Friday, October 15, 2010

The Lost Books of the Book of Mormon

October 17, 2010
by Tim Barker

A reading of the Old and New Testaments will provide reference to numerous books that are not included within our current canon of Biblical scripture.  For example, within the Old Testament, the Book of Jasher is specifically mentioned (Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18), as are the Book of Samuel the Seer, the Book of Nathan the Prophet, and the Book of Gad the Seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), to name a few.  In the New Testament, several epistles from Paul are referred to, including an additional letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5:9), and possibly the Ephesians (Ephesians 3:3), and an epistle to Laodicea (Colossians 4:16).1  These and other books are cumulatively referred to as the "lost books of the Bible."  With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi texts, and other apocryphal literature, rising interest in ancient texts has led to numerous publications and republications of apocryphal literature.2  This should come as no surprise to Latter-day Saints, since forthcoming scripture is prophesied of within the scriptures (see 1 Nephi 13:38-39, 2 Nephi 29:13, D&C 93:18, Articles of Faith 1:9).  It is astonishing that so much literature has surfaced since the Gospel has been restored.  Generally, discussion of the lost books has centered on potential scripture identified within the Bible, or other old world archeaological findings; however, there are references within the Book of Mormon to additional books of scripture as well.
There are essentially two segments of "lost" books alluded to in the Book of Mormon: those writings and teachings from prophets of the old world, and those from the new world.  Concerning the former, our knowledge is based on information from the Brass Plates captured in quotations or references within the Book of Mormon.  Concerning the latter, Mormon acknowledged that he abridged the large plates of Nephi (3 Nephi 5:8-17; Words of Mormon 1), indicating that information was left out or otherwise summarized.  Mormon also mentions numerous plates that were buried in a hill that he did not touch (Mormon 1:3-4).  Moroni adds that he abridged the record of Ether (Ether 1:1-5; Moroni 1:1), indicating that the original source contained more than our Book of Ether contains.  Writings identified from the brass plates will be discussed below, while writings alluded to or referenced within the Book of Mormon will be treated in a subsequent post.

The Brass Plates
We generally equate the Brass Plates as being a record of the Old Testament, at least through the first portion of the Book of Jeremiah.  This is based on the following brief synopsis provided by Nephi:

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 [Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy], 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.  (1 Nephi 5:10-13)
We are also informed, however, that this isn't a standard "Old Testament" since Nephi identifies additional information contained within the record.

And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found on the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; 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 was also a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records. (1 Nephi 5:14-16)
While Isaiah is the most quoted prophet from the Brass Plates, it is clear that other scriptures outside of Isaiah and the Torah (1 Nephi 19:23) were available to the Nephites.  For example, Mormon's summary of the appearance of Korihor includes a quotation of Joshua's famous lines, "Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve" (Alma 30:8; Joshua 24:15).  It is not within the scope of this study to identify all Biblical scriptures from the Brass Plates quoted, cited, or summarized in the Book of Mormon; rather, my purpose is to identify uniquely Biblical-related scriptures that are not within the Bible.  Hence, this would be more appropriately titled the Lost Books from the Brass Plates, for this section.  For example, there are four prophets identified in the Book of Mormon from the Old World that are not included in the Old Testament.  They are Zenock, Neum, Zenos, and Ezias.  The Book of Mormon entries for these prophets are enumerated below.

1 Nephi 19:10
And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock...
1 Nephi 19:10 (continued)
and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum...
1 Nephi 19:10-17 (vs. 10 continued)
and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death unto those who should inhabit the isles of the sea, more especially given unto those who are of the house of Israel.
For thus spake the prophet: The Lord God surely shall visit all the house of Israel at that day, some with his voice, because of their righteousness, unto their great joy and salvation, and others with the thunderings and the lightnings of his power, by tempest, by fire, and by smoke, and vapor of darkness, and by the opening of the earth, and by mountains which shall be carried up.
And all these things must surely come, saith the prophet Zenos. And the rocks of the earth must rend; and because of the groanings of the earth, many of the kings of the isles of the sea shall be wrought upon by the Spirit of God, to exclaim: The God of nature suffers.
And as for those who are at Jerusalem, saith the prophet, they shall be scourged by all people, because they crucify the God of Israel, and turn their hearts aside, rejecting signs and wonders, and the power and glory of the God of Israel.
And because they turn their hearts aside, saith the prophet, and have despised the Holy One of Israel, they shall wander in the flesh, and perish, and become a hiss and a byword, and be hated among all nations.
Nevertheless, when that day cometh, saith the prophet, that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel, then will he remember the covenants which he made to their fathers.
Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will I gather in, saith the Lord, according to the words of the prophet Zenos, from the four quarters of the earth.
Yea, and all the earth shall see the salvation of the Lord, saith the prophet; every nation, kindred, tongue and people shall be blessed.
Also extracted from Zenos' teachings is the well known longest chapter in the Book of Mormon: Jacob 5.  This chapter is known as the Allegory of the Olive Tree, which is regarding the scattering and gathering of Israel.  In this case I am not including the text because of its length; rather, I will refer the reader to the Book of Mormon (see link above).  However, two verses capture Jacob's purpose for including the text, included below:

Jacob 5:1
Behold, my brethren, do ye not remember to have read the words of the prophet Zenos, which he spake unto the house of Israel, saying:
Jacob 6:1
And now, behold, my brethren, as I said unto you that I would prophesy, behold, this is my prophecy—that the things which this prophet Zenos spake, concerning the house of Israel, in the which he likened them unto a tame olive-tree, must surely come to pass.
Alma the Younger records the teachings of Zenos as well in his discourse to the impoverished Nephites on the hill Onidah regarding prayer and worship.

