030: Doctrine & Covenants Lesson 4: The Book of Mormon

“Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”

We spent all last year digging deeply into and “feasting upon” the Book of Mormon. Virtually all readers of the Book of Mormon would agree that this is the most important use of the Book of Mormon–to read it to nourish us spiritually and gain inspiration from it, to use it as a catalyst to expand our souls and improve our lives. These are the functions of the Book of Mormon.

The readings of this lesson invite us to go “behind the scenes” a bit and examine some of the more technical questions. How did Joseph translate the Book of Mormon? What are our sources for this process? What does internal evidence suggest about the nature of the Book of Mormon? What can we know about the plates? What do we make of the “Reformed Egyptian” characters Joseph took to Charles Anton? What can we know about the lost 116 pages? And why does any of this matter?

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Student Reading: Joseph Smith—History 1:27–65; Doctrine and Covenants 3; 5; 10; 17; 20:5–15; 84:54–62; Our Heritage, pages 5–10., 1 Nephi 9:6, Moroni 10:3–5 “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” in the introductory material of the Book of Mormon, D&C 1:29, D&C 19:26–27,   D&C 33:16,   D&C 42:12

Additional Teacher Reading: D&C 30:1–2; 1 Nephi 9:2–5; Words of Mormon 1:3–7; 2 Nephi 27:12–14; Ether 5:1–3; Ether 5:4; Moroni 10:3–5; Malachi 3; Malachi 4;  Isaiah 11; D&C 113:1–6; Acts 3:22–23;  Joel 2:28–32; D&C 1, 11, 18, 20, 27, 42, 84, 135   

This amazing episode will open your eyes to all there is to learn about the Book of Mormon that you think you know. KC and Lisa discuss with historian Don Bradley who contributes his expertise.

Continue the conversation by posting your comments and questions here, in the facebook group, or email them to me at MormonSundaySchool at gmail.

Recommended Reading

  • Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (Deseret Book or Amazon; Kindle is under $10)
  • Brandt Gardner, The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon
  • See the Lesson notes for more recommendations.

You can access my Lesson Notes here.

You can access my Reading Notes here.

In addition to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio, thanks are due to William Newman for his postproduction refinement.

Latest Comments

  1. SteveS says:

    1) Why does the Lord seem to enjoy motivating his servants (and the world at large) by fear? He reams Martin Harris, and lays it down on Joseph Smith as well, and prophesies scourges and waste in the final days. This isn’t exclusive to the scripture block for this lesson, but we might as well talk about it now. Does motivation by fear really work, especially in the long term? I think people learn to resent such motivational tactics, even from an authority figure that a person loves and respects. Thoughts?

    2) Is anyone aware of any reason(s) why Joseph Smith would have been exceptionally interested in converting the “Lamanites” (Native Americans) to the gospel of Jesus Christ? It becomes a rationale for the sacrifices made to translate and publish the Book of Mormon (D&C 3:18-20), gets mentioned on the title page of the Book of Mormon, and is somewhat of a trope in Mormon’s abridgment, Moroni’s final words, and Nephi’s vision for his posterity. But was there a more personal connection that made Joseph care so much about the native peoples of the American continent(s)?

    3) Why do the visions of Moroni sound so similar to the First Vision, especially some of the earlier accounts? Why wouldn’t Moroni or Joseph reference the previous vision to talk about the current vision as a continuation of the restoration of the fulness of the gospel. Something like this: Moroni: “Joseph, remember when God and Jesus visited you a couple years ago and told you that you would be instrumental in reestablishing the Kingdom of God on Earth again in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ? Well, I’m here to get you started on the next step of the process.” Joseph narrates that “I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one,” true, but this statement fails to mention exactly what that first divine manifestation consisted of. We might be able to simply look further back in the narrative to find that account, but if the nature and/or veracity of the details of Joseph’s “divine manifestation” is in question, we can’t be sure that Joseph is referencing a vision of God and Jesus when he talks about that divine manifestation. If, as one FV account reports, Joseph was simply praying for forgiveness of sins and a sense of guidance in choosing between religions and he had a witness of his forgiveness, favor, and an answer that Presbyterianism wasn’t “true”, but without angelic or deity visions or visitations, then Joseph’s prayer in his room on September 21st, 1823 is largely the same prayer. If other FV accounts are to be considered, Moroni WAS the first visitation, and Joseph is inventing a second (third, fourth, fifth, and sixth) visitation/vision to manufacture the growing sense of purpose in this restoration movement. Anyway, back to the original question: why does even the “official” FV account read so similarly to Joseph’s account of Moroni’s visit?


    • Don Bradley says:


      From Joseph’s first written history forward he narrates the First Vision and Moroni visions as distinct events separated by a few years. In the account where he states that he had confidence in receiving another manifestation it’s clear from the context of his having just narrated the First Vision that he’s referring back to that vision.

      The two experiences are quite distinct in how he describes them, though of course also sharing some basic commonalities (e.g., Joseph seeing a glorious being and being addressed by name). Religious experiences often share certain elements or patterns. Hence biblical scholars write about the similarities of the various apocalyptic visions and group some experiences of God together as “throne theophanies,” “heavenly ascents,” etc. Such patterns make for a fascinating area of study, but they don’t mean that visions sharing common elements were really all the same vision.


  2. geoffsn says:

    I expected to hear at least a little bit about the connection of the Anthon Transcript and the Magick Secret Books that Joseph Smith Sr. had.


    • Don Bradley says:

      While the Smiths owned three small parchments with esoteric characters on them, I’m not aware of any 19th century reports that they owned magic books. If you have such accounts, I’d love to see them, since this is one of my areas of historical interest.

      The characters on the surviving transcript have been compared to a number of scripts, from demotic Egyptian to ancient Indonesian characters to our own alphabet; and the proposed parallels to “magick” characters are far less extensive than some of the others. So, the only reason I can see why one _would_ highlight those in a brief Sunday School discussion is if one had an ax to grind. But perhaps there’s some other reason that’s lost on me.



  3. michael says:

    Ok, this podcast rocked. I thought I was up on the whole seer-stone thing, but you guys knocked my boots off. Awesome



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