Friday, April 4, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part V

Here are more comments, questions and criticisms that have been sent in from readers of our blog, along with our responses.  
    Comment #1: “I have heard several different views on what the Book of Lehi contained. What is your view?” Elizabet D.
    Response: The view I have is what is written in the Doctrine & Covenants. When the Lord told Joseph Smith to re-translate after the 116 pages were lost, he told him: “Therefore, you shall translate the engravings which are on the plates of Nephi, down even till you come to the reign of king Benjamin, or until you come to that which you have translated, which you have retained” (D&C 10:41). From this we learn two things: “1) that the lost 116 pages did not contain everything that Joseph had translated up to that point for he retained something of the end of his translation, and 2) that Joseph had translated the beginning of Lehi’s abridged record up to the time of King Benjamin.
We also see that there is a gap between Amaleki in the end of Omni, and the beginning of Mosiah, or a condensed abridgement of Mosiah I, which information is found in Omni. Since the book of Mosiah (which is actually Mosiah II) begins toward the end of king Benjamin’s time, Mormon saw the need to write a segue from Amaleki’s final words and the beginning of Mosiah. Obviously, the book of Lehi contained at least from the time he received a vision (1 Nephi 1:6, 8-13) and was called to preach at Jerusalem—it is a shame we do not have that, for in Nephi’s description of his father’s vision, he concludes “And now I, Nephi, do not make a full account of the things which my father hath written, for he hath written many things which he saw in visions and in dreams; and he also hath written many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children, of which I shall not make a full account” (1 Nephi 1:16). What marvelous things Lehi wrote down we may never know, but those who stole the 116 pages have kept those mighty words from the inhabitants of this earth. What a shame.
    Comment #2: “According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ‘Nephi referred to the “language of my father” and to the “language of the Egyptians.” Toward the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni described his and his father’s writing as “reformed Egyptian” (Mormon 9:32). “It is unknown whether Nephi, Mormon, or Moroni wrote Hebrew in modified Egyptian characters or inscribed their plates in both the Egyptian language and Egyptian characters or whether Nephi wrote in one language and Mormon and Moroni, who lived some nine hundred years later, in another.’ Do you think that is correct since I have found some other discrepancies in this self-styled encyclopedia” Chase M.
Response: “The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, and published in 1992 by Macmillan, which is part of the Maxwell Communication Group of Companies, like FARMS. It contains nearly 1500 articles in about one million words on 1850 pages, including pictures, maps, charts, index, and appendices in 4 volumes (a fifth volume was added for non-members which contains the Standard Works). In its development, there were over 730 contributors from a wide variety of fields, most of whom had LDS and academic backgrounds. A large number were professors at BYU. There is much to applaud in this work, however, as for Land of Promise geography (John L. Sorenson and John W. Welch were two of the contributors), you might want to be a little wary since it touts Mesoamerica. As for your question, Nephi made his “record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). Some 1,000 years later, Moroni tells us they were still writing in the language of the Egyptians, which he said, “in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech” (Mormon 9:32).
    To what degree the images were altered is not known to us, however they must have been quite similar for known language (that can be referenced over time) does not change much over time, and not so that it cannot still be read or understood. For someone to suggest that “Nephi wrote in one language and Mormon and Moroni” in another is without merit. Also, to suggest the record was written in Hebrew in modified Egyptian characters, is also without scriptural support, for though Moroni explains that he and others could have done a better job had they written in Hebrew, they wrote in Reformed Egyptian (Mormon 9:32-33). Obviously, over a thousand year period of constant use, both Hebrew and Reformed Eguyptian changed among the Nephites—to what degree such changes were, we are not told.
As an example, in the English language, there have been certain changes over time. Three main changes are in vocabulary, sentence structure and pronunciations. Vocabulary changes when new words are borrowed from other languages—something likely not done in the case of the Nephites, since they were not around other cultures and other languages (the Mulekites, Lamanites and Nephites all began with a common Hebrew language); Sentence structure changes very slowly, such as today’s English speakers construct sentences very differently from Geoffrey Chaucer (far left) and William Shakespeare (left), though both can be understood, as in “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote” (When April with its showers sweet), or  “The droughte of March hath perced to the roote” (has pierced the drought of March to the root), or “And  bathed every veyne in swich licuour” (and bathed every vein in that liquid), or “Of which vertu engendred is the flour” (by whose power is produced the flower). However, it is the unique way that individuals speak that fuels language change, not only variances in regional dialectic use, but also in such things as vowel shifts. 500 years ago, the word child was pronounced chield (like shield), gradually changed to choild (like soiled), to our familiar child (like mild) today; or our loud—500 years ago, the word was pronounced lood (like lude); gradually changed to layd (laid), and now to our loud (cloud) today.
    What the people of Mosiah found when encountering the Mulekites was a string of words in a sentence made up of different vowel sounds—when strung together, it sounds completely like a foreign language. In fact, it is believed that about 50% (3,000 of the 6,000-7,000) of the languages known today are on the verge of being lost (fading from usage). However, we might want to consider that when Nephi said he was taught in the learning of the Jews, we should consider that this meant in the spiritual side of the Jewish faith, including the Law of Moses, and the writings of earlier prophets. 
Obviously, he was taught the Jewish religion, history and their involvement with God. At the same time, in addition to being taught Hebrew, he was taught a type of Reformed Egyptian, that is, the language of the Egyptians, or hieroglyphic writing. And over time, according to Moroni, the Nephites changed both the Hebrew they spoke, and the Reformed Egyptian, with which they recorded their scriptures.
    Comment #3: “The narrow neck of land was narrow enough that "it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea" (Alma 22:32). Simply put, we don't know how long the "day's travel" might have been. Possibly "the distance of a day and a half's journey" was a standard length, or the Nephites may have understood that a "day and a half's journey" meant so many miles. It is an ambiguous measurement and could mean many things” Quincy T.
    Response: Another Sorenson and Mesoamerican topic. What we need to keep in mind is that Mormon inserted this information when he was abridging Alma’s record. He was not inserting this for the Nephites, since they were on the verge of being wiped out to the man. Mormon was inserting this explanation to a future reader—us—so we could understand the width of this narrow neck. Therefore, whatever was standard for the Nephites, or whatever the Nephites might have understood, this had nothing to do with them. It had to do with our future understanding. Therefore, there is nothing ambiguous about Mormon’s statement, nor is it difficult to understand. A day and a half journey for a Nephite—an average man, walking for a day and a half, which would be about the same in 600 B.C., 370 A.D., or today. It should be considered brilliant that Mormon picked the only method of conveying an accurate, unchanging distance measurement—a normal man walking a normal distance.

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