Mark E. Petersen, “More than a Farm Boy” New Era, Dec 2004, 33
Mark E. Petersen was called as an Apostle in 1944. He served in that calling for 40 years, until his death in 1984. Here he teaches that from a humble beginning, Joseph Smith became the mighty prophet of the Restoration.
Joseph was the instrument through whom the true Church and kingdom of God were again restored to earth. He brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God. He was the means of having it published in his own day on two continents. He sent the everlasting gospel, now restored, to the four quarters of the earth.
He lived great, and he died great, a martyr to the cause of Christ; and, like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, he sealed his mission and his testimony with his life’s blood (see D&C 135:3).
He left a name and a fame that will never die, and as the years roll on and the Church continues taking the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, his name will be magnified even further, honored and blessed by the millions of faithful who come to know how truly great his calling was. He was foreordained in heaven to this mighty work in latter days. He fulfilled his mission with honor and inspiration, a beacon to all who follow him, giving glory always to God on high, for whom he labored.
But great as this mighty prophet was, he had but a humble beginning. He was raised as a farm boy, with little formal education. His home as a youth was in western New York, then on the frontier of the United States.
The Book of Mormon
On the 22nd day of September 1823, near Palmyra, New York, an angel of God revealed [the Book of Mormon’s] resting place to a 17-year-old boy named Joseph Smith, at this time as yet an unlearned, uneducated farm laborer, but now called of God to be His modern prophet.
The book was of metal having the appearance of gold. It consisted of metallic pages as thin as common tin. Each page measured about seven by eight inches [18 by 20 cm], and all were bound together at the back with metal rings which allowed the pages to be turned over easily. The book was about six inches [15 cm] thick. Each page was covered on both sides with ancient writing in small but beautifully engraved characters. The book lay in a stone box which had protected it from the elements for centuries. …
Many stone boxes have been found, especially in Mexico and Central America: Some are small, beautifully engraved, and contain jewelry; others are large enough for food storage. The use of stone boxes was common in ancient times.
By the Gift and Power of God
But let us consider … the actual translation of this record. Joseph Smith says he did it by the gift and power of God, through the use of the Urim and Thummim. As unlearned as he was at that time in his life, he could have done it in no other way. …
… Oliver Cowdery, his scribe, said the same thing, adding, “I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet [Joseph Smith] as he translated it by the gift and power of God.” 1
“I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when [I acted] as his scribe, [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. … It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so … unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.” 2 …
The whole task of translation was a miracle. The book is “a marvellous work and a wonder,” as Isaiah said (Isa. 29:14). …