Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829
- Source Note
From mid-April to mid-June 1828, JS and his principal scribe, , finished a portion of the , producing a substantial manuscript. JS then set aside the translation work to care for his wife after she gave birth, providing Harris opportunity to return to his home in , New York. Before departing, he successfully pleaded with JS to allow him to take the manuscript to show certain members of his family. Not long after Harris’s return to Palmyra, however, the manuscript was lost. This caused JS great distress and contributed to the translation being largely discontinued until April 1829, when began serving as JS’s scribe.JS and began where JS and had left off. They worked intently day after day, and the translation progressed steadily. As JS contemplated the work’s completion, he became concerned about whether he should retranslate the lost portion. A spring 1829 revelation addressed this concern, warning him against doing so. Though it is unclear what happened to the missing pages, the revelation implied that the manuscript had been stolen by those seeking to discredit JS and further prophesied that if he were to retranslate the section he had already dictated, his enemies would publish an account deriding the translation as a fraud. Instead, the revelation directed JS to translate another portion of the plates called the plates of Nephi, which covered the same period as the lost manuscript.While revelations that JS dictated in 1828 and 1829 referred to the lost manuscript in generic terms, JS’s mention of 116 pages in the preface to the Book of Mormon was the first time he specified the number of pages lost. This page count may be an approximation based on the page numbering found on the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. The top of page 117 in that copy marks the beginning of the book of Mosiah, which corresponds to the end of the period covered in the pages lost by . However, the process of preparing the printer’s manuscript and providing portions to the typesetter suggests that the printer’s manuscript may not have comprised 116 pages by the time JS wrote the preface.In the preface, JS addressed false rumors about the Book of Mormon, briefly described how the pages were lost, and quoted the revelation concerning the missing manuscript. Included as part of the first sixteen-page gathering of the Book of Mormon, the preface is thus JS’s first autobiographical account to appear in print, as well as the first publication of any portion of his revelations.
Knight, Joseph, Sr. Reminiscences, no date. CHL. MS 3470.
Skousen, Royal. “Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of Mormon,” review of New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology, edited by Brent Lee Metcalf. Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6, no. 1 (1994): 121–144.
Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.