“The Words Which He Spake Should Be Written”

Brant Gardner

Culture: Even with the addition of the tower, all the gathered people were unable to hear Benjamin’s word. Therefore he ordered that a written text be circulated. Why would the people remain at the site if they could not hear (and perhaps not see) the person they came to hear and see? The answer is that the people had multiple reasons for coming. For many of them, the celebration, visiting with friends, and the feasting would be reason enough to linger.

A second important piece of information is that the speech was written down expressly so that the people could have his words. Clearly some portion of the Nephites was literate, but we do not know the extent of that literacy. It would be very unusual for any ancient society to have a very high literacy rate, particularly among its farmers. It seems unlikely that the written speech existed in sufficient copies so that even a fraction of them could have their own copies. The time, writing materials, and personnel required to make hundreds (let alone tens of thousands) of copies would be prohibitive. It seems more likely that a limited number of copies was created. Benjamin’s emissaries read the speech to the more distant of the crowd and probably to gatherings in hamlets throughout the land.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3