What is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints view of historical-critical methods? The method calls for understanding the world behind the ancient text, accepting that the text has human origins, but still contains divine inspiration. However, with regards to the controversies surrounding the Book of Mormon concerning historical inconsistencies, and the fact that the no one except Joseph Smith, the presumed translator of the golden plates, has access to the original language of the text (Reformed Egyptian), how can the historical-critical method be applied to this book in the same way it is applied to the Bible or the Quran? More so, how is it possible to defend the faith when the culture or world behind the text is a mystery or unknown?

  • This website may be useful: maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/… The title is from a non-Mormon perspective.
    – Double U
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 3:52
  • 1
    I consider the invitation to exercise faith rather than getting hung up on ultimately uninformative manmade theories of criticism to be a blessing. How does one defend faith? By exercising it. Not by relying on the arm of flesh or worldly wisdom.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Mar 18 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


The official stance seems to be that it's a non-issue.

The official narrative is what it is. It claims that Joseph Smith was singled out by God through the angel Moroni to receive the golden plates, and the means to translate them via God's supernatural fiat. If true, one wouldn't need external validation. If it came directly from God through His supernatural power, well, God's word is all we need. God doesn't need humans to verify His revelation, humans just need to have faith in it.

From FAIR wiki, an LDS site dedicated to LDS Apologetics:

It is important to remember that what we do know for certain is that the translation of the Book of Mormon was carried out "by the gift and power of God." These are the only words that Joseph Smith himself used to describe the translation process.

As Elder Russel M. Nelson stated in the July 1993 Ensign, the "details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known." We do know, based upon witness accounts, that Joseph employed instruments designated for that purpose: The Nephite interpreters and his own seer stone. Many have offered their own opinions about how these devices "functioned" in the process, but it should be kept in mind that these opinions are given by people who never performed the translation process itself: They can only report on what they observed the Prophet doing at the time. We also know that at some later point in time, both the Nephite interpreters and Joseph's seer stone were referred to using the term "Urim and Thummim." Whether Joseph used the "original" Urim and Thummim (i.e. Nephite interpreters or "spectacles") or his own seer stone to perform this sacred task is beside the point, and it does not diminish the power of the resulting work. One should read the Book of Mormon itself and evaluate its message rather than get wrapped up in the detail of its exact method of translation.

and further down...

Church response

In 1993, Elder Russell M. Nelson stated that "[t]he details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known." 1

All that we know for certain is that Joseph translated the record "by the gift and power of God." (DC 135:3)

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