This page is frequently updated.

Joseph Smith is known as the Prophet of the Restoration to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The 1820 theophany which came to be known as Joseph Smith’s First Vision ushered in the last dispensation of the fulness of times, and led to the formation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830.

The life of the Prophet is ironically overwhelmed by evidence and shrouded by mystery. For example, the Joseph Smith Papers Project has been working to publish every document from the Prophet’s life, including tens of thousands of pages and dozens of volumes. Yet Joseph Smith himself was keen to say, “No man knows my history.”

This specialized Joseph Smith Page includes From the Desk highlights from related coverage—along with links to original interviews.

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Joseph Smith Topics

Book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham is one of Joseph Smith’s most unique contributions to scripture. It’s also controversial. Scholars often debate how the Prophet translated, which papyri he used, and whether the papyri served as source material or revelatory catalysts.

This enigmatic document continues to be a subject of debate in the Book of Abraham historicity wars.

Did the Kinderhook Plates Really Fool Joseph Smith?

Following the death of Joseph Smith, his mother Lucy Mack Smith was custodian of the mummies and papyri. Following her death, Emma Smith sold them to a man named Abel Combs. A portion of the sold collection ended up in a museum in Chicago, where it presumably was destroyed in a fire that destroyed a portion of the city in 1871.

New Joseph Smith Papers Book of Abraham Research

It became clear to me that the Book of Abraham was above all a temple text. Which opened up for me the image of temple as scripture, but not just scripture.

Sam Brown on the Words and Worlds of Early Mormonism

It has become clear that Fragment I was not the source of the Book of Abraham. It was not what Joseph Smith was translating from.

Let’s Talk About the Book of Abraham with Kerry Muhlestein

What are the most common misconceptions about the Book of Abraham? I will deal here with only three.

John Gee on the Book of Abraham

Over breakfast, as Adams recalled, Smith lectured on Mormon doctrine. Then, he led them down to the private chamber to visit his mother, Lucy Mack Smith. There, the Mormon leader unwrapped four Egyptian mummies and several rolls of yellow papyri. Next, “Joe” explained in detail the related holy manuscripts that he had transcribed. “Of course, we were too polite to prove the negative,” Charles wrote in his diary, “against a man fortified by revelation.”

Sara Georgini Publishes Religious History of the Adams Family

This curious collection of documents—commonly referred to in secondary literature as the “Kirtland Egyptian Papers”—are in the handwriting of Joseph Smith and others who were clerically assisting him in 1835.

Did the Kinderhook Plates Really Fool Joseph Smith?

Book of Moses

The Book of Moses is a unique Latter-day Saint scripture drawn from the life of the Old Testament prophet. The text is an inspired translation of Genesis from the first chapter and verse to about halfway through the sixth chapter. The Book of Moses expounds heavily on doctrine and includes additional details from the lives of Moses, Adam, Enoch, and Noah.

Joseph Smith claimed to have met and conversed with many of these individuals, including Moses.

10 Questions with Jeffrey M. Bradshaw

His understanding of temple ordinances resulted, in no small degree, from his work as a Translator with the inspired translation of the Holy Bible (particularly the Book of Moses) and from his translation of Egyptian papyri into the Book of Abraham. These translations of new books of scripture introduced new doctrines and temple practices.

Latter-day Saint Temples: A Heritage of Sacrifice

Joseph Smith’s Council of Fifty

The Council of Fifty was a group organized by Joseph Smith to deal with varying challenges faced by Latter-day Saints in 1840s Nauvoo. The council’s meeting minutes became the stuff of urban legend because they were nearly impossible to access until published in their entirety by the Joseph Smith Papers Project in 2016.

The council, composed of about fifty men (hence the name), was essentially designed as a political body that would protect the Church and allow it to flourish.

What’s in the Council of Fifty Minutes?

They were talking about moving to Texas, or Oregon—or even California. They also seemed to be managing the presidential campaign.

Derek Sainsbury on Joseph Smith’s Political Missionaries

Joseph Smith claimed to receive a revelation in which he stated that the council itself was the constitution of the kingdom of God. By this he seemed to have meant not so much the institutional structure of the council but rather its collective membership.

The Council of Fifty: A Constitution for the Kingdom of God

Death of Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith was martyred on June 27, 1844, along with his brother Hyrum Smith, in Carthage, Illinois.

There is some inner longing to place a finger in the bullet hole in the door of the room where they died, to look out the window where Joseph Smith fell to his death, and to ponder on their lives.

