There are 30 thoughts on “That Which You Have Translated, Which You Have Retained”.

  1. Cliff, I’ve been pondering your explanation of “about to” in this paper. You explained, “In the aside, Mormon, who still needed to abridge about five centuries of the history of his people, writes that he is ‘about to deliver up the record which [he has] been making into the hands of [his] son Moroni’ (Words of Mormon 1:1). In this context, the modern meaning of the term ‘about to’ is out of place, but the archaic meaning, used in several other Book of Mormon passages, fits well, telling us that Mormon is working to deliver into the hands of his son Moroni the record he has been making.”
    At first, I thought you could very well be right about this, but after reflection, I’ve changed my mind. You’re interpreting “about to deliver up the record” as “about to *finish abridging* the record,” which isn’t the same thing at all. In fact, “about to deliver up the record” implies that the record is *already finished* and that Mormon is working toward (“about to”) actually getting it into the hands of Moroni.
    It’s true that in verse 9 Mormon says, “And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record,” but I believe he’s talking about Mormon chapters 6 and 7, which begin “And *now I finish my record* concerning the destruction of my people, the Nephites. In fact, Mormon’s “about to deliver” could refer to writing the material in those two chapters. By Mormon 8:1, Moroni has the records: “Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon”; at that point Mormon has successfully delivered the record to his son.
    I see another possible problem with your thesis. When Mormon is writing the Words of Mormon, he says in verse 6, “I shall take these [small] plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record.” This implies that the words he is currently writing (the Words of Mormon) are *separate* from the “remainder” of his record, not part of it.

    • Jack:

      It appears that further explanation of the archaic meaning of the term ‘about to’ may be helpful. With this archaic meaning, the term ‘about to’ indicates an ongoing effort aimed toward ultimately, but not immediately, reaching a specified goal. Because this term implies no sense of immediacy, the specified goal needn’t be an immediate goal. It is often a long-term, ultimate goal, with several interim goals to be accomplished before the ultimate goal is reached. A clear example is found in Helaman 1:22-23. As explained in the paper, the term ‘about to’ is used in this passage to explain that Coriantumr was “about to [working to] go forth against all the land.” Going forth against “all the land” was clearly the ultimate goal, but it had to be accomplished one step at a time. The term ‘about to’ describes the ultimate goal, but the first interim goal was to “march forth with a large army even towards the city of Bountiful.” Your comment suggests that Mormon should have referred to only this interim goal with the term ‘about to,’ but the text indicates that it is appropriate to use this term with a more-distant ultimate goal. There is no implication in the archaic meaning of the term ‘about to’ that any interim goals have already been achieved.

      This same concept applies in Alma 10:19. In this verse, the term ‘about to’ is used to explain that Alma’s ultimate goal was to “deliver up the kingdom” to the first chief judge. As explained in detail on page 43 of the paper, several important interim goals needed to be accomplished before this ultimate goal could be achieved. So once again, the term ‘about to’ refers to the ultimate goal rather than to the next interim goal.

      In Words of Mormon, Mormon uses the term ‘about to’ with exactly the same meaning. Rather than referring to an interim goal, such as finishing the abridgment, the term ‘about to’ refers to Mormon’s ultimate goal to “deliver up the record which [he has] been making into the hands of [his] son Moroni” (Words of Mormon 1:1). This meaning fits well in this context and in the greater context of all other language in Words of Mormon (including the language of the resumptive structure in Words of Mormon 1:9-10).

      As for the possible problem you see in Words of Mormon 1:6, the paper explains that Words of Mormon, in its entirety, is the original second chapter of Mosiah. None of this chapter was written on the small plates of Nephi. Mormon wrote this chapter on the plates of Mormon (where he wrote all of his abridgment of the large plates of Nephi.) You correctly state that Words of Mormon 1:6 tells us that the small-plate record is separate from the remainder of Mormon’s record. This remainder is the extensive portion of Mormon’s abridgment that is not yet written at the time he writes these words. Thus, the language in Words of Mormon 1:6 fits perfectly with my thesis. (For a more detailed explanation, please review pages 32, 33, and 38 of the paper.)

      • Cliff, thanks for your reply. You wrote:

        “It appears that further explanation of the archaic meaning of the term ‘about to’ may be helpful. With this archaic meaning, the term ‘about to’ indicates an ongoing effort aimed toward ultimately, but not immediately, reaching a specified goal.”

        I understand the archaic meaning. My point is that it’s a big stretch to interpret “about to deliver” as you have done if Mormon still has hundreds of years of Nephite history left to abridge. Why didn’t he say “about to finish” instead (in the archaic sense)? And in fact that’s basically what he does say in verse 9: “And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record.”

        I think it’s much more likely that when Mormon says “about to deliver” (in the archaic sense), he means exactly what he is saying. His abridgment is basically finished and he is working out how to deliver the record to Moroni.

        In my mind, verse 2 also supports this interpretation: “It is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I [now] deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people.” I’ve read your explanation of this verse in footnote 84, but I disagree with your conclusion.

        I also need to comment on Words of Mormon verse 5, which begins, “Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them.” Throughout your article, you’ve rendered that as “Wherefore, I *choose* [present tense] these things, to finish my record upon them,” which better supports your theory, but you didn’t mention why you made that change. You may be aware that “choose” is Royal Skousen’s preferred reading. Here is his analysis:

        Here in the Words of Mormon 1:5, when copying from O into P, Oliver Cowdery himself apparently interpreted the verb as being in the past tense since he initially wrote “chosed” in P. He immediately erased the final “d” to give “chose.” The spelling “chosed” could stand for either of two nonstandard past-tense forms, “choosed” or “chosed,” given that Oliver would have spelled both “choose” and “chose” in O as “chose.” Nonetheless, the fact that Oliver did not generally distinguish between “choose” and “chose” in his manuscript spellings means that for each case of the spelling “chose” we have to determine whether or not the intended reading is in the past tense. In the Words of Mormon 1:5, the present-tense “choose” is more consistent with the use of the present-tense forms throughout verses 4–6.

        I agree with Royal on most things, but I think he’s made the wrong choice here. Why? Because as he points out, “Oliver Cowdery himself apparently interpreted the verb as being *in the past tense* since he initially wrote ‘chosed’ in P. He immediately erased the final ‘d’ to give ‘chose.'”

        I also see little in the text itself to support Royal’s assertion that “the present-tense ‘choose’ is more consistent with the use of the present-tense forms throughout verses 4–6.”

        At any rate, I disagree that “the language in Words of Mormon 1:6 fits perfectly with [your] thesis.” If the Words of Mormon are included as *part* of Mormon’s abridgment, why would he refer to it as “the remainder of my record”? Isn’t it more likely that he would have said “the remainder of *this* record”?

        I believe that Words of Mormon verses 12-18 are what remains of Mosiah chapter 2, and that Mormon wrote Words of Mormon verses 1-11 on an additional plate that he placed at the end of the small plates, ending with “There are great things written upon [these small plates], out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written.”

        When Joseph and Oliver finished translating the small plates, they took those pages and put them on *top* of the manuscript that was left after the loss of the 116 pages. That manuscript began with what is now Words of Mormon verse 12: “And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people” (or wording very close to that).

        When Oliver later copied that juncture into the Printer’s Manuscript, he merged the end of the small-plates text (including what is now Words of Mormon verses 1-11) with the text that remained from Mosiah 2, incorrectly giving us this:

        there are great things written upon them, out of which my people and their brethren shall be judged at the great and last day, according to the word of God which is written. And now, concerning this king Benjamin—he had somewhat of contentions among his own people.

        My theory is harder to understand than yours, but I believe it’s correct. Interested readers can find my…

        • By the way, the fact that Oliver wrote “chosed” (ungrammatical past tense) in the Printer’s Manuscript indicates that the word in the Original Manuscript was also “chosed” (past tense). I believe that this trumps Royal’s reasoning about “present-tense forms throughout verses 4–6.”

      • If “about to…deliver” in WM 1:1 means “engaging in…preparations to deliver,” what preparations is he talking about? Abridging the last half of the Nephite record? That would make the production of the abridgment secondary to its delivery, which doesn’t seem fitting. One wouldn’t describe the act of writing a letter to a loved one as “engaging in preparations to drop a letter in the mail.” Writing a letter to one’s loved one is the purposeful activity, not merely a preparatory step for walking to one’s mailbox. In this case, since Mormon is “about to deliver” the record to his son, he is not talking about producing the record, since producing the record is his primary mission, not merely a preparatory step for passing on the plates. Perhaps he’s instead saying that he’s working on the logistics of delivering the plates—how he’s going to transport them while avoiding detection, etc—which seems more consistent with being “engaged in or busied with plans or preparations.” But why would he bring up the logistics of transferring the plates when he’s only half way through his abridgment?

        • Stan:

          This comment is intended to reply not only to your comment, but also to Jack’s most recent comments.

          Mormon’s words in Words of Mormon 1:1 suggest that Mormon didn’t see delivering the record to Moroni as the equivalent of dropping a letter in the mail. The archaic meaning of ‘about to’ highlights a future event that Mormon sees as his finish line. To Mormon, delivering this record to Moroni was more akin to the pioneers entering the Salt Lake valley. Everything Mormon would do with sacred records before delivering this record to Moroni was preparatory. The delivery of a completed record to Moroni would mark Mormon’s fulfillment of a commandment of the Lord.

          In Mormon 6:6, Mormon summarizes his efforts to preserve the records of his people. His words in this verse indicate that he had been given a commandment by which he could prevent “the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred” from falling “into the hands of the Lamanites, – for the Lamanites would destroy them.” These words identify three things Mormon did to fulfill this commandment. First, he “made this record out of the plates of Nephi.” Next, he “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to [him] by the hand of the Lord.” Finally, he gave “these few plates … unto [his] son Moroni.” Mormon’s words in Words of Mormon 1:1 suggest that, from the very beginning, Mormon had seen this third step as the culmination of the effort. It would be the final step in fulfilling the commandment he had received from the Lord.

          Mormon’s words in Mormon 6:6 describing this delivery are written in the past tense and are followed by his description of the battle of Cumorah. This indicates that Mormon delivered the record to Moroni before that battle. Having fulfilled the commandment, he was ready to meet the Lamanites. They might end his life, but the sacred records were safe. It appears that, at the time of that delivery, Mormon’s final words on the plates were the concluding words of Mormon chapter 5. After Mormon and Moroni both miraculously survived the battle of Cumorah, however, Moroni again gave the record to Mormon, who added chapters 6 and 7. Then, sometime before Mormon’s death, he once again delivered the record to Moroni.

          The following points relate to some of Jack’s further comments.

          As for the meaning of Words of Mormon 1:2, I stand by the clear explanation in footnote 84. The other passages cited in the footnote, including Words of Mormon 1:7, clearly show that Mormon sometimes uses the present tense to refer to future events. In fact, both your theory and mine acknowledge that Mormon’s present tense wording in Words of Mormon 1:2 refers to a future event. Even your view would be expressed more clearly if you were to replace your added word ‘now’ (which isn’t currently true while Mormon writes these words) with the word ‘will’ (which is). This added word isn’t necessary under either of our theories because, recognizing that Mormon sometimes uses the present tense to refer to future events, the meaning is sufficiently clear in either case without it.

          As I state in footnote 65, all Book of Mormon quotations in my paper are from Royal Skousen’s ‘The Book of Mormon, The Earliest Text.’ Accordingly, I use his word ‘choose’ in Words of Mormon 1:5. The word ‘chose’ can also work with my views, but I agree with Skousen’s well-thought-out rationale for selecting the word ‘choose.’

          As explained on page 38 of my paper, Mormon doesn’t use the term ‘the remainder of my record’ to refer specifically to Words of Mormon. He consistently uses this term to refer to “the extensive portion of Mormon’s abridged record that is not yet written at the time he writes these words.” The term ‘my record’ works perfectly within this larger term. The larger term refers to all that remains to be written by Mormon. When one understands when Mormon wrote these words, his term ‘the remainder of my record’ describes this remainder clearly and succinctly.

          I don’t expect to change your views. In my view, however, all of the words in Words of Mormon (and in the rest of the Book of Mormon) harmonize well with a small-plate record that ends with the last words of the book of Omni and a retained portion of the original manuscript that follows immediately thereafter in our Book of Mormon with the original second chapter of Mosiah. Oliver Cowdery’s unique mark designates this juncture. This juncture is located precisely where Mormon’s resumptive structure in Words of Mormon 1:9-10 indicates it should be found. I don’t mind that some diligent students of the Book of Mormon see things differently.

          • Cliff, you wrote, ” I don’t mind that some diligent students of the Book of Mormon see things differently.”

            Well, I should hope not! That’s half the fun of doing this kind of analysis, and, as Joseph Smith once said, “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.”

            Please keep up the good work–even if it doesn’t agree with mine. 🙂

  2. Part 2:
    Regarding the lines separating Omni from WM in the PM, keep in mind the purpose of the marks in the “Printer’s” Manuscript. Adding the marks was not an academic exercise. The PM was prepared specifically for the printer as he needed copy, and the various marks were intended for his eyes, to guide the typesetting. The location of the juncture between the translations of the small plates and the abridgment was not information the printer needed to know. But he did need to know where the breaks were between chapters and between books. In our case, he needed to know that WM was to be typeset as a book, not as a chapter of Omni (the lack of “The Book of…” gave room for confusion), so making this clear was a likely purpose of the long (page-width) line. Notice that the long line differs from the preceding short line in that it lacks the usual small waves, suggesting that it may have been placed at a different time. Also notice that, like the long line at the beginning of 3 Nephi, the long line above WM appears to be raised somewhat to avoid the underlying text as much as possible, reaching its first two high points at the two highest points in the underlying text (the initial “T” of “The Words” and the “b” of “about”). This suggests the line above WM was drawn after the text was in place. OC usually gave his separator lines their own vertical space rather than squeezing them in between lines of text, so this, too, suggests that the long lines in WM and 3 Nephi were later additions. The later addition of the long line in WM would have still been appropriate under your theory, but also under the traditional theory that WM came at the end of the small plates. In that case, OC may have added it when he realized that WM was not the “2d” chapter of Omni and should be set as a book. It is understandable that OC may have initially thought WM was a second chapter of Omni (despite Amaleki saying the plates were full) since the expected “The Book of…” was absent and (as you nicely illustrated) the phrase, “Words of Mormon” resembles some chapter headings elsewhere in the BoM.

