Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Was Joseph Smith Really Uneducated When He Translated the Book of Mormon?

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Some may wonder why God used Joseph Smith, an uneducated man, to bring forth the Book of Mormon? And, did he use seer stones to translate the Book of Mormon? While Joseph did receive some basic education before translating the Book of Mormon, his friends, family, associates, and even critics all described him as relatively unlearned. His wife, Emma, for example, explained that at the time of the translation, he “could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter.” Martin Harris similarly declared that Joseph was “a poor writer, and could not even draw up a note of hand as his education was so limited.” 

Samples of Joseph’s early writings, including their lack of punctuation and frequently misspelled words, help confirm these descriptions. For example, Joseph himself stated that he was “deprived of the bennifit of an education” and was “mearly instructtid in reading writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic.”

It’s also noteworthy that the destitute circumstances of the Smith family required long hours of “continuous labor” from all who were capable of work. With this in mind, one literary scholar has argued that Joseph simply wouldn’t have had the time “to read broadly, undertake research, construct various drafts, and work out the plot, characters, settings, various points of view, and multiple rhetorical styles that constitute the five-hundred-plus page narrative of the Book of Mormon.”

Even if he did have the time, he clearly lacked the educational opportunities and literary development that the great writers of his day all seem to have had.

Yet despite these limitations, Joseph Smith, unlike other notable 19th-century authors, produced a literary and scriptural masterpiece at the beginning, rather than the conclusion, of his development as a writer. Numerous studies have shown that the Book of Mormon is far more complex, sophisticated, and historically authentic than many people realize.

And yet, somehow, it was brought to the world by an unlearned 23-year-old farmer, who dictated its lengthy text in no more than 74 working days without notes or reference materials, and without any substantive revisions. Additionally, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon using translation instruments and seer stones

Joseph Smith’s lack of education and experience strongly emphasize the miraculous and divine nature of the Book of Mormon’s translation. They also meaningfully fulfill Nephi’s prophecy that the Book of Mormon would be brought forth by a “man that is not learned.”

By Todd Noall, Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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