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