    • Stan:

      Your thoughts about the timing of and purpose for the second of the two lines on page 115 of the printer’s manuscript are less persuasive. I agree with you that a line added later would still be appropriate under my theory, but the shape and placement of this line, together with other evidence, suggest a line drawn across the page in a single motion before the subsequent text was added.

      Skousen’s 2015 Typographical Facsimile of the Printer’s Manuscript doesn’t identify this second line as a revision added after the original text was in place. You correctly note that this line is less wavy than the first line. In general, this second line dips slightly near the center. You note that it easily clears the “T” at the beginning of the text and the “b” nearer to the end. In the center, however, where it dips, it touches the top of the capital “M” in “I Mormon.” It doesn’t turn upward at all to avoid this tall letter. The fact that it dips to its lowest point as it approaches this tall letter suggests that it was drawn in a single motion before this text was added. (Perhaps it dips in the center to avoid the descender of the letter “g” above this same point, but its trajectory appears to ignore all other descenders across the page.)

      Unlike all of Oliver Cowdery’s other separator lines, this one doesn’t begin or end with text, so it requires less vertical space than a line sharing such space with a partial line of text. There is plenty of vertical space for the line itself. It appears somewhat squeezed, as you say, only because of Oliver’s later interlinear addition of the Chapter information. This interlinear insertion, however, is no more squeezed than others in the manuscript.

      There are some similarities between this line on page 115 and the one on page 363 at the beginning of 3 Nephi, which was clearly added after the text was in place. It appears, however, that the differences between these lines are more significant than the similarities. Close examination of the line on page 363 shows that is a broken line that clearly bends to avoid preexisting text and to connect with the short wavy line at the end of the final line of text from Helaman. These obvious differences may suggest different purposes for these lines.

      You correctly state that “the location of the juncture between the translations of the small plates and the abridgment was not information the printer needed to know.” This doesn’t, however, rule out the possibility that the location of this juncture was information Oliver himself would want to have clear in his own mind as he returned to review the integrity of the printer’s manuscript. Recognizing the unique nature of this juncture, he may have felt a need to identify it clearly for editorial purposes. As explained in the paper, Oliver (and perhaps another scribe) did, in fact, return to make reconstructive edits following this significant mark. It appears that these edits were needed precisely because of the manuscript loss that caused this unique juncture. It would have been reasonable for Oliver to place a significant mark in the printer’s manuscript to remind himself to carefully review the text following this point. Such a purpose for the mark would have been at least as important as a need to give direction to the printer. The fact that Oliver did, in fact, revisit and edit this text before sending the manuscript to the printer provides ample justification for a mark made for this purpose.

      To the degree that a mark was needed in this location to alert the printer to the fact that the book of Omni had ended, the first of the two lines, the most significant mark of its nature in the entire manuscript, could have served that purpose without the addition of the second line. While it might be argued that this uniquely lengthy first line could also have been sufficient to remind Oliver to consider the need for reconstructive edits, Oliver clearly added a second line. He may well have believed that the two lines together were the best way to indicate the most unique juncture in the manuscript.

    • Stan, you wrote, “Regarding the lines separating Omni from WM in the PM, keep in mind the purpose of the marks in the ‘Printer’s’ Manuscript. Adding the marks was not an academic exercise. The PM was prepared specifically for the printer as he needed copy, and the various marks were intended for his eyes, to guide the typesetting.”

      That is *exactly* right. Oliver was preparing this document *for the printer* to work from, and keeping that in mind can help us better understand what was going on here in the manuscript.

  3. Cliff,

    Thank you for this extensive analysis of Words of Mormon. I found your discussion of “about to” especially informative. To me, the greatest mystery of Words of Mormon is why Mormon would be discussing elements of Benjamin’s reign that have nothing to do with the topic at hand–the small plates. Your idea would solve this mystery by making Words of Mormon part of the abridgment. But I think there is more evidence that needs to be considered.

