New Approaches to the Book of Mormon
Brent Lee Metcalfe, editor

Chapter 10.
The Priority of Mosiah:
A Prelude to Book of Mormon Exegesis
Brent Lee Metcalfe

[T]he last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
—1 NEPHI 13:42 (Matthew 20:16)

‘”Oh, my God!’ said Joseph, clinching his hands. ‘All is lost! all is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God'” (L. Smith 1853, 121). Such was Joseph Smith’s anguish when he learned that the text of his recently dictated Book of Lehi, totaling some 116 pages,1 had been stolen. Book of Mormon students have only recently begun to appreciate the effect this event had on the subsequent development of the Book of Mormon.

The year 1828 was bittersweet for the Smiths. That spring Joseph had begun dictating his native American history, and Emma, his wife of one year, was expecting their first child. By mid-June the twenty-two-year-old had dictated a sizable portion of the narrative to scribe Martin Harris. Reluctantly acquiescing to Harris’s pleas that he show [p.396] the document to his skeptical wife and others, Smith obtained divine permission and loaned him the manuscript. Shortly after Harris’s departure Emma gave birth to a son who died that day, whom the grieving couple may have named Alvin, after Joseph’s deceased older brother.2 Joseph kept a constant vigil as Emma’s health fluctuated for the next two weeks. With Emma’s encouragement Joseph then left Harmony, Pennsylvania, for Manchester, New York, to retrieve the manuscript from his scribe.

Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s mother, described the encounter. “[Harris] entered the house,” she recalled. “Mr. Harris pressed his hands upon his temples, and cried out, in a tone of deep anguish, ‘Oh, I have lost my soul! I have lost my soul.'” Joseph responded, ‘”I should have been satisfied with the first answer I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession.’ He wept and groaned, and walked the floor continually.” The entire family was bereft. “[S]obs and groans, and the most bitter lamentations filled the house” (L. Smith 1853, 120-21). Fortunately, Joseph was reassured that the dictation would continue (D&C 3). The plates providentially contained two beginnings (10:38-45), and Smith would not have to replicate the missing document verbatim (vv. 10ff).

These details are familiar to students of the Book of Mormon. Less certain is the section of the Book of Mormon narrative at which Smith resumed dictation. Did he recommence where the Book of Lehi had left off—at Mosiah—then dictate 1 Nephi through Words of Mormon last—which replaced the Book of Lehi? Did he begin with Words of Mormon? Or did he start with 1 Nephi, dictating the document in the same order as in current printed editions of the Book of Mormon? Interpretation of key Book of Mormon passages depends on which view one subscribes to (cf. Welch and Rathbone 1986, 1). It also affects one’s understanding of the dictation history and sheds light on Smith’s role in the volume’s production. Consequently, resolving the order of dictation is an important prelude to any critical Book of Mormon exegesis.

Scholars have posited three principal solutions: the priority of 1 Nephi, the priority of Words of Mormon, or the priority of Mosiah.3

1. The Priority of 1 Nephi. This model theorizes that following the [p.397] loss of the Book of Lehi, Smith dictated in order the books of 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, Words of Mormon, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, Mormon, Ether, Moroni, and finished with the Title Page. Proponents of this model include Ivan J. Barrett (1973, 86-88), Fawn M. Brodie (1971, 55, 57), Paul R. Cheesman (1973, 51-55), Richard O. Cowan (1984, 31), Francis W. Kirkham (1942, 222-25), and John J. Stewart (1966, 26-27).

The primary support for 1 Nephi priority is based on what I believe is a superficial reading of Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 10. Verses 38-45 relate that an alternate version of the stolen portion would be found on the “plates of Nephi.” Verse 46 describes how the overlapping material on the plates of Nephi relates to Mormon’s abridgment. Some writers interpret these verses as a dictation chronology directive (Stewart 1966, 26-27; Brodie 1971, 55, 57; Barrett 1973, 86-88; Cowan 1984, 31), but nothing in D&C 10 calls for such a reading. It merely clarifies how Smith will replace the beginning portion at some point.

Currently the feasibility of 1 Nephi priority is doubtful.4 To remain a viable solution, 1 Nephi prioritists must provide more convincing data and deal with mounting evidence confirming Mosian priority.

2. The Priority of Words of Mormon. This sequence allows for three possibilities in the dictation chronology. It envisions Smith proceeding with Words of Mormon, Mosiah, perhaps 1 Nephi-Omni (the small plates of Nephi), Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, possibly 1 Nephi-Omni, 4 Nephi, Mormon, Ether, Moroni, the Title Page, and 1 Nephi-Omni, if not previously dictated. That three variations for 1 Nephi-Omni are possible is apparent in its chief proponent’s uncertainty toward the dating of D&C 10 (Reynolds 1884, 361) and his observation that following dictation of Words of Mormon and Mosiah that “there is no evidence at the command of the writer by which he can tell whether they at once went to work on the plates of Nephi [1 Ne.-Omni] or left them to a later date” (365). Turn-of-the-century Book of Mormon scholar George Reynolds noted that “[i]t is held by some” that Smith resumed the dictation “at that part known to us as ‘The Words of Mormon'” (364). Reynolds did not say to whom the “some” referred, but was clearly sympathetic to this chronology (365).5

[p.398] In Reynolds’s opinion D&C 10:41 implies that Smith retained a segment of the Book of Lehi beginning with a discussion of King Benjamin. Reynolds deduced that since Words of Mormon mentioned Benjamin’s rule (1:10ff), Smith must have resumed dictation with “the reign of king Benjamin” (D&C 10:41) in Words of Mormon and Mosiah (1884, 365). Three observations undermine this argument. First, the initial account of Benjamin’s inauguration comes prior to Words of Mormon in Omni 1:23-25 (cf. W of M 1:3). Second, the key phrase in D&C 10:41—”down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or”—is absent in Smith’s 1830 Book of Mormon Preface and is undoubtedly a later addition (see the Appendix, Example 2). Third, Words of Mormon is the completion of Mormon’s writings and an addendum to 1 Nephi-Omni (W of M 1:1-9). Still Reynolds is correct when he claims that Words of Mormon also serves as “a kind of preface to the abridgment made by Mormon” (1884, 364).6

3. The Priority of Mosiah. Scholars maintaining Mosian priority, the most widely held solution, ordinarily theorize that Smith resumed with Mosiah followed by Alma, Helaman, 3 Nephi, 4 Nephi, Mormon, Ether, Moroni, Title Page, 1 Nephi, 2 Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, and finally Words of Mormon. Advocates for this theory include Hyrum L. Andrus (1966, 124; 1968, 89-90), Edward H. Ashment (in this compilation), Richard L. Bushman (1984, 99, 223n67), Church Educational System curriculum writers (CES 1989, 59), Edwin J. Firmage (1992), Arthur Glen Foster, Jr. (1983, i, 48-53, 83, 205, 244-45, 252-55), the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS 1987, 1:xi), Kenneth W. Godfrey (1988, 11-12), Dean C. Jessee (1970, 277-78), Stan Larson (1974, 16-20; 1977, 87-88), Dale L. Morgan (Walker 1986, 309-10), Max J. Parkin (1979, 69-70, 76, 84), Jerald and Sandra [p.399] Tanner (1989; 1990, 32-37), John A. Tvedtnes (1991, 202; 1992, 223),7 Dan Vogel (1988, 124n37), Wesley P. Walters (1990, 90, 93-94), John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone (1986, 1, 17, 21-22, 26-28, 33-39; 1992a, 212; 1992b, 2-4, 8; see also Welch 1988, 46-47; 1990, 130-31, 134), and Robert John Woodford (1974, 203-204).

A Revision of Mosian Priority

Mosian priority offers the best solution to the dictation question but in several instances for reasons other than those traditionally advanced. My essay thus augments and refines previous Mosian priority studies, while hopefully offering fresh insights into Book of Mormon authorship and historicity.

Before discussing my reasons for Mosian priority, I will consider three arguments for this position which I believe are historically unreliable.8 Some proponents of Mosian priority have pointed to Book of Mormon scribe Oliver Cowdery’s 14 June 1829 letter to Joseph Smith’s brother Hyrum as evidence. Supposedly the letter reflects Moroni 8 theology that baptism should be administered only to those of accountable age (Welch and Rathbone 1986, 36 [cf. 26]) and thus implies that Moroni—the last book—was transcribed prior to the end of dictation in early July. Direction of literary dependence is always difficult to establish, but in this case Cowdery clearly depends on a June 1829 revelation published in the 1833 Book of Commandments (BoC) XV:46(//D&C 18:42), not Moroni 8.9 Some scholars also believe that Book of Mormon passages [p.400] mentioning three special witnesses support Mosian priority. Tradition holds that “[al]most immediately” following Smith’s dictation of either Ether 5:2-4 or 2 Nephi 27:12-13, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris asked to be witnesses (Smith et al. 1978, 1:52[-53]). The various manuscript drafts and initial publication of Smith’s history10 leave a blank spot in the narrative where the later History of the Church (Smith et al. 1978, 1:52) includes reference to both passages. Whichever the passage, according to this account the verses would have been dictated toward the end of the project in June 1829 and served as the impetus for calling Cowdery, Whitmer, and Harris.

A later handwritten notation dating from the 1850s in the manuscript history (Book A-1) refers specifically to 2 Nephi 27 (Jessee 1989, 295; Welch and Rathbone 1986, 34), placing dictation of this chapter in June, favoring Mosian priority (see Godfrey 1988, 12; Larson 1977, 88; Welch and Rathbone 1986, 27-28, 33-34). Defending this position Hyrum L. Andrus (1968, 90) has observed that if 2 Nephi 27:12-13 were dictated earlier—for instance, in April 1829—appearance of three witnesses in Ether 5:2-4 two months later would not have been a fresh idea, but, assuming Mosian priority, 2 Nephi would have been dictated only a few weeks after Ether.

Other factors indicate the History of the Church account, an after-the-fact creation, is not historically reliable. The idea of three witnesses in either 2 Nephi or Ether was not novel. In March 1829 Smith had already been instructed that three witnesses would be appointed (D&C 5:11-15), and Martin Harris, one of the revelation’s addressees, knew of its content before June 1829. It is improbable that either Book of Mormon reference would have provoked the interest in the selection of the three witnesses described in the History of the Church.

When and where Smith dictated the narrative mentioning Jerusalem’s “walls,” which has also been used to support Mosian priority, is more difficult to answer definitively. In 1875 David Whitmer, interviewed for The Chicago Times, said: “So illiterate was Joseph at that time [during the dictation] … that he didn’t even know that Jerusalem was a walled city” (7 Aug. 1875). Whitmer reiterated his story a decade later that “[i]n translating the characters Smith, who was illiterate and but little versed in Biblical lore … did not even know that Jerusalem was a walled city” (The Chicago Tribune, 17 Dec. 1885; reprinted in The Saints’ Herald 33 [2 Jan. 1886]: 13). Again in November 1886, Whitmer related “that Smith was [so] ignorant of the Bible that when translating he first came to where Jerusalem was spoken of as a ‘Walled City’ he [p.401] stopped until they got a Bible & showed him where the fact was recorded—Smith not believing it was a walled city” (in Kimball 1974, 486).11 If Whitmer personally witnessed the event this would place dictation of 1 Nephi 4:4-5—”they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem … [and they hid] without the walls”—after Smith’s relocation to the Whitmer’s Fayette, New York, farm in June 1829, a date suitable for a Mosian priority sequence (Godfrey 1988, 12; Larson 1977, 88).

Emma Smith’s reminiscence of what appears to be the same episode complicates this interpretation. Edmond C. Briggs recounted in 1884 how Emma told him in the winter of 1856 of “Joseph’s limited education while he was translating the Book of Mormon, and she acted as scribe at the time … [O]ne time while translating, where it speaks of the walls of Jerusalem, he stopped and said ‘Emma, did Jerusalem have walls surrounding it.’ When [Emma] informed him it had, he replied, ‘O, I thought I was deceived'” (Briggs 1884, 396; cf. Briggs 1916, 454). If Emma were transcribing her husband’s dictation when he discovered Jerusalem’s walls, the incident would have occurred prior to June 1829.

Whitmer remarked in an interview that Emma came to the Whitmer farm in June 1829 and inscribed a portion of the dictation, at first glance corroborating Mosian priority (Deseret Evening News, 25 Mar. 1884, in Porter 1971, 238). But the transcription of 1 Nephi 4:4-5 in O seems to be in John Whitmer’s handwriting, not Emma’s (Jessee 1970, 273). Joseph Knight related that when Smith “Began to translate [the Book of Lehi] he … had no one to write for him But his wife” (Jessee 1976, 35). However, Knight’s reliability ebbs when he next has Cowdery arriving a year too early, prior to completion of the 116 pages (ibid.), though he subsequently specifies the date was “the spring of 1829” (Jessee 1976, 36). Clearly there are enough uncertainties in the story to conclude that Smith’s reference to a fortified Jerusalem cannot presently aid in resolving the dictation order.

Historical Evidence

As we have already seen, those who maintain that Smith resumed work on the Book of Mormon at 1 Nephi have constructed a chronology from the revelation describing how he was to replace the missing manuscript (D&C 10:38-46). However, the introduction to this revelation provides a more promising framework for a dictation chronology. After being chastised by God for lending the Book of Lehi to a “wicked [p.402] man” (v. 1), Smith is told to use the “gift” the Lord has returned to him to “continue unto the finishing of the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun” (vv. 2-3, emphasis added). This implies that he should continue in the order he was already following, from Mosiah on, with the replacement text dictated last (vv. 38-45).

Most scholars date this revelation to May 1829 (the date given in BoC IX), though some have suggested the summer of 1828. LDS educator Max H. Parkin theorizes that the phrase “as you have begun” (D&C 10:3) points to a May 1829 setting since it “appears to say that the Prophet and his scribe had returned to translating and had progressed before receiving Section 10” (1979, 76), not yet knowing how the lost text would be replaced.

That Smith began with Mosiah also seems confirmed by reports of his and Oliver Cowdery’s 15 May 1829 baptisms. The stimulus for baptizing each other, according to Smith, was information “found mentioned in the translation of the plates” (Smith et al. 1978, 1:39).12 Cowdery corroborates Smith’s story, noting that they performed the baptisms “[a]fter writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent” (Messenger and Advocate 1 [Oct. 1834]: 15). Cowdery writes that he and Smith were inspired by “the directions given to the Nephites, from the mouth of the Savior, of the precise manner in which men should build up his church” (ibid.). This means the narrative of Christ’s visitation in 3 Nephi was dictated before 15 May 1829.

If Smith began at 1 Nephi, he would have dictated an average of 13 printed pages per day (based on the 1830 edition) between 7 April and 15 May to have arrived at the end of 3 Nephi. This would have left only slightly more than 1.5 pages a day to be dictated to complete 4 Nephi through Moroni by 1 July. Smith’s dramatically decreased output is difficult to account for in this scenario.

The Mosian model more reasonably accounts for an average number of pages transcribed per day.13 From 7 April to 15, May Smith’s dictation of Mosiah–3 Nephi would have averaged 9.25 [p.403] published pages per day. From 16 May to 1 July, he dictated almost 5 pages per day for 4 Nephi–Moroni and 1 Nephi–Words of Mormon. If most of Mosiah had been transcribed prior to Cowdery’s arrival, the numbers would be closer still.

Evidence concerning Smith’s dictation of the Title Page also points to the priority of Mosiah. Before he completed dictation, Smith secured copyright for the Book of Mormon. Authors applying for copyright in New York state were requested to include the title of their work. Bearing the date 11 June 1829, the Book of Mormon copyright application includes the entire Title Page, which Smith said “is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates” (Smith et al. 1978, 1:71; emphasis added). According to Smith, the Title Page was at the end of the record not the beginning, yet both Mormon and non-Mormon sources indicate the dictation was still underway after its transcription. Smith’s History of the Church states that the dictation was only “drawing to a close,” not finished, when he secured the copyright (ibid.). A local journalist printed the Title Page on 26 June 1829 adding that the remainder “will be published as soon as the translation is completed” (Wayne Sentinel, 26 June 1829; emphasis added). Although he may have produced it out of sequence, Smith more likely dictated the Title Page after he reached the end of the book proper (probably Ether) but prior to dictating the replacement text and possibly Moroni. This would have occurred in late May 1829, making the Title Page readily accessible by 11 June.

No less significant is that while the Title Page details the content of Mormon’s abridgment and of Ether, it omits allusion to the Book of Moroni or to the alternate beginning from the small plates. Such an omission suggests that the Title Page may have been dictated before Smith fully conceived the solution of substituting the unabridged 1 Nephi–Omni narrative (including Words of Mormon) for the missing Book of Lehi.14

Holographic Evidence

When Dean C. Jessee suggested that portions of O for 1 Nephi are in John Whitmer’s handwriting, Mosian prioritists embraced his observation as additional support (Jessee 1970, 273, 276-78; see [p.404] Bushman 1984, 223n67; CES 1989, 58; Firmage 1992; Parkin 1979, 70; Tanner and Tanner 1990, 34). Smith’s official history notes that in early June 1829, he and Oliver Cowdery relocated to the Peter C. Whitmer farm and that John Whitmer “assisted us very much in writing during the remainder of the work” (Smith et al. 1978, 1:49). If Whitmer’s handwriting is on O for 1 Nephi, it confirms that this part of the Book of Mormon was not dictated until the final stage of the project, sometime in June 1829. However, such a conclusion should be made cautiously, since Jessee admits his identification of Whitmer’s handwriting is tentative.15

More persuasive holographic evidence that Smith resumed dictating at Mosiah can be deduced from a revelation Smith issued in March, the month before Cowdery began serving as scribe (now D&C 5). Before Cowdery arrived, Smith’s wife, Emma, and his younger brother Samuel had been transcribing (Faulring 1989, 3; Jessee 1984, 8). The March revelation instructed Smith to dictate a “few more pages” and then stop “for a season” (D&C 5:30; note esp. the emphasis “a few more pages”).16 This implies that Emma and Samuel or others transcribed some pages before and after the date of this revelation. We would expect then to find multiple leaves containing their handwriting before Cowdery’s handwriting first appears in the manuscript.

The first leaf of O (pp. 1 and 2) is missing, but the second (pp. 3 and 4 covering 1 Ne. 2:2-2:23 recto and 2:23-3:18 verso) is principally in Cowdery’s hand (Jessee 1970, 273, 276-78; cf. Bushman 1984, 223n67).17 If Smith had recommenced dictation at 1 Nephi, Emma and Samuel would have transcribed at most one leaf prior to Cowdery. Writing so little cannot account for their work as described in D&C 5, which assumes multiple pages before Cowdery’s involvement. The presence of Cowdery’s handwriting on the second leaf of O militates against 1 Nephi priority in favor of Mosian priority.

Textual Evidence

Textual criticism is another avenue for exploring the priority [p.405] question. Regrettably at every crucial juncture in the text that would bear on the dictation sequence, the relevant portions of O are not extant—including the final verses of Ether, the first leaf of 1 Nephi, and the full text of Words of Mormon, Mosiah, and Moroni. Still, textual anomalies in P may offer a clue as to the dictation sequence for O.

Of specific interest are inconsistencies in the numbering of chapter headings for Mosiah in P. The Book of Mosiah initially lacked a title in P, beginning simply with “Chapter II” (see Illustration 1). Sometime prior to completion of this chapter and start of the next, the heading was emended in pen to “<the Book of Mosiah> Chapter <I> II.” The change was made before transcription of the next chapter, since it bears the title “Chapter II.” From this chapter through “Chapter VII,” the numbers are consecutive. But when the next chapter was transcribed, the scribe wrote “Chapter IX” instead of “Chapter VIII.” From this point to the end of Mosiah, the chapters consistently remain one number ahead. Prior to publication these chapter divisions were emended in pencil. Roman numeral “IX” was replaced with the Arabic “8.” To correct the next chapter the scribe began to cross out the “X” but instead inserted “I” to make the Roman numeral nine.18 The “I” in “XI” was first deleted in ink then pencil to form chapter ten. “Chapter XII” became chapter eleven by striking out the last “I.” “Chapter 13” was overlooked with no emendation. Finally, an Arabic numeral “3” superscription corrected the off-sequence “14” (see Illustration 1).19

Illustration 1a Illustration 1b
Book of Mormon Text 1 Book of Mormon Text 2

These inconsistencies provide a clue to the missing Mosiah portion of O and the original dictation sequence. In my view chapter one of the present Book of Mosiah was the terminus of the Book of Lehi.20 When Smith loaned the Book of Lehi to Harris, he retained a portion which at a minimum included “Chapter II” (Bushman 1984, 223n67; Welch and Rathbone 1986, 22; cf. D&C 10:41). In support of this, I point to the fact that the portion of O being transcribed into P evidently omitted a title. The scribe corrected the anomaly by appending “<the Book of Mosiah>”—notably minus a synopsis—and revising the designation to “Chapter <I> II.” This renumbering was carefully followed until [p.408] chapter eight. Then the numbers are again off through chapter twelve. This recurring pattern of misnumbering chapters is understandable if the scribe forgot about the change and simply began transferring the chapter numbers from O into P. Then a different scribe, oblivious to the numerical discrepancy, picked up the transcription part way through chapter twelve and continued copying from O the divisions for the final two chapters as “13” and “14.”

When Smith resumed dictation in Mosiah he followed the same order he had previously observed, perhaps hoping that chapter one and the rest of the Book of Lehi would be recovered. Had he recommenced at 1 Nephi, with the likelihood of recovering the lost 116 pages increasingly remote, he would have undoubtedly corrected the numerical anomaly when he reached Mosiah in a way similar to the scribe in P. In other words the anomalous shift in numerical divisions in P is most easily understandable if Smith resumed production of O in Mosiah.

Stylistic Evidence

Unique evidence for the priority of Mosiah comes from analysis of style, specifically from attention to lexical distributions in the Book of Mormon. Computer-assisted word counts—not to be confused with statistical “wordprints”—can illustrate fluctuations in an author’s style. In his commentary on the plates of Jacob, Mosian prioritist Arthur Glen Foster, Jr., has provided one example of how such evidence can be used (1983, 83; cf. Tanner and Tanner 1990, 36). He investigated the frequency of the potentially interchangeable terms “whosoever” and “whoso.” In the following tables the frequency of the terms are presented, assuming first the priority of 1 Nephi and second the priority of Mosiah (see Fig. 1).

Figure 1.

The Priority of 1 Nephi The Priority of Mosiah
  “whosoever” “whoso”     “whosoever” “whoso”
1 Ne. 0 5   Mosiah 20 0
2 Ne. 0 3   Alma 34 0
Jacob 0 1   Hel. 9 1
Mosiah 20 0   Ne. 15 17
Alma 34 0   Morm. 1 3
Hel. 9 1   Ether 0 11
3 Ne. 15 17   Moro. 0 2
Morm. 1 3   Ne. 0 5
Ether 0 11   2 Ne. 0 3
Moro. 0 2   Jacob 0 1

[p.409] If the books are ordered as they appear in the Book of Mormon, no meaningful distribution of the two words is evident. A clear trend emerges, however, when one reorders the books to begin with Mosiah. On the basis of this pattern, Foster concluded that Smith favored “whosoever” in the early stage of dictation and then substituted “whoso” mid-way through the project in Helaman, 3 Nephi, and Mormon.21

Frequency and use of the terms “therefore” and “wherefore” in the Book of Mormon provide another useful example of this pattern. Not only does the pattern of usage of these terms confirm Mosian priority, it aids in dating the chronology of Book of Mormon dictation and understanding Smith’s dictation procedure.

A computer-generated word count displays 668 usages of “therefore” (1,236 in the KJV) and 420 of “wherefore” in the 1830 Book of Mormon (347 in the KJV; Hilton and Jenkins n.d.a, 67, 73). No clear linear pattern of development for “therefore”/”wherefore” emerges when the words are ordered according to a 1 Nephi chronology. Instead, what emerges is an enveloping pattern (see Table 1). Here sizeable blocks of narrative dominated by “wherefore” envelop a central portion favoring “therefore.”

To illustrate the difference between this enveloping pattern and a linear one, Table 1 also includes these terms as they occur in the [p.410] revelations Smith issued during the period he was working on the Book of Mormon. His usage of the terms in these revelations demonstrates a linear pattern.

Table 1:1
Nephi Priority

  “Therefore” “Wherefore”   D&C “Therefore” “Wherefore”
1 Ne. 13 98   Sec. 3 2 0
2 Ne. 28 138   Sec. 4 2 0
Jacob 1 52   Sec. 5 0 0
Enos 0 6   Sec. 6 8 0
Jarom 0 3   Sec. 7 1 0
Omni 0 6   Sec. 8 4 0
W of M 0 4   Sec. 9 2 0
Mosiah 123 1   Sec. 10 11 0
Alma 286 3   Sec. 11 4 0
Hel. 63 0   Sec. 12 4 0
3 Ne. 98 3   Sec. 14 3 1
4 Ne. 5 0   Sec. 15 0 0
Morm. 22 0   Sec. 16 0 0
Ether 24 63   Sec. 17 0 1
Moro. 0 38   Sec. 18 0 12
Title Page 0 2   Sec. 19 1 7

Table 2:
Mosian Priority

  “Therefore” “Wherefore”   D&C “Therefore” “Wherefore”
Mosiah 123 1   Sec. 3 2 0
Alma 286 3   Sec. 4 2 0
Hel. 63 0   Sec. 5 0 0
3 Ne. 98 3   Sec. 6 8 0
4Ne. 5 0   Sec. 7 1 0
Morm. 22 0   Sec. 8 4 0
Ether 24 63   Sec. 9 2 0
Title Page 0 2   Sec. 10 11 0
Moro. 0 38   Sec. 11 4 0
1 Ne. 13 98   Sec. 12 4 0
2 Ne. 28 138   Sec. 14 3 1
Jacob 1 52   Sec. 15 0 0
Enos 0 6   Sec. 16 0 0
Jarom 0 3   Sec. 17 0 1
Omni 0 6   Sec. 18 0 12
W of M 0 4   Sec. 19 1 7

[p.411] When the books comprising the Book of Mormon are arranged beginning with Mosiah, the lexical enveloping vanishes and a linear pattern emerges. This parallels the word usage in the D&C for the same period (see Table 2). The patterning of “therefore” and “wherefore” in the revelations allows us to link Book of Mormon lexical patterns to a dated chronology. The parallel between the revelations and the Mosian priority sequence leads to the conclusion that Smith returned to his dictation at Mosiah.

Because of potential complications resulting from literary dependence and textual variants, refining the parallels between the revelations and books in the Book of Mormon permits us to date the stages of dictation more precisely. Occurrences of “therefore” and “wherefore” in Book of Mormon passages deriving from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) elucidate the interplay between narrative created by Smith and narrative dependent on external sources (see the Appendix). For instance, Smith tends to retain, delete, but not alter the term “therefore” or “wherefore” in a biblical source he is copying, even if the term is not the one routinely employed by him at that stage of the dictation. But Smith tends to favor the term dominant in his vocabulary (“therefore” or “wherefore”) when embellishing a biblical source, even when the term is not the one routinely used in the source. This phenomenon occurs in the Book of Mormon, D&C, and the Joseph Smith Revision of the Bible (JSR). When Smith is indebted to an external source for occurrences of “therefore” and “wherefore,” such as KJV quotations or D&C sections dependent on earlier revelations, I have removed them from Table 3. The Mosian priority chronology can be further refined by both deleting and adding occurrences of “therefore” and “wherefore” according to O where extant or to P, as well as to the earliest extant versions of the revelations.22 With these refinements, we can plausibly date the various [p.412] segments of the Book of Mormon dictation (see Table 3).

Revelations written prior to June 1829 use “therefore” exclusively 29 times. From Mosiah through Ether and the Title Page “therefore” occurs 612 times and “wherefore” 69 times—63 of these in Ether. The Jaredite story, dictated in late May 1829, forms the transitional point. Ether contains more occurrences of “therefore” than all the books dictated after it by a ratio of 25 to 19, and more usages of “wherefore” than Mosiah to Mormon by a ratio of 63 to 4. Viewing each chapter sequentially the shift in Ether from “therefore” to “wherefore” is striking. Ether 1-5 has “therefore” 15 times and “wherefore” 8 times. “Therefore” is used 8 times in Ether 6-10, “wherefore” increasing to 23 times. In the final third, Ether 11-15, “therefore” diminishes to 2 occurrences while “wherefore” appears 32 times. In the revelations after May 1829 “wherefore” appears exclusively 23 times. In the replacement text including Moroni, the three witnesses’ testimony, and the 1830 Book of Mormon Preface, “wherefore” is used 350 times and “therefore” only 19 times (see Table 3).

Smith’s gradual transition from “therefore” to “wherefore” suggests an additional insight into the dictation process. This evidence leaves no doubt that Smith assimilated portions of the KJV into the Book of Mormon (see the Appendix, Examples 3 and 4).23 Weighing the Book of Mormon’s indebtedness to the KJV indicates that Smith probably did not substantially depend on other nineteenth-century literary sources. If Smith copied from other literature one might anticipate detectable interruptions in the “therefore”/”wherefore” pattern, similar to those caused by the KJV. But this does not occur. Aside from selections borrowed from the KJV the development is relatively [p.413] consistent throughout the Book of Mormon. With this concession I am not implying that Smith was not indebted to broader cultural sources such as anti-Masonic rhetoric, autobiographical reflections, revival terminology, Amerindian etiologies, or other contemporary themes. As some of the essays in this anthology and elsewhere have posited, antebellum antecedents likely inspired similar ideas in the Book of Mormon (see Charles, Thomas, and Vogel in this compilation). When assimilating these nineteenth-century views into the Nephite narrative, Smith at most would have paraphrased them peppered with his own noncontextual words.

Table 3:
Mosian Priority (revised)

1. July 1828-May1829; Harmony, Pennsylvania

  “Therefore” “Wherefore” D&C “Therefore” “Wherefore”
Mosiah 122 0 Sec. 3 2 0
Alma 289 3 Sec. 4 2 0
Hel. 63 0 Sec. 6 8 0
3 Ne. 86 1 Sec. 8 3 0
4 Ne. 5 0 Sec. 9 2 0
Morm. 22 0 Sec. 10 10 0
Ether 25 63 Sec. 11 1 0
Title Page 0 2 Sec. 12 1 0
Total 612 69 Total 29 0

2. June-July 1829; Fayette, New York

Moro. 0 38      
1 Ne. 13 101      
2 Ne. 5 137 Sec. 14 0 1
Jacob 1 52 Sec. 17 0 1
Enos 0 6 Sec. 18 0 13
Jarom 0 3      
Omni 0 6      
W of M 0 4      

3. August 1829-March 1830

Three Witnesses’ Testimony 0 2      
1830 Ed. Preface 0 1 Sec. 19 0 8
Total 19 350 Total 0 23

These findings establish a dictation chronology and suggest the [p.414] presence of a single author. At least one Book of Mormon apologist, John A. Tvedtnes, has responded by theorizing that the shift from “therefore” to “wherefore” can be linked to the shift in the Book of Mormon between Mormon’s style and that of other Book of Mormon contributors. According to Tvedtnes, perhaps “‘therefore’ is peculiar to Mormon … [while] ‘wherefore’ in Moroni’s work could be evidence of different authorship for Ether and Moroni, and … for the small plates” (1991, 213).24

However, samples of Mormon’s editorial interludes compared with other texts bearing his authorship (see Hilton and Jenkins n.d.b; Rencher 1986) render it implausible that he and other Book of Mormon characters could have been responsible for the “therefore” to “wherefore” conversion. Moroni recorded three epistles authored by his father, Mormon, one presumably prior to Mormon’s redaction and two just before he relinquished the plates to his son. A disjointed pattern in word usage emerges when these Mormon-authored texts are placed in the order of their supposed writing (see Fig. 2).

When these Mormon-authored texts are ordered according to the 1 Nephi priority sequence, the familiar enveloping pattern appears (see Fig. 3).

Not surprisingly, when these Mormon-authored texts are ordered according to Mosian priority, they exhibit the linear transition from “therefore” to “wherefore” we have already encountered in the D&C and in the Book of Mormon as a whole (see Fig. 4).

As Figures 2-4 demonstrate, attributing this “therefore”-to-“wherefore” shift to ancient Book of Mormon authors is untenable. Smith remains the most probable source for this lexical distribution.

Narrative Continuity and the Dictation Sequence

From the Lehites’ harrowing escape from Jerusalem to Moroni’s valedictory, the Nephite storyline is relatively fluid but not without exception. Occasionally the middle section of the book (Mosiah and Alma) displays concepts which are less well developed than in the initial section (1 Nephi-Omni). These earlier portions are more congruent with later sections. It is difficult to explain the more primitive elements in Mosiah and Alma unless one assumess that Mosiah was the first [p.416] installment in the Book of Mormon narrative. We find in the narrative the same enveloping or linear pattern—depending on dictation chronology—we discovered in word usage.

Figure 2.

Texts Authored by Mormon: Ancient Chronology

  “Therefore” “Wherefore”
Moro. 7:2-48 0 21
Mosiah 1:15-2:9 3 0
Alma 1:1-12 3 0
Hel. 1:1-2:8 15 0
3 Ne. 1:15-3:1 4 0
4 Ne. 5 0
Moro. 8:2-30 0 9
Morm. 1-5 15 0
Moro. 9 0 2
Morm. 6-7 3 0
W of M 0 4

Figure 3.

Texts Authored by Mormon: 1 Nephi Priority

  “Therefore” “Wherefore”
W of M 0 4
Mosiah 1:15-2:9 3 0
Alama 1:1-12 3 0
Hel. 1:1-2:8 15 0
3 Ne. 1:15-3:1 4 0
4 Ne. 5 0
Morm. 1-7 18 0
Moro. 7:2-48 0 21
Moro. 8:2-30 0 9
Moro. 9 0 2

Figure 4.

Texts Authored by Mormon: Mosian Priority

  “Therefore” “Wherefore”
Mosiah 1:15-2:9 3 0
Alma 1:1-12 3 0
Hel. 1:1-2:8 15 0
3 Ne. 1:15-3:1 4 0
4 Ne. 5 0
Morm. 1-7 18 0
Moro. 7:2-48 0 21
Moro. 8:2-30 0 9
Moro. 9 0 2
W of M 0 4

Jesus’s Birth Date

Enveloping is particularly evident in discussion of the advent of Jesus. For example, early in the narrative Nephi relates that Lehi (1 Ne. 10:4), an angel (19:8), and “the prophets” (2 Ne. 25:19) had all predicted that Jesus would be born 600 years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem. However, subsequent Book of Mormon prophets seem unaware of these extraordinary oracles.

At a Nephite revival, King Benjamin comments that “the time cometh, and is not far distant … [that the Lord] shall come down from heaven … and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay” (Mosiah 3:5). This comment is surprising since the scriptures he possessed presumably told him this would not occur for over 120 years. Alma speaks of Jesus’ advent in similarly general terms: “the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand” (Alma 5:28, 50); “the time is not far distant” (7:7); “not many days hence” (9:26); and “the day of salvation draweth nigh” (13:21).25 Alma sincerely hopes “that it might be in [his] day” (v. 25). His reticence or inability to disclose Jesus’s birth date is explicable in his admission, “we know not how soon” (ibid.; emphasis added). Thus Alma, Benjamin, and their audiences did not know what Lehi, Nephi, an angel, anonymous Old World prophets, and their sacred literature had known with certainty: that Jesus would be born 600 years after the Lehites departed for the Americas.

When Samuel the Lamanite subsequently enters the scene, in contrast to Benjamin’s and Alma’s imprecision, he boldly specifies “for five years more cometh … then cometh the Son of God” (Hel. 14:2). Absent is any indication that Samuel merely echoes the inspired utterances of his forebears, Lehi and Nephi, or other prophets, including an angel. This particular point is paramount, for the potency of Samuel’s oracle lies in its absolute uniqueness. If Samuel’s prophecy is simply a repetition of earlier prophecies, it could scarcely be used to authenticate his prophetic calling (16:4-5). When Samuel’s followers are sentenced to death prior to Jesus’s advent, it is because his prophecy did not appear to be true, excluding any mention of Lehi or Nephi (3 Ne. 1:5).

The enveloping is obvious: Lehi and Nephi explicitly preach the date of Jesus’s birth; Benjamin and Alma speak only in generalities; [p.417] Samuel, like Nephi, is explicit. But when we analyze the passages in the order they were dictated, the enveloping pattern is replaced with a linear pattern. Prophets in the earliest part of the dictation lack specific knowledge of Jesus’ birth date. However, with Samuel a date of five years is given. At the expiration of the allotted time, the signs appear as prophesied. In this context the narrative explains: (1) that “father Lehi … Nephi … almost all of our fathers … have testified of the coming of Christ” (Hel. 8:22); and (2) that the year Jesus was born “was six hundred years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem” (3 Ne. 1:1).

Passages such as these paved the way for the next stage of thematic development. What started as an editorial remark that 600 years had elapsed is transformed into a literal prophecy from the lips of Lehi, Nephi, an angel, and unidentified prophets. These prophecies were not dictated until the 600-year date had been firmly established in 3 Nephi.26

Christ’s Visit to America

The date of Jesus’s birth is not the only early prediction unknown to prophets in the middle portion of the Book of Mormon. Edwin J. Firmage (1992) points to Nephite prophecies concerning Christ’s appearance in the Americas as another example of this phenomenon. With specificity unprecedented in ancient literature, Nephi tells of being enraptured in a panoramic vision of the life of Jesus. He sees Jesus’s birth to a virgin (1 Ne. 11:13ff), the appearance of the baptizer John, Jesus’s baptism (v. 27), twelve special followers (v. 29), Jesus’s miracles (v. 31), and his crucifixion (v. 33). Nephi knows that the Messiah will be called Jesus Christ (12:18 [O, P, 1830 ed.]; cf. 2 Ne. 25:19; that he will be crucified and rise after three days [v. 13; 1 Ne. 19:10]). Nephi views the natural cataclysms immediately preceding the coming of the resurrected Christ to America. He sees Jesus’s visit to the survivors and his selection of twelve disciples (1 Ne. 12:4-8; cf. 2 Ne. 26:1, 9, 32:6).

[p.418] In the early part of Mormon’s abridged history, prophecies about the coming of Jesus say nothing about his resurrection advent in the Americas (see Mosiah 3:5ff; 7:27, 15; Alma 4:13; 5:50; 6:8; 7:7ff). Benjamin, Abinadi, both Almas—all of whom know minute details of Jesus’s life—never mention that a glorified Christ will appear to the Lehites (see Mosiah 3:1ff; 15:1-16, 15; 18:1-35; Alma 7:7-14). Not until Alma 16:20 is this clearly stated: “Many of the people did inquire concerning the place where the Son of God should come; and they were taught that he would appear unto them after his resurrection” (emphasis added). The people’s uncertainty, which Alma himself shares (7:8), implies that nothing had been taught about a promise that Christ would visit America, a promise Nephi earlier described in detail. When, for the first time in Mormon’s abridgment, priests teach the Nephites “that he would appear unto them after his resurrection”—absent any reference to Nephi’s prodigious vision—”the people did hear with great joy and gladness,” seemingly acknowledging the newness of the idea.

Ignorance of Nephi’s prophecies, especially in a record-keeper and prophet of Alma’s stature, is explained by Mosian priority. Silence about Nephi’s prophecies in Mosiah and Alma 1-16 reflects the fact that Joseph Smith initially portrayed Book of Mormon characters as gradually understanding whether the mortal Jesus (Alma 7:8) or the risen Christ (16:20) would appear in the Americas. Nephi’s unambiguous prophecies were dictated by Smith after the events they were intended to foretell—a textbook example of vaticinium ex eventu (prophecy after the event).

When Jesus eventually visits Book of Mormon people, they are surprised (cf. Brown and Tvedtnes 1989). They hear a “small voice” which moves and bewilders them (3 Ne 11:34). The voice declares three times, “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him,” but still they fail to understand. As a man clad in white descends, these Christians “wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (vv. 6-8; emphasis added). Had they known Nephi’s prediction that Jesus would appear after the signs of his death, surprise would have been replaced with expectation. Thanks to Samuel the people anticipated the signs accompanying Jesus’s death and had been told of his eventual post-resurrection visit, but they had no reason to expect his coming in such close proximity to the signs (Hel. 14:20-29). That his coming to America would be near the time of his death was incorporated into the final stage of dictation, reflected in 1 Nephi (12:4-6; 19:10).

Penitent to Christocentric Baptism

The dictation sequence interferes with the observation I have previously alluded to that Joseph Smith depicted Christian awareness in [p.419] the Book of Mormon as gradually maturing. Ideas on baptism, for example, develop according to the Mosian dictation sequence. Alma’s baptism appears to be a more primitive cleansing ritual than that described in 2 Nephi (cf. Mosiah 18 with 2 Ne. 31; see also Ostler 1987, 80). In Mormon’s abridgment from Mosiah to 3 Nephi 10, baptism helps to effectuate repentance; from 3 Nephi 11 through the dictation of the replacement text, the emphasis is on Jesus Christ (cf. Sperry 1968, 525-27; Vogel 1988, 124n37):

Penitent Baptism Christocentric Baptism
Mosiah 26:22      
Alma 5:62, 6:2, 7:14, 8:10, 9:27, 48:19, 49:30      
Hel. 3:24, 5:17, 19      
3 Ne. 1:23, 7:26      
      3 Ne. 11:23, 27, 37, 38, 18:5, 11, 16, 30, 21:6, 26:17, 21, 27:1, 16, 20, 30:2
      4 Ne. 1:1
      Morm. 7:8
      Ether 4:18
      Moro. 7:34
Moro. 8:11      
      2 Ne. 9:23-24, 31:11-12
      [Moses] [8:24]

Baptism in the Book of Mosiah is portrayed as a novelty. Alma introduces it to his converts (Mosiah 18; cf. Peterson 1991, 200-202; Turner 1988, 120n7), and churches crop up as a result of his missionary activity. God reveals that believers are “baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive” (Mosiah 26:22; cf. Turner 1988, 105ff, 122n16). This notion forms the nucleus of baptismal theology until the appearance of the resurrected Christ. Christians are then enjoined to perform the initiatory rite in Christ’s name,27 an idea virtually absent from Mosiah [p.420] through 3 Nephi 10.28 As the dictation continues, Book of Mormon characters increasingly focus on Christ’s importance. In the first part of the Book of Mormon—the last portion dictated—Nephi’s younger sibling Jacob recommends that “all men … must repent, and be baptized in [God’s; i.e., Jesus’s] name” (2 Ne. 9:23). Nephi discloses that “the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in the name of my Beloved Son” (31:11). After the Book of Mormon was published, Joseph Smith issued a sermon by the prophet Noah, reflecting a christocentric baptismal covenant, “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Moses 8:24).29

The Book of Mormon followed the evolving baptismal model of the KJV. Like Alma (Mosiah 26:22), John the baptizer performed primitive baptism “unto repentance” (Matt. 3:11; cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). After Jesus’s death, Christians baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16; cf. 10:48; 19:5; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 1:10ff); so do their Nephite counterparts following the resurrection (3 Ne. 26:17). Jesus instructs the Nephites that baptizing in his name meant “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (11:25; cf. vv. 22-41), echoing his instructions to his Old World apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19).

The contrast between the two baptisms is lucidly portrayed in Paul’s inquiry, “Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:3-5; emphasis added).30 Prior to the resurrection, Nephites received John’s (Alma’s) baptism stressing repentance. Subsequently they were [p.421] initiated with the baptism of the apostles (disciples), which centered on Christ—a notion of baptism shared by Jacob and Nephi, Moses and Enoch (in the JSR), all dictated after the Mosiah narrative.

Arthur Glen Foster, Jr., (1983, 58-60) argued that Alma introduced baptism into Nephite religious practice. He sees a logical development which begins with Benjamin’s covenant (Mosiah 5:5; 6:2), continues with Alma’s baptism at the waters of Mormon (18:10ff), and concludes with Alma’s establishing a Nephite church (26:17, 22).

This hypothesis is indirectly confirmed by the silence on baptism in King Benjamin’s oration (Mosiah 2-6). At the invitation of King Benjamin, the populace attends the Nephite equivalent of a nineteenth-century camp meeting.31 Benjamin describes the method of salvation (4:4-8), the process of repenting and obtaining remission of sin (vv. 10-26), the imperative act of being born again (5:7), and the need to covenant with, and take upon themselves the name of, Christ (vv. 8-15).

Some have attempted to assert comparisons between Lehite religious awakenings and ancient Hebrew rituals (see Welch 1985b, 28-31) including ancient prophets collapsing to the ground (Ezek. 3:23) or expressing feelings of inferiority (Isa. 6:5-7). Some maintain that the Mosiah story is a Nephite Sukkot—covenant renewal festival—or coronation rite (Nibley 1988, 295-310; Ostler 1987, 87-93; Ricks 1984a, 1991; Tvedtnes 1990, 197-237; Welch 1985a, 37-53). Certainly nineteenth-century camp meetings were modeled after the Israelite Feast of Tabernacles. This enabled Lorenzo Dow to write that the ancient Hebrews met for devotional services at “the Camp Meeting, or feast of tabernacles” (1854, 248). A Unitarian journalist similarly summarized Methodist apologetics for camp meetings including the defense that “the feast of Tabernacles was celebrated in tents” (Christian Register, 24 Sept. 1831; see also J. Porter 1849, 13-23). In any event, traditionalists have not demonstrated that neophytes of any culture B.C. experienced the form of revival conversion described in the Book of Mormon, a conversion which culminated in forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ’s atoning blood. [p.422] Converts do as he tells them (6:1-2), but baptism is never mentioned. Universal baptism is urged by Jacob (2 Ne. 9:23) and Nephi (31:9) in the replacement text approximately 400 years before the ritual emerges among Lehite descendants. This is a logical development only if one considers a chronology of dictation and authorship which begins with Mosiah.

Denominationalism and Eschatology

If knowledge of Christ’s mission and of baptism develop according to a pattern which follows Mosian priority, so do notions about Christ’s church among the Nephites and its relationship to the larger world. When Christ comes to the Nephites, the event marks a major shift in a complex of related beliefs. Again the replacement text (especially 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi) has more in common with books dated from Christ’s advent (3 Nephi, for example) than it does with the central section (Mosiah and Alma).

The first reference to “church” in Mormon’s abridgment occurs in conjunction with Alma’s baptizing (Mosiah 18:17; cf. Mosiah 23:16; 29:47; 3 Ne. 5:12). From here through the beginning of 3 Nephi, the terms “church” and “churches” refer to the single religion of God and its local congregations.32 When the glorified Jesus appears, he preaches a developed anti-denominationalism and clarifies the relationship between true Christianity and infidel imitations (3 Ne. 27:2). After Christ’s sermon the terms “church” and “churches” describe non-Christian or apostate denominations as well as Christian congregations. The application of the terms to either Christian or apostate churches not only predominates in the sections written after Christ’s coming but also in the replacement text in 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi. This is evident from charting the shift from “churches” referring to legitimate Christianity exclusively to a more inclusive denominational definition:

“Churches” (congregations) “Churches” (denominations)
Mosiah 25:19, 21-23; 27:3Alma 23:4, 45:22-23  
  4 Ne. 1:26-27, 34, 41Morm. 8:28, 32-33, 36, 371 Ne. 3:5, 26, 14:10; 22:232 Ne. 26:20-21; 28:3, 12

Because no formal church exists in the replacement text, most [p.423] occurrences of “church” or “churches” in 1 Nephi and 2 Nephi appear in context of prophetic eschatology as in Moroni’s first valedictory (Morm. 8:28ff): in the last days gentile society will be characterized by a variety of churches. Thus the shift from “church[es]” referring to a single religion to multiple religions corresponds with a shift from complete Nephite ethnocentrism to a more global perspective. This perspective includes an increased focus on non-Israelite races as well as on the relationship of Lehite descendants to Jews. Thus gentiles and Jews are mentioned in portions of the record involving Christ’s appearance, later Nephite prophets, and the replacement text. Usage of “gentile[s],” for instance, in Mosian priority occurs 35 times in 3 Nephi, 10 in Mormon, 11 in Ether, 3 in the Title Page, 56 in 1 Nephi, and 31 in 2 Nephi. The ethnocentric Nephite view, with “church[es]” applying only to the Nephite church, gives way to a global view which considers how future Lehites fit into the larger Israelite context (emphasis on Jews) and the larger world context (emphasis on gentries).

From Three Witnesses to Many Witnesses

Although I do not accept that Ether 5:2-4 or 2 Nephi 27:12-14 led directly to three witnesses viewing the Book of Mormon plates (see above), both texts help to elucidate the dictation sequence. When placed in Mosian priority order, the narrative shifts incrementally on the number of witnesses from three to many. The earliest extant reference to three witnesses is D&C 5, dated March 1829. A version of this revelation predating its publication reads, “yea & the testimony of three of my servants shall go forth with my word unto this Generation yea three shall know of A surety that these things are true for I will give them power that they may Behold & view these things as they are & to none else will I grant this power among this Generation & the testimony of three Witnesses will I send forth & my word” (Whitney MS, n.d.; emphasis added; cf. D&C 5:11-15). According to this revelation only three people, implicitly including Smith, would see the plates. A revelation given in early April 1829 obliquely referred to “the mouth of two or three witnesses, [by which] shall every word be established” (BoC V:12b; emphasis added; cf. D&C 6:28b).

In Mosian priority the next identification of three witnesses is Ether: “And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true. And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word” (5:2-4a; emphasis added). These verses address “ye,” a vague [p.424] reference to a modern person who would display the plates before three other witnesses.33

2 Nephi embellished the theme in Ether, paving the way for three witnesses plus an additional eight. In a generic treatment of witnesses, Nephi remarks that “by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses” (11:3b; emphasis added). This notion is given specific attention in Smith’s midrash of Isaiah 29 in 2 Nephi 27. Readers are told that “the eyes of none shall behold it save it be that three witnesses shall behold it, by the power of God, besides him to whom the book shall be delivered; and they shall testify to the truth of the book and the things therein. And there is none other which shall view it, save it be a few according to the will of God … Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to bring forth the words of the book; and in the mouth of as many witnesses as seemeth him good will he establish his word” (vv. 12b-14a; emphasis added; cf. JSR Isa. 29:17b-19a). Now three witnesses plus Smith see the plates or “book,” with the proviso that “a few” more will have a similar experience. In fact, the text notes that ultimately there will be as many witnesses as God chooses.

Proliferating witnesses in Ether 5 and 2 Nephi 27 contrast with Smith’s March 1829 revelation designating “three” and “none else.” A remedy occurred when the revelation was edited for publication in 1833 and again in 1835 (see Fig. 5; also Best 1992, 93-94; Howard 1982). The phrase “to none else will I grant this power” was qualified with “to receive this same testimony” (BoC IV:4). This revision allowed for others to view the plates, though in a qualitatively distinct way from the select three. A clear stipulation that the “testimony of three” was “in addition to [Joseph Smith’s] testimony” was also appended in the 1835 D&C (32:3), and the three witnesses’ declaration was distinguished by adding that from “heaven will [God] declare it unto them.”

Thus a coherent picture of an evolving view of witnesses to the Book of Mormon emerges when revelations and revisions are interleaved with relevant Book of Mormon passages ordered to a Mosian dictation sequence. Texts treating witnesses to gold plates evolve from three solitary attestants (Whitney MS. n.d.; see also BoC V:12; cf. D&C 6:28) to three plus “ye” (Ether 5:24) to three plus one and an unlimited number (2 Ne. 27:12-14; cf. 11:3; BoC IV:4; 1835 D&C 32:3). [p.425]

Figure 5.

Whitney MS 1833 BoC IV:4b 1835 D&C 32:3b
yea yea  
& and and
in addition to
your testimony
the testimony of three of my servants the testimony of three of my servants the testimony of three ofmy servants,
    whom I shall call andordain, unto whom Iwill show these things:and they
shall go forth with mywordunto this Generation shall go forth with mywords
unto this generation;
shall go forth with mywords
    that are giventhrough you,
yeathree yea,three yea,
shall know of Asurety that thesethings are true for shall know of asurety that thesethings are true, for shall know of asurety that thesethings are true: for
    from heaven will Ideclare it unto them:
I will give them powerthat they may Behold& view these things asthey are & to none else

will I grant this power

I will give them power,that they may beholdand view these things asthey are, and to none else

will I grant this power,

I will give them powerthat they may beholdand view these things asthey are; and to none else

will I grant this power,

  to receive this sametestimony to receive this sametestimony,
among thisGeneration among thisgeneration. among thisgeneration…

Malachi Among the Nephites

The impulse to include certain KJV passages in the Book of Mormon also evolves gradually when the books are ordered beginning with Mosiah (see also Ashment, in this compilation). Although Nephite scribes lament the arduous process of inscribing on metal (e.g., Jacob 4:1ff; Ether 12:24), the risen Christ nonetheless instructs that [p.426] Malachi 3-4 should be incorporated onto the plates (3 Ne. 24-25). Christ explains, “These scriptures, which ye had not with you, the Father commanded that I should give unto you; for it is wisdom in him that they should be given unto future generations” (26:2).

Malachi wrote, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal. 4:1//3 Ne. 25:1). Curiously, the first book of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi, attributes this passage from Malachi to an unnamed prophet: “For behold, saith the prophet, … the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned” (1 Ne. 22:15 [,17]). Indeed the degenerate “must be consumed as stubble; and this according to the words of the prophet” (v. 23). Nephi later reiterates, “all those who are proud, and that do wickedly, the day cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, for they shall be as stubble” (2 Ne. 26:4). According to Nephi, “the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts” (v. 6). Nephi’s explicit references to “the prophet’s” insights from Malachi 4:1 contradict Christ’s assertion that he was delivering to Nephites previously inaccessible writings.34

Moroni reports that virtuous Jaredite king Emer “saw the Son of Righteousness” (Ether 9:22), an epithet from Malachi (4:2a) used by Smith’s contemporaries to refer to Jesus Christ (e.g., Methodist Magazine, Mar. 1823, 118; cf. “Sun of Truth” in Methodist Magazine, Jan. 1823, 1). A crucified Jesus “shall rise from the dead,” Nephi foretells, “with healing in his wings” (2 Ne. 25:13//Mal. 4:2a). Following the New World calamities, a portent of the Nephite christophany, Nephi declares that “the Son of Righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them” (2 Ne. 26:9).35

[p.427] Mosiah through 3 Nephi 23 betrays no knowledge of Malachi 3-4. Subsequent to Jesus’s 3 Nephi recital of Malachi’s prophecies, as the dictation proceeded, Malachi’s language is appropriated by other Book of Mormon prophets in Ether, 1 Nephi, and 2 Nephi.

Some Book of Mormon students argue that narrative patterns similar to the above can be explained by acknowledging the intervention of Nephite redactors Mormon and Moroni. Interpreters could thus hypothesize that post-Christ-advent Nephite editors embellished the replacement text with high christology or projected later prophecies back on their progenitors (cf. Epperson 1988, 80, 94-96, 98-99; Jorgensen 1981, passim; Ostler 1987, 86-87).36

Such a theory can only be maintained at the expense of the redactors’ integrity. Mormon expressly states that the sole reason for inclusion of 1 Nephi-Omni was because they contained “pleasing … prophecies of the coming of Christ” (W of M 1:4[ff]). In this context, could the christological prophecies be the creation of Mormon? Also, why would Mormon or Moroni have inserted later, more developed elements into the narrative in some cases but neglected to do so in the homilies of Benjamin, Mosiah, Abinadi, and both Almas? And why would such inconsistencies of ancient redactors be so easily explained by Smith’s dictation sequence?37

A Messiah Named Christ

Apologists point to certain notions in the Book of Mormon which seem to develop according to the world of an ancient narrative. The shift in designation of “Messiah” to “Christ” develops in an expected linear way as if the book were a product of individuals who increased in understanding (Welch 1992c, 239-40, and passim). Jesus is referred to as “Messiah” in the early years of Lehite colonization. Between 1 Nephi and Jarom, the prophet-writers use the designation “Messiah” some thirty times. According to the present edition of the Book of [p.428] Mormon the title “Christ” was introduced to the narrative by Nephi’s younger sibling Jacob who learns through revelation that God incarnate would be named “Christ” (2 Ne. 10:3). From this passage on, use of “Christ” increases dramatically (over 380 times) while use of “Messiah” decreases. From Omni to Moroni “Messiah” appears only twice (Mosiah 13:33; Hel. 8:13).

