Lehi’s Personal Record: Quest for a Missing Source

The Book of Mormon teems with references to numerous works known by its compilers and authors but not included in its final collection of texts. The documents comprising the brass plates, for instance, are mentioned merely in passing. Further, Mormon alludes to a substantial collection from which he distilled the nearly thousand-year history of his people. These countless unnamed texts, moreover, do not include the so-called “sealed plates” which formed part of what was entrusted to Joseph Smith but which remained untranslated. Among these, interestingly enough, the record of Lehi is singled out by name. It constituted, I argue, both a major source behind and an important influence on the writings of Lehi’s two literary sons, Nephi and Jacob. In fact, a surprising amount of information exists which allows us to determine substantially the content and compass of Lehi’s record.

…The most persistent problem, to be sure, is whether a particular quotation or paraphrase indeed goes back to a written source. Nephi’s brief characterizations of his father’s writings (1 Ne. 1:16; 19:1-2) help us to see important clues regarding the nature of Lehi’s work. Yet in the final analysis, we can be certain only about a portion; the rest remains merely suggestive. Far from being a futile exercise, whoever, the analysis has made it abundantly clear that their father Lehi’s writings and teaching deeply influenced both Nephi and Jacob, a fact which gives measure to the positive influences of Lehi – the man and the prophet.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 24:1
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