“And Now I Do Not Know All Things but the Lord Knoweth All Things”

K. Douglas Bassett

A New Witness for God, Roberts, 2:384-385

“At the beginning of the Book of Mormon history, Nephi had been commanded to make two separate sets of plates. After starting what would be known as the large plates of Nephi, he was later commanded to make a set of more religious records, known as the small plates of Nephi. (1 Ne. 9:2,4 and 1:17). After Nephi’s death, the large plates remained with the kings down to the time of Mormon, while the small plates went to Jacob and his posterity until the time of Amaleki, who gave them to King Benjamin. Thus the two set of plates were back into the possession of one person. After Mormon had completed his abridgment of five hundred years of Nephite history, he may have been somewhat surprised to find the small plates of Nephi, which largely duplicated his efforts. Instead of keeping only one of the sets of records, Mormon was prompted to include the small plates with his abridgment, without really knowing why. (See verse 7). He apparently did not know what would happen to his records after they would come into the hands of Joseph Smith. After Joseph Smith received the plates of Mormon, he had completed the translation of 116 pages of manuscript, which comprised Mormon’s abridgment from the time of Lehi down to King Benjamin. After the loss of these pages by Martin Harris, the Lord commanded the Prophet to translate further in the plates of Mormon without retranslating the first portion. However, since the small plates contained a more spiritual account of the same time period, the teachings of greatest value were not lost for the readers of the Book of Mormon. In order for this more spiritual record to be available, Nephi first had to start the small plates, and Mormon had to include them with his abridgment. We can be thankful today that Mormon had the courage to follow his spiritual promptings so that these valuable teachings are now part of our contemporary scripture.” (Victor L. Ludlow, Studies in Scriptures, ed. by K. Jackson, 7:203)
“At least six times in the Book of Mormon the phrase ‘for a wise purpose’ is used in reference to the making, writing, and preserving of the small plates of Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:5; Words of Mormon 1:7; Alma 37:2,12,14,18). We know one such wise purpose—the most obvious one—was to compensate for the loss of the earlier mentioned 116 pages of manuscript. But it strikes me that there is a ‘wiser purpose’ than that… . The key to such a suggestion is in verse 45 of Section 10… . He says, ‘Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel.’ So clearly … it was not tit for tat, this for that—you give me 116 pages of manuscript and I’ll give you 142 pages of printed text. Not so. We got back more than we lost. And it was known from the beginning that it would be so. We do not know exactly what we missed in the 116 pages, but we do know that what we received on the small plates was the personal declarations of three great witnesses, [Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah], … testifying that Jesus is the Christ… . I think you could make a pretty obvious case that the sole purpose of the small plates was to give a platform for these three witnesses. After all, their writing constitutes a full 135 pages of what is only a 145-page record.” (Jeffrey R. Holland, CES Symposium, BYU, Aug. 9, 1994)

Latter-Day Commentary on the Book of Mormon