Which one of these is not like the others?
Having a hard time? I’ll give you a hint. It is the picture featured in most church magazines and lesson manuals. The correct answer is, picture number 3.
Why is it so out of place in this line-up? Well, it is the one that does not depict how the Book of Mormon was actually translated. For years, the church has shown images like this, leading its members and investigators to believe that this was how Joseph translated the golden plates. They depict Joseph intensely focused on the plates themselves, taking the translated words directly from them. This is what the church wants you to believe but it is not in synch with actual accounts of the translation process.
Emma Smith was the first person to act as a scribe for Joseph and she had the following to say about it.
“In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."
David Whitmer offered up the use of his house for the translation and this is his account:
"I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear."
He also said that:
"I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. . . . He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation."
~An Address to All Believers in Christ, David Whitmer
Of course, this brings us to the question of why is the church not forthcoming with the true method used to translate the plates. I would imagine that they are rather embarrassed by it. Try to put yourself in the shoes of an investigator. When the missionaries tell you about the coming forth of the BoM, instead of showing you a nice picture of Joseph using the plates in the translation, they tell you that he put a stone in a hat and then covered his face with it to make the words appear to him. Which account would you be more likely to believe?