Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter's Eternal Round: Halfway through, or The Dangerous Passage

How apt that Hugh Nibley's and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round should meet us at Easter: the book's theme is the resurrection of the dead.

Nibley's hypocephalus figures both map and compass. It needs to, for it takes us into strange places: we who are as often distraught as "caught up" in the rounds of the ascension literature so liberally treated here. As in the words of the Native American poet caught in the "turns of time" far above the earth: "I wheeled in the shadow of a hawk. Dizziness came upon me." Coming to, the poet finds himself lying "in a cave, On a floor cured in blood. Ancient animals danced about me" (N. Scott Momaday, "At Risk"). From the heights to the depths.

And it is precisely here, in the depths, buried in the middle of the book and wondering why we need to hear about all these other worlds, that Hugh Nibley stuns the reader with a resounding rebuke. Nibley has taken us to strange places indeed, places as strange as the Sokar Land in the middle of the fearful solar passage through the Netherworld, even the depths of the Aurignacian-Perigordian(!) and the Magdelenian Eras (now that's Easter indeed!) and the caves of archaic France. We are open to visiting other worlds, and there are many worlds, but the authors are insistent: We must consider the caves of Lascaux. Why those caves? Why these paintings of ancient animals? Why this dance? And why these matters of prehistory, so troubling to our fathers, that bring science and religion into ineluctable collision? We draw back from the mouth of the cave, but Nibley insists we take the rope, and down we tumble--into a face-to-face confrontation.

There are answers here, and the answers are all found in the Pearl of Great Price. We listen, amazed, as matters of "greatest moment" are summarily tossed off: here are answers indeed. But we can't escape the rebuke that comes with knowledge (ps. 392-4). How could you not have known this? How could you have not read these scriptures? Hugh Nibley stands crosswise the typeface like some doughty warrior challenging our ignorance and attendant arrogance. We lose our sense of self as our selfishness is told off roundly (Nibley's word is "provincial"): "Fortes erant ante Agamemnonem" (didn't you know?); "holy men ye know not of"; and, definitively, "man is nothing." These pages, in the depths of archaic caves, the last place in the world we think to go, pack a rebuke like nothing else in Nibley's writings.

Hugh Nibley doesn't ever close the door on learning. We're just getting started and he will show the way. Here opens a door to freedom from debate and fret over all the wrong things. Cut out the endless theorizing and speculations that displease God, says Nibley. He grasps us by the wrist: Let's move on.

The scriptures are newly opened to view: that's his purpose.

The call to repentance is, at once, President Kimball's call to discover and rediscover the scriptures, even as the bounds of the hypocephalus (the "known universe") expand in encircling circumference. We also recall Elder Maxwell's intense focus on galaxies that swirl by the million, and the spheres of glory found in infinitesimally small and large compass, as Elder Scott reminds us. At this Eastertide we are invited to contemplate not alone the creation but the reality of the resurrection.

And resurrection is the hypocephalus writ large, as its central lines show: "O noble god in the First Time, Lord of heaven, earth, underworld, and (his) cosmic waters...enliven the soul of this all too, too mortal king" (Joseph Smith hypocephalus). On the Vienna hypocephalus we find the stative form of the verb to live: "O god alive forever in the First Time" (ntr 'nh.w m zp tpj). The Morning of Creation and the Morning of the First Resurrection make up One Eternal Round: "But Thou wast up by break of day, And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee" (George Herbert, "Easter Song").

The idea also appears on the hypocephalus with the cryptogram Lotus, Lion, Ram (srp.t-m3wj-sr). If read acrophonically, s-m-s, the cryptogram yields a palindrome that means not only, as Marie-Louise Ryhiner points out, "Eldest," but also, "the one who continually brings about birth" (smsj; and compare the Hebrew word for sun: shemesh). The Eldest who brings about birth is, clearly, the Hathor cow, or female sun, which takes center place on the hypocephalus as earnest of the resurrection.

Here is the hope of George McDonald in his darkest novella so aptly named Lilith. Adam (Osiris) and Mara (the mother, Hathor) afford rest for weary Lona and her hero: "The sleepiness is full of lovely things: come and see them"; "I dreamed cycles, I say"; "You have died unto life, and will die no more"; "Sleep that you may wake." Here is Native American King Lamoni and his brilliant queen in their ancient trance-like sleep, wherein they witness the birth and redemption of Christ: "He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again." (Alma 19:8).

The poet has been spun, in hawk's wheeling (Fac. 2, Fig.7, as Hugh Nibley would point out), right out of time and space, yet, wonderfully, through "the mirror of masks," the drama rings out a heightened identity: "I am a feather on the bright sky" (Fac. 2, Fig. 2, Oliblish); "I am the farthest star" (Figs. 1 and 2, Kolob); "I am a flame of four colors" (Kolob Quadrifrons); "You see, I am alive, I am alive" (see N. Scott Momaday, "The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee").

Nibley and Rhodes, like Peter and John along that breathless path which all humanity must run, beckon us on toward the reality of One who has sped heavenward our mansion to prepare:

I got me flowers to straw Thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Hugh Nibley! Abraham and Personal Piety: Now I have found thee

The following Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 39:2) sums up the contributions of Hugh Nibley:

Why did Abraham have to go forth to the world?

At home he was like a flask of myrrh with a tight-fitting lid. Only when it is open can the fragrance be scattered to the winds (see Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 442-3).

Now on to the fragrance.

New Kingdom Egypt, along with its "crisis of the polytheistic worldview," stands out for its dynamic, individualistic "new religiosity," commonly termed "popular religion" or "personal piety," Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 229. Central to the movement is prayer, especially prayers offered in moments of crisis and with expectation of blessing. Thus a pious individual can "find" God by means of prayer and revelation. The God of these Egyptian texts is Amun, the supreme god of the universe, the Egyptians' final answer, after the disaster of Atenism, to the crisis of polytheism.

The Book of Abraham, although likely set in Egypt's Middle Kingdom, shares the language of the religious breakthroughs of the New Kingdom. Abraham, a man of prayer and a visionary, as both the Bible and the Book of Abraham show, was also the founder of the great religions of monotheism, the worship of the One God. Just what effect Abraham's stay in Egypt had on the minds and hearts of his hearers, we may never know. For now, some parallels between the Book of Abraham and New Kingdom texts may prove instructive.

The Egyptian verb for finding, gmj, often bespeaks both seeking and finding, to seek and to find, and is written with the hieroglyph of the black ibis, eyes and bill earnestly trained on the ground.

The Book of Abraham opens with a quest: "And finding there was greater happiness, peace, and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers" (1:2).

"I sought for mine appointment to the Priesthood" (1:4).

Pharaoh had been seeking the same thing, earnestly but in vain: "seeking earnestly to imitate that order" of the fathers (1:26).

Abraham found God through revelation: "Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee" (2:12).

The assertive focus on the self, I sought, and now I have found, has its equivalent in many New Kingdom writings.

Before moving to the parallels from Egypt, I turn to those noted by Hugh Nibley in the stunning Apocalypse of Abraham. This seeking and finding, explains Nibley, "is the theme on which both Abraham histories open," Abraham in Egypt, 15 (see ps. 13-5).

"Thou art seeking in the understanding of thine heart the God of Gods and the Creator; I am He" (Ap. Abr. VIII). Again: "You shall see great things never before beheld by you; for you have loved to seek me (Ap. Abr. IX p15). God, announces Abraham triumphantly (again the first person usage), "has now found me!" (Ap. Abr. VII).

Following in the footsteps of Abraham, we enter an Egypt in which "a new dimension of experiential nearness to god had opened up, accurately described as revelation and indicated by concepts of 'finding' and 'coming,'" Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 241.

"I have not sought for myself a protector among men,
god is my defender," 234.

Again (p. 235):

"And [Kiki] bethought himself
that he should find a patron [Abraham, as wanderer, desperately needed a patron];
and he found Mut at the head of the gods,
fate and fortune in her hand,
lifetime and the breath of life are hers to command.
Everything that happens, happens at her command."
(Abr 3:17, "And there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it.")

Hymn to Amun (p. 241):

"How good it is to follow you, Amun:
a lord great in 'being found' for the one who seeks him,"
(Note how Abraham desires "to be a greater follower of righteousness," 1:2).

"May Amun be found by his coming [and rescue me]."

Abraham tells the same story: "I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee. . .I have come down to visit them, and to destroy him who hath lifted up his hand against thee, Abraham, my son" (Abr. 1:16-7); "I, now, therefore, have come down unto thee," even as "I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen," (3:21).

Did the Egyptians look to Abraham's incredible deliverance as a possibility on which to pin hopes? Here is King Ramesses "at the moment of ultimate danger," as Abraham so often was:

"My voice echoing in Thebes,
The moment I called to him, I found Amun came" (241).

