Monday, October 26, 2020

Heart and mind

I was actually studying and reflecting on the contrast between faith and reason. I might still post about that soon, but I got distracted when I learned something new. First I searched for the verses including both "heart" and "mind" because I thought they reflected this contrast between faith and the intellect. Then I looked up the Hebrew terms. The reason I often do that is because I believe that reformed Egyptian was a variant of the Hebrew language written with Egyptian script. So I think finding the Hebrew equivalent can help us better understand the original wording on the plates in the Nephite language.

Heart in Hebrew is 'lebab'. It represents our inner self and our will. It is even sometimes translated as 'mind'. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any Hebrew word that translates directly into 'mind'. When the Book of Mormon speaks about heart and mind, 'lebab' cannot be the underlying Hebrew in both cases. So I searched for Old Testament passages with the 'heart' and 'mind' combination. In those cases, 'mind' always comes from 'nephesh'. The KJV often translates it to 'mind' but it is actually better translated into 'soul'. It represents our person, along with our desires, passion and emotion. In other words, it has little to do with our intellect.

Since there are no other good candidates for "mind" in Hebrew and it would be strange to repeat 'lebab' twice, I will assume that "heart" and "mind" in the Book of Mormon are based on 'lebab' and 'nephesh' that is the Hebrew translated to the "heart" and "mind" verses in the KJV Bible. This changes my understanding of these verses. I was thinking about a contrast between our feelings and our intellect. Rather, it seems that there are two synonymous words, both representing our inner selves and our true desires.

Lord Wilmore previously wrote on "heart" and "soul" in the Book of Mormon. This would also be 'lebab' and 'nephesh'. Mind is therefore probably only an alternative translation, but the same concept. This makes sense, because the verses involving heart and mind often show the same kind of poetic pairing or parallelism that heart and soul in Lord Wilmore's post exemplified.

Very often the poetic paring is "hardness of hearts" and "blindness of minds". Just two examples, but there are many more:

Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind...(Ether 4:15)
And thus they have been called to this holy calling on account of their faith, while others would reject the Spirit of God on account of the hardness of their hearts and blindness of their minds (Alma 13:4)

Interestingly, this expression is unique in the Book of Mormon. It is not found in any other scripture but in the Book of Mormon it is repeated a dozen times. That makes me wonder if Nephi's first use of the expression just gained traction and was repeated by later prophets. More likely, I think, is that this expression was found in one or more important passages on the brass plates.

As opposed to the hardness and blindness often associated with heart and mind in the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin asks his people to

hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view. (Mosiah 2:9)

We have previously blogged about hard hearts leading to a lack of understanding (see this example) and how the opposite, an open heart, leads to understanding, as also this quote from King Benjamin shows. It is the same for the mind. The mind in the Book of Mormon is apparently linked to sight or vision. The "blindness" of mind is gone when it is opened. Instead, the mysteries of God are unfolded to our view. What a beautiful promise!

"Zion ... shall come forth out of all the creations which I have made"

This post will focus on the final section of Moses 7, verses 58-69, which contains beautiful and powerful promises and prophecies related to...