“If Ye Will Hearken”: Lehi’s Rhetorical Wordplay on Ishmael in 2 Nephi 1:28–29 and Its Implications

Abstract: Nephi’s preservation of the conditional “first blessing” that Lehi bestowed upon his elder sons (Laman, Lemuel, and Sam) and the sons of Ishmael, contains a dramatic wordplay on the name Ishmael in 2 Nephi 1:28–29. The name Ishmael — “May El hear [him],” “May El hearken,” or “El Has Hearkened” — derives from the Semitic (and later Hebrew) verb šāmaʿ (to “hear,” “hearken,” or “obey”). Lehi’s rhetorical wordplay juxtaposes the name Ishmael with a clustering of the verbs “obey” and “hearken,” both usually represented in Hebrew by the verb šāmaʿ. Lehi’s blessing is predicated on his sons’ and the sons of Ishmael’s “hearkening” to Nephi (“if ye will hearken”). Conversely, failure to “hearken” (“but if ye will not hearken”) would precipitate withdrawal of the “first blessing.” Accordingly, when Nephi was forced to flee from Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, Lehi’s “first blessing” was activated for Nephi and all those who “hearkened” to his spiritual leadership, including members of Ishmael’s family (2 Nephi 5:6), while it was withdrawn from Laman, Lemuel, the sons of Ishmael, and those who sympathized with them, “inasmuch as they [would] not hearken” unto Nephi (2 Nephi 5:20). Centuries later, when Ammon and his brothers convert many Lamanites to the truth, Mormon revisits Lehi’s conditional blessing and the issue of “hearkening” in terms of Ishmael and the receptivity of the Ishmaelites. Many Ishmaelite-Lamanites “hear” or “hearken” to Ammon et al., activating Lehi’s “first blessing,” while many others — including the ex-Nephite Amalekites/Amlicites — do not, thus activating (or reactivating) Lehi’s curse. Continue reading

Bare Record: The Nephite Archivist, The Record of Records, and the Book of Mormon Provenance

Abstract: This paper looks at the Book of Mormon through the lens of library science and the concept of archival provenance. The Nephites cared deeply about their records, and Mormon documented a thorough chain of custody for the plates he edited. However, ideas of archival science and provenance are recent developments in the western world, unknown to biblical authors or to anyone at Joseph Smith’s time. Understanding this aspect of Mormon’s authorship and Joseph Smith’s translation provides additional evidence to the historical validity of the Book of Mormon. Continue reading

Conference: New Perspectives on Joseph Smith and Translation, 16 March 2017

A Conference to Explore Joseph Smith’s Translation Process

One key to understanding Mormonism’s prophetic founder, Joseph Smith, is to grapple with his sharply distinctive practice of “translation.” Come take advantage of a unique, day-long conversation by some of Mormon Studies’ leading minds on this challenging issue. Featuring presentations and round-table discussions with Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, Jared Hickman, Jana Riess, Samuel Brown, and Rosalynde Welch.

When: 16 March 2017
Where: Utah State University, Perry Pavilion Hall (4th floor), Jon M. Huntsman School of Business
Who: Open to students, scholars, and community members
Cost: Free to attend
Websites: http://chass.usu.edu/stay-connected/news/translation-conference, and https://www.faithmatters.org/
More information: PDF flyer

The proceedings will be videorecorded for broad distribution. Sponsored by USU Religious Studies and Faith Matters Foundation.

Seers and Stones:
The Translation of the Book of Mormon as Divine Visions of an Old-Time Seer

Abstract: Joseph Smith used the term the Urim and Thummim to refer to the pair of seer stones, or “interpreters,” he obtained for translating the Book of Mormon as well as to other seer stones he used in a similar manner. According to witness accounts, he would put the stone(s) in a hat and pull the hat close around his face to exclude the light, and then he would see the translated text of the Book of Mormon. By what property or principle these stones enabled Joseph Smith to see the translated text has long been a matter of conjecture among Mormons, but the stones have commonly been understood as divinely powered devices analogous to the latest human communications technology. An alternative view, presented here, is that the stones had no technological function but simply served as aids to faith. In this view, the stones did not themselves translate or display text. They simply inspired the faith Joseph Smith needed to see imaginative visions, and in those visions, he saw the text of the Book of Mormon, just as Lehi and other ancient seers saw sacred texts in vision. Although Joseph Smith also saw visions without the use of stones, the logistics of dictating a book required the ability to see the translated text at will, and that was what the faith-eliciting stones would have made possible. Continue reading

Skousen and Carmack’s 2016 FairMormon Conference Presentation “Finishing up the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project” Now Available

Royal Skousen and Stan Carmack presented at the 2016 FairMormon Conference on the subject of “Finishing up the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project: An Introduction to The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon.” Their presentation is now available in video and text form at the FairMormon website.

Finishing up the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project: An Introduction to The History of the Text of the Book of Mormon