    Part 1:
    Regarding “Chapter III” at the beginning of our current Mosiah. Skousen’s 2015 Typographical Facsimile of the PM has “Chapter” as part of the original writing in the PM and “III” as a later revision by an unknown hand (in JSP, click on the book icon above the zoom slider to see the color-coded text). This is relevant since, if the OM had said “Chapter III,” OC would in all likelihood have written “Chapter III” in the PM rather than saving the “III” to insert later. I can see a few reasons Skousen (2015) considers the “III” to be a later addition. In addition to the numbers being represented by Roman numerals rather words or Arabic numerals, there’s the heavier ink flow, which is also found (as you mention) in other chapter numbers that are Roman numerals (including in the fine strokes of these numbers, which strokes are obviously not retraced). This consistent difference in ink flow between Arabic and Roman numerals throughout the small plates and most of Mosiah (at least until the change of scribes) suggests that the Roman numerals were placed all at one time after the text had been copied. The chapter numbers in lighter ink (like the surrounding text) are all at first or second chapters (i.e., “first” or “1st” or “2d”). I suspect that OC tried to add the appropriate chapter numbers as he was copying the text but lost track of which number he was on by the time he got to the second or third chapter of each book, and left a blank space so he could come back and fill in the number later. Then he or someone else (possibly Scribe 2, whose writing in Mosiah has heavier ink flow) went back and filled in the missing chapter numbers using Roman numerals, labeling unnumbered chapters following “1st”/“first” chapters as “II” and unnumbered chapters following “2d” chapters as “III,” etc. until he came to the next “Book of….” This may explain how our Mosiah 1 initially got labeled as “III”, since it follows “Chapter 2d” with (initially) no “Book of…” in between. OC (if he did the numbering), upon taking a closer look, would have soon realized he was in a new book and corrected the “III” to a “I.” There’s more evidence that the Roman numerals are revisions. First, several of them are written partially below the line of surrounding text (see original numbering V, VII, XI, XIII in 2N, III in Jb, and IIII and VII in Mh), suggesting later, less precise placement. Second, there is often extra space between “Chapter” and the Roman numeral, again suggesting later, less precise placement of the numerals. This extra space is especially apparent between “Chapter” and “III” in our first chapter of Mosiah. If OC had written the Roman numerals at the same time he wrote “Chapter,” in all likelihood there would be no extra space and the words and numerals would be lined up and have similar ink flow. Given this evidence for a temporal difference between the placement of the Arabic and Roman numerals, it doesn’t appear that either scribe arbitrarily switched between the two systems while copying the text. The example of Alma “10th” followed by “XI” that you mention corresponds to a change of scribes in the PM.

    • Stan:

      Thanks for thoughtfully presenting and considering this additional evidence and particularly for pointing out how to access Skousen’s 2015 Typographical Facsimile of the Printer’s Manuscript from any page in Joseph Smith Papers copy of the printer’s manuscript. I wasn’t aware of this important resource.

      This resource, together with your analysis of the Roman numerals in the printer’s manuscript have convinced me that the “III” on page 117 of the printer’s manuscript is indeed a later revision by an unknown hand. It would appear that in this location, as in many others, the original manuscript contained only an indication of a chapter break. This indication was copied from the original manuscript to the printer’s manuscript. The Roman numeral III was added later. Had I known of this additional evidence when writing my paper, I wouldn’t have suggested that the number III came from the original manuscript. This additional evidence, however, doesn’t materially affect the rationale of the paper or its conclusions. The retained segment of the original manuscript remains the most likely source for the original number 2d in the previous chapter from which the original number III flowed. All other evidence discussed in the paper, including this number 2d, still firmly supports a conclusion that the chapter we call Words of Mormon was the original second chapter of Mosiah.

  4. What a wonderful article. I am so glad that you took the time to “grind out” the supporting details. I have tried to illustrate the details of your proposal in a simple diagram. If you will contact me at my e-mail address I would be glad to send you the file for your comment.

  5. Thank you for your research. I’ve studied the article and comments. Are you saying:

    “The lost “116” pages from the abridged, translated large plates were replaced by 114.5 pages from the translated small plates.”

    If so, how do get around the unlikelihood / improbability that these two separate writings were within 1.5 pages of each other in length.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks, Jim, for your comment. You correctly understand the reported lengths of the lost part of the original manuscript and portion of the printer’s manuscript containing the small-plate record.

      How is it improbable that these manuscripts would have similar lengths? By what reasoning would you suggest a different length for the lost manuscript? As explained in detail in my article and addendum, the best available evidence supports the length repeatedly attested to by Joseph Smith and Martin Harris. The similarity of this length to that of the replacement record in the printer’s manuscript is clear, but the similarity neither enhances nor diminishes the likelihood that their reports were accurate.

