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How Did the Angel Moroni Tell Joseph Smith About the Book of Mormon?

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Book of Mormon angel Moroni Joseph Smith

The painting "The Hill Cumorah" (circa 1800s) by Carl Christian Anton Christensen, depicting the angel Moroni and the prophet Joseph Smith

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Question: How Did the Angel Moroni Tell Joseph Smith About the Book of Mormon?

An angel named Moroni appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith several times from 1823 to 1827 to tell him about some golden plates that Moroni said contained divinely inspired information to supplement the Bible. Moroni told Smith where to find the plates and taught Smith how to translate them. Then Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), and published the information from the plates as the Book of Mormon in 1830. Here’s what Smith said happened when Moroni first visited him on the night of September 21, 1823, according to Smith’s official testimony about the event:

Answer:

Light Fills the Bedroom

After Smith went to bed that night, he reported that he began praying "to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before him."

Then, Smith described seeing a light appear in his bedroom and the angel Moroni manifesting there:

"While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. ... Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning. The room was exceedingly light, but not so very bright as immediately around his person. When I first looked upon him, I was afraid; but the fear soon left me."

A Messenger

Smith then described how Moroni "... said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me" and told Smith that "God had a work for me to do" and that work would be controversial, revealing that, in the future, "my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people."

A Book Written on Gold Plates

Next, Smith said, Moroni told him about an important book and sacred crystal stones from a breastplate that would help Smith translate the book.

"He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; Also, that there were two stones in silver bows -- and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim -- deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted 'seers' in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.

Quoting Biblical Scripture

Moroni then quoted many different passages from the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament, according to Smith’s testimony. Some of the prophecies had already been fulfilled, Moroni said, and others would be fulfilled soon.

A Vision of Where the Plates Were Deposited

Moroni told Smith that he would show him the location of the golden plates and the breastplate with sacred stones, but also gave Smith a warning, saying: "... I should not show them to any person; neither the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim; only to those to whom I should be commanded to show them; if I did I should be destroyed. While he was conversing with me about the plates, the vision was opened to my mind that I could see the place where the plates were deposited, and that so clearly and distinctly that I knew the place again when I visited it."

Repeating the Message

Smith next described how Moroni left his bedroom through a "conduit" that opened up to heaven, only to return later that same evening and repeat what he had said earlier, then leave once more and return a third and final time for that night.

During Moroni’s third visit, he cautioned Smith about how to properly use the golden plates after he found them: "... telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father's family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them."

A Daytime Visit

The next day, Smith said, he was working on his family’s farm and pondering all he had experienced the night before, Moroni again appeared to him while he was lying in a field after "... my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything."

Smith continued: "The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received."

So Smith did tell his father about what the angel Moroni had told him, and after his father told him that he agreed that Moroni’s message was from God, Smith set off in search of the golden plates, which he said were buried in a hill called Cumorah, near their farm in western New York: "I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there."

Annual Angelic Visits Over Four More Years

Smith said that he couldn’t remove the golden plates at first, but Moroni came back to visit him annually over the next four years (until 1827) to prepare him to take possession of the plates and translate them: "I made an attempt to take them out, but was forbidden by the messenger, and was again informed that the time for bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would it, until four years from that time; but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so until the time should come for obtaining the plates."

After Smith completed the translation, he said, the angel Moroni took the golden plates back. But Smith had 11 different people who said they had seen the golden plates while he was working on the translation sign statements saying that they had seen the plates in person, and eight of those people stated that they had actually handled the golden plates while Smith had them, before Moroni took them to heaven.

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