Feast upon the Word Blog

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Mormon’s Plates

Posted by robf on June 23, 2011

I was pleasantly surprised when I started reading Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text to see that his reformatting of the text provided a new perspective and raised new questions for me from the very first lines of the Title Page. Here’s how this looks, more or less, in our official LDS version of the Book of Mormon:

THE
BOOK OF MORMON
AN ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY
THE HAND OF MORMON
UPON PLATES
TAKEN FROM THE PLATES OF NEPHI

When I read that, Book of Mormon and Hand of Mormon stand out, but the rest just sort of gets minimized in my brain. Here’s how it looks in Skousen’s formatting:

The Book of Mormon
An account written by the hand of Mormon
upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi

I was surprised to notice that I actually read the text this way, rather than just scanned it. In fact, I never even would have realized that I had been scanning before, rather than not reading.

Secondly, when I actually read this, the phrase “plates taken from the plates of Nephi” really stood out to me. This raised the question of what exactly Mormon (or is it Moroni?) is writing here. Are we being told that Mormon’s account is written on plates that were physically taken from the plates of Nephi or that merely the Moroni’s account was taken from the plates? Were the plates taken, or just the account taken? What is being meant here by taken?

These are new questions to me that Skousen’s new formatting helped me formulate by allowing me to literally see the text in a new way.

So, two questions. Any insights into what this line in the Title Page is referring to (the original topic of this post)? Secondly, anyone else reading Skousen’s edition having similar words or phrases pop out in a new light for them based on the formatting?

10 Responses to “Mormon’s Plates”

  1. Last Lemming said

    As I read it, the account was taken from the plates of Nephi and written by Mormon onto other plates. By putting the two instances of “plates” on separate lines, the current format is actually more conducive to my reading. My preference would be to place a colon after the first instance of “plates.”

  2. Obviously the vast majority of Mormon’s book is his own edited and narrated version of the Plates of Nephi. The Plates of Nephi were a record of the kings and wars among the Nephites. He took the stories from those plates and rewrote them on new plates giving them the spin he needed to make his case that “Jesus is the Christ”. Some if them, however, he left alone and simply recopied it word for word (things like epistles).

  3. Clark said

    Whenever I read this I wonder how much of this was Joseph Smith and how much was actual text on the plates.

  4. robf said

    So the preferred punctuation or formatting might be something like:

    An account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates:
    taken from the plates of Nephi

  5. Last Lemming said

    If the word order is fixed, then yeah.

  6. I have repunctuated my own title page with parentheses around “written by the hand of Mormon upon plates,” so I guess I’m with Last Lemming. But then, we don’t actually know where Mormon got his plates from: If he took them from blank leaves at the back of the Large Plates, then Skousen’s reading works too.

    (However, Moroni hints, in Mormon 8:5, that he knew how to make plates, and I have to imagine that he learned this from his dad. So the Plates of Mormon might well have been smelted and hammered by Mormon himself.)

    Anyone have a copy of the Critical Text? Is the title page extant from either of the manuscripts? That might tell us how seriously to take the formatting.

  7. robf said

    Fun with formatting :-)

  8. Sam Bishop said

    This doesn’t have much to do with the original post, but I would like to mention a very interesting thing I learned about the title page from a paper written by Daniel Ludlow for a Book of Mormon symposium. (The symposium papers were published in a book called “First Nephi: The Doctrinal Foundation” in 1988.)

    In short, he proposes that the title page was written by Mormon and added to by Moroni. (Moroni starts at “Sealed by the hand of Moroni…”) He makes an absolutely convincing case in my opinion.

    Take the portion of the title page quoted above. There is no mention of Moroni, the Jaredites, or the plates of Ether. It was written before the plates were given to Moroni, when the Book of Mormon consisted only of Mormon’s abridgement of the large plates of Nephi. You’ll also notice some parallels and repetitions between what Mormon wrote and Moroni wrote.

    Sorry to thread jack. :)

  9. Craig said

    Are the mormon leaders buying their way to heaven?

  10. RickH said

    My understanding was that *some* of the book (1 Ne – Omni) was the actual plates Nephi used – the ones Nephi prepared after putting together the other ones.

    Of course, I guess it doesn’t matter if they were the *actual* plates or a copy of them made by Mormon.

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