Appendix 2: Copies of Book of Mormon Characters, Introduction

Featured are three documents—one apparently created by , one penned by , and one published as a broadside by a church-affiliated newspaper—that claim to include copies of characters JS transcribed from the . Although it is unlikely that JS was involved directly in the creation of any of these “characters documents,” each may have derived from a text JS created. Since none of the three documents can be verified as copies of a specific JS document, they are included in an appendix to this volume rather than as featured texts.
According to his history, JS obtained the on 22 September 1827 in , New York, and returned them to an after he finished the Book of Mormon, about the end of June 1829. JS’s history added that he was commanded not to show the plates to anyone: “I should not show them to any person, neither the breastplate with the only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them, If I did I should be destroyed.” While the plates were in his possession, JS kept them hidden from view—encased in a log in the woods, in a barn, or underneath a bed. When the plates were not secretly stored, JS kept them covered from view under a tablecloth, stored in a wooden box, or enclosed in a sack, despite considerable pressure from skeptics, family members, friends, and his scribes to see them. Fulfilling a JS revelation, eleven witnesses viewed the plates at about the end of June 1829 and signed statements testifying of them. There is no evidence that any of these witnesses saw or handled the plates except on the occasion described in their statements, and none ever claimed to have copied characters from the plates. later recalled that an angel showed the plates to his mother, , in 1829, but there is no indication that she copied any of the characters either. Therefore, any characters copied from the plates were copied only by JS, meaning that if the documents presented here contain characters that originated from the gold plates, they must have derived from a JS document.
JS had the plates in his possession between September 1827 and June 1829 and could have copied characters from them anytime during that period. He created at least one document with copied characters by early 1828, when took a document containing characters copied by JS to scholars in , , and . While most extant accounts of JS copying characters from the gold plates focus on this event, he likely created other documents containing characters before he returned the plates, a possibility also supported by differing accounts of the copying process. For example, recalled that JS’s wife helped produce a document containing the characters; because she presumably never saw the plates, she must have copied a document previously transcribed by JS. Reuben Hale, Emma’s brother, may have helped JS create an additional document; a statement reportedly made by Reuben’s brother David indicated that Reuben “assisted Joe Smith to fix up some characters such as Smith pretended were engraven on his book of plates.” If these accounts are correct, JS created, at the very least, two documents containing characters.
Several accounts describing texts containing characters from the plates likewise suggest the existence of multiple documents—documents with content completely different from one another. Neither JS’s earliest account nor ’s account explains what was copied or the number of characters copied. John Clark, an Episcopalian pastor in , claimed that had shown him a document with characters from the plates. He wrote that Harris “carefully unfolded a slip of paper, which contained three or four lines of characters.” The first and third documents featured below are similar in format to the document Clark described, although they vary in the number of lines and in the number of characters in each line. Accounts apparently describing different documents may in fact be describing the same document in various stages of completion; in other words, one eyewitness may describe a document that was later added to and described differently by someone else. Similarly, accounts that seem to describe the same document may refer to similarly formatted documents with different content.
A number of extant accounts appear to describe more complex documents that included more than just samples of characters from the plates. A later report by printer Orsamus Turner, for example, suggests that showed Turner’s informant an untranslated copy of the Book of Mormon title page in an attempt to convince him to print the book. also claimed that JS “transcribe[d] the Egyptian alphabet” from the plates. JS’s later history describes a document that included copies of the characters along with their translation, a document that may have been similar to the second document featured below. The most intricate account of a characters document came from , one of the scholars Martin Harris visited. Anthon reportedly described the paper shown to him as “a singular scrawl” that “consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns.” In an 1841 letter, Anthon reportedly stated that the document had “columns, like the Chinese mode of writing,” and “Greek, Hebrew, and all sorts of letters . . . intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars, and other natural objects, and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac.” If this description is accurate, the document Harris showed Anthon was longer and more complex than any of the surviving texts.
JS may have created separate characters documents for different purposes. For example, the document shown to Anthon was likely created for scholars who might identify, verify, or translate the characters. The document described by Orsamus Turner may have been created especially to persuade a printer to publish the Book of Mormon. JS likely also copied characters for a broader audience; one resident remembered that documents containing characters from the plates were exhibited publicly. JS and others may have also wanted personal copies, and in later years JS showed copies of the characters to visitors such as and Reverend George Moore.
The three documents featured were all purported to include characters copied from the gold plates, and they likely are representative of characters JS copied from the plates.
Documents
Featured are three documents—one apparently created by , one penned by , and one published as a broadside by a church-affiliated newspaper—that claim to include copies of characters JS transcribed from the . Although it is unlikely that JS was involved directly in the creation of any of these “characters documents,” each may have derived from a text JS created. Since none of the three documents can be verified as copies of a specific JS document, they are included in an appendix to this volume rather than as featured texts.
According to his history, JS obtained the on 22 September 1827 in , New York, and returned them to an after he finished the Book of Mormon, about the end of June 1829. JS’s history added that he was commanded not to show the plates to anyone: “I should not show them to any person, neither the breastplate with the only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them, If I did I should be destroyed.” While the plates were in his possession, JS kept them hidden from view—encased in a log in the woods, in a barn, or underneath a bed. When the plates were not secretly stored, JS kept them covered from view under a tablecloth, stored in a wooden box, or enclosed in a sack, despite considerable pressure from skeptics, family members, friends, and his scribes to see them. Fulfilling a JS revelation, eleven witnesses viewed the plates at about the end of June 1829 and signed statements testifying of them. There is no evidence that any of these witnesses saw or handled the plates except on the occasion described in their statements, and none ever claimed to have copied characters from the plates. later recalled that an angel showed the plates to his mother, , in 1829, but there is no indication that she copied any of the characters either. Therefore, any characters copied from the plates were copied only by JS, meaning that if the documents presented here contain characters that originated from the gold plates, they must have derived from a JS document.
JS had the plates in his possession between September 1827 and June 1829 and could have copied characters from them anytime during that period. He created at least one document with copied characters by early 1828, when took a document containing characters copied by JS to scholars in , , and . While most extant accounts of JS copying characters from the gold plates focus on this event, he likely created other documents containing characters before he returned the plates, a possibility also supported by differing accounts of the copying process. For example, recalled that JS’s wife helped produce a document containing the characters; because she presumably never saw the plates, she must have copied a document previously transcribed by JS. Reuben Hale, Emma’s brother, may have helped JS create an additional document; a statement reportedly made by Reuben’s brother David indicated that Reuben “assisted Joe Smith to fix up some characters such as Smith pretended were engraven on his book of plates.” If these accounts are correct, JS created, at the very least, two documents containing characters.
Several accounts describing texts containing characters from the plates likewise suggest the existence of multiple documents—documents with content completely different from one another. Neither JS’s earliest account nor ’s account explains what was copied or the number of characters copied. John Clark, an Episcopalian pastor in , claimed that had shown him a document with characters from the plates. He wrote that Harris “carefully unfolded a slip of paper, which contained three or four lines of characters.” The first and third documents featured below are similar in format to the document Clark described, although they vary in the number of lines and in the number of characters in each line. Accounts apparently describing different documents may in fact be describing the same document in various stages of completion; in other words, one eyewitness may describe a document that was later added to and described differently by someone else. Similarly, accounts that seem to describe the same document may refer to similarly formatted documents with different content.
A number of extant accounts appear to describe more complex documents that included more than just samples of characters from the plates. A later report by printer Orsamus Turner, for example, suggests that showed Turner’s informant an untranslated copy of the Book of Mormon title page in an attempt to convince him to print the book. also claimed that JS “transcribed the Egyptian alphabet” from the plates. JS’s later history describes a document that included copies of the characters along with their translation, a document that may have been similar to the second document featured below. The most intricate account of a characters document came from , one of the scholars Martin Harris visited. Anthon reportedly described the paper shown to him as “a singular scrawl” that “consisted of all kinds of crooked characters disposed in columns.” In an 1841 letter, Anthon reportedly stated that the document had “columns, like the Chinese mode of writing,” and “Greek, Hebrew, and all sorts of letters . . . intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars, and other natural objects, and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac.” If this description is accurate, the document Harris showed Anthon was longer and more complex than any of the surviving texts.
JS may have created separate characters documents for different purposes. For example, the document shown to Anthon was likely created for scholars who might identify, verify, or translate the characters. The document described by Orsamus Turner may have been created especially to persuade a printer to publish the Book of Mormon. JS likely also copied characters for a broader audience; one resident remembered that documents containing characters from the plates were exhibited publicly. JS and others may have also wanted personal copies, and in later years JS showed copies of the characters to visitors such as and Reverend George Moore.
The three documents featured were all purported to include characters copied from the gold plates, and they likely are representative of characters JS copied from the plates.
Documents