The “116 Pages” or the “Lost Pages” is a reference to the Book of Lehi. This book made up the first part of the Book of Mormon.
In 1827 Joseph Smith began his work in translating the Nephite records (“gold plates”). Acting as the first scribe was Martin Harris. The translating took place upstairs in Joseph Smith’s home where Joseph and Martin sat at a desk or table with a curtain in between them. Joseph, using the translators buried with the plates, the Urim and Thummim, would read the translation to Martin who would then write it down.
The following year, 1828, these two completed translating the Book of Lehi, the transcript totaling 116 pages. Upon completing this translation Harris asked if he could take the translated pages home to show his wife so that she could be comforted in knowing what they were doing is real. The prophet Joseph asked the Lord on behalf of Harris and was told not to allow it. Harris asked Smith if he could ask again. A second time the answer came back not to permit Martin Harris to take home the papers. But brother Harris was persistent and asked Joseph if he would plea with the Lord one last time on his behalf. This third time, when seeing that his wise words were not being listened to, the Lord granted Harris permission to take home the 116 translated pages.
When the time came that President Smith asked Brother Harris to return the transcript it could not be found. Joseph, realizing they would not recover what was stolen, prayed to the Lord about what had happened. God, because Joseph had listened to Martin rather than him, removed the gift of translating from Joseph, as well as took away the plates and translators from him. After some length of time (not specified how long) Joseph was permitted to begin the work again without Martin Harris as scribe. The following year, June of 1829, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery (scribe) completed the work of translating the gold plates, but the first 116 pages, the Book of Lehi, was never recovered nor translated again.
As before stated, the first pages that Harris lost were not translated again. The Lord commanded that it be so. Instead of re-translating, the Lord had prepared for such an error in the time of Nephi and provided a way to make up for it. When Nephi was in control of the plates he was told of the Lord to create two sets of plates, now known as the Large Plates of Nephi and the Small Plates of Nephi. The small plates contain much of the information that was contained in the 116 lost pages, and so, although those pages are lost forever, much of their content is revealed in the small plates of Nephi.
- To Always Remember Him
- For A Wise Purpose
- By the Hands of His Prophets
- The Witness: Martin Harris
- Book of Mormon Excerpt – Joseph Smith Papers