Thursday, October 31, 2019

Old and new world events at the 4th century AD

Just a showerthought really: Mormon was 15 years old when he was appointed leader of the Nephite army. This was in 325 AD, the same year as the first Nicaean Council on the other side of the Atlantic. About 6 decades later, in 382 AD, the first council that accepted the present Catholic canon was held in Rome. This was about the same time Mormon made an abridgement of the large plates of Nephi.

Things that cannot be written in the Book of Mormon

I believe references to temple-like rituals are to be found in the Book of Mormon, but many details are intentionally left out because they are so sacred.

For example, see Alma 8:1

1 And now it came to pass that Alma returned from the land of Gideon, after having taught the people of Gideon many things which cannot be written, having established the order of the church, according as he had before done in the land of Zarahemla, yea, he returned to his own house at Zarahemla to rest himself from the labors which he had performed.

In a similar manner, after the endowment was first administered in this dispensation by Joseph Smith in 1842, Heber C Kimball wrote to fellow Apostle Parley P. Pratt (who had not been in attendance):

"Some precious things through the Prophet on the priesthood that would cause your soul to rejoice...I cannot give them to you on paper for they are not to be written."

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Summary of previous Book of Mormon themes in Moroni 10

Moroni 10:19-21 and 24-31 has a lot of previous Book of Mormon themes and phrases weaved into it. Below is the text in full with relevant references in italics in between. Moroni draws particularly from Mormon 9 (his own earlier written text) and Moroni 7 (his father's sermon), but also gets inspiration from Nephi's farewell speech.

Different themes in Moroni 10 with their counterpart in italics are marked with a certain color. In two cases, themes are also repeated (red and orange), in which case the reference to the other relevant BoM passage is not repeated.

I know it may look a bit messy, but it goes to show the extent of Moroni's use of other Book of Mormon expressions and themes in this passage.

19 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever,
(Mormon 9:9: “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever”)
and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away,
(Mormon 9:7: “I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts”)
even as long as the world shall stand
only according to the unbelief of the children of men.
(Mormon 9:20: “And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief”)
20 Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope; and if there must be hope there must also be charity.
21 And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God; neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope.
(Moroni 7:42-44: “if a man have faith he must needs have hope… wherefore he must needs have charity”.)
...
24 And now I speak unto all the ends of the earththat if the day cometh that the power and gifts of God shall be done away among you, it shall be because of unbelief.
25 And wo be unto the children of men if this be the case; for there shall be none that doeth good among you, no not one. For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work by the power and gifts of God.
(Moroni 7:16: “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ”)
26 And wo unto them who shall do these things away and die, for they die in their sins, and they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God; and I speak it according to the words of Christ; and I lie not.
27 And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man,
(2.Nephi 33:11: "And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.")
like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?
(Mormon 9:30: "I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead")
(2.Nephi 33:13: "And now, my beloved brethren, all those who are of the house of Israel, and all ye ends of the earthI speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust")
28 I declare these things unto the fulfilling of the prophecies. And behold, they shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the everlasting God; and his word shall hiss forth from generation to generation.
(2.Nephi 29:2: "the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed; and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth")
29 And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true.
30 And again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing.
(Moroni 7:8, 19: "For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God... lay hold upon every good thing")
31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, 
(Isaiah 52:1-2 / 2.Nephi 8:24-25: "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zionput on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.")
that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.
(3.Nephi 20:12: "then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel.") NB! Isaiah 52:1-2 is also quoted in 3. Nephi 20, which also ties these last two themes together.


Clearly, Moroni studied the plates he had in his possession and drew a lot of inspiration from there when wrapping up with his last words. In addition, he restates some of the things he already wrote in Mormon 9, which he thought would be his last words at the time he wrote it (see Moroni 1:4).

Perhaps the plates of Mormon with the small plates of Nephi attached were the only ones he had at least regular or permanent access to? Wandering around for years, he was likely not dragging all the Nephite records around.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dust in a temple context.

Lots of thoughts about dust in the past few week on this blog.  Here's yet another, from Donald W. Parry:

Inasmuch as the concepts of sacred and profane have reference to two antithetical powers—the profane that contaminates, the sacred that sanctifies—the two must be strictly separated. Profane dust and unholy articles and temporal clothing must not enter the sacred. Man must not mix the mundane with the holy. Recently healed lepers, men and women with fresh uncleannesses, and hands that have touched a corpse must not enter into holy space without heeding the laws of approach. Similarly, the sacred must not be taken out into profane space. The two cannot be fused. "Any attempt, outside the prescribed limits, to unite sacred and profane brings confusion and disaster." Therefore, those who wish to leave profane space in order to approach sacred temple space must participate in a purifying ritual, a gesture or rite of approach; for example, the removal of shoes, the washing of hands, the anointing with oil.

This concept is not limited to Israelite temples.  I'm reminded of the extensive sweeping I saw during a visit to a Shinto shrine in Japan--it stood out to me as a show of extreme respect for the holiness of the sanctuary. Apparently this is also an annual ritual. We were also invited to participate in a ritual washing at a basin outside the courtyard. 

In the words of Christ during His visit to the Nephites:

36 And then shall be brought to pass that which is written: Awake, awake again, and put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city, for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
37 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Monday, October 28, 2019

"On the one hand or on the other"

In 1 Nephi 14:7, we read:
For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity
The marvelous work mentioned in this verse is referring to our time: The latter-day gathering of Israel and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. According to this verse, this work will have som sort of divisive effect. It's not hard to see how this prophecy is being fulfilled in our time.

I had a thought when reading Lord Wilmore's post about the relationship between the Bible and The Book of Mormon. Some people trip over things like the presence of New Testament phrases in the Book of Mormon. It becomes a stumbling block to them (another phrase from 1 Nephi 13-14). If we have faith and humble ourselves, we will see things like the post is pointing out, that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are written to complement each other. There are many other examples of how exercising sufficient faith to engage in a deeper study can turn apparent weaknesses into strengths. For those, this marvelous work will be "to the convincing of them". For others, it will be "unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds".

Sufficient

I have noticed the use of the word, "sufficient", in the Book of Mormon. It seems to indicate that a certain amount of a given virtue or condition is necessary
to obtain a desired outcome.

Faith

For instance, in 3 Nephi 17:8, Jesus told the people that they had sufficient faith so that he could heal them. Apparently, it was not just about having faith, but having the required amount to unlock the blessing of being healed. I find that interesting.

Other similar uses of the word, "sufficient", are found in several other Book of Mormon passages.

Hope

Moroni 7:3 speaks of those who...
...have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord,

Humility

In Alma 5:27, Alma-2 asks the people in Zarahemla if they have been sufficiently humble. Also, in Ether 9:35, we read
And it came to pass that when they had humbled themselves sufficiently before the Lord he did send rain upon the face of the Earth

Repentance 

In Alma 24:11, the converted Lamanite king speaks on behalf of himself and his people
for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain

Grace

 In Ether 12:26, Christ says
my grace is sufficient for the meek
 In Moroni 10:32 we find Moroni's famous last words
if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ;


"...and if ye believe that ye will believe this also;"

The title of this post comes from Mormon 7, which stood out to me as I read it for a few reasons.

First, let's look at the verse in context:


8 Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.
9 For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.

 Mormon, in what ends up being the last few verses he authors, offers the remnant of "this people"  a few words of advice (see verses 2-5).  His final words of advice are about laying hold upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "This" refers to his record, the Book of Mormon, and "that" refers to the Bible.

Notably, we get a glimpse into why the Book of Mormon sounds very biblical in its literary style, there in verse 9:

For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also;
They are written to complement each other.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Another example of the narrative resuming after a long side story

In Alma 45 we read:

22 Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth to establish the church again in all the land, yea, in every city throughout all the land which was possessed by the people of Nephi. And it came to pass that they did appoint priests and teachers throughout all the land, over all the churches.

Immediately after this account we get a long account of the wars of the Nephites against Amalickiah, which continues into Alma 62. Once the account of the war ends, we resume right where we left off:

45 Therefore, Helaman and his brethren went forth, and did declare the word of God with much power unto the convincing of many people of their wickedness, which did cause them to repent of their sins and to be baptized unto the Lord their God.
46 And it came to pass that they did establish again the church of God, throughout all the land.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Distinct BoM voices - "Born again"

There are many examples of distinct voices in the Book of Mormon. After all, the different authors had different personalities and different approaches to the gospel. One that I just noticed is the concept of being "born again" or "born of God." We tend to associate this with many of our Christian friends in other denominations, but it is an important part of our doctrine and a more common expression in the Book of Mormon than in the Bible.

