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LDS Podcasts: Moroni ... A Lonely Wanderer?
Hello. Welcome to ForeverLDS. The topic that I started in the previous podcast has dominated my attention. I thought I'd finished shaping this continuing podcast on the life of Mormon and Moroni, but every time I sat down to wrap up the final draft, I expanded it. Then I'd cut information and paste it into a future podcast. There's just so much to say about the last decades of The Book of Mormon.
I've tried to expound on questions I introduced in Episode 22, but new questions kept bubbling up. I could write a whole book on Mormon and Moroni. Well, I guess I am writing a whole fiction series on that time period. But it's also worthy of a scholarly study. I noticed there already are a few scholarly books on Mormon and Moroni, but I highly doubt any of them cover this topic in quite the same way. The text is so rich. There are so many details that are so easy to miss. I hope what I present is cohesive and comprehensible, but it's certainly not comprehensive. More podcasts on these two prophets and this era of The Book of Mormon history are inevitable.
In Episode 22 I introduced a new paradigm regarding Moroni, the last prophet of The Book of Mormon. I mentioned that many—in fact, most Latter-day Saints—have a traditional image of Moroni spending the last 37 years of his life alone and wandering, hiding out for fear of his life, and carrying the gold plates across a desolate, war-torn landscape.
I suppose Moroni himself is somewhat responsible for this paradigm because of the highly personal, poignant, even depressing way that he describes his circumstances in very first verses he physically added—etched—onto the gold plates of his father's abridgement. Today we find those verses in Mormon Chapter 8. I read these verses toward the end of the last podcast, but I'm gonna read them again, because they're powerful:
"1. Behold I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father.
2 And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.
3 And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not.
4 Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.
5 Behold, my father hath made this record, and he hath written the intent thereof. And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none, for I am alone. My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live I know not.
6 Behold, four hundred years have passed away since the coming of our Lord and Savior.
7 And behold, the Lamanites have hunted my people, the Nephites, down from city to city and from place to place, even until they are no more; and great has been their fall; yea, great and marvelous is the destruction of my people, the Nephites.
As I said in Episode 22, that's some heavy stuff. Now, I'm no psychoanalyst. I don't think it takes a psychoanalyst to recognize that the Prophet Moroni has been through the grind mill. He's in a deep state of loneliness, pain, and mourning. Surprise, surprise. Moroni was a human being. And since we are also human beings, we relate to his pain. Sometimes, out of what I see as pure respect and reverence for so many of our Book of Mormon prophets, we almost deify them. When we do that, we tend to forget how much they truly had in common with us.
These verses remind us that a prophet is also a person; Moroni's life was no less complex, no less 3-dimensional, than our own.
Hence, for many readers of The Book of Mormon, the sheer emotional impact of these verses has served to inadvertently define Moroni—his circumstances and his anguish—for the remainder of his earthly sojourn. How come? Why do we do that? Nothing in the scriptures states that he spent the last decades of his life completely alone with no friends or associates. In fact, there's much that suggests otherwise.
First off, keep in mind that the great battle at Cumorah took place in 384-385 A.D. The verses I just read were engraved in 400-401 A.D., so by 401 A.D. the Nephites as a people, as a nation, were presumably kaput, extinct, for as long as 16 years. Or were they? Ah, the plot thickens.
I previously pointed out that Moroni's opening verses in Mormon 8 are only a snapshot in time. He's describing how he saw things in 401 A.D. There's no reason to think his words were inaccurate. The prophet was describing his situation exactly as he saw it. There's also no reason to think as he writes "wither I go it mattereth not" that he remained in that forlorn condition for the next 20 years. Even the phrase "I am alone" may have meant something different to him than it does to us.
Some are inclined to dismiss this idea out of hand, before I even explain it. After all, The Book of Mormon was written for today's readers, right? Not for the readers of Moroni's day. Moroni himself writes in verse 35 of Mormon 8: "Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing." Then in Mormon 9 Moroni writes: "Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words."
So sure. Yes. Moroni, Mormon, and other Book of Mormon prophets wrote for the people of today. But don't interpret that message too narrowly. Consider that this volume of scripture has already been around for nearly 70,000 days. Before you know it it'll be the volume's bicentennial. That's five or six generations of readers. So to say it was "written for our day" already demands perspective. We have to consider the whole picture. The Book of Mormon was actually written for every human being on the world stage since it's publication in 1830—that is, everyone who could get their hands on it—and will likely remain an indispensible volume of holy writ until the Savior's Second Coming, and probably to the end of the Millennium. That's quite some time. The volume has now been dispersed to a plethora of cultures. Plethora. Many cultures which have changed considerably since the Book was printed. Also, those to whom The Book of Mormon has been distributed speak a host of languages.
Some are already groaning. "So what are you saying? That when Moroni writes 'alone' he means something other than 'alone?' Why do folks like you have to come along and make things so . . . complicated! Besides, Joseph Smith, translating the record by the power of God, would not have allowed for ambiguity of meaning."
My friends, ambiguity, sincere differences in interpretation, are inevitable. That's why I'm grateful to be part of a "living" Church—not wholly dependent upon the words of prophets who died two thousands ago—or more. Today's prophets can expand or expound upon the meanings of key phrases of scripture whenever God inspires them to do so.
"But you're not a prophet, Brother Heimerdinger." True. Important observation. That's why you can take or leave the perspectives I offer. Still, to me they fit remarkably well. They're eminently plausible. We'll just have to see how they stand the test of time.
For me, the intricacies revealed when closely examining The Book of Mormon text enlarges my testimony, adds to my conviction, of its authenticity and truthfulness, especially as the decades pass and we become increasingly separated from its publication date. Don't misunderstand. As I've already said, an 8-year-old can be profoundly moved by the messages in this Book, just as an 80-year-old can be inspired after reading it for the 100th time. Complexity doesn't mean the message is hard to comprehend.
Whatever you might say about the Nephite language, whatever they said about it themselves, the Nephite authors of The Book of Mormon narrative were geniuses at taking complicated realities from their culture and getting to the heart of what was vital, especially in spiritual terms—Gospel terms. In spite of this, they left behind countless clues that reveal the depth of their civilization. I don't think they could avoid this. So when I say The Book of Mormon is a complex book, that doesn't mean harder to understand. It just means, "Hey, take a look at this. Take a closer look at this. What I'm about to show you is really cool!"
So, having said that, let me express my regret, sincerely, that changes, metamorphoses, in how we speak, how we understand words, are just a fact of life. Patterns, phrases, idioms, syntaxes are forever evolving—and that's just in English! It says nothing of the same evolution taking place within this planet's remaining 7000 languages. The Church has made incredible strides in translating The Book of Mormon into about 110 languages. Only 6900 to go. In reality, about 2500 of those languages are endangered and each one of these are spoken by less than 1000 people. Some of these languages may not have a visual framework or alphabet into which The Book of Mormon can be translated. It's truly astonishing, that thing that happened at the Tower of Babel, and how scrambled human intercommunication became, every brain rewired to express ideas in a virtually infinite variety of ways.
I'm especially fascinated by languages that incorporate mouth clicks, like in Africa. Or tonal languages like those found in Asia where you can say--BLUE! and blue and it has an entirely different meaning.
Now we get into the art of translation. Translation is tough. Remember? Even Oliver Cowdery was given the "gift" of translation, but he couldn't do it, apparently because he underestimated the effort—the mental exertion—required to exercise this gift (D&C 9:5-10). Apparently he didn't take it seriously enough. So the gift was revoked. The process of translation, how we reform and re-fashion meanings from one kind of brain wiring to another kind of brain wiring, is never a simple, straightforward process.
Here some might say, "Ah, you're just one of those eggheads who wants to create confusion where it doesn't exist!" Exactly the opposite. I prefer to enlighten. My testimony of The Book of Mormon is profound. Experience and observation teaches, I believe, anyone who pursues the art of linguistics that languages morph. Meanings evolve. And there are instances when a perfect translation from one language to another just isn't possible, no matter how extensive your translation skills or how careful or creative your efforts. Sometimes you just have to find alternative ways to say something. The transformation may not be perfect, but, eh, it's aw-right. It'll do.
