You are here

Words of Mormon


Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah










Words of Mormon (Primary Text to Condensed Narrative History):


     According to John Tanner, "the juncture between Omni and Words of Mormon evinces precisely the disjointedness one would expect of a bridge between an unedited primary text and a heavily condensed narrative history. Despite Mormon's best efforts to smooth the transition, readers are inevitably confused at this juncture. And well they might be. At this point every major record (the small plates, Mormon's abridgment of the large plates, the plates of brass, and the 24 plates), and every major civilization (the Nephites, Mulekites, and Jaredites, and two different time frames (Mosiah's and Mormon's) are fitted snugly together. Though this transition is usually taught perfunctorily, I regard it as a powerful textual witness that we are dealing with the genuine article. Its textual complexity is of a piece with the small plates' stylistic diversity. Both attest that the small plates are a different sort of document from Mormon's redaction; they testify that the small plates are a first-person document." [John S. Tanner, "Literary Reflections on Jacob and His Descendants," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, p. 253]


Words of Mormon 1:1 And Now I, Mormon, Being About to Deliver up the Record:


     The first-time reader of the Book of Mormon will note that Mormon's introductory statement concerning himself in Words of Mormon 1:1 is their first acquaintance with him (other than the Title Page). Yet he writes as if he should already be known. This is because the Words of Mormon represents a literary bridge between the record referred to as the "small" plates of Nephi and Mormon's abridgment of the large plates of Nephi. The translation manuscript of the first part of Mormon's abridgment was lost by Martin Harris (see the commentary on Words of Mormon 1:7 for a more complete account of this loss). Rather than retranslate, Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord to substitute the translation of a record Jacob referred to as the "small" plates (Jacob 1:1). Mormon had been inspired to include this "small account" with his abridgment (W of M 1:3-6). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Words of Mormon 1:1 I, Mormon, Being about to Deliver Up the Record:


     In Mormon's record of the final years of the Nephite nation, there is no mention of his turning any of the records over to Moroni prior to the year 385 (385 years after the sign of Christ's birth). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mormon 6:6] [See the illustration for Omni 1:25--Nephite Record Keepers]


Words of Mormon 1:2 That Perhaps Someday It May Profit Them:


     In Words of Mormon 1:2, Mormon makes a very interesting statement:

           And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them.


     Hugh Nibley poses the question, If they [the Nephites] were all destroyed, how can it "profit them" someday? The answer is that Mormon doesn't mean entire destruction. There were survivors, as far as that goes. But the word destruo means to break down the structure of the society, that sort of thing. The same can be applied to the destruction of the Jaredite civilization. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, p. 435]


Words of Mormon 1:3 And Now I Speak Concerning That Which I Have Written:


     John and Gregory Welch note that Mormon, the chief abridger and editor of the full Book of Mormon, also added comments of his own to many of the books in that record, besides writing two books within the Book of Mormon that also bear his name (the Words of Mormon and the book of Mormon. The chart below demonstrates his editorial commentaries, skillfully woven into the text of the primary authors. [John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., commentary for Chart 20]


Words of Mormon 1:3 And now I speak concerning that which I have written (Illustration): Chart: Writings of Mormon. [Adapted from John W. Welch and J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart 20]


     Writings of Mormon



Description of Text

A.D. Date


W of M 1:1-2

on delivering plates to Moroni


W of M 1:3-11

on abridging the plates of Nephi



W of M 1:12-18

account of Benjamin



Alma 22:27-35




Helaman 3:13-17

on record keeping



Helaman 12

on human nature



3 Nephi 5:8-26

on record keeping



3 Nephi 10:11-19

on searching the scriptures



3 Nephi 26:8-21

on Christ's visit to the Nephites



3 Nephi 28:24--30:2

on the Three Nephites & the gathering of Israel



4 Nephi

four generations of history



Mormon 1:1-6




Mormon 6:16-7:10

lament over people and testimony to remnant



Moroni 7

sermon on good works



Moroni 8

epistle on baptism



Moroni 9

farewell epistle to Moroni



Words of Mormon 1:3 After I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi (Illustration): Mormon Abridging the Plates. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #306]


Words of Mormon 1:3 This Small Account:


     According to Brant Gardner, what "this small account" (W of M 1:3) probably is NOT, is smaller in plate-size than Mormon's plates that he used for his abridgment. Nephi was commanded to forge both the large plates and small plates of Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:1-5). While forging these original plates, it would have made much more sense to make them all the same size, and simply use some in one record and some in another. Thus we would not suppose that the individual sheets of the "small" plates would be any different in size than the rest of the plates. The term "small" probably relates to the quantity of sheets.

     Modern descriptions of Mormon's complete set of plates have them held together with rings, implying no difference in size of the individual plates. Apparently, the physical size of the individual sheets that Nephi forged became the de facto size for metal plate records throughout Nephite history. [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary,", pp. 8-9]


Words of Mormon 1:3 This King Benjamin:


     According to John Welch, Benjamin's name is intriguing, although somewhat of a mystery. Benjamin was the name of the younger brother of Joseph (see Genesis 35:18; 46:19), and the tribe of Benjamin was known for being warlike. It is quite possible that Benjamin's name was meaningful to him and his people in the context of his kingship over the land of Zarahemla. This name may have been given to him at birth, or it may have been given to him as a coronation name. Indeed it is probable that Israelite kings were given a new name or a coronation name when they took the throne.40 Either way, the name of Benjamin was probably meaningful to him as king.41

     Since the Nephites were from the tribe of Manasseh (see Alma 10:2-3), and since the Mulekites were from the tribe of Judah (as descendants of royal fugitives from Jerusalem and their sailors), it is unclear why Benjamin would have been given the name of the head of another tribe in Israel. Several possibilities exist.

