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Feelings of foreboding were experienced by some members of the Quorum of the Twelve while serving missions in the northeastern states on June 27, 1844, the day the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were assassinated. Their promptings led them to return to Nauvoo in haste. We will discuss Sidney Rigdon’s efforts to assume guardianship of the Church in August 1844 and Brigham Young’s resounding response. Then, we will explore the various claims and results of efforts by several aspirants to claim the mantle of the deceased Prophet Joseph. Next, we will examine the solidifying influence of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, led by their president Brigham Young. Finally, I will recount the resulting exodus of the majority of the Saints from western Illinois to Iowa in early 1846. Young continued to deal with the “scattering” of certain individuals and their adherents for several more years and was required to provide the counsel and direction to those apostles that were assigned to facilitate the trek westward from Kanesville in the years that followed.
Abstract: Fifteen months after the Church of Christ’s inception in April 1830, Joseph Smith received a revelation indicating that Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, was to be the “center-place” of Zion and a “spot for a temple is lying westward, upon a lot that is not far from the court-house.” Dedication of this spot for the millennial temple soon followed on August 3, 1831, by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon. A building sketch was prepared in Kirtland, Ohio, and sent to church leaders in Independence in June 1833. Smith also forwarded his plat for the City of Zion, showing 24 temples at its center and giving an explanation for their use. Tragically, the church was driven en masse out of Jackson County only months later. Reclaiming the original Partridge purchase in December 1831, known as the Temple Lot, became an early driving force for the membership of the church. A physical effort to reclaim the saints’ land and possessions in Jackson County was organized in 1834 by Joseph Smith and became known as “Zion’s Camp.” After traveling 900 miles and poised on the north bank of the Missouri River looking toward Jackson County, Smith’s two hundred armed men were unable to proceed for various reasons. While contemplating what to do, given the reality of their situation, Smith received a revelation to “wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion.” That poignant phrase — “the redemption of Zion” — became a tenet of the church thereafter. In the years following the martyrdom and the subsequent “scattering of the saints,” three independent expressions of the Restoration returned to Independence to reclaim or redeem the Temple Lot in fulfillment of latter-day scripture. This essay examines their historical efforts.
[Editor’s Note: Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article is reprinted here as a service to the LDS community. Original pagination and page numbers have necessarily changed, otherwise the reprint has the same content as the original.
See R. Jean Addams, “The Past and Future of the Temple Lot in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri,” in Proceedings of the Fifth Interpreter Foundation Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, 7 November 2020, ed. Stephen D. Ricks and Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Temple on Mount Zion 6 (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation; Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2021), in preparation. Further information at https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/the-temple-past-present-and-future/.].
This fireside will begin by describing the premonitions of Joseph Smith about his impending death in the years preceding his tragic martyrdom. We will review the series of circumstances that led to his and his brother Hyrum’s demise at the hands of the mob that stormed the jail in Carthage. The little-known story of Joseph and Hyrum being rowed across the Mississippi River in the very early hours of the Sunday prior to their fateful trip to Carthage to consider options and secure legal counsel while out of the reach of his enemies will be told. The story demonstrates the devotion of the Prophet to his people and to the incredibly challenging destiny God had appointed for him. It further demonstrates the love of the Smith family and the Saints for their son, husband, brother, and friend. In all these events, the hand of God was clearly present during the tragedy and eventual triumph of the Prophet’s mission as a witness of Jesus Christ and His Restored Church.
Abstract: In this paper, I show that declarations of lineage in patriarchal blessings have, since the earliest days of the Restoration, evolved in terms of frequency of inclusion, which tribal lineages predominate, and understanding of the meaning of the declaration. I argue for a non- literal understanding consistent with scripture and science, but posit that these declarations have deep and important significance in connection with the gathering of Israel.
Review of A Reason for Faith: Navigating LDS Doctrine & Church History, ed. Laura Harris Hales. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: BYU Religious Studies Center, 2016. 264 pp. $24.99.
Abstract: This collection of essays conveniently assembles faithful and rigorous treatments of difficult questions related to LDS history and doctrine. While two or three of the essays are sufficiently flawed to give cause for concern and while some of its arguments have been expressed differently in earlier publications, overall this book can be confidently recommended to interested and doctrinally mature Latter-day Saints.
Abstract: To many outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and to some of its members), the Church’s teachings and practices appear not only socially and experientially constraining, but intellectually restrictive as well, given its centralized system of doctrinal boundary maintenance and its history of sometimes sanctioning members who publicly dissent from its teachings. Do these practices amount to a constraint of intellectual freedom? This essay argues that they do not, and offers several possible explanations for the commonly-asserted position that they do.
Abstract: We are called as Latter-day Saints to be a force for good in the world in every way possible, which necessarily includes active and positive engagement with political and social issues. At the same time, it is essential to our spiritual survival that we never allow ourselves to forget the radical difference between the philosophies of men — no matter how superficially harmonious some of these may seem with particular principles of the gospel or with some aspects of traditional Mormon culture — and the teachings of the prophets. In a world that constantly entices us with messages designed to lure us away from the eternal truths of the restored gospel and into the embrace of philosophies that are partially and contingently true at best and actively destructive at worst, we must exercise constant vigilance. This essay suggests and discusses six propositions that, if understood and embraced, should help us maintain that vigilance.
Abstract: The present work analyzes the narrative art Mormon employs, specifically Mormon’s unique strategies for personalized and personal messaging, which can be seen in how Mormon connects the narration of the baptism at the waters of Mormon in Mosiah chapter 18 with his self- introductory material in 3 Nephi chapter 5. In these narratives, Mormon seems to simultaneously present an overt personalized message about Christ and a covert personal connection to Alma1 through the almost excessive repetition of his own name. Mormon discreetly plants evidence to suggest his intention for the careful re-reader to discover that Mormon was a 12th generation descendant of the first Alma. Mormon’s use of personalizing and personal messages lends emotive power to his narratives and shines a light on Mormon’s love for Christ’s church.
Abstract: After about 1500 years of slumber, ancient Egyptian was brought back to life in the early 19th century, when scholars deciphered hieroglyphs. This revolutionary success opened the door to a reevaluation of history from the viewpoint of ancient Egypt. In the wake of this new knowledge, the first scholar posited the idea in 1849 that the name of Moses stemmed from the Egyptian word for child. Subsequently, this idea was refined, and currently the majority of scholars believe Moses’s name comes from the Egyptian verb “to beget,” which is also the root for the Egyptian word for child, or in the case of a male child, a “son.” Before this discovery and certainly before a scholarly consensus formed on the Egyptian etymology of the name of Moses, Joseph Smith restored a prophecy from the patriarch Joseph that played upon the name of Moses and its yet to be discovered Egyptian meaning of “son.” This article explores the implications of this overt Egyptian pun and its role as a key thematic element in the restored narratives in the Book of Moses.
Abstract: Easters come year after year, reminding us of new life brought to the children of men by the eternal atoning sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He grants us peace, forgiveness, grace, mercy, contentment, and joy in our hearts, and thus we gratefully testify of our everlasting redeeming Savior. All things bear witness of Jesus Christ. The Lord spoke thus face-to-face with Moses upon a high mountain: “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me.”
The intent of this article is to discuss scriptures that bear testimony of the reality of the Lord’s infinite atonement, to express deep gratitude for our Savior, and to praise Him for His grace, mercy, wisdom, power, and holiness.
Abstract: Many Book of Mormon students are aware that several locations along Lehi’s Trail through the Arabian Peninsula now have surprising and impressive evidence of plausibility, including the River Laman, Valley of Lemuel, Nahom, and Bountiful. One specific named location that has received much less attention is Shazer, a brief hunting stop mentioned in only two verses. After reviewing the potential etymology of the name, Warren Aston provides new information from discoveries made during field work in late 2019 at the prime candidate for the Valley of Lemuel, discoveries that lead to new understanding about the path to Shazer. Contrary to previous assumptions about Lehi’s journey, Aston shows there was no need to backtrack through the Valley of Lemuel to begin the “south-southeast” journey toward Shazer. It appears that Nephi’s description of crossing the river from the family’s campsite and then going south-southeast toward Shazer is exactly what can be done from the most likely candidate for a campsite in the most likely candidate for the Valley of Lemuel. In light of fieldwork and further information, Aston also reviews the merits of several locations that have been proposed for Shazer and points to a fully plausible, even probable, location for Shazer. The account of Shazer, like Nahom, the River of Laman/Valley of Lemuel, and Bountiful, may now be a fourth Arabian pillar anchoring and supporting the credibility of the Book of Mormon’s Old World account.
And it came to pass that we did take our tents
and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman.
And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days,
nearly a south-southeast direction,
and we did pitch our tents again;
and we did call the name of the place Shazer.
And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows,
and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families;
and after we had slain food for our families
we did return again to our families in the wilderness,
to the place of Shazer.
—1 Nephi 16:12-14.
Abstract: Lehi’s dream symbolically teaches us about many aspects of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. The central message of Lehi’s dream is that all must come unto Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Each of us has the choice to pursue the path that leads to eternal joy and salvation or to choose a different way and experience undesirable outcomes. In this paper, elements of Lehi’s dream and supporting scriptures are analyzed to see how they relate to key aspects of the plan of salvation and our journey through life.
Editor’s Note: In celebration of the long-awaited publication of the expanded proceedings of the 2013 Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposium — Cosmos, Earth, and Man (Orem and Salt Lake City: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2016), we share an expanded version of the introduction to that volume in this issue of the journal. The second Interpreter Science and Mormonism Symposium, subtitled Body, Brain, Mind, and Spirit, will be held at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah in the Classroom Building, Room 101, from 8:30 am-3:30 pm on March 12, 2016. For more information about the book and the upcoming symposium, see MormonInterpreter.com.
Abstract: From the beginning, Latter-day Saints have rejected the notion that science and religion are incompatible. In this article, we give an overview of studies that have surveyed the professional participation of Mormons in science and the views of American academics and scientists on religion in general, Mormons in particular, and why many thoughtful people in our day might be disinclined to take religion seriously. We conclude with a brief survey of current LDS perspectives on science. Our brief survey demonstrates that it is not only futile for religion and science to battle each other; it is also unnecessary. .