Nauvoo and the Temple: A Social History

When Joseph Smith was brutally murdered at Carthage Jail in Illinois, and after Rigdon returned to Nauvoo only to lose the battle for the church presidency to Brigham Young, Rigdon returned back to Pittsburgh. As one can imagine, the local newspapers erupted with news and editorials about all these dramatic events.

William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet

The recent martyrdom of their beloved leader, Joseph Smith and his faithful brother, Hyrum [cast] such a pale of discouragement over so many.

Winter Quarters: A Pioneer Legacy of Faith

The protection of Nauvoo and the Saints was uppermost in Joseph’s mind in June 1844. In the end, Joseph allowed himself to be arrested and to go to Carthage to ensure the safety of Nauvoo.

Know Brother Joseph: Q&A with the Editors

George D. Watt was a highly skilled Pitman shorthand reporter. He taught classes in Pitman shorthand in Nauvoo, and was sent by the Church to report the proceedings of the Carthage trial (the trial of those charged with the murder of Joseph Smith).

Read George D. Watt’s 1851 Journal from Liverpool to Chimney Rock for the First Time

Emma Smith

I love that in Nauvoo, when Joseph and Emma had very little privacy, that they would take their carriage or ride horseback out into the country to have private conversation and come to terms with each other. Theirs was a working relationship, and I value that.

The Remarkable Legacy of Emma Smith

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

Joseph Smith’s “first vision” is a keystone event in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet said that he had an open theophany in 1820, behold God the father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings with resurrected bodies.

It’s difficult to overstate the vision’s importance in Latter-day Saint theology. One version of Joseph’s account has been canonized in the Pearl of Great Price, but we know of nine total accounts—and there could be more to surface in years to come.

No one knows how many accounts of the First Vision Joseph Smith gave . . . What we know is that the historical record, as it stands today, includes four primary accounts by Joseph and/or his scribes and five secondary accounts by contemporaries who heard him tell the event.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision Holds a Key Lesson for Today’s Youth

In essence, we are inviting listeners to consider little-known details about this familiar story and consider what it means for their understanding of Church history and to ponder what it might mean to their own religious devotion.

The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast

When we got to the Sacred Grove, we reverently entered and began talking in whispers. The caretaker told us there were only three trees left that were growing on the day of the first vision. The rest of the trees had sprouted since that most significant morning.

Prophets and Apostles in the Sacred Grove

Gold plates

Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from an ancient set of gold plates delivered to him by an angel named Moroni. The angel retrieved the gold plates when the translation was complete, leaving inquirers of truth to determine their commitment based on belief rather than evidence.

The point of scripture is to bridge heaven and earth, to help us feel we are in touch with God. The plates help serve that purpose so long as they remain untouchable.

Richard Bushman on the Gold Plates

[Emma Smith] was involved with the translation from the beginning, accompanying Joseph to the hill to get the plates and then acting as his first scribe, and she knew him better than anyone—his heart and faith, as well as his natural abilities and limitations.

Grant Hardy and the Book of Mormon

Sometimes selfishness is an important motive and may have at first motivated Joseph Smith to obtain the plates. 

Lindon Robison on Latter-day Saint Economic History

In 1826, Moroni gave Joseph one last chance for the next year to bring the “right one.” Joseph Knight Sr. records that Joseph received revelation in his seer stone to know that the right person was Emma Hale of Pennsylvania. She joined Joseph in the carriage to Cumorah, and while she probably didn’t go meet Moroni with him, she was there in the vicinity.

Emma Smith’s Contributions to the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith Papers

The Joseph Smith Papers Project intends to publish “all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of those documents with both textual and contextual annotation.”2

While the resulting research is primarily intended for scholars, general members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been profoundly interested in the project. As a result, Know Brother Joseph was published in 2021. The book seeks to make the Joseph Smith Papers research accessible to those without specialized degrees.

The Papers of Joseph Smith are frequently purchased and read by non-academics, something that one rarely finds in similar non-Mormon publishing projects.

Latter-day Saint Liturgy and Cosmology

I am thrilled when new Joseph Smith documents are acquired by any institution. The Joseph Smith Papers Project works closely with the Church History Library and passes along any document leads we are aware of to the acquisition team. I regularly consult with specialists in the Church History Library about nineteenth-century Mormon manuscripts to acquire for the collection.

Meet Joseph Smith Papers Archivist Sharalyn Howcroft

I look back with fondness on the decades of coordinated effort that brought us the new Church History Library [and] the Joseph Smith Papers.