  6. Part 2
    Fourth, on page 35 there is a discussion of Mormon’s summary of King Benjamin’s reign found in Words of Mormon 1:12-18. My conclusion is that Mormon’s account is not just a random historical summary but is Mormon’s list of the matching problems the Nephites faced in both time periods. Mormon does not just list the problems but also includes the King Benjamin’s positive resolutions and solutions for each situation. Mormon open’s his little aside Words of Mormon chapter on a very gloomy future for the Nephites but ends it with the a more upbeat hope of their possible recovery by using what I call “the King Benjamin” solution. I believe we see Mormon recounting such an attempt in Moroni 9:4 where he talk of speaking the “word of God with sharpness” in the same manner that King Benjamin and holy men did as recorded in Words of Mormon 1:17.
    Fifth, while I enjoyed the discussion on pages 40-44 concerning the archaic meaning of the word “about” found in Words of Mormon 1:1 where Mormon states that he is “about to deliver the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni”, I believe the discussion is all for not. Everybody assumes that Mormon only would deliver a completed record to Moroni and never consider that Mormon may be short on time and is needing help to transcribe his writings onto the metal plates. There are 2 place that indicate that this could be the case. First, in Mormon 6:6 Mormon writes; “. . .therefore I made this record out of the plates of Nephi, and hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates which I gave [past tense meaning Moroni already had possession of the plates while Mormon is still composing his record] unto my son Moroni.” Second, there is Mormon’s 2nd epistle to Moroni, found in Moroni 9, that Mormon composed after a horrific battle (most likely the one mentioned in Mormon 5:6-7) to let Moroni know that he was still alive. In Moroni 9:24 Mormon tells Moroni; “…wherefore, write somewhat a few things, if thou are spared and I shall perish and not see thee; but I trust that I may see thee soon; for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee.” This verse leaves me with the question; what is Moroni supposed to write upon that will last into the future that it may someday profit the Lamanites and the Nephite deserters? Also, not only is Moroni 9:22-24 very much the same message that we find in Words of Mormon 1:2, but it seems incomplete after the line “write somewhat a few things”. To me it is screaming to be made whole with the last few lines from Mormon 1:2 “concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them.” My answer to my question is this, that at the time Mormon wrote his epistle, Moroni had the plates of Mormon to perform the tedious task of transcribing Mormon’s writings onto the metal plates. We know that writing on metal plates was a hard and time consuming task because Jacob tells us such in Jacob 4:1; “…(and I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates)…” This is a small subset of a larger discussion that needs to be explored concerning the overwhelming chore of Nephite record keeping.

    • Terry:

      I hadn’t considered the similarities between the problems encountered by King Benjamin and Mormon. Thanks for pointing them out.

      The suggestion that Mormon may have abridged the large-plate record onto a less-permanent medium and then transcribed that interim record onto his own plates is interesting, but unnecessary. In my opinion, neither Mormon’s use of the term “about to” (Words of Mormon 1:1) nor his description of how and when he “made this record” (Mormon 6:6) rely on the existence of an interim record. Perhaps, as you suggest, that topic should eventually be explored in more depth.

  7. Part 1
    Amen, Amen, Amen! I have been trying to write a similar article since 2013, struggling to overcome my lack of academic writing skills. Clifford did a much better job than what I ever could have produced. I want to point out a few things but space is tight and so I must be brief. First, on page 11 the math is off–the lost 116 pages would be comprised of 5 gatherings instead of 6 with the 5th having 20 pages instead of 24 pages.
    Second, on page 14 it is claimed that the extended “full page” wavy line between the Book of Omni and the Words of Mormon is unique in the printer’s manuscript–it is not. This mark is used in 2 places in the printer’s manuscript. Oliver Cowdery used the same mark to separate the book that is now called Third Nephi from the end of the Book of Helaman. I was going to use this instance to show that the mark between the Book of Omni and the Words of Mormon was not a fluke or an impulsive flourish but a deliberate emphasized mark of separation. The original manuscript for the start of Third Nephi still exists and shows that the format of its first page as / main book title / Chapter I / title extension / Chapter I / text /. For the printer’s manuscript Oliver Cowdery removed the first “Chapter I” and formatted the first page as / main book title / title extension / Chapter I / text /. Therefore he added the emphasized full page wavy line to ensure recognition of the new book break between the last of the Book of Helaman and this copious title of Third Nephi. However, John Gilbert never saw Oliver Cowdery’s formatting of Third Nephi. The original manuscript was used for printing this part of the Book of Mormon because the printer’s manuscript was taken to Canada to try and sell the copyright. Seeing the original manuscript format of first page, Gilbert removed the second “Chapter I” and formatted the page as / main book title / Chapter I / title extension / text /. The source for the printer’s manuscript came from 2 separate sets of gatherings, one from the remainder of Mormon’s abridgement and the other from the “small” plates of Nephi which was copied first in the printer’s manuscript. It is only natural that one would expect to see a definite indicator separating the 2 sources and we see such an emphasized separating mark between the end of the Book of Omni and the beginning of the Words of Mormon. I feel this added analysis of the separation between the Book of Helaman and the Third Nephi shows that the similar separator prior to the Words of Mormon was intentional and not a fluke. Although Joseph Smith added a forward to the Book of Mormon explaining the situation of the lost 116 pages and the use of content from the “small” plates of Nephi, one wonders if Joseph fully followed the Lord’s instructions as recorded in D&C 10:42 to publish this document as the “record of Nephi” because, currently, its existence seems to vanish into the contents of Mormon’s abridgement under the title of Book of Mormon.
    Third, concerning the analysis of D&C 10:38-39 on pages 33-34, I disagree with the conclusion. I believe that in D&C 10:39 the Lord is quoting Nephi as abridged by Mormon. One can read similar words from Nephi concerning the “large” plates of Nephi in 2 Nephi 5:33 where Nephi is recounting within the historical time line the commandment he received to make the “small” plates. The full account can be found in 2 Nephi 5:29-33. Nephi would have used similar language in the “large” plates to narrate this same event when he described the “small” plates. Nephi explained more about the purpose and content of the “small” plates in an aside found in 1 Nephi 9. I believe 2 things prevented Mormon from looking for these “small” plates at the time he learned about them. First, I feel that Nephi most likely indicated in the “large” plates his intent to gives these “small” plates to Jacob who was previously ordained as a priest and teacher. Second, I believe the difficulty in getting to the location of the bulk of the Nephite records was a hindrance. I feel that Mormon was left contemplating the existence and location of the “small” plates. So when Mormon joyously read about their survival and inclusion in the official Nephite library he couldn’t contain himself and did make the effort to find them.

