Once Nephi and his brothers got their hands on the brass plates, where did they go? Are the things written on them now in the Book of Mormon? Are they from the Bible? If they were that important that they risked their lives for them, then why is it not apparent what was on them?
Thanks for your questions. I’ll take them in the order written.
Where did the brass plates go?
After Nephi and his brothers brought the brass plates back to Lehi, the Nephites kept the brass plates from that time until Mormon hid them up around the time the Nephites themselves were destroyed. Lehi prophesied, “…these plates of brass should never perish; neither should they be dimmed any more by time.” Lehi prophesied that the brass plates would also go forth to all people, though I’m not sure how that prophecy is to be fulfilled. But the brass plates are still around, under care of their divinely appointed caretakers, waiting to fulfill God’s purposes.
Are the things written in the brass plates now in the Book of Mormon?
The only material that I’m aware of that appears to have been copied verbatim into the Book of Mormon from the brass plates are Nephi’s and Jacob’s quotations of Isaiah, Jacob’s quotations of the ancient and no-longer-known prophets Zenock, Neum, and Zenos, Lehi’s teachings of the words of the ancient Joseph sold into Egypt, and the prophet Abinadi’s quotation of Isaiah and of the Ten Commandments from the book of Exodus (or perhaps Deuteronomy). Nephi made no apparent attempt to use his plates to preserve the information on the brass plates, so only a small fraction of what was on the brass plates, incidentally included from references quoting the prophets, made it into Mormon’s abridgment of Nephite history.
The contents of the brass plates will come to us some day, but the brass plates themselves and the teachings they contain were taken by Nephi for the benefit of his own descendants, not because he had us in mind. Nephi’s words to his brothers were as follows:
[B]ehold, it is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records [meaning the brass plates], that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers; and also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time. Nephi 3:19-20
Keep in mind that the brass plates were a very extensive set of scriptures, certainly bigger than our current Old Testament. The brass plates, having been taken out from Jerusalem shortly after 600 BC, would have been missing the Biblical books written after that time:
- First and Second Chronicles (covers the same material as found in 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings, but was written a few centuries later)
- Some of the Psalms
- Probably at least some of Jeremiah; Nephi reports that the brass plates contained “many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah”, who was actively preaching in Jerusalem at the time Lehi left, but it’s likely that more of Jeremiah’s teachings were recorded after the brass plates left Jerusalem
- Most or all of Ezekiel
- Probably Obadiah
On the other hand, the brass plates obviously contained significant material that we simply don’t have in our Bible today, such as the accounts that give us the words of Zenock and of Zenos and the teachings of Neum.
With so much contained on the brass plates, only a fraction of their content could have been copied to the Book of Mormon plates, even if the entire set of plates had been dedicated to that task. God wanted those plates to be used to record an account of the history of the Nephites, for our sakes, not for making another copy of the brass plates. God already provided a way for us to have much of the information on the brass plates through the modern Bible that has been preserved through the ages for us.
Are the brass plates taken from the Bible?
The brass plates were not taken from the Bible. Rather, our modern Bible and the brass plates came from the same source. The brass plates can be thought of as an earlier but more complete version of our Bible, obviously missing the books that came after Lehi left for his promised land, but also containing many books of scripture that have been lost to us today.
If the brass plates were important enough for four men to risk their lives for them, why don’t we know what was written on them?
We do know what was written on the brass plates, at least in broad outline. From 1 Nephi 5:11-14, we read:
[The brass plates] did contain the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world, and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; and also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah; and also the prophecies of the holy prophets, from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah; and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah. And it came to pass that my father, Lehi, also found upon the plates of brass a genealogy of his fathers; wherefore he knew that he was a descendant of Joseph; yea, even that Joseph who was the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt, and who was preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he might preserve his father, Jacob, and all his household from perishing with famine.
I hope this helps you understand better the role that the brass plates played in the history of the Nephites and how it has informed what we have been given in the Book of Mormon.