Book of Moses writing project: Dividing into Parts

I’m attempting a paper on the Book of Moses, which will focus on Adam and Eve, the transition from a couple-priesthood to a generational-priesthood, and the effect of the formation of Zion. For today, I just want to share how I see the Book of Moses dividing itself up into parts:

Part 1, Moses chapter 1, contains Moses’s encounters with God and Satan. God shows Moses a vision of the earth, and all the inhabitants, which prompts Moses to ask for more of the story. By the end of chapter 1, the conversation between God and Moses has wrapped up, and it ends with an “Amen.”

Part 2, Moses chapters 2-4, begins God’s account of the heavens and the earth. The central narrative story is about the creation of Adam & Eve and the Fall. This part also ends with an “Amen.”

Part 3, Moses 5, describes Adam and Eve’s life outside the Garden of Eden, including their labors, efforts to teach their children, and their children’s rebellion. It ends with two verses describing how God has reached out to Adam’s family so far (5:58-59), then ends with an “Amen.”

Part 4, Moses chapter 6 (first half), contains the story of righteous sons, grandsons, and so on, and the formation of a Priesthood. A record of Adam’s genealogy is kept, and quoted. I choose to see the end of the quotation, with the two verses which re-summarize the record (v. 22-23), as the end of part 4.

Part 5, Moses chapters 6 (second half)-7, contains the story of Enoch, including his vision and the building of the city Zion. Chapter 7 ends with Zion being taken to heaven and the all-capital words: “ZION IS FLED.”

Part 6, chapter 8, picks up the story after Enoch’s city leaves. It contains the story of Noah, up to the point where God decides to destroy the people.

“But if not:” a little extra oil

There was a talk a few years ago with the repeated line “but if not.” The talk encouraged Latter-day Saints to continue faithful even if the things they were hoping and praying for didn’t happen, or didn’t happen as they thought they should. (With the comforting footnote added that we are beautifully and abundantly provided for once we’re in heaven.)

This week, while talking with friends, we decided that we could also apply this same concept to hoping and praying about things in the Church as a whole.

For example:

We might watch a teacher and think they are just repeating what they’ve heard before, and we hope and pray for teachers to think and to study the scriptures more.

We might see a leader handling a situation badly (in our eyes), and hope and pray for leaders to use the handbook and the Spirit more.

We might listen to a conference talk, knowing that some will use its implications in ways that will be harmful to friends or family, and hope and pray for more careful attention.

In all these cases we may be right (or at least feel that we are right) to hope for change. “But if not” — if that change never happens — will we continue to be faithful? Will we continue to serve where called? Will we be charitable to others? Will we still sustain our leaders? Can we hold in tension our desire to see the improvements we think are necessary with our trust that God is still doing His work already?

I wonder if the parable of the ten virgins might be read this way. Note the difference between the foolish and wise virgins is just that the latter had extra oil “just in case.” They were all — those with extra oil and those without — at the right place. They were all there on time. They assumed they knew exactly when the bridegroom was coming. “But if not?” Well, then the wise ones had extra oil. Perhaps this parable is, in part, teaching us to be willing to accept and trust God’s plans, even when they are different than what we thought they would be.

May we be willing to hold these things in tension, and be there together whenever and however Christ’s work is made manifest.


The other day I was reading 2 Nephi 26, and a different way of reading these verses struck me. What if all three of these verses are about priests? What if “laborer in Zion” meant a priest who was preaching? In this reading, verse 30 is reassuring the priest, saying that you shouldn’t rely on the Church for your support, but if it turns out that you find yourself needing help, the Church can help you because they should help everybody. But then comes the warning in verse 31: just because you know they can help you, doesn’t mean that’s why you’re laboring.

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.

31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.


This sounds a lot like Mosiah 18 to me:

26 And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support; but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the Spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God.

27 And again Alma commanded that the people of the church should impart of their substance, every one according to that which he had; if he have more abundantly he should impart more abundantly; and of him that had but little, but little should be required; and to him that had not should be given.

28 And thus they should impart of their substance of their own free will and good desires towards God, and to those priests that stood in need, yea, and to every needy, naked soul.


This way of reading these verses also sounds like D&C 24, where Joseph is told to plant his fields and then go preach, and the Church will take care of his current needs. Emma is told that the Church will watch over their family. There seems to be a big difference between watching over needs and getting paid, though it’s subtle.

