Another "'Wise Purpose"
For the Small Plates
by Mary Lee Treat
When Mormon was abridging from the large plates of Nephi he came across another set of records he describes thus:
I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this King Benjamin; and also many of the words of Nephi." Words of Mormon1:5
He tells us the account was choice" to him and he knew it would be to "his brethren' someday also. Then he indicates that the Spirit whispered to him to include this small unabridged account with his abridged book made from the large plates of Nephi. Remember, Mormon had already abridged from the large plates of Nephi the story covering the same period of time (600 B.C. - 130B.C.), but the large plates from which he abridged were mostly concerned with the civil history of the people. This small record he found dealt mainly with the prophets from
the same time period. So Mormon included the actual small plates of Nephi in their original form with his abridged history.
But behold, I shall take these plates [small plates] which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.
And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me." Words of Mormon 1:9, 10
Years later, Martin Harris begged for the 116 pages of manuscript which Joseph had translated from the large plates of Nephi to show his relatives. After Martin lost them, Joseph was directed not to re-translate the some plates but to translate instead the small plates which covered the some period of time. This was to circumvent the attempt of those who had the 116 pages who would attempt to discredit Joseph and the record. Looking back we con see the fulfillment of that "wise purpose" that the Spirit whispered to Mormon back in the fourth century A.D.
However, when we look closely at Nephi's account of making the two sets of records we find an added dimension:
And after I had made these plates (small plates) by way of commandment, 1, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry, and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them should be written upon these plates;
And that the things which were written, should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes (emphasis added), which purposes are known unto the Lord; I Nephi 5:223,224
Note Nephi said the small plates were made for other wise purposes. We have seen one major purpose replacement of the lost 116 pages. What other purposes could the Lord have in mind?
Within the post few months our eyes have been opened to yet another "wise purpose" for the original small plates making up the first six books of our Book of Mormon. To understand this additional "wise purpose" let us analyze the contents of the small plates. The small plates of Nephi include the books of First Book of Nephi, Second Book of Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom and Omni. Nephi is the chief author, having written almost 166 pages. His brother Jacob adds 27 pages, Enos 3 pages plus, Jarom 21/2 pages, Omni (and 4 other record keepers) 4 pages. This graphically illustrates that Nephi, an Israelite from the land of Jerusalem, and his brother Jacob wrote almost the entire small plates.
Why is this significant? Consider Nephi's words in 11 Nephi 11:8, 9:
Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews, like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.
But behold, 1, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews; but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem . . ." (Emphasis added)
This verse would lead us to conclude that Nephi and possibly Jacob were taught in the manner of the Jews, Nephi having personally lived in the land of Jerusalem. However, from their generation forward, the things of the Jews were not taught to the successive generations in the New World. We know the Nephites kept their Hebrew language patterns and the written language they called reformed Egyptian. We also know they. kept the low of Moses and taught the Old World prophets as contained on the Brass Plates. But Jewish culture and tradition was not on in the New World.
While all the writings in the Book of Mormon have a distinctive Old World House-of-Israel style, the words of Nephi from the unabridged small plates should give a more Jewish flavor than the rest of the book. Nephi had been a participant in Jewish culture and tradition.
For this very reason, the inclusion of the small plates are essential to witness to Jews steeped in the traditions of their own culture. Nephi speaks from the record "Jew to Jew" in a manner not understood by we adopted Israelites. The small plates are a direct, literal translation in the style of Jewish writers of the 600-500 B.C. time period speaking in a style appropriate to that time period. They speak of places in the Old World, heritage and customs known and understood only by Jewish people. Nephi said it best when he said (paraphrasing), "No one understands the things of the Jews as well as the Jews themselves Therefore, the Lord looking down to our day knew the small plates would give a more effective, authentic witness to the people of Jewish heritage and culture in a manner more distinctly "Jewish" than that written nearly 1000 years later by Mormon who was not taught Jewish culture or traditions. Thus it appears the unabridged small plates of Nephi were included to be a speical witness to the Jews today.
The overall significance of the Book of Mormon, including the small plates, presently going to the rabbis and people in Israel is many faceted.
-It is the beginning of the fulfillment of one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon as given to us by Mormon in the Preface:
. . . and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.
Nephi bears a strong and direct testimony in his two books that the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah, is Jesus.
-It is a step in the process of all the holy records being shared and gathered into one as described by Nephi in 11 Nephi 12:71, 72:
And it shall I come to pass that the Jews shall I have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews:
And the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
-Perhaps most significant of all, the Jews receiving the small plates of Nephi and the rest of Mormon's abridgment is part of the Lord's process of the "restitution of all things", the great restoration of all the house of Israel.
And it shall come to pass that my people which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one." 11 Nephi 12:73
Now we understand another "wise purpose" for the small plates-to speak especially especially to the Jews to witness to them that Jesus is the Messiah, the Holy One of Israel.
Are there other wise purposes" yet for the small plates? Only time will tell. We do know, however, that the culmination of the "great and marvelous work" of the Lord
is under way.
This article taken from Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 1, p 125-126.