Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-seven: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 4: Keeping the Commandments and Prospering in the Land

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was a Prophet

Evidence Forty-seven:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 4:
“Keeping the Commandments and Prospering in the Land”© 
(Revised 23 February 2016)

The Book of Mormon rewards close and careful attention every time we read it, even when reading passages, ideas, concepts, and doctrines which we may feel quite comfortable with. One such expression which provides significant insight when examined carefully is the common phrase to “prosper in the land.” It appears about thirty-five times in the Book of Mormon.(1) The refrain is frequent enough, and often in nearly the same language, so that it becomes easy to assume that we understand its meaning. Recently in my personal reading I came across a brief assessment of this expression that suggested the importance of taking a closer look.(2)

To begin with, it is useful to ask ourselves how we and perhaps the church generally understand this idea. It first appeared in the Book of Mormon in a revelation to Nephi found in 1 Nephi 2:
19) And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. 20) And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands. 21) And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.  And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.
The refrain which is more or less constant in the entire book is the following in 2 Nephi 4:4.
For the Lord God hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence.
The common understanding of this expression is that “prosper in the land” implies material success. That is consistent with the most prominent and used definitions of the word prosper. Checking several dictionaries one encounters most frequently that the term means to “succeed in material terms, to be financially successful” and I believe many Church members understand this statement in those terms. LeGrand Baker in the analysis referred to above has looked more carefully at several of the passages in the Book of Mormon which contain this phrase and suggests that it may have a much deeper meaning. For example, in the 1 Nephi 2 passage above he noticed the fact that the promise of prosperity comes prior to arrival in the promised land(3), and in fact seems to be involved in being led to that land. Here is the language of verse 20 once again: “And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.” Another thing which interests Baker is found in Helaman 3:20:
Nevertheless Helaman did fill the judgment-seat with justice and equity; yea, he did observe to keep the statutes, and the judgments, and the commandments of God; and he did do that which was right in the sight of God continually; and he did walk after the ways of his father, insomuch that he did prosper in the land.
Here we have the phrase “prosper in the land” in the context of a description of the spiritual strengths of Helaman. This leads Baker to write:
Even a casual reader must admit that after such a list of spiritual superlatives, it would be rather anticlimactic to suggest, as their conclusion, that the king also made a lot of money that year. It says that, of course, if one wishes to read it that way.  But it also says something much more important and much more consistent with the spiritual crescendo to which the early part of the verse is building.(4)
Both of the above passages appear to be suggesting that prospering is associated with enjoying an abundance of spiritual blessings.

Another matter Baker alerted me to is how this idea--obedience to the commandments and the promise of prospering in the land–is contrasted with those who are disobedient and told they will be cut off from the presence of the Lord. The opposite of prosper in many passages is to be cut off from the presence of the Lord.(5) To me it seems incongruous to say the obedient will become materially successful but the disobedient will be cut off from the presence of the Lord. A more nearly correct parallel would be that the obedient will enjoy access to the presence of the Lord and the disobedient will not. In this respect then Baker concludes that in the Book of Mormon sometimes the statement “prosper in the land:” 
....means to come unto Christ–either the process of doing so, or to actually have already done so.  Mormon’s narrative and the prophets he quotes use that phrase both ways.  He tells one story about what happened when the ideas of the law of consecration began to take hold in the church under king Mosiah. The people became rich in worldly things. After that, as their adherence to the law of consecration matured, “the Lord did visit them and did prosper them” (Mosiah 27:3-7; see also Alma 9:13, 38:1, 50:20).(6)
Additional uses of the phrase are connected to yet other important spiritual blessings. For example, twice  the promise of prospering in the land is linked with the blessings of having Laban’s “plates of brass” with them. The first is in 1 Ne. 4:14-16:
14) And now, when I, Nephi, had heard these words, I remembered the words of the Lord which he spake unto me in the wilderness, saying that: Inasmuch as thy seed shall keep my commandments, they shall prosper in the land of promise. 15) Yea, and I also thought that they could not keep the commandments of the Lord according to the law of Moses, save they should have the law. 16) And I also knew that the law was engraven upon the plates of brass.
Here the sequence of ideas is that Nephi remembers he was told that if his family kept the commandments they would prosper in the land of promise, but in order to do that they needed to have a written record of the Lord’s commandments. Thus their need to take with them Laban’s plates. The linkage is more direct in Mosiah 1:7:
And now, my sons, I would that ye should remember to search them [the plates of brass] diligently, that ye may profit thereby; and I would that ye should keep the commandments of God, that ye may prosper in the land according to the promises which the Lord made unto our fathers.
Here two words normally understood as economic terms–profit and prosper–are applied in a spiritual context to the spiritual benefit of searching the scriptures diligently. So it appears that having the scriptures and studying them is not only a necessary prerequisite to prospering in the land, but one of the forms that prosperity takes as well.

Yet other passages connect prospering in the land with enjoying the protection of the Lord in the land of promise. This important aspect of prospering is found in at least three passages.  The first is in Mosiah 2:31. I will highlight the relevant ideas with various forms of emphasis to facilitate grasping the connections under consideration.
And now, my brethren, I would that ye should do as ye have hitherto done. As ye have kept my commandments, and also the commandments of my father, and have prospered, and have been kept from falling into the hands of your enemies, even so if ye shall keep the commandments of my son, or the commandments of God which shall be delivered unto you by him, ye shall prosper in the land, and your enemies shall have no power over you
The second is in Alma 48:15:
And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger
Our last example is found in Alma 50:20-22:
20) Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. 21) And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions. 22) And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times, whilst thousands of their wicked brethren have been consigned to bondage, or to perish by the sword, or to dwindle in unbelief, and mingle with the Lamanites.
In these instances prospering involves receiving guidance from the Lord which resulted in their protection and/or deliverance from their enemies.  Peace is a corollary to these ideas as is found in Mosiah 10:5:
And I did cause that the women should spin, and toil, and work, and work all manner of fine linen, yea, and cloth of every kind, that we might clothe our nakedness; and thus we did prosper in the landthus we did have continual peace in the land for the space of twenty and two years.
Prospering in the land always depends upon keeping the commandments of God and it appears from our analysis so far that the prospering meant enjoying the Spirit of the Lord and the spiritual blessings it brings to individuals and societies. I wondered if any of the brethren had commented on the meaning of this important phrase and I was pleased to discover when I did a Google search to find that in May of 2014 Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve and his wife addressed the annual BYU Women’s Conference. The title of their address was “The Rewards of Righteousness,” and one of the main rewards they discussed was “prospering in the land.” The address was later reprinted in the July 2015 Ensign, under Elder Cook’s name alone.  In this talk Elder Cook addressed the meaning of the phrase “prosper in the land” twice. The fact that he repeated himself on the matter may suggest the importance he placed on this issue.  He said, 
Fourth is the reward of prospering in the land. The question here is: Our family is not achieving significant material success. Is that because we are not righteous enough? Let me assure you that prospering in the land is not defined by the size of your bank account. It has a much fuller meaning than that.The scriptures are clear that living the commandments allows us to prosper in the land. The prophet Alma, speaking to his son Helaman, teaches, “Inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence.”Accordingly, having the Spirit in our lives is the primary ingredient in prospering in the land.(7)
And again:
In a conversation I had with President Gordon B. Hinckley on a flight to a temple dedication, he joyfully reported that the Church had the funds to increase the number of temples because the Latter-day Saints had prospered in the land. As faithful tithe payers, they had provided the resources to build temples where sacred ordinances could be performed. Prospering and being wealthy are not necessarily synonymous. A much better gospel definition of prospering in the land is having sufficient for our needs while having the abundant blessing of the Spirit in our lives. When we provide for our families and love and serve the Savior, we will enjoy the reward of having the Spirit and prospering in the land.(8)
A point about material prosperity should be made however. It is inevitable when the Saints of God keep his commandments that material prosperity accompany spiritual prosperity. But there is a danger that lurks in temporal prosperity and especially in our day. Six months before the Stock Market crashed in October 1929, in the April General Conference of that year, Elder Melvin J. Ballard uttered a prediction which must have appeared just six months later very wide of the mark. He said:
I recognize, however, with my brethren, that the sorest trials that have ever come to the Church in any age of the world are the trials of peace and prosperity.  But we are to do a new thing, a thing that never has before been done–We are to take the Church of Christ not only through the age of persecution and mob violence, but through the age of peace and prosperity.  For we must learn to endure faithfully even in peace and prosperity. 
I am not praying for the return of persecution and poverty; I am praying for peace and prosperity; but above all things for strength and power to endure this test.  For it was not the design and the intention of the Lord to have this people always in suffering in bondage and distress.  They shall come to peace and prosperity, but it is the sorest trial that will come to them.”(9)
The Great Depression was devastating and followed on hard by World War II then Korea, Viet Nam, and other conflicts. Amid it all the United States has continued to grow and prosper and along with it the Saints have also enjoyed unprecedented wealth and prosperity. But the Book of Mormon warns us that such prosperity can lead to pride which can lead to a monumental fall. So when the Washington, D.C. Temple was dedicated in November 1974, just 45 years after Elder Ballard spoke, President Spencer W. Kimball made a remarkable statement in his prayer at the dedication ceremony. Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Twelve, related what he said and draws his own lesson from it:
I am reminded of what President Spencer W. Kimball said at the dedication of the Washington Temple:
“Bless all people, our Father, that they may prosper, but not more than their faith can stand.... Our Father, in blessing Thy people with prosperity, we pray that they may not be surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth which could bring them to worship these false gods.” 
Taking freedom with President Kimball’s admonition, may I, for our purpose today, say, “Oh God, do not bless us with more stocks, bonds, properties, automobiles, or credit cards than our faith can stand or more than our parents can bear.” A worthy prayer, fellow students: “Dear God, in all the days ahead, please bless me with what I need and can stand, not with what I want.” 
“Bless us, O God, that we may not have more success than we can stand.” I know some say, “I would sure like to have that challenge”; but, believe me, it is real and difficult. Knowing how to cope with what happens to us, good or bad, is a continuing challenge.”(10)
I will conclude as I began. Careful study of the Book of Mormon, especially some of those things which are most familiar to us and which we may be tempted to take for granted, is always rewarded with new and important insights, light, and truth. As we have seen in this case, the phrase “prosper in the land” might be considered one of those little zingers which when studied carefully shows the Book of Mormon to be more rich and complex and profound than may at first appear. In this case we see at least four important ideas consistently connected to the phrase, each appearing more than once and sometimes from the hands of different authors. This phenomenon is difficult to explain by saying that Joseph Smith was the book’s author. Because in addition to all the matters of historical chronology, story line, and plot development not to mention thousands of details relative to culture, politics, war, religion, and theology that he would have had to track carefully; yet in the midst of all this he subtly weaves this important concept into more than thirty various contexts many of which almost imperceptibly elaborate its meaning beyond what appears to be the obvious. More importantly, that meaning is largely spiritual. And I remind the reader that this is all in a text that was produced in a single draft, without significant editing, rewriting, or polishing. I find myself frequently asking, “How did he do that?”  Of course the answer is that he didn’t do that, except as the Lord’s instrument in translating this sacred ancient record.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  The distribution of the phrase “prosper in the land” or variants in the Book of Mormon is interesting.  It is found five times in the writings of Nephi and two more in the remainder of the small plates.  The large plates have twenty-eight or nine instances; seven in Mosiah, eleven in Alma, two in Helaman, one in 4 Nephi, and at least two and perhaps as many as four in Ether.

