Book Review: The Lost 116 Pages – Reconstructing the Book of Mormon’s Missing Stories, by Don Bradley
For 190 years, Latter-day Saints and others have been enriched by the teachings and stories in the Book of Mormon. Sadly, a large portion of the book is not available, due to the manuscript being stolen from Martin Harris, one of the first scribes to Joseph Smith. Over the years, many have opined not having the lost manuscript, often called the “Book of Lehi” and what additional information it could give us concerning the Nephites, their teachings and history. So important is this loss that several unscrupulous persons have claimed over the years to have found and interpreted it. Having read several of them, I can tell you that they are fraudulent and full of discrepancies.
Not so with “the Lost 116 Pages.” Bradley does not claim to be rewriting the Book of Lehi, nor translating anything from a manuscript. Instead, through more than a decade of research, he has come up with several compelling theories of events and teachings that probably occurred within the lost manuscript.
Two major sections, The Lost Pages and The Missing Stories are broken down into fifteen chapters:
- The Ark of the New Covenant
- The Sealed Book
- Translating the Nephite Record
- The Manuscript Theft
- The Long Blue Lost Manuscript
- Reconstructing the Lost Manuscript
- A Passover Setting for Lehi’s Exodus
- Lehi’s Tabernacle in the Wilderness
- The Seven Tribes of Lehi
- Nephi’s Conquest
- Nephi’s Temple
- The Lost Middle Period
- God and Aminadi in the Temple
- The Mosian Reform
- The Book of Benjamin
The first five chapters go into the details of finding the gold plates, description and use of the Urim and Thummim, the translation process, the loss of the manuscript, and its detailed description.
In the first section, the two most important points for me was, first, the lost manuscript was likely 300 pages long, or 2/3 the size of our current Book of Mormon. Bradley details why there are more than 116 pages, why Joseph Smith called it 116 pages (the same number of pages in the translation of Nephi’s small plates), and the length of time/number of pages per day, in which Martin Harris and 4 other scribes were translating the manuscript. With this understanding, it vastly increases the amount of scripture lost.
Second, from accounts describing the Urim and Thummim, we get a fascinating and detailed theory on how it actually worked. Diagrams depicting the look and use of the Interpreters are very helpful in imagining what they looked like. Interestingly, the two stones are described as diamond-like, one an equilateral triangle and the other a right angled triangle: or the Compass and the Square, important symbols in Latter-day Saint temple theology. Bradley explains that the curtain that separated him from his scribe was not used just to hide the plates from view, but obscured the light so the Interpreters could project more clearly the translation. It also anticipates the veil of the temple, in hiding the most sacred things from the world.
In discussing the probable missing stories from the lost manuscript, Bradley uses clues given by statements made by Martin Harris, Joseph Smith Sr, and others, as well as internal clues within the Book of Mormon, to expand and explain things which not only gives us an idea of what was in the lost pages, but enhances our understanding of the Book of Mormon we have today.
For example, in the Book of Alma, Alma’s missionary companion, Amulek, speaks of his ancestry, which includes Aminadi, who interpreted the writing made on the temple wall by the finger of the Lord. For years, I pondered just what the story behind Aminadi was, as the Book of Mormon does not give any other details about him, even though the prophet Mormon probably told his story in the lost pages. Using similar events in scripture (Belshazzar’s finger of the Lord writing on his palace wall, the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of the Lord, etc), and details within the Book of Mormon itself, Bradley places Aminadi during a period just prior to great Nephite destruction (see Omni), being a warning voice to the people they needed to repent or be destroyed. Later, Bradley expands this story by noting that Mosiah 1 was warned in a dream to take the believers on a new Exodus to Zarahemla, ahead of the great destruction in the Land of Nephi. He then successfully ties the story of Zeniff into this story, as a people returning to the land of original inheritance.
By using available clues, Bradley details the location of the American Mount Sinai, where Mosiah 1 discovers the Interpreters and constructs a mobile temple or Tabernacle. Instead of a bunch of disparate stories from the lost pages, Bradley weaves an intricate tapestry of stories that tie into one another, and into the Old Testament. Nephite prophets are compared with Moses, Abraham, David, Joshua, Jacob and Joseph of old. Events are tied to ancient Israelite festivals. Sacred Nephite artifacts are likened to the sacred items kept in Solomon’s temple.
Bradley notes in his conclusion that it was this complexity that brought him to a point of belief in the Book of Mormon and his return to the Restored Church after many years of separation. For me, this is also a major evidence of the truthfulness of the gospel. Someone as young and ignorant as Joseph Smith could not have designed such a complex book, which ties into Old Testament events and festivals, and weaves its stories together into a tight work.
No, Bradley does not bring back all of the Lost Manuscripts 116 pages. There just aren’t enough quotes and clues available to do such a thing. However, what he has restored to us and the well researched and considered conclusions he draws from the evidence will greatly enhance our understanding and appreciation of what we do have: the Book of Mormon. We do owe Don Bradley much thanks for this, his opus magnum. Because of his tireless research over more than a decade, we now have a fuller understanding of not only the Lost 116 Pages, but of the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
Available at Greg Kofford Books: https://gregkofford.com/products/the-lost-116-pages
A valiant effort and exercise. What troubles me, however, is that there really is no way to test any of this. I don’t want to sound harsh but what seems plausible, is also, unfortunately, often wrong and reveals more about one’s presuppositions than anything else. Speculation is of greatest value when it leads to testable hypotheses.
Reinhard, have you even read the book?
True, this is untestable. However, Bradley’s theories are set in well-conceived evidence, often using patterns that are found in the Bible and BoM. When the prophet/writer Mormon writes things in our extant BoM, and he uses certain themes over and over again, we can surmise that he probably used them previously in the lost pages.
Just how would you propose to establish testable hypotheses, beyond what Bradley has done? If you don’t have suggestions, and especially if you haven’t read the book, then your comment is rather useless. Yes, it is theoretical. But most studies of the scriptures are theoretical. Can we prove the existence of Abraham? Heck, can we prove the existence of the Book of Mormon? Of course not. It is all about evidences, some strong, many weak, that point us in certain directions. The same BoM that I see as full of ancient concepts, is considered 19th century fiction by many scholars and anti-Mormons. David Bokovoy left the Church, because his PhD studies led him in another direction, very different from the Church’s view. Meanwhile, Daniel Peterson, the late Bill Hamblin and other PhDs have remained solidly faithful.
In his conclusions, Don Bradley notes that his studies on the Lost 116 Pages brought him back to the Church, years after he left it. That is the power of solid research and theory, even without anything that can be directly tested.
Well, I really am not looking for an argument (at least not the raise your voice and accusatory kind) but I think the kind of apologetic literature you refer to has not done the Church a favor. What’s more, you made my point for me which is that these type of speculative works are unlikely to yield testable hypotheses and far more likely to reveal one’s presuppositions. As far as I can tell, speculation can lead us anywhere we like as long as the conclusions are untestable. But the pursuit of truth isn’t about finding the conclusions we like. The process of writing/reading this book may have been cathartic for the author and some of those who read him, but they don’t bring us closer to knowledge or truth. If something really is unknowable then it would be best to simply admit that. If your faith leads you to believe such things, isn’t that sufficient? There are some things I believe because they help me make sense out of my (and my world’s) existence
but I don’t call them scholarship, even though some degree of reasoning, weighing of experience, and formal investigation were involved. It remains speculative, even if I own it. I get it, you enjoyed the book and you wrote a wrote a “review” that reflected that. Maybe I should not have made a comment since it seems to have taken some of that enjoyment away. Forgive an old timer who was scientifically trained. I truly meant no harm. Put it down to my weariness over reading posts that claim more than they should.
“…theories of events and teachings that probably occurred…”
I’m glad the author did his work, and I’m glad it is from a faithful perspective. Certainly, there is a place among us for individual and group study and sharing, and I hope the book is successful in the marketplace. I hope readers take it for what it is (one faithful man’s faithful perspective), and not for something else (doctrine or history).
Reinhard Lindner gets the 2019 Golden Eeyore Award .
Reinhard, the purpose of apologetics is not to prove, but to illustrate _plausibility_, which can create room or a space for faith.
Historical facts or evidences do not create faith.
Of all the literary, historical, and archeological objections to the Book of Mormon, all or most have been addressed and their _plausibility_ has been illustrated.
Hence, there is room for people to still choose what to believe.
Found the quote. It was even cited by Neal Maxwell, if I recall correctly. Emphasis mine.
A fundamental challenge was well described by Austin Farrer, who wrote of the need for articulate Christians: “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.” (Austin Farrer, Light on C. S. Lewis, Jocelyn Gibb, ed. [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1966], p. 26.)
We can and should be articulate believers. We can and should so proclaim, testify, and teach, readily and humbly. (But for a Small Moment, p.56)
Sorry for three in a row, but here’s a little more of the Farrer quote, with an independent source. The link and quote seems a proper rejoinder for those who keep saying “But you haven’t _proved_ anything.” Well, apologists aren’t trying to, and don’t have to, because that’s not the point in matters of faith and religion.
“It is commonly said that if rational argument is so seldom the cause of conviction, philosophical apologists must largely be wasting their shot. The premise is true, but the conclusion does not follow. For though argument does not create conviction, the lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”
(The rest of that page at scottwoodward.org has other good quotes from LDS apostles on apologetics or defending the faith,)
Michael Wilson Towns: Your comment has the whiff of ad hominem about it, but I have to admit, I always liked Eeyore.
Bookslinger: I don’t agree and appeals to authority I generally take with a large grain of salt. The record of BOM apologetics is mixed even on a charitable reading. Even the Church shut down FARMS. But, hey, I’m not the enemy. I just think this kind of “scholarship” is not helpful. By the way, people believe and even die for things they believe that most others would consider quite unreasonable. Rationalization can be quite powerful for some. I’m on the side of faith being reasonable, but not claims that cross the boundary between different magisteria (al la Stephen Gould).
“Even the Church shut down FARMS.”
That the church doesn’t want to officially sponsor that kind of apologetics doesn’t mean the church wants no one to do it.
I’m still unclear if the deal with FARMS totally came from above, or was more of a political thing with BYU, and the Brethren tired of playing referee.
My takeaway was this: It wasn’t that the Brethren told the FARMS folks, “don’t do that”, it was “don’t do that under the church’s imprimatur.” It also looked like there was some “Not Invented Here” stuff going on within the Maxwell Institute, or the arm under which FARMS operated.
I’m of the opinion that Church-friendly independent researchers/authors have a place, and are too quickly dismissed by academics, and others who claim to take the scholarly high-road, whether they work for BYU or elsewhere.
— The important thing is not that historical issues are “proved” one way or the other. What’s important is that efforts are made to present issues in a balanced light, and even in a faithful light. Especially when inaccurate or malicious information is spread by critics. And it seems reasonable for the Brethren to distance themselves from academic arguments about the gospel. Academic arguments impose limits.
But there are those, both in and out of the church, who need their academic/intellectual stumbling stones removed before they can progress. Apologetics addresses those academic/intellectual stumbling stones for those people so that they may move on to spiritual investigation or spiritual progression.
I’m fine with the church not officially doing apologetics. I can see why the Brethren don’t want to hang their hat on apologetics. That is not the gospel message. But then that is no reason to dismiss unofficial apologetics. (Unless the Brethren some day say to do so.)
There are many who are fooled by false, or twisted, or out of context information presented by church critics. Those things need answers to help remove stumbling blocks so people may prepare for the real gospel message.
I’ll appeal to another apostle, Elder Ballard, in his “gone are the days when…” talk to CES directors. He specifically directed CES teachers and others to address sincere questions.
I think Reinhard Lindner’s arguments are valid and appropriate. As happens so often in the Bloggernacle, ganging up on unpopular ideas is what is inappropriate. Speculation – even “faith-promoting” speculation – does not always best serve. That’s all he is pointing out, and the point seems obvious to me. I think it’s wonderful that Don Bradley’s research has brought him back into the fold, but that is neither here nor there in relationship to the contents of the book. Since your review does a fine job of overview of the book’s content, including the headings of the 15 chapters, Reinhard does not have to have read the book to raise a voice of warning. The book is an intriguing idea that raises some flags.
He’s just sayin’… (you may beat me up now)
Bookslinger: There’s not much in your last comment I would disagree with. There is a real danger, however, when an apologetic argument backfires, is revealed as a stretch too far, or gets a little too ad hominy (to coin a phrase), it can be deflating and/or embarrassing. I’m not saying that this particular book (and those like it) is not well intentioned and/or faith promoting for some. Good intentions can, however, backfire especially when more is claimed for whatever is on offer. Call me picky, but I prefer it if everybody exercises due caution and modesty about what they are entitled to claim. That’s it.
rickpowers: Thank you. I often hesitate to say much because of the blow back, but sometimes feel compelled to take the risk. I really am “just sayin'” and don’t mean to offend. Speculation can, I realize, be well intentioned, and interesting, even enjoyable to share. It can even lead to some ideas worth examination. But these usually need a good deal of polishing, and even then, may not pan out. The pursuit of knowledge, because it is an exacting and demanding process, more often than not, is deflating and humbling. But that can make us a (chastened but also) better seeker after truth. I am particularly fond of the motto found in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: “The trouble about progress is that it always looks much greater than it really is.” In any event, I’m grateful for the support.
I find any work that seeks to better understand and appreciate the Book of Mormon to be valuable. I don’t see it as “apologetics” per se. We have the book, there are still undiscovered treasures buried in the pages, we ought to be doing more studying and seeking in order to tease out its incredible truths and mysteries.
I really don’t see what Mr. Lindner’s problem is with the Bradley book, a book he hasn’t even read.
“There is a real danger, however, when an apologetic argument backfires, is revealed as a stretch too far, or gets a little too ad hominy (to coin a phrase), it can be deflating and/or embarrassing.”
Yes. It’s the same as in humanities, science, or any academia. All academics/scientists need to put forth their findings, interpretations, and deductiions in a way that allows a “Whoops, we’ve discovered something new that leads us to revise our previous statements” later on.
It applies to everybody, both formal scholars, researchers, historians, as well as amateurs and apologists.
First off, the book isn’t apologetic. It isn’t defending anything. Nor did Bradley enter into this with any preconceived notions. Just seeing chapter headings is NOT the same as reading the book.
Instead, you basically have judged the book by its cover. That is not reasonable. That is jumping at shadows for your conclusions. Read the book, Then critique it if you still think it deserves such criticism.
Otherwise, you sound like the critics of the Book of Mormon, who haven’t even cracked the book.
BbTW, the Church encourage s the use of certain unofficial websites for CFM study, including apologetic sites like Interpreter and BoM Central, so you statements fall flat.
I’m ending comments. This is turning i to a flame war, due to some beginning to make attacks on apologia, rather than actually reading the book and discussing its strengths and weaknesses.
I’ve had to delete a few comments that were downright anti-Mormon and with ad hominem attacks, by people with faked controversial names. For such people, your attacks aren’t welcome here at Millennial Star.
FYI: I have only read excerpts from Bradey’s book. However, I did read his entire MA thesis which is what the book is based on so I am not shooting blind. I also have an entire bookshelf of apologetic literature which I have read and have, thus far, been largely disappointed by. I keep hoping, though. I do consider Bradley’s work to be apologetic though of a softer nature than, say, the stuff FARMS put out, much like Given’s. That’s my full disclosure.
It was my understanding that the 2nd account Nephi felt impressed to write was a “better” account than the book of Lehi? (D & C 10:45) Is that true, and if so, does the author address that?
Not necessarily better, but a different focus. Nephi’s small plates focus on spiritual events and teachings, as well as emphasizing his right to reign. Mormon’s abridgement, as we can see in Mosiah and Alma, also deal with wars and events that affected the nation, including Gadianton robbers and great destructions. Bradley does deal with the difference to some extent, as well as similarities between the small plates and Moemon’s abridgement.