Moroni wrote his account of the vision of the brother of Jared on the abridgment plates of Mormon, but he was commanded by the Lord to “seal up” this account (Ether 4:4-5). Joseph Smith was commanded not to translate this sealed portion. It is not absolutely clear what portion of the plates of Mormon was sealed. Joseph Smith simply said: “The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed” (History of the Church, Vol 4., p. 537). George Q. Cannon said that “about one-third” was sealed (Young Peoples’ History of Joseph Smith, p. 25), whereas Orson Pratt maintained that the sealed portion comprised “about two-thirds” of the plates (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 347). Neither of these two brethren indicate where they obtained their information.
“I Should Seal Them Up”
John Tvedtnes cites evidence concerning metal plates in stone boxes at a time that might suggest that the practice was common among the cultures from which the Book of Mormon peoples derived. The Assyrian king Sargon II (722-705 B.C.) repeats throughout his annals that he kept records on plates of gold, silver, bronze, and lead. During excavations of his palace at Khorsabad, six small inscribed plates (gold, silver, bronze, tin, and lead, with one alabaster) were found in a stone box buried beneath the palace foundation. Two of the plates and the box were lost during the sinking of a ship on the Tigris River in Iraq on May 23, 1855. The four surviving plates, of gold, silver, , bronze, and tin, were taken to France and are housed in the Louvre in Paris. [John A. Tvedtnes, “Hidden Records,” in The Most Correct Book, p. 27]
Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records (stone box) [Illustration]: Foundation tablets deposited in a stone box at Nippur by the Babylonian King Nabopolassar (626-605 B.C.), British Museum] [F.A.R.M.S. Staff, “Lands Of The Book Of Mormon,” Slide #106]
“Seal Them Up”
The Book of Mormon documents well the fact that sacred records were “hidden” in the earth, to be brought forth by those chosen of the Lord (see 4 Nephi 1:48-49; Mormon 6:6; 8:4,14; Ether 3:22-24, 27-28; 4:1-5; 15:33). Concerning his record, Moroni notes:
And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord; … and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God; … And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God. (Mormon 8:14-16)
According to John Tvedtnes, it is significant in itself that besides the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith brought forth other ancient works of scripture, including part of a revelation written by John the apostle (D&C 7), lost writings of Moses and Enoch (Moses 1, 6-7; D&C 107:40-57), and the Book of Abraham. He also restored some missing portions of the Bible, such as Joseph Smith--Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price, D&C 45, and portions of the Joseph Smith Translation. However, there is additional significance to the fact that Joseph Smith’s work marked the beginning of an era in which ancient records would be rediscovered in such vast quantities that our knowledge about the ancient Near East would greatly multiply in just a few generations. The discovery of records hidden in the Near East has made headline news in our time. Most notable is the large cache of documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which began coming to light in 1947. Other hidden documents have been found elsewhere in Israel, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran.
Paul Cheesman has pointed out two accounts of sacred texts hidden by Mesoamerican Indians. The first comes from an early Spanish friar, who learned from an Otami Indian man a tradition about a book that spoke of God and Christ but had perished after being buried in the ground by its guardians. The other is the “Golden Book” of the Maya Indians said to have been hidden away to prevent it from falling into the hands of the invading Spanish. Tradition indicates that the fifty-two gold plates comprising the record contained the history of the Maya.
In comparing the information extracted from all these documents through years of painstaking research, Tvedtnes found that the Book of Mormon story has antecedents in the ancient world that were not known to Joseph Smith or his contemporaries. Among these are the concept of writing and hiding books in such a way that they could be discovered by future generations; the use of special containers, such as stone boxes, in which to hide records; hiding their books in mountains; and the entrusting of those hidden books to the care of angels, who would deliver them to mankind at the appropriate time. The likelihood that the traditions brought forth in these recent discoveries were known to Joseph Smith, a New England farmboy, is virtually nil.
