I refer to these pages as “Dinner or Dessert” because it helps me understand how the Large and Small Plate of Nephi work.
Nephi had originally referred to the fact that there were two sets of records back in 1 Nephi 9. He now repeats that he does not know why he has been commanded to make similar records, but emphasizes once again that it is for a “wise purpose” (1 Nephi 9:5-6; 19:3). Mormon will submit his will and record to God under the same reasoning (Word of Mormon 1:7). From latter-day events we are able to understand God’s “wise purpose”. With the loss of the 116 manuscript pages that Martin Harris had helped Joseph Smith to translate, the Lord would provide an even greater witness of the Savior (D&C 3:19-20; 10:38-46).
The records that Nephi recorded are referred to as the Large Plates and the Small Plates. At one point I had a hard time remembering which contained more history and which contained more ministry. I would usually have to go back to 1 Nephi 19 to figure it out. On one of these occasions when I was trying again to remember, it occurred to me to think of the Plates of Nephi like literal plates. So as I read it that time I actually took two disposable paper plates, one large and one small, and wrote down on each one what was contained–Large had history, Small had ministry. Through the Martin Harris incident we lost part of Nephi’s Large Plate account. In the Doctrine and Covenants we find the Lord’s wisdom in commanding Nephi to create the Small Plates. The history would be lost, but his ministry would be preserved. As I looked at the plates it reminded me of a BBQ. If I could only choose to have one set of plates at a BBQ, which would it be. At first you think, “The Large of course”. But you have to think of the purpose for each type of plate. Just as Nephi’s Plates served different purposes, so do the plates at a BBQ. What is the Large plate for? The main course–you can put lots of different things on there. Now what are the Small plates for? That’s right–Dessert!!! It is smaller, and you have to be a bit more selective on what you put on it, but to me it is THE BEST part of any meal. Now, if I was given the option of choosing just one plate at a BBQ, I would pick the Small plate. I love desserts! Yes I like the meats and all that other good stuff. BUT I LOVE DESSERTS! When I am eating somewhere that dessert is served at the same time as the main course, I ALWAYS eat my dessert first (ask my wife, she is witness). Now dietary wise, it is a very poor choice that I am making, but it just tastes soooooo good. I LOVE IT!
Now the point to that whole rant is this: Nephi’s Large Plates had a lot of room for a lot of stuff, but for the most part were historical in nature. Good stuff, and lots of it, but not quite as “tasty” as what was on his Small Plates. The Small Plates, like the dessert plate at a BBQ, did not have as much room and therefore Nephi had to be more selective and stick to the best of the best in recording his ministry to the people. The Small Plates are the Dessert of the Gospel–the best tasting stuff he had to offer.
So the next time you are at a BBQ you can remember Nephi’s ministry is on the Small Plates by having DESSERT FIRST!
The Work of God
Martin Harris tells a young man the story of the lost manuscript, emphasizing that the works, designs and purposes of God cannot be frustrated (D&C 3,10).
For some very insightful and informative information on the topic of the translation and the lost manuscript, see the HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION to D&C 10 in the Joseph Smith Paper project.
ON THIS DAY IN 1829: Harmony, Pennsylvania. Joseph Smith commenced the second week of dictating the translation of the Book of Mormon to Oliver Cowdery.
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