Outline for a real paper on Words of Mormon

  1. People seem to assume Words of Mormon is an intentional transition
  2. Don’t realize what that implies (more than one option, but all with problems)
  3. My reading
  4. Aside on wisdom
  5. Conclusion

To begin to prove point one, I’m going to cut and paste a few things from my previous research into commentaries (see comments on this post here ):

Gardner: “Mormon then opens up the plates to add the small plates where they would go in chronological order. Then he adds Words of Mormon to transition to Mosiah 1. In D&C 10:38-45, the Lord talks about this wise purpose. The small plates, though not called that here, are said in the large-plate abridgment to have the more particular account. This was perhaps done in a transition that Mormon added right before the small plates insertion. WofM :12 Here Mormon tells us there were no more contentions, which clearly must link up with some discussion of contentions existing. Likely he had written in the 116 pages about these contentions.” [I think Gardner is suggesting that since Mormon wrote his abridgment before he inserted the small plates, the end of the 116 pages would link right up with Mosiah 1:1, even though it was physically separated from Mosiah 1:1 by the small plates.]

Sperry: “There are three reasons for Mormon to give us these verses (12-18) on the earlier part of King Benjamin’s life. 1, it seems Mormon knew we would not have access to the account of King Benjamin from the Book of Lehi, lost in the 116 pages. 2, he knew how little was said about King Benjamin in the Book of Omni. And 3, he knew his Mosiah record only talked about King Benjamin’s later life.” “Therefore he must have felt it necessary to make a smoother and more logical transition between the Book of Omni and the Book of Mosiah by writing down a brief abridgment of Benjamin’s life that would span the intervening years” (284).

Reynolds and Sjodahl: “King Benjamin thus became the first to compile the full history of the people upon one set of plates”

Nyman:  Words of Mormon is a way to “bridge the gap” between the small plates & the abridgment (p 169) “The plates being placed at the end of his record is supported by Mormon’s next statement: ‘I shall take these plates,…and put them with the remainder of my record’ (v.6).” (pg 170-1)

Millet & McConkie: transition between small plates and abridgment; remainder means Mormon’s words in Words of Mormon about Amaleki to the end of Benjamin’s reign. This brief history will be taken from the large plates.

Ludlow: “It was made known to Mormon ‘by the workings of the Spirit of the Lord’ that the small plates of Nephi (which ended when Benjamin was a relatively young man) might be used to replace his abridgment of the book of Lehi (which ended when Benjamin was an old man about ready to die). So that a gap would would not occur in the history of the Nephites, Mormon included the major events of the lifetime of King Benjamin in The Words of Mormon, thus connecting the account on the small plates of Nephi with Mormon’s abridgment of the book of Mosiah.” (pg 171)

Seminary student manual:

Words of Mormon 1:7. “The Lord Knoweth All Things Which Are to Come”
Nephi did not make the small plates until 30 years after Lehi’s colony left Jerusalem (see 2 Nephi 5:28–31). He did not understand why he was commanded to make a second set of records, but he had faith that it was “for a wise purpose” in the Lord (1 Nephi 9:5). Nearly 1,000 years later the prophet Mormon echoed similar words to Nephi’s when he testified that in addition to his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi he was including the small plates of Nephi “for a wise purpose” (Words of Mormon 1:7).

Joseph Smith started the translation of the Book of Mormon with Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi. He had completed 116 manuscript pages when Martin Harris pleaded with Joseph to let him take the manuscript and show it to family members. Joseph asked God three different times if Martin could take the manuscript, and permission was finally given. The manuscript fell into the hands of wicked men (see D&C 10:8) and became known as the lost manuscript, or the lost 116 pages.

The loss of the manuscript clearly demonstrates why the Lord commanded Nephi to write the small plates and why Mormon was inspired to include them. Joseph Smith was told not to retranslate the portion he had already completed, but to replace it by translating the small plates of Nephi (see D&C 10:30, 38–45). The translation of the 116 pages covered 600–130 B.C.—from the time of Lehi to the time of King Benjamin. The small plates also covered 600–130 B.C.— from Lehi to King Benjamin. The Lord in His omniscience had the second record, the small plates, cover the exact time period that was covered in the stolen 116 pages. This also allowed the Lord to keep His covenant with Enos that “he would preserve the records” (Enos 1:16).




One response to “Outline for a real paper on Words of Mormon

  • Karen

    Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

    “At least six times in the Book of Mormon the phrase ‘for a wise purpose’ is used in reference to the making, writing, and preserving of the small plates of Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:5; Words of Mormon 1:7; Alma 37:2, 12, 14, 18). You and I know the wise purpose—the most obvious one—was to compensate for the loss of the earlier mentioned 116 pages of manuscript.

    “But it strikes me that there is a wiser purpose than that. … The key to such a suggestion of a wiser purpose is in verse 45 of Doctrine and Covenants section 10. As the Lord instructs Joseph … he says, ‘Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel’ (emphasis added).

    “So, clearly, this was not … tit for tat, this for that—you give me 116 pages of manuscript and I’ll give you 142 pages of printed text. Not so. We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so. It was for a wiser purpose. We do not know exactly what we missed in the 116 pages, but we do know that what we received on the small plates was the personal declarations of three great witnesses [Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah], three of the great doctrinal voices of the Book of Mormon, testifying that Jesus is the Christ. …

    “In fact, I think you could make a pretty obvious case that the sole purpose of the small plates was to give a platform for these three witnesses”

    (“A Standard unto My People” [Church Educational System symposium on the Book of Mormon, Aug. 9, 1994], 9–10; see LDS.org under gospel library/additional addresses/CES addresses).

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