There are 12 thoughts on “Reflections of Urim: Hebrew Poetry Sheds Light on the Directors-Interpreters Mystery”.

  1. Pingback: Repeating the Law of Retribution: “Eye for Eye” in the Eye of a Chiasm | Easter Eggs in the Book of Mormon

  2. Pingback: Joseph Smith’s “Magic” Seer Stone–Definition of Seer Stone | Easter Eggs in the Book of Mormon

  3. Good, point, Loren. The statement about the interpreters deserved at least a footnote with some justification.

  4. Thanks Stan. I enjoyed the article.
    First, a minor housekeeping issue. In note 1 there are 2 instances of 26 Nov 1014 that need to be changed to 2014.
    Second, you wrote, “The Nephite interpreters were two seer stones given by the Lord to the Jaredites and later used by the Nephites and by Joseph Smith in translating ancient records.”
    A few points:
    1. That I am aware, nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it state the provenance of the interpreters that King Mosiah (2) possessed. We know that Mosiah already had the interpreters before Ammon and his party found the people of Limhi (Mosiah 8:13).
    2. There is a hint that King Mosiah (1) may have possessed the interpreters when he “did interpret the engravings [on the large stone] by the gift and power of God.” (Omni 1:20)
    3. We know that Limhi’s people found Ether’s record on 24 gold plates, or at least “a” record by Ether, but they did not mention any interpreter’s found with the plates.
    4. The brother of Jared was instructed by the Lord to “seal them [the two stones] up also with the things which ye shall write.” (Ether 3:23) This seems to have been done so “that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.” (Ether 3:24. Ether was told the same thing.
    So, a few possible conjectures seem possible:
    1. The Jaredite interpreters somehow were separated from the brother of Jared’s record (written by Ether) and the former were found by the Nephites (or Mulekites). The latter was discovered by the people of King Limhi and the interpreters and the record were subsequently reunited. The only reason why this conjecture seems plausible is because the Lord told the three witnesses that they would be able to view “the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount.” (D&C 17:1) Many assume that the preceding chain of events must have happened for this to occur.
    2. The Jaredite interpreters are not the same as the Nephite interpreters. The Lord could have made a new set of interpreters for the Nephite kings as he did for the brother of Jared.
    3. Ether tells us that he was commanded to write and seal up the brother of Jared’s words along with the interpreters, which he said that he did (Ether 4:5). It is possible that these specific plates and interpreters have not been discovered yet. If this were the case, then the 24 plates found by the people of King Limhi could have been a duplicate or even a summarized version of Ether’s original plates.
    My only point is that it seems inconclusive to identify the interpreters of Mosiah 2 with those of the brother of Jared. Thoughts anyone?

    • Loren,
      Thanks for the corrections. Regarding your conjecture #1, which I agree with (obviously) because it seems the most economical and because of the statement in D&C 17:1, see Don Bradley’s “Piercing the Veil: Temple Worship in the Lost 116 Pages” for his view of how the Nephites got the Jaredite interpreters based on a story from the 116 lost manuscript pages.

      • Stan
        Thanks for the reference to Bradley. His source was an article published in the May 1870 Historical Magazine, written by Fayette Lapham 40 years after his purported interview with Joseph Smith Sr. Lapham concluded his article with the following:
        “At this point, the interview came to an end; and my friend and myself returned home, fully convinced that we had smelt a large mice.”
        I believe that we can conclude from this statement that he was no friend to the Church or to the Smiths.
        Now a few points from Bradley and Lapham:
        1. Bradley wrote, “Lapham’s account details one of these in particular, a narrative that beautifully embodies the Book of Mormon’s complex use of Exodus typology and other threads of the Hebrew Bible—namely, the narrative of the Nephites finding the Jaredite interpreters.”
        2. Bradley also wrote, “How the Nephites acquired the Jaredite interpreters is never described in our Book of Mormon text and has been identified by several scholars as one of the great questions it raises but does not answer.”
        3. The problem is that Bradley’s source – Lapham – never uses the words Jaredite or interpreters. Here is what Lapham wrote: “They also found something of which they did not know the use, but when they went into the tabernacle, a voice said, ‘What have you got in your hand, there?’ They replied that they did not know, but had come to inquire; when the voice said, ‘Put it on your face, and put your face in a skin, and you will see what it is.’ They did so, and could see everything of the past, present, and future; and it was the same spectacles that Joseph found with the gold plates.”
        4. So, based on Lapham’s article the provenance of the spectacles is unsettled. They could have been found by the Nephites in the same way that the Liahona was found, or they could have been left by the Jaredites.
        5. Lapham gets a lot of of the Book of Mormon story wrong. Here are a few:
        a. Uncertain if he is speaking of the Jaredites or the Nephites, he wrote, “a certain number of Jews, who, at the time of crossing the Red Sea, left the main body and went away by themselves; finally became a rich and prosperous nation; and, in the course of time, became so wicked that the Lord determined to destroy them from off the face of the earth.”
        b. Speaking of Lehi, he wrote: “after traveling three days, he remembered that he had left some papers, in the office where he had been an officer, which he thought would be of use to him in his journeyings.”
        c. Of Nephi going back to get the “papers” he wrote: “it was night, and he found the citizens had been having a great feast, and were all drunk. When he went to the office to get his father’s papers he was told that the chief clerk was not in, and he must find him before he could have the papers. He then went into the street in search of him; but every body being drunk, he could get but little information of his whereabouts.”
        d. After getting the papers, “The family then moved on, for several days, when they were directed to stop and get materials to make brass plates upon which to keep a record of their journey; also to erect a tabernacle, wherein they could go and inquire whenever they became bewildered or at a loss what to do.”
        I could cite more, but the obvious embellishments and errors make Lapham’s account less than credible. So, even if he had claimed that the Jaredites were the source of the interpreters, I would not put much stock in Lapham’s words.
        After doing some additional searching, I found a great article published by the Maxwell Institute in 2002, and written by Valentin Arts. In the article, Arts makes a compelling argument that the brother of Jared’s sealed record, along with the interpreting stones, is still buried somewhere awaiting to be revealed to us. Here is the link:

        • Loren,
          You’re right that Lapham got many things wrong. Thanks for the link to the Valentin Arts paper. Arts does suggest that the Jaredite interpreters were transmitted from nation to nation along with part of the Jaredite record (the vision of the brother of Jared contained in the sealed portion of the Nephite gold plates) and that they were both finally returned to Moroni after Joseph Smith possessed them.
          “We note again that in the above summary the interpreters were never separated from the sealed record for which they were given. No person ever held the interpreters without possessing the record of the brother of Jared, either sealed or unsealed.”
          His main thesis is that the brother of Jared’s vision could not have been on the 24 gold Jaredite plates, so there must have been another Jaredite record given to the Nephites that contained the vision, and that the interpreters were likely transmitted to the Nephites along with that other record. That record and the Jaredite interpreters would have been held by Mosiah, Alma, and on down the line to Moroni. Note that in Ether 4:5 it is Moroni, not Ether, who is commanded to seal up the interpreters with the vision of the brother of Jared.
          Arts concludes that there was only one set of interpreters:
          “That the interpreters of King Mosiah were the very same that the brother of Jared had received becomes obvious from Doctrine and Covenants 17:1…To assume that Mosiah, or the Nephites in general, had other interpreters than the ones given to the brother of Jared would raise more questions than it would answer.”
          He states that the interpreters given to the Jaredites must have either been found by the Nephites (in agreement with Lapham) or delivered to them. Also, consider that only one pair of interpreters is ever formally introduced to us in the Book of Mormon, and that is the pair given to the brother of Jared. The interpreters possessed by the Nephites are associated with the Jaredite record in Alma 37 verse 21 and again in verses 24-26. Since the Jaredite records were transferred to the Nephites, it would be expected that the interpreters that were prepared for the translation of those records were transferred to the Nephites also. That would match the pattern of transfer of both records and interpreters from the Nephites nation to the Gentiles (Joseph Smith). Anyway, as far as I can see, there is no need expressed in the Book of Mormon for there to have been more than one set of interpreters, and no indication that there was more than one set.

          • Stan
            It is a very interesting situation. All sorts of questions surround the Jaredite plates and interpreters. Lots of speculation at this point. We can say for certain that the Jaredites had interpreters as well as the Nephites. But, whether they were the same is not clear, at least not to me. The Jaredite interpreters could have been placed in the box with the other items in a number of natural and supernatural ways. Ether could have delivered the interpreters to Moroni or to Mosiah 1.
            My only point is that since we do not know for sure, we should probably hold off identifying the Nephite interpreters as the same that were given to the brother of Jared.