     1. The first king over a united Israel was Saul. He was a Benjaminite (see 1 Samuel 9:1) who made the site of Gibeah in the central Benjaminite territory his capital. . . . Similarly, King Benjamin ruled over a newly consolidated kingdom.

     2. In ancient Israel the lands of the tribe of Benjamin lay immediately and strategically between the territory of the tribe of Judah to the south and the land of Manasseh to the north.42 In this central territory the people of Israel "came up" to their judges to be judged (Judges 4:5); here also Samuel assembled all Israel to pray (see 1 Samuel 7:5-6). From traditional functions like these, the name and place of Benjamin symbolized to the Israelites a meeting place between Judah and Manasseh. In Nephite terms, one may conjecture that Benjamin's name . . . could have similarly suggested a middle ground between the Mulekites (of Judah) and the Nephites (of Manasseh).

     3. The name Benjamin may mean literally "son of the right hand," although this etymology is not entirely certain. . . . Benjamin promised his people that he who knows "the name by which he is called" "shall be found at the right hand of God" (Mosiah 5:9). Benjamin's audience may well have noticed a similarity between Benjamin's name and this important phrase, "to be found at the right hand of God." [John W. Welch, "Benjamin, the Man: His Place in Nephite History," in King Benjamin's Speech, pp. 25-27]


Words of Mormon 1:5 Wherefore I Chose These Things to Finish My Record upon Them:


     In Words of Mormon 1:5, Mormon provides some information concerning the way in which he structured his writing, but unfortunately he does not make his intent clear. Mormon says, "Wherefore I chose these things to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi."

     According to Daniel Ludlow, several questions have been raised concerning this brief verse by Mormon:

     (1) First of all, to what is he referring when he states he is going to finish his record?

     (2) To what plates is he referring when he says he will finish his record upon these things?

     (3) To what section of his writings is he referring to when he talks of the remainder of his record?


     Most Book of Mormon scholars have assumed that when Mormon refers to finishing "his records" he had in mind the rest of his writings in the small section entitled The Words of Mormon. Most scholars also assume that "these things" refer to the small plates of Nephi. If this interpretation is correct, then the section entitled The Words of Mormon was written at the end of the small plates of Nephi. According to these scholars the fact that Amaleki says the small plates of Nephi are already full (Omni 1:30) does not necessarily rule out the possibility of adding the brief notes that make up The Words of Mormon.

     Mormon's reference to the "remainder" of his record is a little more confusing. Some scholars believe that here Mormon is referring to the rest of his writings in The Words of Mormon, the ideas of which he obtained from the large plates of Nephi. Other scholars, however, believe that Mormon is referring to that portion of his abridgment from the large plates of Nephi which he has not yet written on his plates of Mormon. Unfortunately, the pronoun reference in verse 5 does not make it possible to determine Mormon's meaning exactly." [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 171-172]

     Note* Although discounted here, the idea that Mormon still has the rest of his abridgment to write (Mosiah to the end) is supported by Eldin Ricks. [see Eldin Ricks, "The Small Plates of Nephi and the Words of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon: To Learn with Joy, p. 216]


Words of Mormon 1:5 Wherefore I Chose These Things to Finish My Record upon Them:


     After Mormon had made an abridgment of the large plates of Nephi down to the reign of king Benjamin, he searched and found the small plates (Words of Mormon 1:3). He then makes an interesting comment:

     And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me,

       [1] because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea and

       [2] I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass--


       [3] I chose these things to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi. (Words of Mormon 1:4-5, emphasis added)


     If I interpret these verses correctly, then Mormon "chose" to use the content of prophetic writings on the small plates as a pattern by which he would "finish" the rest of his abridgment. In other words, he would choose accounts from the large plates which would amplify this pattern.

     Question: What patterns of writings and/or what prophetic writings were there in the small plates that might have caused Mormon to respond this way? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


     Garold Davis makes some interesting observations in this regard:

     The question naturally arises, why would Mormon include in the Book of Mormon record twenty-one nearly complete chapters of Isaiah as well as quotations from them and other Isaiah chapters? Why this duplication of scripture? . . . The inclusion of this large body of information from the prophet Isaiah must surely be attributed to more than human oversight. Indeed, in this view the Book of Mormon's repeated affirmations of the great worth of Isaiah's words suggest a divine purpose behind their preservation in two different yet complementary collections of scripture.

     I suggest two possible reasons for the duplication of Isaiah's writings. First, the Isaiah text translated by Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon contains numerous differences from the biblical translations of the same text available in his day and in ours. . . . [Because it predates the biblical texts and was translated by the prophet Joseph Smith] the Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon corrects textual errors perpetuated in the biblical versions.

     A second reason for the duplication is that the Book of Mormon Isaiah text comes complete with a number of specific commentaries, an advantage that the biblical text of Isaiah does not have.