I learned this first hand when my novel Passage to Zarahemla was translated into Spanish. First LDS novel ever translated into Spanish. I'm proud of that. Wish I could say it sold well in Spanish. Truth is, it remains a tough sell to Spanish readers. But I'm in good company. Jesus the Christ is a tough sell in Spanish too. The Latin culture just doesn't read books like other cultures. Honestly, our American culture is starting to head that way, too, with the advent of Smart Phones and YouTube and Netflix, etc., etc. Why bring a book onto an airplane when you can just watch a movie on your cell? But I digress.
Nah, lemme continue to digress. The Latin culture is not as inclined to read books for entertainment partly because, unlike America, Latin America never had an Andrew Carnegie. Who in blazes is Andrew Carnegie? He's actually one of the richest people the world has ever known. In the 19th century he built the railroads and the American steel industry. Then, in later life, he donated about 90% of his fortune—or today's equivalent of about 80 billion dollars—to charity. One of his favorite charities was the American free library system. Americans don't much think about how free libraries in large and small towns across this country got there, but that was accomplished almost single-handedly by Andrew Carnegie. He did the same thing in Canada and the United Kingdom, which is why the English language has such a strong tradition of reading books. Every author in the English language owes a huge debt of gratitude to Andrew Carnegie, including me.
Okay, so sales haven't been as brisk for the Spanish edition of Passage to Zarahemla. Yet I've had many Spanish speakers tell me it's a very good translation. So I'm glad it's there. However, in Spanish the book is not called Passage to Zarahemla. My native-speaking Spanish translator, Sonjia Hernandez McGrath, was from Spain. That's another critical component. Your translator generally can't be a returned missionary who thinks two years makes you an expert on that language. They must be native born, translating from English into their native tongue. Also—and this may seem surprising—a Spanish translator can't be from Mexico or Colombia or Chili. Native Spaniards will all say these countries have contributed "unique modifications" to the mother tongue, and a translation by a Spanish speaker from Costa Rica is immediately recognized and rejected by a Spanish speaker from Peru. The best way—the only way—to make them all happy is to hire a translator from Spain, the Mother Country. This was Sonjia.
Yet even with all those ingredients in place, there simply wasn't a Spanish word that had the same meaning as the word "passage" in English, at least not in the mystical "passageway" or "rift in time" sense that it has in our language. In Spanish the equivalent word just means a ticket of passage on a train or bus. Despite our research and creative contortions, we could not find a Spanish word with an equivalent mystical flavor. We might have tried to incorporate more words, but then it sort of loses its poetry, which is to say, it "loses something in translation". So the title in Spanish is El Guerrero de Zarahemla or The Warrior from Zarahemla. That's the best we could do.
I presume a translation from the Nephite dialect into English faced the exact same challenges. Ask any translator. This will happen even, I believe, with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Joseph Smith still had to use his brain. As we learned from Oliver Cowdery's failure, Joseph still had to rely to an extent upon his own intellectual faculties. Sometimes meanings are just going to be slightly different. Words will be altered to suit the translator's world experience.
For example, at 23 years old Joseph Smith knew nothing of the flora and fauna of Mesoamerica. He didn't know what a coatimundi was, or a tapir, or a peccary. So as he would have arrived at such a word during the translation process, what choice did he have except to rely upon his daily experience? An upstate New Yorker in 1829 would have likely called a peccary exactly as he saw it. A pig! That's what the critter looked like! A kind of small swine. Diego De Landa, a Catholic Bishop who lived at the time of the Conquistadors, did the same thing. He called the brocket deer of Yucatan a “kind of little wild goat” and noted that the tapir compared to a mule and an ox. (Tozzer, Landa's relacion, pp. 203-204).
Such details do not diminish the spiritual message of the volume, but sometimes they do influence or transform our traditions and paradigms.
As I said, if you don't like the interpretations I'm about to present of certain Book of Mormon verses, fa'get about 'em! That's your agency. Maybe you're correct to do so. But I see no conflict. And I believe a big part of that is because I consider The Book of Mormon a true book, representing the words and descriptions of real people, in real day-to-day circumstances. So in my mind it's fine to exert some common sense and understanding about human nature to put a little more meat on the bones. When I study and ponder Moroni's words in the first 7 verses of Mormon Chapter 8, I register an extraordinary depth in what he says, but also in what he doesn't say.