This book features the personal perspectives of prominent LDS scientists addressing the theme of “Cosmos, Earth, and Man.” Many of these were drawn from the first Interpreter Symposium on Science and Mormonism, held in Provo, Utah on 9 November 2013. In the pages of this book, readers will appreciate the concise and colorful summaries of the state-of-the-art in scientific research relating to these topics and will gain a deeper appreciation of the unique contributions of LDS doctrine to the ongoing conversation.
Abstract: This paper reviews the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob’s proscription against plural marriage, arguing that the verses in Jacob 24–30 should be interpreted in a Law of Moses context regarding levirate marriage, by which a man was responsible for marrying his dead brother’s wife if that brother died before having an heir. I also review how these verses have been used in arguments for and against plural marriage, and how levirate marriage practices worked in Mosaic tradition.
Abstract: Christmas is upon us, and it is a special, magical time. I have seen the love of God touch countless lives through the glorious music of the season.
Abstract: This thorough treatment of the mention of baptism for the dead in 1 Corinthians 15:29 gives a meticulous analysis of Paul’s Greek argument, and lays out the dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of theories that have been put forth with respect to its interpretation. Barney concludes that “the most natural reading” and the “majority contemporary scholarly reading” is that of “vicarious baptism.” Therefore, “the Prophet Joseph Smith’s reading of the passage to refer to such a practice was indeed correct.”
[Editor’s Note: Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article is reprinted here as a service to the LDS community. Original pagination and page numbers have necessarily changed, otherwise the reprint has the same content as the original.See Kevin L. Barney, “Baptized for the Dead,” in “To Seek the Law of the Lord”: Essays in Honor of John W. Welch, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation, 2017), 9–58. Further information at https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/to-seek-the-law-of-the-lord-essays-in-honor-of-john-w-welch-2/.]
Abstract: Name as Key-Word brings together a collection of essays, many of them previously published, whose consistent theme is exploring examples of onomastic wordplay or puns in Mormon scripture in general and the Book of Mormon in particular. Without a knowledge of the meaning of these names, the punning in the scriptural accounts would not be recognized by modern English readers. Exploring the (probable) meanings of these names helps to open our eyes to how the scriptural authors used punning and other forms of wordplay to convey their messages in a memorable way.
Review of Matthew L. Bowen, Name as Key-Word: Collected Essays on Onomastic Wordplay and the Temple in Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2018). 408 pp., $24.95.
Abstract: During Christ’s mortal ministry at Jerusalem, his teachings often drew upon the writings of Isaiah, Moses, and other prophets with whom his audience was familiar. On the other hand, Christ never seems to quote Nephi, Mosiah, or other Book of Mormon prophets to the Jews and their surrounding neighbors, despite being the ultimate source for their inspired writings. It is because of this apparent confinement to Old Testament sources that intertextual parallels between the words of Christ in Matthew 23–24 and the words of Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 13–15 jump out as intriguing. This paper explores the intertextual relationship between these chapters in Helaman and Matthew and suggests that the parallels between these texts can be attributed to a common source available to both Samuel and Christ, the writings of the prophet Zenos.
Abstract: Attitudes of superiority lead to societal conflict. The racial interpretation of a few Book of Mormon verses has contributed to these attitudes and conflicts, yet hundreds of inclusive messages are found in more than half of the book’s verses. God’s message, love, mercy, and justice are for all people. Righteous people did not think themselves above others, nor did they persecute others or start wars. War is tragic and is caused by wickedness. Conspiracies are a great evil. Righteous people were kind in their attitudes and actions, regardless of others’ social status or ethnicity. Some Book of Mormon people even gave their lives or put their lives at risk to act kindly, and some of these went from hating others to giving up their lives on behalf of others. The inclusive messages in the Book of Mormon are consistent with the position advocated by current Latter-day Saint leaders condemning all racism and disavowing racist hypotheses such as those derived from a few Book of Mormon verses (i.e., that skin color is related to righteousness). The inclusive messages also are consistent with the view that skin color in the Book of Mormon is not literal but is metaphorical. The Book of Mormon instructs us that the right way to interact is with love and respect, through examples of people respecting and reaching out to others, promises to all people, condemnation of unkindness and anti-Semitism, calls to all people to repent, and emphasizing the flaws of one’s own group and not those of others.
Abstract: The crux of the creation–evolution conflict is a futile desire to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of God. The conflict is manifest in the common belief that creation means a divine, supernatural process and that evolution denotes an atheistic, accidental event. Evolution involves a random change in an inherited trait followed by selection for or against the altered trait. If humans use this principle to design machines, solve complex mathematical problems, engineer proteins, and manipulate living organisms, then certainly a super-intelligent being could have used evolution to create life on earth. This reasoning indicates that evolution does not prove atheism and that evolution is a constructive process. The theory of evolution is a mechanistic description and therefore, like all other scientific principles, is neutral on the question of God’s existence. Evolution is compatible with the simple scriptural accounts of creation. Consequently, belief or unbelief in God is put back where it should be — on individual choice.
Abstract: Nathan Oman’s “Welding Another Link in Wonder’s Chain: The Task of Latter-day Saint Intellectuals in the Church’s Third Century” wisely called for “new language in which to celebrate the Restoration.” That new language can be found in understanding the power of the Book of Mormon, which is the tangible miracle at the heart of the Restoration that defies the critics. My father, Senator Robert F. Bennett, devoted his final years to arguing that the Book of Mormon’s existence is a stumbling block to those who try to dismiss it as an obvious fraud. Those who scoff at the Book of Mormon have yet to come up with a plausible secular account of its existence, and this allows the Book of Mormon to endure as the centerpiece of our missionary efforts. But rather than simply use the Book of Mormon to attempt to answer questions people are no longer asking, we need to create a missionary message that uses this sacred scripture to connect people, directly and personally, to Jesus Christ.
Review of Benjamin E. Park, Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier (New York City: Liveright Publishing, 2020). 336 pages. $28.95 (hardback).Abstract: Benjamin Park recently wrote a substantive revisionist history of Nauvoo, Illinois, the one-time Church capital under the leadership of Joseph Smith, Jr. This article serves as a critical review of Park’s work. Congratulating the author for placing this well-known Latter-day Saint story within the larger Jacksonian American democratic context, as well as for utilizing a great many primary sources hardly used before, Richard Bennett in this critical review assesses both the strengths and the weaknesses of this important new book. While complimenting Park for his significant contributions on politics, women, and race in Nauvoo, Bennett nonetheless finds much to criticize in what he sees as a unidimensional, highly political study that disregards many previous studies of Nauvoo and fails to address many other critically important facets of the city’s life and history from its inception in 1839 until the Saints’ departure in 1846.
Abstract: In October 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson were the first missionaries sent to travel through the western states to the Indian territory at the far reaches of the United States. Pratt, a former resident of northeastern Ohio, suggested they stop in the Kirtland, Ohio, area and visit his preacher friend, Sidney Rigdon. It was Rigdon who had earlier convinced Pratt that the restoration of the ancient order that included faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit could be found in Alexander Campbell’s restoration movement. Within a few weeks, the four missionaries baptized Rigdon and more than 100 new converts into Joseph Smith’s restoration movement — many of whom had been members of Campbell’s restoration movement. Although both Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith called their movements restorations, the foundation upon which each was built was very different.
Abstract: Captain Moroni cites a prophecy regarding Joseph of Egypt and his posterity that is not recorded in the Bible. He accompanies the prophecy with a symbolic action to motivate his warriors to covenant to be faithful to their prophet Helaman and to keep the commandments lest God would not preserve them as he had Joseph.
This fireside will examine several lesser-known aspects of Joseph Smith’s road to martyrdom. In addition to mentioning outside opponents and background legal factors, we will focus on the motives of those Nauvoo insiders who were most instrumental in causing the prophet’s death. How early did their efforts begin? What were their three principal plans to kill him? Was Joseph’s order as Mayor to suppress the Nauvoo Expositor the main cause of his death on June 27, or was there another legal pretext?
As pressures mounted, why did Joseph and Hyrum cross the Mississippi River early Sunday morning, June 23? What did they do in Iowa? Why did they return to Nauvoo and go on Monday to Carthage? Why then did all the members of the Nauvoo City Council leave Joseph and Hyrum alone, trapped in Carthage? Where were the Twelve Apostles and Joseph’s friends? Where was Governor Ford, and the Carthage Greys? Who was in the mob that stormed the Carthage Jail, and where did they go? How was this all pulled off? Was it a perfect storm?
In its legal aftermath, what was the final outcome of the many Expositor riot cases? Did the Mormon insiders get compensated for the loss of their press? What were the legal charges that put Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail until they were killed, and how did those legal matters finally play out? Did any members of the mob face an earthly justice? How did the martyrdom influence subsequent developments and the desired goal of driving all Mormons from Illinois?
Editor’s Note: At the request of BYU Law Professor John W. Welch, Dr. Berman graciously provided this article for publication as an introduction to a series of lectures he will be giving in Utah on October 7 and 8, 2015. The first lecture will focus on the differences between the Tabernacle and the Temple, the second lecture will discuss recent findings linking inscriptions from Ramesses II to the sea account in Exodus, and the third lecture will touch on issues in biblical law. These lectures are co-sponsored by the Academy for Temple Studies, BYU Studies, the Ancient Near Eastern Studies Department in the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, the J. Reuben Clark Law School, and The Interpreter Foundation, and details can be found online. This article is adapted from The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning Then and Now (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, first ed., 1995).
Abstract: One of the primary identities of the Temple is that it is the place of hashra’at ha-shekhinah, the site at which God’s presence is most manifest. It is no surprise then, that the Temple is the focal point of prayer. Yet, as the site at which God’s presence is most intimately manifest, the Temple is also the center of the nation in several major spheres of collective life. This centrality is exhibited in the structure of the Book of Deuteronomy. Chapters 12-26 depict commandments that are to be the social and religious frame of life in the land of Israel. Within this section the central shrine, “the place in which God shall establish His name,” is mentioned nearly twenty times. The Temple is cast as the center for sacrifices (ch. 12), the consumption of tithes (14:23-25), the celebration of the festivals (ch. 16), and the center of the judicial system (ch. 17). In this chapter we will explore how the Temple constitutes the national center for social unity, education, and justice. The concentration of activity and jurisdiction at the Temple, however, renders it prone to abuse, and in the second half of this chapter, we will probe the social and religious ills that emerged as an endemic part of the Temple’s existence.
