As part of the assignment given Him, the Lord added to and corrected the Nephite scriptures. He had them bring their records to Him, and noted they omitted mention of Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy about some rising from the dead at the time of His resurrection. He got them to confirm Samuel prophesied it, some of the dead did arise, and they had neglected to include it in their scriptures. (3 Ne. 23: 7-13.)
Among those who would have risen would have been Nephi, son of Lehi, after whom the Nephites were named.
Moroni would not live for another 400 years. Moroni would have missed the resurrection at the time of Christ, and therefore would await the Second Coming for his resurrection.
This is perhaps the reason Joseph Smith identified the angel who visited him, taught him, and gave him possession of the gold plates, as “Nephi” and not Moroni.
In the Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 1, we learn Joseph read and corrected his history: “…it suggests that JS [Joseph Smith] read aloud from Draft 2 in the large manuscript volume, directing editorial changes as he read.” (Id. at p. 201.) Here is how Draft 2 reads, describing the visit of the angel to him in his bedroom on the night of September 21, 1823:
“When I first looked upon him I was afraid, but the fear soon left me. He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me and that his name was Nephi.” (Id. p. 222.)
Under Joseph’s direction, a Draft 3 was prepared by Howard Coray. This version reads as follows:
“When I first looked upon (him)
it I was afraid; but the far soon left me: calling me by name, (he) said, that he was a messenger, sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Nephi–” (Id. p. 223.)
There is a footnote that explains someone, unidentified as to who or when, changed the name from “Nephi” to “Moroni” because of a “clerical error.” The same footnote explains that throughout Joseph Smith’s lifetime, in any history he supervised, the name was always “Nephi”. Here is an excerpt from footnote 56 on page 223 of Joseph Smith Papers, Histories, Vol. 1:
“A later redaction in an unidentified hand changed ‘Nephi’ to ‘Moroni’ and noted that the original attribution was a ‘clerical error.’ Early sources often did not name the angelic visitor, but sources naming Moroni include Oliver Cowdery’s historical letter published in the April 1835 LDS Messenger and Advocate, an expanded version of a circa August 1830 revelation, as published in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants; and a JS editorial published in the Elders’ Journal in July 1838. The present history is the earliest extant source to name Nephi as the messenger, and subsequent publications based on this history perpetuated the attribution during JS’s lifetime.” (Id. p. 223.)
The footnote prefers Oliver Cowdery’s account to Joseph’s. Oliver was not present September 21, 1823. Nor was he present for any of the other visits by the angel over the next four years. Therefore, enbracing Oliver’s statement above Joseph’s seems to me to be an odd preference.
I’m persuaded Joseph would not have mistaken who it was that visited him on September 21, 1823 and again each year for four years thereafter. If it was a resurrected personage, it is more likely Nephi, who died before the Lord’s resurrection, than Moroni, who lived after.