The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon



What is recorded in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, and when will we get to read it?  As it turns out, the Lord has answered each of these questions in modern-day revelation.  Let us examine each of these questions in order.

 

What is contained in the sealed portion?



To get the answer to our first question, we must first understand when the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon was written, and who it was written by.  Our story begins with the Brother of Jared.



As the brother of Jared was preparing to cross the ocean with his friends and family, he asked the Lord to touch sixteen small stones, and in the process, the brother of Jared saw the finger of the Lord (Ether 3:6). After this experience, the veil was removed from the brother of Jared and he was then taken into the presence of the Lord (Ether 3:13).  This is where the story of the Book of Mormon’s sealed portion begins.



Once the brother of Jared was in the presence of the Lord, he beheld a vision:



The Lord…showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also all that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth (Ether 3:25).



This vision, according to the prophet Nephi, was “a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof” (2 Nephi 27:7). In other words, the brother of Jared beheld the entire history and future of the earth’s 7,000-year temporal existence the way God saw it.  What is more, the brother of Jared was commanded to write the things which he saw:



And the Lord said unto him: Write these things and seal them up; and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men (Ether 3:27).



It is important to understand that this record was to remain sealed until after Christ was resurrected. This was made clear by the Lord, who said to the brother of Jared:



Behold, thou shalt not suffer these things which ye have seen and heard to go forth unto the world, until the time cometh that I shall glorify my name in the flesh (Ether 3:21; emphasis added).



And again:



And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross (Ether 4:1; emphasis added).



We also need to remember that because the brother of Jared still spoke the Adamic language,[1] this record was unable to be read by those who would later come into possession of it. For this reason, the Lord gave the brother of Jared interpreters, which were to remain with this record at all times, for the purpose of translating the record at a future date:



An artists model of the Jaredite interpreters
And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee, and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write (Ether 3:23).



It is extremely important to understand that the two stones that were given to the brother of Jared at this time were to remain with the record at all times; for, if they were ever to become separated from the record, the record would remain untranslated.



What happened to the brother of Jared’s record?



From this point forward, it is somewhat difficult to track the path of the brother of Jared’s record and the companion interpreters. However, the Book of Mormon does give us a few clues to help us understand what happened to these two items along the way. 



First, the brother of Jared’s record, along with the interpreters, were likely handed down among the Jaredites (similar to the way the Book of Mormon records were handed down from generation to generation) until they were finally given to the prophet Ether. But what happened to this record and the interpreters after Ether?  To answer to this question, we need to first understand some things about a second Jaredite record, namely the twenty-four plates written by Ether.



The Twenty-Four Plates



After the final Jaredite battle, the prophet Ether recorded the entire Jaredite history onto twenty-four gold plates, and he placed them in a very easy and obvious location for others to find at a later date.  As it turns out, these twenty-four plates were easily found by a Nephite expedition who was trying to locate the land of Zarahemla. King Limhi recalled:



Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness, that thereby they might find the land of Zarahemla, that we might appeal unto our brethren to deliver us out of bondage. And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days…and found not the land of Zarahemla but…[they] discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind…. And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold (Mosiah 8:7-8; emphasis added).

   

Many have assumed that these twenty-four plates included the brother of Jared’s record.  However, LDS scholar Valentin Arts gives us several reasons why these twenty-four plates could not have contained the brother of Jared’s record.[2]  To summarize:


1. The brother of Jared’s record was sealed (Ether 3:23), yet the twenty-four plates were clearly not sealed because Mosiah “translated and caused to be written the records which were on the [twenty-four] plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi” (Mosiah 28:11).

2. The brother of Jared’s record was to remain sealed until after Christ appeared to the Nephites (see Ether 3:21; Ether 4:1). However, Mosiah translated the twenty-four plates over 100 years before Christ appeared to the Nephites.

3. Because the brother of Jared’s record was to remain sealed until after Christ’s resurrection, Ether would have been unable to copy the brother of Jared’s vision over to his twenty-four plates. And since Ether (and Ether alone) was the author of the twenty-four plates (see Ether 1:2, 6), it is clear that the brother of Jared’s vision was not included on them.

4. This sacred nature of the brother of Jared’s vision required that the record be kept hidden from the knowledge of man (Ether 3:21). Since the twenty-four plates were placed in an easily discoverable location by Ether, it is clear that they did not contain the brother of Jared’s record.

5. The interpreters were to remain with brother of Jared’s record at all times (Ether 3:23). However, the Limhi expedition who found the twenty-four plates did not find the interpreters. This was because the interpreters were together with the brother of Jared’s record in a separate location.



The odd part of this story is that King Mosiah already had the interpreters in his possession (yes, the same interpreters that were originally given to the brother of Jared), and he had them before the twenty-four plates were ever brought to him!  We know this from several scriptures.  For example, Limhi asked Ammon if he could translate the twenty-four plates that his expedition had found:



Knowest thou of any one that can translate? For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed…. Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters…. And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and [it is he] who has this high gift from God. (Mosiah 8:12-14).[3]



How did King Mosiah get the interpreters that were originally given to the brother of Jared?  Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon does not tell us how or when King Mosiah received the brother of Jared’s interpreters. All we know is that he did have both items (they were to be kept together) in his possession before he received and translated the twenty-four plates.



