Definite candidate for the Saturday Study Group. I have always been puzzled by a few things in this small book.
A few statements, which, taken together, confuse me greatly:
v. 1 AND now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni,
v. 2 after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, … I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates,
v. 5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them
v. 5 which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi;
v. 6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record,
v. 9 And now I, Mormon, *proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi;
v. 10-11 Wherefore, it came to pass that after Amaleki had delivered up these plates into the hands of king Benjamin, he took them and put them with the other plates, which contained records which had been handed down by the kings, from generation to generation until the days of king Benjamin. (11) And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands.
v. 12 And now, concerning this king Benjamin–
Mormon finds the small plates because the large plates mention them. When he says he finishes his record upon them, he means that he finishes off the small plates by adding his record just as the other prophets had done before him. “I chose these things” means the things he is choosing to write on them; things means “things to write about” rather than the plates themselves. After he writes his record here, he will go back to his abridgment – which is a separate document – and pick up where he left off with King Benjamin. As for this record he is now adding on the small plates, he is taking his information from the large plates. What we have in the rest of the Words of Mormon is an abridgment similar to what he had just written, or was about to write, in his own book.
Thankfully most of my possible scenarios are dropping out as I read this more carefully. For example, I used to think that this was at the end of his whole record, and so when he said he finished his record upon the small plates this was literally the end of the small plates and the end of his record in one go. But the word “shall” that follows in verse 5 seems to discredit this reading.
Similar to scenario one. Mormon finds the small plates because the large plates mention them. When he says he finishes his record upon them, he means that he finishes off the small plates by adding his record just as the other prophets had done before him. “I chose these things” means that he choses to testify of “prophecies of the coming of Christ” and that many of them have been fulfilled. He testifies that many shall yet come to pass. He finishes his record “upon” them, or about them. (That’s probably a poor reading of the word upon, I’ll confess. But the rest of the scenario doesn’t depend on it.) Verse 6 also mentions these prophecies. He knows there is a wise purpose in preserving these prophecies. He closes by telling us his prayer is that they go to the Lamanites. The record ends in verse 8.
Verse 9 is actually back in the abridgment, but in our current Book of Mormon the chapters divide it differently. (This scenario will likely be disproved as soon as Joe walks in the door and shows me his primary sources!)
Same as above, but Mormon does spend some time with King Benjamin’s history in his record he adds to the small plates. His record ends in verse 11, with the words “I pray” and “I know” in his final sentences.
Verse 12 is a return to the abridgment – a separate document, but blurred together in our Book of Mormon. The words “And now, concerning this King Benjamin–” mark a beginning point in his own record and seem out of place in a short, added record. Verse 18 does not seem to be any sort of final goodbye or a closure to the small plates.
Again, a look at the primary documents may discredit this reading also.
What other possible scenarios are there? I like the ideas of alternate endings. By writing scenario one I think I worked out the basic historical situation. What other nuances of the text am I missing?