“I Seal Up These Records”

If Moroni hid up the records in the same hill as Mormon, then why were the plates of Moroni in a stone box and not with the other plates that Mormon hid up? Why would Mormon (and Moroni) make an abridgement (Mormon 8:5-6) if all the Nephite records would be available to the prophet Joseph Smith in this same hill?

The following are verses related to the completion of the Book of Mormon:

Mormon 6:5 385 A.S.

Mormon 6:6 Mormon hides up the records, and "gave these few plates" to Moroni

Mormon 7:10 Mormon says "Amen" to his teachings

Mormon 8:1 Moroni finishes the record of Mormon

Moroni has a "few things to write" as "commanded by Mormon

Mormon 8:4 Moroni will "write" and "hide up the records" "and wither I go it mattereth not."

Mormon 8:6 401 A.S.

Mormon 9:37 Moroni says "Amen" to his teachings

Ether 1:1 Moroni gives an account of Ether from 24 gold plates

Ether 4:19 Moroni says "Amen" to his teachings

Ether 5:6 Moroni says "Amen" to his teachings

Ether 12:41 Moroni says "Amen" to his teachings

Ether 13:1 Moroni proceeds

Ether 15:34 Moroni finishes the book of Ether

Moroni 1:1,4 Moroni had not "supposed he would write more" but will write "a few more things"

A. Chapters 2,3,4,5,6 = Moroni's teachings

B. Chapters 7,8,9 = Mormon's teachings

Moroni 10:1 421 A.S.

Moroni 10:2 Moroni to "seal up" the records after a few words

Moroni 10:34 Moroni says "Amen"

The following questions arise:

How long beyond 401 A.S. did it take Moroni to finish his father's book (the book of Mormon) and abridge the record of Ether?

In view of Moroni's apparent access to original records, was he close to, or did he repeatedly visit the hill Cumorah up until 421 A.S.?

Does the word "Amen" have any significance beyond just reaffirming what has just been taught?

Does the fact that Moroni only mentions the word "seal" at 421 A.S. mean that Moroni's work was continuous up to that point, or had he "sealed up" the records before without noting it?

While Moroni mentions "sealing up" the record, he doesn't mention burying the record, or hiding the record in the same verses. However, in Mormon 8:4,14 Moroni says that he "will hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not". Do the words "seal up" (Moroni 10:2) mean that Moroni IS going to bury the plates at that time, or is he saying that he WILL bury the plates in the future? In other words, did Moroni bury the plates when he "sealed" them up? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

“I Seal Up”

Concerning the size of the records which Moroni sealed up (Moroni 10:1-2), Robert F. Smith notes that Joseph himself gave us the length, width, and thickness of the whole set of plates as 6" x 8" x 6" in his famous Wentworth Letter. (B.H. Roberts, ed., History of the Church, 4:537; compare Evening and Morning Star, 1:8, 58b) . . . Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer all suggested that the plates were "not quite as thick as common tin." (Times and Seasons 3 (March 1, 1842): 707; Chicago Times (Jan. 24, 1888), p. 8, col. 1.) By doing some calculations, Smith estimates that the six-inch collection would have contained between 120 and 200 plates. [Robert F. Smith, "The 'Golden Plates,'" in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, pp. 275-276]

Note* Jerry Ainsworth writes that the prophet Joseph Smith kept the plates in a wooden laptop desk (see illustration). The desk was only four inches high at the front and six at the back and yet had space for the plates, as well as the Urim and Thummim and breastplate (1989 Seminary Manual, 44). A set of plates six inches thick would not have fit into the box Joseph Smith used to hide them. The reference to "near six inches in thickness" must therefore describe the plates with their rings. The rings holding the plates together were probably six inches high, while the plates themselves were not so thick. This is in agreement with how the Prophet described them. "They were . . . bound together in a volume . . . with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness" (History of the Church, 4:537; emphasis added). The six inches refers to the complete set, rings and all, not the plates themselves.

James E. Talmage is one of the few to catch this distinction between the thickness of the volume as opposed to the thickness of the plates. He states that the plates "were fastened together by three rings running through the plates near one edge; together [the plates and rings] formed a book nearly six inches in thickness. (Articles of Faith, 262-63) [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, pp.235-236, 239-240]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records (Size) [[Illustration]]: Replica of laptop desk used by Joseph Smith to conceal the plates. It is four inches deep in the front and six inches deep in the back. Replica compliments of Bud Stone. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p.234]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records (Size) [[Illustration]]: Replica of laptop desk, containing models of the gold plates, the breastplate, and the Urim and Thummim. [Jerry L. Ainsworth, The Lives and Travels of Mormon and Moroni, p.235]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records (Size) [[Illustration]]: In this wooden box, Josoeph kept the Book of Mormon plates. The inside of the box measures 141/4" x 161/4". The depth is 61/4" sloping to 4". The lid and bottom are walnut, and the sides are made from boxwwod. The box was originally Samuel Smith's lap desk. In the possesssion of Emeritus Church Patriarch Eldred G. Smith. [Daniel H. Ludlow, S. Kent Brown, and John W. Welch selection eds., To All the World: The Book of Mormon Articles from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, F.A.R.M.S., p. 34]

“I Seal Up These”

Kirk Henrichsen has compiled the following list of statements made by witnesses describing the "records" (Moroni 10:1-2) which Joseph Smith received from Moroni:

Material:

"the appearance of gold (Joseph Smith Jr., Eight Witnesses, Orson Pratt)

"golden plates" (David Whitmer)

"a mixture of gold and copper" (William Smith)

Weight:

"weighing altogether from forty to sixty lbs." (Martin Harris)

"I was permitted to lift them. . . . They weighed about sixty pounds according to the best of my judgment. (William Smith)

"I . . . judged them to have weighed about sixty pounds." (William Smith)

"They were . . . as near as I could tell, about sixty pounds." (William Smith)

"I hefted the plates, and I knew from the heft that they were lead or gold." (Martin Harris)

"My daughter said, they were about as much as she could lift. They were now in the glass-box, and my wife said they were very heavy. They both lifted them." (Martin Harris)

"I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work." (Emma Smith)

"[While dusting, she] hefted those plates [which were covered with a cloth] and found them very heavy." (H. S. Salisbury, paraphrasing Joseph's sister Catherine Smith Salisbury)

Individual Plate Dimensions:

"six inches wide by eight inches long" (Joseph Smith Jr.)

"seven inches wide by eight inches in length" (Martin Harris)

"seven by eight inches" (Martin Harris)

"about eight inches long, seven inches wide" (David Whitmer)

"not far from seven by eight inches in width and length" (Orson Pratt)

Thickness of Each Plate:

"of the thickness of plates of tin" (Martin Harris)

"thin leaves of gold" (Martin Harris)

"about as thick as parchment" (David Whitmer)

"not quite as thick as common tin" (Orson Pratt)

"[We] could raise the leaves this way (raising a few leaves of the Bible before him)." (William Smith)

"They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metalic [sic] sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of a book." (Emma Smith)

Volume Thickness:

"something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed" (Orson Pratt)

"[W]hen piled one above the other, they were altogether about four inches thick." (Martin Harris)

Sealed and Unsealed Portions:

"A large portion of the leaves were so securely bound together that it was impossible to separate them." (David Whitmer)

"What there was sealed appeared as solid to my view as wood. About the half of the book was sealed." (David Whitmer)

"[A]bout two-thirds were sealed up, and Joseph was commanded not to break the seal; that part of the record was hid up. (Orson Pratt)

"Joseph was not permitted to translate it, neither to break the seal of the book" (Orson Pratt)

Rings and Binding Format:

"[T]hey were fastened with rings thus [a sketch shows a ring in the shape of a capital D with six lines drawn through the straight side of the letter to represent the leaves of the record]." (David Whitmer) [See illustration #1]

"bound together like the leaves of a book by massive rings passing through the back edges" (David Whitmer)

"They were bound together in the shape of a book by three gold rings." (David Whitmer)

"put together on the back by three silver rings, so that they would open like a book" (Martin Harris)

"bound together in a volume, as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole" (Orson Pratt)

"Through the back of the plates were three rings, which held them together, and through which a rod might easily be passed, serving as a greater convenience for carrying them" (Orson Pratt)

Reading Order:

"I wish to mention here that the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general." (Joseph Smith Jr.) [See illustration #2]

Characters, Text, and Plate Surface:

"[The plates] were filled with . . . Egyptian characters. . . . The characters on the unsealed part were small, and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction and much skill in the art of engraving." (Joseph Smith Jr., Orson Pratt)

"There were fine engravings on both sides." (John Whitmer)

"We also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship." (Eight Witnesses)

"[T]he characters . . . were cut into the plates with some sharp instrument." (William Smith)

"Upon each side of the leaves of these plates there were fine engravings, which were stained with a black, hard stain, so as to make the letters more legible and easier to read." (Orson Pratt)

(Note* The following statements are based on transcriptions of the characters)

"It [Joseph's transcription of characters from the plates] consisted of all kinds of singular characters disposed in columns, . . . Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses and flourishes; roman letters inverted or placed sideways were arranged and placed in perpendicular columns, and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, arched with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican calendar." (Charles Anthon) [However see illustration #3]

"The characters were arranged in columns, like the Chinese mode of writing, . . . Greek, Hebrew and all sorts of letters, more or less distorted, . . . were intermingled with sundry delineations of half moons, stars, and other natural objects and the whole ended in a rude representation of the Mexican zodiac." (Charles Anthon) [However, see illustration #4]

"[Martin Harris] was in the habit of exhibiting to his hearers what he claimed to be a fac simile [sic] copy of the title page of the forthcoming book [Book of Mormon]." One who saw this copy said, "On it were drawn rudely and bunglingly, concentric circles, between, above and below, which were characters, with little resemblance to letter. (Charles W. Brown) [However see illustration]

[Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records [Illustration]: A listing of statements by witnesses describing the "records" divided up in the following categories. (1) Material; (2) Weight; (3) Individual Plate Dimensions; (4) Thickness of Each Plate; (5) Volume Thickness; (6) Sealed and Unsealed Portions; (7) Rings and Binding Format; (8) Reading Order; (9) Characters, Text, and Plate Surface. [Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records [[Illustration] #1]: In 1877 Edward Stevenson interviewed David Whitmer, age 72, who recounted the story that his mother, Mary Musselman Whitmer, told him of being shown the plates by a heavenly messenger. Whitmer presumably drew the simple diagram, which Stevenson copies into his diary. [Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records [[Illustration] #2]: This conjectural reconstruction shows how the title page, the last plate written on in the Book of Mormon, could also appear as the first plate in the record.

[Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records [[Illustration] #3]: This is the only surviving copy of the characters from the gold plates. Because the characters are not arranged in columns, this is apparently not the transcription that Anthon saw. [Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Moroni 10:2 I seal up these records [[Illustration] #4]: Count Alexander von Humboldt published this drawing in 1814 of the Aztec Calendar Stone, which had been discovered in 1790. This is the only "Mexican calendar" that Anthon could have seen in Humboldt's work. [Kirk B. Henrichsen (comp.), "How Witnesses Described the 'Gold Plates'," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 10, num. 1, 2001, pp. 16-21]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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

References