24:3 Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the church which is in Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, and they shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally;

Alma 3:14-17 – Nephi’s promise of who will and won’t be called his seed

I was reading through Alma 1-3 this morning, and Alma 3:14-17 felt like it was something I’d never read before. It is a record of a communication between the Lord and Nephi! Stuck here in Alma 3! Here is the passage:

14 Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them.

15 And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also.

16 And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed.

17 And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever; and these were the promises of the Lord unto Nephi and to his seed.

I have no idea why this hasn’t sunk into my head long enough to remember it when I’m reading elsewhere in scripture. This is amazingly like God’s promises to Abraham. Why have I not remembered this passage? And how does Mormon have access to it? Why would this not have been contained on the small plates? What other holy communication to Nephi is on the large plates that is not on the small plates??

Here is the language in Abraham 2 (minus the parenthetical stuff):

10 And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;

11 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee and in thy seed, for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.

The concept of being “accounted” as Abraham’s seed, or “called” Nephi’s seed, is fascinating to me. It preserves the idea that God can have a chosen lineage, and yet include anyone at all within it. 🙂 Israel is God’s chosen people, but that doesn’t exclude anyone because everyone who accepts the gospel is counted “as if” they had been born directly into Abraham’s (or here, Nephi’s) family.

Study group on headings in Alma

We are comparing the various headings that Mormon himself wrote into his text. We’re comparing them with each other, as well as with the printer’s manuscript. See the end of this post for the list of headings we’re working on. (I’ll update the conversation notes as we go along.)

  • What do these look like on the original and printer’s manuscript? Are they set off? Answer: some have underlines, markings, and some are set off in different type.
  • What about other headings in the Book of Mormon? How do they look: Answer: some are set off, some aren’t. It looks like Mosiah 9 is the first time in the Book of Mormon that the printer notices there are headings that aren’t at the beginning of a book. There is at least one heading before that that we think he misses, and that is 2 Nephi 6. Another would be Jacob 2.
  • Are there others in Alma that we are noticing that the printer didn’t? Answer: So far no. We noted the 2 passages in Alma (included below) where he talks about what he has written, but these passages do not have the same sound as the headings. We decided that headings usually do not have a verb (“An account…”) and they introduce material, rather than commenting on previously written material.
  • Are there headings after Alma that the printer didn’t see? Answer: We aren’t seeing any! It looks like the printer slowly figured out what was a heading in the text. (The heading for The Book of Zeniff seems to have clued him in — it’s a clear break, but not at the beginning of a Book, and then perhaps the printer watched for those kinds of things within the later books. Updated answer: the Book of Moroni is another question. These verses could serve as headings, easily: 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 8:1. Chapter 9 does have a heading. Ch. 8 is the first epistle, but that doesn’t have a heading —  but maybe it would have been an awkward heading because he talks about himself (first person) rather than third person in ch.9 (for which the printer does give a set-off heading). Does the heading of chapter 9 serve as a break between the two epistles, and that’s why it has a heading?
  • In printer’s manuscript there’s a clear distinction for a heading for Moroni chapter 9.
  • Side note — once in a while, there’s a question as to whether or not all of the original chapter breaks are perfect. 3 Nephi 27 is one question, Alma 13 is another. Often a dictation session went to the end of a chapter. But once in a while they paused, and maybe when they came back assumed it was a new chapter. Playing with an idea — that maybe Moroni chapter 9’s heading was one of these? That is, maybe chapters 8 and 9 were one chapter, with a note in the middle explaining when things switch to the next epistle, and that got treated as a chapter break but wasn’t really?
  • What are the headings doing in Alma? Answer: Well, let’s compare to Helaman first. The headings there are very tightly organized. Each sentence describes chapters; this includes the heading over (our) chapter 7. Are the headings in Alma that careful? Not necessarily.
  • All of the headings we found in Alma are at the beginning of original chapters. (But not every original chapter has a heading.)
  • Chapters 1-3 are a chapter; chapter 4 is where he lets go of the judgment seat. The heading for the book of Alma talks twice about him being chief judge. Is the heading over all of Alma meant to be a heading just for original chapter 1? The more we read this, the more it sounds like it! “A” war happens. War/Contentions among the people (Amlicites) and then a war between Nephites and Lamanites (because Amlicites go to Lamanites). Perhaps we’re on to something? 
  • Heading over all of Alma repeats that Alma is the first and chief judge. The heading over chapter 5 emphasizes that Alma is the high priest. (At that point, he has let go of the judgeship.) So perhaps this does signal that we’re on the right track.
  • What if the heading over all of Alma is actually 2 headings mixed together? The two parts would be: “The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church.” And then secondly: “An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge.” This might explain the repetition of first and chief judge. One was for the whole of the book of Alma, and the other part was for just the original chapter 1. That would mean the first mention of Alma being chief judge comes in the heading for all of the book of Alma, and the second mention comes in the heading for the first chapter.
  • Or, we might have 3 things mixed together, because we have three “accounts”: “The account of” “An account of” and “and also an account.” So, maybe three headings!
  • However, it seems like that first part of this heading would not cover all of the book of Alma. Not sufficient. But it might cover until our current chapter 16. Chapter 17 has a new “account of.” So maybe this gets us that far. It could also be that it is meant to go till the current 44, but there are other interruptions. There are nested accounts! A bit messy.
  • It’s strange that there is not a heading as we switch back after the story of the sons of Mosiah. So his might point to the first half of the heading over the book of Alma as meant to cover through 44, but the story of the sons of Mosiah is dropped in. That’s why there’s no update after their story, because it leads back into the main flow.
  • We’re noticing that there are a few headings where he doesn’t mention where he is getting the accounts from. However, these could be “nested” accounts. For example, the heading above our chapter 21 does not have that information, but perhaps the heading over our chapter 17 might be meant to cover that information. (The heading for chapter 17 says, “An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.”) So perhaps it is assumed that when we get to chapter 21, we already know where this information is coming from. (It would be great for one of us to create an outline of all of these with indentations showing what’s nested!)
  • There are also other places where he talks about where he’s getting his material, and what he’s doing with it. For example, the 2 passages that Fred Axelgard added to the Facebook even page (Alma 9:34 and Alma 11:46).
  • Joe sees the whole book of Alma as being divided into two parallel parts — that is, the stories in the first half have a parallel in the second half. As we look at the headings, it seems that the headings also help point out these similarities! For example, each of the cities Alma preaches to gets a heading, and each of the sons he teaches gets a heading. (There are more, I just didn’t catch them.) (Joe’s reading of the book of Alma is quite detailed and quite good, by the way. A post for another time.) (Or read it in the JBMS — this isn’t free yet, but will be soon, on Maxwell website, after the next issue of JBMS is published.) This would help Mormon remember what part he is on that matches up with the parallel pattern?
  • But, why is there not a heading at chapter 30, which would parallel chapter 1?
  • Pause for a moment to look up all the original chapter breaks in Alma:
    • Chapters 1-3 were chapter 1
    • Chapter 4 was chapter 2
    • Chapter 5 was chapter 3
    • Chapter 6 was chapter 4
    • Chapter 7 was chapter 5
    • Chapter 8 was chapter 6
    • Chapter 9 was chapter 7
    • Chapter 10-11 was chapter 8
    • Chapter 12:1-13:9 was chapter 9
    • Chapter 13:10-15:19 was chapter 10
    • Chapter 16 was chapter 11
    • Chapters 17-20 were chapter 12
    • Chapters 21-22 were chapter 13
    • Chapters 23-26 were chapter 14
    • Chapters 27-29 were chapter 15
    • Chapters 30-35 were chapter 16
    • Chapters 36-37 were chapter 17
    • Chapters 38 was chapter 18
    • Chapters 39-42 were chapter 19
    • Chapters 43-44 were chapter 20
    • Chapters 45-49 were chapter 21
    • Chapter 50 was chapter 22
    • Chapter 51 was chapter 23
    • Chapter 52-53 were chapter 24
    • Chapter 54-55 were chapter 25
    • Chapter 56-58 were chapter 26
    • Chapter 59-60 were chapter 27
    • Chapter 61 was chapter 28
    • Chapter 62 was chapter 29
    • Chapter 63 was chapter 30
  • Page count for original chapters, to help us then see how much each heading would have covered (clarification – not every original chapter had a heading; this is just prep work):
    • Book of Alma starts on page 221 originally (1830 edition).
    • original Chapter 2 – starts on page 230, ends on 232
    • Chapter 3 – starts on 232
    • Chapter 4 – 238
    • Chapter 5 – 239
    • Chapter 6 – 242
    • Chapter 7 – 245
    • Chapter 8 – 248
    • Chapter 9 – 254
    • Chapter 10 – 259
    • Chapter 11 – 266-268
    • Chapter 12 – 269
    • Chapter 13 – 282
    • Chapter 14 – 289
    • Chapter 15 – 299
    • Chapter 16 – 304
    • Chapter 17 – 323
    • Chapter 18 – 330
    • Chapter 19 – 332
    • Chapter 20 – 340-347
    • Chapter 21 – 348
    • Chapter 22 – 362
    • Chapter 23 – 366
    • Chapter 24 – 370
    • Chapter 25 – 377-381
    • Chapter 26 – 382
    • Chapter 27 – 393
    • Chapter 28 – 398
    • Chapter 29 – 400
    • Chapter 30 – 405-407
  • The parallel parts of Alma actually have similar page lengths! That was a surprise. It is especially parallel for the first half of each part (so, first quarter and third quarter). The second half of each part (2nd and 4th quarters) aren’t equal. A lot more time is spent on the wars.
  • Side-note — interesting article: by Kent Brown
  • Joe’s article (not free yet):
  • How many years is covered by sons of Mosiah’s preaching versus wars in the end of Alma? Answer: 14 years for preaching, 21 years pass during those chapters (war within those chapters ends before those chapters are over – so the war takes 12 years itself). So the chapters are longer, and do cover 7 more years. But the preaching and the war are about the same length.  Actually, depending on how you count it, you could see it as 14 years. That scarily close! 😀
  • The first half is 15 chapters, and second half is 15 chapters!
  • There are two ways to group what is in the war chapters. For example, the original chapter 20 (battle of Zerahemna), could be included with “Alma war chapters” or not. The argument to not include it is that there is a major heading, Alma disappears, Helaman in charge, etc. Then that seems like there is a new war. But if you start with when Moroni comes onto the scene, then you do include chapter 20 in war chapters.
  • If you take Moroni as the marker, and include the original chapter 20, then quarters 1 and 4 have 11 chapters each, and quarters 2 and 3 have 4 chapters each.
  • If you include that original chapter 20, that’s when you get 14 years of war, and 14 years of preaching.
  • Mormon: Historian, Prophet, Mathematician! Wow!
  • 14 in Hebrew is the number for David’s name. (Important to Mathew when he gives the genealogy of Christ.)
  • We decided to stop at 14 minutes to 10:00pm! haha (Tyler’s suggestion).


