Evidence #333 | April 25, 2022

Plates, Curses, and Blessings

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Scripture Central


Like other known examples of metal documents, the book of Mormon contains blessings and curses, often in association with covenants.

One of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to make known many of the “covenants of the Lord” (Title Page of the Book of Mormon). As such, the text often describes the blessings that come from following its prophetic teachings and the consequences that result from their rejection. Like the Book of Mormon, metal plates in antiquity sometimes recorded curses and blessings.

Ancient Near Eastern Plates

Treaties in the ancient world were sometimes solemnized by inscribing them on metal plates. The text of these treaties often appealed to the deities worshipped by the respective parties to witness these significant agreements and enact the blessings or curses stated according to the integrity or treachery of those who accepted their conditions.

One such treaty between Pharaoh Rameses II and the Hittite king Hattusili was inscribed on a silver tablet (1280 BC.) After stipulating the terms of the peace agreement between the two kingdoms, it states, “as for these words, a thousand gods of the male gods and of the female gods of them of the land of Egypt, are with me as witnesses [hearing] these words.”1 Another Hittite Treaty between the Hittite kings Tudhaliya IV and Kurunta of Tarhuntassa (1235 BC) inscribed on a bronze plate reads, “the Thousand Gods have now been called to assembly for (attesting the contents of) this treaty tablet that I have just executed for you. Let them see, hear, and be witnesses thereto.”2

In addition to an appeal to divine witnesses, such treaties pronounced divine blessings or curses upon those who kept or failed to keep the conditions of the covenant. The treaty between Egypt and the Hittites states, “As for these words which are on the tablet of silver of the land of Hatti and of the land of Egypt—as for him who shall not keep them, a thousand gods of the land of Hatti, together with a thousand gods of the land of Egypt, shall destroy his house, his land, and his servants.”3

On the other hand for those “who shall keep these words which are on this tablet of silver, whether they are Hatti or whether they are Egyptians, and they are not neglectful of them, a thousand gods of the land of Hatti, together with a thousand gods of the land of Egypt, shall cause that he be well, shall cause that he live, together with his houses and his (land) and his servants.”4

The Hittite bronze tablet of Tudhaliya IV warns, “If you, Karunta, fail to comply with these treaty clauses, and do not remain loyal to My Majesty and subsequently the descendants of My Majesty as your rulers” and rebel, “then may these oath-deities destroy you together with your posterity.”5 Loyalty, however, would cause the deities to “take good care of you, and may you grow old under the protection of My Majesty.”6

Several plates of gold, silver, and bronze were discovered in the foundations of a ruined Assyrian palace in Khorsabad in 1854. These recounted various deeds and donations bestowed by the king upon the temple of his gods. A part of the inscription, however, warns that whoever “brings to naught the law which I have established,—may Assur, Ningal, Adad, and the great gods, who dwell therein … set him in chains under (the heel) of his foe.”7

It also reads, “Let (some) future prince restore its ruins, let him inscribe his memorial stele and set it up alongside of mine. (Then) Assur will hear his prayers. Whoever destroys the work of my hands, who obliterates (the evidence of) my noble deeds, may Assur, the great lord, destroy his name and his seed from the land.”8 These examples show an ancient pattern in which divine beings are invoked as witnesses and called upon to bless or curse.

Greco-Roman Plates

Later, in the Greco-Roman World, treaties between nations and even some laws passed by local assemblies were engraved upon bronze plates and invoked curses upon those who broke such agreements.9 Many examples of lead plates recovered from Greece, Italy and Great Britain have been inscribed with curses to be invoked against evil doers or in the hopes of obtaining divine vengeance.10

Defixio tabella with an opisthographic curse in Greek against Kardelos. Lead, 4th century CE. From the Columbarium of the Villa Doria Pamphilj in Rome. Image and caption via Wikimedia commons. 

Indian Copper Plate Grants

Copper plate inscriptions were an important class of legal document in ancient and medieval India and other parts of southern Asia which bestowed land and related rights and privileges upon brahmins by kings. Vedic law stipulated that when a king or ruler bestowed a grant, the record should be inscribed and include “an imprecation against him who should appropriate the donation to himself and should be signed with his own seal.”11 Even the king was specifically warned that he must “not appropriate to himself landed property bestowed (upon Brahmanas) by other (rulers).”12 Many examples of copper plate grants which have been rediscovered in the last two centuries record blessings to be bestowed upon the donors and curses upon those who might attempt to seize or take back the land granted.

A copper plate recovered from Bangladesh and dating to AD 478 states that “the giver of this land resides sixty thousand years in heaven; the one who challenges (a donation) as the one who approves (of the challenge) will reside as many [years] in hell. The one who would steal land given by himself or another becomes a worm in the excrement and is cooked with his ancestors.”13 The Velvikudi grant, a set of ten copper plates from the 8th century AD, states, “Oh! Gladdener of your race! He that makes a gift on this earth blesses (his) ten generations past and future; and he that takes away (that which has been given) destroys ten generations past and future. To him that robs land given by himself or by others, there is no expiation anywhere except in dreadful hell.”14

The Baroda Copper Plate Inscription from Gujarit (AD 812) reads, “and anyone who, his mind being covered by a dark veil of ignorance, might revoke or allow someone else to revoke [this grant], would be guilty of the five great sins and five minor sins.” While the one who gifts this grant was to reside in heaven for sixty-thousand years, the one who “revokes it or allows [another to revoke it] dwells for the same period in hell.”15 These examples show how such gifts of land were considered inviolable and not to be treated lightly.

The Velvikudi inscription is an 8th-century bilingual copper-plate grant from the Panday kingdom of southern India. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Caption via Wikipedia. 