In his introduction to Tvedtnes’ book, H. Curtis Wright notes, “Tvedtnes shows perhaps fifty things about ancient records that must have been hilarious in 1830 but make perfect sense today.” [John Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness unto Light, pp. xi, 3-6, 22]
“He Commanded Me That I Should Seal Them Up”
John Tvedtnes notes that like other aspects of hidden documents, the practice of sealing records is known not only from the Book of Mormon but from other ancient Near Eastern texts. Sealed documents are designed to serve as legal testimony, usually for future generations, and it is perhaps in this light that we should understand some of Moroni’s comments in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon. Moroni first noted, “I seal up these records” (Moroni 10:2), then informed his future audience how they can know the truth of those records by asking God (see Moroni 10:3-5).; After some words of exhortation, Moroni writes: “Ye shall see me at the bar of God … and God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.” (Moroni 10:27-29)
According to Tvedtnes, the ancient Mesopotamians made two copies of legal documents, such as contracts, one open for public consultation and the other sealed to prevent tampering with the official record. The practice of preparing two copies, one sealed and one open, is also known from ancient Israel, as described in the Bible and other early Jewish texts. For example, in Jasher 27:12-14 we read that Jacob’s purchase of the birthright in exchange for the pottage was formally documented: “And Jacob wrote the whole of this in a book, and he testified the same with witnesses, and he sealed it, and the book remained in the hands of Jacob.” Later, after returning from Syria, Jacob wrote a book of purchase for the property agreement he had struck with Esau after Isaac died. He put it with “the command and the statutes and the revealed book, and he placed them in an earthen vessel in order that they should remain for a long time and he delivered them into the hands of his children” (Jasher 47:29). When Esau‘s family later challenged the right of Jacob’s sons to bury their father in the cave, the Israelites produced “all the records; the record of the purchaser, the sealed record and the open record, and also all the first records in which all the transactions of the birth-right are written” (Jasher 56:57; The story is also found in TB Sotah 13a, Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 39, and Rashi on Genesis 49:21).
The contrast between sealed and open purchase records intended to be preserved is also made in Jeremiah 32, from which the Jasher account may have borrowed. Jeremiah’s cousin Hanameel asked him to purchase a field, and Jeremiah drew up “the evidence of the purchase” and “sealed it” after having witnesses sign the document. He then instructed his scribe, Baruch, “Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.” The prophet used this event to prophesy that the people of Judah would, after their captivity in Babylon, return to possess their lands once again (see Jeremiah 32:8-15, 44; compare 13:3-11; 19:1, 10-11). [John Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness unto Light, pp. 65-70] [See 2 Nephi 27:10-11, 15, 21] [See the commentary on Moroni 10:29]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words ([Illustration] [Illustration] Moroni Burying the Plates. Artist: Jon McNaughton. [L.D.S. Church, The Ensign, September 1995, inside back cover]
Moroni 10:2 I [Moroni] seal up these records ([Illustration] Moroni Hides the Plates in the Hill Cumorah [or the hill in New York]. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gospel Art, #320]
Moroni 10:2 I [Moroni] seal up these records ([Illustration] Moroni Burying the Plates [Gary E. Smith, Verse Markers, Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 3]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records (Illustration): Moroni Burying the Plates. Artist: Jon McNaughton. [L.D.S. Church, The Ensign, September 1995, inside back cover]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records ([Illustration] Moroni Burying the Plates. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [L.D.S. Church, The Ensign, June 1987, p. 27]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records ([Illustration] Moroni Burying the Record. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 617]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records ([Illustration] Moroni Burying the Plates. Moroni buried the gold plates and other sacred objects in the Hill Cumorah. Artist: Clark Kelley Price. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 599]
Moroni 10:2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words ([Illustration] The New York Hill Cumorah. Artist: Alfred Lambourne. [L.D.S. Church, The Ensign, November 1981, inside back cover]
Geographical Theory Map: Moroni 10:2 Moroni Seals Up the Record for the Last Time (421 A.S.?)