The revealed text

The revealed text
The light of revelation at the Whitmer farm where Joseph and Oliver worked upstairs to finish translating the Book of Mormon

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Lesson 15: Eternally Indebted to Your Heavenly Father

This lesson covers Mosiah 1-3. There is a lot of material in here relevant to historicity and geography, but I'm only going to mention two things.

First, again from Moroni's America, "King Benjamin taught his sons the importance of language, but apparently the writing system was difficult. Lehi could read the engravings on the brass plates because he “had been taught in the language of the Egyptians” (verse 4), and yet the plates contained the Hebrew Torah. One needed to understand the “learning” of the Jews and the “language” of the Egyptians (1 Nephi 1:2). Brother Sorenson explains this:

"King Benjamin wanted his three sons to become ‘men of understanding,’ so he ‘caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, . . . that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers.’ (Mosiah 1:2). The expression “in all the language” can only mean that different degrees of mastery were possible. He wanted the princes to master the system to the maximum degree, not to have just a superficial knowledge... The substantial time investment required to attain mastery of the texts explains the later observation that “some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches” (3 Nephi 6:12). Unlike Benjamin’s princes, the Nephite poor could not afford the years of study, nor the mentors, needed to master full literacy." [i]

Without a written language, “even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things or even do not believe them when they are taught them because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct” (verse 5).

Benjamin’s declaration indicates that the Lamanites, like the Mulekites before Mosiah taught them, did not have a written language. This is consistent with the experience in North America, where there is little evidence of written language, and inconsistent with Mesoamerica, where there is abundant evidence of written language.

The second thing King Benjamin taught is very relevant to questions of historicity and evidence. Look at verse 6:

 O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true. And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true; and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.

The last clause was no doubt important for Joseph Smith; he had the plates sitting on the table, under a cloth. He didn't translate directly from the plates, but their presence gave him and Oliver the assurance--the surety--that the words they were recording were true.

Likewise, in our day, we have the physical evidence of the Book of Mormon civilization before our eyes, helping us know of the surety of the words in the text.

[i] John L. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, p. 216-218.

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