Understanding the Translation Process: Did Joseph Smith use the Urim and Thummim & Gold Plates or Rock in a Hat? (And why the 116 pages weren’t retranslated)

Book of Mormon and the Seer Stone
Some early accounts have the Book of Mormon being translated by a Urim & Thummim with Gold plates and others with a dark Seer Stone and no plates. The truth is that the 116 pages used the Urim & Thummim, but after they were stolen, the plates were returned, and the present version was channeled/revealed to Joseph using the stone and hat as a guise.


Many critics have suggested that Joseph Smith’s unwillingness or ‘inability’ to retranslate the 116 stolen pages of the Book of Mormon is evidence that the record is not an actual translation.

However, I had an interesting revelation that the 116 pages will actually play a major role in proving the truth of the Book of Mormon, after the end of the ‘Fullness of the Gentiles’. (see D&C 45:25, D&C 121:27–31)

The strong impression I got as I woke from a dream was that THE 116 PAGES STILL EXIST! As also the gold plates, which were reburied– and NOT taken by an angel, so that they could be again ‘found’ when the time is right. And because they deal largely in history and secular matters they will allow researchers to more fully understand where the Book of Mormon took place and how it relates to Israeli, Mesoamerican and North American prehistory.

Following is the logic which came to me as I woke from a dream.


The 116 pages were nearly verbatim translations of the ancient record, through the Urim & Thummim (crystal seer stones attached to metal frames, hidden with the plates). The Book of Mormon we have today was not a translation. It is a “channeled”, anglicized, modernized, euro-Christianized version of the ancient record summarized by spiritual beings, and given to Joseph through mediumship or revelation with the rock in the hat (This part I already believed).

After Martin Harris and his wife were complicit in stealing the 116 pages, the Angelic beings overseeing the plates determined that not only were men conspiring to change the transcript and then steal the plates from Joseph, but they also saw the contents of the translation which they read through in order to change as pagan, unchristian, devilish and evil. (because the religion taught in the book was from pre-exilic Jews and was much more like what’s found in the Kolbrin.

This unexpected reaction prompted the spiritual overseers to change course and give Joseph Smith a summarized “preparatory” (see 3 Ne 26:9–10) version of the record which was more friendly to the Euro-Christian culture of Joseph’s day. This ‘preparatory anglicized version of the book is sometimes called the ‘expansion theory’, and is fairly obvious when comparing the language and ideology of the Book of Mormon with ancient texts and is the only way to really explain how the Book of Mormon has so amazing Mesoamerican, native American and Jewish cultural aspects mixed with such obviously 19th century concepts and Euro-Christian language.

However, much like the Kolbrin (British Israeli history) and the early Israeli record vaults mentioned therein, the 116 pages and gold plates will be found/revealed in the final dispensation, sometime within the next 150 years.

“1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.

6… even the man in whom you have trusted has sought to destroy you.

7 And for this cause I said that he is a wicked man, for he has sought to take away the things wherewith you have been entrusted; and he has also sought to destroy your gift.

8 And because you have delivered the writings into his hands, behold, wicked men have taken them from you…

12 And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work..

43 [but] I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” (D&C 10)

After this betrayal, the angelic overseers of the plates made the decision to take the plates back. However, the story of the angel physically “taking” the plates was imagined by Joseph’s mom Lucy. Instead they instructed Joseph to put them back in the stone crypt (or possibly a new location) & bury it with dirt and leaves. Joseph used vague wording to the effect of “god took the plates back”, so no further attempts would be made to search or find them would be made. (an account not solidified until 1853, read Lucy Mack’s history here)

This is also why the three witness were shown the plates only in vision. Joseph Smith first retrieved the Book of Mormon on Sept 22, 1827, and translation on the 116 pages took place using the actual plates in late 1827 and early 1828 when the manuscript was stolen. Joseph was castigated in D&C 10 and the plates returned to the hill sometime by early summer 1828. In April 1829, he met Oliver Cowdery, who replaced Harris as his scribe, and resumed dictation–this time channeling the account through revelation while occasionally using the rock in the hat to aid his focus. They worked full time on the manuscript between April and early June 1829. The three witnesses were then shown the plates in vision or ‘with an eye of faith‘ on June 28, 1829. The finished manuscript of the current channeled or revealed summary of the Book of Mormon was finished about July 1929.



Much like the Book of Ben Kathryn, I was led to find the Kolbrin after my mission shortly after it was first published. The Kolbrin (Somewhat like a Book of Mormon for Great Britain), gives an account unbelievably similar to the box, records, and seer stones associated with the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Read more about the Kolbrin and its amazing Egyptian, Assyrian and British historical records at my article on it here.

“When I was young my grand-father told me that the Kolbrin had been brought back to light by his grand-father’s people in the place known to them as Futeril Cairn, beyond the pool of Pantlyn at Carclathan by way of Gwendwor in Wales.”
“I remember him saying it was originally written in the old alphabet of thirty-six letters. The books were stored in a tinker’s budget box, the lid of which was not hinged but held with flanges and lifted off after being heated, a cunning device of the wayfaring tinkers [Traveling MetalSmiths]. It was also secured with pins and stirrups. There were goblin heads at the corners and it was fastened by locking bars inside and out. I never saw it, nor did I know anyone who knew whether it still existed.”

“I remember being told that inside the box was a clear glass roundish ball about the size of a large apple, which at one spot reflected all the colours of the rainbow. It was encased in a precious cagework inside a protective cover of horny hide which had raised swellings, the like of which my grand-father had never seen before. He knew a lot about animals and their hides, but could not tell what this was; he thought it might have been the hide of some kind of large, horny snakelike creature such as those which live in deep lakes.”

“There were two stones of dullish glass like rainstones, one being whitish at one end. Each was oval in shape and somewhat flattened and tapered towards one end. Grand-mother used to tell fortunes with these and they went to cousin Sarah in America. There were two other pieces of rounded glass set in something made of bone which had pretty designs engraved on it. The bone setting was falling apart and was of no conceivable use. There was also a bluish coloured cross with an opening at the top and its arms were forked at the ends. This was fastened by a small chain curiously worked, to piece of round brass about the size of a small plate which was engraved with figured, of which a bird, a wand, two billhooks, a whip and some heads could be made out. There were beads of blue and red and a brooch shaped like a hook and made of gold. There was a acorn-like cap such as Flamens wear.”

“There was also a longish brass object like a knife, with engraving, in a wrapping of rotten wood. That is all there was, except for the books which were not like books at all. I do not know what became of the other items. I saw the glass ball once when I was a small child but cannot remember much about it, except that it was hollow at one end and when I put a finger in the hollow it felt warm.



After the above came to me (in the morning waking from a dream and accompanied by a certain feeling which I associate with revelation instead of my own thoughts) it was interesting that I found an account which seems to corroborate the idea that only the first part of the Book of Mormon was translated with the Urim & Thummim. This is something I’d never read or imagined prior to my inspiration on the matter…

Now the first that my husband translated, was translated by use of the Urim, and Thummim, and that was the part that Martin Harris lost, after that he used a small stone, not exactly, black, but was rather a dark color. (Emma Smith Bidamon to Emma Pilgrim, 27 March 1870,” in Early Mormon Documents, 1:532)

During a private interview with her son Joseph Smith III in 1879, Emma responded to questions about the translation after a lifetime of thought and contemplation. Just months before her death, Emma gave these answers to the following questions concerning the translation process. (see original publication here)

Question. Who were scribes for father when translating the Book of Mormon?

Answer. Myself, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and my brother Reuben Hale.

Question. Was Alva Hale one?

Answer. I think not. He may have written some; but if he did, I do not remember it.

Question. What of the truth of Mormonism?

Answer. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the Church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.

Question. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?

Answer. He had neither manuscript nor book to read from.

Question. Could he not have had, and you not know it?

Answer. If he had had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.

Question. Are you sure that he had the plates at the time you were writing for him?

Answer. The plates often lay on the table without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecloth, which I had given him to fold them in. I once felt of the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metallic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book.

Question. Where did father and Oliver Cowdery write?

Answer. Oliver Cowdery and your father wrote in the room where I was at work.

Question. Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?

Answer. Joseph Smith (and for the first time she used his name direct, having usually used the words, “your father” or “my husband”) could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, and was present during the translation of the plates, and had cognizance of things as they transpired, it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to anyone else.

Question. I should suppose that you would have uncovered the plates and examined them?

Answer. I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than I have told you, nor uncover them to look at them [Joseph had covenanted to ONLY show 4 people, see smith 1832. v5]. I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so;

Major Bidamon here suggested: Did Mr. Smith forbid your examining the plates?

Answer. I do not think he did. I knew that he had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work.

Question. Mother, what is your belief about the authenticity, or origin, of the Book of Mormon?

Answer. My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity – I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.

D&C 17:1–7 “was given in answer through the Urim and Thummim”, and explains that it was given to the Brother of Jared upon the Mount.

1 Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.

2 And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.

3 And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;

4 And this you shall do that my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., may not be destroyed, that I may bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men in this work.

5 And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.

6 And he has translated the book, even that part which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth it is true.

7 Wherefore, you have received the same power, and the same faith, and the same gift like unto him;



When I get a minute…. I’ll assemble every historical account I can find, describing both before and after the change in methods…