Amy Easton-Flake and Rachel Cope discuss some of the women who handled or saw the BOM plates or assisted in the coming forth of the BOM.

Amy Easton-Flake

Amy Easton-Flake and Rachel Cope, “A Multiplicity of Witnesses: Women and the Translation Process,” in The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, ed. Dennis L. Largey, Andrew H. Hedges, John Hilton III, and Kerry Hull (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), 133–53.

BYU Religious Studies Center, Deseret Book
Rachel Cope, Amy Easton-Flake
Reading Public

Four women in early Church history—Mary Musselman Whitmer, Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy Harris, and Emma Hale Smith—played significant roles in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and offered their own witnesses of the plates’ reality. While their names and narratives are well known, scholars and members of the Church have largely overlooked their powerful and important contributions to the work of translation, since they were not a part of the official three or eight witnesses. This chapter addresses this gap in scholarship and historical memory by looking at a variety of sources (both those that are frequently cited and those that have been largely neglected) that recount these women’s experiences with the plates. It considers the various ways in which they came to know of the plates’ temporality and divinity and shows the multiplicity of witnesses that emerge when we privilege ways of knowing and seeing beyond the visual. Evaluating these women’s memories of and interactions with the plates helps us to understand better the translation process and the truly communal effort it required.

. . .

Each of these women—Mary Musselman Whitmer, Lucy Mack Smith, Lucy Harris, and Emma Hale Smith—aided the work of translation and offered their own witnesses of the plates’ reality. By recognizing their contributions, we not only place women back into the narrative in which they were integral actors, but we also expand the scope of ways in which to witness and what it means to be a witness. Touch, sound, spiritual impressions, and visions may in fact produce, as these women illustrate, a more lasting and powerful experience than sight. In turn, through the witnesses of these women, we may see how the translation of the Book of Mormon both required and created community effort; males and females, people young and old, both family and friends all worked together on this important project. Almost two centuries later, the miracle of this great work may resonate more and build greater faith when we recognize how God used dedicated men and women to bring forth his great work of translation and restoration.

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