Thursday, January 30, 2020

What Do We Know About the Brass Plates?

The Book of Mormon does not give us a lot of information about the origins of the plates of brass. Nephi said that: “Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records” (1 Nephi 5:16). Since the plates in the north would have been kept by the senior family, the Ephraimites, this would make Laban an Ephraimite. It is understood that the tribes of Ephraim and Menassah were in the northern kingdom so how did they come to be living in Jerusalem? It is also possible that the brass plates, on which may be found lost scripture, may have been the official scripture of the ten tribes.
Lehi holding the Brass Plates obtained by Nephi from Laban in Jerusalem

    To understand that, we need to know what was on the Brass Plates, including:
• The record of the Jews down to the days of Zedekiah, including the genealogies of the people and the prophecies of the holy prophets, among which are the words of Isaiah and portions of Jeremiah.
• The law of Moses, in its perfect form, and the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
• The writings of Joseph who was sold into Egypt, a man of which few have been greater, and on them is found the mysteries of God and the commandments he has given to the children of men.
• The books of holy scripture beyond which the world knows, including the writings of the prophets Zenock, Neum, And Zenos.
What is of more interest than the books included on the brass plates is the tone and tenor and general approach to the gospel and to salvation that they set forth. They are gospel oriented and speak of Christ and the various Christian concepts, which the world falsely assumes to have originated with Jesus and the early apostles.
Sidney B. Sperry (left) suggests that “the prophets in both nations probably paid little attention to the political lines of division, but it is improbable that all of them had their words recorded in the scriptures of both nations…The Brass Plates may well have been the official scripture of the Ten Tribes. It is probable that some prophets wrote on these plates whose writings may not have been recorded on the records kept in Judah. Were Zenos, Zenock, Neum, and Ezias among them?”
    In addition, other migrations occurred before the destruction, and Laban’s ancestors may have settled in Jerusalem during one of those. The Old Testament mentions one particular migration during the reign of Asa, one of the most righteous Judean kings. Many from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon left the northern kingdom for Judah when they saw that God was with Judah and King Asa (2 Chronicles 15:9).
    As to how these plates of the northern kingdom came to be in Jerusalem, scholars now believe that a significant number of Israelites fled the Northern Kingdom, seeking refuge in Judah. Their evidence is consistent with Dr. Sperry's speculation–that they brought Scriptures with them and those Scriptures were different from the Scripture of Judah.
    A further insight regarding the brass plates prophets is found in a comment of Mormon, in 3 Nephi 10:16. There had been great persecution of the believers prior to the crucifixion of Christ and his appearance to the Nephites. Mormon, acknowledging that this was a fulfillment of prophecy, declared, "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.”
The prophets Zenos and Zenock mentioned in the Book of Mormon about Old Testament prophets

Note Mormon's identification of the Nephites as remnants of the seed of the Brass Plate prophets, Zenos and Zenock—tribe of Joseph prophets. Sperry assumes that there must have been separate records and suggests the outlandish, yet almost obvious possibility, "the brass plates may well have been the official scripture of the ten tribes." That is, the brass plates may have been the master copy, the original, of the Northern Kingdom scripture that disappeared with the lost tribes.
    In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin's identification of the language of this record as Egyptian (Mosiah 1:4) introduces a further line of speculation. Could this record have originated as the family record of Joseph the son of Jacob. His wife was Egyptian. His sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were Egyptian. That may have been the only language they knew. Of course, Joseph would have had a copy of the then extent scriptural record in Egyptian. Might not his family have continued to maintain that Egyptian (maybe Reformed Egyptian) language record?
    Our Old Testament is the record of the tribe of Judah–it's the "Stick of Judah." Are the brass plates not at least part of the "Stick of Joseph"? If this view of the Brass Plates as the record of the tribe of Joseph is correct, then the Book of Mormon is but the continuation of a family history, which may have been begun by Joseph himself. The Book of Mormon would be the middle chapters of this history. Are not the Doctrine and Covenants and current church history the final chapters of this great family epoch?
    Nephi makes another statement about the brass plates that is of interest, saying: "And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records" (1 Nephi 5:16). This suggests that the recording of the Hebrew scriptures on the brass plates had begun many generations before Laban's time. Furthermore, it would be kept in the senior tribe of Israel, that is to say, in the tribe of Ephraim (Genesis 48:5, 13—20; 1 Chronicles 5:1—2).
A breakdown of the two kingdoms: Israel in the North with Shechum as its capital and Judah in the South with Jerusalem as its capital

