Book of Mormon Development
A Theory of Evolutionary Development for the Structure of the Book of Mormon
A computer search of the Book of Mormon text was conducted for passages related to the book’s structure. A proximity search used the words, “plates, book(s), record(s), account(s), Nephi, Lehi, and father” to locate any references to plates, books, or records of Nephi or Lehi. These passages were then categorized according to the highest plan (2=lowest, 3=middle, 4=highest) that was explicitly identified by the text. The criteria for labeling passages according to a particular plan were:
Plan 2: the mention of a single record of Nephi or plates or a book of Nephi but no mention of plates or a record of Lehi and no mention of two records of Nephi.
Plan 3: the mention of a single record of Nephi or plates or a book of Nephi and the mention of plates or a record of Lehi but no mention of two records of Nephi.
Plan 4: the mention of two records of Nephi.
The primary scriptures located by this search are quoted in the Appendix. Visually scanning these passages and noting the highlighted phrases shows the sequential progression of complexity of the descriptions used, from plan 2 to 3 and from 3 to 4. A summary of the results of this search is as follows:
1. From the book of Mosiah through the book of Mormon, only plan 2 passages are found, no plan 3 or 4 passages.
2. Only one plan 2 passage is in the forepart (1 Nephi – Omni), and this is 1 Ne. 1:1-3.
3. There are only two plan 3 passages and these are near the beginning, 1 Ne. 1:16-17 and 1 Ne. 6:1.
4. The use of the word “therefore” is found to be generally predominant in the plan 2 passages and surrounding text whereas the equivalent “wherefore” is predominant in the plan 3 and 4 passages and their surrounding text.20
These findings are consistent with the conclusions that (a) after the lost manuscript crisis Joseph continued the translation from Mosiah through Mormon with an understanding of the book’s structure represented by plan 2; (b) plan 3 was not realized until after Mosiah through Mormon had been transcribed; (c) only a little dictation in First Nephi was done while Joseph’s understanding was that of plan 2 or 3, or at least little survived; (d) the bulk of the replacement chapters (1 Nephi 9 through Words of Mormon) was dictated last, after Joseph had a full understanding of plan 4. In short, the four-plan theory is compatible with current understanding of the transcription sequence of the Book of Mormon. This analysis of course does not prove that the books of Mosiah through Mormon were written under plan 2, that attempts at dictating First Nephi were made under plans 2 and 3, and that ultimately First Nephi through Omni were finished under plan 4. It merely shows the consistency of this interpretation with the Book of Mormon text. Clearly there are passages where the absence of, say, plan 3 information in a plan 2 passage would not be unusual. In many of the plan 2 passages referring to the plates of Nephi, it would not necessarily be expected that the plates of Lehi would be mentioned, particularly if the plates of Lehi were viewed as a subset of the large plates of Nephi (which is possible under plan 4).
However, there are several passages where additional information might be expected in order to make the passage conform better to the “correct” final plan 4 description. For example, it is notable that no mention of two separate sets of plates of Nephi (plan 4) is made in First Nephi chapters one through eight, even though doing so would have improved the clarity of meaning in these writings. In particular, 1 Ne. 1:16-17 and 6:1-3 contain no mention by Nephi that he is making two records even though, according to plan 4, he must have been (recall that the large plates were started around 590 BC and the small plates around 570 to 560 BC). Instead Nephi refers here to his record consistently in the singular.
There is also a related noticeable absence as far as mentioning where Lehi’s genealogy could be found. In 1 Ne. 1:16-17 and 6:1-3 Nephi writes that his father’s record contains many details that his record does not, particularly his father’s genealogy. However, when he makes a point of stating where that genealogy can be found (1 Ne. 6:1) he only mentions the record “kept by [his] father”, not his own large plates, even though 1 Ne. 19:1-2 says that he had engraved his father’s record, including Lehi’s genealogy, on his large plates and this must have already been done prior to the time Nephi engraved 1 Ne. 6:1 on the small plates. Why didn’t Nephi mention in 1 Ne. 6:1 that Lehi’s genealogy could also be found in his large plates (and thus simultaneously clarify his separate large and small plates)? It is impossible to say for sure, but the fact that he did not is at least consistent with the interpretation that at the time of dictating 1 Ne. 1:16-17 and 6:1-3 Joseph was not yet aware of the separate large and small plates of Nephi; he was still thinking in terms of plan 3.