    • Thanks, Terry, for your perspective and insights. It appears that you and I have held similar views about Words of Mormon for quite some time.

      Your math is correct. The lost manuscript was comprised of five gatherings—four 24-page gatherings and one 20-page gathering. I have it right on page 4, but wrong on page 11. Good catch!

      I consider the line that Oliver Cowdery placed at the beginning of 3 Nephi on page 363 of the printer’s manuscript (and the other line below the description of book contents on that page) to be sufficiently different from the two consecutive lines on page 115 to warrant calling those consecutive lines a unique mark. The first line on page 363 is a broken line that appears to have been added after the surrounding text was in place (it bends to avoid text). The second line on that page is simply an extended blank for the chapter number. The two consecutive lines on page 115, on the other hand, are both solid lines that appear to have been added as a single significant mark before Oliver moved on to the subsequent text. I agree with you that, in each case, the lines were made intentionally. Indeed, I believe that you and I agree on the likely purpose for each of these lines.

      I’m confident that Joseph Smith was true to the Lord’s instruction to publish the small-plate record as the record of Nephi. I believe that most readers of the Book of Mormon have understood from the published record that the first part of the Book of Mormon is Nephi’s small-plate record and that Mormon’s words begin with the Words of Mormon.

      In Doctrine and Covenants 10:38-40, the Lord reminds Joseph Smith that the lost manuscript said that the small-plate account is “more particular” about information important in our day. Pages 33-34 of my paper suggest that this now-missing provision may have been found at the end of the lost manuscript. You disagree, suggesting an alternate scenario in which Nephi may have written a large-plate passage mirroring 2 Nephi 5:33 (where Nephi explains that his other record—the large-plate record—contains the “more particular” part of the history of his people). In this presumed large-plate passage, Nephi might have described the topics on which the small-plate record is “more particular.” You suggest that Mormon might have quoted such a passage in the early part of his abridgment. He didn’t search for the small plates at the time, however, either because he thought they remained with Jacob’s heirs or because Mormon was away from the bulk of the ancient records at that time. Perhaps that was the case, but it seems to be based on significant speculation. In addition, it may contradict Mormon 6:6, which tells us that Mormon “made this record,” (his abridged record) “from the [large] plates of Nephi” after his people were gathered “to the land of Cumorah” and before he “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to [him] by the hand of the Lord.” This indicates that Mormon made his abridgment in Cumorah while he had access to all the sacred records entrusted to him.

  8. This is certainly a well-reasoned argument. However, I would like to call into question the key point in Jones’ focus, which he relegated to his note 47, the actual number of lost pages. Moreover, Jones there misses the opportunity to recognize the obvious (which is recognized as a real possibility by the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers Project):

    In the Printer’s Manuscript, page 116 comes just before the next page in which the current book of Mosiah begins, nearly at the top of the page. Joseph may well have been using that 116-page count to speak of the generic length of the book of Lehi, rather than the exact page-count which he supposedly recalled from the Original Manuscript (I doubt that he could recall the exact page-count from 1828 when he penned the Preface in late 1829). Otherwise we must claim pure coincidence that the 116 pages is the same in both manuscripts, which seems hardly likely. As Jones observes, we do not have that section of the Original MS. Don Bradley may have been correct to suggest that the lost pages were 200 or more pages in length.

    Also, the rate of use of the phrase “it came to pass” in Words of Mormon is exactly the same as only one other book in the BofM, the book of Mormon. This is true of no other books in the BofM, as I show at . This suggests that Words of Mormon is fully unique to Editor Mormon himself, and not merely an aside.

    • Thanks, Robert, for your comment.

