Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Moroni and Nephi

From time to time, the ongoing confusion over Moroni and Nephi arises. This is a brief explanatory note.

When originally published in the Times and Seasons in 1842, Joseph Smith's history said that it was Nephi who first appeared to him in 1823 to tell him about the plates.

He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi. That God had a work for me to do, and that my name should be had for good and evil, among all nations, kindreds, and tongues; or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/times-and-seasons-15-april-1842/3

Church historians later edited the history so that it now reads Moroni.

33. He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng

This detail has led critics to claim that Joseph couldn't get his story straight.

I see it differently.

There's no doubt the 1842 publication in the Times and Seasons was an error. Joseph had identified the messenger as Moroni in the Elders' Journal in 1838. Oliver Cowdery had done the same in 1835.

How can we account for such an obvious error in the 1842 Times and Seasons?

First, the publication of the error is evidence that Joseph Smith, who was the named editor of the newspaper at the time, was merely the nominal editor (i.e., in name only). He didn't review the paper closely, or at all, prior to publication.

Second, the history published in the 1842 Times and Seasons was not written by, and probably not dictated by, Joseph Smith. Instead, it was compiled by his scribes beginning in 1838. 

Of course, this raises the question, why would the scribes think it was Nephi who first visited Joseph and not Moroni?

The answer could be that they knew Joseph had multiple encounters with both Moroni and Nephi.

Brigham Young explained in a letter to his son that "There is really no discrepancy in the history about these names. It was Moroni who delivered the sacred records and Urim and Thummim to Joseph, but Nephi also visited him."

https://catalog.churchofjesuschrist.org/assets?id=b3c72fee-6f44-4ce6-8a9f-5cf38b6153d1&crate=0&index=387




Those who have read the Saints book, volume 1, will remember the account of a divine messenger showing Mary Whitmer the plates in Fayette, NY. The book claims the messenger was Moroni. This is a revisionist historical narrative, designed to accommodate M2C by deflecting attention from David Whitmer's testimony that this same messenger took the Harmony plates (the abridged plates) to Cumorah before bringing the unabridged plates of Nephi to Fayette.

The claim that the messenger was Moroni also contradicts what Mary Whitmer herself reportedly said; i.e., that the messenger identified himself as Brother Nephi.

By changing the historical narrative to omit Nephi and insert Moroni into the account of the messenger who took the Harmony plates to Cumorah and showed the plates of Nephi to Mary Whitmer, our Church historians have compounded the confusion that long existed over the claim in the 1842 Times and Seasons that it was Nephi who first appeared to Joseph Smith.

As usual in questions about Church history, we are better off accepting the statements of those involved than the revisionist history of our modern historians.

See https://saintsreview.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-mary-whitmer-problem.html

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