It is interesting to see where they are coming from. Of the 12 occurences in the Book of Mormon, 11 come from Alma-2. We know Alma's story and his dramatic conversion. With such an experience, the concept of being "born again" is probably more prevalent for him compared to someone who experiences this more gradually like many of the other Book of Mormon voices (presumably), Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni. Right after his experience with the angel, Alma says in Mosiah 27:25:
And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters
This becomes a common theme in his preaching: Alma 36:5, Alma 5:14, Alma 5:49, Alma 7:14 and Alma 38:6 are examples.

So what about the one use of the phrase "born again" or "born of God" that does not come from Alma? It's found in Alma 22:15 when the Lamanite king asks: "What shall I do that I may be born of God?". This concept has clearly been taught to him by Aaron. The voices of the sons of Mosiah are quite limited in the Book of Mormon, but we know they were together with Alma-2 when they were visited by the angel and converted. Consequently, they too had been "born again" in quite dramatic fashion and this probably became an important topic for them.

Transitions to First Person Voice in the Book of Mormon

Grant Hardy points out 15 distinct points in the Book of Mormon where Mormon transitions from third person voice to third person (quoting someone else directly). In each case, the distinction is very clearly demarcated and the primary source is specifically referenced, usually by saying "and these are the words which he spake" or something similar.

I find this interesting since we get a pretty long list of voices in the text to keep track of.

Here is a list of these transition points and which person is being quoted:

  • Zeniff in Mosiah 9:1
  • King Mosiah-2 in Mosiah 29:5
  • Moroni-1 in Alma 54:5 and Alma 60:1
  • Ammoron in Alma 54:16
  • Helaman-2 in Alma 56:2
  • Pahoran in Alma 61:2
  • Giddiannhi in 3 Nephi 3:2
  • King Benjamin in Mosiah 2:9
  • Alma 2 in Alma 5:2, Alma 7:1, Alma 9:8, Alma 36:1, Alma 38:1, Alma 39:1

Friday, October 25, 2019

The tree of life and the word of God

Apparently I'm still stuck in the Garden of Eden. This is were we first read about the tree of life, which I find very fascinating. Many Jews interpret it as a metaphor for the Torah. As far as I understand, there are at least two reasons for that. One is from Proverbs 3:13-18:
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom... she is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her
(It's hard to avoid the interesting side-note of the divine feminine, summarized in this post by Lord Wilmore). But most modern Jews interpret wisdom to be the Torah so they make a connection between the Torah and the Tree of life based on this verse. Another basis for this connection is related to the cherubim who guard the tree of life. Later we find them on the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 25:17-22). Inside, the ancient Israelites had the stone tablets, God's law, i.e. the Torah. So again, Jews are making this connection between the Torah and the Tree of life.

I think the Jews are on to something here, but I think the Book of Mormon helps deepen our understanding. I would generalize and say that wisdom or the stone tablets represent the word of God. For ancient Jews, that was the Torah. For us, it is the scriptures, the living prophets and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. These three are mentioned in footnote 4 in this talk from Elder Neil L. Andersen from last General Conference about fruit. He relates this to the iron rod that we read about in the Book of Mormon. As we know, the iron rod leads to the tree of life.

It is interesting to note that the two accounts about a process leading to the tree of life in the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 8 and Alma 32, both describe the word of God as the key ingredient to get there. In Lehi's dream, the word of God is the iron rod that leads us to the tree of life. In Alma 32, the word of God is compared to a seed. As we nourish it, it will grow to a tree of life (Alma 32:40, Alma 33:23). The Torah or the word of God is not necessarily itself the tree of life, but it is the means to get us there. When we study the word of God, we find wisdom, which is, as the passage in Proverbs stated, a tree of life.

Perhaps the cherubim that prevented Adam/mankind from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life were placed on the Ark of the Covenant to point to the stone tablets inside. It's a gesture suggesting that we cannot take part of the tree of life right now, but we need to pay attention to the stone tablets, the law, the Torah, the word of God. Because if we cling to it like an iron rod or plant it in our hearts and nourish it, then one day we will be able to return to the tree of life and partake of the fruit at last. The word of God will get us there.

Long side stories in the Book of Mosiah

Mosiah is a complicated book. In chapter 8, we read that Limhi asked Ammon if he knew anyone who could translate:

12 And I say unto thee again: Knowest thou of any one that can translate? For I am desirous that these records should be translated into our language; for, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of a remnant of the people who have been destroyed, from whence these records came; or, perhaps, they will give us a knowledge of this very people who have been destroyed; and I am desirous to know the cause of their destruction.
Ammon tells him about King Mosiah.