     The Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon occur within a very interesting lexical or contextual pattern. Careful readers of the book are aware that one of its major themes is the history and destiny of the Lord's covenant relationship with the house of Israel--a theme that includes the Abrahamic covenant, the covenant of the infinite atonement, the scattering of Israel, and the reestablishment of the house of Israel in the last days by a mighty gentile nation.. . .

     The scope of [Davis's] paper does not allow a detailed explication of the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon. Rather, [his] approach is to suggest how the commentaries unite in purpose to clarify and reinforce Isaiah's teachings. These commentaries are remarkably consistent in their interpretation and application of Isaiah's words.

     And even before these commentaries on Isaiah, Nephi gives the reader a very interesting textual note. Nephi tells us that in order to explain "my proceedings, and my reign and ministry" (1 Nephi 10:1), he must comment on the teachings of his father. He then gives a summary of Lehi's teachings that is a rather precise outline for all the commentaries on Isaiah that follow in the Book of Mormon. 1 Nephi 10 indicates that:

     (1) Jerusalem will be destroyed and the Jews will be carried away (v. 3);

     (2) the Jews will return and "possess again the land of their inheritance" (v. 3)

     (3) the Messiah will come and "take away the sins of the world," but he will be rejected and slain and will then "rise from the dead" (vv. 4-11);

     (4) the house of Israel will then be scattered "upon all the face of the earth" (vv. 12-13);

     (5) the gentiles will receive "the fulness of the Gospel,," and then the house of Israel will be gathered together and "come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer" (v. 14).


     Davis then discusses the following commentaries:

     (1) Nephi's commentary on Isaiah 48 and 49 in 1 Nephi 19 and 22 is entirely consistent with Lehi's outline and commentary that Nephi recorded in 1 Nephi 10 and 15.

     (2) Jacob's commentary on Isaiah 50-51 (2 Nephi 7-8) is found in Jacob 6, 9, 10. Once again Jacob identifies the major theses that always accompany his citing of Isaiah. These are also consistent with Lehi's teaching outline found in 1 Nephi 10.

     (3) Using Nephi's introductory commentary on Isaiah in 2 Nephi 11 and his summarizing commentary in 2 Nephi 25 as a guide, we can make our way more confidently through the thirteen chapters of Isaiah (Isaiah 2-14) quoted in 2 Nephi 12-24.

     (4) Concerning Isaiah 29 (2 Nephi 26-27), the words of Nephi (and the Lord) from 2 Nephi 26 through 29 constitute what must be the most careful and specific commentary on Isaiah in the entire Book of Mormon.

     (5) Abinadi's quoting of Isaiah leads into a commentary on the resurrection of mankind and the justice of God. Like Nephi, Abinadi identifies a time for the events he will describe. . . .Abinadi concludes his sermon and Isaiah commentary with a return to the purpose of the law of Moses:"Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come--Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father" (Mosiah 16:14-15).

     (6) The Savior's Commentary on Isaiah 52 and 54 (3 Nephi 16, 20, 22). The last full chapters of Isaiah quoted in the Book of Mormon, Isaiah 52 and 54, are quoted by the Savior himself in 3 Nephi 16, 20, and 22 and are preceded by a lengthy and detailed commentary beginning in 3 Nephi 16. Here the Savior tells of visiting his other sheep and then turns his attention to the destiny of the house of Israel, which according to the familiar pattern will be scattered and then gathered again in the last days by the gentiles. The Savior's commentary on Isaiah continues in chapter 20 when he returns to the theme of the house of Israel. Continuing this theme, 3 Nephi 21 begins with a specific statement that again identifies the time when these prophesies of Isaiah are to be fulfilled. With this introduction, the Savior then quotes Isaiah 54 in its entirety.


     In view of the significance of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, it is perhaps fitting that Moroni should quote from Isaiah as part of his final exhortation and farewell: "And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing [from Isaiah 52:11]. And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion [from Isaiah 52:1]; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever [from Isaiah 54:2], that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled" (Moroni 10:230-31].


     In summary, it should be emphasized that the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon are not unnecessary duplications of the biblical Isaiah. Rather, they are an inspired, integral part of that sacred text. Although the Book of Mormon Isaiah makes significant corrections to the biblical Isaiah, the greater value lies, first, in the contextual setting in which the doctrines of the covenant of Christ's atoning sacrifice, the prophesied scattering of Israel, and the restoration of the house of Israel in the last days through the instrumentality of the gentiles receive their full and proper emphasis; and, second, in the rich and detailed interpretations given us through the commentaries of Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Abinadi, and the Savior. [Garold N. Davis, "Pattern and Purpose of the Isaiah Commentaries in the Book of Mormon," in Davis Britton ed. Mormons, Scripture, and the Ancient World, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 277-303]


Words of Mormon 1:5 I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people (Illustration): Chart: References Showing We Have Less Than One Percent of What Was Written. [Raymond C. Treat, "What Is in the Book of Mormon Is There for a Purpose," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 173]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I Do This for a Wise Purpose:


     According to Jeffrey Holland, at least six times in the Book of Mormon the phrase "for a wise purpose" is used in reference to the making, writing, and preserving of the small plates of Nephi. (See 1 Nephi 9:5; Words of Mormon 1:7; Alma 37:2,12,14,18) We know one such wise purpose--the most obvious one--was to compensate for the loss of the earlier mentioned 116 pages of manuscript. But it strikes me that there is a "wiser purpose" than that, . . . The key to such a suggestion is in verse 45 of Section 10. . . . the Lord says, "Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel" (D&C 10:45). So clearly . . . it was not tit for tat, this for that--you give me 116 pages of manuscript and I'll give you 142 pages of printed text. Not so. We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so. We do not know exactly what we missed in the 116 pages, but we do know that what we received on the small plates was the personal declarations of three great witnesses, [Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah], . . . testifying that Jesus is the Christ. . . . I think you could make a pretty obvious case that the sole purpose of the small plates was to give a platform for these three witnesses. After all, their writing constitutes a full 135 pages of what is only a 145 page record." [Jeffrey R. Holland, CES Symposium, BYU, 8-9--1994, as quoted in Doug Bassett, Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 98]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I Do This for a Wise Purpose (Lost 116 Pages):


     In Words of Mormon 1:7, Mormon mentions that he is including the Small Plates of Nephi with his abridgment "for a wise purpose." This "wise purpose" probably refers, at least in part, to the loss of 116 pages of manuscript by Martin Harris, a scribe of Joseph Smith during the early translation process. A short account of this experience is found in the Documentary History of the Church:

           Mr. Harris, having returned from his tour, (showing the transcript of the record to Professor Anthon) left me and went home to Palmyra, arranged his affairs, and returned again to my house about the 12th of April, 1828, and commenced writing for me while I translated from the plates, which we continued until the 14th of June following, by which time he had written one hundred and sixteen pages of manuscript on foolscap paper. Some time after Mr. Harris had begun to write for me, he began to importune me to give him liberty to carry the writings home and show them; and desired of me that I would inquire of the Lord, through the Urim and Thummim, if he might not do so. I did inquire, and the answer was that he must not. However, he was not satisfied with this answer, and desired that I should inquire again. I did so, and the answer was as before. Still he could not be contented, but insisted that I should inquire again. I did this and after much solicitation I again inquire of the Lord, and permission was granted him to have the writings on certain conditions; which were, that he show them only to his brother, Preserved Harris, his own wife, his father and his mother, and a Mrs. Cobb, a sister to his wife. In accordance with this last answer, I required of him that he should bind himself in a covenant to me in a most solemn manner that he would not do otherwise than had been directed.

           He did so. He bound himself as I required of him, took the writings, and went his way. Notwithstanding, however, the great restrictions which he had been laid under, and the solemnity of the covenant which he had made with me, he did show them to others, and by stratagem they got them away from him, and they never have been recovered unto this day.

           In the meantime, while Martin Harris was gone with the writings, I went to visit my father's family at Manchester. I continued there for a short season, and then returned to my place in Pennsylvania. Immediately after my return home, I was walking out a little distance, when, behold, the former heavenly messenger appeared and handed to me the Urim and Thummim again--for it had been taken from me in consequence of my having wearied the Lord in asking for the privilege of letting Martin Harris take the writings which he lost by transgression--and I inquired of the Lord through it, and obtained in July 1828, a revelation concerning certain manuscripts of the first part of the book of Mormon, which had been taken from the possession of Martin Harris. [See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 3]

           After I had obtained the above revelation, both the plates and the Urim and Thummim were taken from me again; but in a few days they were returned to me, when I inquired of the Lord, and the Lord gave unto me a revelation informing me of the alteration of the manuscript of the fore part of the Book of Mormon. [See Doctrine and Covenants, Section 10]. [Documentary History of the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 20-28]


     For the benefit of the reader, Section 10, verses 38-41 will be quoted below with interpretive comment added:

           And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands [the lost 116 pages of manuscript], is engraven upon the [Small] plates of Nephi; Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings [the lost 116 pages] that a more particular [or more spiritual] account was given of these things upon the [Small] plates of Nephi. And now, because the account which is engraven upon the [Small] plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account [or to the knowledge of the remnant of the tribe of Joseph]--Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the [Small] 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 [from your translation of Mormon's abridgment of the Large Plates of Nephi]. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


  A more insightful account is found in History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, pages 111-146. Concerning the exact reason for the loss of the 116 pages, Francis Kirkam notes that the mother of the Prophet wrote:

           The manuscript has never been found; and there is no doubt but Mrs. Harris took it from the drawer, with a view of retaining it until another translation should be given, then, to alter the original translation, for the purpose of showing a discrepancy between them, and thus to make the whole appear to be a deception. (History of Joseph Smith, chapters 24-26, pp. 117-127)


     Kirkam additionally notes that the loss of the manuscript was also told by Pomeroy Tucker, an early anti-Mormon writer. Tucker gives a few pages of his book to this event and writes in part as follows:

           Thus exercised, she [the wife of Martin Harris] contrived in her husband's sleep to steal from him the particular source of her disturbance, and burned the manuscript to ashes. For years she kept this incendiarism a profound secret to herself, even until after the book was published. . . . The loss of the first translations checked for a time the progress of Mormon events. (Pomeroy Tucker, Mormonism, Its Origin, Rise, and Progress, 5:48)

