Account of the taking of the Plates of Brass
composed ca. 597 bc4The account regarding the “acquisition” of the Plates of Brass probably was intended for inclusion with the actual Plates of Brass; and so giving the tale of how their authors’ came to possess them. Given that Nephi admits a fondness for copying from these Brass Plates, it is reasonable to assume he later copied from these writings while compiling his later Plates of Nephi. He engraved the following histories after they arrived in the Promised Land. Of course, I am speaking of the original “matrix” texts, not of our English translations.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord. And behold He did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father. Wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words. But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words! And being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them. And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying:
Blessed art thou Nephi! Because of thy faith,
For thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
And inasmuch as ye shall keep
My commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led
To a land which I have prepared
For you. Yea, a land which is choice above
All other lands. And inasmuch as thy brethren
Shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the
Presence of the Lord. And inasmuch as thou shalt
Keep my commandments, thou shalt be made
A ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me,
I will curse them even with a sore curse,
And they shall have no power over thy seed,
Except they shall rebel against me also. And if it so be
That they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed,
To stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, saying:
Behold I have dreamed a dream!
In the which the Lord hath commanded me that thou and thy
Brethren shall return to Jerusalem. For behold, Laban hath
The record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they
Are engraven upon plates of brass.
Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me: that thou and thy Brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and
Seek the records, and bring them down hither
Into the wilderness. And now, behold thy brothers murmur!
Saying it is a hard thing which I have required
Of them. But behold I have not required it
Of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord. Therefore
Go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of
The Lord, because thou hast not murmured.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father:
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded!
For I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto
The children of men, save he shall prepare a way
For them that they may accomplish
The thing which he commandeth them.
And it came to pass that when my father had heard these words he was exceedingly glad, for he knew that I had been blessed of the Lord. And I, Nephi, and my brethren took our journey in the wilderness, without tents, to go up to the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that when we had come up to the land of Jerusalem, I and my brethren did consult one with another. And we cast lots — who of us should go in unto the house of Laban. And it came to pass that the lot fell upon Laman, and Laman went in unto the house of Laban, and he talked with him as he sat in his house.
And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the Plates of Brass, which contained the genealogy of my father. And behold, it came to pass that Laban was angry, and thrust him out from his presence; and he would not that he should have the records. Wherefore, he said unto him: Behold thou art a robber, and I will slay thee!
But Laman fled out of his presence, and told the things which Laban had done, unto us. And we began to be exceedingly sorrowful, and my brethren were about to return unto my father in the wilderness. But behold I said unto them:
That as the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not
Go down unto our father in the wilderness until
We have accomplished the thing
Which the Lord hath commanded us! Wherefore, let us
Be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord.
Therefore let us go down to the land
Of our father’s inheritance, for behold he left gold
And silver, and all manner of riches. And all this he hath
Done because of the commandments of the Lord, for he
Knowing that Jerusalem must be destroyed because of
The wickedness of the people. For behold, they have rejected
The words of the prophets! Wherefore, if my father should
Dwell in the land after he hath been commanded
To flee out of the land, behold, he would also
Perish. Wherefore, it must needs be that he flee out of the land.
And behold, it is wisdom in God that we should
Obtain these records! That we may preserve unto
Our children the language of our fathers. And also
That we may preserve unto them, the words which have been
Spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets,
Which have been delivered unto them by
The spirit and power of God, since the world began,
Even down unto this present time.
And it came to pass that after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren, that they might be faithful in keeping the commandments of God. And it came to pass that we went down to the land of our inheritance, and we did gather together our gold, and our silver, and our precious things. And after we had gathered these things together, we went up again unto the house of Laban.
And it came to pass that we went in unto Laban, and desired him that he would give unto us the records which were engraven upon the Plates of Brass, for which we would give unto him our gold, and our silver, and all our precious things. And it came to pass that when Laban saw our property, and that it was exceedingly great, he did lust after it, insomuch that he thrust us out, and sent his servants to slay us, that he might obtain our property!
And it came to pass that we did flee before the servants of Laban, and we were obliged to leave behind our property, and it fell into the hands of Laban. And it came to pass that we fled into the wilderness, and the servants of Laban did not overtake us, and we hid ourselves in the cavity of a rock.
And it came to pass that Laman was angry with me, and also with my father. And also was Lemuel, for he hearkened unto the words of Laman. Wherefore Laman and Lemuel did speak many hard words unto us, their younger brothers, and they did smite us even with a rod. And it came to pass as they smote us with a rod, behold! An angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them, saying:
Why do ye smite your younger brother with a rod?
Know ye not that the Lord hath chosen him to be
A ruler over you? And this because of your iniquities!
Behold ye shall go up to Jerusalem again!
And the Lord will deliver Laban into your hands.
And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed. And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur, saying:
How is it possible that the Lord will deliver
Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man, and
He can command fifty, yea, even he can slay fifty,
Then why not us?
And it came to pass that I spake unto my brethren, saying:
Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be
Faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord!
For behold he is mightier than all the earth!
Then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty?
Yea, or even than his tens of thousands?
Therefore let us go up. Let us be strong like unto Moses.
For he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea
And they divided hither and thither, and our fathers
Came through, out of captivity, on dry ground.
And the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned
In the waters of the Red Sea.
Now behold ye know that this is true!
And ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you!
Wherefore can ye doubt? Let us go up!
The Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers.
And to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians.
Now when I had spoken these words, they were yet wroth, and did still continue to murmur! Nevertheless they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem. And it was by night. And I caused that they should hide themselves without the walls. And after they had hid themselves, I, Nephi, crept into the city and went forth towards the house of Laban.
And I was led by the spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth, and as I came near unto the house of Laban I beheld a man, and he had fallen to the earth before me, for he was drunken with wine. And when I came to him I found that it was Laban.
And I beheld his sword, and I drew it forth from the sheath thereof, and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. And I saw that the blade thereof was of the most precious steel. And it came to pass that I was constrained by the spirit that I should kill Laban. But I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
And the spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands! Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life. Yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord.
And he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the spirit said unto me again:
Slay him! For the Lord hath delivered him
Into thy hands! Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring
Forth his righteous purposes. It is better
That one man should perish, than that a nation should dwindle
And perish in unbelief.
And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that:
Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments,
They shall prosper in the land of promise.
Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law. And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the Plates of Brass. And again, I knew that the Lord had delivered Laban into my hands for this cause: that I might obtain the records according to his commandments.
Therefore I did obey the voice of the spirit.6Often thought of being led directionally by “the [Holy] Spirit” to drunken Laban, Nephi first foreshadows the influence of “the spirit” later encountered after unsheathing the sword. The talking spirit comes of the sword itself, carried by Laban and which in voice commands Nephi to slay the man. That sword is also featured in Words of the Faithful. And took Laban by the hair of the head, and I smote off his head with his own sword! And after I had smitten off his head with his own sword, I took the garments of Laban and put them upon mine own body. Yea, even every whit, and I did gird on his armor about my loins. And after I had done this, I went forth unto the treasury of Laban. And as I went forth towards the treasury of Laban, behold, I saw the servant of Laban who had the keys of the treasury. And I commanded him in the voice of Laban, that he should go with me into the treasury. And he supposed me to be his master Laban, for he beheld the garments and also the sword girded about my loins. And he spake unto me concerning the elders of the Jews, he knowing that his master, Laban, had been out by night among them.
And I spake unto him as if it had been Laban. And I also spake unto him that I should carry the engravings, which were upon the Plates of Brass, to my elder brethren, who were without the walls. And I also bade him that he should follow me.
And he, supposing that I spake of the brethren of the church, and that I was truly that Laban whom I had slain, wherefore he did follow me. And he spake unto me many times concerning the elders of the Jews, as I went forth unto my brethren, who were without the walls.
And it came to pass that when Laman saw me he was exceedingly frightened, and also Lemuel and Sam. And they fled from before my presence!
For they supposed it was Laban and that he had slain me and had sought to take away their lives also. And it came to pass that I called after them, and they did hear me. Wherefore they did cease to flee from my presence.
