“Behold I Am Jesus Christ, Whom the Prophets Testified Shall Come into the World”

Brant Gardner

Textual: This chapter heading comes from the original text, up to the point where the modern chapters are indicated. We have seen these headings before in the Book of Mormon. These introductory headers were part of the plate text.

Introductory Headers in the Book of Mormon: An introductory header is some text that is added to the beginning of a text to provide some foreknowledge of the information that comes in the text. These headers have been added into our modern versions of the Book of Mormon, and are the material in italic font that follows the chapter number and precedes the text.  Although they exist for all chapters in the modern text, there are relatively few in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. These introductory texts are part of the extant Original Manuscript, and may be found at the beginning of Helaman, and 3 Nephi, the only beginnings of chapters that remain in the original. (Royal Skousen. The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. FARMS, Provo, 2001).

Since there are some of these introductory headers that were apparently part of the plate text, we should understand how and when they were used. There are two ways that these headers appear. They appear at the beginnings of named books, and they appear inside of named books.

The book headers present an interesting case because they do not exist at the beginning of all books. We find the first at the beginning of 1 Nephi. We have one at 2 Nephi and Jacob, but we do not find another until the beginning of the book of Alma. They are then found at the beginning of every book (Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi) until the book of Mormon, where it does not exist. There are no more headers after this point (none on Ether nor Moroni).

The distribution of the introductory headers is curious. It appears that there are differences in authors in creating the headers. We have Nephi (the first) consistently adding headers. We have Jacob adding a header. None of the rest of the writers on the small plates adds any form of header.

In Mormon’s text we have Mormon consistently adding headers with two exceptions, Mosiah and Mormon. Mosiah is a simple case as we have lost the original beginning of the book of Mosiah. It would appear safe to posit that it would have had an introductory text. These texts summarize the contents, and they are remnants of Mormon’s authorial construction of the text. When we get to his own book, the material is not conceived in advance, and therefore it is impossible to create a header that looks forward to the contents of his own book.

When Moroni picks up the editorial task, he does not add the introductory material. He would not add it to his own in any case for the same reason that Mormon does not, but he also leaves off the material from Ether, where it could easily have been added.

In the small plate tradition, both Nephi and Jacob are writing constructed texts, and have the time to write after the events. Therefore they may enter these headers. The rest of the writers on the small plates appear to have had much less forethought in what they wrote. Both Enos and Jarom add single chapter texts that may not have seemed to require any introductory roadmap. Omni is such a collection of short entries that it is clear that the original book had little forethought.

The book introductions appear to be an individualized trait of an author, and linked to the extent of the material to be presented, and dependent upon the planning of that material before writing. Mormon is the most obvious and consistent of the writers in providing this type of header.

Mormon is the only author who supplies internal headers. These accompany chapter divisions rather than book divisions. Mormon uses them in the following locations:

Mosiah 9: The introduction to the inserted record of Zeniff.

Alma 7: Alma speaking to the people of Gideon “according to his own record.”

Alma 9: Alma and Amulek speaking to the people of Ammonihah.

Alma 17: The account of the sons of Mosaiah.

Alma 21: Aaron and Muloki to the Lamanites.

Alma 36, 38, and 39: Alma’s discourses to his sons

Helaman 7: The prophecy of Nephi

Helaman 14: The prophecy of Samuel (a title, no header text).

3 Nephi 11: The appearance of Christ to the Nephites in Bountiful.

Mormon uses these internal chapter headers to separate sections of text from the rest of his narrative. Some of these, such as the records of Zeniff, the sons of Mosiah (probably the record of Ammon) and the record of Aaron and Muloki, appear to be record traditions outside the formal plates of Nephi from which Mormon is taking his information. However, the change of source is not the only reason, as there is text from Nephi (son of Nephi, son of Helaman) that is used without header.

Mormon appears to use these internal chapter headers to highlight and separate textual material. Although he does not do this with all inserted texts, they are nevertheless markers of particular inserted texts that Mormon wishes to highlight.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon