About 600 years before the coming of Christ, God commanded Nephi to make a second version of his record. Why did He command this? “For a wise purpose in him,” Nephi wrote, “which purpose I know not” (1 Nephi 9:5). (See also 1 Nephi 19:1-6.)
Nearly 1,000 years later, as Mormon wrote a history of his people, he happened upon these plates, which Nephi’s brother Jacob had called “the small plates” (Jacob 1:1). Mormon was impressed by the prophesies of Christ contained on this record, written many years before the Savior’s birth. Even though he had already written an abridgment of his people’s history covering this same time period—from the time Nephi’s family left Jerusalem through the reign of King Benjamin—he decided to include Nephi’s second record of this same time period in his book. Why? “I do this for a wise purpose,” he wrote; “for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 1:7).
After the first 116 pages which Joseph Smith translated from the gold plates were stolen, Joseph was commanded to resume translating where he had left off. “You shall not translate again those words which have gone forth out of your hands,” the Lord commanded (Doctrine and Covenants 10:30). The Lord revealed to him that the people who had stolen those pages had modified the manuscript, and were planning to use them to cast doubt on the veracity of the Book of Mormon. By simply ignoring those pages and beginning where he had left off, Joseph would thwart their plan.
It must have seemed strange to begin a book in the middle, but that is what Joseph did, trusting that all would work out.
The Lord revealed that Nephi’s second record, the “small plates,” would function as a replacement for the lost manuscript pages: “You shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin… And behold, you shall publish it as the record of Nephi; and thus I will confound those who have altered my words” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:41-42).
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this remarkable story:
- Faith in God includes following His commandments even when we don’t fully understand why they are given: In What Order Did Joseph Smith Translate the Book of Mormon?
- The Lord can compensate for our mistakes, even mistakes that we will make in the future: What Is the Book of Lehi?
- We should balance diligence and conscientiousness with trust in the Lord: How Can I Manage Stress More Effectively?
In May of 1829, Joseph Smith received a revelation on behalf of his brother Hyrum, who was eager to preach the gospel. “Wait a little longer,” the Lord said. “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:16, 21). It can be hard to wait when we’re eager to serve, but sometimes, more preparation is required. It’s important to remember that faith in God includes faith in His timing. (See Neal A. Maxwell, “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” General Conference, April 1991.)
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from this revelation:
- Our enthusiasm to serve must be tempered by patience: Until the Time Should Come.
- Scripture study not only increases our knowledge of the gospel but also opens our heart and our mind to the Spirit of the Lord: They Had Searched the Scriptures Diligently – Alma 17:1-3.