A final example of clarifying information being absent where it might have been expected has already been noted in that Mormon did not refer to the separate religious and historical records of Nephi anywhere in his post-Benjamin abridgment21, even though by then he had found the small plates, read them, and would have probably noticed the way Nephi drew attention to his separate historical and religious records. Mormon also made no reference to the record of Lehi in his post-Benjamin abridgment, even though by then he had completed the abridgment of Lehi’s record which (according to the 1830 preface) he had taken from the plates (or record) of Lehi. In one place Mormon even makes the statement that “all the account which [he has] written” has been taken from the “book” (i.e., record or plates) of Nephi, thus making no reference to a record of Lehi or any other source record (see Hel. 2:13-14 in the Appendix). Since under plan 4 Lehi’s plates can be viewed as a subset of Nephi’s large plates, the latter (record of Lehi) omission by Mormon may be viewed as minor relative to the former (small plates). Nevertheless, why didn’t Mormon delineate the separate large and small plates of Nephi (or the record of Lehi) in his post-Benjamin abridgment? Again, it is impossible to say for sure but the fact that he did not is at least consistent with the idea that at the time of dictating Mosiah through Mormon 7 Joseph was not yet aware of either the small plates of Nephi or the record of Lehi; he was still thinking in terms of plan 2.
The loss of the first 116 pages of the manuscript had a major impact on the transcription of the Book of Mormon and its ultimate structure. With the loss Joseph found it impossible to continue dictating. Yet his family, wife, and associates believed he was being guided miraculously by God in the endeavor. It was unthinkable that God’s work could be obstructed by mortal men (or women) through such a simple scheme as stealing some pages. Joseph’s best hope was to recover the manuscript, which he tried strenuously to do (1830 Book of Mormon preface), and in the meantime receive reassurance from God that the work was not being thwarted. Thus Joseph received his first revelation. Book of Commandments II (D&C 3) explained the reason Joseph had lost his gift to translate “for a season,” and gave reassurance that God’s work would continue (though no specific plan for solving the crisis at hand was given). The original version (BoC II) also promised that if Joseph repented God would “only cause [him] to be afflicted for a season” and he would “again be called to the work.”22 In effect this revelation provided a plausible explanation for there being no immediate resumption of translation activities, thus allowing time for continued efforts to recover the manuscript or confirm it had been destroyed. It also provided a period of time during which Joseph contemplated the lost manuscript, the possible reasons for its disappearance, the implications of such a loss, and possible explanations. Sometime between the summer of 1828 and May 1829 Joseph recorded D&C 10 which outlined the solution to the lost manuscript problem according to plan 2. In that same time frame he resumed dictating from Mormon’s plates, completing the bulk of the latter part of the Book of Mormon. After finishing with Mormon’s plates he returned to the book’s forepart and began dictating from “the plates of Nephi.” He probably did so still unaware of the small plates and the record of Lehi. It is possible that with this level of understanding (plan 2) Joseph dictated a limited, early version of Nephi’s record (surviving verses might include 1 Ne. 1:1-3). During this period the issue of compatibility of the material he was dictating with the lost manuscript must have been a significant concern. This inference follows from the fact that Joseph’s revelation explained that an enemy acting under the devil’s influence had taken the manuscript for the purpose of destroying him. It would have been unnatural for Joseph not to be concerned about the compatibility issue. Of particular concern would have been certain information missing from Nephi’s record that had appeared in the lost manuscript, such as Lehi’s genealogy and prophecies and general (post-Lehi, pre-Benjamin) Nephite history. At some point during his translation of Nephi’s record Joseph’s understanding of the book’s structure grew to include the record of Lehi. It seems possible that for a time he had an understanding of the Book of Mormon structure (plan 3) which explained certain missing information (Lehi’s genealogy and prophecies) through the record of Lehi which was separate and distinct from Nephi’s (still one and only) plates. It is also possible that a portion of the replacement Book of Mormon chapters (or an early version thereof) was dictated while he had such an understanding (verses like 1 Ne. 1:16-17, 6:1). Eventually his understanding grew to include the separate small plates of Nephi (plan 4) which explained not only Lehi’s genealogy but additional missing information (general pre-Benjamin Nephite history) through a second record of Nephi, separate and distinct from the original one used by Mormon. The majority of the replacement chapters (1 Nephi 9 through Words of Mormon) must have been dictated after Joseph reached this level of understanding.
The small plates of Nephi were the key to the eventual successful completion of the Book of Mormon. Not only that, but Nephi’s and Mormon’s delayed knowledge concerning them apparently contributed materially to the structure of the book and the way Joseph’s knowledge of that structure progressed. The delay in Nephi’s being commanded to make the small plates can be seen as a plausible reason for there being no mention of them in the first part of his large plates. This in turn can be seen as a plausible reason for Mormon’s not mentioning the small plates in the lost manuscript. (This would not fully explain, however, complete absence of references to the small plates in the large plates; nor would it explain the absence of such references in Mormon’s post-Benjamin abridgment.) Thus Joseph’s not being aware of the small plates initially is not unrelated to nor unlike Mormon’s not being aware of them initially as he began to abridge the plates of Nephi (Words of Mormon 1:3). Nor is it unlike Nephi’s not being aware of them initially: “And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates,” (1 Ne. 19:2).
To say the least, the structure of the Book of Mormon with its myriad of plates is complicated. Describing just its basic structure (plan 4), once it is understood in hindsight, is a significant task. Keeping straight all the details must have been a challenge for those associated with Joseph Smith during the time of its coming forth, as well as for Joseph himself. It seems no surprise that on one occasion when pressed impromptu in public to explain the details of the Book of Mormon’s origin Joseph demurred saying, “it was not intended to tell the world all the particulars of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon;” and also, “that it was not expedient for him to relate these things.”23 It is also perhaps not so surprising that on the occasion of laying the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House Joseph brought forth the Book of Mormon manuscript to bury and was reportedly overhead saying, “I have had enough trouble with this thing.”24
Joseph Smith’s understanding of the Book of Mormon structure evolved incrementally. In the beginning he had a simple, relatively monolithic view of the book. With the lost manuscript crisis and D&C 10 his understanding began to change toward a more complex structure. Eventually his understanding reached the final structure as given in the book itself. Based on the text of the Book of Mormon and its likely order of transcription, a series of four plans has been proposed that outlines a plausible progression in Joseph’s understanding. That Joseph progressed in his understanding of the book’s structure even after D&C 10 seems beyond doubt. Specifically, D&C 10 indicates that he did not understand the separate, unique existence of the small plates of Nephi. This may be viewed as somewhat unusual given that the small plates played a key role as the replacement for the lost manuscript. The wording of D&C 10 does demonstrate, however, an understanding of the book’s structure which is consistent with what Joseph’s understanding would have been at the time.
Was Joseph Smith influenced by the textual description of the Book of Mormon structure or did he influence it? Did his understanding progress because of what he learned as he dictated or did the structure of the plates he described increase in complexity because his understanding (or imagination) did? Did he by some means (translation-revelation?) act as a conduit for information external to himself or was he the author-originator of the Book of Mormon? Existing evidence seems to allow either construction. However, the former theory (Joseph as conduit) has several weakness as noted in this essay, including an inconsistency between D&C 10 and the Book of Mormon. The latter theory (Joseph as source of Nephi’s and Mormon’s information) is less conflicted. In either case Martin Harris’s “perfidy” of June 1828 in losing the Book of Mormon manuscript proved to be the cause of significant unexpected developments not only for the main characters in Joseph’s book, but for Joseph himself. For in the beginning, Joseph, like Mormon, did not know that there was going to be an additional set of Nephi’s plates and, like Nephi, he did not foresee that he would be commanded to write a second record–one concerned more with prophecy than with history.
Summary of Book of Mormon Passages Related to Plates, Book(s), and Record(s) of Nephi and Lehi
Plan 2 Passages
Mosiah 1:6, 16 (plan 2)
6 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.
16 And moreover, he also gave him charge concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass; and also the plates of Nephi; and also, the sword of Laban, and the ball or director, which led our fathers through the wilderness, which was prepared by the hand of the Lord that thereby they might be led, every one according to the heed and diligence which they gave unto him.
