This month the Featured Papers section of the FARMS Web site is spotlighting three FARMS papers of special interest to students of the Book of Mormon. Larry C. Porter's "The Book of Mormon: Historical Setting for Its Translation and Publication," Richard L. Anderson's "Book of Mormon Witnesses," and Stephen D. Ricks's "The Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon" are available to all visitors to the site to read online or to download and print at no cost. (For help in printing these papers in a reader-friendly format, see the Web page section in the April issue of Insights.)
Porter's study chronicles a number of key events between May 1829 and April 1830 that relate to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He begins by discussing the Prophet Joseph Smith's translation work at the Whitmer farm and the selection and experiences of the Three and Eight Witnesses. He then focuses on the printing of the Book of Mormon, an endeavor that presented many challenges to Joseph Smith, from trouble finding a printer and delay while punctuation was added to the unauthorized printing of portions of the book and constant local antagonism. Porter discusses early efforts to preach the restored gospel using the proof sheets from the Book of Mormon, and he also mentions early labors to sell the book.
Anderson's article gives an overview of the secular and divine functions of witnesses, refers to scriptural prophecies that witnesses would be called to view the gold plates, and notes how the two sets of witnesses complement each other. Focusing on the Three Witnesses, Anderson describes the circumstances of their calling, details aspects of their lives, comments on their character traits, and responds to the typical questions of skeptics. He emphasizes that all of the witnesses were honest men with a divine mission who never denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.
Ricks's study explores the method and the instruments (the seer stone and the Urim and Thummim) that Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon plates. Ricks assembles many interesting details gleaned from accounts by the Prophet Joseph Smith's family and associates who witnessed the process of translation and bore testimony to the divine origin of the Book of Mormon.