Even on the surface this example is problematic. The Book of Mormon’s use of the term “Christ” is a perplexing feature of the book. Biblical scholars concur that the Aramaic meshiha’ (Heb. mashiah; Eng. Messiah) and its Greek translation Christos (Eng. Christ) both mean “Anointed.” They further agree that “Christ” became a proper name along with “Jesus” only after non-Semites, who did not have a Hebrew conception of the title, were converted and an essentially Judaic Christianity began to be hellenized (DeJonge 1992; Fitzmeyer 1982, 85-87; Kittel and Friedrich 1964-76, 9:527-80; Perkins 1985; cf. Robinson 1992, 740; Welch 1992b, 749). In contrast, Book of Mormon Hebrews do not use the terms “Christ” and “Messiah” synonymously. Rather they employ the term “Christ” most frequently as a type of messianic surname.

“Christ” as a proper name poses linguistic problems that challenged early defenders of the Book of Mormon. Oliver Cowdery chided a critic who raised the issue as being “ignorant presumptuous and incompetent to handle the matter he has undertaken.” Cowdery argued that “[t]he words Jesus and Christ … are radically neither English nor Greek, for both have Hebrew roots” (Messenger and Advocate 3 [Oct. 1836]: 398). This remains apologists’ chief line of defense (see Brown 1984, 35; McConkie and Millet 1987, 265-66; Nibley 1988b, 167-68; Ricks 1984, 25; Welch 1992c, 228, 241n6; cf. McConkie 1988, 75-76).

Yet the Book of Mormon does not accommodate this apologetic since it insists at many points on a clear distinction between “Messiah” and “Christ.”38 The Book of Mormon ostensibly defines “Messiah” as “savior” or “redeemer” (1 Ne. 10:4-5, 1:19; 2 Ne. 1:10, 2:6). “Christ,” coupled with the term “Jesus,” becomes the Messiah’s name (e.g., 2 Ne. 10:3; 25:16, 19; Mosiah 3:8; 5:8).39 Because of this semantic [p.429] distinction, Nephi can prophesy that Jews at the end of time “shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name … and look not forward any more for another Messiah” (2 Ne. 25:16). And he can also proclaim, “[T]he Messiah cometh … [and] his name shall be Jesus Christ” (v. 19). “Christ” is even juxtaposed with other proper names such as “Nephi” and “Moses.”40

The narrative itself seems to account for this distinction between “Messiah” and “Christ” when an angel reveals to the prophet Jacob the name by which the Messiah will be called: “Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews” (2 Ne. 10:3). Some Book of Mormon students believe this revelation to Jacob was the first disclosure of the Messiah’s name as “Christ” among the Lehites (see Black 1987, 16, 19; Brandt 1989, 202; Brown 1984, 35-36; Conkling 1992, 10; Jackson 1988, 95; Matthews 1988, 33; Millet 1987, 116, 129n10; Ostler 1987, 83; cf. Welch 1992c, 227-28, 241n6). This implies that “Christ” was actually the term used by ancient Book of Mormon writers and that knowledge of this term originated from a divine revelation identifying the future Greek nomenclature for the Hebrew Messiah. Accordingly “Christ” should not be viewed as anachronistic because it is prophetic (cf. Welch 1992a, 204; 1992b, 749; 1992c, 239).41

Textual analysis exposes difficulties with this explanation. In O, P, and the 1830 edition, the complete phrase “Jesus Christ” is revealed to Nephi years preceding Jacob’s revelation of “Christ.” “Jesus Christ” originally appeared in 1 Nephi 12:18 and was only later changed to “Mosiah” (Pc) and then “the Messiah” in the 1837 printing (see Illustration 2; also FARMS 1987, 1:60; Holland 1966, 53; Larson 1974, 49-50): [p.430]

Textual History of 1 Nephi 12:18b

Initial Version    
Original MS Printer’s MS 1830 Ed.
the sword of <the> Justiceof the Eternal God &Jesus Christ which is thelamb of God42 the word of the Justice of the Eternal God &Jesus Christ which isthe Lamb of God the word of the justiceof the Eternal God, andJesus Christ, which is theLamb of God
Emended Variant  
Printer’s (Corrected) MS 1837 Ed.
the word of the Justice ofEternal God & the the word of the justice of theeternal God, and
Jesus Christ which  
<Mosiah who> is the Lamb of God43 the Messiah who is the Lamb of God

Originally the revelation of “Christ” to Jacob was redundant,44 since “Jesus Christ” had already been revealed to Nephi. Yet Jacob affirms unfamiliarity with the term “Christ” prior to his epiphany, “for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name” [p.432] (2 Ne. 10:3b).45 Emending “Jesus Christ” to “Mosiah” (“the Messiah” 1837 ed.) in 1 Nephi 12:18 removed this obstacle for Jacob’s new revelation in 2 Nephi 10:3, but it inadvertently created another problem. By substituting “Mosiah” (“the Messiah” 1837 ed.) for “Jesus Christ,” Smith46 excised the sole textual antecedent to Nephi’s later proclamation that according to “the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ” (2 Ne. 25:19). Jacob’s angel only used “Christ” (2 Ne. 10:3); it was Nephi’s angel who originally employed the full expression “Jesus Christ” in 1 Nephi 12:18 (O, P, 1830 ed.).

Illustration 2.

Original Manuscript

(All photographs of the Printer’s Manuscript were reproduced courtesy Library-Archives, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Auditorium, Independence, Missouri. Reproductions by RLDS Office of Graphic Arts. The reproduction of the Original Manuscript is from Larson 1974, 313.)

Much of this confusion stems from Smith’s own vacillation about how or if “Christ” was used anciently—an ambivalence which leaves traces in the narrative.47 For example, the story of the Brother of Jared appears near the end of the Book of Mormon text, after Jacob’s vision of the angel and after the actual appearance of Jesus Christ. According to the ancient chronology, however, the Brother of Jared lived long before any of these events. Still the Father and the Son reveal himself to the Brother of Jared as “Jesus Christ” thousands of years prior to the incarnation (Ether 3:14). Even Jacob’s proclamation that the angel brought new knowledge contradicts his own later claim that preexilic prophets utilized “Christ” liturgically (Jacob 4:4-5; cf. 6:8).

If preexilic prophets used the term “Christ,” one would expect to find the term in their “five books of Moses” (1 Ne. 5:11). Smith’s revision of these books would confirm Jacob’s claim (in Jacob 4:4-5). In the introductory revelation to the JSR (Moses 1), Moses prays to God in the [p.433] name of the “Only Begotten” (v. 21). The JSR manuscripts indicate that Smith originally dictated “Jesus Christ” (OTms.2; OTms.3). This was changed to “the Son of God” (Old Testament manuscript 3, revision [OTms.3rev.]) which was then abbreviated to “his Son” (ibid.; note the variant “Only Begotten” of the current edition [Moses 1:21] has no manuscript support). Other occurrences of “Jesus Christ” tended to be deleted, and the phrase was basically dropped as Smith’s revisions of the Hebrew Bible progressed.48 Rather than confirming Jacob’s claim, Smith’s revisions move in the opposite direction.

In the context of Smith’s ambivalence about the use of “Christ” in antiquity, the problems and solutions in 1 Nephi 12:18, 2 Nephi 10:3, and 25:19 must be tied to Smith not to an ancient narrative. Smith’s continued uncertainty about “Messiah” and “Christ” is evident despite efforts to have Nephites evolve in their understanding and use of these terms in 1 Nephi-Omni. Remaining internal contradictions point to an attempt to impose on the replacement text a linear development not inherent in an ancient narrative but explicable in terms of a Mosian priority dictation.

Implications for Book of Mormon Authorship

Smith’s loss of the 116 pages is Book of Mormon interpreters’ gain. The misplacement, theft, or destruction of the Book of Lehi, eventually leading the despondent prophet to dictate 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon last, unveils an unprecedented glimpse into the formation of a sacred text. Intrinsically woven into the Book of Mormon’s fabric are not only remnants of the peculiar dictation sequence but threads of authorship. The composite of those elements explored in this essay point to Smith as the narrative’s chief designer.

I suspect that most Book of Mormon students prior to reading this essay considered the dictation sequence relatively insignificant. This essay begins to explore some of the evidences for and implications of Mosian priority. More study will undoubtedly follow,49 but Mosian [p.434] priority is certainly a sound direction for future exegesis.

Antagonists typically condemn Smith as a slavish plagiarist, while apologists exonerate him as an inspired marionette. Both models envision an unimaginative rustic parroting his sources or his God. I accept neither of these reductionist portrayals. The evidence invites a critical reappraisal of Smith’s role in the formation of the Book of Mormon. The question is no longer whether Smith influenced the content of the Book of Mormon, but how much.50 Engaging in the re-interpretive task promises to disclose a charismatic seer who was more than a mere copier or puppet but an imaginative prophetic author.

Appendix and Bibliography


1. It is not certain the lost manuscript consisted of 116 pages. This figure may have derived from the Printer’s Manuscript (P) not the actual length of the Book of Lehi. 1 Nephi-Words of Mormon, the replacement text for the Book of Lehi, barely exceeds 116 pages in P. (Note the corresponding section in the Original Manuscript [O] was almost certainly longer, since a segment of Enos in O is numbered page 114 [Skousen 1992b, 22]. Words of Mormon then would have concluded on about page 119 or 120.) Because O for Mosiah is not extant, it is impossible to know the page it began on and on which page the Book of Lehi ended. But it seems less than coincidental that while preparing P for publication, Smith in the 1830 Preface ascribed a length to the lost manuscript (“one hundred and sixteen pages”) almost exactly corresponding to the replacement text in P.

2. There is confusion in the sources over whether the infant was still-born or died shortly after birth. See Bushman 1984, 90-94, 220-21; James 1983, 149-56; Jessee 1984, 7-8; Newell and Avery 1984, 26-28, 314; Smith et al. 1978, 1:18-31; L. Smith 1853, 117-22.

3. The most comprehensive treatments of the dictation sequence are those of Edwin J. Firmage (1992), Jerald and Sandra Tanner (1990), and John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone (1986).

4. Royal Skousen (1992a), a professor of English at Brigham Young University and editor of a forthcoming critical edition of the Book of Mormon, believes that some text-critical data could corroborate 1 Nephi priority.

5. Reynolds has been mistakenly identified as a Mosian prioritist (Welch and Rathbone 1986, 37; Welch 1988, 47 [Welch’s assertion here is based on a reference to Reynolds that has nothing to do with a dictation chronology]; FARMS 1987, 1:xi).

6. Some recent studies have implied a text-critical basis for Words of Mormon priority. The FARMS (1987, 1:352) critical text of the Book of Mormon, the source of this interpretation, reconstructs the title in the Printer’s (corrected) Manuscript (Pc) as “THE WORDS OF MORMON.” Since Mosiah lacked a title in both P and presumably O, one can surmise that it was transcribed into P as “Chapter II” (FARMS 1987, 1:355, 2:356), as an extension of Words of Mormon (see FARMS 1987, 1:355, 2:356; cf. 1:138; Welch and Rathbone 1986, 36), or as some portion of it (Tvedtnes 1991, 201-202).

However, the FARMS reading is only a partial rendition of the original emendations. The chapter designation actually went through two stages. Initially the heading read, “The words of Mormon” with the interlinear insertion “<Chapter 2.d.>.” This was then adjusted to “The words of Mormon <Chapter 2.d.><1.>.” Far from serving as the first chapter to Mosiah, Words of Mormon may have been mistakenly viewed as a companion to Omni, which is titled in P, “The Book of Omni Chapter first.” The addition of “<1.>” to Words of Mormon corrected the erroneous “<2.d.>” and separated it from Omni rather than connecting it to Mosiah. As I will discuss below, equivocation on the initial chapter designation of Mosiah is part of a larger textual phenomenon that provides insight into the dictation order.

