Posted by: isaiahsfan | February 11, 2007

Mystery of the Title Page

I thought I’d post some ideas about the Title Page while we wait for our stragglers to come on board. Please post comments!

 Joseph Smith wrote a description of the title page of the Book of Mormon which was published in the Times and Seasons magazine (1842:93):

Title Page--First Edition Book of Mormon

“I wish also 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; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates…. The remainder of the title page is of course, modern.”

 

Joseph Smith tells us that the Title Page comes directly from the plates, but we are still left to wonder who it is who wrote these words.  The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was the first edition to be published.  In this, as well as the 1837 edition, the title page was the first page of the book.  In 1840, a new edition was printed with the title and some publishing information in front of the anciently written title page.  Also, the name “Moroni” was added to the end.  Since Joseph used the original manuscript to make corrections in the 1840 edition, it is possible that Moroni’s name did appear in the original manuscript.  The name “Moroni” continued to appear in the 1874 and 1892 editions.  Thus, many scholars of the Book of Mormon believe that Moroni was the author of this frontspiece. In “Moroni the Lonely: The Story of the Writing of the Title Page to the Book of Mormon” Sidney B. Sperry tells the dramatic and tragic story of Moroni, who wandered alone for sixteen years before adding to his father’s record.  He also wrote the title page to the Book of Mormon on the very last leaf of the plates.

Daniel H. Ludlow, however, has postulated that Mormon wrote the first part of the title page when he abridged the records.  Mormon’s contribution reads:

The Book of Mormon, an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi.  Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof.

The next section of the title page was written by Moroni, which explains the repetition of some of the wording.  Moroni writes:

Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

Moroni closes his account, then later decides to include the writings of Ether.  He adds the final engraving to what is now the title page: 

An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ. 

For many years I have favored Ludlow’s understanding of the authorship of the Title Page.  But other articles which are available on this subject make some good arguments favoring Sperry’s position.  Shirley R. Heater, writing on “Moroni’s Title Page” shows how the poetic arrangement favors a single author.  Clyde J. Williams in “More Light on Who Wrote the Title Page,” and Brant Gardner, in his article “Title Page,” give textual, authorship, and literary arguments for Moroni as the sole author of the title page.

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