In April 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery began to work together on the translation of the Book of Mormon. Joseph did not ever describe the translation process in detail, but we see from Oliver’s experience that the process was difficult.
“‘That They Might Come to Understanding’: Revelation as Process,” Steven C. Harper, You Shall Have My Word: Exploring the Text of the Doctrine and Covenants
How Joseph Smith received revelation: Revelation is communication in which God is a flawless, divine encoder, but mortals are the decoders. Various kinds of “noise” prevent perfect understanding. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith thought in technical terms of communication theory, but he understood these ideas well. He did not assume as we might that his revelation texts were faxed from heaven. He understood that the Lord could certainly send signals seamlessly, but he knew better than anyone else that he lacked the power to receive the messages immaculately or to recommunicate them perfectly.
“Oliver Cowdery’s Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonism,” Larry E. Morris, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 1
A revelation in 1829 states that Oliver Cowdery had a gift of working with the rod. Divining rods were used to obtain healings and answers to spiritual questions as well as to search for water or minerals. This article challenges theories that the Cowdery family and Smith family were involved with certain people (Justus Winchell, Nathaniel Wood, Ethan Smith) in Vermont.
“Timing the Translation of the Book of Mormon: ‘Days [and Hours] Never to Be Forgotten,’” John W. Welch, BYU Studies Quarterly 57, no. 4 (2018)
This article documents the dates we know about the Book of Mormon translation, beginning with the arrival of Oliver Cowdery at Joseph Smith’s home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, in April 1829.
“The Conversion of Oliver Cowdery,” Larry E. Morris, Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery
The faithfulness of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Smith had a profound effect on Oliver Cowdery, prompting him to pray and decide for himself what he thought about the story of the gold Bible. The powerful confirmation that resulted convinced him that the Restoration was genuine and that he should be a part of it.
“Oliver Cowdery as Book of Mormon Scribe,” Royal Skousen, Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery
In this chapter I discuss Oliver Cowdery’s role in the early transmission of the English-language text of the Book of Mormon. There are three aspects to his work, with him acting as (1) the main scribe for Joseph Smith in taking down Joseph’s dictation of the text, (2) the main copyist for producing the copytext for the 1830 printer, and (3) an assistant in various tasks involved in the printing of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon.
“Seer Stones, Salamanders, and Early Mormon ‘Folk Magic’ in the Light of Folklore Studies and Bible Scholarship,” Eric A. Eliason, BYU Studies, Vol. 55, no. 1
Recognizing that ritual practices change over time helps us make sense of early Mormon practices (specifically seer stones) and American frontier folk magic in general.
“Seeking Divine Interaction: Joseph Smith’s Varying Searches for the Supernatural,” Kerry Muhlestein, No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues
Joseph’s methods of interacting with the divine may seem strange to us, but this is largely because we are more cultural inheritors of the Protestant movement to remove God from daily life than we are of the folk religion of Joseph’s day. We should not expect God to refuse interaction with a youth because he was seeking God in ways not familiar to us.