Friday, February 23, 2024

Two sets of plates: "the book of which I have spoken"

This post discusses another aspect of the "two-sets-of-plates" scenario, looking at what Nephi said about the future Book of Mormon.

On this blog we've discussed the idea that Moroni put the abridged plates in the stone box on Cumorah, as indicated by the Title Page (the last leaf of the plates) and other extrinsic and historical evidence. 

Joseph and Oliver completed the translation of those plates in Harmony, PA. Then Joseph gave those abridged plates to a messenger who took them to Cumorah. From the repository in Cumorah, the messenger picked up the plates of Nephi and took them to Fayette where Joseph translated them as 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon 1-11.

(see chart here:

To review, the Lord told Oliver that when he finished helping Joseph translate "this record" (meaning the abridged plates), there would be "other records" that he would assist to translate.

1 Behold, I say unto you, my son, that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.

2 And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate.

(Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–2)

In the next section, the Lord explained what these "other records" were; i.e., the plates of Nephi.

38 And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the plates of Nephi;
 39 Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
40 And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account—
 41 Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
42 And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.
(Doctrine and Covenants 10:38–42)

IOW, Joseph didn't have the plates of Nephi in Harmony. He wouldn't get them until the messenger brought them to Fayette. 


Aside from the extrinsic and historical evidence that Joseph Smith translated two separate sets of plates, we have a comment by Nephi that corroborates the two sets of plates scenario.

Nephi wrote, "And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed." (2 Nephi 30:3)

Notice that Nephi did not write "this book" when he prophesied about the future Book of Mormon. The "book of which I have spoken" was obviously not the book he was writing at the time.

Nephi explained that the book would be the words of "his seed," meaning his descendants, presumably as abridged by Mormon.

2 And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;
(2 Nephi 29:2)

Had Nephi's original plates been included in the original Book of Mormon, the verses should have read something like this:

"And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken shall come forth, which book shall include these words I am writing now, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed." (2 Nephi 30:3)

2 And also, that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee, Nephi, and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed; and that your words and the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth, for a standard unto my people, which are of the house of Israel;
(2 Nephi 29:2)

Naturally, other interpretations are possible, but this is an interpretation that corroborates the extrinsic and historical evidence that Joseph translated two separate sets of plates, and that the Lord had Joseph translate the plates of Nephi to replace the lost 116 pages from the "original" Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Hank Smith podcast: overview of Lehi's promised land

Lots of interesting comments on the significance of North America:


so my point is let's


not get offended that God has said America is a choice land let's recognize that there are things for ordained by God for everyone but that there is something special here and let's not skip it because there are valuable things about recognizing this so verse seven this land is consecrated unto whom whom he shall bring I just read that and

A land consecrated


if it so be that they shall serve him now this is the condition according to the Commandments which he hath given it shall be a land of liberty unto them that's so important having a land of liberty is something special and it's a beacon to the world and can bless all kinds of Worlds as we know many countries have copied the Constitution of the United States or use that as a foundation for some of their own governance wherefore they shall never be brought into captivity now that's a really huge promise given the state of the world today and in other times where Liberty has been at risk if so it shall be because of iniquities this is a principle with a promise but we have to live the principle we have to worship the god of the land who is Jesus Christ right for if iniquity shall abound curse shall be the land for their sakes and for their sakes. 


we're going to talk about that later with the the boundaries idea but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever can I just emphasize that last line unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever that is an incredible promise no matter what happens politically or governmentally or socially or whatever unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever that is a beautiful statement of comfort.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Ensign magazine: Possible Routes Suggested for Mulek’s Voyage

In 1973, it was still cool to discuss evidence of the Book of Mormon in Church magazines. Maybe that's why those of us who were living back then think it's still cool.


No need for contention about any of this, of course. People can believe whatever we want. So long as we pursue clarity, charity and understanding, we'll see "no more contention" (Mosiah 1:1). Instead, we'll all be better education and make informed decisions.

Possible Routes Suggested for Mulek’s Voyage

Two possible routes of the voyage of Mulek and his followers to the New World “promised land” of the Book of Mormon have been proposed by Dr. and Sister Ross T. Christensen of Brigham Young University. Dr. Christensen is a professor of archaeology and anthropology; his wife is a graduate student in archaeology.

The Book of Mormon does not specify whether the Mulekites made their voyage to the Americas in the sixth century B.C. westward across the Atlantic Ocean or eastward across the Pacific. But since that history clearly indicates that they landed on the east coast of the “land northward,” the Christensens suggest that the Mulekites may have followed the Atlantic route.

A study of Atlantic Ocean currents together with other substantive information supports the feasibility of two possible routes that these early voyagers might have taken, according to the Christensens. One is a Mediterranean and North Atlantic route; the other is around Africa, then across the South Atlantic.

The sixth century before Christ was a time of extraordinary activity in exploration, trade, and colonization in the Mediterranean world and beyond. And the destruction of Jerusalem and the flight of Mulek and his people and others who were oppressed only accelerated a disposition to emigrate. Israelite colonies are believed to have existed at Cyprus, Crete, Libya, Jerba, and Carthage at the time of Jerusalem’s fall, some of them having been established, according to tradition, during the reigns of David and Solomon. Also dating from the period of David and Solomon was a tradition of Israelite commerce with the Phoenicians.

One hypothesis suggests that at least part of the colony that settled in America with Mulek was Phoenician, because the river Sidon, mentioned in the Book of Mormon, bears the name of the principal city of ancient Phoenicia, Sidon. Aided by Phoenician mariners and Hebrew colonists across the Mediterranean, Mulek’s group could have reached the Atlantic Ocean by traveling the length of the Mediterranean Sea. Once out on the Atlantic, Mulek would have entered into a powerful ocean current that sweeps southwestward from Spain and Portugal along the west coast of Africa, then veers westward across the Atlantic, continuing in an arc through the West Indies.

While the Christensens believe Mulek traveled this more direct route across the Atlantic, they have also considered the route around Africa and across the South Atlantic as another possibility.

Mulek’s Various Routes

A powerful ocean stream originates in the Indian Ocean in the vicinity of Madagascar, sweeps southward around the Cape of Good Hope, veers westward across the South Atlantic to a point on the north of the eastern tip of Brazil, and continues northward off the coast of South America until it merges with the current flowing across the North Atlantic. Thus, if a vessel were to embark on the Red Sea and hold course close to the eastern shore of Africa until it reached the vicinity of Madagascar, it could follow the currents to the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico.

Although twice as far as the Mediterranean route, this second possibility warrants consideration. It has been discovered that under orders of the Egyptian monarch Neccho II, Phoenician sailors in about 600 B.C. voyaged around the entire continent of Africa, and this was 2100 years before the same feat was accomplished by Vasco de Gama in 1498.

Another accomplishment about the time of the Mulekite voyage was an actual crossing of the Atlantic to America by Phoenician mariners who set sail in the Red Sea, taking the route around the Cape of Good Hope and across the South Atlantic to what is now Brazil. An ancient Phoenician inscription found at Paraiba, Brazil, sets the crossing between 534 and 531 B.C.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Hopewell in Illinois

If you're not following Greg Little on Twitter (X), you're missing lots of interesting posts. Here's another one:

The Gramercy Park Mounds in East Dubuque, IL, AKA "Dunleith Mounds." There were 26 Hopewell Culture mounds in this 3-acre park. The 5th Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology (1887) devoted several pages to their excavation. A skeleton over 7' in height was found along with other oddities.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Thruston tablet

The Thruston Tablet, found in Tennessee, is subject to a variety of interpretations.

Illustration of the Thruston Tablet. It is a (paraphrasing) "19 inch long, 15 inch wide, 1 inch thick slab of stone" found at Rocky Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee around 1878. From: Holmes 1891.

(click to enlarge)

Little is known about the dating of this piece, but here is one discussion of the various issues.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Daniel H. Ludlow and the 2 sets of plates

An article by Daniel H. Ludlow reminded me of another evidence that Joseph translated two separate sets of plates.

To summarize:

1. The abridged plates which Joseph took from Moroni's stone box and translated in Harmony. Before leaving Harmony, Joseph gave the abridged plates to the divine messenger who took those plates back to the Hill Cumorah. Joseph identified the messenger as one of the Three Nephites.

2. The small plates of Nephi which Joseph translated in Fayette after the messenger brought those plates from the repository in Cumorah. This messenger also showed those plates to Mary Whitmer, introducing himself as "Brother Nephi." 

[Unfortunately, Andrew Jensen, who compiled early Church history, assumed Mary was wrong and changed the narrative to read that it was Moroni who showed Mary the plates. Apparently Jensen didn't know that Joseph had identified the individual as one of the Three Nephites, or that David Whitmer had a conversation with both the messenger and with the actual Moroni and knew they were separate individuals. Nevertheless, to accommodate M2C which claims Cumorah is in southern Mexico, LDS scholars prefer the Jensen narrative, which is not only contrary to the historical records but also highly problematic from a doctrinal standpoint as it promotes the idea that resurrected beings (such as Moroni) can change their shape, age, and overall appearance to mislead mortals (such as by appearing as an old, short, overweight man).]


Back to Ludlow.

In his article, Ludlow reminds us that Joseph Smith explained that "the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf... and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition."

Far from being words that appeared on a stone in the hat (SITH), the title page is "a literal translation" taken from a specific leaf of the plates.

