Producing Ancient Scripture

Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity

Joseph Smith, the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the broader Latter-day Saint movement, produced several volumes of scripture between 1829, when he translated the Book of Mormon, and 1844, when he was murdered. The Book of Mormon, published in 1830, is well known. Less read and studied are the subsequent texts that Smith translated after the Book of Mormon, texts that he presented as the writings of ancient Old World and New World prophets. These works were published and received by early Latter-day Saints as prophetic scripture that included important revelations and commandments from God.
This collaborative volume is the first to study Joseph Smith’s translation projects in their entirety. In this carefully curated collection, experts contribute cutting-edge research and incisive analysis. The chapters explore Smith’s translation projects in focused detail and in broad contexts, as well as in comparison and conversation with one another. Authors approach Smith’s sacred texts historically, textually, linguistically, and literarily to offer a multidisciplinary view. Scrupulous examination of the production and content of Smith’s translations opens new avenues for understanding the foundations of Mormonism, provides insight on aspects of early American religious culture, and helps conceptualize the production and transmission of sacred texts.

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Michael Hubbard MacKay is associate professor in the Department of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University and a former historian and coeditor at the Joseph Smith Papers project.
Mark Ashurst-McGee is a senior historian in the Church History Department and the senior research and review editor for the Joseph Smith Papers project, where he serves as a specialist in document analysis and documentary editing methodology.
Brian M. Hauglid is associate professor and visiting fellow at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
Table of Contents:Figures
Mormon Canon of Scripture
Short Citations to the Joseph Smith Papers
1. Introduction - Michael Hubbard MacKay, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Brian M. Hauglid
Part I: Context and Commencement
2. “By the Gift and Power of God”: Translation among the Gifts of the Spirit
Christopher James Blythe
3. “Bringing Forth” the Book of Mormon: Translation as the Reconfiguration of Bodies in Space-Time
Jared Hickman
4. Performing the Translation: Character Transcripts and Joseph Smith’s Earliest Translating Practices
Michael Hubbard MacKay
5. Reconfiguring the Archive: Women and the Social Production of the Book of Mormon
Amy Easton-Flake and Rachel Cope
Part II: Translating The Book of Mormon
6. Seeing the Voice of God: The Book of Mormon on Its Own Translation
Samuel Morris Brown
7. Joseph Smith, Helen Schucman, and the Experience of Producing a Spiritual Text: Comparing the Translating of the Book of Mormon and the Scribing of A Course in Miracles              
Ann Taves
8. Nephi’s Project: The Gold Plates as Book History
Richard Lyman Bushman
9. Ancient History and Modern Commandments: The Book of Mormon in Comparison with Joseph Smith’s Other Revelations
Grant Hardy
Part III: Translating the King James Bible
10. The Tarrying of the Beloved Disciple: The Textual Formation of the Account of John
David W. Grua and William V. Smith
11. A Recovered Resource: The Use of Adam Clarke’s Bible Commentary in Joseph Smith’s Bible Translation
Thomas A. Wayment and Haley Wilson-Lemmon
12. Lost Scripture and “the Interpolations of Men”: Joseph Smith’s Revelation on the Apocrypha
Gerrit Dirkmaat
13. Translation, Revelation, and the Hermeneutics of Theological Innovation: Joseph Smith and the Record of John
Nicholas J. Frederick
Part IV: Pure Language, the Book of Abraham, and the Kinderhook Plates
14. “Eternal Wisdom Engraven upon the Heavens”: Joseph Smith’s Pure Language Project
David Golding
15. “Translating an Alphabet to the Book of Abraham”: Joseph Smith’s Study of the Egyptian Language and His Translation of the Book of Abraham
Brian M. Hauglid
16. Approaching Egyptian Papyri through Biblical Language: Joseph Smith’s Use of Hebrew in His Translation of the Book of Abraham
Matthew J. Grey
17. “President Joseph Has Translated a Portion”: Joseph Smith and the Mistranslation of the Kinderhook Plates
Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-McGee

Praise and Reviews:“These essays collectively revise our understanding of Joseph Smith's many translation projects. I found each essay stimulating and thought-provoking. I cannot imagine writing or teaching about the Joseph Smith period of Mormonism without having this book nearby as a source to consult.”
—John Turner, professor of American religion, George Mason University, and author of The Mormon Jesus: A Biography and Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet  
“A fantastic contribution—both to the field of Mormon studies and to the larger field of religious studies as well. The volume will immediately become the standard work on the subject of Joseph Smith’s translation projects, far and away the best analyses of the topic available.”
—Joseph Spencer, assistant professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
“The editors are to be congratulated on pulling together an excellent collection of articles by seasoned historians, laying a new, higher foundation for a thorough understanding of Joseph Smith’s translations. This book is essential reading for those interested in an in-depth exploration of Joseph Smith's language and translation projects.”
—Worlds Without End: A Mormon Studies Roundtable
The comprehensiveness of the treatment of Joseph Smith’s translation projects, the quality and depth of the specific papers, and the way in which many papers confirm or interact with the others in the book, support the assertion that this is currently the most important single work examining the whole of Joseph Smith’s translation projects. For many years to come, anyone attempting to discuss any of Joseph Smith’s translation projects must refer to Producing Ancient Scripture.”
Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
“An impressive collection of essays that offers the most sophisticated, multifaceted, and detailed examination to date of Joseph Smith’s career-long process of translation and his projects in producing new scripture. This landmark study has significantly elevated the scholarly discourse surrounding the nature of Smith’s revelatory process, and the essays of all the participating scholars offer major contributions to the understanding of Joseph’s prophetic methodology. The resulting synthesis of these wide-ranging essays prompts the proverbial saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
The Journal of Mormon History
“The essays in Producing American Scripture are an invitation to engage with the production of texts in early America to far more scholars than simply those specializing in early Mormon history. The paperback edition can easily be used as a textbook in undergraduate courses on early American religion and represents some of the best current work in this field.”
Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture