Prophet Mormon was much more than ‘abridger’ scholar says.


By R. Scott Lloyd

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

SANDY, Utah -- Regarding the prophet Mormon as merely an "abridger" of the Nephite record hardly does justice to what he did, a Book of Mormon scholar affirmed at the closing session of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) conference Friday at the South Towne Expo Center.

"It would be much more akin to what Mormon did to say that (someone) went back through every one of the royal records of the kings of England and tried to discover how it is that the Magna Carta alters human nature," said Brant Gardner, author of an acclaimed six-volume commentary on the Book of Mormon.

Mormon was both "active" and "intentional" in his role, Gardner said, selecting from extensive source material the very content that fit his "meta-message" -- that Jesus, as the Messiah who in a resurrected state visited the Nephites, "is the Eternal God, the Messiah who will come."


Gardner presented several clues in Mormon's text "that he had at least created a full outline of his work before he began the task of committing it to the plates."

"Perhaps the most obvious evidence," Gardner said, "is the chapter head notes, which were physically written on the plates prior to the chapters they synopsize." He added that the extant portion of the original Book of Mormon manuscript dictated by Joseph Smith shows that the head notes were part of the original record and were not added later by Joseph Smith or his scribe Oliver Cowdery in preparing the book for publication.

The head notes reflect that Mormon wrote them prior to writing the respective chapters and therefore had to know the content of the chapters in order to write the head notes, Gardner explained. They indicate Mormon "had some clear plan of what he was going to include in each book he edited. When Mormon switches to his own record, it's no longer part of the planned text, and therefore does not have a synopsis in a head note."

Although there is evidence for an outline, Gardner said, "there is also evidence that Mormon did not simply copy a previously written text." He added, "We often see Mormon divert from his outline on a tangent occasioned by thinking about the material that he was writing." When Mormon did this, he often employed a device, sometimes used in the Old Testament, called "repetitive resumption," wherein a key word or phrase of the foregoing narrative is repeated after Mormon has inserted his commentary and is returning to the narrative. An example of this, he said, is in Alma 17:17.

Other clues Gardner said indicate Mormon was working from an outline include apparent chapter divisions in the original record. He cited Royal Skousen, a linguistics professor at Brigham Young University who studied the original Book of Mormon manuscript. Skousen determined that "evidence suggests that as Joseph Smith was translating, he apparently saw some mark, perhaps some extra spacing, whenever a section ended but was unable to see the text that followed. At such junctures, Joseph decided to refer to those endings as chapter breaks and told the scribe to write the word 'chapter' at these places" without specifying a chapter number, as Joseph saw neither a number nor the word "chapter."

"Therefore," Gardner reasoned, "in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, the chapters represented Mormon's conceptual breaks into chapters." Those chapter breaks are not in later editions of the Book of Mormon, because in 1878, church apostle Orson Pratt revised the chapter divisions, Gardner noted.


Webmaster Note: Therefore the modern BOMs have been mis-translated!