Words of Mormon – questions


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–

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 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.

Scenario Two:

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.

Scenario Three:

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!)

Scenario Four:

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?

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5 responses to “Words of Mormon – questions

  • Karen

    Here’s what I found in the primary sources:
    1. The original manuscript skips over this part (only some of it survived in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo temple)
    2. The printer’s manuscript runs all of Words of Mormon together without even many sentence breaks, so that the possible alternate endings I came up with run right into the very next verse without even a period.
    3. But, when you look at the very end of the Words of Mormon, it seems like there was a bit of confusion as to what chapter Mosiah would start with (II or I or even III?). There are a lot of markings here and I’m not sure what it all means. Further work to be done. (Perhaps it’s proof that Words of Mormon obviously ends where we have it ending, or perhaps it suggests that they had to figure out where it ended and where Mosiah begins. It looks like it originally ran right into Mosiah, with verse one having a lower case
    “a” on “and.” So there may be some argument that they had to pick where Mosiah started. Lots to research still!)

  • Karen

    Grant Hardy suggests that these markings mean that chapters 1 and 2 of Mosiah were on the lost 116 pages. (This does ring true with D&C 10.) He says, “what is currently Mosiah 1 wa originally the third chapter in the book. This is why there is no summary headnote at the beginning of Mosiah.” (Reader’s Edition, p 177)

    He also included the prefaces from the 1830 and 1920 editions. The 1830 quotes D&C 10, which helps me for that post. But the 1920 preface!

    “Between the books of Omni and Mosiah, we find The Words of Mormon, connecting the record of Nephi, as engraved on the Smaller Plates, with Mormon’s abridgment of the Larger Plates for the periods following. The Words of Mormon constitute a brief explanation of the preceeding portions of the record, and a preface to the parts following.” (Reader’s Edition, p 656)

    A preface??!? Whoa, how do we read this?

  • Karen

    I figured out the mystery, I believe. I should write a post just on this. In the meanwhile, read this comment I just wrote on the D&C 10 post:

    IDEA! Maybe Mormon wrote more about King Benjamin on the small plates – that’s why it seems odd that there are only a few verses on Benjamin after Mormon seems like he’s just starting on a roll. Then when the Lord tells him to translate until it meets up with King Benjamin as discussed in what he had (Mosiah), he stops right where it connects, which is why it conveniently makes so much sense to us! I think I finally figured it out!!!!

    I wonder how much more Mormon wrote, then? When I rethink it, Mormon says he will take the remainder of his record (meaning his record addition on the small plates, I’m presuming right now) — if he were really writing his record on the small plates WITHOUT thinking of them being connected with his abridgment, OF COURSE he would have written about more than Benjamin!! Of course! It would have been a summary all the way to the end of things! So when Joseph stops here, he is fulfilling what D&C 10 tells him to do! It likely went on for several more pages. Words of Mormon, were we to have it all, could possibly have run 10 chapters long. I think I finally see what’s going on!

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