      Evidence relating to the length of the lost portion of the original manuscript is covered in more detail in my Appendix A: Consistent, Credible Evidence that Supports Joseph Smith’s Published Page Count of 116 Pages. As explained there, the physical evidence for the page count is all gone. The most likely evidence available to Joseph Smith at the time he wrote the preface was the page number 117 on the first page of the retained portion of the manuscript. This numbered page, however, together with rest of the retained portion, was lost to water damage, so that physical evidence is no longer available.

      Today, the best remaining evidence for the length of the lost manuscript includes three published statements from Joseph Smith, a firsthand witness who was acquainted with both the lost manuscript and the retained portion of the manuscript. Each statement confirms a length of 116 pages. Martin Harris, another firsthand witness, also appears to have confirmed this number several times, but we have received his words only through the statements of others. Don Bradley suggests both that the early pages of the original manuscript may not have been numbered and also that there was no retained portion of that earliest manuscript. He suggests that Joseph may have estimated the length of the lost manuscript based on the length, in the printer’s manuscript, of the replacement record. My note 47 explains, however, that Bradley’s 116-page length for the replacement record includes the Words of Mormon, which, I propose, was not part of the replacement record at all, but was the original second chapter of Mosiah. When the length of Words of Mormon is omitted, the length of the actual replacement record in the printer’s manuscript is 114.5 pages and not 116 pages. Had Joseph estimated the length as Bradley suggests, he would have used either the number 114 or 115. Both your comment and my note 47 acknowledge that the editors of the Joseph Smith Papers Project mention Bradley’s theory. Those editors note, however, that Oliver may not have completed the printer’s manuscript through page 116 before Joseph Smith wrote the number 116 in his preface to the 1830 Book of Mormon.

      Thanks also for pointing me to your research on the occurrence rates for the phrase “it came to pass.” Your research appears to suggest that Mormon’s rate of usage of this phrase in the Words of Mormon is similar to the combined rate of usage of this phrase by Mormon and Moroni in the book of Mormon. I don’t believe this information affects the fact that Mormon wrote Words of Mormon 1:1-8 as an aside.

  9. Thanks for your article! I’m thrilled to see someone else working on this topic.

    For readers who might be interested, the paper that Kent Minson and I published on the Words of Mormon is available here:

    Brant Gardner’s response to our paper can be found here:

    Brant and I have had a lot of online discussion about all this, which is available here:

    Best wishes,
    Jack Lyon

    • Thanks for your comment, Jack. Your scholarship helped me recognize the possibility that the Words of Mormon is part of the book of Mosiah. Thanks for your contributions.

      • Readers of your paper may be interested in seeing my PDF containing images of the relevant chapter openings from the Printer’s Manuscript:

        I encourage you to download it and examine it carefully. In fact, you should zoom in on the images so you can really see what’s going on. I have edited some of the images in Photoshop to show the stages of Oliver Cowdery’s editing. Doing so makes the progression very clear. That sounds like cheating, maybe, but take a look. I think you’ll see that my editing makes sense and reflects what Oliver was doing.

        • Thanks again, Jack, for sharing this PDF. It’s a creative and easily understood visual aid that represents Oliver Cowdery’s edits to the printer’s manuscript in their likely sequence.

  10. Very well reasoned and presented. The idea of the Words of Mormon being an inserted break in the original Book of Mosiah was a bit of a forehead-slapping moment for me, since it is consistent with Mormon’s editorial approach throughout, especially in Mosiah and Alma. It also makes the resumptive statement at the end of the WofM make far more sense than for any other location for the WofM.

    Honestly, the only counter-argument that springs to mind is Mormon’s self-introduction in 3 Nephi 5:12-19, which would seem at first glance to predate Mormon’s immediate reference to himself and his situation in WofM 1:1-2, where he seems to assume the reader knows who he is and what his situation is. One would have to assume that Mormon has a self-introduction earlier, likely at the start of Lehi 1, but then why the re-introduction in 3 Nephi 5?

    To answer my own question: Mormon may have included information in 3 Nephi 5 that he had not earlier presented, and/or he may have felt the need to re-establish his bona fides as “a disciple of Jesus Christ…called by him” before presenting the grand climax of the Book of Mormon, namely the fulfilment of all the prophecies in the destruction surrounding the death of Christ and His subsequent ministry as the resurrected Jehovah in the New World.

    Thank you. This is an important addition to Book of Mormon scholarship.

    • A forehead-slapping moment — that’s a great description for the impact of this important work of great scholarship. Once pointed out, the idea makes so much sense that many might wonder why we didn’t see this before, but I think it took a great deal of work to pull together the many subtle clues and even to notice details like the two unusual lines in the Printer’s Manuscript, to then be able to see and elucidate an entirely new way of understanding the Words of Mormon. This paper means a lot to me and I’m so grateful to Cliff Jones for the extensive work he did to make this possible.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged.

Close this window

Top of Page

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This