Evidence #442 | April 3, 2024

Premature Farewells

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Scripture Central


Premature farewells written by Jacob and Moroni provide evidence of the Book of Mormon’s editorial realism.

In many instances, the authors or abridgers of Book of Mormon texts had clear plans about what they would write in the future.1 Yet, on some occasions, writers ended up including things that apparently were not part of their original plan. This can be seen in several farewell statements that, at first glance, seem to represent an author’s final words but were then followed by unexpected additional content. Such textual features provide evidence of a realistic production history, especially for records written on a permanent medium like metal plates.

Jacob’s Two Farewells

At the conclusion of the sixth chapter of his book, the prophet Jacob wrote the following: “Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen” (Jacob 6:13). Not only do these statements have a ring of finality to them, but they bear a fairly close resemblance to the final words of Nephi, which Jacob was likely modeling. The following chart places their remarks side by side for comparison:

Nephi’s Farewell (2 Nephi 33:14–15)

Jacob’s Farewell (Jacob 6:13)

… behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. For what I seal on earth, shall be brought against you at the judgment bar; for thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey. Amen.

Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen.

Yet, to the reader’s surprise, Jacob apparently wasn’t finished with his record after all. In the next chapter, after “some years had passed away,” Jacob added to his book the story of Sherem, who sought for a sign and was smitten by God (Jacob 7:1). One can imagine that after finishing chapter six, Jacob probably thought his record was completed. But then he felt impelled to include these unexpected events. At the conclusion of chapter seven, Jacob wrote what would end up being his true final farewell:

And I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore, I said unto my son Enos: Take these plates. And I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me, and he promised obedience unto the commands. And I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has been small; and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu. (Jacob 7:27)

Sherem contending with Jacob. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

Contextual Realism of Jacob’s Farewells

A clue that Jacob 7 was truly an unanticipated addition is the way that Jacob 1–6 form a fairly cohesive set of literary units, while Jacob 7 is somewhat of an outlier. As explained by Daniel Belnap and Rod Hernandez,

Perhaps more significant is the difference in literary form between the material of Jacob 1–6 and Jacob 7. As noted above, Jacob 1–6 appears to hew closely to the explicit instruction given to Jacob by Nephi1 as to what the record should contain: sacred preaching, revelation, and prophesying, with at most a light touch regarding history. … Jacob 7, however, is a historical interlude that includes no real set of teachings, revelations, or prophesies. As such, it would appear to lie outside of the scope of Nephi1’s instructions.2

This doesn’t mean that the story of Sherem is conceptually unrelated to the rest of Jacob’s book. To the contrary, the way chapter seven reinforces earlier themes in Jacob’s writings—such as the validity of prophetic revelation and the doctrine of Christ—shows that it was a skillfully crafted post-production text with a powerful rhetorical purpose.3 The point here is simply that chapter seven’s atypical narrative form, combined with other textual clues, argues in favor of its status as a true “addendum.”4 Jacob probably viewed his encounter with Sherem as too important and thematically relevant to not include in his record, despite the fact that he had already formally bid his readers farewell.5

Sherem lays in bed after receiving a sign from God and being struck down. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

Moroni’s Three Farewells

In Moroni’s writings, he delivered not just one—but two—premature farewells. After Mormon died, Moroni finished out the remainder of his father’s record, pronouncing a final blessing on the descendants of the Lamanites, to whom the record was written:

And may the Lord Jesus Christ grant that their prayers may be answered according to their faith; and may God the Father remember the covenant which he hath made with the house of Israel; and may he bless them forever, through faith on the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Mormon 9:37)

This certainly sounds like a concluding statement, but it isn’t the end. Continuing forward, the reader is introduced to the book of Ether, which was abridged by none other than Moroni himself: “And now I, Moroni, proceed to give an account of those ancient inhabitants who were destroyed by the hand of the Lord” (Ether 1:1). The second farewell occurs near the end of Moroni’s abridgment in Ether 12:38–41:

And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. … And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen.

Notice that again we get the three distinct elements (bolded) found earlier in Nephi and Jacob’s final words. Yet we don’t have to guess about the intended finality of Moroni’s statement. In the introduction to his own book (a few chapters later), Moroni explained: “Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; … Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed” (Moroni 1:1–4). So, once again, Moroni continued on after he thought he had completed his writings. His true final farewell (in which the three typical farewell elements resurface) comes at the end of chapter ten of his book:

And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen. (Moroni 10:34).

Contextual Realism of Moroni’s Farewells

Concerning the circumstances of Moroni’s first farewell, he explained, “I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father” (Mormon 8:1). He also said he would have written more “if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone” (v. 5). And concerning the Lamanites, he wrote, “whether they will slay me, I know not” (v. 3).