2.  LeGrand L. Baker, The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple: Nineteen Classic Temple Characteristics of the Book of Mormon.  Salt Lake City: Eborn Books, 2012, pp. 112-119.  Although I do not fully endorse the thesis of this book I would say that one of Baker’s  main strengths is that he  generally shows himself to be an attentive and close reader of the Book of Mormon text and this yields some thought provoking ideas and insights.

3.  Ibid, p. 113.  Note that all extra emphasis in scriptural passages is added by me.

4.  Ibid., p. 119.

5. Ibid., p. 114.  Several passages make this same contrast: 2 Ne. 1:20; 4:4; Al. 9:13-14; 36:30; 38:1; 50:20.

6.  Baker, The Book of Mormon as an Ancient Israelite Temple..., p. 115, emphasis added.

7.  Quentin L. and Mary G. Cook, “The Rewards of Righteousness,” address 2 May 2014, BYU Women’s Conference, internet edition, p. 9, emphasis added.  It may be accessed at:   See also Quentin L. Cook, "Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness," Ensign (July 2015):33-39, especially 38-39.

8.  Quentin L. and Mary G. Cook, “The Rewards of Righteousness,” p. 10, emphasis added.   See also Quentin L. Cook, "Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness," Ensign (July 2015):33-39, especially 38-39.

9.  Melvin J. Ballard, Conference Report, April 1929, p. 66, emphasis added.

10.  Marvin J. Ashton, “What Shall We Do Then?” BYU Speeches of the Year: BYU Centennial Devotional and Fireside Addresses 1975, (Provo: BYU Press, 1976), p. 23.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-six: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 3: “Altars, Offerings, Sacrifices, and Thanksgiving.”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-six:
 “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 3: 
“Altars, Offerings, Sacrifices, and Thanksgiving”© 

Attacks on the Book of Mormon began before it actually came off of the press and have continued almost unabated since that time. One issue that arose early and continues to periodically surface is the matter of Lehi and Nephi, non-Levites, exercising the priesthood in temple related ways.  In 1832 Alexander Campbell a well-known leader of a “restoration” movement and founder of what became The Church of Christ wrote one of the earliest critiques of the Book of Mormon in a pamphlet entitled Delusions.(1) His first argument under the heading of “Internal Evidence” is that early in the story Lehi builds an altar whereupon he makes offerings, sacrifices, and gives thanks.  (See 1 Ne. 2:7; 5:9; and 7:22). Campbell asserts that Joseph erred when he made Lehi a descendant of Joseph rather than of Levi and goes to some length to show how in the Old Testament the priesthood was confined to the families of Levi and Aaron. The Book of Mormon he claims, errs when Lehi builds an altar and offers sacrifices and burnt offering to the Lord, and later to have Nephi build a temple in the new world. This is compounded later in the book when high priests are consecrated.  Campbell concludes:
Although God had promised in the law of Moses, that if any man not of the tribe and family of Levi and Aaron, should approach the office of priest, he would surely die; he is represented by Smith as blessing, approbating, and sustaining another family in this appropriated office. The God of Abraham or Joseph Smith must then be a liar!! And who will hesitate to pronounce him an impostor? This lie runs through his records for the first six hundred years of his story.(2)
Campbell’s argument is the first of two issues relating to the altar and ritual practices there in First Nephi. The second is the widely held belief that Deuteronomy 12 centralized Israelite worship at the temple in Jerusalem and sacrifices and other rituals associated with temple worship were not permitted outside of Jerusalem. So, what was Lehi doing with an altar in northwestern Arabia? Did Joseph Smith make two blunders that expose his authorship of the book?

Some interesting information which helps answer these two questions has been accumulating as Latter-day Saints try to understand and defend the Book of Mormon on these points. In a 2001 article entitled “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness,” BYU professor David Rolph Seely has effectively summarized three possible answers to these questions.(3) The first is the possibility that “Deuteronomy 12 did not intend to eliminate all sacrifice away from the main sanctuary.” The provisions found in Deuteronomy 12 do not explicitly say sacrifice may not be made except at the Jerusalem sanctuary. It apparently took on this interpretation over time, but we know from both the Old Testament and archaeology that altars, sanctuaries, and temples existed in at least a dozen places during the Old Testament period.(4) Nevertheless, Seely reports, during the time of Lehi, King Josiah initiated reforms which did interpret Deuteronomy 12 as restricting sacrifice to the Jerusalem sanctuary. He and Hezekiah are credited with centralizing Israelite worship in Jerusalem..(5) So, this leads to the second possibility–that Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood was “not bound by the centralization of worship as prescribed by Deuteronomy 12.”(6)  

He quotes the Prophet Joseph Smith as saying, “All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.”(7) Through a misreading of a Seely footnote at this point I encountered a happy accident. I thought the footnote was quoting Joseph Smith to the effect that Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood.(8) I was not familiar with such a statement from Joseph Smith though I have spent much of my adult life studying his teachings, so I was understandably interested in finding this quotation. I did a word search but could not come up with the quotation.  After several failures I reread the Seely footnote and realized my error. But the effort was not in vain because in my word search I came across a very nice statement from Oliver Cowdery. In early 1835 he was editor of the Church’s periodical The Latter-Day Saint Messenger and Advocate. In March of that year he responded to some of Alexander Campbell’s criticisms of the Book of Mormon found in Delusions. Happily for me, he took up the issue of Lehi’s priesthood.  Cowdery wrote:
Now, as it is, and very correctly too, Lehi and his sons were blessed with the high priesthood–the Melchesedek priesthood. They never made any pretence [sic] that they were descendants of Aaron, or ever received that priesthood which was conferred upon him by the hand of Moses, at the direction of the Lord. 
How did it happen that Moses had authority to consecrate Aaron a priest? Where did he get his authority to arrange the tabernacle, ark, &c.? Who laid hands upon him? Had he authority to "come near" when the Lord was entreated by sacrifice? He was Aaron's brother, to be sure, but Aaron was the high priest. 
Should Mr. C. [Alexander Campbell] finally learn, that Moses received the holy priesthood, after the order of Melchesedek, under the hand of Jethro, his father in-law, that clothed with this authority he set Israel in order, and by commandment ordained Aaron to a priesthood less than that, and that Lehi was a priest after this same order, perhaps he will not raise so flimsy an assertion, as he does when he says the validity of the book of Mormon is destroyed because Lehi offered sacrifice; and perhaps, also, he may not be quite so lavish with his familiar titles as he was when he called brother Smith "as impudent a knave as ever wrote a book!!"(9)
This fully agrees with the Prophet Joseph, and coming from the “second elder” of the Church and amanuensis for the Prophet in the translation of the bulk of the Book of Mormon, this is strong evidence that Joseph believed that Lehi and other Book of Mormon prophets held the Melchizedek Priesthood. Therefore, from a Latter-day Saint point of view, it was not inappropriate for Lehi to build an altar or Nephi to build a temple where their people could worship according to the law of Moses.  

