Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:4:4:Colophons: Alma

Colphons: Alma

Colphons: Alma

The book of Alma begins with a preface and ends with a summary statement in the last verse. In between there are a number of subdivisions set off by editorial statements. Mormon divided his abridgment of the book of Alma into (1) the record of Alma, which ends at 44:24 with "And thus ended the record of Alma"; (2) the record of Helaman, which is introduced by a preface between chapters 44 and 45 and which ends with an editorial statement in the last verse of chapter 62; and (3) the record of Shiblon, which is marked by statements at its beginning in 63:1 and its end at 63:11.

Mormon further subdivided his abridgment of Alma's own record in the book of Alma. A preface at the beginning of Alma 5 informs us that what follows consists of "The words which Alma . . . delivered." At 6:8, Mormon closed this extract from Alma's record with an editorial statement complete with "Amen." Alma 7 is a similar extract marked with colophons at its beginning and end. Note that current LDS editions of the Book of Mormon place the beginning prefaces for chapters 5 and 7 before the chapter numbers, as at Mosiah 23. Note also that, though the type is the same, Mormon's editorial words are distinct from those of the chapter summaries, which Orson Pratt first added in 1879.

The story of the mission of Alma and Amulek in the city of Ammonihah in Alma 9-15 also begins with a preface. Much, though not all, of the record is in the first person, as in the case of Zeniff's story. Inside this section, a preface that appears in 10:1 also introduces Amulek's speech and his dialogue with Zeezrom. The end of Amulek's contribution, Mormon marked by a statement at 11:46: "And thus ended the words of Amulek, or this is all that I [Mormon] have written." The next two chapters consist of Alma's words, after which Mormon noted, "And Alma spake many more words unto the people, which are not written in this book" (13:31). "This book" evidently refers to Mormon's own abridgment. The editorial summary for the tenth year, at 15:19, seems to end the entry begun by the preface to chapter nine.

A preface before the start of Alma 17 introduces the missionary record of the sons of Mosiah. This part seems to me to extend only to chapter twenty (although the editors of the 1920 LDS edition supposed that the record referred to in the preface went all the way to the end of chapter twenty-eight). Note another preface before chapter twenty-one, which tells of "the preaching of Aaron, and Muloki, and their brethren, to the Lamanites." Chapter twenty-six begins with still another preface, this one contained within the first verse. Notice also the editorial words in Alma 28:8-9, which speaks of two accounts in the previous eleven chapters.

Finally, Mormon put in parts of Alma's teachings to his sons. Each of the three segments has its own preface (see text immediately before chapters thirty-six, thirty-eight, and thirty-nine). The first two end with the words, "My son, farewell," while the last, which concludes the set, ends with the word "Amen."

We see from the number of these colophons that the book of Alma demanded a great amount of editorial judgement from Mormon. He gave us what he considered gems and highlights when he might have included much more from the supply of material handed down to him from Alma's time....

Considering the way Joseph dictated the book to scribes, for the most part in a matter of weeks without revising what he had dictated, we should realize that he could not himself have come up with this complicated set of prefaces and summaries. It is unlikely that he would go to the trouble to insert anything like them (they are not required to move the story along). It is also most unlikely that, while dictating, he could keep in mind what he had promised in the prefaces and then remember to close off so many sections neatly with summaries. Much more believable are the claims in the Book of Mormon itself that the record was done by ancient writers working with written materials over long periods of time.[1]


  1. ↑ John A. Tvedtnes, "Colophons in the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 4.