Curses and Blessings in the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon prophets solemnly state the consequences of accepting or rejecting their testimony. Moroni explains in his abridgment of the book of Ether that he inscribed an account of the vision of the brother of Jared upon his father’s plates, but that this account was sealed to come forth at a later time to those who prove worthy (Ether 4:4–7).

Moroni, declaring the words of Christ, then pronounces a curse upon those who fight against what he has written: “And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh” (Ether 4:8). A blessing is then pronounced upon those who do not resist Christ’s words: “But he that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record. For because of my Spirit he shall know that these things are true; for it persuadeth men to do good (Ether 4:11).16

Covenants mentioned in the Book of Mormon often provide warnings of condemnation if they are broken or if those who make them act in unworthiness. These include the blessings of the Gospel offered through the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter-days (3 Nephi 21:11–25), the baptismal covenant (2 Nephi 31:14, 20), and the sacramental covenant (3 Nephi 18:13, 29).

Curses and Blessings Associated with the Land of Promise

Like copper plate grants, significant curses and blessings in the Book of Mormon are associated with the land which the Lord covenanted to his people in the Book of Mormon. Lehi taught his children that “if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7). Alma taught his son Helaman, “Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction, except they repent before they are fully ripe” (Alma 37:31).

This applies not only to those of the past but those today and in the future. “Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land” (Alma 45:16).


Curses and blessings in relation to treaties, covenants, and other official documents can be found on a variety of metal documents, spanning from the Mediterranean to southern Asia and from the second millennium BC to the Middle Ages. As a covenant text filled with prophetic warnings and promised blessings, the Book of Mormon fits well among the known examples of metal records from ancient and Medieval history.

Book of Mormon Central, “Is the Book of Mormon Like Other Ancient Metal Documents? (Jacob 4:2),” KnoWhy 512 (April 25, 2019).

Book of Mormon Central, “Are There Other Ancient Records Like the Book of Mormon? (Mormon 8:16),” KnoWhy 407 (February 13, 2018).

William J. Hamblin, “Sacred Writing on Metal Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean,” FARMS Review 19, no. 1 (2007): 37–54.

H. Curtis Wright, “Metallic Documents in Antiquity,” BYU Studies Quarterly, 10, no. 4 (1970): 457–477.

Title Page of the Book of Mormon2 Nephi 1:72 Nephi 31:142 Nephi 31:202 Nephi 33:72 Nephi 33:112 Nephi 33:14Alma 37:31Alma 45:163 Nephi 18:133 Nephi 18:293 Nephi 21:11–253 Nephi 26:9–10Ether 4:4–7Ether 4:8Ether 4:11Moroni 10:27Moroni 10:29

Title Page of the Book of Mormon

2 Nephi 1:7

2 Nephi 31:14

2 Nephi 31:20

2 Nephi 33:7

2 Nephi 33:11

2 Nephi 33:14

Alma 37:31

Alma 45:16

3 Nephi 18:13

3 Nephi 18:29

3 Nephi 21:11–25

3 Nephi 26:9–10

Ether 4:4–7

Ether 4:8

Ether 4:11

Moroni 10:27

Moroni 10:29

  • 1 James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Third edition with Supplement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 200–201.
  • 2 William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., eds., The Context of Scripture. Volume II: Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2003), 105. Nephi appeals directly to God as a witness to the truth of his words: “And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things not withstanding my weakness” (2 Nephi 33:11). While those who receive his words will be blessed and spotless at the judgment seat (2 Nephi 33:7), those who reject the goodness of God are cursed, “for these words shall condemn you at the last day” (2 Nephi 33:14). Moroni makes a similar appeal (Moroni 10:27, 29).
  • 3 Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 201.
  • 4 Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 201.
  • 5 Hallo and Younger, The Context of Scripture, 105.
  • 6 Hallo and Younger, The Context of Scripture, 105.
  • 7 Daniel David Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia. Volume II. Historical Records of Assyria from Sargon to the End (Chicago, ILL: University of Chicago Press, 1927), 57.
  • 8 Luckenbill, Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, 58.
  • 9 Callie Williamson, “Monuments of Bronze: Roman Legal Documents on Bronze Tablets,” Classical Antiquity 6, no. 1 (April 1987): 176.
  • 10 H. S. Versnel, “Beyond Cursing: The Appeal to Justice in Judicial Prayers,” in Magika Hiera: Ancient Greek Magic and Religion, ed. Christopher A. Faraone and Dirk Obbink (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1991), 60–105; Roy Kotansky, “Incantations and Prayers for Salvation on Inscribed Greek Amulets,” in Magika Hiera, 107–137; Geoff W. Adams, “The Social and Cultural Implications of Curse Tablets [Defixiones] in Britain and on the Continent,” Studia Humaniora Tartuensia 7 (2006): 1–15.
  • 11 Julius Jolly, trans., The Institutes of Vishnu (Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass, 1970), 21–22.
  • 12 Julius Jolly, trans., The Institutes of Vishnu, 22.
  • 13 Arlo Griffiths, “New Documents for the Early History of Pundravardhana: Copperplate Inscriptions from the Later Gupta and Early Post-Gupta Periods,” Pratna Samiksha: A Journal of Archaeology, New Series 6 (2016): 23–24.
  • 14 H. Krishna Sastri, “Velvikudi Grant of Nedunjadaiyan: The Third Year of Reign,” Epigraphia Indica 17 (1923–1924): 309.
  • 15 Richard Salomon, Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998), 294.
  • 16 Mormon promises that those who prove faithful to the teachings of Jesus in the Book of Mormon will be blessed to receive more, while those who do not will fall under condemnation (3 Nephi 26:9–10).
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