Tag Archives: Words of Mormon

Don’t they know the wise purpose?

Many times in the Book of Mormon, the authors say that God has commanded them to write their book for a wise purpose, which only God knows. And yet, other times in the book they seem to know exactly what the purpose is, that is, to convert future generations to God and that they can know of the covenants that God has made with Israel.

Mormon, for example, in Words of Mormon verse 7-8 says,

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.

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.

It’s as if he hopes that the purpose is to restore the Lamanites, but he isn’t sure enough to declare what God has in mind.

But then Mormon himself says, in 3 Nephi 5: 14-15,

14 And it hath become expedient that I, according to the will of God, that the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones, should be fulfilled according to their faith, should make a record of these things which have been done—

15 Yea, a small record of that which hath taken place from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, even down until the present time.

And there are several places in the book where it’s laid out clearly that the prophets, or the fathers, had asked God to preserve their record and send it to the Lamanites when the time was right (see, for example, Enos verses 16-18). And it seems that Mormon is very aware of these verses, or at least of this promise.

So why the confusion? Why is Mormon unsure of the wise purpose that God has? Why is Nephi sometimes unsure? Is it simply that they know there might be other reasons? Has God communicated to them that there are other reasons? But then also, Nephi and Mormon seem to hope that the purpose is to restore their brothers. So sometimes it seems like they aren’t sure that that actually is a purpose, or something they just desperately hope will be a purpose.

So I remain a bit confused.

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…

Mormon sealing up Small plates, witness for Amaleki

At times in the small plates, people say they witness the person before them writing their addition. What if part of what Mormon is doing in the Words of Mormon is to be that witness for Amaleki? No one has said that they saw Amaleki write. But Mormon can say, “I wasn’t there, but I know who was! I have large plates where King Benjamin describes that event! I can vouch for Amaleki.”

(Also, if my creative reading is correct, Mormon goes on to write about the prophecies and their fulfillments between Amaleki and himself, so in a sense he witnesses for all of those prophets as well!)

“Put them with”

There are lots of places where scriptures are put with other scriptures – it’s a theme and there are meta levels and all sorts of fun.

Small plates + large plates (King Benjamin’s time)

Small plates + abridgment (Mormon’s doing)

Abridgment + Book of Ether (another abridgment) (Moroni’s doing)

Stick of Ephraim + Stick of Judah (as talked about Ezekiel)

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).