When teaching a class I am often asked before during or after the class "if I heard about" or "what do you think about' this or that subject, topic or rumor. There are a number of topics that come up on a regular basis and lately a subject that seems to have circulated through the so-called Mormon-Rumor-Mill of social media is the 'Mormon Box and the 116 Pages.' When this topic does come up I am first to say and stress that it is 'hearsay and anything I might say, I do not know for sure and have heard only from others.'
I am not the original or primary source of any of the information surrounding the supposed finding of the 116 pages, but like all rumors, I have been told that this information is true. I have heard things by some who personally know people that are supposedly involved (so it already third hand) and to answer questions about this topic, I always preface myself that 'I am only relating what I have heard' which means nothing. I want to emphasize again that any and all the information I have related in response to the questions ask me is: that the information is from another source rather than myself, and until an official announcement is made by the Church, everything is just hearsay. Like everyone, I would like to believe the sources that have talked to me are legit and can be believed regarding the events that surround this story, but because it is hearsay and rumor questions will remain in my mind. It seem that each time I hear something about it, the events or background have changed a little more.
Many years ago in conversation with Hugh Nibley about the 116 pages he related to me that his grandmother who knew Lucy Harris the wife of Martin Harris, was told by her (Lucy) that she threw the 116 pages into the potbelly stove. There is a direct descendent of Martin Harris in my ward now who related that the story in the family is that the pages were burned also. These two men in my opinion are as credible or more so than any other sources or stories that might circulate through social media. Were they burned or found?
Each time questions pertaining to this topic have been asked of me (twice now) I stressed then and continue to stress that: "this is what I have been told or heard" and until the proverbial check clears "it is just hearsay and rumor in my book". If true, information will come out in a more official way than hearsay or through a rumor-mill. No matter if true or not, it must keep in mind that the LORD had already prepared the small plates as a better text for the replacement for the lost 116 pages. IF found, (and that is a big IF) I do not believe they would be added to scripture, made public or ever published. Joseph was the translator and he was the one to prepare any revelatory or translated scripture for publication (which these pages were not). People often ask what I think might have been on the 116 pages the same as they do the sealed portion of the plates; all that can be said is that the first 116 pages of the original manuscript MAY (we don't know for sure) shed more light on Lehi's life (it being the Testament or Book of Lehi) and other historical details left out of the more spiritual abridgment made by Nephi of his father's record and history than is found on the small plates. IF the manuscript exist, I would tend to believe there will be an announcement from the church as rumors cannot be kept hidden or quiet as the obvious rumor-mill has proven. Nonetheless, we have the Book of Mormon as the Lord desired and prepared the contents for translation and publication centuries before, as Mormon was abridging the Nephite record and then finding and adding the small plates for a "wise purpose" unto the Lord.
I was personally involved in the events surrounding the finding of the will of Antonio Lebolo which changed a few of the details found in Church History but that kind of information quickly passes by the way unnoticed by member and nonmember alike. In my opinion IF the 116 pages were found, it might cause more problems than just satisfying Mormon curiosities and providing proof of the divine mission of Joseph Smith and the scripture of the Book of Mormon. What I am saying is: that the warning Joseph Smith received from the Lord about those who were set to destroy the church with the 116 pages, may be meant as much for our time as the time of Joseph Smith. The ramifications of the 116 pages in the anti-Mormon world today of what was to be, or should have been published by Joseph might just add more fodder to fuel the fires of the anti-Mormon war against the truths of the Book of Mormon. To those who believe in the Book of Mormon the finding of the 116 pages will change nothing, we have the Book of Mormon as the Book of Mormon that the Lord wanted us to have. The test of a classic is always internal not external, and the 116 pages found or not, will not and should not make a difference in our ability and goal to come unto Christ.
In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established and rumor or hearsay should never be considered witnesses, much less, sources to be relied on. Issues like this and other rumors should be put on the back burner and the heat turned off or forgotten altogether until an official announcement is made on the subject.
I am nobody of import, and have no leadership position or responsibility of any consequence and privy to no secrets. I have the confidence of no man high or low, and only one woman, my wife. At the end each class or presentation, I try and tell the students that 'I am not to be considered a source or even a footnote, and that outside of my testimony 'what I say should not be believed.' Each individual has the ability to check the sources of scripture, the words of Joseph Smith and the living prophets to find the truths necessary for salvation.