The Stolen Manuscript:
The lost 116 Pages of the Book of Mormon
Excerpt from The
by Rev. M. T. Lamb,
1887, p. 118-126
K. The Stolen Manuscript.
Strangely enough we find inserted in the middle of the Book of Mormon, pages 141-143 [BOM p. 143-45, 1981 ed.] a little book entitled the "Book of Mormon," or "Words of Mormon." It is by the supposed author or compiler of the entire work, the prophet Mormon. He has a book of his own, in its proper place, near the close of the work, recording his own life, and his connection with Nephite history. And this little affair of only two pages, having nothing whatever to do with the thread of the history that is being recorded, is to an ordinary reader of the Book of Mormon, wholly inexplicable. It becomes, intelligible, however, when read in connection with a certain untoward event that occurred in connection with the translation of the book by Joseph Smith. This event, as related by Mr. Smith's friends, is something like this:
Mr. Martin Harris, who was employed as Mr. Smith's scribe at the beginning of the translation, had written out with his own hand 116 pages of manuscript. By long and persistent coaxing, and the most faithful promises of secrecy, he secured Mr. Smith's permission to carry said manuscript to his own house for his wife's inspectiona woman who is accredited with a very irascible temper. Before the precious treasure was returned to its owner, a sad domestic quarrel so thoroughly provoked Mrs. Harris, that in an evil hour she put said manuscript forever out of the way. The general belief was that she burned it. But the prophet Joseph evidently was afraid she had not, but had secretly hid it, for the purpose of entrapping him, should he ever attempt to reproduce the pages. If the work was really of God, the manuscript could be reproduced word for word without a mistake. If, however, Joseph inspired it himself, his memory would hardly be adequate to such a task, without numberless changes or verbal differencesand thus "give himself away," since he loudly professed to be all the time aided "by the gift and power of God."
The result was, that, in due course of time, there appeared a lengthy revelation purporting to come from God, the substance of which (see Doctrines and Covenants, p. 178-183Liverpool Edition [D&C Section 10]) is that Satan has put it into the hearts of the enemies of the truth to alter the words of that stolen manuscript so that should Mr. Smith reproduce them, they would lie about it, and say the two did not agree together. Therefore, to circumvent said enemies of the truth, the Lord gave Mr. Smith a bit of very precious information.
And now, verily I say unto you, that an account of those things that you have written, which have gone out of your hands, is engraven upon the plates of Nephi;
Yea, and you remember it was said in those writings that a more particular account was given of these things upon the plates of Nephi.
And now, because the account which is engraven upon the plates of Nephi is more particular concerning the things which, in my wisdom, I would bring to the knowledge of the people in this account
Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained;
And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words.
I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.
[For the complete Section 10 revelation click here.]
It may be necessary to explain that Nephi is supposed to have recorded his history upon two sets of plates, the one was a short abridged record containing the "more part of the ministry," the other set of plates contained a fuller unabridged account of the reigns of the kings, the wars, etc. The first set contained the religious history mainly, the second, the secular.
The old prophet Mormon had taken this second set of plates, the fuller or more secular account, and had condensed it to a very small compass, making it about one hundred times briefer than the original. And it was this abridged record of the secular history of the Nephites that Joseph Smith had laboriously translated with Martin Harris as his scribe. The record was so brief that the 116 pages of the manuscript written by hand brought the Nephite history quite down to King Benjamin's time, whereas the history as now found in the Book of Mormon requires 141 pages of closely printed matter to bring the record down to the same period, King Benjamin's time. But now that these 116 pages containing Mormon's abridgement of Nephi's secular history have been stolen and put out of reach, Joseph is informed in this precious revelation that there is another record he may use, abridged not by Mormon but by Nephi, and that is after all a great deal better and more desirable than the stolen record:
Behold, they have only got a part, or an abridgment of the account of Nephi.
Behold, there are many things engraven upon the plates of Nephi which do throw greater views upon my gospel; therefore, it is wisdom in me that you should translate this first part of the engravings of Nephi, and send forth in this work.
And, behold, all the remainder of this work does contain all those parts of my gospel which my holy prophets, yea, and also my disciples, desired in their prayers should come forth unto this people.
[For the complete Section 10 revelation click here.]
Now several queries naturally suggest themselves:
1. How could Satan so easily circumvent the Lord? The golden plates from which these 116 pages were translated had been preserved for 1400 years by the special providence of Godbeen carefully translated by the gift and power of God. But now, after all this trouble and pains, the Lord is beaten by a wrathful woman, and all this trouble, labor and watchcare proves "love's labor lost" !
2. HOW does it happen that neither God himself nor his angel found out Mr. Smith was translating the wrong plates until Martin Harris stole those 116 pages?
3. If Joseph Smith was making a sad blunder in translating a second-rate, discarded set of plates, why should the Lord so terribly scold him and punish him for letting Mr. Harris take that manuscript homesince it was the best thing that could have happened for the cause of truth?
4. Does the Lord Himself come out of this affair entirely unscathed? Either He made a mistake in the first instance, and had to back out and do His work over againor he perpetrated a fraud in the second case, a trick, a silly trick that has not even the merit of being a sharp one, so "thin," in fact, that no special acuteness is required to see through it.
But now, dear reader, after learning all these facts, would you suppose Mr. Smith so far lacking in common sense and good judgment as to give himself completely away in the Book of Mormon itself, by making the old prophet Mormon a party to the fraud? This is precisely what he does by inserting after page 141 [BOM p. 143-145, 1981 ed.] two pages, entitled the "Words of Mormon," at the precise point in the translation where he had arrived when Martin Harris carried away those one hundred and sixteen pages of manuscript! Hear what Mormon says:
And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, 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.
And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass
Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.
But behold, I shall take these 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. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.
And my prayer to God is concerning my brethren, that they may once again come to the knowledge of God, yea, the redemption of Christ; that they may once again be a delightsome people.
And now I, Mormon, proceed to finish out my record, which I take from the plates of Nephi; and I make it according to the knowledge and the understanding which God has given me.
[For the complete "Words of Mormon" click here.]
From all this we learn that Mormon himself, a prophet of the Lord, and led all the time and inspired by the spirit of God, helped too, by an angel from heaven, makes the same mistake that Joseph Smith made. He wearily plods on with his engraving tool, through the larger set of Nephi's plates, abridging them until he reaches the period of King Benjamin's reign, when he discovers, what he had not before known, the existence of other and briefer plates of Nephi, more religious in their character, and notably fuller in their statement of Christian doctrine and prophecies relating to Christ. And so laying aside all his previous work, he adopts this newly discovered treasure as part first of his great book. But very strangely, from this point forward down to his own time there are no double sets of plates to select from; and therefore, as he tells us, he has to go back to his first plan, the laborious work of abridging the fuller but more secular history. Singular, isn't it, reader, that this old prophet Mormon, fifteen hundred years ago should happen to discover these other plates of Nephi, and thus change the entire first part of his book, at the precise spot in King Benjamin's history where Martin Harris stole the 116 pages of manuscript? And quite as singular is another fact, that from the beginning of the Book of Mormon, in a large number of places, these two sets of plates are carefully distinguished from each other, and very much said about them up to the very same period, the point in the history of King Benjamin where Mr. Harris stole those 116 pages, and from that point onward nothing more is said of a double set of plates, so that Nephi himself, his brother Jacob, and all the writers down to King Benjamin were, as it were, preparing the way for this same great change made necessary by Mr. Harris' theft! But although these double sets of plates are so often mentioned in part first of the Book of Mormon, and the specific character of each clearly stated,* yet strangely enough the prophet Mormon did not know of the existence of the one set containing "the more part of the ministry" until he happened to reach that same dangerous point in the history of his nation where Martin Harris' 116 pages ended!
*And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates.
And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi.
Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.
Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not.
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; [1 Nephi 9:1-6]
Nor are these all the singular things that are connected with this affair. For it seems that the old prophet Mormon, although he had discarded his first effort and adopted the other plates of Nephi as part first of his Book, yet somehow he failed in making his son Moroni understand the facts in the casefor Moroni, in hiding these plates in the sacred hill Cumorah, had tied up, with the balance of the book, his father's first effort, as PART FIRST of the Book of Mormon. The witnesses tell us plainly, in what shape the bundle of plates were found.
"The plates which Mr. Whitmer saw were in the shape of a tablet, fastened with three rings, about one-third of which appeared to be loose in plates, the other solid, but with perceptible marks where the plates seemed to be sealed, and the guide that pointed it out to Smith very impressively reminded him that the loose plates alone were to be used, the sealed portion was not to be tampered with." Myth of the Manuscript Found, page 82.
And Joseph Smith, innocently enough, began his work of translation with this bundle until he had rendered into English the 116 pages, and Moroni, himself, although a son of the great prophet, and now raised from the dead for the special purpose of showing Mr. Smith where the plates were hid, and assisting him in the translation, was evidently just as much in the fog as Joseph, as, to the existence of another and better part first to the Book of Mormon, until he was suddenly brought to his wits end by the theft of Martin Harris, when he discovered, what for fifteen hundred years he obviously had not known, that he had got his father's golden plates badly mixed upso much so that had it not been for the fortunate theft of Mr. Harris, the whole religious world of to-day would have had palmed off upon them, as part first of the Book of Mormon, a very inferior article, losing much of the flavor and sweetness of the gospel, and the most precious prophecies of Christ that the book now, fortunately, contains. Truly Mormon's ways were mysterious, and so are Joseph Smith's!
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