Laban may well have been a descendant of Joseph through Ephraim. We may properly ask ourselves how it happened that Laban—and Lehi's family, for that matter, inasmuch as they were descendants of Joseph through Manasseh—happened to be living in Jerusalem. Naturally, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, had been allied generations before with the northern kingdom of Israel, not with Judah in the south.
    In this, it should be noted that the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians when its capital of Samaria capitulated to Sargon II in 721 B.C., just over 120 years before Lehi left Jerusalem. The forebears of Laban may well have in part fled to Jerusalem to prevent the sacred records from falling into foreign hands.
    Lehi's grandfather or great-grandfather may have left his northern home for Jerusalem in order to prevent his children from intermarrying or making religious compromises with the foreigners brought into the land by the Assyrians. Such a course would not be unreasonable on the part of many devout families.
    If the brass plates had been kept by Laban's ancestors in the tribe of Ephraim as early as the united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon, it would be of great interest to know their history and that of any other sacred records subsequent to the division which took place after Solomon's death when the northern confederation of tribes followed Jeroboam to the north, and the southern kingdom of Judah remained under Rehoboam (1 Kings 11:29; 12:24).
    What happened to the keeping of sacred records when the Israelites became sharply divided on political grounds—so much so that the two nations were enemies?
    While it is unknown, it is certainly possible that the writings of some prophets in Judah were not placed on the brass plates during the period under consideration. After the fall of Samaria, in 721 BC, it is very probable that most Jewish prophetical writings were engraved on the brass plates, assuming, of course, that Laban's immediate forebears came to Jerusalem as has already been suggested.
    It is a fact of considerable importance in biblical studies that the Book of Mormon indicates the presence on the brass plates of more scripture than that contained in our entire Bible (1 Nephi 13:23-26). Considering the fact that these plates recorded Hebrew scripture written only before the year 600 B.C., we have ample testimony to the loss of much scripture between that date and the present time.
Lehi informed his family of the contents of the Brass Plates and the sacred information found there

When Lehi had searched the brass plates, he was filled with the Spirit and began to prophesy to the effect that the day would come when they should be made known unto all kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed (1 Nephi 5:17-18). Moreover, he prophesied that the brass plates should never perish or be dimmed by time (1 Nephi 5:19). We know, therefore, that many unknown or hitherto corrupted texts of Hebrew scripture will be restored to the world in correct form. To those who are interested in the study of the Bible, this is a comforting and even a thrilling prospect.
    And while many feel that if the brass plates were written in this reformed Egyptian, why do they not have records of this kind of writing in Israel?" Evidently, the Egyptian language was used in the northern kingdom as a carry-over from Ephraim and Menassah (both Egyptian born) bringing those plates into Israel. What else might have existed in the northern kingdom before they were destroyed and led captive off to where no one today knows (Lost 10 Tribes) can only be conjectured. However, it would seem reasonable that other writings in Egyptian would have been then extant, but lost since the captivity and dispersement of the northern kingdom. Maybe some will return with the 10 tribes when they return.


  1. Where are the brass plates today?
    1 In a hidden cave or lava tube inside of Mt. Imbabura, Ecuador?
    2 In the yet to be found treasure rooms of the John Koyle Dream Mine near Salem, Utah?
    3 In a hidden room built of stones inside of the hill Cumorah in New York?
    4. Somewhere else?

  2. Rule out numbers two and three. The room found at Cumorah in NY has no plates and not big enough. The dream mine is a pipe dream. I've been in the mine, nothing there. That only leaves number one and four. I think it's one. Anybody up for a field trip?

    1. I'll be at Imbabura in May, but I won't be looking for caves. I'll be enjoying some time with my wife after our visit to Peru. We'll spend a night at the southwest foot of the mountain, in a bed and breakfast on the shore of Lago San Pablo. Can't wait!

      Iterry, What would be awesome with somebody like you is to rent a Jeep or Truck in Lima and take a roadtrip northward through the high country toward Cajamarca. There's so much we could check out along the way, from Zarahemla to Bountiful.

  3. There are interesting caves where the Ecuadorian mountains meet the Amazons on the east. The most famous, and controversial, is Cueva de Los Tayos.

    Another funny detail that can be seen in a couple of YouTube productions about the cave is that some Ecuadorians believed that Neil Armstrong was actually there during the 1976 expedition to procure the "metal library" for the Mormons (Neil was American, church was American, so assumptions were made).

    Interesting history. The linked article also doesn't mention that when the tribe was asked years later why the metal library was not found by the 1976 expedition, the answer was, "we didn't show them the real cave..."

    Juan Moricz seems like an interesting guy who really didn't want to talk about his claims after notorizing the discovery.