The Book of Mormon is a key sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that was published by Joseph Smith, the founder of the movement, when he was twenty-four years old. He claimed to have been visited by the angel Moroni who showed him the location of a buried book etched on golden plates in a previously unknown language referred to as ‘reformed Egyptian’. He translated the plates into English with the help of special spectacles or seer stones, and dictated the resulting text to a scribe.

Smith approached the printer and publisher Egbert B. Grandin after work on the book was completed in 1829. He was eventually persuaded to print 5,000 copies, but only went through with the full task after prosperous local farmer and early Mormon convert Martin Harris mortgaged his farm to cover the $3,000 security payment. It took Grandin’s staff of eight men and boys under the oversight of chief compositor John H. Gilbert almost eight months of working 12 hour, six day weeks to complete the job.

Concerned that the book might undermine existing Christian beliefs, and could even be blasphemous, local people in Palmyra organised a boycott. With thousands of original copies remaining unsold, the financier Martin Harris was later forced to sell his farm to cover to outstanding debt.

The original building in which Grandin printed and sold the first edition of the Book of Mormon was bought by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1978. It was subsequently restored to its original layout and appearance, albeit with the addition of a visitors’ centre.

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© Scott Allsop