“I Do This for a Wise Purpose”

Alan C. Miner

According to Jeffrey 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 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… . the Lord says, “Behold, there are many things engraven upon the [small] plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel” (D&C 10:45). 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, 8-9--1994, as quoted in Doug Bassett, Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon, p. 98]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary