I refer to these pages as “Dinner or Dessert” because it helps me understand how to distinguish the difference and purposes of the Large and Small Plates of Nephi.
Nephi had originally referred to the fact that there were two sets of records 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).
The sources behind the Book of Mormon are remarkably complex, and sometimes hard to keep straight. Here is a helpful chart to use as you read and study. (Content by John Welch. Graphics by Fernando Vazquez.)
Mormon will also submit his will and scripture record to God under the same reasoning (Word of Mormon 1:7).
From latter-day events and revelation we are able to understand God’s “wise purpose” in this. 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).
Many ancient documents such as King Benjamin’s speech or the plates of brass were quoted or abridged by the ancient authors who compiled the books found on the small and large plates of Nephi. The abridgments, quotations, and original writings of those Book of Mormon historians are displayed on the left-hand and middle columns of this chart and are then shown in relation to the new set of plates produced by Mormon and Moroni that was delivered to Joseph Smith by the angel Moroni. Joseph dictated the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon from the plates of Mormon.
(Source: Charting the Book of Mormon)
The records that Nephi created 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 different plates of Nephi as literal plates. So I actually took two disposable paper plates, one large and one small, and wrote down on each one what it contained–Large plates had history, Small plates had ministry.
Through the loss of the 116 manuscript pages 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 over 2,000 years before. The history would be lost, but the ministry would be preserved. (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.)
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 (see D&C 3, 10).
As I looked at the paper plates that I had labeled, 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 may think, “The Large of course”. But think of the purpose for each type of plate at a BBQ. Just as Nephi’s Plates served different purposes, the different size plates at a BBQ usually serve different purposes for food. What is the Large plate for? The main course–you can put lots of different things on there. 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. So, given the fact that I have a major sweet-tooth, if I was given the option of choosing just one plate at a BBQ, I would usually 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, and besides that, it was the recommendation of my dentist!). Now dietary wise, it is a very poor choice that I am making, but it just tastes soooooo good. I LOVE IT!
LARGE PLATES = HISTORY (Abridged)
SMALL PLATES = MINISTRY (Included)
Now the point to that whole illustration is this: Nephi’s Large Plates had a lot of room for a lot of good stuff, and 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 the ministry to the people. The Small Plates are the dessert of the gospel–the sweetest stuff he had to offer.
So the next time you are at a BBQ you can remember that Nephi’s sweet ministry is on the Small Plates by having DESSERT FIRST!
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