Tuesday, February 09, 2010


This time around I am reading a 1905 edition of the Book of Mormon printed in Chicago on the press of Henry C. Etten & Co. for the Northern States Mission.

Since I just finished reading a facsimile of the 1830 edition, I didn't want to read that version again, even though I have a different version to go through: Joseph Begins His Work, vol 1. published by Wilford Wood. Wood's version should be a little different than the LDS and RLDS facsimile editions, since it used a different copy to create the facsimile. I've been learning that each copy of the original edition can be somewhat unique. Also Brother Wood includes interesting historical documents and photographs in his edition. Ahhh, well, maybe next time around...

The 1905 edition is different than the other editions I have, in that it uses the 1879 edition for it's layout and cross-references. In 1879 Orson Pratt updated the Book of Mormon by re-dividing the chapters, adding verse numbers and cross-references.

The next big change to the Book of Mormon came in 1920 when James E. Talmage formatted the book in double column pages, re-did the cross-references and added an index. The 1920 version was the standard until 1985, when the latest version was organized.

Back in about 1990, I purchased my 1905 edition from the Green Hat Bookstore, a little used book shop out about 5 miles east of Nauvoo, Illinois. At the same time I purchased a 1903 matched set of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. The binding on the 1903 edition is in worse shape than my 1905 edition, so I'll keep that one on the shelf.

It is interesting to read various versions of the book.

It broadens my perspective and takes me closer, historically.

Monday, February 08, 2010

"for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed"

Early on in the history of the Church, it became custom to label the indigenous peoples of the American continents as Lamanites. After all, they were the remaining descendants of Lehi and his sons.

We read that all of the Nephites were hunted and killed. That is Moroni's testimony at the end of the book. Nephi, near the beginning of the book has a powerful vision, in which he sees the destruction of his seed. He reiterates how distraught he was after he saw those scenes.

Members of the Church have been laboring under a false assumption for far too long.

The indigenous people on these continents, if they are descended from Lehi, as many surely are, are a mixture of the seed of all of the sons of Lehi that had children.

It is a shallow reading and narrow assumption which concludes that only genetic Lamanites were left after the destruction in 389 AD.

The history shows how the descendants of Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, Jacob and Joseph were grouped into two tribes: Lamanites and Nephites.

About 90 years before the coming of Christ groups from these two tribes began to inter mingle. After the Savior's death and resurrection he visited the inhabitants of the land who had not been destroyed. After his visit all the people lived together and "there were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, no any manner of ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

This situation remained for almost two hundred years, where all the people were of one tribe and belief. Only after the second century had passed did the civilization begin to separate into classes again. One of the divisions of the people was whether they believed in the gospel of Christ or some other doctrine:
And now it came to pass in this year, yea, in the two hundred and thirty and first year, there was a great division among the people. And it came to pass that in this year there arose a people who were called the Nephites, and they were true believers in Christ; and among them there were those who were called by the Lamanites, Jacobites, and Josephites, and Zoramites...And itcame to pass that they who rejected the gospel were called Lamanites, and Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites; and they did not dwindle in unbelief, but they did willfully rebel against the gospel of Christ.
We see that the division from 230 AD until the destruction in 389 AD was a division along lines of belief, not genealogy. Even Moroni states in 421 AD that the Lamanites, "because of their hatred, they put to death every Nephite who will not deny the Christ." Suggesting that those who did deny the Christ were allowed to live.

This reading of the book can stand on it's own, but a closer reading of Nephi's record also shows that he and his father knew that a remnant of Nephi's seed would remain until the days of the Gentiles (i.e. the coming of the European nations to the Americas...).

When Nephi was explaining to his brethren the meaning of their father's vision, shortly after Nephi had had a similar vision of his own, he told his brethren "at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel." When saying "our seed" he includes his seed with the seed of his brethren.

A closer reading of Nephi's vision shows that he saw their destruction and that they would then dwindle in unbelief. This is the greater reason for his grief and distress, that his children would dwindle in unbelief.

Even father Lehi, who saw the same things, knew that all his sons would have descendants who live into the latter-days. He states to his son Joseph: "Joseph, my last born, whom I have brought out of the wilderness of mine afflictions, may the Lord bless thee for ever, for thy seed shall not utterly be destroyed." Joseph's descendants were numbered historically with the descendants of Nephi.

"Lehites" doesn't roll as easily as Lamanites. Neither does "Children of Lehi". I have no belief that the recording of these thoughts will do much to change the overall practices of church members, by and large. It suffices for me that the idea has been expressed.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


Too easily the layers of the day's activities stack on top of the layers of previous day's thoughts. Like stacking old overhead acetate sheets atop each other, a stack of about seven or so create an opaque barrier, so it is with my memories. By the end of a week, I can't remember what came the week before.

For that reason I like to write things down. So I'll continue using this Internet medium for a while.

That being said, my thoughts about the Moroni edited portion completing the existing Book of Mormon are still clear and vibrant. Even though my thoughts about today's readings in Second Nephi are screaming to be recorded.

As I finished Mormon's account of the decline of his people and the destruction he was a witness to, it was apparent to me how Joseph could not have made this story up.

Here is a young married man, having enough education to read and write, but certainly not schooled in the art of war and world history; a man who hired himself out helping neighbors dig holes on their property, who labored in the fields and forests. He presents a book to the world that contains Moroni's account of the death of his father.

In the last chapters of Mormon's record, Moroni recounts the final scenes of Nephite civilization. He was obviously distraught. Both chapters are full of subtle anxiety, anguish, grief, despair and mourning: for his father; for himself; for the responsibility he shoulders, alone, to finish his father's work; for the destruction of his people and the civilization he grew up in; for doubts about his abilities as a translator, scribe and engraver; for doubts about whether he will have resources enough to finish the project:
Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded by my father...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 kinsfolks, and I have not friends nor whither to go; and how long the Lord will suffer that I may live, I know not.
Reading on, we next find Moroni's abridgment of Ether's record. Obviously this work took some time and effort. During the abridgment, Moroni interjects his own commentary and teachings, from the perspective he has gained. It seems that he has become more comfortable with his role as translator, abridger and engraver. The tone of this portion isn't as harsh, or as raw, as the emotional rush expressed in Mormon chapters eight and nine. The commentary is more measured, contemplative and broader in scope than the last chapters in Mormon.

As Ether's record draws to a close, Moroni finishes painting another picture of civil self-destruction, this one even more consuming and brutal than the destruction of his own civilization. Moroni seems almost surprised that he has any space left on the plates when he is finished with Ether. He also seems surprised that he is still alive, more than thirty years after his father's death:
Now I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished...wherefore I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed...
Moroni closes his father's work with a scrapbook of notes, instruction and letters that he has kept and prized as he has lived, traveled, hidden and translated. Material to fill the space remaining on the plates. Finally, he finishes with his own testimony that his words will be used in the future as a promise, warning and challenge.

The difference in tone and emotional texture between the last two chapters of Mormon and the Book of Moroni struck me, this time around, as profound. A strong, subtle difference that I have grave doubts a farmer from western New York could have come up with, without divine help.

I love Joseph. I love Moroni. I love Mormon. I am impressed by the things they did and how they lived. More so now, after this latest reading of their marvelous work.


I'd been going along at a steady pace, minding my own business.

Many years ago I set myself a VERY informal goal: read the Book of Mormon "once a journal".

That is, in the time it took me to fill a journal, I would read the Book of Mormon.

It was a good plan, too. It worked out to about once or twice through the Book of Mormon during a year.

Then we moved and I was no longer commuting on the bus, so my journalism dropped off. My last journal took about 4 years to fill up. I DID read the Book of Mormon during that time. Once.

I finally filled that old brown journal last October.

So, I started thinking about reading the Book of Mormon again. And then I actually started. I chose the RLDS 1830 Facsimile edition to read this time around. I learned, when I compared it with the LDS 1830 Facsimile edition, that the LDS Facsimile edition is actually a copy of the RLDS 1830 Facsimile edition. Same markings, blotches, etc. Odd.

Anyway, I was reading. Regularly. But no real hurry.

Then I went to church on the first Sunday of the year, January 3rd. Due to family illness, I had not been at church the week before.

I was surprised to hear on that early Sunday morning (we'd switched from the 1:30 - 4:40 pm schedule to the 9 am - noon schedule), that the Bishopric had set a goal for the ward:

Read the Book of Mormon by the end of February.

7000 chapters read by the ward membership by February 28th.

To finish the Book of Mormon in 2 months, they figured that 4 chapters a day would do it.

I learned, to my dismay, that I was 12 chapters behind in completing a goal that I'd never heard of until that moment.


I've participated in Book of Mormon reading challenges many times in the past. Some from church leaders, some I've set myself. In most all of the previous times, when I learned of the challenge, I would good-naturedly start the book over again and participate.

Well, this time I had just gotten through Alma's personal priesthood interviews with his sons. I was half-way done! Should I really start over again? Did I have to?

After a minute or two of consideration, I figured that I would just up my reading to the 4 chapters a day rate and participate that way. So by the end of February I would have finished the Book of Mormon and be back to the middle of the Book of Alma.

I'm on schedule.

Even though I started 12 chapters behind.

I finished Moroni 10 on Friday January 29th.

I've got thoughts about Moroni to share. But they'll have to wait until, ummm,


Back again

Okay. They all say that I haven't posted in a while.

It must be true.

I had completely forgotten that I have a gmail account.

Oh my.