“I Do This for a Wise Purpose”

Bryan Richards

The foreknowledge of God had anticipated the blunder of the 116 lost pages of the book of Lehi. It was for this reason that the Lord commanded Mormon to include the small plates with his abridged record. Nephi's record covered the same time period and included the more plain and precious parts [ministry and prophecies] (1 Nephi 19:3). This spiritual record would be translated instead of retranslating the book of Lehi contained on the large plates. Thus, the Lord would show that his wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. DC 10: 38-45 contains the Lord's commands to Joseph Smith to translate the small plates of Nephi to replace the history lost in the 116 pages:

'And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands (the 116 pages), is engraven upon the (small) plates of Nephi;

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.

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--

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;

And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.

I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.

Behold, they have only got a part, or an abridgment of the account of Nephi.

Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel; therefore, it is wisdom in me that you should translate this first part of the engravings of Nephi, and send forth in this work.' (DC 10:38-45)

The ability of the Lord to foresee and make preparations for an event 2400 years in the future is remarkable. This wise purpose of the Lord was referred to in several Book of Mormon passages.

Jeffrey R. Holland

"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 lost 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." (CES Symposium, BYU, Aug. 9, 1994 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, p. 198)