Monday, June 28, 2010

Right you are, governor!

Q: What is the history of the position of "governor" in the Book of Mormon?

A: It appears suddenly in Alma 2, rather late in the history of the Nephite nation, persists for less than a century, then vanishes for good. The circumstances appear to be the threat of a civil war, led by the Amlicite faction.

No mention of such a position is made in the great governmental reform that replaces a monarchy with judgeships.

The Bible helps us to learn that it is certainly not some 19th century anachronism -- and provides a clue that may solve the mystery of its origin. One of the Old Testament words translated "governor" is "sar," which Strong's concordance also translates as "chief captains."

Go back to Alma 2, verse 13. Facing the Amlicite threat, the Nephites appointed "captains, and chief captains, according to their numbers."

It seems to me that the Nephite governors were not so much politicians as are our modern governors, as they were chief-chief captains, sarim. More akin to the old Roman Republic emergency dictators.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Exploring Book of Mormon names

In the second chapter of the Book of Alma, within the Book of Mormon, seditionists wage war atop the hill Amnihu, east of the river Sidon, near the capital city of the Nephites.

The Biblical King David had a son, Amnon, which according to Strong's Concordance can be transliterated Aminon, but I think the etymology of this place derives from another Biblical word ... Near Damascus in the Holy Land is the hill Amanah, which is Hebrew for "faithful."

Yet another amazing cooincidence for the imaginative Joseph Smith, or a neat little mark of authenticity? You decide.

What of the river Sidon? Why would Nephites, expatriate Hebrews, name their principal New World river for that Phoenician -- foreign -- city?

Perhaps they did for the same reasons the United States has a Paris, Moscow, Memphis, Philadephia, New London, etc.

Or perhaps it is because Sidon is Hebrew for "fishery." Which could be expected to be a major business upon a major river. Old World Sidon may not have come to their minds at all.

Typically, the New Testament has Sidon while the Old has Zidon -- both of course translating the same word which in Hebrew begins with the letter "tsadee," pronounced "ts," which is neither an s or a z but a little of both. Hence the difficulty. We see this with other words such as Melchizedek (OT) and Melchisedec (NT).

But Sidon appearing in the Book of Mormon is hardly an anachronism. If you are still not convinced, Genesis 10:15 should put your mind at ease.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Experiencing the divine ...

"I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it." -- 1 John 2:21.

By this statement, the writer of this epistle seems to make clear that he is not addressing outsiders or even potential converts to the Christian faith. He is writing to Saints already grounded in the gospel, those who already know the truth. His purpose? "That your joy may be full."

And yet, this seems to contradict his earlier declaration, in which he states that his purpose in writing is that "ye may also have fellowship with us." At first glance, that appears to be precisely an invitation to outsiders, an appeal to join the family of the saints.

I puzzled over that tonight. Then the Spirit spoke to me. John is indeed addressing the membership, telling them: You know the truth. Now I invite you to ascend to the next level -- experience it, even as we apostles have!

To quote LDS author Robert Millet, referencing certain saints in his recollection: " Their [testimonies weren't] simply an intellectual disclosure but rather a report of personal engagement with things divine." (Holding Fast, P. 1)

We know from Jesus' words that the pure in heart are promised that they shall see God. And God keeps his promises.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cain's gain

Students of the Bible have long wondered at Cain's motive for killing Abel. Simple jealousy? Modern revelation, in the Book of Moses (Pearl of Great Price) adds back the lost information that the crime was not so much about hurt feelings and sibling rivalry as it was about something far more evil.

Cain had made a pact with Satan, being convinced that by killing Abel, he could become wealthy -- get gain.

It is terribly ironic that the very meaning of Cain's name is "possession" or "gain." That last detail I just learned yesterday, reading in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible). I'm not sure that Joseph Smith the Prophet had any idea of that connection, when he brought forth the lost details of the Book of Moses to the world.