long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Monday, February 25, 2019

"Mosiah first" explanation

There was an excellent "Kno-Why" on Book of Mormon Central last week, except for one glaring problem.

The Kno-Why was titled, "How does the 'Mosiah-First' Translation Sequence Strengthen Faith?" You can see it here:

Translation sequence - traditional explanation
the "small plates of Nephi" don't fit anywhere

After the 116 pages were lost, Joseph did not translate much if anything until Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony in April, 1829.

Joseph resumed the translation of the plates by starting with the Book of Mosiah.

The Kno-Why included the illustration to the left, which depicts the timeline of the translation process according to the traditional explanation.

Do you see the problem?

It shows the "Small Plates" after the "Title Page." But Joseph said the Title Page was the very last leaf of the plates,* not the last leaf before the Small Plates.

This is the problem with the traditional explanation of the translation process and the plates. The "Small Plates" don't fit anywhere.

This is apparent not only from the order of translation, but also from the Title Page, which describes only three components:

1. Abridged record of the Nephites.
2. Abridged record of the Jaredites.
3. Sealed by Moroni (his original writings).

The Title Page does not mention any original plates. 

This is one of several indications that there were two separate sets of plates.

Translation sequence - "two-sets-of-plates" explanation
the "small plates of Nephi" were never in Moroni's stone box
The illustration to the left is a revision to the translation chronology chart that explains the setting of the two translations.

You can see that the abridged plates, which I call the "Harmony plates," were translated in Harmony. The original plates of Nephi, usually called the "small plates," were translated in Fayette. That's why I call them the "Fayette plates."

Joseph also used the term "Original Book of Mormon," which apparently consisted of the plates Moroni put in the stone box on the Hill Cumorah. This would have been the Book of Lehi through the Book of Moroni--the abridged records described by the Title Page.

After Martin Harris lost the Book of Lehi (the 116 pages), Joseph continued the translation from where he left off; i.e., the Book of Mosiah. Then, when Joseph and Oliver neared the end of the plates, they considered re-translating the Book of Lehi. In D&C 10, the Lord told them not to do this. Instead, they had to translate the engravings on the "plates of Nephi."

But they didn't have the "plates of Nephi" yet. 

Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the original plates to a divine messenger. On the road to Fayette, he, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer met this messenger. David offered to give him a ride but he declined, saying he was going to "Cumorah."

David lived in the area but had never heard of "Cumorah." He asked Joseph what was going on. Joseph said the man was one of the Three Nephites.**

Apparently the messenger was taking the Harmony plates back to the repository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah. There, he picked up the plates of Nephi and brought them to Fayette. He showed them (and/or the original plates) to Mary Whitmer, David's mother, and then gave the plates of Nephi (the "small plates") to Joseph Smith.

That's why Joseph and Oliver translated the plates of Nephi in Fayette.

I put more explanation and a complete diagram here:


I have a lot more detail and explanation in my book, Whatever Happened to the Golden Plates?

Available everywhere, including Amazon.

The "two-sets-of-plates" answers lots of questions about Church history that the traditional explanation simply leaves as mysteries, inconsistencies--and, for some, reasons to disbelieve what Joseph, Oliver, David, and others claimed.

* Joseph's 1839 history explains:

"I wish also to mention here, that the Title Page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated.... said Title Page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the Title Page of the English Version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the Title Page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates."


**David Whitmer related this account multiple times. Here's one example, published in the Juvenile Instructor, a magazine published in Utah by George Q. Cannon.

A Visit to David Whitmer.

By. E. Stevenson [Note: ancestor of Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Twelve]

While on the return journey from Palmyra, David noticed a somewhat aged-looking man who approached them on the road. He had a very pleasant face, about which, however, there seemed something peculiar, and he carried a knapsack on his back fastened with straps which crossed his breast. David asked him to take a ride, but he declined, saying: "I am going over to Cumorah," and then disappeared very suddenly, though there was no chance for him to secrete himself in the open country through which the party was then passing. All felt very strange concerning this personage and the Prophet was besought to inquire of the Lord concerning him. Shortly afterwards, David relates, the Prophet looked very white but with a heavenly appearance and said their visitor was one of the three Nephites to whom the Savior gave the promise of life on earth until He should come in power. After arriving home, David again saw this personage, and Mother Whitmer, who was very kind to Joseph Smith, is said to have seen one only this Nephite, but to have also been shown by him the sealed and unsealed portions of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated.


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