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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Lost 116 Pages » The Lost 116 Pages

The Lost 116 Pages

Don - August 26, 2005

Re-reading the BOM again continues to bring me new insights.  This one I’m sure most of you have already thought of and probably done the math, or figured it didn’t matter.

When Martin Harris lost the 116 pages of manuscript Joseph had to replace it with a translation from the small plates.  When the small plates ran out the "Words of Mormon" was used as the connector from the small plates back to the large plates.  The large plates starts at Mosiah 1 (scholars say it really is like the third chapter, but we call it chapter 1).

How many pages of the printer’s manuscript did this new translation take?  Was there more information on the small plates – so more pages on the printer’s manuscript – or less?  I can’t find any reference to verify this one way or the other.

Here’s the deal, in the edition of the BOM I’m reading now there are 522 pages.  1st Nephi thru Words of Mormon takes 134 pages.  That’s 25% of the book.

The original printer’s manuscript had approximately 480 pages.  Assuming the translation of the small plates took the same number of pages as the lost translation of the large plates those 116 pages is 24% of the book.

So what!  I just find it interesting.  When I got thinking about it, I don’t know that I expected that to be the case.  Did Joseph think this out in advance?  "Opps, Martin we’ve lost 116 pages we need to make sure that this new translation of these other plates takes up exactly 116 pages too." Or did it just happen that way?

I wanted to check out the percentage based on the 1830 edition of the BOM but my son borrowed my copy so I can’t run the numbers.

Does anyone else find this bit of trivia interesting?


  1. No.

    Comment by Unknown — August 26, 2005 @ 4:27 pm

  2. Yes.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 26, 2005 @ 5:17 pm

  3. I’m not sure, but wouldn’t 116 manuscript (ie, handwritten) pages be typeset as less than 116 printed pages? (Or perhaps more?)

    That is, I wonder at your calculations based on a 1:1 correspondence between handwritten manuscript pages and printed pages.

    Comment by Justin H — August 26, 2005 @ 5:44 pm

  4. I also think this is interesting. By the way, it strikes me that the plot information in the lost pages must have been pretty similar to the plot information in the version that we have. If it were otherwise–i.e., if a lot of detail had been lost or added–I would expect that Martin Harris or Emma (who were apparently familiar with the original manuscript) would have said something about it.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — August 26, 2005 @ 5:49 pm

  5. Yes, I think this is very interesting.

    Frankly, it’s amazing that Joseph Smith kept going after losing such a large chunk of his work. I can’t imagine how discouraging that must have been.

    Roasted Tomatoes, I wonder just how familiar Emma and Martin were with the contents of the 116 pages.

    Comment by NFlanders — August 26, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  6. Martin was the scribe for most the 116 (I think), and he had them in his possession for weeks, so he at least should have known them well.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — August 26, 2005 @ 10:59 pm

  7. D’oh! I forgot he was the scribe. You’re right, he would have pointed out any differences.

    I remember reading in “By the Hand of Mormon” by Givens that Martin’s wife almost certainly burned the 116 pages. I wonder how people feel about D&C 10 in light of this.

    Comment by NFlanders — August 27, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  8. Assuming that there were a total of 596 manuscript pages (116+480) then the 116 pages is a little less than 20%.
    This raises an interesting question though. Would Nephi had written as much detail as he did if Joseph weren’t going to lose the pages? Oddly, he didn’t write very much of his own story after Lehi died anyhow. Much of 2 Nephi after Lehi dies is Nephi quoting Isaiah rather then narrating the story in detail. What would he have written if he didn’t have the burden of recounting the journey to the promised land in detail?
    I guess this could even raise more questions about the process of the translation interacting with the events in the story, but I don’t have the energy to go there now.

    Comment by a random John — August 27, 2005 @ 1:00 am

  9. Justin, the 116 pages weren’t typeset on a 1:1 ratio. The lost 116 pages took 134 pages in the edition I’m reading now.

    Roasted, Emma was Joseph’s first scribe. She helped from the time they started including their move to Harmony and up until Martin arrived in April. If I remember right that would have been at least 3 or 4 months….obviously not as intense as when Martin was scribe.

    A Random John, the complete printer’s manuscript was 480 pages, not 480 plus 116 lost. So my calculations are accurate…I think.

    It would be interesting to know what Nephi really wrote on the large plates. Did he quote Isaiah as much or at all. The small plates were supposed to be the more spiritual matters, so maybe the large plates were more wars and problems.

    Comment by don — August 27, 2005 @ 2:54 am

  10. There were 588 pages in the 1830 edition

    Comment by Bret — August 27, 2005 @ 1:50 pm

  11. Bret,

    How many pages in the 1830 edition for 1Nephi thru Words of Mormon?

    Comment by don — August 27, 2005 @ 6:38 pm

  12. Oops, Don. Sorry, I didn’t read carefully enough.

    Comment by Justin H — August 27, 2005 @ 7:28 pm

  13. don,

    I think we’ve miscommunicated. My point is that the total number of manuscript pages is the lost pages (116) plus the pages that weren’t lost (480). You need to add those together for your denominator. If they had lost 1,000 pages would you say that they lost 208% of the BoM? I’m being anal, but your math seems off to me, especially when you throw percentages around.

    Comment by a random John — August 29, 2005 @ 4:20 pm

  14. random, No, my figures are correct. The 116 pages that were lost were replaced in the printers manuscript with 1Nephi – Words of Mormon. The total printers manuscript which our current BOM was taken from was 488 pages. The 488 pages included the replacement for the lost 116 pages, not an addition to the lost pages.

    Comment by don — August 30, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

  15. don,

    I’ve reread your original post and I can see how we’re missing each other. I didn’t know that the 116 pages came from the large plates. I’d be interested in understanding how Mormon compiled the book better.

    Comment by a random John — August 30, 2005 @ 11:11 pm

  16. Roasted, So would I. I don’t know if Mormon actually compiled the small plates with the large plates. It’s my understanding that the large plates were his actual abridgement and the small plates were the original writer’s actual plates with no abridgement.

    I don’t know if Mormon had them together per se as part of the stack of gold plates joseph had or how that worked exactly.

    Comment by don — August 31, 2005 @ 1:03 pm

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