Alma 33:3-15
Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?
For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me.
Yea, O God, and thou wast merciful unto me when I did cry unto thee in my field; when I did cry unto thee in my prayer, and thou didst hear me.
And again, O God, when I did turn to my house thou didst hear me in my prayer.
And when I did turn unto my closet, O Lord, and prayed unto thee, thou didst hear me.
Yea, thou art merciful unto thy children when they cry unto thee, to be heard of thee and not of men, and thou wilt hear them.
Yea, O God, thou hast been merciful unto me, and heard my cries in the midst of thy congregations.
Yea, and thou hast also heard me when I have been cast out and have been despised by mine enemies; yea, thou didst hear my cries, and wast angry with mine enemies, and thou didst visit them in thine anger with speedy destruction.
And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou hast turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son.
And now Alma said unto them: Do ye believe those scriptures which have been written by them of old?
Behold, if ye do, ye must believe what Zenos said; for, behold he said: Thou hast turned away thy judgments because of thy Son.
Now behold, my brethren, I would ask if ye have read the scriptures? If ye have, how can ye disbelieve on the Son of God?
For it is not written that Zenos alone spake of these things...
Alma 33:15-17 (vs. 15 continued)
but Zenock also spake of these things—
For behold, he said: Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son.
And now, my brethren, ye see that a second prophet of old has testified of the Son of God, and because the people would not understand his words they stoned him to death.

Zenos and Zenock
Alma 34:7

My brother has called upon the words of Zenos, that redemption cometh through the Son of God, and also upon the words of Zenock; and also he has appealed unto Moses, to prove that these things are true.
Helaman 8:19
And now I would that ye should know, that even since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified these things [the coming of the Son of Man]; yea, behold, the prophet Zenos did testify boldly; for the which he was slain.
Zenock and Ezias
Helaman 8:20
And behold, also Zenock, and also Ezias, and also Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (Jeremiah being that same prophet who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem) and now we know that Jerusalem was destroyed according to the words of Jeremiah. O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy?
Helaman 15:11

Yea, even if they should dwindle in unbelief the Lord shall prolong their days, until the time shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth—
Zenos and Zenock
3 Nephi 10:15-16
Behold, I say unto you, Yea, many have testified of these things at the coming of Christ, and were slain because they testified of these things.
Yea, the prophet Zenos did testify of these things, and also Zenock spake concerning these things, because they testified particularly concerning us, who are the remnant of their seed.

Based on the scriptures above, it appears that Zenos probably wrote extensively as an Old Testament prophet.  It also indicates that he was from the tribe of Joseph since he was an ancestor to the Lehites.  The question naturally arises as to why he, as well as Zenock, Neum, and Ezias are not mentioned within our Old Testament.  John Sorenson points out that the book's internal evidence indicates that the brass plates "contained a record similar to the Old Testament as we are familiar with it, but with an expanded text (1 Nephi 3:3), including a genealogy going back through the tribe of Joseph rather than Judah.  This points to an origin in the Northern Kingdom, rather than in the Judaic South."3  Sorenson goes on to explain that scholarly studies indicate that there were several sources used to assemble the Old Testament, one of which is based on writings contained in the northern kingdom that probably ended around 721, B.C., with the Assyrian destruction of the northern kingdom.  He then provides evidence of similarities between this northern source and the brass plates. 

As a descendant of Joseph, through Manasseh (Alma 10:3), Lehi's writings cannot be overlooked either; however, his writings would be the first "lost book" of the Book of Mormon, rather than a lost book from the brass plates.  However, in addition to the four prophets identified above, we also have additional scripture from the Brass Plates that expands on our current Old Testament knowledge, including visions and prophecies by two very well known prophets, one of which was quoted extensively by Lehi.

The Words of Jacob (Israel)
Alma 46:24-25
Yea, let us preserve our liberty as a remnant of Joseph; yea let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed.  And he said--Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God, and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.
Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son, because of that part of his seed which shall be taken unto God.
3 Nephi 10:17
Behold, our father Jacob also testified concerning a remnant of the seed of Joseph. And behold, are not we a remnant of the seed of Joseph? And these things which testify of us, are they not written upon the plates of brass which our father Lehi brought out of Jerusalem?
The Vision of Joseph4
2 Nephi 3:5-21
Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day.  And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light--yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.
For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins.  And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.
And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him.  And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work.
And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.
And Moses will I raise up, to deliver thy people out of the land of Egypt.
But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins--and not to bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord.
And thus prophesied Joseph, saying: Behold, that seer will the Lord bless; and they that seek to destroy him shall be confounded; for this promise, which I have obtained of the Lord, of the fruit of my loins, shall be fulfilled.  Behold, I am sure of the fulfilling of this promise;
And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father.  And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.
Yea, thus prophesied Joseph: I am sure of this thing, even as I am sure of the promise of Moses; for the Lord hath said unto me, I will preserve thy seed forever.
And the Lord hath said: I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing.  Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking.  But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.
And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman.  And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.
And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins.  And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.
And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repetance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them.  And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words. 
Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are of the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.
Vision of Joseph (Continued)
2 Nephi 4:2

For behold, he [Joseph] truly prophesied concerning all his seed.  And the prophecies which he wrote, there are not many greater.  And he prophesied concerning us, and our future generations; and they are written upon the plates of brass.
Nephi had indicated that the small plates were for the "things" of his "soul," and for "many of the scriptures which were engraven upon the plates of brass" (2 Nephi 4:15).  The examples above reflect part of the fulfillment of Nephi's desires, but most significantly, as previously mentioned, is the Isaiah writings.  As it is well known that a large portion of Isaiah was copied onto Nephi's plates, I will forego treating this subject since there has been elaborate studies published regarding the Isaiah text in the Book of Mormon vs. in the Isaiah text in the Bible.5  One other example of additional information within the Brass Plates summarized in the Book of Mormon is the life of Melchizedek.  It seems clear that Alma the Younger is using the Brass Plates since he concludes his example of the righteousness of Melchizedek by exhorting Zeezrom and the multitude to study the scriptures.

Alma 13:14-20
Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever.
And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.
Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of his order, or it being his order, and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.
Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness;
But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father.
Now, there were many before him, and also there were many afterwards, but none were greater; therefore, of him they have more particularly made mention.
Now I need not rehearse the matter; what I have said may suffice. Behold, the scriptures are before you; if ye will wrest them it shall be to your own destruction.

A careful reading of the Book of Mormon provides a world of information regarding the Brass Plates.  This study has been somewhat superficial by only capturing some of the content recorded in the Book of Mormon that comprises the lost books of the Brass Plates, another resource of lost books from the Bible. This is part of the benefit and drawback of receiving an abridgement from multiple sets of records.  While I entitled this posting the Lost Books of the Book of Mormon, the scriptures indicate that these records will be made known to us at a future date; however, until then, we can glean from the Book of Mormon what Nephite prophets teach and quote from the Brass Plates.

1 See LDS scriptures, Bible Dictionary:
2 For example: Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden (A&B Book Dist Inc., 1994), Old Testament Pseudipigrapha Volumes 1 and 2 (James Charlesworth, Doubleday & Co. 1983, Anchor Bible, 1985, respectively), The Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations (Bart Ehrman, Oxford Univ Press, 2010), Lost Scriptures: Books That Did Not Make It Into The New Testament (Bart Ehrman, Oxford University Press, 2005), The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (Penguin Classics, 2004), The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The Revised and Updated Translation of Sacred Gnostic Texts Complete in One Volume (James Robinson, HarperOne, 2009).  This list is only a small sample addressing apocryphal and pseudopigraphical literature, and other books specifically mentioned in the Bible, but not included therein.
3 See John Sorenson, "The Brass Plates and Biblical Scholarship" Dialogue 10/4 (Autumn 1977): 31-39
John Tvedtnes has discussed ancient Jewish writings that seem to corroborate this extra-biblical prophecy, see "Joseph's Prophecy of Moses and Aaron", Insights, V21, Issue 1; additionally, Joseph Fielding McConkie has written about other apocryphal writings relating to a future Joseph in fulfillment of prophecy, see "Joseph Smith as Found in Ancient Manuscripts," Isaiah and the Prophets, Monte Nyman, Ed. (Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 1984), 11-32.
5 Great Are the Words of Isaiah, by Monte S. Nyman (Bookcraft, SLC, UT, 1980); Isaiah Plain and Simple, by Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr. (Deseret Book, SLC, UT 1995); Understanding Isaiah, by Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson (Deseret Book, SLC, UT, 1998); The Book of Isaiah: A New Translation With Interpretive Keys From the Book of Mormon, by Avraham Gileadi (Deseret Book, SLC, UT 1988); The Legacy of the Brass Plates of Laban, by H. Clay Gorton (Horizon Publishers, Bountiful, UT 1994); "Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon," Isaiah and the Prophets, 165-178.


  1. Excellent post. I love it when writers reference their work from solid sources. Can you tell me about the image used in this post. Looks like a personal photo taken of a model of the plates but from where?

  2. Jay thanks for your comments. This past summer I was passing through Provo and stopped at BYU to visit with one of the professors for a few minutes. I didn't attend BYU, so it was new to me, but in the religious building (Smith building?), they had a glass case with these fabricated plates and a replica of Laban's sword, etc., so I took several pictures. It was a pretty cool finding.

  3. Great collection of all the relevant passages. And it doesn't surprise me that Jay Fullmer would be interested in a custom-made model of a scriptural artifact. ;-D