Evidence #111 | November 19, 2020

Hidden Records

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Scripture Central


The Book of Mormon speaks of efforts by its prophets to preserve and hide their sacred records by burying them in the earth. This practice is well attested in the ancient world.

The Book of Mormon As a Hidden Record

The Book of Mormon frequently refers to sacred texts—especially the Book of Mormon itself—that were, or would be, hidden up for preservation, to come forth at some future day. Concerning the words of Ether’s record, we learn that Ether “hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them” (Ether 15:33). Moroni, who recorded the prophecies of the brother of Jared, said he was commanded of the Lord to “hide them up again in the earth” (Ether 4:3).

Late in Nephite history, the prophet Ammaron “did hide up the records which were sacred … that they might come again unto the remnant of the house of Jacob, according to the prophecies and the promises of the Lord” (4 Nephi 1:48–49). Mormon, who obtained these records, likewise “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me by the hand of the Lord, save it were these few plates [the Book of Mormon] which I gave unto my son Moroni” (Mormon 6:6). And then Moroni, in turn, declared that he would “write and hide up the records in the earth” (Mormon 8:4). Many more prophecies and references to the Book of Mormon being hidden up or coming forth out of the earth or dust are scattered throughout the text.1 

Finally, it should be noted that the Book of Mormon is still a hidden text. As recorded by Nephi, the Lord declared that after Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he would be commanded to “seal up the book again, and hide it up unto me, that I may preserve the words which thou hast not read, until I shall see fit in mine own wisdom to reveal all things unto the children of men” (2 Nephi 27:22).

Examples of Hidden Records

According to John Tvedtnes, “The Book of Mormon is but one of a number of ancient texts that were buried in the ground and later brought to light.”2 Many ancient records were buried in caves or tombs.3 Well-known caches, such as the documents found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi library, provide archaeological support and ample precedent for the numerous ancient accounts of such texts.4

Nag Hammadi Documents. Photo via Institute for Antiquity and Christianity.

Traditions of Preserving Records

Several ancient texts record instructions for preserving documents so that they could be revealed at a future day. The Testament of Moses recounts the instructions that Moses gave to Joshua to anoint books (presumably with oil) and “and deposit them in earthen jars until the day of recompense.”5 An Ethiopian text provides instruction to guard a book “and make it to endure, and ye shall be saved from fire.”6 And we find “instructions about how to seal [a] letter in a bottle with clay” in a prayerbook used by the Mandaeans of Iraq, who “have a number of traditions about the preservation of sacred books.”7

Traditions of Hidden Records

Traditions that discuss the actual hiding of records are also prevalent in antiquity. Some traditions trace this practice all the way back to the earliest prophets of the Hebrew Bible, and even to Adam himself. One Jewish legend reports that Adam hid “in the crevice of a rock” a golden book that was given to him by the archangel Michael.8 A “twelfth-century rabbi Moses Maimonides reported a Sabaean tradition that writings of Adam still existed in the ground.”9 And a text called the Book of Noah “tells how Enoch  was shown in a dream the location (in a cave) of the heavenly book delivered to Adam.”10

The Historian Eusebius. Image via Wikipedia.

Noah also features prominently in such traditions. The same text shown to Enoch (mentioned above) “was later delivered to Noah, who also hid it away.”11 The historian Eusebius “recorded that Noah inscribed a history of everything and buried it at Sippar.”12 As told by the Babylonian historian Berossus, the god Chronos similarly told Xisuthros (the Babylonian Noah figure) “to bury in Sippar all available writings to preserve them during the deluge, after which the flood survivors were to retrieve and disseminate them to all mankind.”13 

Hidden Records in Hermetic Literature

Numerous accounts of sacred hidden texts can be found in Hermetic literature.14 A Greek document reports that Hermes (often associated with the prophet Enoch) hid away many books before being taken into heaven, and that he intended them to be “unseen and undiscovered by all men … until the time when Heaven, grown old, shall beget organisms worthy of you.”15 

In an Egyptian text from the 5th century AD, Hermes tells his son to “keep silent about what is hidden” and that his praise to God should “be written in this imperishable book.”16 Hermes later tells his son to carve his teaching into stone and place it in his sanctuary, where it would be surrounded by divine guardians.17 The document containing this counsel, known as Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth, was itself found “concealed in a large jar buried in the earth.”18 Tvedtnes concludes that Hermetic traditions “confirm the antiquity of the practice followed by some of the Nephite scribes in the Book of Mormon, who also hid up records to come to light at a future time.19

Traditions from Ancient America

It shouldn’t be assumed that accounts of hidden records are confined to the Old World. Paul R. Cheesman, for instance, has cited examples from ancient American traditions. According to an early Spanish friar, the Otami Indians had a tradition about a lost book, buried in the ground by its guardians, which had pictures of Christ being crucified.20 Similarly, some Maya legends speak of a “Golden Book” made of fifty-two gold plates and containing a complete history of their people, hidden by Maya priests when the Spanish invaded.21  


The Book of Mormon’s persistent emphasis on the preservation and burial of sacred texts is clearly not out of place in the ancient world. An abundance of archaeological and textual data from diverse locations and traditions demonstrates that hiding documents, especially sacred documents, was a well-known concept and practice in antiquity.  

John A. Tvedtnes, The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: “Out of Darkness Unto Light” (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 13–25.

Paul R. Cheesman, Ancient Writing on metal Plates: Archaeological Findings Support Mormon Claims (Bountiful, UT: Horizon, 1985).

Title Page 1 Nephi 13:35 2 Nephi 3:19–20 2 Nephi 26:15–16 2 Nephi 27:6–26 2 Nephi 33:13 Alma 37:1–254 Nephi 1:48–49 Mormon 1:3–4 Mormon 5:8–9 Mormon 6:6Mormon 8:4, 23 Ether 4:3, 13–15Ether 15:33 Moroni 10:2, 27

Title Page

1 Nephi 13:35

2 Nephi 3:19–20

2 Nephi 26:15–16

2 Nephi 27:6–26

2 Nephi 33:13

Alma 37:1–25

4 Nephi 1:48–49

Mormon 1:3–4

Mormon 5:8–9

Mormon 6:6

Mormon 8:4, 23

Ether 4:3, 13–15

Ether 15:33

Moroni 10:2, 27

Records and Relics
Book of Mormon

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