Small plates, Nephi, Hebrew rhetoric, chiasmus


Readers of the Book of Mormon commonly assume the adequacy of a simple and straight-forward explanation for the existence of Nephi’s Small Plates. As explained at various points in the text, Nephi had undertaken a shorter version of his Large Plates record by selecting out the spiritual teachings, prophecies and revelations for a more focused presentation. But the adequacy of that explanation has come under considerable strain from two very different directions. In 1986 Fred Axelgard advanced the idea that the description provided for the Large Plates of Nephi as being more historical also applied to all of First Nephi and the first five chapters of Second Nephi. And now I am advancing a new paradigm for interpretation of the Small Plates that emphasizes Nephi’s use of Hebrew rhetoric to structure all of First and Second Nephi as a carefully calculated expansion and elaboration of Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. In this essay I will explain why Nephi provides so many versions of his explanations for the Small Plates by showing how these repeated passages provide key pieces of Nephi’s rhetorical structures.

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Working Paper

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor