I want to address some commentaries, but before I do I thought I’d work through Words of Mormon verse by verse.
1 AND now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites.
-Mormon is writing these words after he has written his abridgment: he is about to deliver up his record to Moroni.
2 And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ *that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them.
-Mormon wants to explain when it is that he is writing.
-“These records” – perhaps referring to both his own record he has been making, and the small plates?
-Mormon, though witnessing the people’s destruction, still assumes his record, and possibly Moroni’s, will benefit their descendants.
3 And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
-“that which I have written” – he has written so little in this “Words of Mormon” book that I must assume he means his abridgment, which he referred to in verse 1.
-He wrote the abridgment from the “plates of Nephi.” He got to King Benjamin, then searched and found “these plates.” A moment ago he used the words “these records.” When he used that, he had just talked about his own record. I assume that means his record + more (ie, the small plates?). This time he says, “these plates.” This can’t mean the large plates, nor his abridgment, so I am left to believe he is talking about the small plates.
-why use the word “these”? Two options present themselves to me: 1, he is writing on them, so as we would have been reading the small plates it would be an obvious self-conscious reference to the small plates or 2, he says “these” because he is referring to what Amaleki wrote.
-“these” – Either he is writing on the small plates, or he is writing on his record but after the small plates were introduced? No where does he say he copied the small plates into his record. He has already finished his abridgment, so the only option would be if he added the small plates after his abridgment and then added some pages with these words. Otherwise, I would have to assume that he is writing on the small plates themselves. We’ll see what the rest of the book opens up to us.
-Mormon describes the small plates thus: “small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.” A few things to note: 1, Nephi is not considered one of “the prophets;” perhaps because he was a king and a prophet; 2, the small plates end with “this king Benjamin.” “This” seems to refer to Amaleki’s narrative, but it could also be that king Benjamin himself wrote on the small plates.
-However, if Mormon is writing right on the small plates, then we can know that Amaleki was the last to write before Mormon.
4 And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass—
-The small plates stand out to Mormon because of the prophecies of Christ. He and his fathers know they have come to pass.
5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
-“Wherefore” – “in light of what’s been said” is the idea I get from wherefore. “Because the small plates talk of these prophecies, and because I know they have been fulfilled, I chose to finish my record upon them.”
-“finish my record” – “my record” could refer to the abridgment, but what sense does this make – I chose to finish my record upon them? Again, if he copied the entirety of the small plates into his own abridgment after he had abridged everything through his own lifetime, then I could see him saying he’s using the small plates as the ending of his record. But I still don’t see anywhere where he says he copied them onto his abridgment. Hence, I don’t think “my record” can refer to the abridgment
-“which remainder of my record” – he’s already finished his abridgment, so what “remainder” are we referring to?
-“take from the plates of Nephi” – I can only assume he means the large plates! 🙂 Again, in verse one he told us he had already finished his abridgment and is about to deliver it to Moroni. So while yes, he did take that abridgment from the plates of Nephi, I don’t think he can be talking about his abridgment here.
-Taken together, these points suggest this reading: Mormon is referring to the words he is writing right on the small plates. He is calling his words a “record.” He sees these words as an addition to the small plates similar to the writings of Amaleki or Omni. He will take the “remainder” of his record – or the remainder of his words here in the Words of Mormon – from the large plates, just as he had done in his abridgment.
6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
-now “these plates” seem separate from “remainder of my record.” Mormon, why are you being so confusing? 🙂
-are there just two “remainders” he is talking about?
-Option 1: two remainders. The “but behold” is in reference to his inability to write as much as he’d like to in Words of Mormon. Since he can’t write much here – ie, the “remainder” of his Words of Mormon record will be short – then he directs us to his abridgment which is much longer. The use of the word “put” – where he is putting these plates with the remainder of his record, sounds like there are two physical, separate records being talked about here.
-Option 2: one remainder. He will take the prophecies already written in the small plates and put them with the remainder of his record – and the only time he’s used “remainder” in this book is to talk about his small-plates record. Would that have to mean he is using the word “put” loosely here? He is putting the small plates and his Words of Mormon record together? I don’t think we can read “these plates” as talking about the plates of Nephi, though they were just mentioned, since he talks about the “prophesyings and revelations” that are so “choice” to him.
-Again, Mormon, please be more clear next time. 🙂 🙂 🙂
-I am going to assume that he means he will finish out his record on the small plates and then put them with his abridgment. This reading further suggests that he did not copy the small plates into his abridgment but rather put them with his abridgment.
7 And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
-We of course jump all over this to talk about the loss of the 116 pages. But look at what Mormon thinks the wise purpose may be:
8 And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.
-I think Mormon is looking at this situation, where the Spirit is telling him to include the small plates with his record, and hoping this means that someday his people will have a plain record filled with revelations. It is humbling to think that this may be the actual wise purpose, whereas we are just excited that God outsmarted Satan.
9 And now I, Mormon, *proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me.
-Okay, now he is “proceeding,” so we’d better decide what he is actually doing here. 🙂 Either he is going back to his abridgment (thumbs down) or he is proceeding to make an account on the small plates (ding ding ding!) 🙂 I myself am going to “proceed” with this latter understanding.
10 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.
-Another case of taking and putting them with other plates…
11 And they were handed down from king Benjamin, from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands. And I, Mormon, pray to God that they may be preserved from this time henceforth. And I know that they will be preserved; for there are great things written upon them, out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written.
-It may be suggested that the reason that Mormon searches for the plates when he does is that he reads that Amaleki gave them to king Benjamin, realizes that he has the other things king Benjamin had, and realizes he may very well have the small plates as well! (He certainly read about them in the large plates -see D&C 10, as well as common sense!- but it was only here that he thinks to go and look for them.)
12 And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people.
-He picks up right where Amaleki left off.
-“this” is natural since he was just talking about Amaleki giving him the plates.
13 And it came to pass also that the armies of the Lamanites came down out of the land of Nephi, to battle against his people. But behold, king Benjamin gathered together his armies, and he did stand against them; and he did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban.
-Contentions among people and from the outside, good summary…
14 And in the strength of the Lord they did contend against their enemies, until they had slain many thousands of the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did contend against the Lamanites until they had driven them out of all the lands of their inheritance.
-Again, good summary…
15 And it came to pass that after there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes;
-No description of what these people may have said, just a summary that it happened…
16 And after there had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people, and all these having been punished according to their crimes; and after there having been much contention and many dissensions away unto the Lamanites, behold, it came to pass that king Benjamin, with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people—
-There were other holy prophets! A detail I just love. And note these did not get the prophetic record, Benjamin did. Interesting side note.
17 For behold, king Benjamin was a holy man, and he did reign over his people in righteousness; and there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority; and they did use much sharpness because of the stiffneckedness of the people—
-Yet, no words of what they said. Either he is introducing or just summarizing.
18 Wherefore, with the help of these, king Benjamin, by laboring with all the might of his body and the faculty of his whole soul, and also the prophets, did once more establish peace in the land.
-A nice end to the king Benjamin story.
-But not a nice end to your own account added onto a small plates record passed down from prophet to prophet. Wouldn’t it seem like he would end with a prayer or petition? Or a testimony? And what of the “remainder” – was this it? Why bother introducing it at such length?
D&C 10:41: Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
-Note that Joseph is told to translate “till” he comes to Benjamin. Did the small plates go any further? It seems we established that Amaleki was the last to write.
-That which you have retained – they had some of the translation that was not lost.
-My reading is that the small plates did go further- if you count Words of Mormon as part of the small plates. Mormon wrote a small quick record summarizing the prophecies and fulfillments of them from king Benjamin down to his own day. Joseph stops when Mormon is done summarizing king Benjamin.
-He had retained Mosiah 1, so it would have been odd for him to translate more of the Words of Mormon. It would have become redundant.