The Biography of Dallin H. Oaks by Richard Turley

I was surprised to learn just how involved he was in real estate, local politics, and business. This can be disorienting for someone who is only aware of Joseph Smith’s prophetic ministry, but, for Joseph, this was all wrapped up in his vision of building the Kingdom of God on earth.

Scholar Finds New Brigham Young Revelation

I haven’t read all the Joseph Smith Papers volumes . . . but from the ones I have read carefully and deeply, looking to come to know Joseph as a man, as a husband, as a friend, as a leader, as a teacher, and as a Prophet, I never cease to be amazed at the largeness of his soul, the grandness of his vision, the depth of his feeling, and the sincerity of his mission.

Repicturing the Restoration with Anthony Sweat Artwork

A number of people told me that it was better that I waited to finish the [W. W. Phelps] biography until recently because of the great value of the Joseph Smith Papers. I totally agree.

The Life and Times of W. W. Phelps

The Joseph Smith Papers Project is unique in that from the outset it has structured the edition to satisfy the needs of two main constituencies—scholars, who are the typical primary audience for a documentary edition, and church members, who have a vested interest in the edition.

Adams Papers: An Interview with Editor Sara Martin

Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST)

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST) is an inspired version of the Old Testament and New Testament. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began including JST excerpts as footnotes in its 1978 edition of the standard works, but the inspired version of the Bible has yet to be canonized. Scholars are uncertain how Joseph Smith translated the Bible, but most agree that the Prophet didn’t use the word “translation” in the traditional sense.

This Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is not simply one thing but several. It is a revelation, it is commentary and correction, it is exploration, and it is preliminary.

New Testament Scholar Thomas Wayment

Joseph Smith consulted a Bible commentary by a notable Methodist theologian: I believe there is little doubt about that. His use of that source shaped the way he translated verses.

Thomas Wayment and the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

I don’t believe that there is any evidence at all that Joseph Smith drew ideas from Clarke’s Bible commentary.

The Joseph Smith Translation: An Inspired Version of the Bible

The most obvious choice was “NT,” for New Translation. But because “NT” already means New Testament, it couldn’t be used. Thus, for the sake of an acronym to be printed in the Latter-day Saint Bible, the title Joseph Smith Translation was invented, providing the useful acronym “JST.”

The Joseph Smith Translation: An Inspired Version of the Bible

I don’t believe that we should put scare quotes (or air quotes) around the word translation when we talk about Joseph Smith’s scriptures. I’m quite persuaded that he was translating and that translating is much more interesting and powerful than we’ve given it credit for.

Sam Brown on the Words and Worlds of Early Mormonism

First and foremost, regarding Joseph Smith’s spiritual gift of translation, he never used it to translate the words of foreign-tongued contemporaries. This gift was only used to recover ancient scripture.

Joseph Smith Translation Q&A

Joseph Smith’s Translation of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon stands alongside the Bible as another Testament of Jesus Christ. The book has been called the “keystone” of the Latter-day Saint religion, and the Prophet considered the book’s importance to be paramount. The book’s introduction contains Joseph Smith’s powerful statement:

I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.

Today, scholars approach the Book of Mormon from nearly every conceivable angle. How as it translated? Is it an historical record? What are its most important doctrines? Etc.

As church members become more collectively aware of the stone-in-a-hat method we need to be careful to avoid swinging the proverbial pendulum too far one way or the other, promoting that Joseph “always” used the spectacles with opened plates or he “always” used stones in a hat.

Repicturing the Restoration with Anthony Sweat Artwork


Joseph was a prophet, not a bishop. And the excruciating financial setbacks and disappointments in Kirtland were a schooling in such things, a cruel lesson he found hard to abide.

Latter-day Saint Temples: A Heritage of Sacrifice

Joseph Smith, along with some other early Church leaders, began studying Hebrew in Kirtland, Ohio, in late 1835. They hired Professor Joshua Seixas to teach biblical Hebrew

Is the Song of Solomon Scripture? For Latter-day Saints, It’s an Open Question

The preface to the Doctrine and Covenants explains that Part 1, the “Doctrine,” was derived from a series of theological lectures given in Kirtland.

Joseph Smith Translation Q&A

[The School of the Prophets] originated by revelations to Joseph Smith in December 1832 and January 1833 in Kirtland, Ohio. The first meetings of the school were held above the Newel K. Whitney store on January 22, 1833. The school started out with fourteen men . . . Before it was disbanded in 1837, it served as a place for gospel [and secular] education.

