Question: Could Joseph have used a Bible during and simply dictated from it during Book of Mormon translation?

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: Could Joseph have used a Bible during and simply dictated from it during Book of Mormon translation?

Nobody ever reported seeing a Bible, because Joseph was looking at the stone in the hat in full view of witnesses

The witnesses of the translation are unanimous that Joseph did not have a book or papers, and could not have concealed them if he did have. Since much of the translation was done via Joseph's seer stone placed into his hat to exclude the light, it is not clear how the critics believe Joseph concealed a Bible or notes in the hat, and then read them in the dark.

Emma Smith described this portion of the translation:

Q — [Joseph Smith III]. What is the truth of Mormonism?
A — [Emma]. 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.
Q —. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A —. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q —. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. — If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Q. — 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?
A. — Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else.[1]

NOTE: Some Mormon scholars believe that the passages in the Book of Mormon which match, for the most part, the wording of similar passages in the King James Bible, indicate that Joseph Smith simply used the wording from the Bible as he dictated. If this is the case, he clearly received that wording as part of the revelatory process, since the witnesses confirm that there was no book or Bible present at the time. For more information see Ensign (Sept. 1977): "If his translation was essentially the same as that of the King James version, he apparently quoted the verse from the Bible"


  1. Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” Journal of History (Jan. 1916): 454; cited in Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign 23 no. 7 (July 1993), 62.