The standard reading is focused on showing how God’s foreknowledge was involved in the creation and usage of the small plates. In order to work through the standard reading, as I see it, it’s first important to hear the language of D&C 10 as God solved the “problem” of the missing 116 pages. The problem was twofold: first, the pages were gone, and Joseph had as yet no scripture to offer to the saints; and second, those who had the pages were planning to use them against Joseph. D&C 10:29-32 reads,
29 Now, behold, they have altered these words, because Satan saith unto them: He hath deceived you—and thus he flattereth them away to do iniquity, to get thee to tempt the Lord thy God.
30 Behold, I say unto you, that you shall not translate again those words which have gone forth out of your hands;
31 For, behold, they shall not accomplish their evil designs in lying against those words. For, behold, if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself.
32 And, behold, they will publish this, and Satan will harden the hearts of the people to stir them up to anger against you, that they will not believe my words.
Joseph clearly could not retranslate the same pages.
To solve this problem, God tells Joseph to use the other version of the history to fill in the gap — this “other version” was a smaller record started by Nephi to keep track of the ministry and revelations of the Nephites. While it did not contain the exact same information as the lost pages, the information in the small plates was a rich resource and could be used to cover the same time period that was now missing.
“38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the plates of Nephi;
…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;
42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.”
The saints still receive scripture, and the plot against Joseph’s integrity fails. Because God’s plan worked so very well, we now have a copy of the Book of Mormon that begins with Nephi and ends with Moroni. If you haven’t read the details of the book, you might never notice that two different books have been sewn together.
Now, it is time to look at how these verses in D&C 10 are put into relationship with the Book of Mormon.
In 1 Nephi 9, Nephi pauses his narration to tell us that he is writing two separate records. On what we call the large plates there is written a detailed history of the Nephite people and on what we call the small plates there is record of the ministry and revelations of the Nephites.
While we might be able to think of all sorts of reasons why to have two records, Nephi at first does not offer us any explanation. He simply says,
“5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
6 But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
This verse is quite easily linked up with D&C 10.
Centuries before the Prophet Joseph Smith was born, Nephi testified that God had commanded him to make two sets of plates (the large plates of Nephi and the small plates of Nephi), the purpose of which Nephi did not understand (see 1 Nephi 9:5–6). Mormon, who lived almost a thousand years after Nephi, included the small plates of Nephi with his abridgment, admitting that he did not understand why, save the Lord had commanded him to do it (see Words of Mormon 1:3–7). The loss of the 116-page manuscript makes it apparent why the Lord commanded Nephi and Mormon to do what they did. Joseph was told to leave the portion he had already translated from the large plates and start again with Nephi’s record. Knowing that God sees the end from the beginning should give us confidence in Him as we live in the present and work toward the future.
ADD NOTES ON COMMENTARY HERE
The next verse that gets quoted is 1Nephi 19:3
3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
WISE PURPOSES – talk about D&C 10
Last verse is in Words of Mormon.
set up context
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.
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.
Comment – talk about foreknowledge