Adam and Eve in the Lost 116 Pages?

Recently my Stake President challenged us to read the Book of Mormon this summer (or this year). I’m always up for another foray into the lovely pages, so I decided to start listening during my daily bus commute.

I had also recently helped my daughter finish documenting her completion of the Personal Progress requirements. Therefore I was reminded of the Lenten Personal Progress program I developed, which among other things tells you how you can complete the Book of Mormon in 46 days.

Reading 1 Nephi 1-7, I came across the following in 1 Nephi 5:11, 17, 18, 19:

11 And [Lehi] beheld that [the plates of brass] did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents…

17 And now when my father saw all these things, he was filled with the Spirit, and began to prophesy concerning his seed—

18 That these plates of brass should go forth unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people who were of his seed.

19 Wherefore, he said that these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time. And he prophesied many things concerning his seed.

Recall that Manasseh (hiss boo) had reigned for decades in idolatrous and infanticidal polytheism within recent memory when Lehi fled Jerusalem. So the monotheistic Judeo-Christian creation story where man is created by God would have been precious indeed.

An account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve…

We know that the original 116 pages of the Book of Mormon were lost. Might these pages have contained an account of creation and the Abrahamic covenant that, though brief, was paradigm altering for Joseph Smith? I’ve sent a query to Don Bradley, who has made an extensive study of the likely contents of the 116 pages.

But here’s what I do know.

Book of Moses. In 1830 Joseph turns to the Bible, to create an expanded version of the text therein. This is very shortly after Joseph has published the Book of Mormon and organized the Church.

Joseph’s alterations to the creation story are significant – so significant that we have canonized that particular portion of Joseph’s inspired Biblical revision as the Book of Moses, now in the Pearl of Great Price.

Remember the words Joseph was given after losing the 116 plates regarding the Book of Mormon: even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people… 1

We know the Book of Mormon talks about Jesus Christ constantly, incessantly, with some Christian scholars suggesting the Book of Mormon almost qualifies as Jesus fan fic.

But what if all this adulation of our Lord and Savior was in a book that initially told us of how Jesus had volunteered to be the Savior of mankind, to save us all from death and sin at the very beginning, when Adam and Eve transgressed? Would it not make sense that prominent recollection of the salvation of the seed of Adam and Eve would create the Christ-worship we see throughout the Book of Mormon?

With respect to the lost 116 pages, Joseph was commanded to not attempt to retranslate that initial portion of the Book of Mormon, because the people who had taken the pages had altered the words. Joseph was told “if you should bring forth the same words they will say that you have lied and that you have pretended to translate, but that you have contradicted yourself.” 2

However an inspired alteration of the Bible creation story would not be expressly a retranslation of what might have been the Adam and Eve and Christ story in the Book of Mormon, so differences between that and the altered pages would not be so entirely damning.

Even so, the Book of Moses creation account ends with these words: See thou show them unto no man, until I command you, except to them that believe… 3

Book of Abraham. Time passes and Joseph is dealing with the real meaning of biblical plural marriage 4 and a multi-tiered heaven 5

Then in July 1835 Egyptian mummies and associated papyri arrive in Joseph’s Kirtland. The town is bursting with faithful and a massive temple is rising in the center of town symbolizing the new faith.

Joseph again begins to translate, though I’m not sure if there are documents confirming that this Egyptian-inspired translation attempt used the seer stones as has been documented for the Book of Mormon plates.

Whatever the mechanism, this becomes a new opportunity to explore the creation narrative that may have been lost with the 116 pages. The papyri-facilitated creation account now includes mention of spiritual life before mortal birth, a concept almost entirely absent from the King James version of the Bible familiar to Joseph. But this could have been a concept contained (if briefly) in the lost 116 pages.

The concept that all living mortals chose Christ before this life and that God yearns to have all who will return is explicitly explored in the papyri creation translation. This is strikingly correlated with the intense yearning of so many in the Book of Mormon to redeem all the children of their father, Lehi, despite suffering and persecution and all the other ills of differentiated and lethally competing socio-political groups.

[I could swear I remember some warning in the Book of Abraham about keeping these things sacred, but I’m not seeing it today – kudos if anyone can remind me which verse I may be (mis)remembering…]

Temple Endowment. Joseph Smith administered the first endowments in May 1842.

Members of the LDS Church don’t talk much about what happens in the temple. As is often said, we regard these things as sacred. But we know the ceremonies of the temple involve preparation to become servants of God. The instructions given and covenants made in the temple are towards this end of preparing individuals for eternal life.

As discussed in the Bible and argued by Jesus in John 10: 34-38, the Jewish law taught that mortals could become gods. 6

The temple would be to allow individuals to enter into those covenants and perform those ordinances that prepare them to becomes the gods the Bible speaks of, holy beings who serve God, the Father of all. These individuals would, if faithful, reign and minister in God’s heaven.

The instructions form a basis for understanding God’s work and salvation: our existence before mortality, the fall of Adam and Eve, the purpose of our mortal lives, the reality of resurrection after this life, and the possibility of returning to live with God in his kingdom. 7

Thus the third known time Joseph Smith revisits the story of creation and Adam and Eve is in the temple endowment. Here again we are cautioned to withold these sacred things from the world.

Regarding the reverent silence we maintain regarding the temple, it is clearly in keeping with the caution mentioned in the Book of Moses. Therefore it is also clearly similar to the caution to avoid republishing an account that could be compared to an altered variant of the lost 116 pages.

Joseph had huge headaches in 1842. There were sexual predators pressuring women to yield to illicit intercourse. The heretical doctrine that illicit sex was permissible had been promoted to (and in some cases by) unknown numbers of the faithful. This included Joseph’s own brothers and far too many high-placed Church leaders. And then there was the sickening number of women coming forward with tales of being seduced, including seductions resulting in pregnancy. So at the time the endowment was introduced, there was a new security concern that made the possible adulteration of the 116 pages pale in comparison.

Where Joseph’s earlier canonized accounts of creation and Adam and Eve have had an influence, it was ensconcing the creation narrative in the temple setting as a jewel in the glory of the New and Everlasting Covenant that has cemented the Adam and Eve narrative in the Mormon consciousness.

The Fulness of the Gospel

Time and again it is stated that the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel, that it will bring all to an awareness of the Christ, that a man could get closer to God by studying its pages than by reading any other book.

Yet Mormon belief includes all manner of additional information regarding kingdoms of glory, a pre-mortal existence, a Lucifer who was once spirit peer to Christ, and almost obsessively the creation and fall of Adam and Eve, precipitating Christ’s explicit promise to be our Savior.

What if the 116 lost pages had included the creation and Adam/Eve narrative in more detail than the brief mention in 1 Nephi 5? What if the seeds of the Pearl of Great Price and the temple endowment were originally in the Book of Mormon as its editors had intended it to be?

It’s a “what if” that delights me until such time as I have reason to be confident it is incorrect.

Notes:

  1. D&C 3:16
  2. D&C 10:31
  3. Moses 4:32
  4. Revelation received before March 7, 1831, according to account of Erastus Snow describing Joseph’s account that he initially received a version of D&C 132 while translating Genesis and the fact that D&C 45 tells Joseph on March 7, 1831, to abandon the Old Testament translation and begin work in the New Testament.
  5. D&C 76 was received in February 1832 in response to inspired translation of John 5:29, discussing how all those in the grave would hear Jesus’s voice and come forth in the resurrection, a promise fundamentally rooted in the story of Adam and Eve and Christ’s promise to redeem us.
  6. Psalms 82: 6.
  7. See Endowed from On High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, Lesson 1: The Temple Teaches about the Great Plan of Salvation, available online at lds.org, retrieved 18 August 2014.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

16 thoughts on “Adam and Eve in the Lost 116 Pages?

  1. Thank you. A very enjoyable read. 🙂 Many interesting connections to think about.

  2. Interesting rumination on possibilities. I am content with all we have in whatever form the revelation came. It is interesting that while the Pearl of Great Price is canonized as scripture and referred to fairly often in conference talks and Church magazine articles, we seem to shy away from giving the same emphasis to reading it as a family project as for the Book of Mormon. For example, my son and his family are following a suggestion of their stake leadership to read through the Book of Mormon in two months. Perhaps the other scriptures are no less precious but require more solemnity, even privacy for contemplation because of the depth of insight into sacred matters.

  3. An interesting and thought provothoking article. I’ve always thought that the missing pages would include the book of Lehi with more detail about his struggles that lead him to leave Jerusalem.

  4. Russell M. Nelson quoted this passage in an Ensign article April 2000. Jesus’ responsibility as Advocate, Savior and Redeemer was fore-determined in premortal realms and fulfilled by His Atonement:

    “God made Adam according to Our image and likeness and He left him lying for forty days and forty nights without putting breath into him. And He heaved sighs over him daily, saying, ‘If I put breath into this [man], he must suffer many pains.’ And I said unto My Father, ‘Put breath into him, I will be an advocate for him.’ And My Father said unto Me, ‘If I put breath into him, My beloved Son, Thou wilt be obliged to go down into the world, and to suffer many pains for him before Thou shalt have redeemed him, and made him to come back to his primal state.’ And I said unto My Father, ‘Put breath into him; I will be his advocate, and I will go down into the world, and will fulfill Thy command”
    Timothy of Alexandria, [d 385 AD] ‘Dialect of Upper Egypt’ [translated into English in 1977]
    Quoted by Russell M Nelson in April, 2000

  5. “I could swear I remember some warning in the Book of Abraham about keeping these things sacred, but I’m not seeing it today”

    Perhaps you are thinking of some of the items in the Explanation of Facsimile #2.

  6. Hi Mike,

    Looking at it again, the Book of Abraham account simply stops before discussion of the temptation, Christ’s offer to redeem mankind, and the animal sacrifices Adam and Eve had been commanded to make as a foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice in the meridian of time. Standard Christian discussion talks about how the coat of skins mentioned in Genesis was the “covering” implied by the Hebrew word later translated as ad-una-mentum in Late Latin and “atonement” in the English version translated by Tyndale. This divine covering of skin of sacrificed animals was the vestment required, replacing the inadequate vestment of fig leaves fashioned by Adam and Eve themselves. Interesting parallels with the story of Cain and Abel and the rise of agriculture to replace the prior hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

    Returning the 116 pages, another fascinating possibility is that the lost pages included some discussion about animal sacrifice as a foreshadowing of Christ’s atonement. We’ve always thought that nobody ever produced any alternate version of the 116 pages. But there are several contemporary tales originating around the time the Book of Mormon was being translated and published where people claim Joseph sacrificed sheep and other animals, dripping blood all over the place in conjunction with money digging. According to the people who talk about such things, killing animals in the service of dousing or peeping was part of the folk magic of the time. But the specific discussion about what Joseph was doing does not seem consistent with anything that’s fully credible. So I suggest the tales of killing sheep and dogs was part of a strategy to attack any attempt to revisit text that was in the 116 pages.

  7. Looking at standard Christian discussion of atonement, the dominant interpretation of the linkage between the fall and Christ’s propitiation/atonement arises from St. Augustine (354-430 AD), who believed Adam was the literal progenitor of all mankind.

    Mormon thought, despite not excluding evolution, tends to see Adam and Eve as actual people who were the progenitors of all mankind. So we don’t have a problem with Augustine on that point, per se. But inasmuch as the Augustinian version of the tale eliminated extant tales recounting Christ’s involvement and offered sacrifice at the time Adam was brought to life (as you quote), then that would suggest how this precious connection became lost from the Bible as known among most Christians in our day.

  8. Hey Meg! I got your email. I like the direction this is going.

    There is reason to believe that the lost 116 pages gave information about the brass plates that’s not in the extant text of the Book of Mormon. I haven’t yet seen evidence that the lost pages specifically gave more information about Adam and Eve and the creation, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find that they did.

    One thing I definitely think is the case is that the Book of Mormon prompted Joseph and Oliver to begin their work on the JST, beginning with Genesis (i.e., the Book of Moses). Oliver wrote in the front of the Bible they used, “The Book of the Jews,” alluding to 1 Nephi 13:23-24, where Nephi is told, “The that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews,” which would go forth from the Jews in purity but then be corrupted. This knowledge inspired Joseph and Oliver to try to restore the pure Old Testament text *as it had appeared on the brass plates.*

    Certainly the Book of Mormon helped inspire Joseph Smith’s later encounters with the creation and Adam and Eve narratives. And, yes, there could have been information in the lost 116 pages that prompted some of the emendations Joseph would later make to these narratives. To actually show that this was the case would require us to identify further evidence.

    I love this:

    “What if the seeds of the Pearl of Great Price and the temple endowment were originally in the Book of Mormon as its editors had intended it to be?”

    Whether or not the lost pages gave more of the story of the creation and Adam and Even from the brass plates, I think those seeds were, in fact, there. I’ll try to show that as I flesh out the narrative of Mosiah I in my book.

    Keep digging and thinking and let me know if you have any more lost 116 pages ideas! =)

  9. Hi Don!

    I’ve created a new electronic notebook for my current reading of the Book of Mormon where I’m noting anything that could suggest Nephi and his spiritual descendants (especially Mormon) understood the variant of the creation/Adam/Eve/Christ/sacrifice narrative that modern Mormons are familiar with. I’ve never done such a thing before, and I’m not sure if I can share my notebook, but at the least will attempt to export it when I’m done.

    My husband, Bryan, pushed back by citing Moroni’s comments about the creation/Adam/Eve narrative associated with the Book of Ether, where Moroni doesn’t bother to include that narrative as he presumes that we will have that account from the record of the Jews. So I would certainly be fine with accepting that we didn’t have an expansive multi-chapter blow-by-blow narrative of the creation/Adam/Eve/Christ/sacrifice narrative, but we could have had something as short as this:

    And it came to pass that Lehi did examine the plates of brass and did find that they contained a record of the spiritual creation of the earth and all the inhabitants thereof.

    And of the conflict between God and that Lucifer which Isaiah did speak of, he who was fallen from heaven and doth strive to weaken the nations. (c.f. 2 Ne 24:12, also 2 Ne 2:17-29)

    And God did create Adam, and did bring forth Eve to be with him. (c.f. 2 Ne 2: 18-22). And Adam and Eve, our first parents, dwelt in the garden of Eden in innocence.

    And because Lucifer was fallen from heaven, he did tempt Adam and Eve that they might partake of the forbidden fruit, that they might know good from evil, in which act did Lucifer take upon himself to be as God.

    Now Adam did not at first yield to the tempation of Lucifer, but Eve did partake of that fruit which had been forbidden. And Adam, seeing that Eve had partaken, did also partake. (c.f. 2 Ne 2:18, 19, 22)

    And because that Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, they became fallen and were thrust out of the garden of Eden. (c.f. 2 Ne 2:19)

    And God did covenant with Adam and Eve that they and all their children would be redeemed inasmuch as they did believe in that Messiah which should come forth in the fulness of time, that he might redeem the children of men from the fall. (c.f., 2 Ne 2:26)

    And God did give unto Adam and Eve the law of sacrifice, that they might shed the blood of the firstborn of the flock in rememberance that Christ would offer himself a sacrifice to fulfill the law and redeem mankind.

    And Lehi did speak unto his sons, saying that he and Sariah were as Adam and Eve, and that at God’s command they also had been thrust forth from the land of Jerusalem and must go forth into the wilderness to create a people who would be faithful to the Lord God of Adam and Eve, and the Lord God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.

    And the plates of brass did give a genealogy of Lehi’s ancestors, showing that Lehi did descend from Joseph, who was a son of Jacob, which Jacob was given the name Israel.

  10. Looking up the verses that informed my husband’s comment, Ether 1:3-4 reads:

    3 And as I suppose that the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time, is had among the Jews—

    4 Therefore I do not write those things which transpired from the days of Adam until that time; but they are had upon the plates; and whoso findeth them, the same will have power that he may get the full account.
    __________

    It would also make sense that the 116 pages may have also included instances where Lehi, Nephi, and others offer sacrifice as they arrive in the new world or create a new city. Along those lines, it would make sense that at some point these sacrifices are equated with the Law of Moses, as we don’t see explicit discussion of the details of sacrifice in later portions of the Book of Mormon, merely to the Law of Moses.

