1 Nephi 9: Two Sets of Plates

Book of Mormon Student Study Guide, (2000), 20


Nephi kept two sets of records. One was the secular history of his people (the large plates of Nephi); the second was a sacred record (the small plates of Nephi). As you read 1 Nephi 9, look for the reasons Nephi gave for keeping those two records. In the “Understanding the Scriptures” section you will learn what we know today about the reasons for his keeping two sets of plates. This event teaches us that the Lord has a plan that takes into account our failings as well as our successes.

Understanding the Scriptures

1 Nephi 9

Reign (v. 4)Rule
Contentions (v. 4)Disagreements, arguing

1 Nephi 9:3–6—For a Wise Purpose

In 1828 the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon and had finished 116 handwritten pages. Martin Harris pled with Joseph several times to let him show the translation to his family. The Lord at first said no, but finally gave permission if Martin would promise to show them only to a chosen few. Martin Harris broke his promise and the 116 pages were lost. Joseph was heartsick, but through this experience he learned a valuable lesson about obedience and how impossible it is for the wicked to prevent Heavenly Father from accomplishing His work (see D&C 3:1–10).

Joseph with plates

© Robert T. Barrett

Nephi with plates

The Lord knew what Martin Harris would do and planned for it more than 2,000 years in advance. The Lord told Nephi to make two sets of records covering the same time period. One, the large plates, contained the secular history of the Nephites. The other, the small plates, was reserved for their sacred history. Joseph Smith began translating from Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates, so the 116 pages that Martin lost contained information on the secular history.

The Lord also knew that the Prophet’s enemies would change the stolen pages so that if Joseph translated the same material again they would say that he was not a prophet because he could not translate it the same way twice (see D&C 10:10–19). The Lord told Joseph not to translate that part again, but to translate the small plates of Nephi, which covered the same time period but contained the more important sacred record (see D&C 10:30–45; see also “The Main Sources for the Book of Mormon,” p. 12).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study 1 Nephi 9.

Activity A iconMake a Marginal Note

In 1 Nephi 9, Nephi used the phrases “these plates” and “other plates” to refer to the two sets of plates the Lord commanded him to make. In the margin of your scriptures, write a note like the following to help you remember which set of plates he was referring to: these plates = small plates and other plates = large plates.

Activity B iconApply It to Your Life

Nephi obeyed the Lord and made two sets of plates even though he was not told why. How can Nephi’s example of faith and obedience inspire you to live the commandments you may not fully understand?