Abstract: In verse 13 of the Word of Wisdom, the Lord tells us, “it is pleasing unto me that they [flesh of beasts and fowls of the air] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” (D&C 89:13). Judging from the variety of interpretations this single verse has inspired, it would appear to be deeply enigmatic. Interestingly, most interpretations have been put forward with little supporting evidence. This article is the first comprehensive analysis of the diverse explanations for D&C 89:13 that have been suggested since 1833. In this article, I attempt to analyze these various interpretations in light of the available evidence.
Abstract: The 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants included an additional comma, which was inserted after the word “used” in D&C 89:13: “And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine.” Later authors have speculated that the addition of the comma was a mistake that fundamentally changed the meaning of the verse. This article examines this “errant comma theory” and demonstrates why this particular interpretation of D&C 89:13 is without merit.
Abstract: In this masterful presentation, accomplished historian Davis Bitton addresses the role of history and belief. Testimonies, he asserts, are born of belief and spiritual witnesses, not from historical events. It is quite possible to know all about Church history and still remain a believing member.
[Editor’s Note: This essay was presented at the 2004 FAIR Conference.
In preparation for publication it has been lightly copy edited and some citations and annotations added.].
Review of Benjamin E. Park, Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier (New York City: Liveright Publishing, 2020). 336 pages. $28.95 (hardback).
Abstract: While Benjamin Park shows promise as a writer and historian, his book, Kingdom of Nauvoo, opts for poorly sourced sensationalism instead of illuminating the joy of Nauvoo’s true history.
Abstract: In this essay, I examine a letter written by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in 1983 and deposited in the cornerstone of the Atlanta Georgia Temple. The letter is addressed to twenty-first century members of the Church and is written with the expectation that these future Saints will have been alive for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I consider the claims made about this letter from a recent viral video entitled “7 Year Tribulation in the SEVENTH Seal TIMELINE.”.
Abstract: This essay makes a compelling argument for Jacob, the brother of Nephi, having deep knowledge of ancient Israelite temple ritual, concepts, and imagery, based on two of Jacob’s sermons in 2 Nephi 9 and Jacob 1-3. For instance, he discusses the duty of the priest to expiate sin and make atonement before the Lord and of entering God’s presence. Jacob quotes temple-related verses from the Old Testament, like Psalm 95. The allusions to the temple are not forced, but very subtle. Of course, Jacob’s central topic, the atonement, is a temple topic itself, and its opposite, impurity, is also expressed by Jacob in terms familiar and central to an ancient temple priest. The temple is also shown as a gate to heaven.
[Editor’s Note: Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article is reprinted here as a service to the LDS community. Original pagination and page numbers have necessarily changed, otherwise the reprint has the same content as the original.
See David E. Bokovoy, “Ancient Temple Imagery in the Sermons of Jacob,” in Temple Insights: Proceedings of the Interpreter Matthew B. Brown Memorial Conference, “The Temple on Mount Zion,” 22 September 2012, ed. William J. Hamblin and David Rolph Seely (Orem, UT: The Interpreter Foundation; Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2014), 171–186. Further information at https://interpreterfoundation.org/books/temple-insights/.].
Abstract: The Book of Mormon features an esoteric exchange between the prophet Nephi and the Spirit of the Lord on an exceedingly high mountain. The following essay explores some of the ways in which an Israelite familiar with ancient religious experiences and scribal techniques might have interpreted this event. The analysis shows that Nephi’s conversation, as well as other similar accounts in the Book of Mormon, echoes an ancient temple motif. As part of this paradigm, the essay explores the manner in which the text depicts the Spirit of the Lord in a role associated with members of the divine council in both biblical and general Near Eastern conceptions. .
Abstract: The biographical introduction of Alma the Elder into the Book of Mormon narrative (Mosiah 17:2) also introduces the name Alma into the text for the first time, this in close juxtaposition with a description of Alma as a “young man.” The best explanation for the name Alma is that it derives from the Semitic term ǵlm (Hebrew ʿelem), “young man,” “youth,” “lad.” This suggests the strong probability of an intentional wordplay on the name Alma in the Book of Mormon’s underlying text: Alma became “[God’s] young man” or “servant.” Additional lexical connections between Mosiah 17:2 and Mosiah 14:1 (quoting Isaiah 53:1) suggest that Abinadi identified Alma as the one “to whom” or “upon whom” (ʿal-mî) the Lord was “reveal[ing]” his arm as Abinadi’s prophetic successor. Alma began his prophetic succession when he “believed” Abinadi’s report and pled with King Noah for Abinadi’s life. Forced to flee, Alma began his prophetic ministry “hidden” and “concealed” while writing the words of Abinadi and teaching them “privately.” The narrative’s dramatic emphasis on this aspect of Alma’s life suggests an additional thread of wordplay that exploits the homonymy between Alma and the Hebrew root *ʿlm, forms of which mean “to hide,” “conceal,” “be hidden,” “be concealed.” The richness of the wordplay and allusion revolving around Alma’s name in Mosiah 17–18 accentuates his importance as a prophetic figure and founder of the later Nephite church. Moreover, it suggests that Alma’s name was appropriate given the details of his life and that he lived up to the positive connotations latent in his name.
Abstract: Beyond his autobiographic use of Joseph’s name and biography, Nephi also considered the name Joseph to have long-term prophetic value. As a Semitic/Hebrew name, Joseph derives from the verb yāsap (to “add,” “increase,” “proceed to do something,” “do something again,” and to “do something more”), thus meaning “may he [God] add,” “may he increase,” or “may he do more/again.” Several of the prophecies of Isaiah, in which Nephi’s soul delighted and for which he offers extensive interpretation, prominently employ forms of yāsap in describing iterative and restorative divine action (e.g., Isaiah 11:11; 26:15; 29:14; cf. 52:1). The prophecy of the coming forth of the sealed book in Isaiah 29 employs the latter verb three times (Isaiah 29:1, 14, and 19). Nephi’s extensive midrash of Isaiah 29 in 2 Nephi 25–30 (especially 2 Nephi 27) interpretively expands Isaiah’s use of the yāsap idiom(s). Time and again, Nephi returns to the language of Isaiah 29:14 (“I will proceed [yôsīp] to do a marvelous work”), along with a similar yāsap-idiom from Isaiah 11:11 (“the Lord shall set his hand again [yôsîp] … to recover the remnant of his people”) to foretell the Latter-day forthcoming of the sealed book to fulfill the Lord’s ancient promises to the patriarch. Given Nephi’s earlier preservation of Joseph’s prophecies regarding a future seer named “Joseph,” we can reasonably see Nephi’s emphasis on iterative divine action in his appropriation of the Isaianic use of yāsap as a direct and thematic allusion to this latter-day “Joseph” and his role in bringing forth additional scripture. This additional scripture would enable the meek to “increase,” just as Isaiah and Nephi had prophesied. “May [God] Add”/“May He Increase”.
Abstract: In this brief note, I will suggest several instances in which the Book of Mormon prophet Enos utilizes wordplay on his own name, the name of his father “Jacob,” the place name “Peniel,” and Jacob’s new name “Israel” in order to connect his experiences to those of his ancestor Jacob in Genesis 32-33, thus infusing them with greater meaning. Familiarity with Jacob and Esau’s conciliatory “embrace” in Genesis 33 is essential to understanding how Enos views the atonement of Christ and the ultimate realization of its blessings in his life.
Abstract: Moses 1:41 echoes or plays on the etymological meaning of the name Joseph — “may he [Yahweh] add,” as the Lord foretells to Moses the raising up of a future figure through whom the Lord’s words, after having been “taken” (away) from the book that Moses would write, “shall be had again among the children of men.” Moses 1:41 anticipates and employs language reminiscent of the so-called biblical canon formulas, possible additions to biblical texts meant to ensure the texts’ stability by warning against “adding” or “diminishing” (i.e., “taking away”) from them (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:2; 5:22 [MT 5:18]; 12:32 [MT 13:1]; cf. Revelation 22:18– 19). This article presupposes that the vision of Moses presents restored text that was at some point recorded in Hebrew.
Abstract: Royal and divine sonship/daughterhood (bānîm = “children”/“sons,” bānôt = “daughters”) is a prevalent theme throughout the Book of Mosiah. “Understanding” (Hebrew noun, bînâ or tĕbûnâ; verb, bîn) is also a key theme in that book. The initial juxtaposition of “sons” and “understanding” with the name “Benjamin” (binyāmîn, “son of the right hand”) in Mosiah 1:2–7 suggests the narrator’s association of the underlying terms with the name Benjamin likely on the basis of homophony. King Benjamin repeatedly invokes “understand” in his speech (forms of “understand” were derived from the root *byn in Hebrew; Mosiah 2:9, 40; 4:4; cf. 3:15) — a speech that culminates in a rhetorical wordplay on his own name in terms of “sons”/“children,” “daughters,” and “right hand” (Mosiah 5:7, 9). “Understand,” moreover, recurs as a paronomasia on the name Benjamin at key points later in the Book of Mosiah (Mosiah 8:3, 20; 26:1–3), which bring together the themes of sonship and/or “understanding” (or lack of thereof) with King Benjamin’s name. Later statements in the Book of Mosiah about “becoming” the “children of God” or “becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 18:22; 27:25) through divine rebirth allude to King Benjamin’s sermon and the wordplay on “Benjamin” there. Taken as a literary whole, the book of Mosiah constitutes a treatise on “becoming” — i.e., divine transformation through Christ’s atonement (cf. Mosiah 3:18–19). Mormon’s statement in Alma 17:2 about the sons of Mosiah having become “men of a sound understanding” thus serves as a fitting epilogue to a narrative arc begun as early as Mosiah 1:2.
