Verse 13 and the first sentence of verse 14 comprise Moroni’s identification of his hand on the record. This is his introductory colophon. He identifies himself and his lineage through his father, and then verifies his relationship to the record. It is he who “hideth up this record unto the Lord.”
[the plates thereof are of no worth]: Moroni is aware that gold plates do have some economic value, but it is doubtful that his statement carried the same contrast in meanings that it does today, for the Mesoamerican relationship to gold was not nearly one of such great lust as is the more modern and Western desire. For Moroni, he is creating a literary parallel. There is some worth in the plates, but there is tremendous worth in the content of the plates. Moroni is telling us that the message is infinitely more important than the medium, to twist Marshal McCluen’s assertion that the medium is the message in modern society.
The presence of this verse in Moroni’s cultural milieu is therefore somewhat anomalous. It is absolutely applicable to the future translator of the plates, however. This statement, continuing through verse 16, is rather pointedly aimed at the person of Joseph Smith. Unlike Mormon’s more generic comments about the appearance of his work in the latter days, Moroni directs comments at the person who is to bring forth the record.
Moroni is not only the man who hides up the plates, but he is also the man who is charged with helping Joseph Smith recover the plates (as told in Joseph Smith History 1:29-49). It would appear that Moroni was intimately charged with the care of the record, and that perhaps he knew of his future role through revelation. That revelation may have given him a picture and understanding of the young man who would receive this tremendous burden. He must have been given understanding of the nature of the burdens he would bear. It would appear that while there were yet many things on Moroni’s mind, one of the things foremost on his mind was a person, a yet unborn man who would be the prophet of the restoration, who would awake the slumbering text that Moroni himself would lay down in the earth for its long sleep.
Indeed, it was this same Moroni who would be the Lord’s messenger to that young man, and Moroni would personally instigate the events leading to the translation of the Book of Mormon. When he does, it is interesting that we see in his message-in-person to Joseph Smith a direct reflection of his message-to-the-future give here:
46 By this time, so deep were the impressions made on my mind, that sleep had fled from my eyes, and I lay overwhelmed in astonishment at what I had both seen and heard. But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before; and added a caution to me, telling me that Satan would try to tempt me (in consequence of the indigent circumstances of my father’s family), to get the plates for the purpose of getting rich. This he forbade me, saying that I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them.
Two elements of the conversation between Moroni and Joseph stand out. Moroni specifically notes the temptations for worldly gain. He then notes that “I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God.” The first is the subject of the ending of verse 14. The second is the theme of the following verse 15, in which Moroni states that the one who is to bring forth the plates must have “an eye single to his glory.” Moroni had the same message for Joseph Smith. One was written 1400 years before Joseph Smith’s time. The second was delivered in person. The message remained the same.
The Moroni-to-Joseph communiqués are interesting in that Moroni writes them, but also because they were translated long after the plates had been retrieved, and well in to the translation process. The admonition to care for the text more than the value of the plates was certainly a message that was required of Joseph as he began his work, but we might assume that as the work progressed he would have understood that value. We would expect that the temptation to sell the plates should have diminished over time. Regardless of how we understand the sequence of translation after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages (starting again at Mosiah or returning to 1 Nephi) this statement appears deep in the translation process. For Moroni, the admonition would come at the very end, and in Moroni’s mind would have been the last text that this future translator would read. Moroni is therefore not giving an admonition that will be useful in the beginning, but rather an admonition that comes from his personal understanding of the events, written as, and when, he understood them.