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.