  5. Stan
    I was wondering why you describe Alma 37 as poetry when it isn’t poetic, but then noticed that you incorrectly consider the presence of chiasmus to be poetic (note 16). Chiasmus is a literary or rhetorical device and may be used with either poetry or narrative. I do not, in any case, see the presence of the three large chiasms you describe. I’d be happy to send you my own detailed analysis of each.
    I do agree with you that there are many obvious opportunities for word-play or echoing in Alma 37. However, your attempt at an etymology for Liahona (note 8) seems quite unlikely to me – even though the 1981 D&C 3:15 has a note for “thy director” saying that it refers to the Lord. I would prefer something based on the Hebrew participal ḥone “encamps, pitches (tent)” (Ps 34:7) which is from a verb used repeatedly in Exodus & Numbers to indicate each station or encampment of the Israelites. That might give us a meaning akin to “Encamping for Yah,” which would fit the fact that the Lehites were engaged in a similar “Exodus” in stages while guided by the Liahona.

    • Robert,
      Thanks for checking me on this. These passages aren’t the terse poetry of Psalms, etc., and they certainly aren’t verse. As with other creative arts, poetry resists rigid definition. I was thinking in a broad (maybe too broad) sense of poetry as the creative use of language to heighten imagery and emotional effects and imbue a text with additional meaning, as opposed to prose, which is “straightforward” (Latin “prosa”) writing. In Hebrew poetry, paralellism of meaning (including chiasmus) is part of this creative use of language, and is somewhat analogous to rhyme in modern poetry. In the case of the interpreters passage, the marked repetition of synonymous phrases (“bring to light,” “manifest,” “make known”) and of dark words (see the text and note 21) works with the imagery/metaphor of light to provide another dimension to the text. The paralellism and repetition also give the passage an interesting, though irregular, rhythm. I consider such an artful deviation from straight prose to be poetic, but others may not. I think the interpreters passage is most comparable to prose poetry such as Charles Baudelaire’s wonderful “Be Drunk”–“…be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.” (Googling will get you the entire poem). The brass ball passage is admittedly quite prosaic, but it does have some nice paralellism and allusions (most objectively to the brazen serpent) and possibly wordplay. Whether we consider the various literary devices used by Alma to be poetic or not, they help illuminate, in my view, the meaning of the word directors.
      Yes, I would love to see your detailed analyses of what I have called chiasms. (stanspencer1…
      The etymology of Liahona in note 8 is not my attempt, but that of Jonathan Curci, as indicated in the reference in the note, and I will defer to his paper for the reasoning behind it. You are more qualified than I to judge its merits. In any case, it’s the apparent Yah (‘iaho’) element of Liahona that is the most interesting, and the only one I see word play around. Interesting idea about an etymology based on hone.

  6. The sequence of events in 1 Nephi is that (1) Lehi has a vision from God in which he sees a pillar of fire, then a vision of seeing God on his throne, and after preaching, he escapes Jerusalem with his family and camps on the east side of the Red Sea, in the area of Midian, where Moses took the Israelites and received the Word of God on the mountain; (2) Lehi sends his sons back to get the Word of God on the brass plates; (3) Lehi has a dream and sees the iron rod leading to the shining tree of life. (4) Nephi asks God to show him the meaning of the dream, is taken into “an exceedingly high mountain” like Moses, and is shown the meaning of the dream and much more, including that the iron rod directing people through darkness to the tree of life is “the word of God”; (5) Nephi explains these things to his brothers, enlightening them; (6) Lehi finds the Liahona outside his tent and begins his journey, guided by “the word of God” written on the rod-shaped pointer inside the Liahona.
    There is a consistent theme here about the Word of God acting as light in darkness, and guiding the faithful safely to home with God. Lehi’s initial vision of God as light and revelation prepares him to know the importance of the Word in prior revelations to Moses and other prophets that have been preserved on the brass plates. The dream and vision of the tree of life and iron rod prepare them to grasp the importance of following the Word of God, and including what is received as the Liahona.
    Despite the widespread tradition of portraying the iron rod and the Liahona as distinct types of guides, in reality they both embody the Word of God and must be faithfully grasped as they point toward the source of light.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published.

 characters available

All comments are moderated to ensure respectful discourse. It is assumed that it is possible to disagree agreeably and intelligently and comments that intend to increase overall understanding are particularly encouraged. Individual authors are given the option to disallow commenting or end commenting after a certain period at their discretion.

Close this window

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This