Moroni's Title Page
by Shirley R. Heater
Ask someone what the first page of the Book of Mormon is called and the answer will probably be, "the preface." Ask who wrote it and Joseph Smith's name will invariably come up. Both answers are inaccurate, and the time has come to correct these misconceptions. These mistaken ideas are not new. Even during his lifetime, Joseph Smith was confronted with these erroneous notions. He responded in his personal history in Times and Seasons (1842:943):
I wish also to mention here, that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated; the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that, said title page is not by any means a modern composition either of mine or of any other man's who has lived or does live in this generation. Therefore, in order to correct an error which generally exists concerning it, I give below that part of the title page of the English version of the Book of Mormon, which is a genuine and literal translation of the title page of the Original Book of Mormon, as recorded on the plates.... The remainder of the title page is of course, modern.
Notice that Joseph refers to the "title page" five times; he has no doubt as to its purpose. He also states that it is a "literal translation, taken from ... the plates." From the content of his statement it is clear that his intent is to refute the idea being circulated that it was "a modern composition." To further establish beyond all question what he means, he presents a complete transcript of the title page. Clearly it was not written by Joseph Smith but most likely by Moroni, the last writer of the book. Following the title we find the words beginning with "An account written by the hand of Mormon . . ." This distinctive style of wording is employed throughout the Book of Mormon in the introductory headings which are called superscriptions. Moroni, as the last writer, used this writing device to create a "giant" superscription to the entire record. Understanding that the title page is a superscription is helpful in analyzing its content as an introductory summary for the entire Book of Mormon. (For more information on superscriptions, see "The 1830 Edition: History and Manuscript Comparison" pp. 89-98)
Poetic Arrangement Brings Purpose into Sharper Focus
For years the frequent response to the question, 'What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?" has been that it is "a second witness" or "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ." We now know and can show by a poetic arrangement that this is a subpoint following the word "also." The primary point stands out in the following alternating pattern.
A written to the Lamanites which are a remnant of the house of Israel;
B and also to Jew and Gentile ...
A' to shew unto the remnant of the house of Israel ... that they May know the covenants of the Lord
B' and also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ ...
The main purpose, shown in bold (A/A'), of the Book of Mormon is that the Lamanites who are a remnant of the house of Israel "may know the covenants of the Lord." The italics, "and also to the Jew and Gentile" (B/B'), give the secondary purpose.
David Lamb's testimony (see "The Meaning of the Name 'Mormon"' pp. 44-45, Recent Book of Mormon Dev. Vol 2) is that the name of the Book of Mormon symbolically stands for "Book of the Covenant" or "Book of the Restoration of the Covenant." Moroni's title page helps confirm this new understanding.
Placement of the Title Page in the Editions
The title page is the first page in the 1830 First Edition as well as the 1837 edition. The editors of the 1840 edition were the first to insert a page with the title and publishing information in front of Moroni's title page. The name "Moroni" was placed at the end of the title page in the 1840 edition, and this was carried over in the 1874 and 1892 editions. We know that Joseph used the Original manuscript to make some corrections in the 1840 edition. Was Moroni's name on the Original manuscript? Unfortunately this portion no longer exists but it is plausable to assume that such was the case.
The first edition published by the Reorganization, the 1874 edition, continued in the same form as the 1840 with the additional page inserted in front of Moroni's title page. However, the 1892 large-print edition removed the additional page. The 1908 Authorized Edition returned to the same form as the 1840 with the additional page inserted before Moroni's title page. Following the title page is a three-page preface, written by the committee which prepared the 1908 edition for printing. Unfortunately, as a result of the additional pages, Moroni's title page, which Joseph stated was translated from the plates has come to be called the "preface" by most people.
Let's begin today to correctly refer to Moroni's title page and remember that the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon as stated on the title page is to restore a knowledge of the covenants of the Lord to the heritage people.
Smith, Joseph Smith, Jr.
1842 History of Joseph Smith. In Times and Seasons,
vol. 3. Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri.
This article taken from Recent Book of Mormon Developments vol. 2 p. 116-117.