One thing I find fascinating is that Moroni waited 16 years before he decided to add those last two chapters to the personal history written by his father. That's right. Mormon 8 and 9 were engraved onto the plates more than a decade and a half after the battle at Cumorah. Also, keep in mind that Mormon plainly tells us in Mormon 6 verse 6 that he hid up in the Hill Cumorah all the records passed down by his fathers except those that he gave to his son, Moroni. This is an intriguing statement. It's allowed for additional paradigm shifts about the Hill Cumorah that we don't have time to get into today. But from this one statement in verse 6 we can feel fairly confident that Mormon hid up in Cumorah all of the source material that Mormon used to make his abridgment, and gave the abridgment itself—the gold plates—and potentially a few other records, to his son, Moroni. The only other thing I can fathom is that Moroni snuck back to the records repository on Cumorah at some later time and retrieved whatever records he felt he needed. Possible, but not especially logical.
Not knowing how much longer he'd be around, Mormon gave this abridgement, these sacred plates—the pinnacle of his life's work—to Moroni, at this specific juncture—We still don't know what year it was, but at this specific moment in time—because he felt the record was complete. It was done.
It's possible that Mormon lived as many as fifteen years after Cumorah. Maybe not so long, but I believe enough time went by after the battle at Cumorah that Mormon felt his concluding verses in Mormon Chapter 7 were no longer satisfactory. Moroni's statement that his father commanded him to "finish" the record developed over time. It was something they probably discussed more than once. The concept is mentioned, at least in passing, in Moroni Chapter 9, verse 24. This is the second to last chapter of The Book of Mormon. I like to refer to it as the war epistle of Mormon, wherein he informed Moroni of atrocities committed by Lamanites and Nephites alike. The problem is, it's unclear when this war epistle was composed. I can't determine with any kind of certainty if it was written before or after Cumorah. There are strong arguments on both sides. That's one of those topics for another conversation we'll have in a future podcast.
The point is that as Mormon and his son continued to watch important events unfold among the Lamanites, Gadianton robbers, and perhaps among surviving remnants of the Nephites, Mormon began to feel increasing restlessness that more info ought to be added to strengthen and clarify the record. I imagine his eventual command to Moroni went like this: "Son, I'm old. I can no longer write. There's a little room left on the plates. I know I said the record could be considered complete after I wrote about the battle at Cumorah (Mormon 6) and after I engraved my final address to the Lamanites (Mormon 7), but when you have the chance—if you have the chance—you must add those things that you and I have witnessed together since my last entry, and whatever else the Holy Spirit might dictate."
This wording is fictional, but for Moroni to consider this a commandment from his father, it seems like it ought to be more direct than the mild suggestion found in Moroni 9:24: ". . .wherefore, write somewhat a few things, if thou art spared and I shall perish and not see thee, but I trust that I may see thee soon for I have sacred records that I would deliver up unto thee . . ." Not exactly the kind of bold command from his father that Moroni references in Mormon 8:1 and 8:3.
By the way, some might think that last phrase about delivering up sacred records ties this epistle definitively to a time prior to the battle at Cumorah because it mentions delivering records to Moroni, just like in Mormon 6 verse 6. No, it doesn't. It only brings up more questions. Don't forget, Mormon delivered up more than one sacred record to Moroni—not just the abridgement of the record of his fathers. There was also the 24 gold plates of Ether, and The Book of the Brother of Jared. Those final two records were entirely transcribed and added to Mormon's plates—included with the abridgement of the record of Mormon's fathers—by Moroni. So what are the sacred records Mormon is talking about in Moroni 9:24? To me it's fairly clear, and I promise we'll cover it in another podcast.
Let's stayed focused on the time period of the battle at Cumorah. I'll state again, I'm not inclined or convinced that Mormon composed his final two chapters—Mormon 6 and Mormon 7—in the immediate aftermath of the Cumorah battle. Keep in mind, Mormon is an old man. Moroni was no spring chicken either. He was probably in his 50s or 60s, which in that era was pretty old. Consider the horror of what father and son have just endured. Reason and human experience tell us that it would have taken a little time for all that had occurred to sink in. People need food, water, shelter, and in Mormon's case, time to heal. The Prophet Mormon would have required some kind of recovery period before he took to engraving again on the abridgment of the history of his fathers, which included his own history, or things he'd witnessed in his own day.
