Source:Echoes:Ch1:6:Physical layout of translation

Physical arrangement of the translation space

Parent page: Method of translating the Book of Mormon

Was there, or was there not, a curtain separating Joseph Smith and his scribe during the translation?

Neal A. Maxwell,

With regard to the physical circumstances of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his scribe, Martin Harris was quoted as saying there was a blanket or curtain hung between himself and Joseph during the translation process. If Martin is accurately quoted, perhaps this occurred when the Prophet was copying characters directly from the plates in the sample to be taken to Professor Charles Anthon, since the dates mentioned are several months before Martin Harris's brief scribal duties began. I say this because although David Whitmer mentions a blanket being used, it was only to partition off the living area in order to keep both the translator and scribe from the eyes of visitors. [1]

In fact, Elizabeth Anne Whitmer Cowdery, Oliver's wife, said, "Joseph never had a curtain drawn between him and his scribe." [2] Emma likewise said of her days as scribe, early on, that Joseph dictated "hour after hour with nothing between us." [3]

Of course, the real revelatory process involved Joseph's mind and faith, which could not be seen by others in any case.[4]


  1. Lyndon W. Cook, ed., David Whitmer Interviews: A Restoration Witness (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book, 1991), 173.
  2. Quoted in John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information," FARMS report WRR–86, 25.
  3. Joseph Smith III, "Last Testimony of Sister Emma," 289.
  4. Neal A. Maxwell, "By The Gift and Power of God," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), Chapter 1, references silently removed—consult original for citations.