Together, these statements provide several contextual reasons that help explain why he thought he might be done writing: (1) he wasn’t sure how long he would live, (2) the space on the plates was apparently running out, and (3) he didn’t have access to ore to make more plates, which is probably why he only planned to write a “few things.” Yet these same textual clues also suggest that if Moroni were to get access to more usable ore, then he would probably have something more to say. Thus, the text itself sets up plausible conditions for why a farewell was given at this point, as well as opening the door for Moroni to keep on writing in the future (if the needed ore ever became available, which presumably was the case).  

The golden plates are held by Moroni, son of Mormon, as he sits in the cavity of a rock. Image via churchofjesuschrist.org.

The choice to specifically abridge the book of Ether also makes sense. After all, Mormon had earlier promised readers that he would include such an account: “And this account [of the Jaredites] shall be written hereafter; for behold, it is expedient that all people should know the things which are written in this account” (Mosiah 28:19).6 Moroni was therefore just carrying out Mormon’s prior designs for the abridgment project.

Notably, Moroni’s second farewell, which occurred in Ether 12, took place a few chapters before the conclusion of the record in Ether 15. While the average reader might easily forget this farewell was even given, Moroni clearly remembered and felt obligated to explain to the reader why he was continuing to write: “I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord” (Moroni 10:4). Thus, we see signs of sophisticated editorial awareness on the part of the author.

As for the purpose of Moroni’s own book, it is interesting to note that its earlier chapters involve Church ordinances and protocols (Moroni 2–6).7 It was therefore valuable to the Restoration, as it offered something like a handbook of instructions for the early members of the Church.8 The selections from Mormon’s sermons and letters also offered valuable doctrinal contributions (Moroni 7–9), before Moroni finally closed out the record for good in Moroni 10.   

It should also be remembered that approximately twenty years had passed away between Moroni’s first and last farewells, which may help explain why each one strikes a different tone and purpose.9 The first farewell holds a sense of urgency and an emphasis on justice and judgment (Mormon 8–9). The second is less legalistic and more conciliatory, focusing on faith, hope, and charity (Ether 12). And the final farewell includes several stirring exhortations, ultimately inviting the reader to become “perfect in Christ … by the grace of God” (Moroni 10:32). Studies suggest these differences are contextually understandable and appropriate.10


The premature farewells written by Jacob and Moroni reflect the real-world uncertainties and vicissitudes of life. That these authors may have felt they were finished writing is understandable in each situation, but so too is the fact that they continued on and added the specific contents that they did. From an editorial perspective, these texts come across believably as having been composed over long periods of time by authors who weren’t entirely certain how much to include or when they should stop writing.

To be sure, one could suppose that if Joseph Smith was making up the story, he could potentially fabricate such scenarios, perhaps to make the text seem more true-to-life. It should be remembered, however, that Smith lived in a world of paper and ink. And while paper was not exactly cheap, especially for poorer folks like the Smith family, it was relatively expendable.11 If someone in the late 1820s was writing a story and didn’t like the ending or wanted to add more, it wouldn’t be impractical to just start over on a new sheaf of paper and rewrite the conclusion.

Portions of Jacob 7 from the Book of Mormon's original manuscript. Image via josephsmithpapers.org. 

In contrast, both Jacob and Moroni were permanently engraving their words onto plates that were undoubtedly difficult to manufacture and were likely made of rare precious metals.12 Moroni couldn’t just crumple up a gold-alloy plate, throw it into the trash bin, and grab a new one from the plate-stack that he had purchased from the local commerce store. Thus, the medium upon which the Book of Mormon was written may help explain why these premature farewells remain intact in the final production of the text.

One might assume that since Joseph Smith was presenting the text to various scribes through dictation, then perhaps these post-farewell contents were simply his own impromptu additions to a text that he was fabricating from whole cloth. It must be acknowledged, though, that the Book of Mormon’s post-farewell writings are hardly trivial afterthoughts. The seventh chapter of the book of Jacob—comprising twenty-seven verses in total—is not exactly a pithy post-script message, much less the entire books of Ether and Moroni. In other words, if Joseph Smith was making this all up as part of some elaborate fraud, why go on and on in this manner, adding such lengthy addendums (especially Moroni’s post-farewell writings) to an already surprisingly long text?13  

Moreover, generally speaking, the notion that the young prophet was mentally crafting the contents of the Book of Mormon as he dictated it to his scribes is difficult to accept. The text is far too consistent, coherent, intentionally structured, and filled with complex data to reasonably suppose that much of it was produced through extemporaneous creativity.14

These post-farewell writings in the Book of Mormon may therefore be best explained as having been composed by distinct individuals in different circumstances who weren’t entirely sure about the scope and finality of their long-term writing projects and who were using a permanent written medium. If Joseph Smith did, in fact, fabricate these features to enhance the text’s editorial realism, his implementation was unexpectedly sophisticated, considering his age, education, and literary experience.15 At the very least, these textual features add one more layer of realism to the Nephite record.

Daniel L. Belnap and Rod Hernandez, “‘Words of Plainness’: Jacob’s Apology, His Addendum, and the Competing Forms of Nephite Worship,” in Jacob: Faith and Great Anxiety, ed. Abram R. Shannon and George A. Pierce (Provo UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2024), 141–176.

Book of Mormon Central, “Why Did Moroni Write So Many Farewells? (Mormon 8:1),” KnoWhy 233 (November 17, 2016).

Mark D. Thomas, “Moroni: The Final Voice,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 1 (2003): 88–99, 119–120.

  • 1 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Editorial Promises,” ID# 0084, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 2 See Daniel L. Belnap and Rod Hernandez, “‘Words of Plainness’: Jacob’s Apology, His Addendum, and the Competing Forms of Nephite Worship,” in Jacob: Faith and Great Anxiety, ed. Abram R. Shannon and George A. Pierce (Provo UT: BYU Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2024), 164. 
  • 3 See Belnap and Hernandez, “‘Words of Plainness’,” 164–165.
  • 4 See Belnap and Hernandez, “‘Words of Plainness’,” 164.
  • 5 Interestingly, the ancient introduction or colophon to the book of Jacob alludes to the incident with Sherem: “The words of his preaching unto his brethren. He confoundeth a man who seeketh to overthrow the doctrine of Christ. A few words concerning the history of the people of Nephi.” More than one explanation could possibly account for the inclusion of these statements. It is possible, if this colophon was originally included at the introduction of the book in the source text but also set apart somewhat from the other writing, that there would have been room to add these extra details after the fact. Another possibility is that this colophon actually wasn’t included until the very end of Jacob’s writings. Even though we encounter it at the beginning of his book, as translated into English by Joseph Smith, it may have been anciently placed as the last statement made by Jacob (either by himself or a writer, like Enos, who came after him). If this were the case, Jacob would have already included his account of Sherem and therefore it naturally would make sense to include in the colophon. This would be somewhat similar to the Title Page and would conform to the ancient practice of subscriptio (in which colophon material is placed at the end, rather than the beginning, of a text). See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Subscriptio,” ID# 0075, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org. See also, Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Colophons (Antiquity),” September 27, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org; Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Colophons (Complexity),” ID# 0244, September 27, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 6 The book of Mormon is filled with similar editorial promises and fulfillments. See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Editorial Promises,” ID# 0084, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 7 One gets the impression that Moroni himself may not have been entirely certain why he included these texts. He doesn’t introduce them, nor does he expound upon them afterwards. This leads to the possibility that, like several other Nephite records, their production was primarily directed by the Lord (see 1 Nephi 9:5; Mormon 1:7; Ether 5:1).
  • 8 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Doctrinal Guide and Handbook,” ID# 0412, July 10, 2023, online at evidencecentral.org; Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Intertextuality of Sacrament Prayers,” ID# 0152, February 15, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org. See also, Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Parallels between the Didache and Moroni 2–6,” ID# 0018, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 9 Compare Mormon 8:6 (“Behold, four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior”) with Moroni 10:1 (“more than four hundred and twenty years have passed away since the sign was given of the coming of Christ”).
  • 10 See Book of Mormon Central, “Why Did Moroni Write So Many Farewells? (Mormon 8:1),” KnoWhy 233 (November 17, 2016); Mark D. Thomas, “Moroni: The Final Voice,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12, no. 1 (2003): 88–99, 119–120.
  • 11 Joseph Knight, an early convert and supporter of Joseph Smith, helped facilitate the translation of the Book of Mormon by directly supplying paper or funds for paper. Notice his explanation of providing money to Joseph Smith’s father and brother to help the cause: “in the morning I gave the old man a half a dollar and Joseph a little money to buy paper to translate.” Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” BYU Studies 17, no. 1 (Autumn 1976): 36; emphasis added. In other words, paper may have been expensive for the destitute Joseph Smith, but Knight could apparently fund its purchase without much consequence.  
  • 12 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: The Composition of the Gold Plates,” ID# 0076, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 13 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Word Count,” October 13, 2021, online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 14 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Complexity (Main Category),” online at evidencecentral.org.
  • 15 See Evidence Central, “Book of Mormon Evidence: Joseph Smith’s Limited Education,” ID# 0001, September 19, 2020, online at evidencecentral.org.
Premature Farewells

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