Mosiah 28:11 (plan 2)
11 Therefore he took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, and also the plates of Nephi, and all the things which he had kept and preserved according to the commandments of God, after having translated and caused to be written the records which were on the plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi, which were delivered to him by the hand of Limhi;
Alma 37:2 (plan 2)
2 And I also command you that ye keep a record of this people, according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them; for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept.
Alma 44:24 (plan 2)
24 And thus ended the eighteenth year of the reign of the judges over the people of Nephi. And thus ended the record of Alma, which was written upon the plates of Nephi.
Hel. 2:13-14 (plan 2)25
13 And behold, in the end of this book ye shall see that this Gadianton did prove the overthrow, yea, almost the entire destruction of the people of Nephi.
14 Behold I do not mean the end of the book of Helaman, but I mean the end of the book of Nephi, from which I have taken all the account which I have written.
3 Ne. 5:8-11, 14-18 (plan 2)26
8 And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years;
9 But behold there are records which do contain all the proceedings of this people; and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi.
10 Therefore I have made my record of these things according to the record of Nephi, which was engraven on the plates which were called the plates of Nephi.
11 And behold, I do make the record on plates which I have made with mine own hands.
14 And it hath become expedient that I, according to the will of God, that the prayers of those who have gone hence, who were the holy ones, should be fulfilled according to their faith, should make a record of these things which have been done–
15 Yea, a small record of that which hath taken place from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem, even down until the present time.
16 Therefore I do make my record from the accounts which have been given by those who were before me, until the commencement of my day;
17 And then I do make a record of the things which I have seen with mine own eyes.
18 And I know the record which I make to be a just and a true record; nevertheless there are many things which, according to our language, we are not able to write.
3 Ne. 26:6-8, 11-12 (plan 2)
6 And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people;
7 But behold the plates of Nephi do contain the more part of the things which he taught the people.
8 And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
11 Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people.
12 Therefore I, Mormon, do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I, Mormon, make an end of my sayings, and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me.
4 Ne. 1:19, 21 (plan 2)
19 And it came to pass that Nephi, he that kept this last record, (and he kept it upon the plates of Nephi) died, and his son Amos kept it in his stead; and he kept it upon the plates of Nephi also.
21 And it came to pass that Amos died also, (and it was an hundred and ninety and four years from the coming of Christ) and his son Amos kept the record in his stead; and he also kept it upon the plates of Nephi; and it was also written in the book of Nephi, which is this book.
Mormon 1:3-4, 2:17-18, 6:6 (plan 2)
3 Therefore, when ye are about twenty and four years old I would that ye should remember the things that ye have observed concerning this people; and when ye are of that age go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.
4 And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are; and ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people.
17 And now, the city of Jashon was near the land where Ammaron had deposited the records unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed. And behold I had gone according to the word of Ammaron, and taken the plates of Nephi, and did make a record according to the words of Ammaron.
18 And upon the plates of Nephi I did make a full account of all the wickedness and aBook of Mormoninations; but upon these plates I did forbear to make a full account of their wickedness and aBook of Mormoninations, for behold, a continual scene of wickedness and aBook of Mormoninations has been before mine eyes ever since I have been sufficient to behold the ways of man.
6 And it came to pass that when we had gathered in all our people in one to the land of Cumorah, behold I, Mormon, began to be old; and knowing it to be the last struggle of my people, and having been commanded of the Lord that I should not suffer the records which had been handed down by our fathers, which were sacred, to fall into the hands of the Lamanites, (for the Lamanites would destroy them) 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 unto my son Moroni.
1 Ne. 1:1-3 (plan 2)27
1 I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
2 Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
3 And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.
Plan 3 Passages
1 Ne. 1:16-17 (plan 3)
16 And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account.
17 But I shall make an account of my proceedings in my days. Behold I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.
1 Ne. 6:1-6 (plan 3)
1 And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work.
2 For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph.
3 And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God.
4 For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved.
5 Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world.
6 Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.
Plan 4 Passages
1 Ne. 9:2-6 (plan 4)
2 And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi.
3 Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
4 Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people, wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.
5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
6 But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.
1 Ne. 10:15 (plan 4)
15 And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.
1 Ne. 19:1-6 (plan 4)
1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.
2 And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken; wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth, more particularly made mention upon the first plates.
3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord.
4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord.
5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
2 Ne. 4:14 (plan 4)
14 For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates.
2 Ne. 5:29-33 (plan 4)
29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.
30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.
31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.
32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.
33 And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.
Jacob 1:1-2 (plan 4)
1 For behold, it came to pass that fifty and five years had passed away from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; wherefore, Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven.
2 And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I consider to be most precious; that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi.
13 And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.
14 These plates are called the plates of Jacob, and they were made by the hand of Nephi.28 And I make an end of speaking these words.
Jacob 7:26 (plan 4)
26 And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.
Jarom 1:14 (plan 4)
14 And I, Jarom, do not write more, for the plates are small. But behold, my brethren, ye can go to the other plates of Nephi; for behold, upon them the records of our wars are engraven, according to the writings of the kings, or those which they caused to be written.
Words of Mormon 1:3-9 (plan 4)
3 And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi.
4 And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and 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–
5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
7 And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
8 And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.
9 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.
20. This is significant because it has been shown from the Book of Commandments revelations (Metcalfe, B. L., 1993, in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon, ed. B. L. Metcalfe, Signature Books, pp. 409-414) that Joseph had a preference for the word “therefore” during his early dictation which shifted later to a preference for “wherefore.” The transition from “therefore” to “wherefore” in the Book of Commandments is rather distinct, occurring between May and June 1829. In the Book of Mormon, the books of Mosiah through Mormon are dominated by the use of “therefore.” This is consistent with Joseph’s having dictated this material prior to June. The book of Ether exhibits a mixture of “therefore” and “wherefore”, as do First and Second Nephi. Jacob through Words of Mormon and Moroni are dominated by “wherefore.” It is possible that the final versions of Ether, First Nephi, and Second Nephi were dictated at the time Joseph was shifting from “therefore” to “wherefore” between May and June 1829. It is also possible that they were written after the transition to “wherefore” was complete and that the mixture in these books is a result of initial versions having been transcribed by Emma, Samuel Smith, or Martin Harris using “therefore” with later modifications having been made in the dictation to Oliver Cowdery, John Whitmer, or others using “wherefore.” Jacob through Words of Mormon was probably written after the transition to “wherefore” was complete and did not incorporate much if any material that had been previously transcribed using “therefore.”
22. Later when the revelation was revised for publication in the D&C, the phrase, “and he [God] will only cause thee to be afflicted for a season,” was changed to “which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you,” and the future tense in “wilt again be called to the work” was changed to the present tense “art again called to the work,” D&C 3:10, indicating that Joseph was apprehensive about the original wording. Consideration of the possible implications of these changes requires a more lengthy treatment than is possible here; however, it should be noted that the phrase change to, “which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you,” is compatible with a shift from an early interpretation (1832 diary, Faulring p. 8; 1833 BoC II), in which Joseph is not held responsible or does not acknowledge being held responsible for doing wrong in giving the manuscript to Harris, to a later one (1835 D&C XXX, 1971 D&C 3:10) in which such a conclusion can more easily be drawn. See also fn. 3 discussion about whether Joseph’s culpability was in giving the manuscript to Harris or just asking a third time.
25. Mormon says that all his abridgment was taken from “the book of Nephi;” none of it is recognized as coming from the plates of Lehi from which the 1830 preface said Mormon abridged the lost book of Lehi.
26. This passage is easy to mis-interpret as a plan 4 passage because the phrase, “and a shorter but true account was given by Nephi” (verse 9), taken in isolation might sound like a reference to the small plates of Nephi. The context in which this phrase appears, however, suggests that the “Nephi” referred to is the contemporary Nephi (son of Nephi) not the original Nephi (son of Lehi). The intended meaning was that there were many accounts written by many individuals; Mormon’s abridgment came from only one of these, Nephi’s, which was shorter than most. Either way, at this point in time (after king Benjamin) according to plan 4 Mormon knew about both sets of Nephi’s plates and yet is still not differentiating two distinct sets.
27. These first words of the Book of Mormon were, according to plan 4, written by Nephi on his small plates many years after he had already written most of his large record and after being specifically commanded to make another record for a special purpose. However, the opening words of Nephi’s second record make none of this background clear.