Here’s the list of ones we’ve found:

The account of Alma, who was the son of Alma, the first and chief judge over the people of Nephi, and also the high priest over the Church. An account of the reign of the judges, and the wars and contentions among the people. And also an account of a war between the Nephites and the Lamanites, according to the record of Alma, the first and chief judge. 

The words which Alma, the High Priest according to the holy order of God, delivered to the people in their cities and villages throughout the land.

Beginning with chapter 5.

The words of Alma which he delivered to the people in Gideon, according to his own record.

Comprising chapter 7.

The words of Alma, and also the words of Amulek, which were declared unto the people who were in the land of Ammonihah. And also they are cast into prison, and delivered by the miraculous power of God which was in them, according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 9 through 14.

These are not quite the same, but still commentary on what he’s doing with the text/where he’s getting his sources, etc.

Alma 9:34 And it came to pass that Amulek went and stood forth, and began to preach unto them also. And now the words of Amulek are not all written, nevertheless a part of his words are written in this book.

Alma 11:46 Now, when Amulek had finished these words the people began again to be astonished, and also Zeezrom began to tremble. And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I have written.

An account of the sons of Mosiah, who rejected their rights to the kingdom for the word of God, and went up to the land of Nephi to preach to the Lamanites; their sufferings and deliverance—according to the record of Alma.

Comprising chapters 17 through 27.

An account of the preaching of Aaron, and Muloki, and their brethren, to the Lamanites.

Comprising chapters 21 through 25.

The commandments of Alma to his son Helaman.

Comprising chapters 36 and 37.

The commandments of Alma to his son Shiblon.

Comprising chapter 38.

