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gloom. Nevertheless there are other Scriptures already published, and yet others are to come.
From the Presence of God
HE discovery of the ancient record known to mankind as the Book of Mormon was no affair of chance. To the contrary, both the finding of the plates of gold and the translation of the inscriptions were specifically the result of Divine direction. So the following facts attest.
On the 21st of September, 1823, Joseph Smith of Manchester, N. Y., was visited by an angelic personage who announced himself as Moroni, "A messenger sent from the presence of God."
"What!" the skeptical may exclaim, "A heavenly being visiting the earth and talking to a man in these modern days?" To which interrogatory a fair rejoinder is Why not? Has the God of Heaven changed in nature and attributes, or found need of altering and revising His former, and most simple methods of communicating with men?
To the priest Zacharias in days of old came one saying "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God, and am sent to speak unto thee." (Luke 1:19). To the prophet Joseph Smith in latter times came a messenger with the same form of annunciation.
Both Gabriel and Moroni were ambassadors from the Eternal One, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, and "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." (James 1: 17; Heb. 13:8).
Part of Moroni's message delivered at this visitation is thus stated by the latter-day prophet: "He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants. Also, that there were two stones in silver bows-and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim-deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted 'seers' in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. . . . While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it."
On going to the place the next day Joseph Smith located the stone box, and with the aid of a lever removed the cover. His record continues:
"I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates."
At the close of the fourth probationary year, the plates and accessories were given into the custody of the latterday seer. Of this occasion and subsequent developments he wrote as follows:
"At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate. On the twentysecond day of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven, having gone as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge: that I should be responsible for them; that if I should let them go carelessly, or through any neglect of mine, I should be cut off; but that if I would use all my endeavors to preserve them, until he, the messenger, should call for them, they should be protected.
"I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible. But by the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him; and he has them in his charge until this day, being the second day of May, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight."
Subsequent revelations showed that Moroni was the last of a long line of prophets whose translated writings constitute the Book of Mormon. By him the ancient records had been closed about 420 A. D.; by him the graven plates had been deposited in the stone vault wherein they lay buried over fourteen centuries; and through his appointed
embassage they were given into the possession of the latterday seer whose work of translation is before us.
Joseph Smith, unschooled beyond the rudiments of what we call an education, unversed in any tongue but the vernacular English, was wholly unequipped according to all human standards to translate the language of a nation long extinct, and, except for certain Indian traditions, forgotten. But the operation of a power higher than human, by which the engraved plates were brought forth from the earth, was to be effective in making the long-buried chronicles intelligible to modern readers.
It was no part of the Lord's plan to entrust the translating to man's linguistic skill; and, moreover, at that time the Rosetta Stone still lay buried beneath the debris of ages, and there was not a man upon the earth capable of rendering an Egyptian inscription into English. As the Book of Mormon avers, the original writing was Egyptian, modified through the isolation of the ancient peoples on the Western Continent, and designated Reformed Egyptian.
It was divinely appointed that the sacred archives should be restored to the knowledge of men through the gift and power of God. Had it not been written that in the latter days the Lord would accomplish a marvelous work and a wonder, whereby the wisdom of the wise would fail and the understanding of the learned be hidden? (See Isa. 29: 13, 14). And this because men would put their dogmas and precepts above the revealed word? (Verse 13). In the translation of the Book of Mormon there was to be no gloss of fallible scholarship, no attempt to improve and embellish the plain, simple and unambiguous diction of the original scribes who wrote by inspiration. Therefore was the commission laid upon one who was rated among the
weak of the earth, but whose ministry, nevertheless, has confounded the mighty. (See 1 Cor. 1:27, 28).
SCRIPTURES OF THE AMERICAN CONTINENT
The Book of Mormon
HE Book of Mormon is preeminently an American book, comprising the history of the aboriginal peoples of the New World. It professes to be the modern translation of certain records, covering the period from B. C. 600 to about A. D. 420, with which is incorporated the abridgment of a yet earlier history. The original account was inscribed on thin sheets of gold, in small characters of the Reformed Egyptian style. The plates were taken from their repository on the side of a hill near Palmyra, New York. This was in September, 1827; and in the early months of 1830 the English translation was published.
The Book of Mormon story deals in part with the general history of the ancient peoples, their rise and fall as nations, their wars and intrigues of state, their alternating epochs of material prosperity and adversity; but more particularly it preserves an account of the Divine revelations, the prophets and prophecies with which the ancient Americans were blessed; and thus the work stands before the world as the Scriptures of the Western Continent.
This is the story in brief. In the closing years of the 7th century B. C. there lived in Jerusalem a person of influence and wealth named Lehi. He was a righteous man and a prophet, of the tribe of Manasseh and therefore a descendant of Joseph, son of Jacob.