© 2023 The Interpreter Foundation. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
All content by The Interpreter Foundation, unless otherwise specified, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available here.
Interpreter Foundation is not owned, controlled by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All research and opinions provided on this site are the sole responsibility of their respective authors, and should not be interpreted as the opinions of the Board, nor as official statements of LDS doctrine, belief or practice.
Pingback: Gazelem: Shining in Darkness | The Lunch Is Free
Mosiah1 didn’t get the stone from Ether, at least not directly. When Mosiah arrived in Zarahemla, Coriantumer was long gone. Someone (probably Coriantumer) had engraved an account of Coriantumer and his people on a stone. Mosiah used the power of God to interpret that stone (Omni 1: 20). If Ether had still been around, he could have read the writing and explained it to those around him. The stone must have been in the Jaredite language rather than the Hebrew of the Mulekites or Mosiah wouldn’t have needed the power of heaven to translate it. It is possible that Ether had left the stones with the Mulekites and that they gave them to Mosiah, who had the power to use them. So he may have had them indirectly from Ether, but Ether and Mosiah were not contemporaries.
I agree with pretty much everything you said. I agree that Ether and Mosiah were not contemporaries.
The question is how did Mosiah II get the Brother of Jared’s interpreters? There are many unknowns with this topic. In the first place, we don’t know if the Brother of Jared 1) passed them down through his posterity or 2) sealed them up with the record of his vision and buried both. On the other side of the question, we don’t know explicitly that Mosiah I had them in his possession (and passed them on to his son Benjamin, who passed them on to Mosiah II), though I think most correctly assume such, including you. I agree, to me it makes sense that Mosiah I had them. The fact that he translated a language that the people of Zarahemla didn’t know, and that it says he did so “by the gift and power of God”, and that Mosiah II possessed them eventually, are pretty strong indications that Mosiah I had them. So then the question is how did Mosiah I obtain them?
If the Brother of Jared did pass them down, and Ether inherited them, either Ether gave them to Mosiah I personally (as a translated being) or hid them so that Mosiah I could find them. If he was translated in order to pass the interpreters on to another righteous prophet, it would echo how Moroni gave them to Joseph Smith, the last prophet of a dispensation giving them to a subsequent civilization (I can’t remember exactly, and can’t find it when I search, but I recall reading this exact thought in some article online, I believe from the Maxwell Institute archives). If instead Ether hid or buried them, then Mosiah I must have been directed to find them. In Don Bradley’s presentation about this topic, footnote #59, he cites Fayette Lapham describing how the Liahona guided Mosiah to find the interpreters after leaving the land of Nephi. This would be if either the brother of Jared hid them, or Ether hid them. We just don’t know for certain on all these details.
I have never heard of the theory that the people of Mulek gave the interpreters to Mosiah I. It’s interesting, and it may have been so, but if so, how did the people of Mulek get them? Certainly between the two surviving Jaredites, Coriantumr wouldn’t have been the one to possess the interpreters. I don’t believe Ether lived among the people of Mulek. He would have only passed the interpreters on to Mosiah as a translated being. If he did live among them, why didn’t anyone mention it, including Ether himself? (The book of Omni makes it sound as though Coriantumr was alone; for Ether to join him in living among the people of Mulek would have been noteworthy) And why didn’t Ether also give the people of Mulek the 24 Jaredite plates along with the interpreters?
I like the theory of the brother of Jared sealing the interpreters up with the record of his vision and burying them in the earth (not just because it provides a scenario where a Jaredite prophet named Gazelem could have his own seer stone independent of the interpreters). For one thing, Moroni states that they he was going to bury them “again in the earth”, implying that they were buried previously. For another, if the brother of Jared gave the interpreters to his children, I don’t see how that would obey the commandment of the Lord “that he should seal up the two stones which he had received and shew them not until the Lord should shew them unto the children of men.” I think the days of Mosiah I was the time that the Lord saw fit to show the interpreters unto the children of men. This also implies that Mosiah I found and possessed the sealed record of the vision of the Brother of Jared, and that either Benjamin or Mosiah I or II (depending in which edition you consult Ether 4:1) was told that the vision of the brother of Jared was “forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that he (Christ) should be lifted up upon the cross; and for this cause did king Benjamin keep them, that they should not come unto the world until after Christ should show himself unto his people. And after Christ truly had showed himself unto his people he commanded that they should be made manifest.” So, in this theory, Mosiah I found the interpreters and the sealed record, but didn’t disclose the sealed record to his people (as commanded), used the interpreters to translate Coriantumr’s large stone record, passed the interpreters and sealed record on to Benjamin, who passed them on to Mosiah II, who then received the 24 Jaredite plates from King Limhi and used the interpreters to translate them.
Elliot, I really liked your reasoning in the last two paragraphs of this comment.
In Ether 13:20-22, we read this prophetic warning from Ether to Coriantumr:
“the word of the Lord came to Ether, that he should go and prophesy unto Coriantumr that, if he would repent, and all his household, the Lord would give unto him his kingdom and spare the people—Otherwise they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them; and every soul should be destroyed save it were Coriantumr.”
So, what choice did Coriantumr and his household make?
“And it came to pass that Coriantumr repented not, neither his household” (verse 22).
Since neither Coriantumr nor his household repented, we can expect that THIS will happen:
“they should be destroyed, and all his household save it were himself. And he should only live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance; and Coriantumr should receive a burial by them.”
Two chapters later, at the end of the story, the armies of Coriantumr and Shiz destroyed each other, Shiz fainted, and “when Coriantumr had leaned upon his sword, that he rested a little”–Ether must have been watching this–“he smote off the head of Shiz.” Then Coriantumr “fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life.” Curious how that is written. Maybe Ether saw that he looked dead, but had faith in his prophecy that Coriantumr would “live to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance.” Or, maybe Ether went out and checked on Coriantumr to see if he were really dead or watched until started moving again. “And the Lord spake unto Ether, and said unto him: Go forth. And he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written)” (verse 33). If Ether obeyed the word of the Lord and “went forth” and “beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled,” then he would have beheld that Jared was not dead. But wait, is there more? If Ether were to behold “that the words of the Lord had ALL been fulfilled” (emphasis added), he would have had to have beheld that Coriantumr not only survived the annihilation of the Jaredites and his finale duel with Shiz, but that he lived “to see the fulfilling of the prophecies which had been spoken concerning another people receiving the land for their inheritance.” Ether would have had to have viewed Coriantumr’s encounter with the people of Mulek. And, in fact, for Ether to truly behold that ALL the words of the Lord had been fulfilled, he would have had to have watched over Coriantumr for another nine moons after that and then behold that Coriantumr “should receive a burial by them”. As you say, Eliott, in your above comment, if Ether himself encountered and interacted with the people of Mulek that would be remarkable and noteworthy, but we read nothing of the kind in Omni. So, if Ether did watch his entire prophecy unfold, I suppose he must have remained in hiding. Earlier, “he hid himself in the cavity of a rock by day, and by night he went forth viewing the things which should come upon the people.” He went into hiding because “the wars ceased not; and they sought to kill Ether” (13:22). So after the war was over, why would Ether still be hiding. Perhaps he feared that Coriantumr would kill him. Maybe this is taking things to literally, but this is what happens if we follow the internal logic of Ether’s prophecy as it is recorded in Ether. So maybe it is worth consideration. OK, but why is none of this in the Book of Ether. Well, like Moroni says: “he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled; and he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written)” (verse 33). If Moroni truncated more than 99% of the story, maybe it all just got compressed within “he went forth, and beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled”. I would be interested, Eliott, in your thoughts on this.
I had never thought about how Ether would have interacted with Coriantumr after witnessing the entire destruction of the people. I doubt he walked out of hiding and to cheer him up. He was in hiding for about 13 years, by my count. He was used to life on his own. And like you noted, Coriantumr had tried to kill him previously, so Ether may not have been too keen to let Coriantumr know he was still alive.
It’s fascinating to wonder if Ether saw the people of Mulek. I remember the first time I realized that Ether was probably younger than Nephi (or perhaps near the same age). It blew my mind. If Ether did witness all these things being fulfilled, the burial of Coriantumr and so forth, as you suggest, I think he still kept in hiding. My guess is that Ether didn’t interact with Coriantumr or the Mulekites. But we just don’t know enough yet. It’s fun to ponder what that phrase “beheld that the words of the Lord had all been fulfilled” means. Probably just that all the people were destroyed except Coriantumr. But there is certainly the possibility for an interpretation that is more comprehensive, which I had never noticed before. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
One related side note: The prophecy of Ether that Coriantumr wouldn’t die must have been widely known. We read that Shiz had a warped motivation to prove the prophecy false. “Shiz did anot cease to pursue Coriantumr; for he had sworn to avenge himself upon Coriantumr of the blood of his brother, who had been slain, and the word of the Lord which came to Ether that Coriantumr should not fall by the sword.” (Ether 14:24). Shiz wouldn’t stop trying to kill Coriantumr. And the ensuing war involved everyone. Thus, the prophecy that Coriantumr wouldn’t die contributed to the fulfilling of the prophecy that every soul would be destroyed.
Very interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Do you think any of this might have any bearing on the issue of Ether’s translation and/or delivering the sealed plates and interpreters to Mosiah I?
Yes. But first we have to come to some conclusions about a few related factors.
First we have to decide if the sealed record of the vision of the brother of Jared was a separate record from the 24 plates (the abridgment Ether wrote). I think it was a separate record. (As you know, Valentin Arts article “A Third Jaredite Record” made this argument).
We then have to decide if Ether was in possession of all 3 Jaredite artifacts: The sealed record of the vision of the brother of Jared, the interpreters, and his own 24 plates. I personally don’t think Ether possessed the first 2 artifacts. It is possible that the Brother of Jared passed his sealed record and the interpreters down through his posterity, but I think he is clearly commanded not to: “shew them not until the Lord should shew them unto the children of men” (Ether 3:28) And for the other reasons I state above, I think the Brother of Jared buried them.
We know for sure that one task Ether had to perform before he was translated or “suffered the will of the Lord in the flesh” was to hide his record “in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them”. What manner would this be? In the middle of a desolate city square? At the top of some pyramid? Inside a prominent building?Some options are more likely than others. It is unlikely they were buried, for example.
At the end of the Jaredites, we have Coriantumr finding the people of Mulek. If the Mulekites were in the new world, than the Nephites must have been there too. Conceivably, you have the last 2 Jaredites head off in opposite directions, Coriantumr finds the Mulekites, Ether finds the Nephites. And if you believe that Ether had the interpreters and the sealed record, he could have delivered them to the Nephites while still in mortality. But then we must ask, why didn’t he also give the Nephites his 24 plates?
If Ether did visit the Nephites, I think it must have been well before the time of Mosiah I. Val Larsen, in the original comment on this thread, argues that Ether and Mosiah I were not contemporaries. I agree. But it’s only a hunch. It just sounds to me like the stone of Coriantumr that was brought before Mosiah was pretty ancient, even to the people of Mulek. Perhaps hundreds of years old, rather than being freshly engraved the year before.
If the sealed record and interpreters were buried by the brother of Jared, Mosiah I was led to find them some how. Perhaps by the Liahona as Don Bradley discusses. Or perhaps by a translated Ether, appearing in vision similar to how Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith. Ether could have led Mosiah to where they were buried. (And if you think Ether had inherited the sealed record and interpreters in mortality, he could have buried them himself, for safe keeping, before he was translated)
I am confident that the story of how the Nephites got the interpreters was written on the lost manuscript. I hope we’ll learn more somehow, someday.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on all this.
Thanks Eliott. This all sounds about right to me. I am a bit stumped by the report that Ether finished the 24 plates and “he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them”. Things are hidden so that they will NOT be found. It seems that he did not create the record for nothing, that he would want them to be found. Like you say, maybe he placed them in the middle of a desolate city square or at the top of some pyramid. That’s not hiding them. Admittedly, this may be another instance of reading the text too closely, of making something out of nothing. But what if there is something here? If he really is hiding them, then apparently there are some who are not supposed to be able to find it, as well as some who are. The text says that “he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them.” Presumably the MANNER of the hiding of the plates is the key to understanding how they could be hidden from some and yet at the same time placed to be found by the people of Limhi. But what would that manner be? What’s going on here? I would be interested in hearing on thoughts you might have on this.
Regarding my previous comment about Ether’s translation. A very plausible scenario is where the Brother of Jared buried his sealed record and interpreters, and Mosiah found them using the Liahona. Then it wouldn’t have been necessary for Ether to interact with the Nephites at all, either translated or otherwise. He simply would have hid his 24 plates and then… been taken up to heaven or lived in solitude until his mortal death.
About the manner in which Ether hid his 24 plates: I imagine Ether was totally alone, wandering through the ruins of his completely decimated civilization. Coriantumr had left. The bodies of the dead were strewn everywhere. On top of that, everything had been burned by Shiz. There was no one around for miles and miles. There was a reason the Nephites called it Desolation.
Ether needed to figure out a way to leave his plates behind so that they could be found by a new civilization. If he “hid” them in a manner that they would be highly visible, he could have simply relied on the Lord to lead the right people into the land. There was no one else around to worry about. He could have been inspired as to which location to place them, then simply trusted in the providence of the Lord.
If, on the other hand, he hid them more in line with “hiding” something, perhaps it would be similar to how Moroni buried the gold plates for Joseph Smith to find them. This may be what you were getting at? This would mean that the act of finding them included an important spiritual component. Those who found them would have had to be receptive to specific directions given as revelation. It could have been directions from an angel or translated being, or the actual voice of the Lord, or from some type of seer stone.
But the account of how the plates were found makes it sound like their discovery was much more incidental. There is no mention of angels or revelations involved. And we know there were no seers (hence no instruments of seership) among the people of Limhi.
Mosiah 8:7-11 reads “And the king said unto him: Being grieved for the afflictions of my people, I caused that forty and three of my people should take a journey into the wilderness…
And they were lost in the wilderness for the space of many days, yet they were diligent, and found not the land of Zarahemla but returned to this land, having traveled in a land among many waters, having discovered a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind, having discovered a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.
And for a testimony that the things that they had said are true they have brought twenty-four plates which are filled with engravings, and they are of pure gold.
And behold, also, they have brought breastplates, which are large, and they are of brass and of copper, and are perfectly sound.
And again, they have brought swords, the hilts thereof have perished, and the blades thereof were cankered with rust; and there is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates. Therefore I said unto thee: Canst thou translate?”
I favor the idea that as this search party explored the ruins of the Jaredites, they stumbled upon the plates. I say stumbled, but of course the Lord would have had a hand in leading them there. Perhaps the “many days” they spent in the wilderness was a trial period, refining and preparing them to take responsibility for this sacred record. Then they would follow the voice of the spirit in deciding where to search among these vast ruins. And the spirit would have confirmed that this was something worth taking back to the land of Nephi.
A few thoughts on Coriantumr and also the 24 plates. I have a book coming out in a few weeks called the Swords of Shule that deals extensively with these issues. A few items to think about. The assumption is always that Coriantumr wandered into the Mulekites. In fact, the scripture says that the Mulekites “discovered” him (Omni 1:21). Everyone always assumes that Coriantumr must have been wandering around by himself as the only person in the land northward.
Well, there was “a large stone” found that has engravings that recount the full destruction of the Jaredites. While I suppose that Coriantumr could have quarried it and carved it himself, there were likely others around, especially considering that stela are carved for display of an existing ruler, not by a lone person hoping someone would run into it. Corroborating that fact, Limhi talked about “a remnant of the people” from whence the 24 plate records came, indicating there was a population there (which seems to match up quite nicely with the Epi-Olmecs and their culture incidentally). Likely the 24 plates were hidden with some individual with the Epi-Olmecs in some fashion with the rest of the Jaredite sacred relics and sacred bundle (rusted swords of Shule, Olmec copper mirror divinitory breastplates, for example) of which prince Ether would have been the rightful heir. The Limhite group thought they had found sacred relics of Zarahemla after all, which they had heard something about (plates of Nephi, sword of Laban). Limhi was a little smarter than the group, so he had his doubts about whether they had really found Zarahemla. Anyway, check in at my website over the next few weeks, the new book should be up by then. http://www.bmslr.org
Thanks again, Eliott, for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you, brother Grover. Your comments are always unique and thought provoking.
Gazelem is an interesting topic and I appreciate your contribution to the discussion. You appropriately quote a statement from my paper (Reflections of Urim) in which I say that IF Gazelem refers to a person, it could be the brother of Jared or Mosiah. I would like to clarify that I do not propose in the paper that Gazelem was the name of a person. Nor the name of a stone. To me, the evidence suggests a third option–that Gazelem refers to a class of revelatory instruments and is the Jaredite counterpart to the Hebrew word “urim” (as in 1 Samuel 28:6) and to the English word “director(s)” (as in the oldest manuscripts of Alma 37:21, 24, and D&C 3:15). As such, it could refer at different times (and to different audiences) to potentially several objects, including the interpreters, Joseph Smith’s seer stones, and perhaps other Nephite or Jaredite seer stones, just as JS used the term Urim and Thummim to refer to different instruments. I explain this further in the footnote you quoted from. Thanks for adding to the research on this fascinating topic.
Thank you for the clarification.
Elliott, Good article. There are a few possibilities that may have been left out. Everyone assumes, which is often not wise, that Gazelem was a seer stone separate from the interpreters, however, as you pointed out, Gazelem is mentioned as part of the sacred objects passed down. There is no mention in the Book of Mormon anywhere of a seer stone in any context, passed down or otherwise, which is a textual indication that it is likely referring to the name of one of the interpreter stones as it is mentioned in a discussion of the interpreters. Joseph Smith used at least one of the interpreter stones to see things other than translating, like seeing and keeping track of the plates from afar, so all of the secret workings of the Jaredites could be seen directly using the stone thus it is not simply limited to translating Jaredite plates. In addition, the evidence is that the interpreters operated for translation by illumination of words, and since it was one of the original stones given to the brother of Jared by the Lord, this is exactly consistent with the ability of the stone to give light (even though it was not one of the stones specifically identified as giving light). This matches the scriptural description of the stone, as well as its derivation from Sumerian.
It seems odd that the Lord would refer to only one of the stones. Why wouldn’t the other one be named? In addition, why would the Lord refer to the interpreters as “two stones” when giving them to the brother of Jared, but then only refer to “a stone” when revealing the Jaredite secret combinations? If they were attached together, I don’t see why Joseph Smith would use only one of the interpreter stones and not both.
The fact that Joseph used either the interpreters or his own personal seer stone in exactly the same way proves that the process of translation or receiving revelation isn’t exclusive to the Nephite interpreters. Gazelem’s use of his own personal seer stone would be a powerful example of Joseph Smith’s use of a seer stone. Now we can study about a prophet who used a seer stone thousands of years previous to Joseph Smith, and it sounds like it functioned as we would expect any other instrument of revelation to function; the same as the Nephite interpreters or Joseph’s seer stone, by shining forth in darkness unto light.
It’s exciting to see the new possibilities that interpreting Gazelem as a Jaredite opens up. Where it was previously ambiguous about anyone using a single seer stone in Book of Mormon times (as you point out), now it is right there in the Jaredite record. Where previously we had the book of Ether to rely on for information about the Jaredites, now we have quotations from the Jaredite plates in the middle of the Book of Alma. Where previously there was only the interpreters, now there are two examples of instruments of revelation. And so forth.
Elliott, don’t get me wrong, I think what you have come up with is an interesting theory, but does require quite a bit of conjecture and speculation, which is OK, just not my first preferred method.
As far as it being odd to refer to one of the stones, it is not that odd given the fact that only one of the stones was necessary for translation as it was witnessed that Joseph removed one of the stones from the spectacles and used it in the hat, so it is likely that only one of the stones shined. One item that is replete through the Book of Mormon is the reference to Biblical types. Both of the Biblical stones are named in the Bible, the corresponding stone to the shining stone of Gazelem is the Urim, which means “light”. Thummim means “perfection” so it would seem likely that there was another stone with a Sumerian based name equivalent to that, although it is a reasonable inference it still consists of some conjecture.
The likely reason why the other stone is not mentioned is that its function may have been limited simply to translation instead of seeing other things, so there is no reason to mention it except in conjunction with the translation process.
I also just don’t see that the indications in the Jaredite record are indicative of one Jaredite prophet named Gazelem using his own seer stone that is never overtly mentioned (or even non-overtly mentioned) except by a one modern textual punctuation interpretation from the English translation. The secret societies and oaths existed in various forms by different people throughout Jaredite history. What is known is that the interpreters were passed down somehow. It is a much more likely scenario with very little conjecture to conclude that it was the interpreters themselves that were utilized to bring these secrets to light during the Jaredite history, and the Book of Mormon actually says that as you actually reference in your article:
And now my son, these directors were prepared
that the word of God might be fulfilled which he spake, saying:
I will bring forth out of darkness unto light
all their secret works and their abominations.
And except they repent, I will destroy them from off the face of the earth.
And I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations
unto every nation which shall hereafter possess the land.
And now my son, we see that they did not repent;
therefore they have been destroyed.
And thus far the word of God hath been fulfilled;
yea, their secret abominations have been brought out of darkness
and made known unto us.
It seems very clear that it is the interpreters that brought all the Jaredite wickedness to light, and is also consistent with one of the stones, Gazelem, being named after light (to shine) just like the Urim stone was. To assume that there is another seer stone floating around is a big jump. Where would it have come from, what happened to it? One would think something that important might be actually mentioned somewhere.
Also since the secret combinations existed through Jaredite history all the way to the end, one prophet named Gazelem would not be much help through history, each responsible prophet would need to be able to discern and discover the goings on of the secret society, not just one.
Ever wonder how Nephi actually saw what was going on with the secret societies? It was somehow “made known” unto him, and he even saw the details of the murder of the chief judge and the blood on the skirts of the cloak of Seantum. He had the interpreters, and specifically Gazelem, which could be used to see all kinds of things as Joseph Smith indicated.
29 Behold now, I do not say that these things shall be, of myself, because it is not of myself that I know these things; but behold, I know that these things are true because the Lord God has made them known unto me, therefore I testify that they shall
Anyway, I think you have put together a nice analysis but in my little opinion still gets into a lot of ‘conjecturizing’ so to speak, which doesn’t hurt anyone as long as it is recognized as such.
Thank you very much for your comments and for explaining your theory. Given the length of all the things I would like to respond to, I’ll simply let my article speak for itself.
“Where previously we had the book of Ether to rely on for information about the Jaredites, now we have quotations from the Jaredite plates in the middle of the Book of Alma.”
I think it is interesting that we also have a snippet of Jaredite history embedded within Moroni’s commentary on the Book of Ether: “the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed.” This appears in Ether 12:30, long after the Brother of Jared’s time in the spotlight has passed. On it’s own, it wasn’t important enough to make it into Moroni’s abridgment of the story, but as an exemplum of faith it comes up later in Moroni’s inter-abridgment commentary.
One more thought:
We may have a hint of information in the last verse of the Book of Ether:
“Now the last words which are written by Ether are these: Whether the Lord will that I be translated, or that I suffer the will of the Lord in the flesh, it mattereth not, if it so be that I am saved in the kingdom of God” (Ether 15:34).
Ether, like the Brother of Jared, had basically seen everything (Ether 13:1–12), so maybe he had seen future translated beings. Otherwise, the only precedent he has for the expectation of possibly being translated is Enoch.
So, perhaps the translation of Enoch was found within the original Book of Enoch—within “the first part of this record, which speaks concerning the creation of the world, and also of Adam, and an account from that time even to the great tower, and whatsoever things transpired among the children of men until that time” (Ether 1:3 [1–5]). The translation of Enoch was certainly one of the noteworthy things that transpired among the children of men between the creation of the world and the great tower.
Very insightful, I hadn’t thought about how Ether knew about translated beings. I prefer the theory that Ether had Enoch in mind, which presumes that the account of Enoch was recorded on the records that the Jaredites “brought across the great deep”. Ether would have been familiar with and used those records while making his abridgment – the 24 plates.
Your comments touch on something that I suspect. I think the 24 plates were actually 24 sets of plates. (I am trying to write an article that analyzes this theory, but it’s on the backburner for now).
The first argument in favor of “sets of plates” is the amount of content that we are told was on them. A brief list includes:
1. The “first part” of the 24 plates which covers from the creation of the world to the great tower. As you note, this probably included the account of Enoch
2. The account of the brother of Jared moving Mount Zerin, as you mentioned, I’m sure the is more to the story.
3. The Jaredite secret oaths that Alma commanded Helaman not to reveal to the Nephites
4. The prophecies of Ether. Moroni says that Ether “truly told [the people] of all things from the beginning of man”.
5. Moroni says “the hundredth part I have not written”. He would not make such a statement if he had written a fourth, or a tenth. We have no reason to doubt his self assessment. This factor alone would mean that, if translated into English, the twenty-four plates had more than 1,324,000 words. (Moroni’s abridgment, minus his commentary, is approximately 13,240 words) That much content, if it were formatted as LDS scripture, would occupy at least 2,671 pages. For reference, the LDS Bible has 1,590 pages.
One other factor could be the sealed portion. My opinion, as discussed in the article and the other comments, was that the sealed portion was not on the 24 plates, but was buried separately with the interpreters and found by Mosiah 1. But if the sealed portion was on the 24 plates, (remember that we are told that the portion of plates that Joseph Smith received that were sealed was anywhere from one third to two thirds of the plate stack), there is no way it fit onto 24 individual leaves with room to spare for all the other content.
Besides content, there are other reasons to suspect they were 24 sets of plates. For one thing, none of the other plates had a leaf-count. We don’t know how many brass plates there were, or the large plates of Nephi or the small plates of Nephi, or the plates Joseph Smith received. But if they were sets of plates, they would be worth counting, with the number becoming part of their identity.
There’s more. The information that was abridged is slightly uneven; Moroni gave more details about some people and events than others. For example, the Brother of Jared is discussed through the end of the first 6 chapters, but later, Moroni abridges four generations in one verse (Ether 10:31). Would the original record have been similarly proportioned? It seems Moroni wisely chose to focus his writing on narrative details that would be the most edifying to latter-day readers, passing over those details that were not.
I should revisit writing this article.
One more thought (again):
Alma talks to his son Helaman and mentions Gazelem, apparently a Jaredite prophet. Alma could know about Gazelem because he has access to Mosiah’s translation of Ether. Then Alma talks to his son Shiblon. Shiblon is the name of a Jaredite King that doesn’t get any coverage outside of the opening Coriantumr of Ether (Ether 1:11–12). Alma could have named his son Shiblon after this king or another Shiblon in the unabridged Book of Ether. Then Alma talks to his son Corianton. This name is very similar to some names in the Book of Ether (e.g., Coriantor, Coriantum, Coriantumr, Corihor, Morianton, Moriancumer, Ripliancum). Helaman sounds a lot like Helam, the friend of Alma’s father and the land they sojourned in, but maybe both Shiblon and Corianton are named after characters in the unabridged book of Ether. Maybe they were named after Jaredite prophets like Gazelem, as another reflection of Alma’s interest in the record of the Jaredites.
Very cool. I think Alma was definitely influenced by the book of Ether, as were the rest of the Nephites profoundly influenced by it. It would be similar to Latter-day Saints today who name their children Nephi, Alma, Moroni, etc.
I would add that Alma 11:15 informs us “a shiblon is half of a senum” So, Shiblon might have been a popular name at the beginning of the reign of the judges. The time Mosiah established their gold and silver designations was probably around the same time Alma’s son was born.
I seem to remember reading something along those lines before, about all the names post-Mosiah II that could have been influenced the book of Ether (maybe from Book of Mormon Central? or a stray comment somewhere) Names are not my forte, so I’m a little out of my depth. But the list of related names you put together seems comprehensive and impressive.
To throw a wrench into things, I’m working on material that suggests a different cause>effect situation. Although Mormon uses the concept of the plates of Ether for his own purposes, I believe that it is Mormon’s construction that influences the way that Moroni presents Mosiah’s translation of Ether. As for names, it also appears that Mormon manipulates names in the material he edited for narrative purposes. This happens so much that it is more likely that we do not know that actual name of most of the people Mormon speaks about, but rather than name that Mormon uses so that those persons fulfill some narrative function. One of the intentional (I believe) naming trends is that all villains in Mormon’s tale have Jaredite derived names (or mlk-derivations, and Mormon appears to link the people of Mulek to the Jaredites). The Jaredite name is Mormon’s equivalent of the black hat.