The commandments of Alma to his son Corianton.

Comprising chapters 39 through 42.

The account of the people of Nephi, and their wars and dissensions, in the days of Helaman, according to the record of Helaman, which he kept in his days.

Comprising chapters 45 through 62.

What if YM leaders became members of the deacons’, teachers’, or priests’ quorums?

A thought I’ve been having lately —

With the change of high priests meeting with elders and being in the elders’ quorum, I have been wondering about changing the way we think about deacons, teachers, and priest quorums. Just as a high priest is also an elder, an elder is also a deacon, teacher, and priest. What if the adult leaders who were called to serve with the young men actually joined their quorum, rather than being a leader-supervisor of the quorum? So if Brother so-in-so was called to serve as the YM second counselor, he would actually join and act in the roles of the deacon’s quorum.

I like the idea because of how seriously it takes the roles of deacon, teacher, and priest. I like it because adults and YM become members of a quorum who serve side-by-side. And, I like it because the adults no longer feel like they can’t attend their quorum meetings on Sunday. They just simply join another quorum.

I like the thought of a YM filling the role laid out in D&C 107:85, but it also kind of describes the current set-up, where an adult is teaching the deacons their duty:

And again, verily I say unto you, the duty of a president over the office of a deacon is to preside over twelve deacons, to sit in council with them, and to teach them their duty, edifying one another, as it is given according to the covenants.”

I actually really, really like the idea of an elder sitting with the deacons (or teachers or priests) and counseling with them, and teaching them, and being edified by them as well as edifying them. And it’s not just that they sit, teach, and edify as an elder, they sit, teach, and edify as a member of that quorum, because this elder is also has within himself the authority to act as a deacon, just like the YM.


Study group on Jacob 1:19 (blood/sins on garments)

We spent a study group looking at Jacob 1:19 and other verses in the Book of Mormon that talk about other people’s blood on someone’s garments unless they teach & preach.


We looked at the Old Testament passages that talk about the blood sacrifices in the temple, and especially the ones where blood is sprinkled on the priest.

Jacob’s calling/office would have been consecrated by blood, we assumed.

We also talked about the Day of Atonement, where one goat is killed to sanctify Israel and the priest, and the other goat is given all of Israel’s sins and then banished to wander in the wilderness.

We noticed that Cain & Abel fit that model (one is banished, one dies)

We also noticed that Judah & Joseph fit that too (Judah sends a goat to the prostitute, and Joseph’s brothers use goat blood to pretend that Joseph is dead)


We realized part way into our study that there’s a New Testament verse about shaking sins/blood from garments. In Acts 18:6, Paul shakes clothes to symbolize that he’s tried to teach Israel, then he goes to teach Gentiles.
We also thought it was interesting in some way that Paul says in Act 20:22 that he held clothes: “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.”
Alma & Alma the Younger? Thyself destroyed, not on parents’ head?
Finally, we wrapped it up by talking about whether this talk of having blood of others on you unless you teach them was just for those in a certain priesthood office who had willingly taken on them the responsibility to teach, or whether through places like D&C 88 and D&C 68 this is now spread to every member of the Church?
We talked about stewardship and what that may mean and not mean.
We read D&C 121, which warns priesthood holders that it is tempting to use priesthood authority to force or control. If you think it’s your job to save everyone else so that you aren’t responsible, it could be tempting to use priesthood authority in the wrong ways. We thought it was particularly important that is says that you can’t go about your priesthood office in order to cover sins (don’t go around warning/judging/teaching others about their sin in order to distract from your own!) and that you can’t go about your office in vain ambition (don’t be so ambitious about preaching judgments on others! Don’t think you’re going to save them yourself!). D&C 121 seemed to us to be very applicable to our discussion.
We also noted that D&C 68 could be referring to those parents which teach children to not believe — that is, teach them that belief is not important, that repentance is not important, that faith is not important. This lines up with how the Book of Mormon talks about Laman & Lemuel in 2 Nephi 4 and how the Nephites began to dwindle in unbelief in 4 Nephi.
We also talked about the difference between works & grace here. If you think you have to teach everyone or else you’re out of heaven, you are working on a works model. It’s Christ who saves, not us! We thought about 3 Nephites who, out of love, wanted to stay on earth and keep teaching. That seems to be the idea here — people who willingly want to teach because of love.