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God revealed intent of those who stole manuscript pages

Two Doctrine and Covenants sections - 3 and 10 - pertain to the loss of 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon. Section 3 contains the Lord's reproof of Joseph Smith for allowing himself to be persuaded to give up custody of the manuscript.

In Section 10, the Lord reveals the unscrupulous designs of those who had stolen the manuscript from Martin Harris."Those designs aimed at nothing less than the destruction of the work Joseph Smith had in hand," wrote B. H. Roberts in A Comprehensive History of the Church. "Having now in their possession so large a part of the ancient record, they would hold it and see if the Prophet in a second translation could reproduce it verbatim et literatim, if not they would say he had no gift for he could not translate the same matter twice alike, therefore he had made false pretensions; he was a false prophet, and his work must be discredited. If on the other hand, he should reproduce the matter verbatim et literatim then they had the manuscript of the first translation in their hands, and could change that and claim that the Prophet evidently could not translate the same matter twice alike, hence had not translated by inspiration, hence had no supernatural gift, hence was not a Prophet of God but an imposter. In either event they would discredit Joseph Smith as an inspired man, and destroy the work to be brought forth by him." (Vol. 1:114.)

In a footnote, Elder Roberts commented: "Evidently these conspirators acted upon the supposition that because the Prophet professed to translate by means of the Urim and Thummim under the inspiration of God, that the work of translation was automatic, a purely mechanical process that would not allow of even verbal variations in the retranslation of a given passage. . . .Translation by means of the Urim and Thummim, under the inspiration of God, is not the automatic, mechanical thing it is supposed to be, but on the contrary that method of translation would be as liable to verbal variation . . . as ordinary translation would be."

Of course, the Lord knew in advance what would take place. He inspired Mormon, the compiler of the record, to insert the Smaller Plates of Nephi into his abridgment. (See Words of Mormon 3-7.) These Joseph Smith translated in place of the material in the lost 116 pages, thus frustrating the plan to destroy the work. (See D&C 10:30.)

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