When Moroni prepares the book of Ether, he does to it what his father did to the Nephite records. He prepares them according to Mormon’s purposes. Thus he selects and emphasizes certain aspects (in particular the secret combinations) because they are intended to be seen as the antecedents of Mormon’s Gadiantons (which are Mormon’s artificial narrative construct which he uses for specific reasons).
Things are way more complicated than they have appeared. Sorry for dropping that without backing evidence, but the backing evidence is requiring a book-length analysis.
Interesting, Brant. Yeah, I had wondered about two of the three big anti-Christs having the Jaredite names Nehor and Korihor.
Nehor was one of the clues that something artificial was going on since he becomes the namesake for a particular apostate religion, even though it is pretty clear that the particular apostate version was also in king Noah’s court in an earlier time and different place. Whatever that religion might have named itself, I believe we can see Mormon as the reason that Nehor becomes the “face” of that religion that Mormon wants to make sure that we don’t like.
Sounds interesting brother Gardner. I look forward to the book. One question that comes to mind, in the context of Shiblon. If we don’t know his real name, why would Mormon use an artificially-constructed Jaredite name for a good guy? This would apply to Corianton as well.
That raises the biggest issue. We can’t tell whether the name is personal or narrative-relevant. It is probably best to assume personal names until we find a context that suggests a narrative reason. For a long time I assumed that the Alma/Alma-Helaman/Helaman-Nephi/Nephi string was representative of personal names–even though that would be a very unusual ancient naming pattern. Then I found the context and am no longer certain that they were all personal names. However, perhaps the father was? Unfortunately, Mormon didn’t distinguish. He appears to have assumed that we would just get it.
The books I have published that relate to names indicate that nearly all are metonymic, essentially that the name matches characteristics of the individual or place (as happens often in the Bible). It seemed to me that the more historical names were established over some time of Nephite history, but I think that Brant’s thesis of Mormon creating them may also be a possibility. While not all subscribe to the premise behind the recent book I published involving the construction of Jaredite names using Sumerian roots (not using Old World rules, but matching the compounding practice of Mesoamerican languages). The Jaredite Shiblom (which is also spelled as Shiblon) could be formed from “she” meaning “to call by name”, “ibla” meaning “heir” and “lum” meaning “to be tall”. In the case of Shiblon, the last syllable would be different with “on” meaning “to be high”. I also recently published a book on Nehor, which is clearly a constructed name to describe the description of the religion. Anyway, I go through all of the names in that fashion in the Sumerian book (and the Nehor book) which is free to download off of my website at http://www.bmslr.org.
Thanks, very interesting thoughts. You are right, Mormon for Moroni don’t state how they read the 24 plates, or if they simply read/abridged a previous translation. However, there are statements in the Book of Mormon that indicate that Mosiah’s translation was written down.
Mosiah 28:11 Referring to King Mosiah II “…after having translated and caused to be written the records which were on the plates of gold which had been found by the people of Limhi…”
Alma 63:12 “Now behold, all those engravings which were in the possession of Helaman were written and sent forth among the children of men throughout all the land, save it were those parts which had been commanded by Alma should not go forth.”
My wife provided the insight that the record of the Jaredites was to the Nephites, what the Book of Mormon is to us.
As far as Mormon and Moroni being able to read the Jaredite language unaided, it is certainly possible. And you’re right, there is no mention of a seer stone in their possession. But Mormon had inherited the interpreters and could have used them if the Lord saw fit. Moroni also could have used them to abridge the book of Ether, if necessary. But it may have been easier for him to simply use Mosiah’s previous translation.
Thanks for the good comment – hope my thoughts help.
That was interesting. Thank you!
This is a bit off-topic, but I don’t remember Mormon or Moroni ever stating how they were able to read the Jaredite record. I used to believe that they read the translation of King Mosiah, but I don’t believe that there is any evidence that his translation was written down.
We are also not given any indication that Mormon and Moroni used a seer stone. It would be unusual for something like that to go unmentioned. Here is my theory. (I would appreciate any feedback.)
There are many indications that the destruction of the Jaredites wasn’t total. Mormon and Moroni were from the north–the former land of the Jaredites. Was the Jaredite language part of the culture from which they came?
My apologies, I accidentally posted my reply to your comment as a separate comment.
Also of interest is what benefit was it for the Lord to reveal these secret combinations and their details. Why wasn’t it sufficient to just reveal that there were secret combinations? By revealing the exact oaths taken, did this result in exposing those people involved?
That certainly is an interesting question. Why would the Jaredites need to know the particular oaths (or why would the Lord see fit to reveal them)? What you suggest sounds like a good explanation.
