Source:Reexploring the Book of Mormon:Ch:3:1:Colophons in the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon colophons

Book of Mormon colophons

From the day the Book of Mormon was published in 1830, some readers have been struck by its distinctive modes of expression. Many of the oddities thought at first to be signs of ignorance or awkwardness turn out on closer inspection to be traces of ancient authenticity. "Colophons" in the Book of Mormon illustrate this.

Several of the books in the Book of Mormon begin or end with a statement by the author certifying that he is the author of his work. Often he tells what is to come in the following pages or explains or marks the end of what has just been said. For example, the book of Enos begins, "I, Enos, . . . will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God" (Enos 1:1-2); and the book of Mormon begins, "I, Mormon, make a record of the things which I have both seen and heard" (Mormon 1:1). Similarly, the book of Jacob ends, "I, Jacob, . . . make an end of my writing" (Jacob 7:27). Dozens of editorial entries like these are found in the Book of Mormon. What purposes do they serve?

Statements like these are known in ancient documents as colophons, and as Hugh Nibley pointed out several years ago, they appear in several Egyptian documents. For example, the Bremer-Rhind papyrus opens with a colophon that gives the date, the titles of the author, genealogical information about his parents, and a curse upon anyone who might tamper with the document (in other words, an avowal that the record is true). These textual elements functioned in antiquity somewhat like a copyright or seal of approval.

In addition to the points made by Nibley, research has further examined what these colophons tell us about how the Book of Mormon was assembled. The fact that these colophons have been handled differently in modern printings has obscured their original nature.[1]


  1. John A. Tvedtnes, "Colophons in the Book of Mormon," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, edited by John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), Chapter 3.