[ Francis W. Kirkam, A New Witness for Christ in America, Vol 1. p. 188]


     Since the timing of D&C 10 relates to the translation process, and to the words which Mormon used in Words of Mormon to explain his reasons for including the Small Plates of Nephi, the reader is referred to a number of papers: [Max H. Parkin, "A Preliminary Analysis of the Dating of Section 10"] [Alan C. Miner, "The Order of Translation of the Plates of Mormon and Moroni"] [John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, "The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information," F.A.R.M.S., 1991]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I Do This for a Wise Purpose (Lost 116 Pages):


     How much written material was contained on the lost 116 pages of Original Manuscript which Joseph Smith entrusted to Martin Harris? According to an article by Shirley Heater, the paper used for the Original Manuscript was called "foolscap." Foolscap originally referred to a watermark of a jester's cap on writing paper. This term came to apply to writing paper which generally measured 12" to 13-1/2" wide by 15" to 17" long, whether or not it carried a watermark. The surviving Original Manuscript pages are of two sizes (see illustration) and three kinds of paper -- one, a coarse mesh machined paper, the others of finer handmade texture. The longer pages from the first half of First Nephi measured 6-5/8" by 16-1/2". Those coming from the book of Alma measure 8" by 13". [See Shirley R. Heater, "History of the Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 66-70]

     The reader should be careful to remember that First Nephi (from the small plates) was translated after Joseph Smith completed his translation of Mormon's abridgment of the large plates and Moroni's abridgment of Ether plus a few of Moroni's own words. Because we lack any fragments from the book of Mosiah (see illustration), and because Joseph waited some months after the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript before resuming the translation process, it is difficult to know the exact size of the lost sheets. However, by calculating the page area of both page sizes we can come up with an approximation. Page A yields 109.40 square inches whereas page B yields 104 square inches. We have a preserved portion of the Original Manuscript of the A size (see illustration). By comparing the amount of script with the area of the page we can approximate that one page of handwritten manuscript would yield an average of about 1 page of present 1981 edition text. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I do this for a wise purpose (Lost 116 Pages) (Illustration): At least two sizes of "foolscap" paper were used in the Original Manuscript. The drawing above illustrates how they were folded to create long and short page sizes. The longer pages from the first half of First Nephi resulted when 13-1/4" by 16-1/2" sheets were folded and sewn the long direction, thus creating a page size of 6-5/8" by 16-1/2". The shorter pages were created from 13" by 16" sheets, which were folded and sewn the short length, resulting in page size of 8" by 13". This is the size of the existing pages from the book of Alma. [Shirley R. Heater, "History of the Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 68]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I do this for a wise purpose (Lost 116 Pages) (Illustration): The Original Manuscript page containing the equivalent of what is now found in 1 Nephi 7:17 thru 1 Nephi 8:11 (roughly 1 page of the 1981 edition). [Shirley R. Heater, "History of the Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 68]


Words of Mormon 1:7 I do this for a wise purpose (Lost 116 Pages) (Illustration): Surviving portions of the Original Manuscript. [Shirley R. Heater, "History of the Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 75]


Words of Mormon 1:9 I Make It according to the Knowledge and the Understanding Which God Has Given Me:


     According to Raymond Treat, the principle, "What is in the Book of Mormon is There for a Purpose," is a very important principle to understand about the Book of Mormon. The dictionary tells us that a principle is a general truth on which other truths depend. The recognition of the "purpose principle" is the recognition of a general truth about the book of Mormon which in turn will lead to other truths. If we ask the question, "Why has this particular information been included?" every time we study a portion of the Book of Mormon we should receive insights that otherwise might be missed.

     How do we know that what is in the book of Mormon is there for a purpose? Because major writers of the Book of Mormon tell us they were directed by God as to what to put in the Book of Mormon and what to leave out. For example, in Words of Mormon 1:6-9 Mormon states the following concerning the reason why he included the small plates of Nephi:

           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. 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. 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. And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me.


     The chart "The Contents of the Book of Mormon Were Divinely Controlled" (see illustration) is designed to illustrate this point. The chart gives us information about three major Book of Mormon writers--Nephi, Mormon and Moroni. In each case these writers were told both what to put in the Book of Mormon and what to leave out.

     For all practical purposes two of these three writers, Mormon and Moroni, controlled the contents of the entire Book of Mormon. Mormon was directed to add the entire contents of the small plates of Nephi to the Book of Mormon. . . . Nephi was responsible for about 82 percent of the contents of the small plates of Nephi, which strengthens the case even further that the contents of the Book of Mormon were indeed divinely controlled. They also give validity to the principle that what is in the Book of Mormon is there for a purpose. [Raymond C. Treat, "What Is in the Book of Mormon Is There for a Purpose," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, pp. 172-173] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 19:3]


Words of Mormon 1:9 I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me (Illustration): Chart: "The Contents of the Book of Mormon Were Divinely Controlled." [Raymond C. Treat, "What Is in the Book of Mormon Is There for a Purpose," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 172]


Words of Mormon 1:10 After Amaleki Had Delivered These Plates into the Hands of King Benjamin:


     Probably the most accepted traditional view about the content of the book The Words of Mormon has been written recently by Eldin Ricks:

     "As [Mormon] shifts from the explanatory portion of the Words of Mormon to the historical portion, he announces, "And now I Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi . . ." (WofM 1:9). We understand this statement simply to mean that he returned to the large plates of Nephi, his basic source book, to obtain the information for the historical addition to the small plates of Nephi that comprise verses 9-18. As we probe further into the abbreviated historical notes that Mormon added to the small plates of Nephi, we see that they carry the reader from the point in the early lifetime of king Benjamin where the small plates of Nephi end to the point late in Benjamin's lifetime where the book of Mosiah begins. Mormon's appendage leads one smoothly and directly into his abridgment of the book of Mosiah. [Eldin Ricks, "The Small Plates of Nephi and the Words of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, pp. 209-219]

     If we accept this theory, then we must ask a number of questions about not only why Mormon chose to summarize Benjamin's reign, but why he even included this historical summary (Words of Mormon 1:9-18) in the first place:

     1. If The Book of Mosiah begins with the record of Mosiah2, then what happened to the record of Mosiah1 and the record of King Benjamin which were part of the large plates?

     2. Mosiah2 is not anointed king until chapter 6 (v. 4) of the book of Mosiah. Are chapters 1-5 also to be considered part of the record of Mosiah2?

     3. If Amaleki finished the small plates and delivered them up to King Benjamin during "the early lifetime of King Benjamin," then why would Mormon think he had to make a summary of the history of King Benjamin's reign? Why didn't Mormon just tie the small plates into the "early" part of King Benjamin's reign? Could it be that Amaleki turned the small plates over to King Benjamin in the latter part of his reign?

     4. What are the chances that the recorded history of the small plates plus the history included in The Words of Mormon would fit exactly into the void left by the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript?


     When did Amaleki deliver his record to Benjamin? According to the proposed chronology chart in Appendix A, the beginning of the reign of Mosiah1 has been tentatively placed in the year 397-8 , when he attained the age of 30 and the end of his reign has been tentatively placed forty years later, when he reached the age of 70. Amaleki states, "I was born in the days of Mosiah" (Omni 1:23), which means that Amaleki would have had to be born sometime after the beginning of Mosiah1's reign. This also means that it might be possible that Amaleki could have been born roughly the same time as Benjamin. If Amaleki and Benjamin lived approximately the same number of years, then Amaleki would have turned over the plates towards the latter part of Benjamin's reign in the year 468 (roughly 30-40 years into Benjamin's reign).

[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See Appendix A]


Words of Mormon 1:10 Amaleki . . . delivered up these [small] plates into the hands of king Benjamin (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]


Words of Mormon 1:10 Handed down by the Kings from Generation to Generation unto the Days of King Benjamin:


     Mormon refers to "records handed down by the kings, from generation to generation until the days of King Benjamin" (Words of Mormon 1:10). Does this statement mean that Mosiah1 was part of a royal line? Although Jacob 1:9 says that Nephi "anointed a man to be king and a ruler over his people," it also says that he did it "according to the reigns of the kings." The passage of kingship from Benjamin to Mosiah2 and the attempt of Mosiah2 to pass the kingship on to his sons apparently indicates that among the Nephites, kingship was passed from father to son, from one generation to another, (or "according to the reigns of the kings"). Thus, the double wording here of "king to king" and from "generation to generation" would tend to convey the idea that Mosiah1 was part of the royal family.

     Interestingly, in verse 11, Mormon says that King Benjamin handed the records down "from generation to generation until they have fallen into my hands." It should be noted that Mormon not only says the he was a "pure descendant of Lehi" (Mormon 1:5), which can be interpreted to mean that he was royalty, but that he was a "descendant of Nephi" (Mormon 8:13). To me this means that Mormon and Moroni would have been in line to be Nephite kings and that the large plates were probably passed down from one royal hand to another. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See the commentary on Mosiah 9:1]


Words of Mormon 1:12-18 (Small Plates or Large Plates?):


     John Tvedtnes believes that Words of Mormon 1:12-18 is part of the translation from Mormon's abridgment of the large plates of Nephi, and that these verses were not found on the small plates and should therefore not be part of the Words of Mormon. To understand this proposition, we must turn to an examination of the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, copied by Oliver Cowdery from the original manuscript written from dictation (the latter, as far as Tvedtnes can determine, being missing for this portion of the text). The manuscript, as originally copied, does not show a title for the book of Mosiah, presumably because that title appeared on one of the 116 lost pages. Even more important is the fact that there is, on the manuscript, no original indication of a separation between Words of Mormon and Mosiah. Rather, Mosiah begins with the notation "Chapter II," as if it were a continuation from Words of Mormon. A later correction to the beginning of Words of Mormon added the words "Chapter I," changed "Chapter II" (at the beginning of the book of Mosiah) to read "Chapter I," and added the title "The Book of Mosiah" before the latter. Tvedtnes believes that this title was misplaced and should have been after Words of Mormon 1:11. Here are his reasons for this belief:

     1. Mormon's statement that he was "about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni" and had witnessed "almost all the destruction of my people the Nephites" (Words of Mormon 1:1; cf. vs. 2) implies that he was near the end of his abridgment. This means he was not working on the story of Benjamin at the time he wrote these words, explaining how he had come across the small plates, but it may have been a long time since he had discovered them. (Words of Mormon 1:1-11 were, of course, written on the small plates, as we learn in Words of Mormon 1:5.)

     2. Mormon wrote that he was going to "finish my record" on the small plates (Words of Mormon 1:5, 9). Since the bulk of his abridgment was written after he wrote of king Benjamin's time, he could not have "finished" his record by writing about that king in Words of Mormon 1:12-18. How did he finish that record? Tvedtnes suggest that he summed up an explanation of the two sets of plates (Words of Mormon 1:10-11), then wrote the first part of the title page, perhaps only as far as the words "To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof." Moroni evidently added the rest of the title page, as Sidney B. Sperry first suggested many years ago. (Sperry, Book of Mormon Compendium, p. 42) Joseph Smith indicated that "the title page of the Book of Mormon was taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates." (HC 1:71) Presumably, Mormon added the small plates just before this title page, though this is less certain. It would, in any event, explain why Joseph Smith translated the small plates last.

     3. Mormon's concluding remarks in Words of Mormon 1:11 reflect the thoughts he expressed in the last chapter he wrote in Mormon 7. He wrote of the preservation of the records (cf. Mormon 7:1) and of the judgment (cf. Mormon 7:6, 10). In Words of Mormon 1:8, he expressed the hope--also given in Mormon 7:5, 10--that his brethren might come to believe in Christ. This makes Tvedtnes wonder if the last part of Mormon (chapter 6-9) may have been written on the small plates. Indeed, Mormon 6:1 begins with the words, "And now I finish my record," which is reminiscent of Words of Mormon 1:5, 9. In any event, the similarity of words found in Mormon 6-7 and in Words of Mormon 1:1-11 may indicate a temporal proximity of the writing of those two records.

     4. There is a smooth flow from Words of Mormon 1:12 into the beginning of the present book of Mosiah, which indicates that the record was continuous.

     5. Joseph Smith may have chosen to place the title "Book of Mosiah" in its current place because Mosiah 1:1 is where he took up the story after turning over the 116 pages to Martin Harris. If this is true, then Words of Mormon 1:12-18 evidently represent part of the record already translated before the loss of the 116 pages. Joseph may have retained this part (cf. D&C 10:41) because it was on a page which had not yet been filled. The book of Mosiah, in this case, was probably named after the first Mosiah, whose history would have been part of the lost pages; otherwise, one might expect the book to be named after Benjamin. But this is by no means certain.

[John A. Tvedtnes, Book Review of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's Covering Up the Black Hole in the Book of Mormon, in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3 1991, pp. 201-203]


Words of Mormon 1:13 The Armies of the Lamanites Came down out of the Land of Nephi to Battle:


     [See the commentary on Omni 1:24]


Geographical Theory Map: WofM 1:13-18 (Omni 1:24) Lamanites Come Down Against King Benjamin (Year 466-476)


Words of Mormon 1:13: He Did Fight . . . with the Sword of Laban:


     Mormon mentions that king Benjamin "did fight with the strength of his own arm, with the sword of Laban" (Words of Mormon 1:13). The wording here sounds very much like the wording in Jacob 1:10: "The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare." This concept seems to be one more bit of evidence that Benjamin was part of the royal lineage of Nephi.

     According to Todd Kerr, one of the most important roles of the Hebrew king "was that of being a leader in war. That is to say, primarily it was his duty to defend his people from aggressive action on the part of their neighbors. Hebrew kingship initially developed because of pressing needs for military leadership in Israel's territorial scuffles with surrounding nations . . . King Benjamin also rose to power and influence during a period of "serious war and much bloodshed between the Nephites and the Lamanites" (Omni 1:24). [Todd R. Kerr, "Ancient Aspects of Nephite Kingship in the Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, F.A.R.M.S., Fall 1992, pp. 87-89]


Words of Mormon 1:14: All the Lands of Their Inheritance:


     One might wonder how vast the "lands of their inheritance" were that were governed by King Benjamin (Words of Mormon 1:14)? And how many people did King Benjamin consider that "the Lord our God hath given us" (Words of Mormon 1:10)? How similar were King Benjamin's territorial boundaries to those boundaries of Nephite and Lamanite lands described in Alma 22:27-34? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Words of Mormon 1:15 There Had Been False Christs:


     According to Brant Gardner, one of the passages in the Book of Mormon that may gain added perspective from a Mesoamerican context is found in Words of Mormon 1:15. Mormon indicates that there had been "false Christs" among the people. While we cannot be certain of the meaning of this phrase, the presence of multiple "false Christs" in a culture undergoing a conflict between a new and an old religious system at least suggests that the false Christs may be related to this religious conflict. The Nephites considered Christ as their God, and a false Christ would be a man impersonating that deity. This is the precise definition of the Mesoamerican concept of god-impersonators. We find both Olmec and Maya depicted in the garb of various deities. Among the later Aztecs, these god-impersonators were known as the ixiptla. It is not difficult to imagine the internal contentions revolving around the retention or rejection of the old religion. Whether the god-impersonators were attempting to continue the old gods, or attempting to merge the religious form of the old religion with the new, the god-impersonators of that old religion are direct conceptual matches for the false Christs which Mormon describes. This particular interpretation of the false Christs as god-impersonators explains why there are multiple false Christs, why they become an issue at precisely this time (early in the merger between the Zarahemlaites and the Nephites), and why we should have false Christs appearing in a community where only the smaller number of people had a tradition of a belief in Christ at all. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, p. 9]


Words of Mormon 1:16 False Prophets, and False Preachers . . . Many Dissensions:


     When did the "false prophets" (Words of Mormon 1:16) come among the Nephites in the land of Zarahemla? What were and when were the "many dissensions away unto the Lamanites" mentioned by Mormon? For the most part, the verses included in Words of Mormon 1:13-18 concerning war, false prophets, and dissenters seem chronologically indefinite; however, it is my opinion that from the textual evidence of false prophets, dissensions, and wars recorded later by Alma2 (the book of Alma), the reader can understand pretty well how the process of false prophets, dissensions and war developed.