    I see numerous explicit discussions of the use of the Law of Moses, including the explicit tie between the Law of Moses and the propitiary/atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For example, see Mosiah 2:3, Mosiah 13:27, and Alma 25:15-16.

    But this also would explain why there was a dispute about the Law of Moses after the sign of Christ’s birth, as the descendants of Lehi knew that the Law of Moses would end when the Messiah would come in the fulness of time. So in those few years, it was just a discussion of whether the moment of that fulness was Christ’s birth or his death. (c.f., Helaman 15:5, 3 Ne 1:24-25)

  11. If I haven’t already pointed out, the journey of Lehi’s sons to fetch the family of Ishmael is resonant with the creation of Eve so that Adam would not be alone. So one could imagine an additional verse:

    And Lehi regarded his sons, and suggested that inasmuch as they were also like unto Adam, that it was meet that they should obtain wives, that they might bring forth posterity in the wilderness.

  12. I read 2 Ne. chapter 2 as a creation account. It is given by Lehi and he seems to be re-telling creation accounts from Genesis 1 & 2. He begins by explaining about the need for a Messiah and Atonement in verses 3-10 and then begins in verse 11 to explain that need in terms of creation. The Genesis 1 account is very much about placing things in their proper order, creating boundaries between things so they don’t all mix together in chaos, i.e. dividing the light from the darkness, the waters from the dry land, fish in the waters, etc. Lehi says this is “opposition in all things” and explains if we didn’t have it we couldn’t have “good nor bad” because all things would be “compound in one”.

    He continues along that line until verse 15 where he moves into Genesis 2 (he even shifts from God to Lord God at this point) and beings talking about the fruit and Adam and Eve, where he continues with the theme of opposition in all things, but also brings in agency, temptation, probation, and redemption. He continues that theme until the end of the chapter (which is all given as the text of a blessing to his son Jacob, itself a very symbolic name of the last great patriarch for whom the new and everlasting covenant would be named).

    I would say that the plates of brass informed Lehi’s text here. And I think it supports at least the doctrinal hypothesis that you are putting forth here, i.e. that the brass plates had an expanded form of the creation accounts with the additional themes that eventually found their way into Moses, Abraham, and the Endowment.

    One thing to note is that the 116 lost pages were, I believe, written by Mormon who was making a history of his people. Their replacement, the small plates of Nephi, were written primarily by Nephi (and this text in particular is possibly a transcription of Lehi’s words) who had read the brass plates first hand and were given not as a history as much as a record of their spiritual things. It’s entirely possible that the 116 pages contained nothing on the subject but we have it because they were lost and we got the more personal account from Nephi instead.

  13. Hi Dustin,

    The counter to the idea that “the 116 contained nothing on the subject” is that the dominant nasty rumor regarding Joseph Smith circa 1830 relates to money digging and animal sacrifice. Given the suggestion that Joseph needed to avoid revisiting the 116 pages due to adulteration, we can reasonably infer that the 116 pages contained a doctrinally correct version that would explain the historical residue regarding lurid animal sacrifices.

  14. FWIW, Joseph admitted that he had participated in “money digging” when he was younger. It’s in the May 8, 1838, set of “Answers to Frequently asked Questions” that Joseph wrote. He quipped that he wasn’t very good at digging for money, but I am not able to download the exact amusing quote.

  15. What I meant by that was, it seemed to me your ultimate question is “Did the brass plates contain a doctrinally expanded version of the creation account that was transmitted to Joseph via the Book of Mormon text?” perhaps even in summary form as you give an example of in your comments after the original article. You posit that, as you don’t see one in the current text of the Book of Mormon, it may have been contained in the original lost 116 pages.

    I did not mean to imply that it wasn’t there in those pages. I simply wanted to add that, as I read it, 2 Nephi chapter 2 could also serve as a creation text and one that I felt fits the parameters of the lost text you were looking for. To me, it is very much like the possible text you propose. There certainly could have been more in the original 116 pages that we don’t have. I simply wanted to suggest that I thought the text as we have it could also be Joseph’s original source material for his later expanded texts of the creation account (along with revelation).

  16. That’s fair.

    Ah, if only someone could tumble across either the 116 pages or the adulterated version of the 116 pages (or a pertinent frament thereof)!

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