Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Mid January Reading Notes

I recently read The Lost 116 Pages by Don Bradley. In it, Bradley makes a very convincing argument that the lost portion of the Book of Mormon manuscript would be closer to 300 pages of content, and the 116 figure comes from counting the manuscript pages that replaced it. He also attempts, through textual analysis and recovery of fragments shared by those who knew the original content, to summarize the material the lost manuscript might have contained.

I found the book very enjoyable and interesting. First, I'll summarize some factual things I learned, then I'll share the more-interesting of Bradley's surmises. Finally, I'll share what I think about the Words of Mormon/Mosiah transition.

Facts I Didn't Know:

  • Moroni told Joseph to marry Emma before his 1827 interview
  • Plates received on Rosh Hashanah, "secreted them in a hollow tree for 'about ten days'" (p. 12) would be Yom Kippur, Joseph saw Martin Harris in the interpreters on Feast of Tabernacles, possibly started translating on Passover in 1828
  • In addition to Emma, other scribes included Emma's brothers Alva and Reuben, and Joseph's brother Samuel
  • copyrighting the book "was aimed at stopping the conspirators from publishing the stolen manuscript" (p. 64)
  • D&C 10:28 (lying because it's supposed another lied) describes thoughts of Joseph's former money-digger colleagues; "Honor among money diggers, it seems, dictated that anything drawn from the ground by one member of a digging group belonged to all" (p. 11)
  • Martin's brother Emer said Martin scribed for nearly 200 pages
  • Zedekiah's reign began in political crisis, and Lehi's testimony of a martyred Savior instead of a political deliverer could explain the murderous response
  • The Liahona was three inches in diameter, with one spindle that pointed where to go and another that pointed at a picture of what was to be found there

Interesting Surmises

  • Likely that Lehi's departure was at Passover
  • Likely that Brass Plates and Sword of Laban were relics of Joseph of Egypt
  • Likely Lehi found the Liahona outside a tabernacle he had made
  • Likely Sword of Laban was Joshua's sword used in the Conquest
  • "Mosiah1 was not the heir of Nephi's dynasty" (p. 245)
  • Likely Mulek was hidden from Zedekiah, not from Babylonians

Words of Mormon/Mosiah Transition

Some people (Lyon and Minson 2012, p. 131) think Mormon's words end with Verse 11, and the rest of Words of Mormon is actually retained translation of Mosiah. Some people (Gardner 2013, p. 107) think everything from Verse 12 through 18 is Joseph Smith's summary of missing linking material. Some people think maybe just the phrase "And now, concerning this king Benjamin" is Joseph's addition. I am sympathetic to the idea that the first two chapters of Mosiah were lost with the original manuscript. Oliver Cowdery originally labeled Chapter I as Chapter III, and while there is reason to think it's because he thought it was still part of the Book of Omni, Bradley points out that Mosiah is the only book from Mormon's abridgement that doesn't have an introductory explanation. Mormon named books after the first writer, not the principle writer, and Mosiah begins with King Benjamin, not his father or his son. While the original chapters were much longer, they also made divisions at thematic breaks (Spencer 2016, pp. xiv-xv), so it is possible that the theme of Chapter I was King Mosiah1 and the theme of Chapter II was King Benjamin. However, as Bradley argues, the life and times of Mosiah1 were too important for Mormon to cover it all in one chapter. So I think what's more likely is that there was a Book of Mosiah, which detailed his exodus and merger with the people of Zarahemla, and Bradley is correct in thinking our current Book of Mosiah was, along with its two missing chapters, more likely the Book of Benjamin. I think all of Words of Mormon is, well, the words of Mormon, and the reason Mormon would have written a bridge that duplicated some of his own abridgment work is that he didn't know the point at which the narrative would pick up. Omni overlaps some with Words of Mormon, and Words of Mormon overlaps some with Mosiah 1:1, but that doesn't necessarily indicate that Mormon didn't write both Words of Mormon and the first however-many chapters of Mosiah.

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