The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon is a work that brings heaven and earth together, said President Russell M. Nelson at an event on Tuesday, Jan. 25, celebrating the latest edition of the Joseph Smith Papers project.
“Its original manuscript is one of the most significant and sacred artifacts the Church possesses,” said the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Church historians have taken great care — over more than a century — to gather even the most minuscule fragments of the manuscript and preserve them from further damage.”
A new volume in the Joseph Smith Papers project — part of the Revelations and Translations series which contains facsimiles of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon — now makes those historic and sacred documents available to the public.
“The Book of Mormon is pivotal to that promised ‘marvelous work and a wonder,’ prophesied by Isaiah centuries ago,” said President Nelson. “The Book of Mormon has renewed God’s covenant love for His children. And it has initiated and enabled the long-promised gathering of Israel.”
President Nelson and his counselors in the First Presidency, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, met in the Church Administration Building in downtown Salt Lake City on Tuesday to thank those who helped make the newest volume possible. The gathering included co-editors Royal Skousen and Robin Scott Jensen.
Also participating were Gail Miller and her husband, Kim Wilson. The couple have offered substantial financial support for Joseph Smith Papers Project — an effort started two decades ago by Gail Miller’s late husband, Larry H. Miller.
Read more: Full pages to fragments — see the original Book of Mormon manuscript in the new Joseph Smith Papers print volume
President Nelson said while each of the 26 volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers project “is of great significance,” the Revelations and Translations series are unique.
“These revelations and translations were at the heart of Joseph Smith’s prophetic mission,” he said. “These texts were vital to the Restoration of the gospel in its fulness.”
This latest edition, Volume 5 of that series, contains facsimiles of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon and “touches my heart deeply,” he said. “From it, I more fully appreciate the gift and power of God that enabled Joseph Smith to translate it. His remarkable preparation was augmented by heavenly messengers such as Moroni, who tutored this young prophet many times throughout the period of translation.”
President Nelson called it “a deeply moving experience” to look at the pages and “see God’s hand moving His work forward.”
Elder Curtis, Church historian and recorder, said that in 1841 Joseph Smith placed the original translation of the Book of Mormon in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. When it was retrieved in 1882, it had deteriorated substantially as “water seeped into the hollowed-out cavity in the stone.”
Today the Church owns 25 percent of those fragments, with 3 percent in private collections. The remaining 72 percent of that original document was destroyed or has been lost, he said.
The imaging and transcription of 28 percent of the Book of Mormon transcript is compiled into the “truly landmark volume.”
The volume will give readers the “remarkable experience of witnessing up close one of the most significant miracles in the Church’s history.”
Miller said her family’s involvement with the Joseph Smith Papers came about “through pure inspiration and listening to that inspiration and acting on it.”
After Larry Miller’s death in 2009, Gail said there was some concern whether they would continue to support the project. The United States was in a recession. Finances were tight. They needed to be wise with their resources.”
Some suggested they cut expenses. Miller agreed, adding, “the one thing that we cannot stop doing is giving. And we continued to support the Joseph Smith Papers Project.”
“I know this is a divine work,” she continued. “I know that it is an important — almost critical — work for the Church, for people to go to the work of the Joseph Smith Papers and get the truth. The man’s history speaks for itself. It is the foundation of this Church. We worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith fortifies that. He knew what he was about. He knew he was being tutored from on high. And through this work the world will know.”
Skousen said this new volume “provides the best possible view we have, however indirect, of Joseph Smith the seer translating the Book of Mormon.”
“This manuscript provides important support for what the witnesses of the translation claimed: that Joseph dictated, word for word, an English language text that appeared in his translation instrument,” he said. “And that when necessary, he could spell out the names. This was indeed a marvelous work and a wonder.”