Seely’s third defense of Lehi’s altar and rituals brings to light an interesting potential correlation with the First Nephi account in the Book of Mormon. He said, “Deuteronomy 12 may have been interpreted anciently as applying only to the land of Israel.”(10) He points out that the famous Temple Scroll which was recovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls possibly supplies another part of the puzzle.  Much of the Temple Scroll is devoted to interpreting the Torah related to the temple and twice it uses the expression “three days’ journey from the temple.” The second use is in context of the Deuteronomy 12 restrictions. He tells us that the standard interpretation of the passage in question is that the Scroll “prohibits all nonsacrifical slaughter within the boundaries of three days’ distance from Jerusalem.”(11) Given about an 18-mile daily travel in Israel, this would extend the restriction to the then extent of the land of Israel, reaching nearly to the southern tip of the Dead Sea.

But the standard interpretation about “nonsacrfical” killing has been questioned by Jewish scholar Aharon Shemish. He suggests the passage was an interpretation of Deut. 12:1-5. Shemish writes:
On this basis, we can then suggest that the author of the Temple Scroll embraced the opinion that the law of centralization of worship applied only in the land of Israel in line with Deuteronomy 12:1's opening declaration: ‘These are the laws and rules that you must carefully observe in the land.’”(12)
Seely continues, speculating that the Nephites may have held the same understanding of Deuteronomy 12 that “the injunction ... concerning altars, sacrifices, and temples” applied “only to the land of Israel....”(13) This then may explain why Nephi is particular to note that it was “when he [Lehi] had traveled three days in the wilderness ... that he built an altar....”(14)

Once again we find interesting details in the Book of Mormon which are often questioned and criticized but, when more throughly investigated actually become positive evidence for it’s authenticity.(15) Of course, these are evidences only and not proof. Evidence is the point of this series of essays and the author knows that though Joseph Smith is reported to have said to a colleague in the 19th Century “if you live into the next century you will see evidence for the Book of Mormon come forth in droves,”(16) it is not the Lord’s plan to provide so much evidence that our intellects and wills are overpowered by it to the  point that we cannot disbelieve. Faith and belief are always a choice, and there will always be those who interpret the evidence negatively. Nevertheless, the Prophet’s words are continuing to be fulfilled even into the 21st Century. Here is one more evidence why I believe.

Thank God for Joseph Smith.

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Alexander Campbell.  Delusions.  An Analysis of the Book of Mormon: with an Examination of its Internal and External Evidences, and a Refutation of its Pretences [sic] to Divine Authority.  Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1832.  Reproductions available several places on the internet.

2.  Ibid., pp. 11-12.

3.  David Rolph Seely, “Lehi’s Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness.”  Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10, no. 1 (2001): 63-69, 80.

4.  Seely, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 65, citing Manachem Haran, Temples and Temple Service in Ancient Israel (Ocford: C\larendon, 1978), pp. 459-64.

5.  Seely, “Lehi’s Altar...,” pp. 66-67, emphasis in original.

6.  Seeley, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 67.

7.  Joseph Smith, in Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), p. 181.

8.  It is footnote 6 on page 80.  It reads: “As a prophet, Lehi held the Melchizedek Priesthood and by that authority offered sacrifice (Teachings, p. 181)....”  As written I thought it was a quotation from Joseph Smith.  But unable to find it I reread it more carefully and realized that the quotation continued after the ellipses for a dozen more lines and came from a commentary on the Book of Mormon by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet!  It pays to read closely and carefully. However, I view the incident as one of the tender mercies of the Lord to bring to my attention the Cowdery quotation used in the article above. 

9.  Oliver Cowdery, “‘Delusion,’” Messenger and Advocate 1, no. 6 (March 1835): 91, spelling and grammar retained.

10.  Seeley, “Lehi’s Altar...,” p. 68.

11.  Ibid.

12.  Aharon Shemesh, “Three-Days’ Journey from the Temple’: The Use of this Expression in the Temple Scroll,” Dead Sea Discoveries 6/2 (1999): 126-38, cited in Seely, pp. 68-69, emphasis in the original.

13.  Ibid, p. 69.

14.  1 Ne. 2:6-7.

15.  Melvin Thorne has written, “Interestingly enough, many examples of arguments for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon based on such complexities are times that at first appeared to be evidences against the book, because they seemed so fantastic in Joseph’s day.”   “Complexity, Consistency, Ignorance, and Probabilities,” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, edited by Noel B Reynolds.  Provo, UT: FARMS, 1997, p. 191, n. 16.

16.  Truman G. Madsen, opening statement of the 2005 video, “Journey of Faith."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why I Believe: Evidence Forty-five: “Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 2: “After this manner of language.”

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Forty-five:
“Zingers” in the Book of Mormon, Part 2:
“After this manner of language”© 

There are many ways to come at the Book of Mormon; to examine its language, theology, history, culture, geography, and so forth. We can also look for its complexity and yet simplicity as well as its internal consistency. I am sure there are many others. One small but very interesting item combines language, complexity, and internal consistency.

Consider the rather unique expression found in 1 Nephi 1:15. Nephi is reporting an early spiritual experience of his father. Lehi had a vision in which he saw Christ and the Twelve Apostles who gave him a book to read which told of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the wickedness of the people which brought it about. He knew about the Babylonian captivity, but he also came to know of the Lord’s “power and goodness, and mercy ... over all the inhabitants of the earth.” [1:14] Then Nephi summarizes, “And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God....”  [Emphasis added.]

Nephi uses a similar expression six more times in his first book.   Here they are:
  1. 3:21: “...after this manner of language did I persuade my brethren...”
  2. 5:3: “And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.”
  3. 5:6: “And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother....”
  4. 5:8: “...  And after this manner of language did she speak.”
  5. 10:15: “And after this manner of language did my father prophesy....”
  6. 17:22: “ ... And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.”
Obviously Nephi was interested in the “manner of language” in which people spoke.  He attended to it carefully. Taking a closer look at the times he uses the phrase we come to understand that the phrase “manner of language” is intended to convey to the reader something of the attitude, feeling, and/or motive of the one using the language.  Nephi was not only interested in what people said, but the way they said it and why they said it. As Dennis and Sandra Packard have written, “Would that my children were as aware of the many voices they hear and as able to see them for what they are.”(1)

A very important fact accompanies this unique expression.It is used only seven times in the entire Book of Mormon, all in 1 Nephi. It is not in other personal accounts like this one, or in abridgments of other sources, which abridgment becomes a second or third person account.  Nor does this expression show up anywhere else in the other Standard Works. It is a totally unique expression in Mormon scripture.  

So what? Well, that is the issue isn’t it? When the implications are considered, it speaks not only to the internal consistency of Nephi’s own “manner of language,” but it must also be factored into the argument that many of the books were written by different authors, each with his unique manner of expression. Here is a clear example of linguistic phraseology absolutely unique to Nephi. How can one explain that if Joseph Smith was the author of the book? He was pretty sly to include such little “zingers” for one author only, never to be used beyond 1 Nephi. And even more remarkable, that he did it in one unedited draft.

Of course, Joseph Smith was not the author of the Book of Mormon. He translated an ancient text by the gift and power of God. And the more we examine it for its complexity, simplicity, and consistency in just about any way imaginable and appropriate to textual studies, the Book of Mormon always surfaces bright and shiney. All the evidence--virtually all the evidence--points in one direction–God was behind the translation and production of the book which was to become the “keystone” of the restored Gospel in its fullness in this the last dispensation–the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.

Thank God for Joseph Smith!

Let’s think together again, soon.


1.  Dennis and Sandra Packard, Feasting Upon the Word (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), p. 217. I should add that the Packards list six of the seven uses I have given above in their reference to this phrase. Reading their brief paragraph led me to ponder the significance of this unique expression and thus this blog article.  I checked Marilynne Linford’s new book, The Book of Mormon Is True: Evidences and Insights to Strengthen Your Testimony (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2015) which is a study of words and phrases used in the Book of Mormon. I could not find anything about this phrase in her discussion of the language of First and Second Nephi or the language of Nephi, but not having yet read the entire book it may be there somewhere else. Unfortunately, there is no scripture citation or reference index in the book, so it could not be searched in this manner.