One of the more controversial findings from my study The Abridging Works is that the tradition of Small Plates of Nephi and Large Plates of Nephi is, well, just tradition. The evidence against this traditional division is considerable, as I argue in an essay in the same book.
What do I think is more correct? The “Small Plates” are called “The Plates of Jacob” and Nephi seems to not ever mention the size of plates. What about the reading of Nephi which finds “ministry plates” and “reign plates”? Clearly this division could not have come about until he was well into his reign; I think the textual evidence indicates Nephi engraving plates for at least three different records; and that the start-and-stop nature of 1 Nephi through 2 Nephi 5 is a symptom of Nephi’s re-writing; and also, more importantly, of the fact that these plates were not originally part of Mormon’s “Abridging Plates,” that is, of the “Golden Plates”.
That is one outcome of reading in a way presented in The Abriding Works: What is now called 1 Nephi and the first parts of 2 Nephi were not, it seems, part of the “small account” which Mormon attached to his record. Where did they come from, then?
I cover in The Abridging Works the historical and textual evidence for a second acquisition of plates from Cumorah.