Brigham Young and the Salt Lake School of the Prophets

Shortly after the papyri arrived in Kirtland in the summer of 1835, Joseph started making arrangements for an academic Hebrew class to be taught in the local school later that year. (Because of difficulties finding a proper teacher, formal Hebrew coursework would not actually commence in Kirtland until January 1836.)

Joseph Smith’s Use of Hebrew in the Book of Abraham

The letter also gives us a glimpse of what Joseph was like as a husband and father, a son and brother. “I am happy to find that you are still in the faith of Christ and at Father Smiths [in Kirtland],” he wrote Emma.

What’s in the Council of Fifty Minutes?

Joseph Smith’s revelations contain many unmistakable references to significant components of priesthood and temple doctrines, authority, and ordinances that were not included as part of the preparatory Kirtland Temple endowment. Many of these references date to the early 1830s, a decade or more before the Prophet began bestowing temple blessings on the Saints in Nauvoo.

Tracing Ancient Threads in the Book of Moses

On November 6, 1993, after the passing of the sacrament [in the Kirtland Temple], Elder M. Russell Ballard called on some of the brethren to bear their testimonies of the Savior’s mission, the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and sacred events that had occurred in that temple. Elder Ballard then recounted in detail the history of the construction of the Kirtland Temple.

M. Russell Ballard: The Entrepreneur Who Became An Apostle

Nauvoo Expositor

What motives were involved in publishing the Nauvoo Expositor?

New Book Tackles Politics, Polygamy, and Prophets

One of the men visiting with Joseph Smith was non-Mormon Sylvester Emmons (who would later edit the infamous Nauvoo Expositor).

Did the Kinderhook Plates Really Fool Joseph Smith?

New Jerusalem

The Book of Mormon and early revelations of Joseph reveal that Zion was to be the New Jerusalem built in Jackson County, Missouri. It was more than just contemporary Christianity, though. It was truly all-encompassing society and lifestyle. There were religious, political, social, and economic components, requirements, and outcomes.

Derek Sainsbury on Joseph Smith’s Political Missionaries

One of our favorite definitions of Zion comes from a March 1831 revelation to Joseph Smith, which we have as D&C 45. In it, Zion, or the New Jerusalem, is defined as “a land of peace, a city of refuge, a place of safety for the saints of the Most High God.”

Proclaiming Peace

Odds & Ends

I am more aware of his emotional contours and his courage. He did not have guidance at every point in his life. Much of the time he had to fabricate policies on his own much as we do.

Richard Bushman Reflects

He told one council that he wanted the participants to “speak their minds. . . . and to say what was in their hearts.” Furthermore, they should “agree to disagree long enough to select the pure gold from the dross by the process of investigation.”

Know Brother Joseph: Q&A with the Editors

There’s been this tendency (across multiple battle lines in various little culture wars) to view Joseph Smith as if he were living and working in the late twentieth century. But he wasn’t, and if we judge him by whether he fits that mold, we’ll misunderstand him and miss what he and his close colleagues have to offer.

Sam Brown on the Words and Worlds of Early Mormonism

I am not sure that we have anything from Joseph Smith himself saying that Zion’s Camp was a formative experience, but I think it was very important in his development as a leader.

History of the Saints: Zion’s Camp

Will their relationship mend in the eternities? One thing I have learned about Joseph Smith is that he was very forgiving.

Martin Harris and the 116 Pages: There’s More to the Story

The only specific comment we have from Joseph Smith about the Song is the oft repeated: “The Songs of Solomon are not Inspired writings [sic].”

Is the Song of Solomon Scripture? For Latter-day Saints, It’s an Open Question

Although Life of Joseph Smith carried George Q. Cannon’s byline, Frank [Cannon] wrote it.

Frank J. Cannon: Saint, Senator and Scoundrel by Val Holley

This assumption of prophetic perfection . . . sets people up for a hard fall whenever they eventually learn that Joseph Smith and every other prophet made a mistake.

How to Dispel Latter-Day Myths

Other suggestions he made, such as that the Lectures on Faith be added to the Pearl of Great Price, were not approved. Elder McConkie loved and often quoted from the lectures, but research was starting to come out that questioned the extent of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s involvement with them.

The Many Legacies of Bruce R. McConkie

Plural marriage

Plural marriage may be the single-most controversial aspect of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life. There are relatively few first-hand records of how and why the practice began, leading to scholarly conclusions that often pose more questions than they set out to answer.

Most scholars agree that Joseph Smith had between 30 and 40 wives. The youngest woman that Joseph married was fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball and the eldest was fifty-eight-year-old Rhoda Richards.

