There are 8 thoughts on “Labor Diligently to Write: The Ancient Making of a Modern Scripture — Chapters 6 – 8”.

  1. Brant, thank you. This is tremendous and painstaking. I particularly enjoy the attention you’ve given to how each chapter is constructed.

    A few notes about your engagement with the Axelgard/Spencer thesis. You cite Spencer’s conclusions in “An Other Testament” (2012) a lot. I haven’t read it, but I have read Spencer’s “The Vision of All: Twenty-Five Lectures on Isaiah in Nephi’s Record” (2016), which I really enjoyed–for a variety of reasons, especially in how much I fell in love with Isaiah generally through it–and he appears to have developed his thesis quite a bit in that one. In particular–and in response to note 222–he talks about his own thought on why first and second Nephi are, in fact, split and why that doesn’t map exactly into the two-book division. He also notes that “I gave some preliminary answers, largely useless, in my first book, An Other Testament. We’ll see if we can’t go well beyond them today” (page 39). While I doubt you’d change your position dramatically, I would be interested to see you respond to Spencer’s more developed (I think) thesis in his more recent work–though you’ve definitely made some fine points that have tempered me. I think it would make your own argument stronger.

    In particular, I wonder if the claim that “Nephi would have essentially wasted the ten years from the beginning of making the small plates to the end of 2 Nephi 5” (if the Axelgard/Spencer thesis is true) is too strong? Spencer offers a view of 1 Nephi that actually, in my head, rebuts that idea–suggesting that 1 Nephi is a work that Nephi feels prepares the reader for 2 Nephi, especially for how to read and engage with Isaiah. (See especially Spencer’s “A Vision for All,” lecture V, “The Nature of First Nephi”).

    Again, while I definitely don’t think you should spend all your time reacting to the thesis (at least in this work), given that at its foundation you see it as flawed (based on the imposition of our modern categories), I do think some citation of its more developed form would help sharpen the thesis. And given that Spencer authored the Maxwell Institute’s “Brief Theological Introduction” to 1 Nephi (due out in a few weeks), which will probably continue to popularize this view of 1 Nephi’s structure, I think it’d be really beneficial to make this argument strong given how you feel about it and how popular it may become.

    That aside, thank you for all this! This is so great. I’m loving the series and will likely spend the rest of my Sunday reading it! (If my wife lets me, ha.)

    • Although Dr. Spencer elaborates his ideas in the Isaiah book, they are not fundamentally different, simply differently argued. The arguments I outlined, echoing Dr. Reynolds, should suffice.

      I do want everyone to remember that Nephi himself said in 1 Nephi 19:6 that “I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred.” That alone suggests that the dichotomy between historical and more sacred, when applied to Nephi’s writings, fundamentally misses his own definition of what he intended. Remember that it was Nephi who made the break between the two books.

  2. I see that the small plates of Nephi are being discussed here. May I trouble you for an opinion.

    I have not spent much time researching minor issue this yet, so if there is info out there on the question I may well not be aware of it.

    Regarding the question of how the small plates came to be included in The Book of Mormon, if have seen the following perspectives expressed:

    – That Mormon copied them word for word into his own set of plates that he gave to his son Moroni that eventually were buried in the stone box. (What a pain that would have been.)

    – That the small plates themselves were inserted in their entirety into the other set of plates of Mormon, and therefore made up part of that set of plates in the stone box that Joseph translated. This could easily mean the one set had two or more sizes, depending on the size of the small plates of Nephi.

    – That Moroni gave Joseph the small plates of Nephi to translate after he finished the other set of plates from the stone box. So Joseph would have actually translated two sets of plates. I don’t like this notion since it seems to lack historical corroboration.

    I have seen the presentation Elder Packer gave to Seminary students on the larger issue of the make up of the plates of Mormon that Joseph translated, but he does not address this question, and it is not really a big deal.

    I brought this up since the subject was being discussed. Any thoughts?

    • There isn’t a final answer of which I am aware, but everything I have seen points to the inclusion with Mormon’s plates. Mormon says that he intended to add them, and I can’t see Moroni doing anything other than fulfilling his father’s instructions. The presence of Words of Mormon only makes sense if they were included at the same time.

      As for copying them, I don’t see that Mormon had the time, or the interest. He writes much more than he copies. There would only be one reason for copying, and that would be to translate from a thousand-year-old writing system to the one Mormon used. I suspect that Mormon was trained in that script and assumed that anyone who was educated enough to read what he wrote would also be educated enough to read the earlier script. While not technically true in an academic sense when Joseph translated, it was certainly true in the divine assistance that allowed Joseph to translate any of it.

      One of the things that comes out of that suggestion is that Nephi established a “Nephite standard size” for plates. There is no indication that any witness to the physical plates say any significant size difference among the plates, so there had to be a tradition that allowed plates Nephi physically made to be the same size as those Mormon himself physically made.

  3. Brant,
    Thanks for the article. I always enjoy reading your work, and especially appreciated your analysis of Words of Mormon. There is a part of WM that you didn’t mention that has long perplexed me, but which seems like it may be relevant to the placement of Words of Mormon. Any thoughts on what Mormon means when he says “wherefore I choose these things to finish my record upon them”? What unfinished part of his record is he referring to, and what are the “things”?

    • Stan,

      I have to preface this by noting that there is really no evidence, just supposition. However, I’m happy to speculate. I think what Mormon meant was that the small plates would be added to his work as an appendix. I don’t see any clear evidence that he used them, particularly since he had already finished writing the time period they covered. So, I think he literally meant that his work would be finished with those plates at the ends.

      This is also a statement made in the unambiguous part of the text, where it is clearly Mormon writing. The mention of Amaleki in verse 3 suggests that Words of Mormon was added after the end of the small plates, just in the position it is now (but not attached to the beginning of Mosiah). Just as the Title Page came at the end, so too did Words of Mormon come at the end. This is different from our common expectation that such material would come at the beginning.

  4. Brant,

    I do think your proposal that the end of the header text of 1 Nephi is belonging to the full text is probably correct. That preface always seemed to me to be wrong, but did not realize that there was no separation until this article. That’s why I asked that question in the previous portion of this series. Guess I should have just been patient!

    • Jerry,

      In some part of the text (but I just found I hadn’t updated it in a different section), my recent proposal is that the final sentence is a chapter header, not the first sentence of the text. That didn’t fit very well either, but it does fit with the general use of the chapter header, which is to introduce sources.

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