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Accusatory Questions

Didn't Joseph Smith only start claiming to be a prophet and seer after he wrote the Book of Mormon?

by Jeff Lindsay

Several anti-LDS critics have charged that Joseph's calling as a prophet was something he thought of after producing the Book of Mormon. The theory is that he originally just claimed to have a gift for translating, but later sought more power and prestige by claiming to also be a prophet. This is readily refuted by a glance at the Book of Mormon itself, which teaches that the gift of translating sacred records by divine power. Here is the relevant passage from what is now labeled Mosiah 8:13-16, as it occurred in the original 1830 publication:

Now, Ammon saith unto him, I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records: for he hath wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters; and no man can look in them, except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he had not ought, and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. And behold, the king of the people which is in the land of Zarahemla, is the man that is commanded to do these things, and which hath this high gift from God. And the king saith, That a seer is greater than a prophet. And Ammon saith, That a seer is a revelator, and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater, can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

(D. Charles Pyle, Book of Mormon - 1830 Edition: The Text of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon, Divided into Modern Chapter and Verse Divisions for Easy Comparison with Subsequent Editions (1998), pp. 172-173 (electronic edition), as cited in e-mail from D. Charles Pyle.)

Likewise, a prophecy in 2 Nephi 3 also indicates that the translator, who would be named Joseph, would be a seer and would do a great work far beyond translating the Book of Mormon. There is simply no merit to claims that Joseph developed the idea of being a prophet and seer after the Book of Mormon was written.

(See The Book of Mormon home page; Response to Criticism home page; Accusatory Questions home page)

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