7. More precisely, Tvedtnes maintains a maverick—in my judgment ill-conceived (see n6 above and n24 below)—notion that Words of Mormon 1:12-18, which he conjectures is a surviving portion of the Book of Lehi, served as the point at which the dictation resumed (1991, 201-203).

8. A fragment of O (thought to have been in Oliver Cowdery’s handwriting, covering Mosiah 2:6-7 recto and 2:17-18 verso) surfaced a few years ago which cast doubt on the Mosian theory (see FARMS 1984, 3; 1987, 3:1305). However, this fragment was forged by Mark Hofmann (FARMS 1987, 3:1310; on the Holmann scandal, see Lindsey 1988; Naifeh and Smith 1988; Sillitoe and Roberts 1988; Turley 1992).

9. The only correlation between Cowdery’s letter and the Book of Moroni is thematic. Yet note the relationship between the letter and the Book of Commandments:

Cowdery to Smith BoC XV:46
all men to every all men
where to repent and not only must repent and
baptised [sic] and not only men be baptized; and not only men,
but women children which but women, and children, which
have arrived to the years of have arriven [sic] to the years of
accountibility [sic] accountability
(In Woodford 1974, 264, 267.) (//D&C 18:42.)

10. This includes the 1839 draft (Jessee 1989, 235), the manuscript history, Book A-1 (Jessee 1989, 295), and the first publication of this incident in the Times and Seasons 3 (1 Sept. 1842): 897.

11. Biblical passages mentioning Jerusalem’s walls include: 2 Kgs. 25:10; Neh. 2:13; 4:7; Ps. 51:18; Jer. 39:8; 52:14.

12. Lucy Smith confirmed that instructions to baptize came while dictating the Book of Mormon but, differing from her son, noted that Joseph alone received the directive rather than he and Oliver jointly (L. Smith 1853, 131; cf. Smith et al. 1978, 1:39; JS-H 1:68ff). David Whitmer stated that Smith and Cowdery baptized each other because “they were commanded so todo [sic] by revealment through Joseph” (Gurley 1885, reverse of p. 2). Smith informed Cowdery by revelation in June 1829 “as thou [Cowdery] hast been baptized by the hands of my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., according to that which I have commanded him, he hath fulfilled the thing which I commanded him” (D&C 18:7; emphasis added).

13. Welch and Rathbone persuasively argue this point (1992, 2-3; see esp. their graphic [8]).

14. Smith seems to have initially resolved to replace the Book of Lehi with an alternate beginning from a single record called “the plates of Nephi” (Title Page; D&C 10:38-45). While dictating 1 Nephi chapters 6 and 9, Smith introduced two sets of “plates of Nephi”—the “small plates” or “plates of Jacob” (Jacob 1:1ff; 3:14), which contained 1 Nephi–Omni; and the “larger plates” (3:13) which presumably contained the Book of Nephi, the history comprising Mormon’s abridgment (cf., Tanner and Tanner 1990, 37-47).

15. My own analysis of the handwriting confirms that a number of letters are similar to Whitmer’s style on other early documents while other letters are different.

16. In order to deemphasize the number of Book of Mormon pages dictated prior to Cowdery, Welch and Rathbone (1986, 39) neglect this important nuance, misquoting the passage as a “few pages” and omitting the word “more.”

17. Welch and Rathbone (1986, 35) claim that the “handwriting on the Original Manuscript for 1 Nephi is neither Oliver Cowdery’s nor Emma Smith’s.” Jessee has identified a significant quantity of 1 Nephi in O as Cowdery holographs (1970, 273; cf. Welch 1988, 46).

18. In its critical apparatus FARMS (1987, 2:448, 470) wrongly displays this and the succeeding heading in P as “CHAPTER IX” and “CHAPTER X” respectively, remaining unchanged in Pc.

19. The lemma system in the FARMS (1987, 2:506) apparatus renders the relationship of the “<3>” to the “14” unintelligible.

20. The Book of Lehi, I suspect, was the initial title of the project which may likely have been an anthology of smaller books similar to the present Book of Mormon. One of these shorter works would have been chapter 1 of what is now Mosiah, though it may have originally had a different title.

21. Admittedly, Foster did not anticipate some of the complexities of lexical distribution. An author may favor a term such as “whoso,” abandon it for a time in favor of a variant, in this case “whosoever,” and then return to the former, in this case “whoso.” Revelations in the D&C dating from the Book of Mormon dictation period might have been a useful control, but occurrences of “whosoever” and “whoso” here are too sporadic to be helpful.

Textual criticism and literary dependence should have been considered. For example, two instances of “whoso” in Ether 10:6 were originally “whosoever” in P, then emended thus “whosoever” in Pc. (FARMS 1987, 3:1221 inaccurately identifies the third “whoso” in Ether 10:6 as “whosoever” in P; however, “whoso” appears in P without emendation.) Nine out of 17 occurrences of “whosoever” in 3 Nephi were copied from KJV Matthew 5 (on this generally, see the Appendix).

In another instance, Foster suggests that Smith initially favored “often” then replaced it with “oft” (1983, 112). But too much may be seen here—”often” and “oft” appear infrequently and inconsistently:

  “often” “oft”
Mosiah 2 0
Alma 0 1
Hel. 0 1
3 Ne. 1 8
4 Ne. 0 1
Moro. 0 3
1 Ne. 0 2
Enos 1 0

22. Because of literary dependence nine occurrences of “therefore” in D&C sections 11, 12, and 14 are discarded (see the Appendix, Example 1). Similarly, “therefore” in the 1830 Book of Mormon Preface is dropped because it quotes D&C 10:41 (see the Appendix, Example 2). Instances of “therefore” and “wherefore” deleted from the Book of Mormon segment all originate in the KJV. One “therefore” and the solitary “wherefore” are dropped in Mosiah (“therefore” = Isa. 53:12//Mosiah 14:12; “wherefore” = Ex. 20:11//Mosiah 13:19).

Also removed are twelve occurrences of “therefore” and two of “wherefore” in 3 Nephi (“therefore” = Matt. 5:23//3 Ne. 12:23; 6:2//13:2; 6:8//13:8; 6:9//13:9; 6:22//13:22; 6:23//13:23; 6:25//13:25; 6:31//13:31; 6:34//13:34; 7:12//14:12; 7:24//14:24; Mal. 3:6//24:6; “wherefore” = Matt. 6:30//3 Ne. 13:30; 7:20//14:20). “Therefore” is subtracted from 2 Nephi twenty-three times, “wherefore” only three (“therefore” = Isa. 50:7//2 Ne. 7:7 [twice]; 51:11//8:11; 51:21//8:21; 2:6//12:6; 2:9//12:9; 3:17//13:17; 5:13//15:13; 5:14//14:14; 5:24//15:24; 5:25//15:25; 7:14//17:14; 8:7//18:7; 9:11//19:11; 9:14//19:14; 9:17//19:17; 10:16//20:16; 10:24//20:24; 12:3//22:3; 13:7//23:7; 13:13//23:13; 29:14//27:26; 29:22//27:33; “wherefore” = Isa. 50:2//2 Ne. 7:2; 5:4//15:4; 10:12//20:12).

Restored to the Book of Mormon portion are five instances of “wherefore” initially found in 1 Nephi 11:1; 13:34; 19:23; 2 Nephi 6:11; and 9:28. (I have retained “wherefore” from Pc 2 Nephi 6:14 even though it replaced “which” in P because it occurred prior to the 1830 publication.) Also added are three occurrences of “therefore” deleted from Alma 42:6, 9; and Ether 3:1. D&C 7 is removed since its single use of “therefore” was tacked on for publication in 1835. Sections 8, 10, and 19 each have an instance of “therefore” subtracted which are also 1835 additions. Sections 18 and 19 each have one “wherefore” restored, deleted for the 1835 printing of the D&C. (I may have overlooked some emendations due to manually locating these textual variants.) Lacking both words, sections 5, 15, and 16 are removed. D&C 1 and the texts of sections 2 and 13 do not date to this early period and are omitted from all Tables.

23. Traditionalists have accounted for extensive KJV quotations by suggesting that “the Lord himself … chose to quote from the King James Version when it agreed with the Book of Mormon” (Skousen 1990, 55); “that God projected a text similar to the biblical text through Joseph Smith, or the power of God brought that text especially to his memory as those words were appropriate and helpful” (Welch 1990, 136). It seems curious that God would perpetuate KJV mistranslations by delivering to Smith the KJV, errors and all (see Larson, and Wright, in this compilation), or that God would depend on the secondary KJV so literally, replicating the very words (“therefore” or “wherefore”) favored by its human translators.

24. This contradicts Tvedtnes’s own speculation that Words of Mormon 1:12-18 form part of the large plates (1991, 201-203). Words of Mormon 1:18 begins, “Wherefore, with the help of these …” not with what Tvedtnes suspects would be Mormon’s peculiar use of “therefore.” Moreover, the four occurrences of “wherefore” in Words of Mormon—including 1:18—contrast the exclusive 122 usages of “therefore” in Mosiah (see Table 3). It is thus improbable that “wherefore” in Words of Mormon 1:18 was dictated prior to Mosiah.

25. Ostensibly writing after the fact, Mormon also shares this ambiguity, describing Alma’s contemporaries as “[h]olding forth things which must shortly come” (16:19).

26. The apologetic that Alma’s ignorance was because he was unfamiliar with the small plates (Tvedtnes 1991, 198-99) is contradicted by other traditionalist apologia (including Tvedtnes’s: “I suggest that [Mormon’s] reason for searching through the records was to locate the small plates he had found mentioned on the large plates” [1991, 201; emphasis added]; see also Norwood 1991, 163; Welch 1992d, 21-22). Alma’s declaration, “methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (Alma 36:22; emphasis added), parallels almost verbatim the account of Lehi’s vision in the small plates, “[Lehi] saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God” (1 Ne. 1:8; emphasis added). A case can be made from a traditionalist perspective that Alma is quoting the small plates. From a critical viewpoint it can be maintained that 1 Nephi 1:8 quotes Alma 36:22.

27. Smith understood the use of Christ’s name in the baptismal rite to refer to the Matthean triadic formula (i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; Matt. 28:19; 3 Ne. 11:25; cf., v. 27). He propelled this notion back further in time as his dictation progressed (see 2 Ne. 31:21). Later when he was dictating the JSR, he incorporated the triadic formula into the preaching of antediluvian prophet Enoch who stipulates, “And [the Lord] … gave unto me a commandment that I should baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, which is full of grace and truth, and of the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son” (Moses 7:11).

28. The sole exception is in Alma’s injunction to be “baptized in the name of the Lord” (Mosiah 18:10). The phrase is borrowed from the KJV where Peter insists that his audience be “baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). Alma’s use of the phrase is misplaced since his subsequent baptisms are performed in no one’s name.

29. “Unto repentance” forms part of the anti-infant baptism rhetoric in Moroni 8:11, and an early revelation depicted Sidney Rigdon’s Campbellite baptisms as “unto repentance” (D&C 35:5).

30. I am not convinced there is a “striking parallel” between Alma’s baptism and the Qumran community’s cleansing rites (Ostler 1987, 80). Not only is the Book of Mormon baptismal model based on the New Testament but the precise terminology is also. It seems to be based on an uncritical reading of the Christian scriptures, not on an appreciation of the complexity of early baptismal covenants (see Beasley-Murray 1962).

31. It is difficult to speak meaningfully about Benjamin’s convocation in non-revivalistic terms since the apex of the narrative—the Christian conversion of the Nephites—depends so fundamentally on a non-biblical pattern contemporary with Smith: (1) Revival Gathering (Mosiah 2); (2) Guilt-Ridden Falling Exercise (4:1-2a); (3) Petition for Spiritual Emancipation (v. 2b); and (4) Christological Absolution and Emotional Ecstasy (v. 3). Itinerant preacher George Lane penned a vivid account of an ecstatic conversion commensurate with the pattern in Mosiah. Lucy Stoddard, Lane wrote, (1) attended a “prayer meeting” where she had the (2) “great deep of her heart … broken up; she saw clearly that she was a child of wrath, and in danger of hell. With this view of her sad condition, she fell prostrate at the feet of her offended sovereign, [3] and in bitterest anguish cried for mercy. [4] In this situation, however, she was not suffered long to continue before she obtained a most satisfactory evidence of her acceptance with God through the merits of Jesus Christ. Her soul was unspeakably happy, and with great emphasis she exhorted others to come and share with her the inestimable blessing” (1825, 159).

The ubiquity of this frontier revivalistic pattern is illustrated in a poem designed to depict a typical “[1] description of a camp-meeting scene:—/ [2] ‘Crush’d beneath the weight of love/ The trembling sinner prostrate falls;/ [3] Implores the mercy from above,/ And loudly on compassion calls;/ [4] Jesus in pity stoops to hear,/ And wipes away contrition’s tear” (J. Porter 1849, 37).

Some have attempted to assert comparisons between Lehite religious awakenings and ancient Hebrew rituals (see Welch 1985b, 28–31) including ancient prophets collapsing to the ground (Ezek. 3:23) or expressing feelings of inferiority (Isa. 6:5–7). Some maintain that the Mosiah story is a Nephite Sukkot—covenant renewal festival—or coronation rite (Nibley 1988, 295–310; Ostler 1987, 87–93; Ricks 1984a; 1991; Tvedtnes 1990, 197–237; Welch 1985a, 37–53). Certainly nineteenth-century camp meetings were modeled after the Israelite Feast of Tabernacles. This enabled Lorenzo Dow to write that the ancient Hebrews met for devotional services at “the Camp Meeting, or feast of tabernacles” (1854, 248). A Unitarian journalist similarly summarized Methodist apologetics for camp meetings including the defense that “the feast of Tabernacles was celebrated in tents” (Christian Register, 24 Sept. 1831; see also J. Porter 1849, 13–23). In any event, traditionalists have not demonstrated that neophytes of any culture B.C. experienced the form of revival conversion described in the Book of Mormon, a conversion which culminated in forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ’s atoning blood.

32. A rare exception is Nehor’s universalist “church” (Alma 1:6; cf. Vogel, in this compilation).

33. When Welch and Rathbone write that “Ether 5 … only expressly states that ‘unto three,’ i.e. a total of three, ‘shall they be shown'” which they contrast to 2 Nephi’s declaration of three “besides him to whom the book shall be delivered” (1986, 27-28n90; cf., 34), they miss the instructions in Ether 5:1-4 for a fourth “ye” who would exhibit the plates before an additional three.

34. Jesus explicitly tells the Nephites the words are Malachi’s (3 Ne. 24:1). When Moroni visited Joseph Smith, he quoted Malachi 4:1 with some variation, “For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts” (JS-H 1:37; Smith et al. 1978, 1:12; note the phrase “as stubble” in Moroni’s version does not occur in KJV Malachi 4:1 but is used consistently by Nephi [1 Ne. 22:15, 23; 2 Ne. 26:4, 6] and is generally favored by Smith [D&C 29:9; 64:24]. The JSR manuscripts for Malachi pronounce the KJV “correct” coinciding with the replication of KJV Malachi 4:1 in D&C 133:64). Moroni’s rendition differs from 3 Nephi, the JSR, and D&C 133:64, and all differ from “the prophet” cited in 1 Nephi. If Malachi was quoting a preexilic oracle also known to Nephi or Moroni (Tvedtnes 1992, 222-23) one wonders why Jesus would not have delivered to his Nephite audience the pristine original rather than Malachi’s secondary version.

35. Cf. “ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall” (Mal. 4:2b//3 Ne. 25:2b) with “And the time cometh speedily [“the day cometh” (Mal. 4:1//3 Ne. 25:1)] that the righteous must be led up as calves of the stall” (1 Ne. 22:24); cf. Mal. 3:1//3 Ne. 24:1 with 1 Ne. 11:27; cf. “Levi” in Mal. 3:3 with Ether 1:20-21; 10:14-15.

36. Pseudepigrapha scholar James H. Charlesworth politely offered a Mormon audience the possibility that Christian Nephite redactors Christianized the Book of Mormon, following with what surely reflects more closely his own sentiments that “Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century had the opportunity to redact the traditions that he claimed to have received” (1978, 125).

37. Researchers could also profit from an examination of Lamanite society from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary city dwellers then back to hunter-gatherers, other prophecies concerning the Advent shared by Nephi and Samuel the Lamanite but unmentioned by interim prophets, bestowal of the Holy Spirit, the rise of ecclesiastical authority, and other themes.

38. Jesus’s dialogue with the Samaritan women where the text reads, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ” (John 4:25), serves as Hugh Nibley’s (1988b, 168) evidence that some ancients differentiated between “Messiah” and “Christ.” Differing with Nibley, biblical scholars and translators understand the phrase “which is called Christ” as a gloss by the Johannine author to interpret “Messias” in Greek as in John 1:41 (a representative example is R. Brown 1966, 167, 172; cf. 73, 76).

Even though “Messiah” has Semitic roots, a case can be made linguistically that its application in the Book of Mormon is as anachronistic as occurrences of “Christ.”

39. There is the rare occurrence of “Christ” prefaced by a definite article (e.g., “the Christ” in Jacob 7:17, 19). This form follows New Testament wording (“the Christ”; e.g., Matt. 16:16, 26:63).

40. For example, “name of Nephi” is paralleled with “name of Christ” (Mosiah 25:12, 23). “[C]alled in my name” (i.e., “the church of Christ,” 3 Ne. 26:21, 27:5) is juxtaposed to “called in Moses’ name” (27:8).

41. Welch’s position is confusing given his remark that “Jacob introduced the word Christ (or its Hebrew equivalent) into broad Nephite usage” (1992c, 228). By “Hebrew equivalent” does Welch mean “Messiah”? If so, then the “name” clearly did not originate with Jacob since “Messiah” appears numerous times prior to the disclosure in 2 Nephi 10:3 (see 1 Ne. 1:19; 10:4-5, 7, 9-11, 14, 17; 15:13; 2 Ne. 1:10; 2:6, 8, 26; 3:5; 6:13-14). If not, then what other “Hebrew equivalent” for the Greek Christos does Welch have in mind? Welch elsewhere (1992b, 749) clearly articulates his belief that “Messiah” and “Christ” are Hebrew and Greek equivalents.

42. FARMS (1987, 1:60) fails to show the correct reading for O, having “word” instead of “sword,” Cf. “the sword of the justice of the Eternal God,” in Ether 8:23b (see also Alma 26:19, 60:29; Hel. 13:5; 3 Ne. 20:20; 29:4; cf. BoC IV:6). The unique wording shared by Nephi’s angel (1 Ne. 12:18, O) and Moroni (Ether 8:23), separated by a millennium in antiquity, was dictated within a few weeks in Mosian priority.

43. JSR Genesis 7:59 (Moses 7:53) incorporates “Messiah.” JSR Old Testament manuscript 2 (OTms.2) reads “Massiah” without a definite article like Pc, while Old Testament manuscript 3 (OTms.3) has “Masiah,” a spelling close to “Mosiah” in Pc, but it is preceded by “the.”

44. Jacob claims divine insight for a number of ideas that were accessible through his father Lehi and elder sibling Nephi: the Babylonian captivity (2 Ns. 6:8; cf. 1:4); Israel’s Babylonian emancipation (2 Ns. 6:9; cf. 1 Ns. 10:3); Israel’s Christian conversion and final gathering (2 Ns. 6:11; cf. 1 Ns. 22:11-12). These passages differ from 2 Nephi 10:3 because they lack a qualifying phrase, underscoring the uniqueness of Jacob’s declaration (i.e., “for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name”).

It is possible that a similar development from “Messiah” to “Christ” existed in the Book of Lehi, and that the phrase “Jesus Christ” was first introduced by King Benjamin (Mosiah 3:8; cf., Millet 1988, 55). But if Benjamin’s revelation was to disclose the Messiah’s “name” for the first time, not only is it contradicted by the replacement text but also by Mormon’s abridgment. Abinadi, whose sermons come after Benjamin’s in Smith’s dictation sequence but were said to have been delivered approximately twenty-four years prior to the king’s farewell, speaks of “the resurrection of Christ—for so shall be his name” (Mosiah 15:21; Tanner and Tanner [1990, 63-71] delineate some of the complexities of this discussion).

45. Robert L. Millet (1988, 54, 70; in contrast to his earlier judgment, see 1987, 116, 129n10), finding Jacob’s remarks cryptic and the reason for Smith’s alteration of 1 Nephi 12:18 elusive, retreats to the notion that “Messiah,” “Christ,” or “Jesus Christ” are reasonable English equivalents for the Christian savior. If this is true, why would Smith bother to emend “Jesus Christ” to “Mosiah” (“the Messiah,” 1837 ed.)? The change itself implies a distinction as do similar changes in the JSR.

Welch uncritically dismisses “Jesus Christ” in 1 Nephi 12:18 (O, P, 1830 ed.) on the basis that Smith was licensed to correct it (1992c, 241n6). From a traditionalist perspective, since Smith’s inspiration first led him to dictate “Jesus Christ”—an angelic expression subsequently recalled by Nephi (2 Ne. 25:19)—and given God’s personal endorsement of Smith’s initial dictation based on its correctness (Smith et al. 1978, 1:55), the emendation should be more in question than the reliability of “Jesus Christ.” Moreover, why would God lead Smith to correct this “mistranslation” but fail to have him correct a mistranscription in the same sentence where the P scribe miscopied “the word of … the Eternal God” instead of Smith’s dictated “the sword of … the Eternal God”?

46. Royal Skousen (1992a) has tentatively identified the interlinear “<Mosiah who>” in Pc as Smith’s handwriting. This corrects RLDS historian Richard P. Howard’s (1969, 45) supposition that “Mosiah” was mistakenly transcribed by a scribe who misheard Smith verbalize “Messiah.” Nevertheless Smith’s orthographic error of “Mosiah” may still indicate how Smith pronounced “Messiah.”

47. Abinadi queries, “[H]ave [all the prophets] not spoken more or less concerning these things?” (Mosiah 13:33; emphasis added).

48. While the manuscripts for JSR Genesis 6:53 (Moses 6:52) and JSR Genesis 8:11 (Moses 8:24) retained “Jesus Christ,” OTms.3rev. removed the phrase “even Jesus Christ” from JSR Genesis 6:60 (Moses 6:57) and JSR Genesis 7:57 (Moses 7:50), though it is retained in published versions of these passages. After these opening chapters “Christ” virtually disappears from the JSR Old Testament (for an exception, see JSR Isa. 29:16 which derives from 2 Ne. 27:11).

49. Other areas of research needing further exploration include the ideational chasm or so-called “black hole” left by the loss of the Book of Lehi; effects of Mosian priority on Book of Mormon internal organization; Words of Mormon functioning as both preface and epilogue; whether Moroni was dictated in May or June 1829; and theological ramifications of the dictation history.

50. For a discussion of broader issues relating to historical and authorial concerns, see my essay “An Introduction to Problems of Book of Mormon Historicity” (Metcalfe 1992).