How do we know that the interpreters that Mosiah had in his posession were the same interpreters that were given to the brother of Jared?  Simple!  Mosiah’s interpreters were handed down among the Nephites from generation to generation, until they were given to Moroni, who buried them with the gold plates.  And as we learn from the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants, the interpreters that Moroni gave to Joseph Smith were the same ones given to the Brother of Jared:



Behold, I say unto you [Joseph Smith], that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also…the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face (D&C 17:1).



This tells us that there was only one set of interpreters used between the brother of Jared, Mosiah, Moroni, Joseph Smith, and everyone in between.



How then, did Mosiah get the brother of Jared’s record and interpreters?  While the Book of Mormon does not say, it is very likely that they were given to either Mosiah’s Father (King Benjamin), or Mosiah’s Grandfather (King Mosiah the elder), by the prophet Ether himself.



We assume this because Coriantumr, the last known remaining Jaredite (other than Ether), lived long enough to make his way to Zarahemla, where he lived with the Nephites for “nine moons” (Omni 1:21).  Since Coriantumr was a contemporary with Ether, it is probably that Ether would have also been alive during this time as well and could have easily made his way to Zarahemla to turn over the brother of Jared’s record and interpreters to either Mosiah the elder, or his son, King Benjamin. In fact the Lord may have translated the prophet Ether for this very purpose (see Ether 15:34).



In any event, Moroni tells us that the brother of Jared’s record (along with the interpreters), were in fact given to Mosiah at some point.  We read:



And the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to go down out of the mount from the presence of the Lord, and write the things which he had seen; and they were forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Mosiah keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people (Ether 4:1; emphasis added).



From Mosiah, the record and interpreters were passed down among the Nephites from generation to generation until the time of Christ. Since Nephi was the prophet during the time that Christ ministered among the Nephites, it is likely that he had the brother of Jaredites record and the interpreters in his possession. 



When Christ came to visit the Nephites, the brother of Jared’s record was allowed to be unsealed and translated (Ether 3:21; Ether 4:1), and since Nephi was the prophet at this time, it is likely that he was given this important task.  This unsealing of the brother of Jared’s record at the time of Christ might have been alluded to in the following verse:



[Jesus] did expound all things [unto the Nephites], even from the beginning until the time that he should come in his glory—yea, even all things which should come upon the face of the earth (3 Nephi 26:3; emphasis added).



Is this a reference to the unsealing of the brother of Jared’s record?  While we do not know the answer to this question, one thing is for certain. Once Nephi had unsealed the brother of Jared’s record, he would have been allowed to translate it into the Nephite language for all to read (Ether 4:2). From this point on in Nephite history, there would be two copies of the brother of Jared’s vision: the original, and the translation.  LDS scholar Valentin Arts writes:



“From the time of Nephi (AD 35), there were two copies of the record of the great vision of the bother of Jared: the original, “in a language that…cannot be read” (Ether 3:22), and “the interpretation thereof” by Nephi in the Nephite language (Ether 4:1-5).”[4]



Each of these records would have been passed down among the Nephites until they fell into the hands of Moroni. Once Moroni received them, he would have read Nephi’s translated copy, and engraved the details of this vision onto the gold plates:



Behold, I [Moroni] have written upon [the gold] plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared. Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord (Ether 4:4-5; emphasis added).[5]

The sealed portion of the gold plates


LDS scholar Valentin Arts explains:



“Moroni possessed both records [of the brother of Jared’s vision] and added a third copy by writing or copying the words of the vision upon “these plates” (Ether 4:4), that is, the gold plates.  He most likely used Nephi’s translation as his master copy because he was familiar with that language and not with the language of the brother of Jared.”[6]



Moroni, after he copied the brother of Jared’s vision onto the gold plates (from Nephi’s copy), sealed up his record along with the interpreters, and buried them together in the Hill Cumorah.  Joseph Smith eventually received these items but was not authorized to translate the sealed portion of the brother of Jared’s vision.[7]  Once sealed by Moroni, it has not been opened or read by anyone since.

Moroni buries the plates with the interpreters


When Will the Sealed Portion be Unsealed?



Now that we know what is contained in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, the next logical question is, when will we get to read it?



All we are told by the Lord regarding this matter is that it will “not be delivered in the day of wickedness and abominations of the people” (2 Nephi 27:8).[8] From this statement, it appears that we will not receive the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon until the Millennium, for it will not be until the Millennium that wickedness will cease to exist on the earth.  With that said, it is certainly possible that the Lord could reveal this record sooner.  After all, “wickedness and abominations” will certainly be non-existent in Zion.  However, there are other scriptures that seem to indicate that the Millennium will be the long awaited day for the unsealing of the Book of Mormon. 



