What Did Reformed Egyptian Characters in the Book of Mormon Look Like?

Want to see copies of original characters from the gold plates up close? Thanks to The Joseph Smith Papers, you can.

From the moment Joseph Smith received the gold plates in 1827, he constantly had to protect them. The angel Moroni gave him specific instructions to keep them safe—not only from thieves, who wanted to steal them for their monetary value, but also from those who would look at their contents unworthily. The plates were sacred because they contained the words of ancient prophets. Joseph said that if he allowed others who were not authorized to see the plates, he would be destroyed.

Whitworth, Book of Mormon Characters

Only a very few people were authorized to see the engravings written on the plates. (See “Book of Mormon Witnesses.”) After Joseph completed the translation, he gave the gold plates back to Moroni in 1829.

Although we are not able to hold the plates ourselves or see the engravings carved into them so carefully by Mormon and Moroni, thanks to The Joseph Smith Papers we can view copies of some of the characters from the plates.

The Joseph Smith Papers provide online access to three documents that include copies of characters from the gold plates. Two of these documents were written by men who worked closely with Joseph: John Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery. The third copy was featured in an 1844 church-affiliated newspaper the Prophet.

A witness of the Book of Mormon comes through prayer and through the Spirit. Basing your testimony solely on archeological evidence or on the authenticity of ancient hieroglyphics may not be wise. If you are not rooted by a testimony borne of the Spirit, it is easy to get lost in scholarly debates surrounding spiritual matters. But these copies of characters found on the sacred gold plates can supplement a spiritually rooted testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Read the history of the gold plates and how the character copies came about.

Source: The Joseph Smith Papers
—Nicole Whitworth, Mormon Insights

Find more insights

Read an article on lds.org about the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Watch or read Elder Mark E. Petersen discuss how Joseph received the plates.

Read a blog post from mormon.org about the authorship of the Book of Mormon.

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  1. I love that this article encourages us to seek tangible learning but still points out that our testimonies will only stand if they’re rooted in spiritual truth.

    • After all this time, I still believe my 1970 article in the Newsletter and Proceedings of the S.E.H.A. The “Anthon Transcript” and two Mesoamerican cylinder Seals; 1970, But all ways follow Jennifer’ admonition

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