There's an Arnold Friberg painting depicting the Prophet Mormon, [more detail shown here] bloody and exhausted, seated and looking out across the landscape with its hundreds of thousands of corpses, quite a few of them close by. His son, Moroni, is positioned behind him, presumably propping him up. And on the ground, in the crook of Mormon's elbow, are the golden plates. There's even what looks like a little metal engraver and other tools nearby.
I love that painting. It's a cool depiction. I don't even think 100% accuracy matters. Friberg would have been the first to admit that putting Moroni in a Viking helmet was a product of his imagination. Such details hardly matter. It's the feeling the painting evokes. The crushing atmosphere of loss and grief. The air of finality. The painting is powerful. It remains relevant.
Unfortunately, some are offended or uncomfortable when we focus in more sharply on its accuracy. Try to get past that. The concept that Mormon engraved his final two chapters at sunrise, after that devastating day of battle, in the presence of his son and the other 23 survivors, is not likely. Is it possible? I dunno. I'm not sure it's even possible. Re-read the first 11 verses of Mormon 8, and then the last two chapters written by Mormon—Mormon 6 and 7. These two chapters, at a minimum, encompass several months of history. They retain the sense of being drawn from different sources of material—an abridgment of Mormon's own notes—his own history of what he observed. That's right. Just as Mormon abridged other Nephite prophets, he readily admits in Mormon 5:9 that he also abridged himself.
The old soldier is wounded. How severely? We don't know, except that he was passed over by his enemies as a corpse. The idea that from there he climbed to the top of Cumorah—presumably under a cloak of darkness—suddenly got the writing bug, had his son or others fetch his writing tools and former notes so that he could engrave those final two chapters in the dim light of the rising sun, or even over the next few days, doesn't ring true to me. Under such miserable conditions, with hundreds of thousands of moldering bodies around him, you might think this would at least affect his writing style. I can attest that mood and circumstances heavily influence writing styles. But the style of Mormon 6 and 7 is not particularly distinct from the other five chapters in the book that bears his name. It could be argued that each of the seven chapters of Mormon written by Mormon were composed, that is, abridged or compiled, only after witnessing the full scope and vista of his people's fate and destiny. Thus, having the most vital, prescient memories of what occurred fully formed and fully available, he could finally engrave this information onto the plates.
At the very least the composition of Mormon Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 would require a reasonable separation of time. A few weeks. A few months. Even a few years. This scenario makes more sense. After the great battle at Cumorah it's imperative that Mormon, Moroni, and the other 23 survivors would do everything in their power to get out of Dodge. Get away from Cumorah. Lamanite patrols were scouring the countryside. Moroni suggests that any Nephites found alive would be slain on sight.
Some might feel pressed to add, "Well, at least any Nephites who wouldn't deny the Christ were slain on sight." That's indeed how Moroni describes the slaying or execution of Nephites when he finally got around to describing it 16 years later. But during the actual battle? To conceive that wounded, captured, or surrendering Nephites would be forced to do anything so formal as deny the Christ in the heat of battle, or even in its immediate aftermath, isn't logical. During the fight adrenaline-filled Lamanite warriors couldn't have cared less what their enemies believed. Like virtually all soldiers in a such a setting, they'd have been so saturated with killing and death that pausing to hold an impromptu inquest about the beliefs or non-beliefs of each Nephite they encountered would have been ridiculous. That's just not how it works on a battlefield.
Moreover, Mormon has already informed us that, except for his son, there were no faithful and virtuous Nephites at Cumorah (Mormon 5:2, 16-18, 6:22). Perhaps this is a generalization, but it's certainly the implication that Mormon paints for his readers. Otherwise, it would mean that Mormon is not above employing a bit of hyperbole, or as I prefer to think of it, simplification for the sake of the reader. Still, it's reasonable to conclude that any kind of formalized inquest, wherein Nephites were interrogated, and wherein those who would not deny the Christ were executed, took place after the battle, presumably over an ensuing number of years.
I'm convinced the war between the Nephites and Lamanites was political, not particularly religious. Except for Mormon and Moroni the Nephites were not particularly Christian. But in the aftermath of Cumorah, as the Lamanites sought to extinguish every aspect of Nephite culture from existence, that's when the religious convictions of captives with any possible Nephite affiliations would have come under scrutiny. Remember, during this time period the designation of being a Nephite was not racial. It wasn't even based so much on religion as described in 4 Nephi: 36-38. If we are to accept Mormon's appraisal of his own people, it was primarily tribal. It was political.
