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The Words of Mormon in the Context of the Loss of the 116 Pages

A Video Supplement for
Come, Follow Me Book of Mormon Lesson 13:
He Works in Me to Do His Will (Enos-Words of Mormon)




In Words of Mormon, which is currently positioned between the records translated from the Small Plates of Nephi and the Large Plates of Nephi, Mormon explains where he got the Small Plates and why he is including a record that has similar coverage to something that he has already included. The Small Plates of course include 1 and 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni while the rest of the Book of Mormon is taken from the Large Plates of Nephi, the record which was kept by the Nephite kings and subsequently by the judges, which included a little bit more history in addition to the sermons and dealings with God that were the primary focus of the Small Plates.

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.

Now many readers of the Book of Mormon who are paying attention will notice that we don’t have a redundant account of Lehi, Nephi and company down to the early reign of King Benjamin, which is where the Large Plates account that we have picks up. This is because, although it was translated, it was lost before being published when Martin Harris, after covenanting with the Lord about how he would treat and protect the manuscript and what he would and would not do with it, violated his covenant and lost the manuscript. Now for those curious about those things, Don Bradley has a book out looking at what we can learn about the contents of the lost 116 Pages from historical sources and from parts of the Book of Mormon text that allude to those events, but it is important to realize that there is a real void there; that if Martin Harris had not lost the manuscript we would have knowledge and teaching that we are presently denied through his mistake. Now clearly the Lord knew that this could happen and prepared for that eventuality because he didn’t want the Book of Mormon to totally lack a beginning, but occasionally one hears someone argue that we are better off without the part that we lost, and I think this is a big mistake. My brief reply would be to say that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, not the Church of Pangloss. One adopts a Panglossian world view when, upon confronting tragedy or loss one says something like, “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” This isn’t exactly true. Jesus Christ is able to make every hard thing we experience and confront in this life instructive for our growth and progress if we turn to him in faith. Part of the description of the mission of the Messiah given in Isaiah 61:3 “To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” In other words he takes our disasters of a life and makes them fruitful in ways that we can hardly imagine.

That doesn’t mean that we lose nothing when we make the wrong choices and violate our covenants, however. I find Martin Harris’s case instructive. He begged for permission to take the manuscript because he wanted to prove to his wife Lucy that what he was engaged in was not a scam; a perfectly normal human desire, but he wasn’t humble and violated his covenant in the progress. In doing so he lost the manuscript translated up to that point. This is especially ironic because of the suspicion that much of the content would have been among the strongest and most accessible evidence for the ancient origin of the book. It would have contained a more detailed account of their journeying in the wilderness and their genealogy and Lehi’s visions and revelations, all of which would have been among the most drenched in the culture, history, and names of the Near East. This is, in fact, where we see some of the strongest evidences linking the Book of Mormon accounts that we have to the ancient world. For example, the locations of NHM, Bountiful and their distances and the directions they traveled to get to each provide solid verifiable evidence of the antiquity of the book, and this is in the account that was focused more on the spiritual things. An account that was more focused on temporal matters would likely have been far richer in the kinds of details that would have vindicated Martin Harris, but because he was not humble enough to keep his covenant, that kind of vindication escaped him within his lifetime, and no one will fully know the things he saw in the manuscript that he found so compelling and convincing. Nevertheless, good seems to have come from it because the Lord can turn disasters into opportunities, and Martin did later humble himself and become one of the Three Witnesses and provided initial funding for the printing of the Book of Mormon, which has ensured him an honored place the in sage of the Restoration.

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