Abstract: Mormon uses pejorative wordplay on the name Jaredites based on the meaning of the Hebrew verb yārad. The onomastic rhetoric involving the meaning of yārad first surfaces in Helaman 6 where Mormon also employs wordplay on the name Cain in terms of qānâ or “getting gain.” The first wordplay occurs in the negative purpose clause “lest they should be a means of bringing down [cf. lĕhôrîd] the people unto destruction” (Helaman 6:25) and the second in the prepositional phrase “until they had come down [cf. yārĕdû/yordû] to believe in their works” (Helaman 6:38). Mormon uses these pejorative wordplays as a means of emphasizing the genetic link that he sees between Jareditic secret combinations and the derivative Gadianton robbers. Moroni reflects upon his father’s earlier use of this type of pejorative wordplay on “Jaredites” and yārad when he directly informs latter-day Gentiles regarding the “decrees of God” upon the land of promise “that ye may repent and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness be come, that ye may not bring down [cf. *tôrîdû/hôradtem] the fullness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land hath hitherto done” (Ether 2:11). All three of these onomastic allusions constitute an urgent and timely warning to latter-day Gentiles living upon the land of promise. They warn the Gentiles against “coming down” to believe in and partake of the works and spoils of secret combinations like the Jaredites and the Nephites did, and thus “bringing down” their own people to destruction and “bringing down” the “fullness of the wrath of God” upon themselves, as the Jaredites and the Nephites both did.
Abstract: The calqued name-title “Lord of Sabaoth,” echoing James 5:4, occurs four times in the Doctrine and Covenants in revelations given to the prophet Joseph Smith from December 25, 1832 to August 6, 1833. Of these occurrences, only D&C 95:7 offers a gloss or interpretation for the name “the Lord of Sabaoth,” which is, by interpretation, “the creator of the first day, the beginning and the end.” Upon close inspection, this explanation makes excellent sense from an ancient Israelite etiological as well as (perhaps) an etymological standpoint. Past criticisms of the gloss in D&C 95:7 have focused on the wrongly assumed incongruity of “first day” and “Sabaoth” (“hosts”), and have neglected function of the divine name Yhwh in titles, most often represented in scripture by the term “Lord,” as in the calqued name-title Lord of Hosts. Understanding the connection between Yhwh (the form of which suggests the meaning “He creates,” “He brings into existence,” “he brings to pass”), the divine council (the “hosts”), creation (on “the first day” or “Day One”), and the underlying grammatical meaning of “Lord of Hosts” = Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt (i.e., “He creates the [heavenly] hosts” or “He brings to pass the [heavenly] hosts”) is crucial to understanding the calque “Lord of Sabaoth” and the explanation given in D&C 95:7. When considered in its entirety, this revealed gloss is right on target. The creation/begetting of the heavenly hosts was associated with “the first day” or “Day One” in ancient Israelite thought. They are described as “finished” or fully prepared by the end of the six creative periods (“days” in Genesis 2:1). Additionally, “Lord of Sabaoth” or Yhwh ṣĕbāʾôt is to be understood in connection with the similarly constructed name-title Yhwh ʾĕlōhîm (“He creates gods,” “he causes gods to be,” or “he brings to pass gods”). The meristic appositive title “the beginning and the end” implies that Yhwh is not only the “author”/“creator” of Israel and its salvation but the “finisher” thereof. Far from evidence of Joseph Smith’s lack of knowledge of Hebrew, the interpretive gloss in D&C 95:7 constitutes evidence of Joseph’s ability to obtain correct translations and interpretations through revelation.
Abstract: The mention of “Abish” and a “remarkable vision of her father” (Alma 19:16) is itself remarkable, since women and servants are rarely named in the Book of Mormon text. As a Hebrew/Lehite name, “Abish” suggests the meaning “Father is a man,” the midrashic components ʾab- (“father”) and ʾîš (“man”) being phonologically evident. Thus, the immediate juxtaposition of the name “Abish” with the terms “her father” and “women” raises the possibility of wordplay on her name in the underlying text. Since ʾab-names were frequently theophoric — i.e., they had reference to a divine Father (or could be so understood) — the mention of “Abish” (“Father is a man”) takes on additional theological significance in the context of Lamoni’s vision of the Redeemer being “born of a woman and … redeem[ing] all mankind” (Alma 19:13). The wordplay on “Abish” thus contributes thematically to the narrative’s presentation of Ammon’s typological ministrations among the Lamanites as a “man” endowed with great power, which helped the Lamanites understand the concept of “the Great Spirit” (Yahweh) becoming “man.” Moreover, this wordplay accords with the consistent Book of Mormon doctrine that the “very Eternal Father” would (and did) condescend to become “man” and Suffering Servant.
Abstract: The famous Petros/petra wordplay in Matthew 16:18 does not constitute Jesus’s identification of Peter as the “rock” upon which his church would be built. This wordplay does however identify him with that “rock” or “bedrock” inasmuch as Peter, a small “seer-stone,” had the potential to become like the Savior himself, “the Rock of ages.” One aspect of that “rock” is the revelation that comes through faith that Jesus is the Christ. Other aspects of that same rock are the other principles and ordinances of the gospel, including temple ordinances. The temple, a symbol of the Savior and his body, is a symbol of the eternal family—the “sure house” built upon a rock. As such, the temple is the perfect embodiment of Peter’s labor in the priesthood, against which hell will not prevail.
Abstract: The biblical etiology (story of origin) for the name “Cain” associates his name with the Hebrew verb qny/qnh, “to get,” “gain,” “acquire,” “create,” or “procreate” in a positive sense. A fuller form of this etiology, known to us indirectly through the Book of Mormon text and directly through the restored text of the Joseph Smith Translation, creates additional wordplay on “Cain” that associates his name with murder to “get gain.” This fuller narrative is thus also an etiology for organized evil—secret combinations “built up to get power and gain” (Ether 8:22–23; 11:15). The original etiology exerted a tremendous influence on Book of Mormon writers (e.g., Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Mormon, and Moroni) who frequently used allusions to this narrative and sometimes replicated the wordplay on “Cain” and “getting gain.” The fuller narrative seems to have exerted its greatest influence on Mormon and Moroni, who witnessed the destruction of their nation firsthand — destruction catalyzed by Cainitic secret combinations. Moroni, in particular, invokes the Cain etiology in describing the destruction of the Jaredites by secret combinations. The destruction of two nations by Cainitic secret combinations stand as two witnesses and a warning to latter-day Gentiles (and Israel) against building up these societies and allowing them to flourish.
Abstract: This article examines Jacob’s statement “God hath taken away his plainness from [the Jews]” (Jacob 4:14) as one of several scriptural texts employing language that revolves around the Deuteronomic canon formulae (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32 [13:1]; cf. Revelation 22:18‒19). It further examines the textual dependency of Jacob 4:13‒14 on Nephi’s earlier writings, 1 Nephi 13 and 2 Nephi 25 in particular. The three texts in the Hebrew Bible that use the verb bʾr (Deuteronomy 1:5; 27:8; Habakkuk 2:2) — each having covenant and “law” implications — all shed light on what Nephi and Jacob may have meant when they described “plain” writing, “plain and precious things [words],” “words of plainness,” etc. Jacob’s use of Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree as a means of describing the Lord’s restoring or re-“adding” what had been “taken away,” including his use of Isaiah 11:11 (Jacob 6:2) as a hermeneutical lens for the entire allegory, further connects everything from Jacob 4:14 (“God hath taken away”) to Jacob 6:2 with the name “Joseph.” Genesis etiologizes the name Joseph in terms of divine “taking away” (ʾāsap) and “adding” (yōsēp; Genesis 30:23‒24; cf. Numbers 36:1‒5). God’s “tak[ing] away his plainness” involved both divine and human agency, but the restoration of his plainness required divine agency. For Latter-day Saints, it is significant the Lord accomplished this through a “Joseph.”.
Abstract: Mormon describes Alma the Younger’s “go[ing] about secretly” to destroy the church that his father, Alma the Elder, had established (Mosiah 27:8–10), this as a narratalogical inversion of that period when Alma the Elder “went about privately” teaching the words of Abinadi and establishing a church “that it might not come to the knowledge of the king” (Mosiah 18:1–6). In Mosiah 27:10, Mormon subtly reworks Alma the Younger’s autobiographical statement preserved in Alma 36:6, adding in the former passage a word rendered “secretly” to create a midrashic or interpretive pun on the name Alma, echoing the meaning of the Semitic root ʿlm, “hide,” “conceal”). Mosiah 27:8–10 contains additional language that evokes the introduction of the name Alma in the Book of Mormon (at first in terms of ʿelem [“young man”] but also in terms of the homonymous root ʿlm) in Mosiah 17:2–4 but also re-invokes allusions in the latter passage to Mosiah 14:1 (Isaiah 53:1).
Abstract: Mormon, as an author and editor, was concerned to show the fulfillment of earlier Nephite prophecy when such fulfillment occurred. Mormon took care to show that Nephi and Lehi, the sons of Helaman, fulfilled their father’s prophetic and paranetic expectations regarding them as enshrined in their given names — the names of their “first parents.” It had been “said and also written” (Helaman 5:6-7) that Nephi’s and Lehi’s namesakes were “good” in 1 Nephi 1:1. Using onomastic play on the meaning of “Nephi,” Mormon demonstrates in Helaman 8:7 that it also came to be said and written of Nephi the son of Helaman that he was “good.” Moreover, Mormon shows Nephi that his brother Lehi was “not a whit behind him” in this regard (Helaman 11:19). During their lifetimes — i.e., during the time of the fulfillment of Mosiah’s forewarning regarding societal and political corruption (see Mosiah 29:27) that especially included secret combinations — Nephi and Lehi stood firm against increasingly popular organized evil.