Could not Mosiah I have received the interpreters or the seer stone, if, as you have postulated, they were two different revelators, from Ether? Ether was obviously alive at the end of the Book of Ether, as he could not record his own death, and he seemed to have an inkling that he might possibly be translated (Ether 15:34). We know that Coriantumr lived among the people of Zarahemla for nine moons, and there were undoubtedly other Jaredites who escaped and did not fight in the wars that resulted in the destruction of the Jaredite culture. Obviously, Ether was one of them.
Yes, all good points. I recall reading about this some time ago in Valentin Arts article “A Third Jaredite Record” in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2002.
We know from the text that Mosiah II had the interpreters. Many speculate that he inherited them from Benjamin, who inherited them from Mosiah I, and that they ultimately came from the Brother of Jared. That means that either Mosiah I got them from Ether himself, as you propose, or was directed to the place where the Brother of Jared had buried both the sealed record and the interpreters.
The details of how the Nephites ended up with the interpreters is probably on the lost 116 pages. Don Bradley’s farimormon presentation on this topic, footnote #59, is pretty fascinating.
Very interesting suggestion! If correct, and if Alma 37:23 is a quotation from the original record of Ether, that makes possible some nice Sumerian puns on the personal name Gazelem (gizzal, GAL.ZU “Wise, Knowing-One”):
“I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem a stone (na4zalag2 ) which shall shine forth (zalag) in darkness unto light (zalag)”
Thank you! Since names are not my forte, I was hoping someone else would bring up possible meanings for the name in the Jaredite language. Thank you for your insight.
The Sumerian derivation of Gazelem was included in the book I published on Sumerian Roots of Jaredite terms earlier this year which is available for free download at http://www.bmslr.org. It is fairly clear from this standpoint it was describing the stone.
The multiple Sumerian words from which Gazelem can be derived are:
ĝizzal : wisdom, understanding, hearing
lum : to shine
za’am : piece of stone
zal : to shine
le’um : writing board
za : gem
Constructed Compound Word: Ĝizzalum
– all definitions are from the online ePSD Sumerian dictionary if anyone is interested.
Thank you for the comment, and the link. In your book, it sounds as though you are open to the idea that Gazelem is the name of a person. “The punctuation seems to indicate that Gazelem is the name of the stone, not the servant, but this interpretation is not universal. However, since the punctuation of the Book of Mormon was added later, it is possible that the term may also have been referring to the servant, or perhaps to both… It would appear that the definition would not be inclusive of “servant”, favoring the punctuation that implies the name Gazelem refers to the “stone”. However, it should be noted that the word for “priest” in Sumerian is lumah, which is similar to the last syllable.”
I think it would be a mistake to be certain that Gazelem was the name of the stone simply because of etymology. There are many other aspects of the article I wrote that can’t be dismissed so easily. Additionally, what about the names Peter and Cephas? Don’t those names mean “a stone”? But is it not also the name of a real, historical person? Could it not be a similar case with Gazelem? Rather than starting with etymology to answer the question of Gazelem, then reading that into the text, let’s do the opposite and use the text itself to determine whether Gazelem is the name of a person or a stone, then supplement our understanding with the possible meanings of the name. Since I didn’t include a section on that in the article, I’m happy that the comments made on the possible roots for Gazelem (including yours) have been a helpful supplement to understanding the theory I proposed in the article. Thank you again for your research.
I think that it is always possible that the name for the stone could also have been used for a person (Mormon’s name had geographical place name indications). I just think that all of what we know from the actual text of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s translation practice, known patterns in the Book of Mormon, derivation by Biblical comparison, or very conservative inferrence are indicative that Gazelem is one of the interpreters (aka directors), and there is very little actual evidence that there was another seer stone floating around, and less evidence that there was a Jaredite prophet named Gazelem. Don’t get me wrong, what you have done is a useful exercise in trying to figure out if the “servant being Gazelem” theory has any viable explanation, but I just don’t see too much actual evidence of it, which of course is just my opinion, which it not necessarily correct, since I don’t possess Gazelem nor am I named Gazelem (in fact, the definition of my first name is actually not all that flattering in English).
Rereading through all my comments to you, I sound a lot more confrontational than I intended. I sincerely do appreciate your opinion and am grateful you took the time to read my article and give feedback. Thank you.
Elliott, I don’t see you as confrontational at all, I thought your article was well thought out and contained some new thinking. I think the comment sections are opportunities to discuss and contrast different points of view, I’m always hopeful that any of my research is subject to scrutiny as well, that’s why I put it out there for all to see and comment on.
Thanks, that was a fascinating read and theory! Linguistic insights into potential ancient roots of the name here: https://onoma.lib.byu.edu/index.php/GAZELEM
Thank you very much!
Thanks for the link, perhaps I should have included a section in the article that addresses this topic. I appreciated Robert F. Smith’s comment on it. Your insights are welcome.
Fantastic article, Elliott. I have always found the Gazelem reference to be an oddity that I pass over in my reading, and this article goes a long way to expanding our understanding.
Thank you! That means a lot. I’m glad you enjoyed it.