The human mind is, by nature, inescapably disposed to simplify events. Yet experience tells us that something like the battle at Cumorah—in fact, any undertaking that involved as many as a quarter million people (and that number might only include warriors under Mormon's command) would be far more intricate and multi-faceted than what Mormon could ever hope to describe in just a few verses. I'm not talking about the scenes of horror from which Mormon wanted his readers to be spared (Mormon 5:8). I'm referring to the complex movements of people and the diversities of operations associated with any event of this magnitude.
The Book of Mormon consistently and repeatedly hints at circumstances more involved than what is depicted. It's all-too human authors and abridgers were faced with making choices. And for Mormon and his fathers such choices were to compile historical events, prophesies, and sermons that would bring readers to Christ. That doesn't mean prophets couldn't exercise a certain amount of editorial latitude. If Mormon, a professional soldier, felt the need to focus on warfare among the Nephites, he might have devoted extra chapters to the time period of Gidgiddoni. Instead, he wrote significantly more about the time period of Captain Moroni, his personal hero, whom he declared if all men would emulate would shake the very foundations of hell. After all, he named his own son after Captain Moroni.
Now back to the meanings of words, how they change, and how sometimes our definitions are not so cut and dried. Let's look again at Mormon 8:5: "My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk, and I have not friends nor whither to go."
Kinsfolk is kind of a unique word. A bit antiquated. More common in Joseph Smith's day. Not so much in vogue today. But we all know its meaning. Or do we? Frankly, if I were to write that phrase today, "My father hath been slain in battle, and all my kinsfolk . . ." I might be referring to my extended family. Not necessarily my immediate family. The word kinsfolk has evolved to mean more distant relatives.
That brings us back around to one of our very first questions: Was Moroni alone? Well, didn't he say he was alone? Yes, he did. His exact words, as translated by the Prophet Joseph, are, ". . . and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people."
Now, I'm going to sound a bit critical of the Book of Mormon, but this is purely from a political correctness standpoint, and I'm very leery of political correctness. We don't have be rude about people's feelings and sensibilities. But, to place it in modern, conservative vernacular, the "cupcakes" have taken it a bit too far. For us to judge or interpret the morality or values of past civilizations using a modern lens is ridiculous. Historians even have a word for it. They call it cultural relativism and it invariably leads to flawed deductions. I have no doubt the Nephites loved and cherished their wives and daughters as much as the people of today. Maybe more.
Yet it can't be denied that as far as the spiritual and historical record is concerned, the record-keepers pretty much ignored them. Only three women are mentioned by name in The Book of Mormon. Four if you count Mary, the mother of Jesus. The others are Sariah, Nephi's mother, Abish, a servant girl, and Jezebel, a harlot.
Okay, little aside—Who noticed how I just reinforced an unsupported paradigm? I called Abish a servant girl. Nowhere in The Book of Mormon does it say that Abish was a young woman. She might have been elderly, but that's not the image in our heads. Just making sure listeners stay on their toes.
Anyway, the ancient Hebrews were also a masculine-dominated society—like virtually all ancient civilizations. Yet the Bible mentions women far more frequently than The Book of Mormon. The Bible has Eve, Ruth, Naomi, Esther, Mary Magdalene, the Queen of Sheba, and a multitude of other important female figures.
So what's the deal with the Book of Mormon? I really don't know. Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, Jacob and others who served as direct authors of its narrative just didn't feel inclined to mention them. It's fascinating that one of the most evil characters in The Book of Mormon happens to be a woman—the daughter of Jared and wife of Akish who is discussed in detail in Ether Chapter 8. This femme fatale single-handedly introduced—or reintroduced—ancient secret combination rites and oaths among her people in the New World—the very phenomenon, according to Moroni, most responsible for causing the Jaredite—and Nephite—destructions (Ether 8:21). Yet the abridger, Moroni, or the original record-keeper, Ether, didn't feel inclined to tell us her name.