And it came to pass that when the servant of Laban beheld my brethren he began to tremble, and was about to flee from before me and return to the city of Jerusalem. And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much strength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.
And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, we would spare his life. And I spake unto him, even with an oath, that he need not fear. That he should be a free man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us. And I also spake unto him, saying:
Surely the Lord hath commanded us to do
This thing. And shall we not be diligent in
Keeping the commandments of the Lord? Therefore,
If thou wilt go down into the wilderness
To my father, thou shalt have place with us.
And it came to pass that Zoram did take courage at the words which I spake. Now Zoram was the name of the servant. And he promised that he would go down into the wilderness unto our father. Yea, and he also made an oath unto us that he would tarry with us from that time forth. Now we were desirous that he should tarry with us for this cause, that the Jews might not know concerning our flight into the wilderness, lest they should pursue us and destroy us. And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him. And it came to pass that we took the Plates of Brass and the servant of Laban, and departed into the wilderness, and journeyed unto the tent of our father.
And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto my father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad! For she truly had mourned because of us. For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness, and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man, saying:
Behold thou hast led us forth from the land
Of our inheritance and my sons are no more, and we perish
In the wilderness!
And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father. And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying:
I know that I am a visionary man! For if I had not
Seen the things of God in a vision I should not
Have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at
Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
But behold! I have obtained a land of promise,
In the which things I do rejoice! Yea, and I know
That the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands
Of Laban, and bring them down again, unto us
In the wilderness.
And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews. And when we had returned to the tent of my father, behold their joy was full, and my mother was comforted. And she spake, saying:
Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded
My husband to flee into the wilderness.
Yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected
My sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban,
And given them power whereby they could accomplish
The thing which the Lord hath commanded them.
And after this manner of language did she speak. And it came to pass that they did rejoice exceedingly, and did offer sacrifice and burnt offerings unto the Lord; and they gave thanks unto the god of Israel. And after they had given thanks unto the god of Israel, my father, Lehi, took the records which were engraven upon the Plates of Brass, and he did search them from the beginning. And he beheld that they did contain the five books of Moses which gave an account of the creation of the world; and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents. And also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. And also the prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah. And also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.
And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the Plates of Brass a genealogy of his fathers.7Rather than a rival Pentateuch, here we find five books attributed to Moses, describing the Creation of the World and of Adam and Eve. In the current Hebrew bible, two chapters recount that cosmogony. The source for Moses’ myth isn’t given, unless we attribute it to the fathers of Joseph. Perhaps Moses copied their writings from Jethro-Reuel in Midian. Also, prophecies “from the beginning” of the Jews (or of Creation itself) were preserved, concluding in the more recent writings of Jeremiah.
The Plates of Brass would not have been all engraven by eye witnesses, in any case, but were compiled from many sources. Other records added a history of the Jews to Nephi’s day. Finally, Nephi reports a genealogy through Manasseh the son of Joseph, whose fathers had kept the records while captive in Egypt, until being led away by the Lord. This evident lineage would suggest either the purported Jewish history had been copied from other records by the line of Manasseh; or that the genealogy of Manasseh was for some reason added by Jewish historians (traditionally reckoned in the line of Judah). The former seems more reasonable; moreover, that genealogy in particular is among the Bible’s more confused, as given in Exodus and elsewhere. By contrast, Words of the Faithful places Joseph (Tal Elmar) in Numenor perhaps twelve thousand years ago, while the folk of Judah may be placed in Kiliath, until that valley was ruined. Joseph’s father Jacob in that tale is called Hazad. Wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph, yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine. And they were also led out of captivity and out of the land of Egypt, by that same God who had preserved them.
And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records. And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed, that these Plates of Brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed! Wherefore, he said:
That these Plates of Brass should never perish;
Neither should they be dimmed any more by time!
And he prophesied many things concerning his seed. And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us. And we had obtained the records which the Lord had commanded us, and searched them and found that they were desirable. Yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children. Wherefore, it was wisdom in the Lord that we should carry them with us, as we journeyed in the wilderness towards the land of promise.