Granite Vault


I’m really good at liking a topic for a few days, then being distracted by other things, and then losing the fire for what was so interesting in that topic. And/or, coming back to that topic later and basically rediscovering what I’d discovered, and never really progressing beyond that.

I think I want to write about wisdom in D&C 10 and Words of Mormon, in part as a chance to finally write-up my ideas about Words of Mormon. But that basically means I’m done researching and I just need to write up my thoughts. But then, I don’t feel like I’m done thinking about wisdom at all, so I feel like that’s cheating a bit, so I put things off. 🙂

Well, whether I’m doing that today or not, I’m not sure. But in thinking about what I’d like to say about the wisdom of Mormon making an abridgment, or the wisdom in Nephi et al making the small plates, the image I have in my head this morning is the Granite Vault that the Church keeps for genealogical records. It’s still pretty astounding to me that those are kept as they are – in a huge granite room in the mountainside! But it’s a testament to just how vital we think genealogical records are. It’s a massive back-up system, put in the earth, in a stone box, just in case our other records fail us.

That seems to me to be what Mormon’s abridgment was about too. He knew that the Lamanites would destroy any records they found. Ammaron had hidden the records in the earth and told Mormon where to find them. Later, Mormon went to that hill, and added his own account of the people’s history onto the plates. Later still, Mormon used those records to make an abridgment of the Nephite’s history that could be carried around and not left in that same hill – a history he could pass on to Moroni after he died. Moroni carries that record around [and adds to it, so was he carrying all of the other records? Did he sneak back to the hill to read? Did he receive the 24 plates when Mormon gave him the abridgment?] knowing that if the Lamanites found him, they would destroy that abridgment (though, hopefully the original documents would be safe in the hill). That is, the information in the plates was so important that it was wise to have a second copy just in case something happened.

Then Moroni, knowing that what was on the abridgment was so important — the most important parts of the story — he also hid that up in a stone box in a hill as our back up copy, and here we are hundreds of years later using the information from that hill to inform and restore our understanding of human history.

The other original documents still exist somewhere else. (Much like the original documents from libraries and churches and cemeteries and government offices all over the world.) But this back-up copy worked; it survived.

(There’s a story on the family search website about the records in the Vault restoring genealogical information that was lost in a storm in the Pacific islands. https://familysearch.org/archives/about-granite-mountain/)

But in addition to all of this, it seems that Nephi’s two plates also served this purpose! In part, there were two records in order that one had historical details and the other had spiritual details. We latter-day Saints usually note that but say that really he made two documents so that we could have the first half of the story when Martin Harris lost the 116 pages. So which is it? A back-up copy meant to restore information, or a separate document with a different purpose?

Great question.

What I want to mention here, and in the paper I hopefully write, is that Mormon, at least, saw this as a back-up copy. Or, he saw it as wise to have a second copy of the history focused mainly on the spiritual. Nephi may have as well. Why else would he have spent so long giving us the history of how they got to the new world, etc.? Why not just jump to the visions?

Also, does Nephi include so much Isaiah also as a back-up copy, just in case something happens to his people’s copy of the brass plates? Or just in case something happens to our latter-day copy of the Bible? (I don’t mean to fix little words here and there in Isaiah, for multiple reasons. But what if he thought whole chapters would be missing?)

The big insight that I want to write up somewhere is that I think Mormon sees the small plates as a back-up copy of sorts. When he adds his part through the Words of Mormon, I think that he adds much more than what we have there. I think that he adds an abridged abridgment, focused on prophecies and their fulfillments, of Nephite history from Benjamin on down to his own life. (I have an argument for this that I’ve written up on this blog elsewhere, and that would be the main thing I need to write up in a paper!) But if Mormon does do that as I suggest, then it seems that Mormon saw the Small Plates as another back up copy.

But he did put them with his other copy, so maybe not a back up copy. Or at least ,not a back up copy that would be safe if the Lamanites found the first copy. So a back up for what? A back up for our understanding, in case we missed the point of the first abridgment?

Hm. Gotta keep thinking about this way of framing things…

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