For example, the Doctrine and Covenants teaches us that at the start of the Millennium, we will all be shown in vision the history of the earth the way God saw it.  We read in section 88: 



And then shall the first angel again sound his trump in the ears of all living, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the mighty works of God in the first thousand years.  And then shall the second angel sound his trump, and reveal the secret acts of men, and the thoughts and intents of their hearts, and the mighty works of God in the second thousand years– And so on, until the seventh angel shall sound his trump (D&C 88:108-110).



During this vision, we will behold, just as the brother of Jared beheld, every person who has ever lived.  We will see everyone’s lives in great detail, from the creation of the earth to the Second Coming of Christ.  According to the Lord, this includes our “secret acts,” as well as the “thoughts and intents” of our hearts (D&C 88:108-09).  To think that our sins could be shown to everyone at this time is a horrifying thought. Thankfully, however, we are told that any acts that we have fully repented of, will be forgotten by the Lord (D&C 58:42), and therefore not shown to the world at this time (Ezekiel 18:21-22).  



Same Vision?




We mention this here because this Millennial vision appears to be the same vision that was shown to the brother of Jared.  For example, both visions include the history and future of the earth, and both visions show the lives of every person who has ever lived on this earth. 



Could it be that the unsealing of the Book of Mormon is the same event as this great millennial vision?  After all, we know that the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon will not come forth “in a day of wickedness” (Millennium?), and that it contains a revelation from the beginning to the end of the world, as does this Millennial vision.



As it turns out, there may be even more hints in the scriptures that link these two events together as one and the same.



We have already mentioned that if we have fully repented during our mortal probation, our sins will not be shown to the world during this Millennial vision; however, it is important to point out that if we choose not repent, we will not be as fortunate.  The Lord tells us that during this time, “the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed” (D&C 1:3).



Notice how the Lord used the phrase “spoken upon the housetops” when describing this event.  We mention this because the Lord also used this phrase to describe the coming forth of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon:



And the day cometh that the words of the book which were sealed shall be read upon the housetops; and they shall be read by the power of Christ; and all things shall be revealed unto the children of men which ever have been among the children of men, and which ever will be even unto the end of the earth (2 Nephi 27:11; emphasis added).



Could the Lord be describing the same event in these two scriptures?



If they are the same event, we need to ask why it is that in one event, we are reading the words of a book, and in the other event, we are being shown a vision.  Aren’t those two different things?  As it turns out, the Lord may have given us a clue which may help to reconcile these differences.  Speaking of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, the Lord said to the brother of Jared:



            Write these things and seal them up; and I will show them in mine own due time unto the children of men (Ether 3:27; emphasis added). 



Here the Lord said that rather than having us read the book, he will show us the things written inside!  He also told Moroni that he will “manifest [to us]…the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations” (Ether 4:7).  



Here, the Lord used the words, “unfolding,” “manifest,” and “show” when describing the coming forth of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.  These statements lead us to believe that we will not just get to read the revelation written by the brother of Jared, but we will get to see what he saw in vision. This is another reason why the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon and the Millennial vision may be one and the same event.



But perhaps the best evidence comes to us from the Prophet Nephi, who said that during the Millennium, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord…[and] there is nothing which is secret save it shall be revealed…and there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed (2 Nephi 30:15-18).

Here the Prophet Nephi tells us that all will be revealed during the Millennium, and that “there is nothing which is sealed upon the earth save it shall be loosed” (2 Nephi 30:17). Does this have reference to the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon?  If so, we have our answer.


Importance of Scriptures



Whether or not we will have to wait until the Millennium to read the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon still remains to be seen.  However, we should in the meantime take advantage of all the scriptures we have now.  When I was in high school, I attended an Education Week at BYU.  The speaker asked us youth to raise our hands if we would like to, right now, be able to read the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon.  Every one of our hands went up.   He then told us to keep our hands in the air if we have read the entire Book of Mormon. The vast majority of our hands went down, including mine. 



This taught me an important lesson. The Lord will not give us more until we have made good use of what he has already given us. May we all study the Book of Mormon, as well as the other scriptures we have now, that we may be worthy to receive more when the time comes.

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Notes:

[1] Genesis 11:1; Mormon Doctrine, p. 19.
[2] Arts, “A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11/1 (2002); p. 53-56, located at: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/view/19953/18518
[3] See also Omni 1:20.
[4] Arts, “A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11/1 (2002); p. 58, located at: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/view/19953/18518
[5] Approximately two thirds of the gold plates were made up by the sealed portion (see Journal of Discourses, 3:347; Henrichsen, “What Did the Golden Plates Look Like?” (July 2007), New Era, p. 31).
[6] Arts, “A Third Jaredite Record: The Sealed Portion of the Gold Plates,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 11/1 (2002); p. 58, located at: https://ojs.lib.byu.edu/spc/index.php/JBMRS/article/view/19953/18518
[7] Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 320.
[8] See also, Ether 4:6.