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TitleA Backstory for the Brass Plates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsReynolds, Noel B.
JournalInterpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship
KeywordsAbraham (Prophet); Book of Abraham; Book of Moses; Brass Plates; Deuteronomist Reforms; Documentary Hypothesis; Language - Reformed Egyptian; Lehi (Prophet); Manasseh (Tribe of); Prophecy; Scribe; Stick of Joseph

This paper brings contemporary Ancient Near East (ANE) scholarship in several fields together with the ancient scriptures restored through Joseph Smith to construct a new starting point for interpretation of the teachings of the Book of Mormon. It assembles findings from studies of ancient scribal culture, historical linguistics and epigraphy, and the history and archaeology of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Levant, together with the traditions of ancient Israel and the ancient scriptures restored to Joseph Smith, to construct a contextualized perspective for understanding Lehi, Nephi, and the Brass Plates as they would have been understood by their contemporaries — as prominent bearers of the Josephite textual tradition. This essay offers a hypothetical, but comprehensive backstory for the Brass Plates. Because of its hypothetical character, it cannot be claimed that it is the true account. Rather it is an attempt to build a plausible backstory given the current state of knowledge in the relevant fields of academic research and the facts provided in the ancient scriptures restored through Joseph Smith.