This chapter deals with the publication of the Book of Mormon. This is very important. While the Bible is the foundational text of Christianity, the Restored Church is founded upon both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Bible led Joseph to the grove to pray. Prayer led to the Book of Mormon, which is the basis for priesthood restoration, dozens of revelations given to Joseph, and even the modern temple (the endowment IS in there).
As with translation, the printing process was not easy. The publisher, E.B. Grandin, insisted on having the full $3000 paid before he would print 5000 copies of the book. In today’s money, that would be the equivalent of $82,000, about $16.40 per book for printing.
Joseph worked his farm in Harmony, while Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and Hyrum Smith oversaw the publication. To protect the manuscript, Oliver made a copy. Then he would take a few pages, enough for a day’s work, to the publisher for preparation. They would engage int he tedious work of reviewing the sheets, to ensure there were no misspellings, etc.
In one of his letters to Joseph, Oliver wrote:
“When I begin to write on the mercies of God,” he told Joseph, “I know not when to stop, but time and paper fail.”9
Even as the book was being published, it was a tool of conversion. Thomas Marsh, unsettled by the traditional Christian Churches, went in search of something better. After traveling several hundreds of miles, he heard of the Book of Mormon, and went to Palmyra and Grandin. Grandin gave him a sheet with 16 pages on it, ,which he read and took home to show his wife, Elizabeth. They both instantly believed.
Grandin rented his print shop out at night to a man named, Abner Cole. Cole found the sheets being prepared for the Book of Mormon, and started including them as a serial in his newspaper. Joseph had to put out a desist order, in order to protect his copyright.
By March 26, 1830, the first copies of the Book of Mormon had been bound and were available for sale on the ground floor of Grandin’s printing office. They were tightly bound in brown calfskin and smelled of leather and glue, paper and ink. The words Book of Mormon appeared on the spines in gold letters.14
Unlike today, the Testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses were placed at the back of the book.
Grandin put the books out for people to buy in his shop. Few did, as most were happy being Christian with the Bible, and believed the Book of Mormon to be a piece of scurrilous fiction.
One published, the Prophet was ready to officially organize the Church. Amazing how the Church couldn’t first be established and later come the book. No, the Lord was wise in bringing for the Book of Mormon first. As I said, it is a foundational book for the Church. It sets the Restored Church off from all other traditional Churches. It provides a stronger witness of Christ than even most of the New Testament. And it allowed the newly formed Church to being its work of preparing the world for the Second Coming of Christ.
Missionaries were soon called to serve in the States and Canada. Congregations were established. Men were ordained to the priesthood. All believers were baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost.
D&C 21 was given as the first revelation to the newly formed Church. It required a record kept for the Church – we’re now a Church with lots and lots of records, from personal journals to recording each ordinance for the living and the dead. The revelation also establishes Joseph as the first elder and prophet of the Church.
Imagine Joseph’s joy to see his parents baptized. The book does not mention it, but Joseph Sr was an alcoholic at this time, having lost his self confidence after some major financial setbacks. His inner struggle was so great that Alvin and Hyrum took it upon themselves to be heavily engaged in caring for their parents (including building them a better house). Joining the Restored Church would set Joseph Sr back on the track to redeeming himself.
Today, Dec 23, is Joseph Smith Junior’s birthday. He is 213 years old. Consider all that has occurred since that time. From a small cabin with a few dozen people in it to start a little congregation, to a Church with global reach, 200+ temples, tens of thousands of missionaries, millions of members, and tens of millions of hours given in service by its members every year. Amazing.