Let’s Talk about Polygamy with Brittany Chapman Nash

Joseph and Emma apparently argued over the revelation for the next four days. It brought their marriage to the brink of divorce. Although they deeply loved each other, they couldn’t reconcile this revelation. Plural marriage was a difficult doctrine, and this painting attempts to represent some of the difficulties it caused.

Repicturing the Restoration with Anthony Sweat Artwork

Joseph Smith reported that an angel came in 1834 and again in 1842 commanding him to introduce and to practice plurality. Yet, through all the references to plural marriage by him and other Church leaders, no reasons explaining why it was then required have been given.

These Scholars Will Make You Think about Polygamy

Historians have debated this question for decades, and likely will continue to debate it for decades to come, given the lack of reliable contemporary sources.

Historian Tackles Politics, Polygamy, and Joseph Smith in ‘Kingdom of Navuoo’

One of the instructions given to Joseph in section 132 is to get the permission of his first wife to marry plural wives, which he obviously didn’t do. She felt extremely betrayed to discover that he had been married plurally to some of her dearest friends and Relief Society sisters. The discrepancies between public teachings and private practices were extremely unnerving for a woman in such a public position.

Emma Smith’s Abrahamic Sacrifice

The [William Clayton] journals are significant because they contain contemporary information about plural marriage in Nauvoo in the 1840s, both of Clayton and of Joseph Smith, for whom Clayton served as a clerk at the time. Clayton’s journals also served as an important source for completing Joseph Smith’s manuscript history.

Behind the Scenes of the Latter-day Saint Church History Library in Salt Lake City

Politics and the Prophet

Latter-day Saints revere Joseph Smith as a Prophet who revealed Christ. And yet the founding Latter-day Saint leader was also a political figure. Whether Joseph Smith was looking to merge legal and theological authority in a united “kingdom of God,” acting as the Mayor of Nauvoo, or campaigning for President of the United States, his life can’t easily be separated from politics.

In Jacksonian America, candidates did not campaign for themselves, it was seen as too self-promotional. So candidates would dispatch electioneers to do the campaigning for them. Of course, the difference with Joseph’s political missionaries is that they are also offering religious salvation as they campaign.

Derek Sainsbury on Joseph Smith’s Political Missionaries

Smith was serious about his campaign, but he was not a serious contender.

Joseph Smith’s 1844 Presidential Campaign

Joseph Smith and seer stones

Seer stones seem strange today, but they were common in Joseph Smith’s time. The difference is that he used them in a manner never before seen: to produce scripture. However, while seer stones weren’t especially controversial in Joseph’s day and age, they largely disappeared for a time from the Church’s later historical narratives. As a result, many contemporary Latter-day Saints are caught off guard when reading historical accounts of Joseph Smith and seer stones.

There are some late sources that mention that the Kirtland-era translation were done with a seer stone, but the evidence is not clear, and, in fact, there are sources stating that Joseph Smith specifically did not use a seer stone for parts of his Bible revision project in the early 1830s, so it’s possible he felt little need to use instruments for some or all of the work in Kirtland or Nauvoo.

New Joseph Smith Papers Book of Abraham Research

Do you remember that I told you about the Urim and Thummim when I told you about the Book of Mormon?

I answered, yes Ma’am, she then told me I had just handled it. You are not permitted to see it, but you have been permitted to handle it. You will live long after I am dead and gone. And you can tell the Latter-day Saints, that you was permitted to handle the Urim and Thummim.

Jane Manning James: Your Sister in the Gospel

Smith Family

Joseph Smith’s family members played key roles in supporting—and antagonizing—his ministry. Historians continue to shed new insights on the Prophet’s life by learning more about the lives of family members such as Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, Hyrum Smith, William Smith, and Joseph Smith III.

Joseph and Lucy Smith’s Tunbridge farm was where they first established a household together after their marriage and where their first children were born.

Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith’s Tunbridge Farm

My chapter on Lucy Mack Smith’s history considers the prevalence of social publication in New England and how Lucy inherited this tradition from her forebears. As a result, her history deliberately incorporates several texts created by others and contains much less of her voice than it appears on the surface.

Important Early Latter-day Saint Documents


Joseph Smith’s theological contributions radicalized the Christian teachings of his day. A small sampling of his doctrinal revelations include the necessity of baptism for salvation, the corporeal nature of God, and the existence of numerous kingdoms in the afterlife that go beyond traditional concepts of heaven and hell.