Then, we get a long side story about three generations of Zeniff's people in the land of Nephi, which includes Mosiah 9-21:27.  After that long side story, Mormon resumes the narrative right where he left it off:

28 And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice.

Note that the end of the side story happens without any discrete indicator in the text, but once the side story is over, the text seamlessly resumes right where it left off.

Of course, this subtle detail is very easy to explain if you believe Mormon authored the text over a long period of time with copious reference materials at his disposal--he simply drafted the side story and entered it into the narrative at an appropriate time, then resumed his main narrative once the side story ended.  If you believe Joseph Smith made up the text, you have a few things to explain.

Hat tip: Grant Hardy.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The fountain of all righteousness

I noticed the expression, "the fountain of all righteousness" as I read Ether 8:26 the other day, and found it to be a unique Book of Mormon expression. It probably originates from Lehi when he in 1 Nephi 2:9 speaks to Laman and says
O that thou mightest be like unto this river, continually running into the fountain of all righteousness!
Although one could always speculate that Lehi got this expression from the brass plates. In any case, this expression from the small plates of Nephi is probably what Moroni has in mind when he says in Ether 8:26
Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.
If Lehi didn't make it clear that he was referring to Christ, Moroni does. The third and last time this expression is used is in Ether 12:28, where Christ himself verifies it is him
Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
In the Webster 1828 dictionary, the first meaning listed for the word, fountain, is "spring or source of water". Christ told the woman at the well in John 4:14
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
There are also several Book of Mormon passages that describe Satan as the "enemy of all righteousness". See e.g. Alma 34:23 and Mosiah 4:14

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A possible Hebrew wordplay in the Book of Omni

Omni  verse 12 states:
Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king
'Mosiah' or 'Moshiah' is Hebrew and literally means 'Savior'. The same word which has typically been translated into 'Messiah' in English. There also seems to be a Hebrew wordplay here. I may be on thin ice since I'm no expert and I haven't read this anywhere else, but if "made king" is translated from the Hebrew word for anointed it would be 'Maschiach', a very similar word. "Moshiah who was maschiach".
Internal consistency alert, from 2 Nephi 26:
7 O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people! For I, Nephi, have seen it...
He saw it in 1 Nephi 12.
Compare 2 Nephi 26:10
10 And when these things have passed away a speedy destruction cometh unto my people; for, notwithstanding the pains of my soul, I have seen it; wherefore, I know that it shall come to pass; and they sell themselves for naught; for, for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell.
...with 1 Nephi 12:16-19
16 And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the fountain of filthy water which thy father saw; yea, even the river of which he spake; and the depths thereof are the depths of hell.
17 And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost.
18 And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. And a great and a terrible gulf divideth them; yea, even the word of the justice of the Eternal God, and the Messiah who is the Lamb of God, of whom the Holy Ghost beareth record, from the beginning of the world until this time, and from this time henceforth and forever.
19 And while the angel spake these words, I beheld and saw that the seed of my brethren did contend against my seed, according to the word of the angel; and because of the pride of my seed, and the temptations of the devil, I beheld that the seed of my brethren did overpower the people of my seed.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Internal consistency between 2 Nephi 26, 3 Nephi 8, and 1 Nephi 12

Internal consistency alert, from 2 Nephi 26:
5 And they that kill the prophets, and the saints, the depths of the earth shall swallow them up, saith the Lord of Hosts; and mountains shall cover them, and whirlwinds shall carry them away, and buildings shall fall upon them and crush them to pieces and grind them to powder.
6 And they shall be visited with thunderings, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and all manner of destructions, for the fire of the anger of the Lord shall be kindled against them, and they shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall consume them, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Compare to 3 Nephi 8:5-11
5 And it came to pass in the thirty and fourth year, in the first month, on the fourth day of the month, there arose a great storm, such an one as never had been known in all the land.
6 And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder.
7 And there were exceedingly sharp lightnings, such as never had been known in all the land.
8 And the city of Zarahemla did take fire.
9 And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned.
10 And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, that in the place of the city there became a great mountain.
11 And there was a great and terrible destruction in the land southward.
Also compare 1 Nephi 12:4
4 And it came to pass that I saw a mist of darkness on the face of the land of promise; and I saw lightnings, and I heard thunderings, and earthquakes, and all manner of tumultuous noises; and I saw the earth and the rocks, that they rent; and I saw mountains tumbling into pieces; and I saw the plains of the earth, that they were broken up; and I saw many cities that they were sunk; and I saw many that they were burned with fire; and I saw many that did tumble to the earth, because of the quaking thereof.

Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Ne...