No female leaders among the peoples of the Book of Mormon are named. No spouses. No daughters. Does that mean Nephi didn't love his wife, the daughter of Ishmael? I'm confident he loved her very much, just as I presume other Nephite prophets loved their wives and Jaredite kings loved their queens. Mentioning them in sacred writ just wasn't done. Maybe it was a matter of respect. We don't know the name of our Heavenly Mother either, and as some have suggested, that omission by our Father in Heaven may have been deliberate, to preserve her sanctity.
By the way, children are also not mentioned by name in The Book of Mormon, unless they later became great prophets, like Mormon. The single exception is Nephi's brother, Joseph. Not his brother Jacob. We hear about Jacob being born in the wilderness too, but he later becomes a leader of his people. Except for in his childhood, we never hear about Joseph again, except by way of his descendants, the Josephites, which became a significant Nephite tribal designation. We don't know the rationale at the center of Nephite record-keeping practices, and until we have more information, we really can't judge.
However, considering how entrenched this practice was, it might permit a somewhat different interpretation of Moroni's words in Mormon 8. When he writes, ". . . and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people," this statement might be no less accurate in his mind if his wife and children were still alive and close at hand. He might have considered himself "alone" if he was the only remaining Priesthood holder. Or the only Nephite of pure descent. "Alone" does not have to mean "all by himself."
More importantly, for purists who insist that "alone" means "alone" means "alone"—completely isolated and without companions—it doesn't have to mean that he stayed that way. After Moroni contributed those two chapters at the end of Mormon in about 401 A.D., he still didn't deposit his father's plates—at least permanently—for another 20 years.
Yes, when Moroni etched the 8th and 9th Chapters of Mormon, things looked pretty bleak, pretty depressing. At the end of Mormon 9, it's clear that Moroni is bidding farewell to his readers in much the same manner as his father at the end of Mormon 7. Like his father, Moroni felt the record on the plates was complete. After all, he writes in Mormon 8:5 that there was no more room to add anything, and no ore to make more plates.
Yet we all know, The Book of Mormon doesn't end there. This is the first of three, perhaps four, separate and distinct farewells wherein Moroni expressed the sincere sentiment that he'd added to the record all that needed to be added. Yet at least twice, possibly three more times, he changed his mind, and added just a bit more. At some point during the next two decades Moroni apparently did locate additional ore, smelted it all together, and pounded out a few more sheets of tumbaga, which as every expert of Book of Mormon archeology knows, is the sturdy alloy of gold and copper commonly used in Mesoamerica and probably utilized to make the plates.
Examining the last 20 years of Moroni's life is probably another podcast. There's just so much information. I know. Much of what I've presented is speculation. But I hope it's intelligent speculation, backed up by logic and reason, because to me, many of these ideas present a more realistic vision of how it was or what actually happened.
If nothing else, exercises such as this shake up preconceived ideas and help a few readers recognize how dynamic The Book of Mormon is. Some might ask, why even undertake such an exercise? What's the point? Many points, but one stands out to me more than any other: Because it demonstrates that The Book of Mormon—it's prophets, its authors, its history—everything about the volume—is genuine. If it's people and history are true, then it's message is true. The Book really is, just as its subtitle declares, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, of His mission, His purpose, and of His glory. What other reason do we need?
So in upcoming podcasts I'll shake things up even further. Expand and expound using words and phrases often carefully buried in the text. It's like a treasure hunt. It's fun. It's also faith.
The Book of Mormon is the word of God. The Nephites were a real people, a real civilization. We're still digging, still exploring, still putting the puzzle together. The Nephites lived in the New World for a thousand years. They had to live somewhere! Asking faithful members not to be curious or exhilarated by such questions isn't fair. Or practicle. We can't help it. The picture comes into sharper focus every day. Only a matter of time. It's inevitable. Just don't miss the forest for the trees. In other words, don't miss the most important message of the Book, which is faith.
So for now, stay close to the Lord. And remember, if you don't feel as close to the Lord today as yesterday, the Lord did not move. You did. This is Chris Heimerdinger. Hey, if you're interested, check out my new YouTube channel. Same name as this podcast—ForeverLDS. Not much up there now, but it'll grow, quickly I think, and I hope you'll be proud that you were among the first to subscribe. Arrivederci, listeners! Until next time. Over and out.
Tags: LDS Podcast, LDS Podcasts, Mormon Podcast, Mormon Podcasts, Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, Thorns of Glory, Tennis Shoes 13, LDS Authors
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