The Anthon Transcripts and the Translation of the Book of Mormon: Studying It Out in the Mind of Joseph Smith
Prophesying of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, Nephi foretold that an unlearned man would be asked by God to read the words of a book after a learned man had failed to do so. The unlearned man was initially unwilling, claiming, “I am not learned” (2 Nephi 27:19). One interpretation of Nephi’s account is that Joseph Smith could not translate the Book of Mormon before the meeting of Martin Harris and Charles Anthon. Early historical accounts are consistent with this interpretation. However, according to Joseph Smith—History 1:64, Harris did take a translation to Anthon. Although this translation has not been found, evidence exists of similarities between this document and documents produced during the preliminary stages of the translation of the Book of Abraham. These similarities suggest that the document taken to Anthon was a preliminary and unsuccessful attempt to translate the Book of Mormon, during which Joseph Smith studied the translation problem out in his own mind as he qualified himself to receive the revealed translation from God.