Abstract: The toponym Onidah, attested as the name of a hill in Alma 32:4, most plausibly derives from Hebrew ʿŏnî /ʿōnî/ʿônî (ʿonyî, “my affliction”) + yādaʿ/yēdaʿ (“he knew,” “he knows”) — i.e., “he has acknowledged my affliction” or “he knows my affliction.” This etymology finds support in the context of the Zoramite narrative in which it occurs. In view of the pejorative lexical associations of the Rameumptom, the “high” and “holy stand,” with Hebrew rām (< rwm, “high”) and haughtiness, arrogance, and pride, we see Mormon using the Rameumptom, the “high” platform for Zoramite self-exalting worship, with Onidah, the hill from which Alma and Amulek taught the Zoramite poor and humble. The latter name and Alma’s teaching from that location constituted a sign that the Lord “knew” their “affliction.” Alma devotes a significant part of his message not only extolling the spiritual value of their state of “affliction” and humiliation or compelled “humility” (ʿŏnî Exodus 3:7, 17), but teaching them how to “plant” the “word” (even Jesus Christ himself) in their hearts through prayer — the word that would grow up into a “perfect knowledge” of God — experientially “knowing” God (Alma 32:16‒36) and being known by him (cf. Alma 7:12).
“Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.” (Psalms 138:6)
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” (Psalms 119:71‒72)
“And the afflicted people thou wilt save: but thine eyes are upon the haughty, that thou mayest bring them down.” (2 Samuel 22:28).
Abstract: The Book of Enos constitutes a brief literary masterpiece. A close reading of Enos’s autobiography reveals textual dependency not only on 1 Nephi 1:1-2 and Genesis 32–33, but also on earlier parts of the Jacob Esau cycle in Genesis 25, 27. Enos’s autobiographical allusions to hunting and hungering serve as narrative inversions of Esau’s biography. The narrative of Genesis 27 exploits the name “Esau” in terms of the Hebrew verb ʿśh/ʿśy (“make,” “do”). Enos (“man”) himself incorporates paronomastic allusions to the name “Esau” in terms of ʿśh/ʿśy in surprising and subtle ways in order to illustrate his own transformation through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. These wordplays reflect the convergence (in the Genesis narratives) of the figure of Esau before whom Jacob bows and whom he embraces in reconciliation with the figure of the divine “man” with whom Jacob wrestles. Finally, Enos anticipates his own resurrection, divine transformation, and final at-one-ment with the Lord in terms of a clothing metaphor reminiscent of Jacob’s “putting on” Esau’s identity in Genesis 27.
Abstract: Omni greatly revered his ancestors and their personal accounts on the small plates of Nephi. A close examination of Omni’s brief autobiography (Omni 1:1–3) evidences borrowing from all four of his predecessors’ writings. Moreover, his self-description, “I of myself am a wicked man,” constitutes far more than a confession of religious dereliction. That self-assessment alludes to Nephi’s autobiographical wordplay on his name in terms “good” and “having been born of goodly parents” and his grandfather Enos’s similarly self-referential wordplay in describing his own father Jacob as a “just man.” Omni’s name most likely represents a hypocoristic form of a longer theophoric name, *ʾomnîyyāhû (from the root *ʾmn), meaning “Yahweh is [the object of] my faith” or “Yahweh is my guardian [or, nursing father],” but could also be heard or understood as a gentilic, “faithful one” or “trustworthy one.” These observations have implications for Omni’s stated defense of his people the Nephites (traditionally, the “good” or “fair ones”) against the Lamanites, those who had dwindled in “unbelief” (cf. Hebrew lōʾ-ʾēmun). In the end, Omni’s description of himself as “a wicked man” should be viewed in the context of his reverence for “goodly” and “just” ancestors and brought into balance with those sacred trusts in which he did prove faithful: preserving his people, his genealogy, and the small plates themselves.
Abstract: Three times in his narrative Mormon recounts the Lord’s oracle (revelation) to Mosiah II regarding his sons undertaking a mission among the Lamanites (Mosiah 28:7, Alma 17:35, and Alma 19:23). In all three instances, the Lord’s promises of deliverance revolve around the meaning of the name Mosiah (“Yahweh is Deliverer” or “Yahweh is Savior”), emphasizing that the Lord (Hebrew yhwh) himself would act in his covenant role as môšîaʿ in delivering Mosiah’s sons, and sparing Ammon in particular. In two of the iterations of the oracle, Mosiah 28:7 and Alma 19:23, we find additional wordplay on the name Ammon (“faithful”) in terms of “many shall believe” (Hebrew yaʾămînû) in the first instance and ʾĕmûnâ (“faith,” “faithfulness”) in the latter. In Alma 19:23 the Lord also employs an additional wordplay on his own name, Yahweh (Jehovah), to emphasize his ability to bring to pass his promises to Mosiah regarding Ammon.
Abstract: The Semitic/Hebrew name Samuel (šĕmûʾēl) most likely means “his name is El” — i.e., “his name [the name that he calls upon in worship] is El” — although it was also associated with “hearing” (šāmaʿ) God (e.g., 1 Samuel 3:9–11). In the ancient Near East, the parental hope for one thus named is that the son (and “his name”) would glorify El (a name later understood in ancient Israel to refer to God); or, like the biblical prophet Samuel, the child would hear El/God (“El is heard”). The name šĕmûʾēl thus constituted an appropriate symbol of the mission of the Son of God who “glorified the name of the Father” (Ether 12:8), was perfectly obedient to the Father in all things, and was the Prophet like Moses par excellence, whom Israel was to “hear” or “hearken” in all things (Deuteronomy 18:15; 1 Nephi 22:20; 3 Nephi 20:32). Jesus may have referred to this in a wordplay on the name Samuel when he said: “I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify unto this people, that at the day that the Father should glorify his name in me that there were many saints who should arise from the dead” (3 Nephi 23:9). Samuel the Lamanite had particularly emphasized “believ[ing] on the name” of God’s Son in the second part of his speech (see Helaman 14:2, 12–13) in advance of the latter’s coming. Samuel thus seems to use a recurrent or thematic rhetorical wordplay on his own name as an entry point to calling the Nephites to repent and return to living the doctrine of Christ, which activates the blessings of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Mormon took great care to show that all of the signs and prophecies that Samuel gave the Nephites of Zarahemla were fulfilled at the time of Jesus’s birth, death, and resurrection as Jesus glorified the Father’s name in every particular, and found further fulfillment in some particulars during Mormon’s own life and times.
Abstract: Nephi’s preservation of the conditional “first blessing” that Lehi bestowed upon his elder sons (Laman, Lemuel, and Sam) and the sons of Ishmael, contains a dramatic wordplay on the name Ishmael in 2 Nephi 1:28–29. The name Ishmael — “May El hear [him],” “May El hearken,” or “El Has Hearkened” — derives from the Semitic (and later Hebrew) verb šāmaʿ (to “hear,” “hearken,” or “obey”). Lehi’s rhetorical wordplay juxtaposes the name Ishmael with a clustering of the verbs “obey” and “hearken,” both usually represented in Hebrew by the verb šāmaʿ. Lehi’s blessing is predicated on his sons’ and the sons of Ishmael’s “hearkening” to Nephi (“if ye will hearken”). Conversely, failure to “hearken” (“but if ye will not hearken”) would precipitate withdrawal of the “first blessing.” Accordingly, when Nephi was forced to flee from Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, Lehi’s “first blessing” was activated for Nephi and all those who “hearkened” to his spiritual leadership, including members of Ishmael’s family (2 Nephi 5:6), while it was withdrawn from Laman, Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael, and those who sympathized with them, “inasmuch as they [would] not hearken” unto Nephi (2 Nephi 5:20). Centuries later, when Ammon and his brothers convert many Lamanites to the truth, Mormon revisits Lehi’s conditional blessing and the issue of “hearkening” in terms of Ishmael and the receptivity of the Ishmaelites. Many Ishmaelite-Lamanites “hear” or “hearken” to Ammon et al., activating Lehi’s “first blessing,” while many others — including the ex-Nephite Amalekites/Amlicites — do not, thus activating (or reactivating) Lehi’s curse.
Abstract: For ancient Israelites, the temple was a place where sacrifice and theophany (i.e., seeing God or other heavenly beings) converged. The account of Abraham’s “arrested” sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) and the account of the arrested slaughter of Jerusalem following David’s unauthorized census of Israel (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21) served as etiological narratives—explanations of “cause” or “origin”—for the location of the Jerusalem temple and its sacrifices. Wordplay on the verb rāʾâ (to “see”) in these narratives creates an etiological link between the place-names “Jehovah-jireh,” “Moriah” and the threshing floor of Araunah/Ornan, pointing to the future location of the Jerusalem temple as the place of theophany and sacrifice par excellence. Isaac’s arrested sacrifice and the vicarious animal sacrifices of the temple anticipated Jesus’s later “un-arrested” sacrifice since, as Jesus himself stated, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (John 8:56). Sacrifice itself was a kind of theophany in which one’s own redemption could be “seen” and the scriptures of the Restoration confirm that Abraham and many others, even “a great many thousand years before” the coming of Christ, “saw” Jesus’s sacrifice and “rejoiced.” Additionally, theophany and sacrifice converge in the canonized revelations regarding the building of the latter-day temple. These temple revelations begin with a promise of theophany, and mandate sacrifice from the Latter-day Saints. In essence, the temple itself was, and is, Christ’s atonement having its intended effect on humanity. .
Abstract: The name Jacob (yaʿăqōb) means “may he [i.e., God] protect,” or “he has protected.” As a hypocoristic masculine volitive verbal form,
it is a kind of blessing upon, or prayer on behalf of the one so named that he will receive divine protection and safety (cf. Deuteronomy 33:28). Textual evidence from Nephi’s writings suggests that his brother Jacob’s protection was a primary concern of their parents, Lehi and Sariah. Lehi saw Nephi as the specific means of divine protection for Jacob, his “first born in the wilderness.” Moreover, the term “protector” is used twice in LDS scripture, in both instances by Jacob himself (2 Nephi 6:2; Jacob 1:10), this in reference to Nephi, who became the “great protector” of the Nephites in general and Jacob in particular. All of the foregoing is to be understood against the backdrop of the patriarch Jacob’s biography. Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, and Enos all expressed their redemption in terms reminiscent of their ancestor Jacob’s being “redeemed … from all evil,” a process which included Jacob “wrestling” a divine “man” and preparing him to be reconciled to his estranged brother by an atoning “embrace.” Mormon employed the biblical literary etymology of the name Jacob, in the terms “supplant,” “usurp,” or “rob” as a basis for Lamanite accusations that Nephites had usurped them or “robbed” them of their birthright. Mormon, aware of the high irony, shows that the Gadianton [Gaddianton] robbers take up the same polemic. The faithful Lehites, many of whom were descendants of two Jacobs, prayed “May the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, protect this people in righteousness, so long as they shall call on the name of their God for protection” (3 Nephi 4:30). By and large, they enjoyed the God of Jacob’s protection until they ceased to call upon their true protector for it.