Amun intervenes in the earthshaking Battle of Kadesh by 'giving his hand' to the king and, at the last minute, saving him from death or captivity."

Ramesses the Great, and "the armies of Pharaoh," "came through," as Nephi would say of his own fathers: "and our fathers came through out of captivity " (1 Nephi 4:2).

When the Lord delivers Abraham from the altar, he says: "Behold I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee" (1:18).

Three times, Ramesses thanks his "found god" by using the verb of finding (263):

1) "Amun I found more help to me than millions of troops, hundred-thousands of chariotry."
2) "My heart I found strong, my mind joyful."
3) "I found that the 2,500 chariots in whose midst I was
fell prostrate before my horses."

Nephi: "For behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses," (1 Nephi 4:1-2, and here note the parallel constructions in both writings (Ramesses and Nephi) to emphasize God's superiority over any number of thousands).

Great Ramesses (264): "As the one and only he is by his name stronger than hundreds of thousands (264).

"The description of the predicament, the prayer, and the announcement of the 'found' god are all clear indications that the first person singular section of the Poem is a variant of the stela formula for personal piety, modified for kingly usage," Mind of Egypt, 263. Nephi's language is also poetic and certainly hearkens back to Miriam's famous poem of deliverance from the armies of Pharaoh--all one pattern here.

"The description of the predicament, the prayer, and the announcement of the 'found' god" also perfectly matches the autobiographical Book of Abraham (Chapter One: Deliverance from the altar of the priest of Pharaoh).

"I have called on you, O Amun,
while I am amidst multitudes whom I know not.
All the foreign countries have united against me, I being entirely
alone, no one else with me," Mind of Egypt, 263.

Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone [achad], and blessed him, and increased him" (Isaiah 51:2).

Concludes Jan Assmann (459 n.88): "Using the term 'find' to refer to God and his coming appears to be a motif characteristic of personal piety," as the following text on Tuthmosis IV's Dream Stela shows:

"That he found this glorious god was by speaking with his own mouth [as] a father speaks to his son."

"Thus," Abraham:

"Thus I, Abraham, talked with the Lord, face to face, as one man talketh with another. . . And he said unto me: My son, my son" (3:11-2; and 1:17: "Abraham, my son"); the language is intimate: "Now, Abraham" (3:6).

Ramesses the Great, Nephi, and Abraham all wish to say "Happy Birthday, Hugh Nibley!"

March 27, 1910
March 27, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On First Looking into Nibley's One Eternal Round

One difficulty in responding to Hugh Nibley's and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round lies in the wish, for joy, never to actually finish the thing. I plan to take my full allotment of 52 years. The book once opened, a Saturn's ring of surprises might well hie this reader round many western islands to Kolob and beyond. Hugh Nibley had no interest in today's world. His maidan, his one wide expanse, plots a course into forever: 40,000 years of fun is only the beginning (see pages 128-9; 171).

And from the beginning, flows steadily on, without digression and true to the mark, the voice of the teacher. Here springs Pierian a voice of simplicity, compression, summing-up that, like a flame before the wind, projects the reader onto new peaks of Darien (pages 47-8). I recognize that voice: Hugh Nibley in his last essays on Abraham; James E. Faust in his final conference talks.

Who knows enough to tackle such a book? Let the Wisdom of Solomon start the reviewing for us:

"For she [Hathor, Sarah, Isis, Sophia] is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God," in which man may observe "the beginning and end and middle of times, the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons, the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars." For the seeker: "She is an initiate in the knowledge of God, who introduces "the solutions of riddles," and the "foreknowledge of signs and wonders" (Wisdom of Solomon, Chapters 7 and 8, RSV).

Only now, as I sit reading in the Hugh Nibley Ancient Studies Library, do I suddenly see how these words written while a student at BYU perfectly describe, and unfold, the hypocephalus. Now back to looking up copies of Zelia Nuttall and Anton Moortgat with a wild surmise (the idea is one could dream up a response to the footnotes).

One word more: One Eternal Round answers the critics of the Book of Abraham. Further answers will not be necessary (pages 148-9).

If you liked Catherine Graindorge-Hereils's "Les oignons de Sokar," you'll love this one.

Breathe its pure serene.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Intellection and Joseph Smith's First Vision

I've been struck by just how intellectual are Joseph Smith's tellings of the First Vision. The accounts all run in ring fashion: the labors and anxieties of the mind find at the end--and often after a veritable cascade of questioning, reasoning, reading, and pondering--wonderful satisfaction. "I had now got my mind satisfied," Joseph says.

Though all readers have noted young Joseph's perplexities of mind, no one has ever shown by comparing accounts just how deeply rooted and interconnected is the language of intellection. Repeated words and phrases conveying such language appear in every one of Joseph's (and in every one of his contemporaries') accounts of the Vision.

The whole thing starts with the action of the intellect--and with the apt phrase: "I began to reflect." The intensity of feeling, the action of the heart, that also characterizes the narratives always retains an intellectual character--never mindless feeling. As the Prophet tells his German teacher, Alexander Neibaur: as a youth "he wanted to feel and shout like the rest but could feel nothing," even while all the time laboring under an intense intellectual burden that yet pains the reader.

Commenting on the Prophet's recital of his reflections and intellectual struggles (comments never noted in the historiography--except by Hugh Nibley), early Illinois historian Henry Brown sneered:

"Whether the above reflections passed through the mind of a lad of fifteen, uneducated, and exhibiting, as yet, no evidence of precocious genius; or whether they are the reflections of maturer life, or the emanations of other and brighter intellects than his own, our readers will judge for themselves," Henry Brown, History of Illinois (New York, Winchester, 1844), 387.

"Genius"? "Brighter intellects"? Brown's own acknowledgments defeat the thrust of his sarcasm. And note how Brown chooses to comment only on the vivid expression of intellectual argument presented in the narrative of the First Vision, rather than on the Vision itself. He's dismayed at how smart the whole thing sounds. No kid's that smart, says Brown. Still, as C.S. Lewis says: "When the age for reflective thought comes"--it comes (The Abolition of Man, 700).

In pursuing our theme of intellection, it is only proper to begin at the beginning, the 1832 History of Joseph Smith, and so to proceed in chronological order.

1832 (History)

I give the original spelling and grammar, as found in Dean Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith I, 3-7.

"I was born. . .of goodly parents who spared no pains to instructing me in christian religion."

Yet: "we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground of Arithmatic which constuted my whole literary acquirements."

"At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all important concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those of different denominations led me to marvel exceedingly for I discovered that they did not adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul."

"Thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart."

As he pondered on "the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become exceedingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord. . .and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever."

Joseph looks at the world and learns by careful observation of God's intelligence as governor of all creation:

"For I looked upon the sun the glorious luminary of the earth and also the moon. . .and also the stars. . .and the earth also. . .and the beast of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth in magesty and in the strength of beauty whose power and intiligence in governing the things which are so exceding great and marvilous even in the likeness of him who created them and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an ominipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds" [compare to Section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants].

"And when I considered all these things . . .I cried unto the Lord for mercy."

Mercy he found: And my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me."

The Prophet closes his story, as he began, with intellection: "But I could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart."

Open-ended pondering--note it well--both before and after the vision.

Oliver Cowdery, December 1834, in Matthew Brown, A Pillar of Light, 180-2

Joseph first studied the words of preachers: Elder Lane was a talented man possessing a good share of literary endowments.

Mr. Lane's manner of communication was peculiarly calculated to awaken the intellect. . .much good instruction was always drawn from his discourses on the scriptures and in common with others, our brother's mind became awakened."

After family members "were persuaded to unite with the Presbyterians": "This gave opportunity for further reflection."

"His mind was led to more seriously contemplate the importance of a move of this kind [uniting with a religious body]. To profess godliness without its benign influence upon the heart, was [a] thing so foreign from his feelings, that his spirit was not at rest day nor night. To unite with a society professing...and that profession be a vain one, was calculated, in its very nature, the more it was contemplated, the more to arouse the mind to the serious consequences of moving hastily."

After all, Oliver points out: "If I am presented with a system of religion, and enquire of my teacher whether it is correct, and he informs me that he is not certain, he acknowledges at once that he is teaching without authority."

"If one professed a degree of authority...and that superiority was without evidence, it was insufficient to convince a mind once aroused to that degree of determination which at that time operated upon him. And upon farther reflecting. . ."

"A proof from some source was wanting to settle the mind and give peace to the agitated bosom. It is not frequent that the minds of men are exercised with proper determination relative to obtaining a certainty of the things of God. They are too apt to rest short of that assurance."