     1. What did the dissenters want? The answer given is that these people "had dissented from [the Nephite] church, and had left them and had gone to destroy them by joining the Lamanites (Alma 48:24).

     2. How many dissenters were there? There were "dissenters of the Nephites, from the reign of Nephi down to the present time" (Alma 47:35). However, the Lamanites were "a compound of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, and all those who had dissented from the Nephites, who were Amalekites and Zoramites, and the descendants of the priests of Noah" (Alma 43:13). Of these dissenters (the Amalekites, the Zoramites, and the Amulonites), only the origin of the Amalekites remains unconfirmed in the Book of Mormon. Nevertheless, the Amalekites might have been one of the major groups of dissenters that not only Benjamin fought to control during his reign, but which Alma2 and the sons of Mosiah2 sought unsuccessfully through their preaching to bring into the Nephite fold.

     Mormon says that "there had been false Christs, and their mouths had been shut, and they punished according to their crimes" (Words of Mormon 1:15). It is interesting that Alma2 will later chronicle the stories of two false Christs, Korihor and Nehor. Mormon also says that there "had been false prophets, and false preachers and teachers among the people" (Words of Mormon 1:16). The first mention of the Amalekites in the Book of Mormon (although Alma's preaching was going on at the same time) was during the mission of the sons of Mosiah (Alma 21:2). The text mentions that "the Lamanites and the Amalekites and the people of Amulon had built a great city, which was called Jerusalem." Aaron tried to preach to these people but "the Amalekites were not converted, save only one" (Alma 23:14). The Amalekites were religious, but did not believe the truth. The Lamanite king said, "I know that the Amalekites say that there is a God, and I have granted unto them that they should build sanctuaries, that they may assemble themselves together to worship him" (Alma 22:7). Nevertheless, the Nephite dissenters were angry because of the preaching of the gospel, for "it did destroy their craft; therefore they would not hearken unto the words" (Alma 35:3).

     Concerning the “serious war” of King Benjamin, it is interesting to note that the Amalekites in the land of Jerusalem were situated somewhere along the journey between the land of Zarahemla and the local land of Nephi (the sons of Mosiah reached Jerusalem and the land of Middoni before Aaron went "to the land of Nephi, even to the house of the king" --Alma 22:1). The Amalekites were after the order of Nehor, who was a false prophet (Alma 21:4, 1:16). The destruction of Ammonihah on the northwest of Zarahemla was called the "desolation of Nehors" (Alma 16:11). This means that with the dissident Zoramites situated "on the east of Zarahemla," the dissident Amalekites in Ammonihah situated to the northwest of the local land of Zarahemla, and the dissident Amalekites situated in Jerusalem apparently southward from Zarahemla, the Nephites were nearly surrounded not only by Lamanites (Alma 22:29) but by dissenters.

     Thus, although the time or duration of these "false prophets" and "dissensions" is still uncertain, they might be linked to the dissenters in locations immediately surrounding the land of Zarahemla who apparently stirred the Lamanites up in their locales to go against King Benjamin in what culminated in a "serious war." This seems more logical than blaming the Lamanites closely associated with the colony of Zeniff near Lehi-Nephi in the "serious war" mentioned by Amaleki.

     In addition, although (1) Amaleki mentions a serious war first, then preaches a message, and (2) Mormon mentions a war, then false prophets, and then dissensions; it is the opinion of the author that all these actions were part of the same ongoing process and thus cannot be listed or understood chronologically, other than that they all relatively stopped once Benjamin had established peace. The Nephites, as recorded in the book of Alma, contend with the same problems described by Mormon. Thus, Mormon seems to make a connection between dissension, false prophets, and wars. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Words of Mormon 1:16 With the Assistance of the Holy Prophets:


     Mormon mentions that "holy prophets" helped King Benjamin establish peace in the land (Words of Mormon 1:16-18). Who were these prophets and when did they appear? It is hard to know specifically, but Amaleki seems to be one of them, either personally or by way of his turning the spiritual messages on the small plates over to King Benjamin (Omni 1:25-26). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Words of Mormon 1:17: Stiffneckedness:


     According to Dr. Sami Hanna, an Egyptian who was especially schooled in the Arabic language, the word "stiffneckedness" is used many times throughout the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith had been writing his own book, he would likely have used "stubborn" or "inflexible." But in translating, he used the Semitic counterpart, the extremely awkward "stiffneckedness." [Brenton G. Yorgason, Little Known Evidences of the Book of Mormon, p. 36]