Abstract: Nephi quotes or alludes to four distinct Old Testament passages — Genesis 22:18; Isaiah 29:14; Isaiah 49:22–23; and Isaiah 52:10 — twice each in 1 Nephi 22:6, 8–12. These four texts form the basis of his description of how the Lord would bring to pass the complete fulfillment of the promises in the Abrahamic covenant for the salvation of the human family. These texts’ shared use of the Hebrew word gôyim (“nations” [> kindreds], “Gentiles”) provides the lexical basis for Nephi’s quotation and interpretation of these texts in light of each other. Nephi uses these texts to prophesy that the Lord would act in the latter-days for the salvation of the human family. However, Nephi uses Isaiah 29:14 with its key-word yôsīp (yôsip) to assert that iterative divine action to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant — taking the form of “a marvelous work and a wonder” — would be accomplished through a “Joseph.” Onomastic wordplay involving the names Abram⁄Abraham and Joseph constitute key elements in 1 Nephi 22:8–12.
Abstract: Although not evident at first glance, shared terminology and phraseology in Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) and Moroni 7:29–32 suggest textual dependency of the latter on the former. Jesus’s dictation of Malachi 3–4 to the Lamanites and Nephites at the temple in Bountiful, as recorded and preserved on the plates of Nephi, helped provide Mormon a partial scriptural and doctrinal basis for his teachings on the ministering of angels, angels/messengers of the covenant, the “work” of “the covenants of the Father,” and “prepar[ing] the way” in his sermon as preserved in Moroni 7. This article explores the implications of Mormon’s use of Malachi 3:1. It further explores the meaning of the name Malachi (“[Yahweh is] my messenger,” “my angel”) in its ancient Israelite scriptural context and the temple context within which Jesus uses it in 3 Nephi 24:1.
Abstract: In sermons and writings, Jacob twice quotes the prophecy of Isaiah 11:11 (“the Lord [ʾădōnāy] shall set his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to gather the remnant of his people”). In 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2, Jacob uses Isaiah 11:11 as a lens through which he interprets much lengthier prophetic texts that detail the restoration, redemption, and gathering of Israel: namely, Isaiah 49:22–52:2 and Zenos’s Allegory of the Olive Trees (Jacob 5). In using Isaiah 11:11 in 2 Nephi 6:14, Jacob, consistent with the teaching of his father Lehi (2 Nephi 2:6), identifies ʾădōnāy (“the Lord”) in Isaiah 11:11 as “the Messiah” and the one who will “set himself again the second time to recover” his people (both Israel and the righteous Gentiles who “believe in him”) and “manifest himself unto them in great glory.” This recovery and restoration will be so thoroughgoing as to include the resurrection of the dead (see 2 Nephi 9:1–2, 12–13). In Jacob 6:2, Jacob equates the image of the Lord “set[ting] his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to recover his people” (Isaiah 11:11) to the Lord of the vineyard’s “labor[ing] in” and “nourish[ing] again” the vineyard to “bring forth again” (cf. Hebrew yôsîp) the natural fruit (Jacob 5:29–33, 51–77) into the vineyard. All of this suggests that Jacob saw Isaiah 49:22–52:2 and Zenos’s allegory (Jacob 5) as telling essentially the same story. For Jacob, the prophetic declaration of Isaiah 11:11 concisely summed up this story, describing divine initiative and iterative action to “recover” or gather Israel in terms of the verb yôsîp. Jacob, foresaw this the divine action as being accomplished through the “servant” and “servants” in Isaiah 49–52, “servants” analogous to those described by Zenos in his allegory. For Jacob, the idiomatic use of yôsîp in Isaiah 11:11 as he quotes it in 2 Nephi 6:14 and Jacob 6:2 and as repeated throughout Zenos’s allegory (Jacob 5) reinforces the patriarch Joseph’s statement preserved in 2 Nephi 3 that this figure would be a “Joseph” (yôsēp).
Abstract: The names Mary and Mormon most plausibly derive from the Egyptian word mr(i), “love, desire, [or] wish.” Mary denotes “beloved [i.e., of deity]” and is thus conceptually connected with divine love, while Mormon evidently denotes “desire/love is enduring.” The text of the Book of Mormon manifests authorial awareness of the meanings of both names, playing on them in multiple instances. Upon seeing Mary (“the mother of God,” 1 Nephi 11:18, critical text) bearing the infant Messiah in her arms in vision, Nephi, who already knew that God “loveth his children,” came to understand that the meaning of the fruit-bearing tree of life “is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:17-25). Later, Alma the Elder and his people entered into a covenant and formed a church based on “love” and “good desires” (Mosiah 18:21, 28), a covenant directly tied to the waters of Mormon: Behold here are the waters of Mormon … and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God … if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized …?”; “they clapped their hands for joy and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (Mosiah 18:8-11). Alma the Younger later recalled the “song of redeeming love” that his father and others had sung at the waters of Mormon (Alma 5:3-9, 26; see Mosiah 18:30). Our editor, Mormon, who was himself named after the land of Mormon and its waters (3 Nephi 5:12), repeatedly spoke of charity as “everlasting love” or the “pure love of Christ [that] endureth forever” (Moroni 7:47-48; 8:16-17; 26). All of this has implications for Latter-day Saints or “Mormons” who, as children of the covenant, must endure to the end in Christlike “love” as Mormon and Moroni did, particularly in days of diminishing faith, faithfulness, and love (see, e.g., Mormon 3:12; contrast Moroni 9:5).
Abstract: Aminadab, a Nephite by birth who later dissented to the Lamanites, played a crucial role in the mass conversion of three hundred Lamanites (and eventually many others). At the end of the pericope in which these events are recorded, Mormon states: “And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words” (Helaman 6:36), whereas he “began to withdraw” his Spirit from the Nephites “because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts” (Helaman 6:35). The name Aminadab is a Semitic/Hebrew name meaning “my kinsman is willing” or “my people are willing.” As a dissenter, Aminadab was a man of two peoples. Mormon and (probably) his source were aware of the meaning of Aminadab’s name and the irony of that meaning in the context of the latter’s role in the Lamanite conversions and the spiritual history of the Nephites and Lamanites. The narrative’s mention of Aminadab’s name (Helaman 5:39, 41) and Mormon’s echoes of it in Helaman 6:36, 3 Nephi 6:14, and elsewhere have covenant and temple significance not only in their ancient scriptural setting, but for latter-day readers of the Book of Mormon today.
Throughout the Bible, understanding the meaning of names of important people and places is often crucial to understanding the message of the ancient authors. In other words, names of people and places serve as \"key-words\" that can help unlock the intended messages of scripture.Since the Book of Mormon is an ancient record rooted in Old Testament traditions, it is not surprising that similar patterns of wordplay emerge from its pages. Besides their important tole as key-words in scriptural interpretation, the names of people and places may also provide our clearest glimpses into the text that existed on the plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. In many instances, the names of important Book of Mormon people and places are directly related to words matching the most-likely Hebrew and Egyptian origins for those names. Textual and contextual clues suggest that this matching was done deliberately in order to enhance literary beauty and as an aid to understanding. In some cases, authorial wordplay can be verified by a close analysis of matching text structures. In others, the wordplay can be verified by using the Bible as a \"control\" text. A wealth of philological, onomastic, and textual evidence suggests that the Book of Mormon, like the Bible, is the work of ancient authors rather than of a rural nineteenth-century man of limited literary attainments. Knowing more about these names enriches our understanding of the stories that these authors tell.
Abstract: As John Gee noted two decades ago, Nephi is best explained as a form of the Egyptian word nfr, which by Lehi’s time was pronounced neh-fee, nay-fee, or nou-fee. Since this word means “good,” “goodly,” “fine,” or “fair,” I subsequently posited several possible examples of wordplay on the name Nephi in the Book of Mormon, including Nephi’s own autobiographical introduction (1 Nephi 1:1: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents … having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God”). It should be further pointed out, however, that Nephi also concludes his personal writings on the small plates using the terms “good” and “goodness of God.” This terminological bracketing constitutes a literary device, used anciently, called inclusio or an envelope figure. Nephi’s literary emphasis on “good” and “goodness” not only befits his personal name, but fulfills the Lord’s commandment, “thou shalt engraven many things … which are good in my sight” (2 Nephi 5:30), a command which also plays on the name Nephi. Nephi’s autobiographical introduction and conclusion proved enormously influential on subsequent writers who modeled autobiographical and narrative biographical introductions on 1 Nephi 1:1-2 and based sermons — especially concluding sermons — on Nephi’s “good” conclusion in 2 Nephi 33. An emphasis in all these sermons is that all “good”/“goodness” ultimately has its source in God and Christ.
A Review of Samuel M. Brown’s First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute, 2014. 167 pp., index. $16.95.
Abstract: The best explanation for the name “Nephi” is that it derives from the Egyptian word nfr, “good,” “goodly,” “fine,” “fair,” “beautiful.” Nephi’s autobiographical wordplay on his own name in his self-introduction (and elsewhere throughout his writings) revolves around the evident meaning of his name. This has important implications for how the derived gentilic term “Nephites” was understood over time, especially among the Nephites themselves. Nephi’s early ethno-cultural descriptions of his people describe them as “fair” and “beautiful” (vis-à-vis the Lamanites). These early descriptions subsequently become the basis for Nephite ethno-cultural self-perceptions. The Nephites’ supposition that they were the “good” or “fair ones” was all too frequently at odds with reality, especially when Nephite “chosenness” was understood as inherent or innate. In the end the “good” or “fair ones” fell (Mormon 6:17‒20), because they came to “delight in everything save that which is good” (Moroni 9:19). The Book of Mormon thus constitutes a warning against our own contemporary cultural and religious tendency toward exceptionalism. Mormon and Moroni, like Nephi their ancestor through his writings on the small plates, endeavor through their own writing and editorial work to show how the “unbelieving” descendants of the Nephites and Lamanites can again become the “good” and the “fair ones” by choosing to come unto Christ, partaking of his “goodness,” and doing the “good” stipulated by the doctrine of Christ.
Abstract: The Book of Mormon contains several quotations from the Hebrew Bible that have been juxtaposed on the basis of shared words or phrases, this for the purpose of interpreting the cited scriptural passages in light of one another. This exegetical technique — one that Jesus himself used — came to be known in later rabbinic times as Gezera Shawa (“equal statute”). In several additional instances, the use of Gezera Shawa converges with onomastic wordplay. Nephi uses a Gezera Shawa involving Isaiah 11:11 and Isaiah 29:14 twice on the basis of the yāsap verb forms yôsîp/yôsīp (2 Nephi 25:17 and quoting the Lord in 2 Nephi 29:1) to create a stunning wordplay on the name “Joseph.” In another instance, King Benjamin uses Gezera Shawa involving Psalm 2:7, 2 Samuel 7:14, and Deuteronomy 14:1 (1–2) on the basis of the Hebrew noun bēn (“son”; plural bānîm, bānôt, “sons” and “daughters”) on which to build a rhetorical wordplay on his own name. This second wordplay, which further alludes to Psalm 110:1 on account of the noun yāmin (“right hand”), was ready-made for his temple audience who, on the occasion of Mosiah’s coronation, were receiving their own “endowment” to become “sons” and “daughters” at God’s “right hand.” The use of Gezera Shawa was often christological — e.g., Jacob’s Gezera Shawa on (“stone”) in Jacob 4:15–17 and Alma’s Gezera Shawa on Zenos’s and Zenock’s phrase “because of thy Son” in Alma 33:11–16 (see Alma 33:4 17). Taken together, these examples suggest that we should pay more attention to scripture’s use of scripture and, in particular, the use of this exegetical practice. In doing so, we will better discern the messages intended by ancient prophets whose words the Book of Mormon preserves.
Abstract: The toponym Shilom likely derives from the Semitic/Hebrew root š-l-m, whence also the similar-sounding word šālôm, “peace,” derives. The first mention of the toponym Shilom in Zeniff’s record — an older account than the surrounding material and an autobiography — occurs in Mosiah 9:6 in parallel with Zeniff’s mention of his intention to “possess the land in peace” (Mosiah 9:5). The language and text structure of Mosiah 9:5‒6 thus suggest a deliberate wordplay on Shilom in terms of šālôm. Zeniff uses the name Shilom as a point of irony throughout his brief royal record to emphasize a tenuous and often absent peace between his people and the Lamanites.
Abstract: The fear that Moroni’s soldier’s speech (Alma 44:14) aroused in the Lamanite soldiers and the intensity of Zerahemnah’s subsequently redoubled anger are best explained by the polysemy (i.e., multiple meanings within a lexeme’s range of meaning) of a single word translated “chief” in Alma 44:14 and “heads” in Alma 44:18. As editor of a sacred history, Mormon was interested in showing the fulfilment of prophecy when such fulfilment occurred. Mormon’s description of the Lamanites “fall[ing] exceedingly fast” because of the exposure of the Lamanites’ “bare heads” to the Nephites’ swords and their being “smitten” in Alma 44:18 — just as “the scalp of their chief” was smitten and thus fell (Alma 44:12–14) — pointedly demonstrates the fulfilment of the soldier’s prophecy. In particular, the phrase “bare heads” constitutes a polysemic wordplay on “chief,” since words translated “head” can alternatively be translated “chief,” as in Alma 44:14. A similar wordplay on “top” and “leader” in 3 Nephi 4:28–29, probably again represented by a single word, also partly explains the force of the simile curse described there.
Abstract: The most likely etymology for the name Zoram is a third person singular perfect qal or pôʿal form of the Semitic/Hebrew verb *zrm, with the meaning, “He [God] has [is] poured forth in floods.” However, the name could also have been heard and interpreted as a theophoric –rām name, of which there are many in the biblical Hebrew onomasticon (Ram, Abram, Abiram, Joram/Jehoram, Malchiram, etc., cf. Hiram [Hyrum]/Huram). So analyzed, Zoram would connote something like “the one who is high,” “the one who is exalted” or even “the person of the Exalted One [or high place].” This has important implications for the pejoration of the name Zoram and its gentilic derivative Zoramites in Alma’s and Mormon’s account of the Zoramite apostasy and the attempts made to rectify it in Alma 31–35 (cf. Alma 38–39). The Rameumptom is also described as a high “stand” or “a place for standing, high above the head” (Heb. rām; Alma 31:13) — not unlike the “great and spacious building” (which “stood as it were in the air, high above the earth”; see 1 Nephi 8:26) — which suggests a double wordplay on the name “Zoram” in terms of rām and Rameumptom in Alma 31. Moreover, Alma plays on the idea of Zoramites as those being “high” or “lifted up” when counseling his son Shiblon to avoid being like the Zoramites and replicating the mistakes of his brother Corianton (Alma 38:3-5, 11-14). Mormon, perhaps influenced by the Zoramite apostasy and the magnitude of its effects, may have incorporated further pejorative wordplay on the Zoram-derived names Cezoram and Seezoram in order to emphasize that the Nephites had become lifted up in pride like the Zoramites during the judgeships of those judges. The Zoramites and their apostasy represent a type of Latter-day Gentile pride and apostasy, which Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni took great pains to warn against.
“For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
Abstract: In 1 Nephi 16:13–14, Nephi mentions the name Shazer as a toponym the Lehite clan bestowed on a site in western Arabia “four days” journey south-southeast of the valley of Laman. The Lehites used this site as a base camp for a major hunting expedition. A footnote to the first mention of the name Shazer in the 1981 and 2013 Latter-day Saint editions of the Book of Mormon has virtually enshrined “twisting, intertwining” as the presumed meaning of this toponym. However, the structure of Nephi’s text in 1 Nephi 16:12–13 suggests that the name Shazer serves as the bracketing for a chiastic description of the Lehites’ hunting expedition from the site. This chiasm recommends hunting as a possible starting point for seeking a more precise etymology for Shazer, one related to food supply. Consequently, I briefly argue for Shazer as a Semitic word (possibly also a loanword from an Old Arabic dialect) and a close cognate with both Hismaic šaṣar (“young gazelle,” plural šaṣr) and Arabic šaṣara (a type of “gazelle”).
Abstract: This brief article explores Paanchi and Giddianhi as names evidencing the Egyptian onomastic element –anchi/anhi/ʿnḫ(i) and the potential literary significance of these two names in the context of Mormon’s narrative detailing the formation of the oath-bound secret combinations sworn with oath-formulae upon one’s “life” (cf. Egyptian ʿnḫ, “life”; “live”; “swear an oath [by one’s life]”). It also explores the implications for Mormon’s telling of Nephite history during his own time.
Abstract: Paronomasia in the Hebrew text of Exodus creates narrative links between the name Miriam (Mary) and the “waters” (mayim) of the Re[e]d Sea from which Israel is “pulled” and the nearby “bitter” waters of Marah. Nephi sees Mary (Mariam), the mother of Jesus, associated with the “love of God,” and thus to both “the tree of life” and “the fountain of living waters” (1 Nephi 11:25) vis-à-vis “the fountain of filthy water” (1 Nephi 12:16). Mormon was named after “the land of Mormon” (3 Nephi 5:12). He associates his given name with “waters,” which he describes as a “fountain of pure water” (Mosiah 18:5), and with the good “desires” and “love” that Alma the Elder’s converts manifest at the time of their baptism (Mosiah 18:8, 10‒11, 21, 28). Mormon’s accounts of the baptisms of Alma the Elder’s people, Limhi’s people, the people at Sidom (Alma 15:13), and a few repentant Nephites at Zarahemla who responded to Samuel the Lamanite’s preaching (Helaman 16:1), anticipate Jesus’s eventual reestablishment of the church originally founded by Alma, the baptism of his disciples, and their reception of the Holy Ghost — “that which they most desired” (see 3 Nephi 19:9‒14, 24). Desire serves as a key term that links all of these baptismal scenes. Mormon’s analogy of “the bitter fountain” and its “bitter water” vis-à-vis the “the good fount” and its “good water” — which helps set up his discussion of “the pure love of Christ,” which “endureth forever” (Moroni 7:47‒48) — should be understood against the backdrop of Lehi’s dream as Nephite “cultural narrative” and the history of Alma the Elder’s people at the waters of Mormon. As Mormon’s people lose the “love [which] endureth by faith unto prayer” (Moroni 8:26; see also Moroni 8:14‒17; 9:5) they become like the “bitter fountain” (Moroni 7:11) and do not endure to the end in faith, hope, and charity on the covenant path (cf. 2 Nephi 31:20; Moroni 7:40‒88; 8:24‒26). The name Mormon (“desire is enduring” or “love is enduring”), as borne by the prophet-editor of the Book of Mormon, embraces the whole cloud of these associations.
Abstract: Nephi’s record on the small plates includes seven distinct scenes in which Nephi depicts the anger of his brethren against him. Each of these scenes includes language that recalls Genesis 37:5‒10, 20, the biblical scene in which Joseph’s brothers “hate him yet the more [wayyôsipû ʿôd] for his dreams and for his words” because they fear that he intends to “reign” and to “have dominion” or rule over them (Genesis 37:8). Later, they plot to kill him (Genesis 37:20). Two of these “anger” scenes culminate in Nephi’s brothers’ bowing down before him in the same way that Joseph’s brothers bowed down in obeisance before him. Nephi permutes the expression wayyôsipû ʿôd in terms of his brothers’ “continuing” and “increasing” anger, which eventually ripens into a hatred that permanently divides the family. Nephi uses language that represents other yāsap/yôsîp + verbal-complement constructions in these “anger” scenes, usage that recalls the name Joseph in such a way as to link Nephi with his ancestor. The most surprising iteration of Nephi’s permuted “Joseph” wordplay occurs in his own psalm (2 Nephi 4:16‒35).
Abstract: In two related prophecies, Moroni employs an apparent wordplay on the name Joseph in terms of the Hebrew idiom (lōʾ) yôsîp … ʿôd (+ verbal component), as preserved in the phrases “they shall no more be confounded” (Ether 13:8) and “that thou mayest no more be confounded” (Moroni 10:31). That phraseology enjoyed a long currency within Nephite prophecy (e.g., 1 Nephi 14:2, 15:20), ultimately having its source in Isaiah’s prophecies regarding Jerusalem/Zion (see, for example, Isaiah 51:22; 52:1– 2; 54:2–4). Ether and Moroni’s prophecy in Ether 13 that the Old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem would “no more be confounded” further affirms the gathering of Israel in general and the gathering of the seed of Joseph in particular.
Abstract: As in Hebrew biblical narrative, wordplay on (or play on the meaning of) toponyms, or “place names,” is a discernable feature of Book of Mormon narrative. The text repeatedly juxtaposes the toponym Jershon (“place of inheritance” or “place of possession”) with terms inherit, inheritance, possess, possession, etc. Similarly, the Mulekite personal name Zarahemla (“seed of compassion,” “seed of pity”), which becomes the paramount Nephite toponym as their national capital after the time of Mosiah I, is juxtaposed with the term compassion. Both wordplays occur and recur at crucial points in Nephite/Lamanite history. Moreover, both occur in connection with the migration of the first generation Lamanite converts. The Jershon wordplay recurs in the second generation, when the people of Ammon receive the Zoramite (re)converts into the land of Jershon, and wordplay on Zarahemla recurs subsequently, when the sons of these Lamanite converts come to the rescue of the Nephite nation. Rhetorical wordplay on Zarahemla also surfaces in important speeches later in the Book of Mormon.
Abstract: From an etiological perspective, the Hebrew Bible connects the name Noah with two distinct but somewhat homonymous verbal roots: nwḥ (“rest”) and nḥm (“comfort,” “regret” [sometimes “repent”]). Significantly, the Enoch and Noah material in the revealed text of the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis (especially Moses 7–8) also connects the name Noah in a positive sense to the earth’s “rest” and the Lord’s covenant with Enoch after the latter “refuse[d] to be comforted” regarding the imminent destruction of humanity in the flood. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, connects the name Noah pejoratively to Hebrew nwḥ (“rest”) and nḥm (“comfort” and “repentance” [regret]) in a negative evaluation of King Noah, the son of Zeniff. King Noah causes his people to “labor exceedingly to support iniquity” (Mosiah 11:6), gives “rest” to his wicked and corrupt priests (Mosiah 11:11), and anesthetizes his people in their sins with his winemaking. Noah and his people’s refusal to “repent” and their martyring of Abinadi result in their coming into hard bondage to the Lamanites. Mormon’s text further demonstrates how the Lord eventually “comforts” Noah’s former subjects after their “sore repentance” and “sincere repentance” from their iniquity and abominations, providing them a typological deliverance that points forward to the atonement of Jesus Christ.
“Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.” (Isaiah 49:13).
Abstract: Genesis 30:23–24 offers a double etiology for Joseph in terms of “taking away”/“gathering” (ʾāsap) and “adding” (yāsap). In addition to its later narratological use of the foregoing, the Joseph cycle (Genesis 37–50) evidences a third dimension of onomastic wordplay involving Joseph’s kĕtōnet passîm, an uncertain phrase traditionally translated “coat of many colours” (from LXX), but perhaps better translated, “coat of manifold pieces.” Moroni1, quoting from a longer version of the Joseph story from the brass plates, refers to “Joseph, whose coat was rent by his brethren into many pieces” (Alma 46:23). As a military and spiritual leader, Moroni1 twice uses Joseph’s torn coat and the remnant doctrine from Jacob’s prophecy regarding Joseph’s coat as a model for his covenant use of his own coat to “gather” (cf. ʾāsap) and rally faithful Nephites as “a remnant of the seed of Joseph” (Alma 46:12–28, 31; 62:4–6). In putting that coat on a “pole” or “standard” (Hebrew nēs — i.e., “ensign”) to “gather” a “remnant of the seed of Joseph” appears to make use of the Isaianic nēs-imagery of Isaiah 11:11–12 (and elsewhere), where the Joseph-connected verbs yāsap and ʾāsap serve as key terms. Moroni’s written-upon “standard” or “ensign” for “gathering” the “remnant of the seed of Joseph” constituted an important prophetic antetype for how Mormon and his son, Moroni2, perceived the function of their written record in the latter-days (see, e.g., 3 Nephi 5:23–26; Ether 13:1–13).
Abstract: The verbal expression “we might have enjoyed,” as used in a complaint that Nephi attributes to his brothers, “we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance” (1 Nephi 17:21), reflects a use of the Hebrew verb yrš in its progressive aspect, “to enjoy possession of.” This meaning is evident in several passages in the Hebrew Bible, and perhaps most visibly in the KJV translation of Numbers 36:8 (“And every daughter, that possesseth [Hebrew yōrešet] an inheritance [naḥălâ] in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy [yîršû] every man the inheritance [naḥălat] of his fathers”) and Joshua 1:15 (“then ye shall return unto the land of your possession [lĕʾereṣ yĕruššatkem or, unto the land of your inheritance], and enjoy it [wîrištem ʾôtāh].” Examining Laman and Lemuel’s complaint in a legal context helps us better appreciate “land[s] of … inheritance” as not just describing a family estate, but as also expressing a seminal Abrahamic Covenant concept in numerous Book of Mormon passages, including the covenant implications of the resettlement of the converted Lamanites and reconverted Zoramites as refugees in “the land of Jershon” (“place of inheritance”).
The Hebrew Bible explains the meaning of the personal and tribal name “Judah”—from which the term “Jews” derives—in terms of “praising” or “thanking” (*ydy/ydh). In other words, the “Jews” are those who are to be “praised out of a feeling of gratitude.” This has important implications for the Lord’s words to Nephi regarding Gentile ingratitude and antisemitism: “And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them?” (2 Nephi 29:4). Gentile Christian antisemitism, like the concomitant doctrine of supersessionism, can be traced (in part) to widespread misunderstanding and misapplication of Paul’s words regarding Jews and “praise” (Romans 2:28-29). Moreover, the strongest scriptural warnings against antisemitism are to be found in the Book of Mormon, which also offers the reassurance that the Jews are still “mine ancient covenant people” (2 Nephi 29:4-5) and testifies of the Lord’s love and special concern for them.
Abstract: Wordplay and punning involving the names Philemon (Φιλήμων, “affectionate one”) and Onesimus (Ὀνήσιμος, “useful”) and their meanings, with concomitant paronomasia involving the name-title Χριστός (Christos) and various homonymic terms, constitutes a key element in Paul’s polite, diplomatic, and carefully-worded letter to Philemon, the Christian owner of a converted slave named Onesimus. Paul artfully uses Philemon’s own name to play on the latter’s affections and to remind him that despite whatever Onesimus may owe (ὀφείλει, opheilei) Philemon, Philemon more than owes (προσοφείλεις, prosopheileis) his very self — i.e., his life as a Christian and thus his eternal wellbeing — to Paul. Hence, Philemon “more than owes” Paul his request to have Onesimus — who was once “useless” or “unprofitable” and “without Christ,” but is now “profitable” and “well-in-Christ” — as a fellow worker in the Gospel. In a further (polyptotonic) play on Onesimus, Paul expresses his urgent desire to “have the benefit” (ὀναίμην, onaimēn) of Onesimus in the Lord out of Philemon’s own free will and with his blessing, since all three are now brothers in Christ, and thus slaves to Christ, their true “master.” In the context of Paul’s use of –χρηστός (–chrēstos) and ὀναίμην (onaimēn), Paul’s desire for Philemon’s voluntary “good deed” or “benefit” (τὸ ἀγαθόν σου, to agathon sou) is to be understood as the granting of Onesimus and as the point and climax of this publicly-read letter.
Abstract: To the ancient Israelite ear, the name Ephraim sounded like or connoted “doubly fruitful.” Joseph explains the naming of his son Ephraim in terms of the Lord’s having “caused [him] to be fruitful” (Genesis 41:52). The “fruitfulness” motif in the Joseph narrative cycle (Genesis 37–50) constitutes the culmination of a larger, overarching theme that begins in the creation narrative and is reiterated in the patriarchal narratives. “Fruitfulness,” especially as expressed in the collocation “fruit of [one’s] loins” dominates in the fuller version of Genesis 48 and 50 contained in the Joseph Smith Translation, a version of which Lehi and his successors had upon the brass plates. “Fruit” and “fruitfulness” as a play on the name Ephraim further serve to extend the symbolism and meaning of the name Joseph (“may he [God] add,” “may he increase”) and the etiological meanings given to his name in Genesis 30:23–24). The importance of the interrelated symbolism and meanings of the names Joseph and Ephraim for Book of Mormon writers, who themselves sought the blessings of divine fruitfulness (e.g., Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob), is evident in their use of the fuller version of the Joseph cycle (e.g., in Lehi’s parenesis to his son Joseph in 2 Nephi 3). It is further evident in their use of the prophecies of Isaiah and Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree, both of which utilize (divine) “fruitfulness” imagery in describing the apostasy and restoration of Israel (including the Northern Kingdom or “Ephraim”).
Abstract: The name Heshlon, attested once (in Ether 13:28), as a toponym in the Book of Mormon most plausibly denotes “place of crushing.” The meaning of Heshlon thus becomes very significant in the context of Ether 13:25–31, which describes the crushing or enfeebling of Coriantumr’s armies and royal power. This meaning is also significant in the wider context of Moroni’s narrative of the Jaredites’ destruction. Fittingly, the name Heshlon itself serves as a literary turning point in a chiastic structure which describes the fateful reversal of Coriantumr’s individual fortunes and the worsening of the Jaredites’ collective fortunes. Perhaps Moroni, who witnessed the gradual crushing and destruction of the Nephites, mentioned this name in his abridgement of the Book of Ether on account of the high irony of its meaning in view of the Jaredite war of attrition which served as precursor to the destruction of the Nephites.