What kind of being was God in the beginning, before the world was? I will go back to the beginning to show you. I will tell you, so open your ears.

Joseph Smith, The King Follett Sermon

I have a special place in my heart for a little booklet from 1840 that Wilford Woodruff used to record Joseph Smith’s teachings. He included revelations that weren’t yet canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants and in a few instances, notes about more private interactions with the prophet.

Scholar Finds Brigham Young Revelation

The meaning of the Abrahamic blessings continues to unfold with Joseph Smith’s subsequent revelations (including the Book of Abraham, with its reference to priesthood, ministry, and eternal life).

Terryl Givens and the Maxwell Institute on 2nd Nephi

There are not as many key doctrines in the King Follett Sermon as Church members often suppose. Many are also found elsewhere in Joseph Smith’s teachings.

Open Questions in Latter-day Saint Theology

This doctrine about the Father’s past history is unique to the King Follett Discourse—though it was anticipated by the earlier discussion of Lorenzo Snow’s couplet (“As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may become”) among some of the Saints.

Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse: Is it Central to Latter-day Saint Doctrine?

I think this is true particularly with Joseph Smith’s mature theology that he taught in Nauvoo.

Patrick Mason: An Interview with the Latter-day Saint Scholar

Joseph Smith said to the women of the first Relief Society organization that if they lived up to their privileges, angels could not be restrained from being their associates, and that they could come into the presence of God. He offered them the highest blessings associated by oath and covenant from the Lord with those who obtain these two priesthoods.

Latter-day Saint Women and the Priesthood

This is a stunning insight into how God’s power actually functions. Because he loves us with perfect love, persuasion, gentleness, and long-suffering, we know we can love and trust him, and we surrender to his influence “without compulsory means” (D&C 121:46).

Proclaiming Peace


Joseph Smith’s translation activities perplex and amaze both scholars and believers. Academics continue to produce new theories about how Joseph Smith translated, why he translated, and what translation meant to him.

There are several references in Joseph Smith’s journal stating that he “spent the day in translating the Egyptian records” (19 November 1835) or a group of individuals “translated some of the Eygptian, records” (24 November 1835). Unfortunately, there are very few sources from Joseph Smith himself to help us exactly understand the mechanics of his translation effort.

New Joseph Smith Papers Book of Abraham Research

Joseph Smith’s [Kinderhook plates] translation effort, or mistranslation, was for only one character and it was a natural, not supernatural, translation attempt.

Did the Kinderhook Plates Really Fool Joseph Smith?

Joseph Smith seems to have had a boundless enthusiasm for academic learning, whether it be in the form of trying to decipher ancient languages, reading through contemporary biblical commentaries and theological dictionaries, memorizing Hebrew verb paradigms, consulting Greek and Latin dictionaries, reading through apocryphal writings, or reading books on recent archaeological discoveries (all of which is attested in his personal histories).

Joseph Smith’s Use of Hebrew in the Book of Abraham

If we read the Book of Mormon in the order that its translation was dictated by Joseph Smith, then the entire Book of Mormon ends with the small plates, so it ends with these small books of Enos, Jarom, Omni (followed by Words of Mormon).

Brief Theological Introductions to Enos, Jarom, and Omni in the Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith FAQ

How many wives did Joseph Smith have?

Joseph Smith had between 30 and 40 wives, according to historian Brittany Chapman Nash. Joseph’s wives ranged in age from 14 to 58 years old.

What did Joseph Smith use to translate?

Joseph Smith approached translation from a variety of angles. At times, he used seer stones (also called urim and thummim) to translate scripture such as the Book of Mormon.

What are the gold plates Joseph Smith found?

The gold plates Joseph Smith found contain records of civilizations in the Ancient Near East and Americas. They include an account of a resurrected Jesus Christ visiting the Nephites in the Western Hemisphere.

When did Joseph Smith die?

Joseph Smith died on June 27, 1844 sometime between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. At around 8 p.m., Willard Richards and John Taylor wrote a letter to Emma Smith telling her of the news.

Where is Joseph Smith buried?

Joseph Smith is buried in the Smith Family Cemetery in Nauvoo, Illinois. The cemetery was dedicated in 1991 by Elder M. Russell Ballard, the great-grandson of Joseph Smith’s brother, Hyrum.

Further reading

Recommended Joseph Smith research


  1. “History, 1838–1856, volume E-1 [1 July 1843–30 April 1844],” p. 1979, The Joseph Smith Papers, accessed May 8, 2022,
  2. The Joseph Smith Papers Project, “About the Project.” Accessed May 8, 2022.