For many months now I have been working on a project involving the Book of Mormon with Daniel Bartholomew, which we will be unveiling in the near future. As part of that project, I have compiled an outline of the textual structure of the Book of Mormon. I looked for an existing outline, but couldn’t find anything extensive enough for my needs. I am making it available here for anyone interested (as a PDF document):
[Edit 01/03/2011 – you can find the most recent revision of the outline, as well as outlines for other books of scripture, at http://scripturelog.com/outlines .]
I compiled the outline as a way to help me understand the Book of Mormon better by identifying some of the organizational boundaries, voices, and structure of the text.
The chapter boundaries of the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon were different than our modern version and it was not divided into verses. Apostle Orson Pratt divided the book into new chapters and added the verse divisions in the 1838 Liverpool edition of the book. One objective of the outline was to easily see the different boundaries between the chapters both in the original translation and our modern version.
The Book of Mormon itself is translated from multiple different sets of records which create natural boundaries in the structure between source materials and authors. Some of these divisions and groups are identified by headings in the original text itself, which I have colored blue. The original translation did not identify the range of chapters over which the headings extended, but in the 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon, text was added to identify which chapters comprised each section identified by the headings.
In addition to the headings from the original record, based on my own reading I have added my own sections with their own headings and boundaries, colored green, whenever possible using words from the actual text.
Many of the boundaries I have made organize chapters of the text where the primary voice changes from the principal author or editor of the plates (Nephi, Mormon, Moroni) to one of their sources for an extensive section, or when the editors (Mormon for the Large Plates of Nephi and Moroni for the Plates of Ether) interrupt their narrative to offer extensive editorial commentary. Additionally, I have marked a few sections where the author makes a significant shift in focus extending for multiple chapters, notably Nephi when he recounts his dream.
The outline is not comprehensive, and there are a few places where making the original chapter boundaries match up with the 1920 chapter ranges doesn’t quite work out. Also there are numerous places where the
editors voice is so intermixed with the speakers, for instance in Alma chapters 9 through 13, that I have not tried to group them under individual headings other than the original heading from the text.
This effort has certainly helped me understand and appreciate the Book of Mormon far more than I did previous to this effort, and building the outline has strengthened my testimony that the Book is true and was translated by the gift and power of the Holy Spirit.
This is my first version so if you find any errors or typos please let me know and I will make corrected versions of the outline available.
Please feel free to copy and distribute it if you find it useful.