Joseph Smith Journal, 1835-1836

9 November 1835 (original spelling and grammar follows The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals I, 87-9)

"Being wrought up in my mind, respecting the subject of religion and looking at the different systems taught the children of men, I knew not who was right or who was wrong and concidering it of the first importance that I should be right, in matters that involve eternal consequences, being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove and bowed down before the Lord, under a realising sense that he had said (if the bible be true) ask and you shall receive knock and it shall be opened seek and you shall find and again, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God."

"Information was what I most desired at this time, and with a fixed determination to obtain it, I called upon the Lord."

After the vision, Joseph continued to reflect: "I had not been a sleep, but was meditating upon my past life and experience, I was verry concious that I had not kept the commandments. . .an angel appeared before me."

Then: "while meditating on what I had seen, the Angel appeared to me again."

1838 History

"I have been induced to write this history so as to disabuse the publick mind, and put all enquirers after truth into possession of the facts."

"During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness, but though my feelings were deep and often pungent, still I kept myself aloof."

"But in process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them, but so great was the confusion and strife amongst the different denominations that was impossible. . .to come to any certain conclusion."

"My mind at different times was greatly excited."

Preachers "used all their powers of either reason or sophistry."

"And if any one of them be right which is it? And how shall I know it?

"While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading."

"If any of you lack wisdom."

"Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did, for how to act I did not know and unless I could get more wisdom that I then had would never know, for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage of Scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible."

"At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion or else I must do as James directs."

"I at last came to the determination to ask of God, concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom. . .I might venture."

"This my determination."

"I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart."

"Exerting all my power to call upon God."

"I was ready to sink into despair."

"My object in going to enquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)."

"They teach for doctrines the commandments of men."

"I then told my mother I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true."

After the grove, persecution:

"To excite the public mind against me."

"It has often caused me serious reflection both then and since, how very strange. . .[that I] should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects."

"However it was nevertheless a fact, that I had had a vision."

"I have thought since that I felt much like Paul when he made his defence before King Aggrippa."

Paul: "He had seen a vision he knew he had."

"Though they should persecute him unto death yet he knew and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise."

"I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth?"

"Why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen, for I had seen a vision, I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dare I do it, at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God."

Ring Composition--it all ends as it begins--with the mind: "I had got my mind satisfied so far as the sectarian world was concerned."

"I had found the testimony of James to be true, that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God and obtain and not be upbraided."

Wentworth Letter, 1 March 1842

Dean Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith I, 429-30

"I began to reflect."

"Upon enquiring the plan of salvation I found that there was a great clash in religious sentiment."

"Considering that all could not be right. . .I determined to investigate the subject more fully."

"If [God] taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, he would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed."

' If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God."

"While fervently engaged in supplication my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision."

David Nye White Interview for the Pittsburgh Gazette (1843)
Dean Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith 1

The Lord does reveal himself to me. I know it.

"I became serious, and was desirous to know what Church to join. While thinking of this matter, I opened the Testament."

"I just determined I'd ask him."

In later life: "Speaking of revelations, he stated that when he was in a 'quandary,' he asked the Lord for a revelation, and when he could not get it, he 'followed the dictates of his own judgment.'"

"The people at Carthage, in a public meeting lately, said, 'as for Joe, he's a fool, but he's got some smart men about him. I'm glad they give me so much credit. It is not every fool that has sense enough to get smart men about him."

Levi Richards Report (1843) Opening the Heavens, article by Dean Jesse, 23-4.

Joseph said "when he was a youth he began to think about these things but could not find out."

Further reflection: "He said he understood the fulness of the Gospel from beginning to end--and could teach it.

Alexander Neibaur Journal (24 May 1844), 459-62

Feeling and shouting is decidedly non-intellectual--but reading is: "He wanted to get Religion too wanted to feel and shout like the Rest but could feel nothing, opened his Bible the first Passage that struck him was if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God."

"Could utter not a word, felt easier after a while = saw a fire towards heaven came near and nearer."

"The fire drew nigher Rested upon the tree enveloped him comforted"

Joseph Curtis Recollection
(Joseph Curtis, Reminiscences and Journal, MS, 5, Church Archives)
page 27 of Opening the Heavens

"He feeling an anxiety to be religious his mind some what troubled this scriptures came to his mind which sayes if a man lack wisdon.

"He went with a "determinati[on]" to the grove.

The vision came: "after some strugle."

Orson Pratt Account, 24 September 1840 or earlier?

"His advantages for acquiring literary knowledge were exceedingly small, hence, his education was limited to a slight acquaintance with two or three of the common branches of learning. He could read without much difficulty, and write a very imperfect hand, and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic. These were his highest and only attainments while the rest of those branches, so universally taught in the common schools throughout the United States, were entirely unknown to him."

"When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence; but how, or in what way, to prepare himself was a question as yet undetermined in his own mind. He perceived that it was a question of infinite importance, and that the salvation of his soul depended upon a correct understanding of the same. He saw that if he understood not the way, it would be impossible to walk in it except by chance, and the thought of resting his hopes of eternal life upon chance or uncertainties was more than he could endure. If he went to the religious denominations to seek information, each one pointed to its particular tenets."

"It also occurred to his mind that God was not the author of but one doctrine...[with a people] who believe and teach that one doctrine."

"He then reflected upon the immense number of doctrines now in the world which had given rise to many hundreds of different denominations. The great question to be decided in his mind was--if any one of these denominations be the Church of Christ, which one is it? Until he could become satisfied in relation to this question he could not rest contented. To trust to the decisions of fallible man, and build his hopes upon the same, without any certainty and knowledge of his own, would not satisfy the anxious desires that pervaded his breast. To decide without any positive and definite evidence on which he could rely, upon a subject involving the future welfare of his soul, was revolting to his feelings. The only alternative that seemed to be left him was to read the scriptures and endeavor to follow their directions. He accordingly commenced, perusing the sacred pages of the Bible with sincerity, believing the things that he read. His mind soon caught hold of the following passage: 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God."

"From this promise he learned, that it was the privilege of all men to ask God for wisdom."

"This was cheering information to him."

"He now saw that if he inquired of God there was not only a possibility but a probability; yea, more a certainty that he should obtain a knowledge."

He was challenged by darkness in the grove: "But he continued to seek for deliverance until darkness gave way from his mind and he was enabled to pray, in fervency of the spirit and in faith. And, while thus pouring out his soul, anxiously desiring an answer from God."

"And immediately, his mind was caught away from the natural objects with which he was surrounded; and he was enrapt in a heavenly vision."

"He was informed that his sins were forgiven. He was also informed upon the subjects which had for some time previously agitated his mind."

"And he received a promise that the true doctrine--the fullness of the gospel--should at some future time be made known to him. After which the vision withdrew, leaving his mind in a state of calmness and peace indescribable."

Orson Hyde Account

A Cry from the Wilderness, PJS, D. Jessee (ed), 404-9

"When he had reached his fifteenth year, he began to think seriously [fing er ernsten Sinnes...nachzudenken = "reflect" an]."

"He recognized clearly [Er sah klar] that it would be impossible for him to walk the proper path without being acquainted with it beforehand.; and to base his hopes for eternal life on chance or blind uncertainty would have been more than he had ever been inclined to do. He discovered [Er entdeckte] the world of religion working under a flood of errors."

"Nature had endowed him with a keen critical intellect [einem starken, beurtheilenden Verstande] and so he looked through the lens of reason and common sense [das Glas der Vernunft und des guten Sinnes]...upon these systems of religions. After he had sufficiently convinced himself to his own satisfaction [er sich...hinlaenglich ueberzeugt hatte]."

"Consequently he began in an attitude of faith his own investigation of the word of God [feeling that it was] the best way to arrive at a knowledge of the truth."

"And so he began to pour out to the Lord with fervent determination the earnest desires of his soul."

"He filled his mind with doubts and brought to mind all manner of inappropriate images."

"Light and peace filled his frightened heart."

"Once again he called upon the Lord with faith and fervency of spirit."

The vision closed and peace and calm filled his mind [sien Gemueth].

The Second Vision--Moroni: "His mind was immediately flooded with calmness and serenity and his state of mind was elevated to an ecstacy of joy."

Joseph Smith Sr. Patriarchal Blessing 9 Dec. 1834 "From thy childhood thou hast meditated much upon the great things of [h]is law."

Lucy Mack Smith
"Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had but much more given to reflection and deep study."

Robert Remini, Joseph Smith (Penguin, 2002): "His mother said he was "remarkably quiet," a "well-disposed child," and "always seemed to reflect more deeply than common persons of his age upon everything of a religious nature." He was much "given to reflection and deep study," 31.

"While these things were going forward, Joseph's mind became considerably troubled with regard to religion; and the following extract from his history will show, more clearly than I can express, the state of his feelings, and the result of his reflections on this occasion," Lucy's Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith's Family Memoir, Lavina F. Anderson (ed), 331.

Note also: "One night my husband retired to his bed, in a very thoughtful state of mind, contemplating the situation of the Christian religion, or the confusion and discord that were extant," 294.

George A. Smith
Joseph "reflected much on the subject religion" JD 13:77

Daniel H. Wells, cited in Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Lo, Here! Lo, There," 24

"The days of my youth were days of religious excitement--the days of revivals, which so pervaded that section of country at that time--and I can well apprehend the effect these things must have had on the mind of Joseph...I know how those revivals affected young minds in the neighbourhood in which I lived."


Although thoughtful readers of the several accounts of the First Vision may find it surprising, attention to the phraseology of intellection has mostly been limited to a comparison of the various accounts by themes. Exceptions include David Whittaker, Marvin Hill, Ron Howard, and especially, Steven Harper. Of these, only Harper has expended more than a paragraph or so on the striking manner in which Joseph focuses his story on his mind and his heart. (I also like Robert Remini's title: Reflections of Joseph Smith.)

The following statements show what various writers have noted in respect of intellection and the First Vision.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: "Joseph Smith, Jr., prepared his mind through 'serious reflection,' and on the crucial passage in James 1:5 he 'reflected again and again," "...Of Countries and of Kingdoms," BYU Studies (1977:18/1), 9.

Richard L. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 38 (see also Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, 54-6): Joseph in looking to the orderly universe for proof of God was "using the usual rationalist language." Of interest is that Joseph seems to have attended a "juvenile debating club," 37-8. The mind was always active.

Howard, Restoration Studies I (1980): "Joseph Smith's First Vision: An Analysis of Six Contemporary Accounts," compares the accounts of the First Vision by setting them side-by-side under thematic headings. The analysis yields much treasure.

David J. Whittaker, "Orson Pratt's First Vision Account," Mormon Historical Studies (2004) 5/2, 88: "In his first pamphlet, Orson Pratt is led to emphasize the rational and natural elements of the visions of his prophetic leader. It is almost Baconian in its rational depiction of the physical setting of the vision. Such an emphasis remained in his work--in fact, it would be the hallmark of Orson Pratt's natural theology."

Orson Pratt would recall that he had heard the Prophet recite many times the account of the First Vision: "I have often heard him relate it," JD 7:220-1, cited in John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker After Truth. Elder Pratt must have memorized the key words, phrases, and narrative markers in Joseph's accounts. In other words, I think it was Joseph Smith's mind, that is, his concern with the workings of the mind, as evidenced in all his revelations, writings, and discourses, that impressed on Orson Pratt the imperative for the things of the mind in the quest for the things of the Spirit. Orson Pratt has always been considered exemplary in that regard: he had the perfect teacher in Joseph Smith.

Marvin Hill, "On the First Vision and Its Import in the Shaping of Early Mormonism," Dialogue XII, no.1: "I wonder if this commitment to what the heart says, or in Mormon terminology the spirit, was a part of Joseph Smith's conscious experience in the grove and thus something of a deliberate choice. That is, was there a rejection by the prophet in 1820 of some of the secular implications of rationalism, and a commitment to a kind of experiential faith that transcends to some degree the reason? Again, Joseph's statement 'had I not experienced it I could not believe it myself' suggests this possibility. If so, if the vision thus provided young Joseph with a conscious commitment to pietism above rationalism, while he retained his faith in an orderly universe and a reasonable God, we can better understand why there has been such an uneasy tension between faith and reason in Mormonism, as Thomas F. O'Dea has shown."

But in the early accounts of Joseph's vision, there is no tension between faith and reason, only between unsustainable faith--religious profession without religion and profession without proof, or divine testimony--and reason. After all, is it reasonable for religionists to profess and not practice? Is it reasonable that God exists yet stands mute? As for the idea that visionary experiences by transcending reason oppose rational thinking, look again at what the Prophet, from beginning, through middle, to end, relates of his experience.

Steven J. Harper, "On the Eve of the First Vision," Susan E. Black and Andrew C. Skinner (eds), Joseph: Exploring the Life and Ministry of the Prophet (2005), explores the Prophet's use of the phrase my mind to describe his state of mind before and during Spring 1820:

"It was, Joseph wrote, 'during this time of great excitement' that his religious concerns reached a peak. His parents used such words as darkness, anxiety and despair to describe their frustrated quest for salvation. To these Joseph added that he was distressed, perplexed, that it was a period of confusion, extreme difficulties, and great uneasiness," 33.

Notes from Steven Harper's 28 January 2010 lecture on "Memory and the First Vision" (http://saltlakemormon/ "Joseph Smith's accounts of his vision provide the best access to his mind. Joseph used the word mind nearly 20 times in his accounts and then when he's exploring his own mind, remembering what was in his mind in the days leading up to the experience. An initial glance suggests that this was a more frequent use of the word mind than in the rest of his corpus. The accounts are remarkably introspective."

Twenty times Joseph references his mind in the story of the vision--how remarkable that is and how very unremarked it has been. Professor Harper notes the Prophet's introspection; still, there is more than introspection: Joseph Smith is setting forth a case, marshaling an argument that would appeal to any honest mind. Arthur Henry King famously says Joseph isn't trying to persuade anyone of anything, that he is cool, calm, and dispassionate (hardly!--see the quote by Harper again) in his recital, yet the Prophet does appeal to logic, reason, and the mind again and again. Still, while drawing us into his own perplexities of mind, he--most deftly--does not force his view, or his vision, on the reader. He only says, with stirring words, that he cannot deny what he saw.

How to see things as King saw them? What King means is that Brother Joseph never tries to convince the reader by emotion alone, something which would be tawdry and shallow. And admittedly, despite "the cry and the tumult so great and incessant," "the war of words," and the attack in the grove, there is a strange deliberation running through the whole. There is a detachment in denouement: the question is answered, the confusion resolved, and at end, Joseph sees himself as Paul to the nations. It was never just about him anyhow--all this pain. God had a plan. Joseph somehow, and clearly and reasonably, objectifies his subjective pain (an intellectual calmness underlies the thread of panic and despair precisely because there is going to be resolution and satisfaction), and introduces the reader, quite objectively thereby, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Steven L. Olsen, "Joseph Smith and the Structure of Mormon Identity," 89 or 96?: "The 'First Vision' and Moroni's repeated visitations are wholly concerned with giving Joseph 'instruction and intelligence,'" Dialogue 14 (1981).

Again, a marvelous observation--the glory of God is indeed intelligence.

I finish with Elder John A. Widtsoe: "Using a figure, the reflections from innumerable facets of his character make up the glowing picture of his greatness," Joseph Smith: Seeker After Truth, Prophet of God, 329.

Bibliography on the First Vision: Mormon Americana (1995), David Whittaker (ed), "Joseph Smith: A Bibliography," David Whittaker, qv First Vision, 35-7; Studies in Mormon History, 1830-1997, J. Allen, R. Walker, D. Whittaker (eds), 933.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010



After the Flood

flowed wine

that quenched the agony of apotheosis.

O Ritual Death!

To survive the surface waves--

and know the depths of fear.




We spoke of Lehi and the Liahona,

Of desert ways, where sighting can be tough.

"My papi has a compass too," she said,

and ran and brought it.

It was heavy.

"It guides his boat when out at sea.

and brings him safely home to us."

Monday, March 15, 2010



a visionary lies a-dream,
dark and dreary,
in the waste
he lies sleeping.

"As for myself, Abish, doth he breathe?"

Until the morrow,
I bid you follow,
through the dark veil.


Ha-Piqqeah: seer, visionary
Ek-stasis: standing out of the body; a trance

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blessing by Sevens: The Covenantal Revelation of Alma

The fullness of Blessing, brim with joy, powerfully overflows in the revelation given to Alma the Elder. Alma and the members of the Church of God are told seven times in the first five verses that they are blessed: blessed art thou, and blessed are they, thou art blessed, and blessed are they, and blessed art thou, blessed is this people, thou art blessed. As Psalms 119:164 intones: "Seven times a day do I praise Thee" (see Braude, The Midrash on Psalms, 93).

After the seventh blessing, given to Alma precisely, and touchingly, because he "poured out his whole soul" for "the transgressor," Alma receives the covenant of eternal life: Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life (26:20; see also verses 14 and 19). Why should it not be so? for Alma now becomes a type and shadow of the Christ, who "poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53 and Mosiah 14:12). Man's incalculable transgression thus finds at-one-ment in the perfect numbering of Christ, what Elder Neal A. Maxwell often referred to in Lincoln's sad, expiatory terms as the " 'awful arithmetic' of the atonement."

Although the revelation continues another 13 verses, the word blessed never appears again (Mosiah 26:15-32). As countless readers of the Book of Mormon have doubtless noticed (and the book's constant and discerning readership is countless), the seven expressions of blessedness answer to the seven days which complete the creation in divine rest, and thus also to seven as the number of perfection and fullness (an idea common throughout the Ancient Near East).

Because seven also becomes the number of oaths (in Hebrew oath and seven are akin), we can see why the covenant or oath of eternal life comes to Alma after the sevenfold, perfect repetition of the blessing. The nature or name of God himself can be expressed in the number (as Cyrus Gordon suggests). The Hebrew name Elizabeth can, suggests Gordon, be understood in two ways: El + i (My God) zabeth (swears, makes oath), meaning: It is my God who swears (that blessings shall be granted); or as El + i + zabeth (My God is the one who is Seven, that is, Perfect; or who makes sevens = makes an oath).

The word name, here meaning the name of Jesus Christ, receives emphasis in the revelation (five times), e.g., "Yea, blessed is this people (the sixth blessing) who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine." Again: "thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name."

The full weight of blessing, cascading upon the head of Alma, her founding high priest, finds continuance in the Nephite church. It is Alma's covenant that makes possible the mediation of a fullness of blessing, in my name, to his people. And so it is with Joseph Smith.

As with the prayer of Alma the Elder at the baptism of Helam, as with the sacrament prayers found in Moroni, the revelation to Alma comes to us as a complete and perfect Book of Mormon gem.

Notes: Compare the Seven Prayers in Judaism: Seven times a day do I praise thee.

The Lamanites and Chthonic Religions

A puzzling interchange between Lamanite King Lamoni and Ammon sheds light on Lamanite religious cosmology (see Alma 18:24-31).

The Dialogue of Earth and Sky:

Ammon: Believest thou that there is a God?

Lamoni: I do not know what that meaneth.

Ammon: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?

Lamoni: Yea.

Ammon: This is God. Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

Lamoni: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.

Ammon: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels.

Lamoni: Is it above the earth?

The Book of Mormon's notion of the Great Spirit of the Lamanites comes across too much like Hiawatha. Isn't the dialogue just too simple, too pat, too silly, for words?

Now Lamoni isn't just being a tough egg nor is he obtuse. He certainly knows what the "heavens" are in the sense of skies of blue and the panoply of stars by night.

What Lamoni doesn't know is that anybody's religious system could possibly include the skies, or at least give first consideration to the skies, for Lamoni's worldview looks to the chthonic, the dark underworld, "the darkest abyss" (Mosiah 27:29)---at the opposite pole from celestial conceptions of a God who "looketh down upon all the children of men" (Alma 18:32).

All this recalls the Mesoamerican focus on the chthonic: the caves and serpents of the Olmec, the Maya, and even of the distant Cherokee and Inca. Given the fact that chthonic religions focus on the earth as mother, note how the queens of both Lamoni and his father (and the queen of Lehonti) play an active role in the stories of the (false) burial of their husbands, both of whom fall to the earth in a deep trance, a reflection of the dark passage. Nephite queens don't even exist.

The Dialogue of Earth and Sky: Dreams, Souls, and Curing in the Modern Aztec Universe, is the title of a book on modern Aztec chthonic religion by T.J. Knab (2004). There seems to be a call for a latter-day Ammon to visit modern Aztecs; in other words, the Book of Mormon, "sophisticated" or not, is not only relevant--it's crucial.

More Powerful than the Sword: Alma 31:4-5, the Instruction for King Merikare, and Ramesses the Great

A Middle Kingdom Egyptian wisdom text, Instruction for King Merikare, affords a parallel to Alma 31:4-5 and Helaman 6:37 in the motif of word as sword in which we see the force of persuasion, as opposed to the sword, in circumstances of political peril.

Alma launches a mission in the land of Antionum to reclaim members of the separatist Zoramite movement. The religious mission has profound political ramifications, for, like other Nephite religious and political separatists, the Zoramites were likely to make a military pact with the enemy:

Now the Nephites greatly feared that the Zoramites would enter into a correspondence with the Lamanites, and that it would be the means of great loss on the part of the Nephites.

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just---yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them---therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God (Alma 31:4-5).

Now Merikare: "Be an artist in speech, then you will be victorious. For behold: the sword-arm of a king is his tongue. Stronger is the word than all fighting."

Commenting on Merikare, Jan Assmann observes: "The kings of the Twelfth Dynasty understood the close links between politics and the instantiation of meaning. As Carl Schmitt, a leading authority on authoritarian government, puts it: 'No political system can last even as long as one generation on technical grounds or by the assertion of power alone. Central to politics is the idea, for there can be no politics without authority, and no authority without an ethos of persuasion,'" Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 118-9.

Pharaoh, says Jan Assmann, "reigned not by force but by the power of the word," 118. Alma, the first Chief Judge (or Presiding Jurist) of the Nephite polity (an office, constitutionally if not de facto, something like that of Iran's Supreme Leader, a vilayet al-faqih), exemplified such an ethos of persuasion and thereby set a precedent for the exercise of political authority in Nephite society.

Alma was, in fact, a warrior of the word, who resigned his presiding office in order to better exercise his powerful religio-political authority by "preach[ing] the word of God unto them, to stir them up. . .[and to] pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people [all social unrest leading to separatism both religious and political], seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony [in the juridical sense] against them" (Alma 4:19).

At a later date, the converted Lamanites also hunt and destroy the Gadianton Robbers by preaching--so Helaman 6:37 (Hugh Nibley loved this verse).

"For behold: the sword-arm of a king is his tongue. Stronger is the word than all fighting."

As evidence for the proverb, we turn to Alma as warrior--strong indeed but like to fail:

And it came to pass that Alma fought with Amlici with the sword, face to face; and they did contend mightily, one with another.

And it came to pass that Alma, being a man of God, being exercised with much faith, cried, saying: O Lord, have mercy and spare my life, that I may be an instrument in thy hands to save and preserve this people.

Now when Alma had said these words he contended again with Amlici; and he was strengthened, insomuch that he slew Amlici with the sword (Alma 2:29-31; see also 32-3; and Alma 3:22 for Alma's wound).

So Ramesses the Great: "At the moment of ultimate danger [in the Battle of Qadesh], Ramesses II prays to Amun:

My voice echoing in Thebes,
The moment I called to him, I found Amun came.

Amun intervenes in the battle by 'giving his hand' to the king and, at the last minute, saving him from death or captivity," Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 241.

Notes: See Jan Assmann, The Mind of Egypt, 441 n.1 for the reference to "Instruction for King Merikare," ed. Helck, Die Lehre fuer Koenigh Merikare (Wiesbaden, 1977), 17-8; for Carl Schmitt, see same page, note 3: Roemischer Katholizismus und Politische Form, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1925), 23.

Assmann, 241ff., dwells on the theme of finding, with emphasis on the verb for find (Egyptian gmj) in the Ancient Egyptian quest to find God by means of revelation. His comments reflect the words of the Book of Abraham: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee (Abraham 2:12).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blessing: David and Samuel the Lamanite (1 Samuel 18:12 and Helaman 16:2-3, 6)

Few essays on Ancient Israel afford such beauty and majesty to the unsuspecting reader as Johannes Pedersen's chapter on "Blessing" in his classic Israel: Its Life and Culture. 2 vols. (Oxford University Press, 1973). For Pedersen Blessing is a vital, substantial power, an aura engulfing its possessor and everything that pertains to him.

Pedersen demonstrates the virtue of Blessing by showing step-by-tragic (or -blessed)-step how that power began to leave King Saul to devolve upon the head of David. The transfer of Blessing was moving forward nicely by the time Saul decided to eliminate his young rival:

1 Samuel 18:10-11:

10 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the evil spirit from God came upon Saul. . .and there was a javelin in Saul's hand.
11 And Saul cast the javelin; for he said, I will smite David even to the wall with it. And David avoided out of his presence twice.

1 Samuel 19:10:

And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand.

And Saul sought to smite David even to the wall with the javelin; but he slipped away out of Saul's presence, and he smote the javelin into the wall: and David fled, and escaped that night.

"So strong was the blessing of David," Pedersen informs us, "that Saul could not even hit him at a distance of a few yards," Israel: Its Life and Culture I, 186, 191.

But Saul never gives up, not until the last drop of blessing has been squeezed from his nefesh, his soul, even as David grows in stature and authority. He accuses his daughter (and David's wife) Michal of treason and tries to injure his own son with a cast of the javelin, but David's blessing, like the protective hem of the shaikh's robe, now embraces even his family and friends.

An instructive parallel to the story, and to its underlying theme, appears in the Book of Helaman, which also speaks of spirits good and evil, of a wall, and the errant casting of weapons at a Blessed man:

But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall, but the Spirit of the Lord was with him insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows (Helaman 16:2).

When they saw that they could not hit him with their stones and their arrows, they cried unto their captains, saying: Take this fellow and bind him, for behold he hath a devil; and because of the power of the devil which is in him [note: a bound relative clause: that particular devil that is in him; that duende] we cannot hit him with our stones and arrows. Therefore take him and bind him [what is done with one mad or possessed], and away with him" (16:6).

In that most familiar of all Book of Mormon paintings, Arnold Friberg portrays Samuel, un-hit, to be sure, but at a very safe distance to begin with. The Fribergian walls of Zarahemla make up a berg indeed---a veritable tower of strength.

As David, who escapes down the wall of his home by night, so Samuel--leaping from the wall--flees Nephite lands (Helaman 16:7). It cannot have been too high a wall. . .

The story makes no sense, as Blessing, unless Samuel was an easy mark--in pointblank range.

And the point of the story is to illustrate that the Blessing had now, in large measure, departed from the Nephites to devolve upon their former enemies, the Lamanites:

And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts.

And thus we see that the Lord began to pour out his Spirit upon the Lamanites, because of their easiness and willingness to believe in his words (Helaman 6: 35-36; see the whole argument as powerfully and conclusively set forth in verses 34-39).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Names of Women in the Book of Mormon

Why are so few women named in The Book of Mormon? There are visions of Mary, beautiful above all, but not a single Jaredite woman is named; the same holds true for the Nephites. In fact only two women march through the pages of Ancient American religious history by name: Sariah and Abish. Thousands of years, two names.

Most would say three names: Sariah, Abish, Isabel. But, as Hugh Nibley has pointed out, Isabel is not a personal name, rather a name associated with hierodules. For Nephites, as for moderns attuned to the Bible, Jezebel names every harlot.

On the other hand, you do have "the queen" (two of these), "the daughter of Jared," "the daughters of Ishmael," and "their mothers" (of the stripling warriors), real women all, though nameless, as we consider names.

So why do Sariah and Abish luck out? The answer is simple.

As with several other cultures of the ancient world, the names of Nephite and Lamanite (and, seemingly, Jaredite) women were not for public consumption. I recall the words of the Athenian lady who blasted an admirer of her white arms by retorting "my elbow is not on public display."

So who can be named, and survive the public glare? Sariah is the founding mother of the tribe, namesake and image of the Princess Sarah, the mother of the entire race. Her name is powerful and above reproach, a blessing, a grace: "My mother, Sariah." What about Abish? Abish is a servant ("the woman servant," in fact), and servants just don't matter; they have nothing to hide or to parade. Yet Abish, though servant, plays a dramatic role in the Book of Alma, an irony that the book is at pains to declare. And Isabel? She (and her ilk) are prostitutes; no need to shield infamy.

The paucity of female names in The Book of Mormon evidences its ancient origins. After all, if the Prophet Joseph Smith's mind really conformed to Fawn Brodie's description of "his plastic fancy"-- "His imagination spilled over like a spring freshet"--shouldn't the names of Nephite and Lamanite women overflow and dazzle the pages of Alma (in Western usage a female name)? Why does the freshet go dry? Shouldn't we find Mara, Zaraptah, and--to be sure--Laneah?

But how about the Bible? Aren't there a lot of named women in its pages? I find the following statement in notes prepared by Hugh Nibley for his Old Testament Sunday School Class:

"Now he [Samson] finds another lady friend: all the women so far have been great--and scrupulously unnamed. Now we come to a vicious creature, and the editors can't wait to tell us her name--Delilah. SHE is the dame fatale."

Jacob must have had many daughters. Why does Dinah alone appear, and then only in a story of disgrace and retribution? And the same holds true in book after book: named women in the Judean chronicles are as often as not the subjects of a fall from palatial grace. Nephi, a well-educated Judean male, almost chokes when he has to mention his sisters (in the very last historical portion of his writings).

And were the Nephites chauvinists? Hugh Nibley, when teaching Jacob's sermon on chastity, would point this out. Like the Ancient Greeks, the greatest of history's chauvinists, so the Nephites. . .

After all, that lovely white elbow didn't just come from genetics---the poor Greek lady passed all her days locked safely away from the glare of the sun.


The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ may be found here:

Isabel is discussed in Hugh Nibley's The Prophetic Book of Mormon.

Delilah: Hugh Nibley, unpublished, typed class notes for The Book of Judges, found on the Website of Bruce J. Porter. Sunday School with Hugh Nibley, I fondly recall, was no Sunday School picnic. It was more like dusk come Ramadan--dinner is served. Yet all was seasoned with grace.

Fawn Brodie: No Man Knows my History, 27.

PS: If anyone has already heard or read a like explanation for the naming of Sariah and Abish (or for the omission of other female names in the Book of Mormon), please hasten to bring the source to my attention.

Grant Hardy, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide, 288 n 3 (2010), lists bibliography for studies on Nephite attitudes about women..

Monday, March 8, 2010

Honoring God's Living Prophets

John Bernhisel lived at the Prophet’s home in Nauvoo, and whenever the Prophet entered, he would stand. When Joseph insisted ceremony was unnecessary "and asked why he did so," Bernhisel replied: “Because I love to honor the man whom God honors” (see The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3 [1912]:174).

Skip ahead half a century, and you will see that same sentiment (taken from Esther 6:9 and usually reserved for leaders in the body politic) emblazoned on a banner displayed in the chapel of the Salt Lake Temple at a special event honoring another Prophet, Lorenzo Snow: We delight to honor the man whom God hath honored (see Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, Conference Report, Oct. 1918; Elder McMurrin also discusses the Bernhisel story).

A Century later:

Sunday, October 1, 2006

"In attendance at the afternoon session of Conference. A beautiful thing happened. As the congregation sang a verse from We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, two young ladies in the center plaza section stood up, and instantly thousands of us were on our feet. I looked up and saw all the members of the Twelve and President Monson standing (President Faust was in a wheelchair), and then President Hinckley struggled to his feet. I weep now as I write these words. And we all remained standing together through the closing prayer, an event surely unique in the history of these conferences.

We also had the wonderful opportunity of waving at President Hinckley. I felt he stood to salute us, to salute the Prophet Joseph, to salute the sacred office he now holds."

Honoring two Prophets:

March 1, 2007

"200th anniversary of the birth of President Wilford Woodruff, held in the Assembly Hall. Beautiful presentation of 97 white roses by children [dressed in white] to President Gordon B. Hinckley in honor of both President Woodruff and President Hinckley. Elder and Sister Holland, both of whom spoke wonderfully, received the roses and will deliver them to President Hinckley's office in the morning. Beautiful, peaceful meeting. The Hollands just beamed like children."

And today's Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, again returning the favor, often reminds hearers that the Lord will "delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5).

Honor redounds to those who honor God and His prophets.

Doctor John Bernhisel was the epitome of an honorable man: "He was at Washington intimately associated with the Hon. Simon Cameron, Wm. H. Seward, Daniel Webster and President Abraham Lincoln. Much correspondence passed between them, a considerable amount of which is still preserved and in our collection," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3:176. Indeed: "At Washington he was held in universal esteem and respect. But this was the same in every circle in which he moved," says his son, David M. Bernhisel, 176.

Long before he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bernhisel, who belonged to the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1827, was cultivating friendships that would bless the Church forever: "This class included among its members such eminent persons as [Thaddeus Stevens], Simon Cameron, Col. Thomas Kane and his brother Dr. Kane, the Arctic explorer," 173.

I return to the story about Bernhisel and the Prophet and give it in full because I have never seen it in print anywhere else--and because it bears repeating: "The Doctor became intimately associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the two men became devoted friends. The Prophet insisting, my father took up his residence at the 'Mansion House' and became a member of his private family. Here the two sat at the same table and discoursed familiarly together. It is related of the Doctor that he invariably arose when Joseph Smith entered the room. On one occasion when he was gently reproved by Joseph Smith, and asked why he did so, he gracefully replied: 'Because I love to honor the man whom God honors,'" 174.

Notes: David M. Bernhisel, son of John M. Bernhisel, wrote the article, "Dr. John Milton Bernhisel: Utah's First Delegate to the National Congress," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3: 173-177.

Let us now praise famous men: Josiah

As Ben Sirach intones: Let us now praise famous men.

1 The remembrance of Josias is like the composition of the perfume that is made by the art of the apothecary: it is sweet as honey in all mouths and as musick at a banquet of wine.

2 He behaved himself uprightly in the conversion of the people, and took away the abominations of iniquity.

3 He directed his heart unto the Lord [compare Alma 37:36], and in the time of the ungodly he established the worship of God (Sirach 49:1-3).

I praise the zeal of Josiah for a jealous God:

And he brought out the grove [Hebrew Asherah, the whore of Babylon, the mother of abominations] from the house of the LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and stamped it small to powder, and cast the powder thereof upon the graves of the children of the people (II Kings 23:6).

This verse, like those describing the Messianic cleansing of the temple of Herod, stands proud.

Why praise Josiah? In the likeness of Moses: "I took your sin, the calf which ye had made, and burnt it with fire, and stamped it, and ground it very small, even until it was as small as dust: and I cast the dust thereof into the brook that descended out of the mount" [mount as Temple] (Deuteronomy 9:21). Here is the prototype for all of Israel's idolatry; the pattern for its removal.

Why praise Josiah? As type and shadow of Messiah he cleansed the holy temple.

Why praise Josiah? Like Melchizedek, priest and king, "none were greater"; for "like unto him was there no king before him . . . neither after him arose there any like him" (2 Kings 23:25).

Why praise Josiah? The announcement of his birth foreshadows that great Annunciation yet to be: "Josiah by name" was one of six men who have been given a name by God before their birth, the others being Isaac, Moses, Solomon, [Ishmael], and the Messiah" (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, 1:122.) God named Josiah by the mouth of a man of God raised up for that very purpose and sent on a run with the news of the name and a sign of overthrow and restoration, even as it was with John the Forerunner (1 Kings 13). Names were also foretold for John the Baptist, John the Revelator, Joseph Smith, Sr., and the Prophet Joseph Smith, which makes 10 in all. The name Josiah, by the way, "apparently appears in an abbreviated form as the name Ya'osh in the Lachish Letters" (M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings, 281 n.22), and thus sustains the Book of Mormon attestation of the very same name, Josh (See also Hugh Nibley, "The Lachish Letters," The Prophetic Book of Mormon).

Why praise Josiah? Hark the Herald Angels Sing: Hinneh-ven nolad leve't-david Yoshiyyahu shemo: "Behold a son is born to the House of David: Josiah is his name!" (1 Kings 13). And the very name testifies of Jehovah (-iah) as "a token of a changed inner Judaean relation to Yhwh"; a practice in naming that parallels "the first reformation by Moses" even as it heralds, by prophetic annunciation, "the act of general reformation [to be] inaugurated by King Josiah (Yoshiyahu)" (Nibley, "The Lachish Letters," The Prophetic Book of Mormon, 388, quoting Harry Torczyner, Lachish I). Indeed the name Mosiah suggests "both the early reform of Moses and its later imitation by Mosiah" (389). Such names reflect both forerunner and the seal (Elias and Elijah). Josiah, by name and deed, thus links the generations of faithful Israel.

Why praise Josiah? Even in his tragic death, Josiah attests and teaches the universality of God as Father of all humankind; for God even speaks to Pharaoh ("the words of Necho from the mouth of God," 2 Chr.35:22). Here, again, Josiah foreshadows Messiah as Restorer of the Covenant with Israel, and thence with all mankind.

Why praise Josiah? He was a model for the righteous kings of The Book of Mormon. Like Benjamin at Mosiah's coronation, Joash at his own accession (2 Kings 11:14), and Solomon at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:13), Josiah stood on a tower-pillar or -platform at the holy temple and brought his assembled people under covenant (John Welch, Terrence L. Szink, et al., "Upon the Tower of Benjamin," 97-9, and "Benjamin's Tower and Old Testament Pillars," 100-02, in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, Provo, 1999). As Hugh Nibley points out, righteous King Mosiah combines the names Moses and Josiah, lawgiver and restorer of the law, in one blessed name. And, like Josiah, the Risen Christ standing in the midst of the people at the Temple of Bountiful, establishes his gospel covenant.

Why praise Josiah? As a reflection of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the latter-day restoration, he discovered a lost book of scripture, and, acting alone, through its dissemination resurrected a priesthood and a gospel dispensation from apostasy and restored the holy temple.

Why praise Josiah? He typifies all of us as we walk our individual roads of repentance, as we "discover the scriptures for ourselves--and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again. In this regard, the story of King Josiah in the Old Testament is a most profitable one to 'liken … unto [our]selves' (1 Nephi 19:24). To me, it is one of the finest stories in all of the scriptures." (Spencer W. Kimball in First Presidency Message: "How Rare a Possession--the Scriptures!," Ensign, September 1976).

Why praise Josiah? Because such a beloved modern prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, in humble striving after righteousness, likens the example of Josiah unto himself.

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses [he, like the Christ, fulfills all the law by fulfilling the greatest commandment]; neither after him arose there any like him [as was said of Melchizedek, the priestly type of Christ] (2 Kings 23:25).

Notes: Some Latter-day Saints are fervid followers of Margaret Barker's engaging works, in which King Josiah is disparaged. But let it be remembered that Ms. Barker, like J.R.R. Tolkien of mythopoeic renown, typifies the dream-charged West Midlands. Like Tolkien, Margaret Barker quixotically attempts to write something more than scholarship--she reaches for Scripture. I might applaud such endeavor, lovely in purpose, while never taking it seriously as either scholarship or theology--or even heresy. Neither should any other reflective person. Hugh Nibley, as Sister Ann Madsen wisely noted in her recent Nibley memorial address, always stayed within his game plan, never got into left field.

II Kings 23:3: And the king stood by [Hebrew al = stood on] a pillar [that is, the center place], and made a covenant before the LORD. The Targum calls this a "platform"; Josephus, Antiq. X.63 has epi tou bematos, Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, II Kings, The Anchor Bible, 285 n.3.

Trampling the Asherah: Another moment in Israelite history that stands proud was the overthrow of Ahab and Jezebel. After teaching students about the Jubilee rites of Deuteronomy 15, Professor James Sanders was wont to say: "Pushing Jezebel out the window was a Jubilee event." For the Asherah cult of Manesseh as part of "the 'nonorthodox' popular religion" of Ancient Israel, see the cogent--and withering--remarks of Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, Anchor Bible: II Kings, 268 n.7.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mystery of the Knight Mangum Building

Lounging, as was my custom of an afternoon, in the comfortable offices of Dr. David Pratt, Pleasant Professor of British History, I darkened my brow over his tale of a curious, changeable spot, just overhead, that grew by stages in his imagination as the years wheeled by; until, at last, stirred, he flew tiptoe from the desk and jimmied off a ceiling panel, and there—“What was it?” I spluttered—“A cake!” he screamed. “Now where would that come from?” A little white cake. Of rock.

I like a good mystery and so passed things along to ma mère, who never at a loss for wherefores, laws, and such like, from my tenderest days, promptly set out in keen detail the value of snacks on demand, her roomate’s mastermind, the swift as midnight raid, the prized crème deluxe, the heavy tread of feet, the quick upward glances, the chair, the jimmied shingle, a knock, innocent faces--and all that followed. Those were the days, she expostulated, when dorm mothers still strode the darkened hallways, armed with writs from the academic senate and wired for kitchen raids and ladders.

“Well,” I demanded, “Didn’t she get back to it?”

“Who knows? There was always a lot going on, and she was like that.”

O Cake!
Sweet Cake!
To you I sing,
which once a thing
of powder, salt, and butter.

What madness caused
those too cruel laws
that pushed you into rafters?

What care and thought
in she who wrought
and mindful turned the batter--

Then you forgot
and left to rot
for twenty years thereafter.

Reflections from Joseph Smith's First Vision

No ordinary history of the glorious vision of 1820 can ever be written. Every record of the revelation itself takes on the quality of scripture. The account of the Prophet Joseph, prepared in 1832, bursts into fruition as the Olive Leaf revelation of Christmastime 1832/33 (as a simple word tally will show): "I looked upon the sun, the glorious luminary of the earth, and also the moon, rolling in their majesty through the heavens, and also the stars shining in their courses; and the earth also upon which I stood; and the beast[s] of the field and the fowls of heaven and the fish of the waters; and also man walking forth upon the face of the earth, in majesty and in the strength of beauty, whose power and intelligence in governing the things which are so exceeding great and marvelous [is] even in the likeness of him who created them" (1832 History). Beauty and intelligence are the keywords here: The beauty of God is intelligence.

Young wisdom in an age of fools: "And when I considered upon these things, my heart exclaimed: 'Well hath the wise man said, It is a fool that saith in his heart, there is no God'" (1832 History).

Scripture cleaveth unto scripture: "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no man that hath seen God. Because he showeth himself not unto us, therefore there is no God" (Joseph Smith Translation Psalms 14:1).

Sectarianism bears only corrupt logic: "Ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures. . .O fools! for ye have said in your hearts, There is no God" (JST Luke 11:53; JST Luke 16:21).

A false syllogism: Since I have not seen God, no man has seen Him. Therefore there is no God. But God asks Job to review the wonders of nature preparatory to an understanding of God (Job 38--41). For he "who hath seen any or the least of these [kingdoms] hath seen God moving in his majesty and power. I say unto you he hath seen him" (D&C 88: 47-8). For God "is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made, as also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; and the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand" (D&C 88: 7-10).

