4 Nephi 1:6. Wasted Space on Plates
Jacob 4:1 says that only a few things could be written on the plates because of the difficulty of engraving. Why, then, does 4 Nephi 1:6 use 57 words just to merely say that 59 years had passed by? Wasn’t this a waste of space on the plates?
Jacob was writing on the “small plates” of Nephi, which were few in number, as noted by others who wrote on the same set of plates (Jacob 1:1; Jarom 1:2, 14; Omni 1:30). Indeed, those scribes noted that there were “other plates” that had a more detailed history of the Nephites (Jacob 1:2-3; Jarom 1:14; Omni 1:11, 18).
The passage in 4 Nephi 1:6 is part of Mormon’s abridgment of the “large plates” and other records was written on plates he prepared himself. At the time, Mormon seems to have been in a rush to finish his work, probably due to the press of the final war between Nephites and Lamanites. Having completed his account of Christ’s visit to the New World in 3 Nephi, he summarized events of the next few centuries in 4 Nephi. His listing of years was merely to illustrate that he had consulted the records and had extracted the most salient points.