Posted by: isaiahsfan | October 18, 2007

1 Nephi 9–The Small Plates of Nephi

1 Nephi 9, along with chapter 6, help to identify the several sets of plates from which the first 141 pages of the Book of Mormon derives. 

  • The large plates of Nephi–a full secular history of the Nephite people–abridged by the prophet Mormon into a smaller account–the first part of Mormon’s abridgement, from 600 BC until the time of King Benjamin, was translated by Joseph Smith into 116 manuscript pages.
  • The small plates of Nephi–a smaller religious history of the same time period, ending with King Benjamin’s reign–inserted whole into Mormon’s collection of plates–translated by Joseph Smith and now comprising the first 141 pages of the Book of Mormon. 
  • The plates of Lehi–containing Lehi’s record of his ministry–contains many things not found elsewhere–abridged by Nephi and included as a short account in the small plates now comprising the first 8 chapters of the Book of Mormon.
  • The brass plates of Laban–included genealogy, the Books of Moses, and other Old Testament writings–included in the plates of Lehi–not included by Nephi in his record–referred to and quoted throughout the Book of Mormon.

I didn’t realize that there were two distinct theories of the sequence of the translation of the Book of Mormon. The first is called the “Small Plates First” theory.  It postulates that after the loss of the 116 manuscript pages, Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, went back and translated the Small Plates of Nephi.  Then they continued translating the remainder of the Book of Mormon.   The second theory, called the “Small Plates Last” theory surmises that after the 116 pages were lost, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery continued on with the translation of the Book of Mormon in sequence.  They did not translate the Small Plates of Nephi until after the remainder of the Book of Mormon translation was finished. 

Shirley R. Heater has written an article titled, “History of the Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon,” written from the point of view of the “Small Plates first” theory.  Elden Watson has done a defense of the “Small Plates Last” theory.    Watson also states that, “in the Small Plates Last theory, 2 Nephi 27:12-13 reveals the need for three witnesses to the Book of Mormon within five days of the completion of the translation, while in the Small Plates First theory Ether 5:1-5 reveals the need for three witnesses to the plates which are being translated within five days of the completion of the translation. It is just possible that the Lord prepared for two scenarios, one in which the 116 pages would be lost, and another in which they would not be lost, thus allowing someone, perhaps the individual who stole the manuscript pages, some personal agency in the course he would persue. One possible explanation is that success of the Lords plan must necessarily be independent of foreknowledge that some specific individual will committ a particular sin. This would allow the sinner to be appropriately judged instead of being able to claim that he had to commit the sin or the Lord’s plan would have failed.”



  1. Great to be back! Ditto Cheryl N! Cheryl, I loved the substitution idea and it makes such a difference in the meaning of the scripture. Cheryl N. I also like your perspective on accepting others in whatever stage they may be in their lives and helping to lift them up when we are in the position to do so.

    The very 1st verse of this chapter sent me in a little different direction as usual. “…we had gathered together all manner of seeds…” implying that they of course were intent on planting the seeds. I started thinking about the Parable of the Sower. As I was thinking of the parable and reading Lehi’s vision, it seemed to gel in my mind how they align themselves together.

    The sower plants in 4 areas:
    Wayside: Seeds are devoured by fowl. These people allow others to influence them out of the gospel. Before they really give it a chance-they give up. “And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness: yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” Vs.23
    Stoney Place: Sprung up, no roots and they withered away. These people receive the gospel, but don’t nourish their testimony as it grows and when trials and tribulations come their way, they don’t have the strength to withstand. “And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed. And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” Vs,24,25,28
    Thorny Places: Choked out by thorns and thistles. These are those whose sights are set upon the riches and powers of the world and not on spiritual things. “And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.”
    Good Ground: Took hold and brought forth good fruit. These are those who have accepted the gospel and have nourished their testimonies and can withstand the buffetings of Satan and can recognize the sweet rewards of obeying the gospel of Christ. “And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy; wherefore, I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also; for I know that it was desirable above all other fruit. And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” Vs. 12 & 16

    I love the way the scriptures bear witness together of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jumping ahead to 1Ne10:17: Nephi was desirous to SEE, and HEAR, and KNOW of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost. I, too, can SEE and HEAR and KNOW these things by the power of the Holy Ghost, and it gives me great joy to receive knowledge by diligently seeking him.

  2. Kelly, I really liked how you put together these two scriptural accounts. It would make a great lesson…

    btw, did you know I’m teaching Seminary again? It’s home study, and I meet with them only once a week. I find it difficult because you have some who did the weekly reading and homework and are ready to discuss, and some who didn’t do it and need to be spoon fed. So far I’m finding release time (when we were in Utah) and home study both greatly inferior to early morning.

  3. Oh, and you posted this comment on the wrong chapter 🙂 But that’s OK, hopefully everyone can figure out it belongs with chapter 8!

  4. I know, I just couldn’t figure out how to fix it once it was done. Still learning! Congrats on Seminary, and you’re right, early morning is the best!

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