The earth is no second-rate vantage point for man; for all, all creation clusters about Joseph's star: "Behold I have dreamed a dream more; and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance" (Gen. 37:9). "And he said unto me: My son, my son (and his hand was stretched out), behold I will show you all these. And he put his hand upon mine eyes" (Abraham 3:12).

The Prophet continues his story: "My heart exclaimed: 'All, all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotent and omnipresent power, a being who maketh laws and decreeth and bindeth all things in their bounds, who filleth eternity'" (compare D&C 88: 38; Alma 29:4 ). "The scriptures are laid before thee," as is the writ of stars: "Yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. And yet do ye [the fool] go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God" (Alma 30:44-5)? Korihor, despising the loveliness of both book and star, is not "convinced that there is a God": "Yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced" (30: 43). Alma said: "In the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall have no more utterance" (30:49).

"For the Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, and by his voice said unto his servant, Seek ye among the children of men, to see if there are any that do understand God. And he opened his mouth, and said, Behold, all these who say they are thine" (JST Psalms 14:2). "And again it shall come to pass that the Lord shall say unto him. . . This people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me" (2 Ne 27: 24-5; Joseph Smith--History 1:19; Isaiah 29:13).

"And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God" (30:55). But the devil "said unto me: There is no God. . .And I taught [his words] even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true" (30:53).

"The Lord answered and said. . .thou canst behold none of them that are doing good, no, not one. All they have for their teachers are workers of iniquity, and there is no knowledge in them" (JST Psalms 14:3).

"Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph" (D&C 1:17): Joseph, look upon me. I shall renew wonders upon this people to sanctify them. For wisdom shall be lost, and understanding as a sealed book. (see Hebrew MT Isaiah 29:11, 14).

"And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream" (Gen. 41:7). And he called his wise men, and he called Joseph also, who explained the vision. "And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such an one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art" (Gen. 41:38-9).

"While in the attitude of calling upon the Lord, in the 16th year of my age, a pillar of light above the brightness of the sun at noonday came down from above and rested upon me, and I was filled with the Spirit of God. And the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw. . ." (1832).

Joseph entered heaven and read from the book of God "and I could not see the end thereof" (Abraham 3:12).

Notes: These reflections make up a slightly modified version of what I first wrote in 1991. Anyone who reads the scriptures surely has noted such intertextual weaving, including the foregoing instances, and more.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The surname Hinckley and J.R.R. Tolkien (and the Riders of Rohan)

Thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien we have not only Elvish (and paradisaical Lothlorien) but also the etymology of the surname Hinckley.

Tom Shippey (J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, page 57) shares the following: "Tolkien suggested to me once that the name of the village Hincksey, outside Oxford, might contain within it the name of the old hero Hengest, the founder of England (*Hengestes-ieg, 'Hengest's island')."

Hinckley (or Hincksley) must then derive from *Hengestes-leah (Hengest's wood or Hengest's meadow). (See also

And who was Hengest? Hengest and Horsa (Stallion and Horse), according to the Venerable Bede, England's earliest historian, were the first commanders of the Angles, or Saxons against the Britons. Hengest and Horsa were brothers and in fact (and of course it's all a legend) the great-grandsons of the god Woden.

Hinckley: "Stallion's Lea."

Johan Söderholm (Sederholm) Journal and the Swedish Book of Enoch

It startles me to learn that my pioneer ancestor from Sweden, Johan Söderholm, of Brigham City, Utah, was familiar with a Swedish translation of the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch. How little we know of the intellectual life of our forebears! The family loved to sing--his journal contains many hymns of Zion--both copies and originals--but how to picture them seated around the hearth reading about angels and the secrets of the heavens?

One wonders whether Johan Söderholm considered the apocryphal Book of Enoch to have been an inspired work like the Prophet Joseph Smith's Selections from the Book of Moses, a work which contains many of the visions and teachings of Enoch. These Selections from Moses have been published to the world in a volume of Scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price; though, of course, we don't know whether the Söderholm family ever knew of or read that Scripture, which was available only in English. The Book of Mormon was another matter: here was evidence abounding of Scripture found outside the biblical canon. A sunburst of new Revelation and new Scripture now bathed the world in light.

Three pages in Johan Söderholm's journal make up an extract taken from a Swedish version (1826) of the first English translation (1821) of the Book of Enoch, made by Richard Laurence from Ge'ez (Ethiopic). The Ethiopian Christian Church, at any rate, held the Book of Enoch as true Scripture.

The extract in the journal matches the first twelve verses of Chapter 69 (not LXVIII as written at the top of one of the pages). Chapter 69 of the Book of Enoch is said to be a fragment taken from the Book of Noah--prophetic books everywhere!--and includes a list of the names of the fallen angels and a description of their illicit revelation of the heavenly secrets to humankind.

After comparing the journal with the published version of the 1826 Swedish translation, I find only slight differences in spelling, punctuation, and abbreviation; in particular, there are some differences in the spelling of the angelic names. These are best explained by treating the journal entry as having been written from dictation. Perhaps father was reading aloud, his wife or daughter writing.

Chapter 69:1-12, The Book of Enoch (or I Enoch, the Ethiopic Enoch)

1 After this judgment they shall be astonished and irritated; for it shall be exhibited to the nations of the earth. 2 Behold the names of those angels. These are their names. The first of them is Samyaza; the second, Arstikapha; the third, Armen; the fourth, Kakabael; the fifth, Turel; the sixth, Rumyel; the seventh, Danyal; the eighth, Kael; the ninth, Barakel; the tenth, Azazel; the eleventh, Armers; the twelfth, Bataryal; the thirteenth, Basasael; the fourteenth, Ananel; the fifteenth, Turyal; the sixteenth, Simapiseel; the seventeenth, Yetarel; the eighteenth, Tumael; the nineteenth, Tarel; the twentieth, Rumel; the twenty-first, Azazyel.
3 There are the chiefs of their angels, and the names of the leaders of their hundreds, and the leaders of their fifties, and the leaders of their tens.
4 The name of the first is Yekun: he it was who seduced all the sons of the holy angels; and causing them to descend on earth, led astray the offspring of men.
5 The name of the second is Kesabel, who pointed out evil counsel to the sons of the holy angels, and induced them to corrupt their bodies by generating mankind.
6 The name of the third is Gadrel: he discovered every stroke of death to the children of men. He seduced Eve; and discovered to the children of men the instruments of death, the coat of mail, the shield, and the sword for slaughter; every instrument of death to the children of men [compare the use of the verb discover in Alma 37].
7 From his hand were these things derived to them who dwell upon earth, from that period for ever.
8 The name of the fourth is Penemue: he discovered to the children of men bitterness and sweetness; And pointed out to them every secret of their wisdom.
9 He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper. Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray from every period of the world, even to this day.
10 For men were not born for this, thus with pen and with ink to confirm their faith;
11 Since they were not created, except that, like the angels, they might remain righteous and pure. Nor would death, which destroys everything have effected them; But by this their knowledge they perish, and by this also its power consumes them.
12 The name of the fifth is Kasyade: he discovered to the children of men every wicked stroke of spirits and of demons: The stroke of the embryo in the womb, to diminish it; the stroke of the spirit by the bite of the serpent, and the stroke which is given in the mid-day by the offspring of the serpent, the name of which is Tabaet [Tabaet calls to mind the Egyptian uraeus (the cobra worn on the royal crown or on the nemes headress). The uraeus is also known as (Egyptian) or tepie (Old Coptic), "that which belongs to (is worn on) the head" = crown-with-uraeus].


For both the Laurence Enoch (1821) and the Swedish translation (1826), under title of Propheten Enoch, please see Book of Enoch: 5 Translations with Interlinear at Under the heading "Notes", a scanned copy of the title page of Propheten Enoch may be seen. A later translation into Swedish bears the title Henochs Bok (1901). Both Propheten Enoch and Henochs Bok happen to give the same translation for Chapter 69.

For Archbishop Richard Laurence and his translation of the Book of Enoch, see Hugh Nibley, Enoch the Prophet (1986), 104ff; for how little known the Ethiopic Enoch was among Latter-day Saints, see p. 112.

Elder Cecil B. Samuelson of the Seventy, formerly president of BYU and currently president of the Salt Lake Temple, descends from Per Olof Pettersson, an older half-brother of Johan Söderholm, both sons of Daniel Pettersson of Östergötland County, Sweden. Daniel Pettersson passed the Pettersson surname to all his children. Johan is thus also known as Johan Danielsson (his birthname), Johan Danielsson Pettersson, and more simply, as Johan Söderholm, a name he chose for himself. In America, he was also simply known as John Sederholm. The name refers to the idealized setting of a little isle, or holm, as in the little islands, south of Stockholm, often visited on pleasure excursions.