Years ago at BYU Education Week, I head one of the educators discuss Church history and actually say, "We don't know how Joseph knew the Title Page was on the last leaf because he didn't even use the plates. They were covered by a cloth when he read the words off the stone in the hat."

That's how absurd the SITH narrative has become.

Ludlow also reminds us that the copyright application of 11 June 1829, and the setting of the type for the title page in "the forepart of June 1829" by Gilbert, both occurred while Joseph was still translating the plates of Nephi in Fayette. Because the Title Page was the last leaf of the plates Joseph had in Harmony, the plates he was translating in Fayette had to be a different set of plates; i.e., the small plates of Nephi that he did not have in Harmony.

The alternative view--that Joseph had the plates of Nephi all along--would require that Joseph did not translate the plates in sequence, that the directions in D&C 10 to translate the "plates of Nephi" were superfluous because he already had the plates, and that the discrepancies in the descriptions of the plates and the different accounts of how Joseph returned them will forever remain a mystery.

But people can believe whatever they want to believe.


See the diagram of the two sets of plates here:

Monday, January 8, 2024

Lehi's route

Readers of the Book of Mormon want to know how Lehi came to America. This little animation shows the most plausible route, which happens to also be the only one validated by an actual crossing using technology from 600 BC.

The Book of Mormon is a simple, direct narrative that is easy to understand when we heed the text, the teachings of the prophets, and the extrinsic evidence.

Monday, January 1, 2024

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

The title of this blog, Letter VII, refers to the seventh of eight essays about Church history written by Oliver Cowdery in 1835 when he was the Assistant President of the Church (an office that ranked higher than the counselors in the First Presidency).

In Joseph Smith's day, these 8 essays were the best-known history of the Church. Oliver wrote from personal knowledge, with the assistance of Joseph Smith. He published them over several months as letters in the Messenger and Advocate in Kirtland in 1834-5. Joseph had his scribes copy the essays into his own journal as part of his life story. (See link below.)

Oliver wrote the essays with the express assistance of Joseph Smith. For example, Oliver mentioned that Joseph couldn't tell him exactly what time it was when Moroni first visited, but it was after everyone had gone to bed. Oliver described Moroni's appearance, Joseph's frame of mind when he first went to the Hill Cumorah, how the stone box was constructed, and many more important details.

In 1840, Joseph asked his brother Don Carlos to re-publish the essays in the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo. He gave Benjamin Winchester permission to re-publish them in the Gospel Reflector, which was Winchester's newspaper in Philadelphia. Parley P. Pratt also re-published them in the Millennial Star in England. Also in England, the essays were published as a separate pamphlet that sold thousands of copies.

An excerpt from Letter I was canonized as the note to JS-History in the Pearl of Great Price.

In Utah, Joseph F. Smith republished the essays in the Improvement Era.

However, most modern Latter-day Saints have never even heard of these important essays. Few have read them. 


Latter-day Saints frequently ask why they haven't heard of these essays before. It is easy to understand why certain prominent LDS scholars downplay these essays. Oliver Cowdery explicitly reaffirmed the dual facts that (i) Joseph Smith translated the record with the Urim and Thummim and (ii) the Hill Cumorah of Mormon 6:6 is the same hill where Joseph found the plates. 

Readers of this blog recognize the implications. In these essays, Joseph and Oliver explicitly repudiated both SITH (the stone-in-the-hat theory of translation) and M2C (the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory of geography).

Consequently, those who promote SITH and M2C prefer that Latter-day Saints don't even know about these essays, let alone read them.

I find it ridiculous and counterproductive to suppress authentic, accurate Church historical documents, especially documents written by Joseph and Oliver that were so widely published at Joseph's direction. But modern LDS scholars have somehow rationalized their censorship.

Fortunately, the Joseph Smith Papers have preserved Joseph's journals so we can all read them there. 


Letter IV relates the visit of Moroni. It's well worth reading in full, but here's an excerpt from this link:

Notice that Moroni told Joseph from the outset that the record was "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home in Palmyra. IOW, we've known all along that it was not written in Mesoamerica and transported thousands of miles to western New York.

"written and deposited not far from that place"
(click to enlarge)

This should be a given, but our M2C scholars have managed to obfuscate and confuse people by suppressing this account of what Moroni said.

Therefore, marvle not if your name is made a derission, and had as a by-word among such, if you are the instrument in bringing it, by the gift of God, to the knowledge of the people.”

He then proceeded and gave a general account of the promises made to the fathers, and also gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham. He represented them as once being an enlightned and intelligent people, possessing a correct knowledge of the gospel, and the plan of restoration and redemption. He said this history was written and deposited not far from that place, and that it was our brother’s privilege, if obedient to the commandments of the Lord, to obtain and translate the same by the means of the Urim and Thummim, which were deposited for that purpose with the record.

Because this fits so well with the first week of Come Follow Me, be sure to share it with everyone you know.