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Nephi’s Small Plates: A Rhetorical Analysis

TitleNephi’s Small Plates: A Rhetorical Analysis
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsReynolds, Noel B.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsChiasmus; Nephi (Son of Lehi); Rhetorical Structures; Small Plates of Nephi

In previous and pending publications I have proposed interpretations of various features of Nephi’s writings. In this paper I undertake a comprehensive discussion of the seven passages in which Nephi and his successor Jacob explain the difference between the large and the small plates and describe the divinely mandated profile for each. While most readers of the Book of Mormon have been satisfied with the simple distinction between the large plates in which the large plates are a comprehensive historical record of the Nephite experience and the small plates are a record of selected spiritual experiences, including revelations and prophecies, that approach has been challenged in some academic writing. What has been missing in this literature is a comprehensive and focused analysis of all seven of the textual profiles for these two Nephite records. In the following analysis, I invoke the insights of Hebrew rhetoric as developed by Hebrew Bible scholars over the past half century to articulate a vision of how these scattered explanations are designed and placed to support the larger rhetorical structures Nephi has built into his two books. The conclusions reached support the traditional approach to these texts.

For a summary of this article, see Interpreting Interpreter