There are 9 thoughts on “Say Now Shibboleth, or Maybe Cumorah”.

  1. Study in Scarlet?! Someone’s got a twisted sense of humor there. If you don’t happen to be familiar with that first (and in my opinion worst) of Conan Doyle’s efforts, it’s nastily anti-Mormon; Brigham Young is one of the villains. There’s a number of geographical impossibilities in the narrative and many other absurdities in representing behavior of early church members. Quite an ugly joke to put it out in the Desert Alphabet. Sheesh.

    • John
      John Jenkins, the creator of the Deseret Alphabet Classics, chose A Study in Scarlet as his first book in the series precisely because of the mysterious nature of the Deseret Alphabet and the LDS connection. Actually, I thought that it was quite a good choice. I also believe that today almost everyone is aware of the hyperbolic claims in the book. Jenkins has recently published The Sign of the Four, also by Doyle, in the Deseret Alphabet.

  2. As a student of Hebrew I am often asked for the “correct” pronunciation of scriptural names. This question is always absurd since the people bearing the names are not present to ask and the names have been adapted to the more familiar sounds of language of the reader. For names that are biblical I often respond with a modern Hebrew pronunciation which is especially amusing with some names where accents, letters, and sometimes entire syllables are completely different that what is likely to be interpreted from the letters on the page (Yis-ra-el, Mo-she, Ye-sha-ya-hu, etc.) then on top of that there are linguistic shifts within the ancient languages (a to o in the famous Canaanite shift for Hebrew) spelling inconsistencies, short and long forms of names. Problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
    I love Ludlow’s comment that “we will at least all be wrong together.” Ultimately the questions that are brought to me usually stem from a lack of confidence in reading foreign sounding names. The questioner is not really asking “How is this pronounced?” But is saying “I don’t want to sound foolish trying to read this.” Usually after having some fun with making difficult names even more difficult, I explain the pronunciation does not matter as long as we know who we are talking about and encourage people to use the pronunciation they like best and not rely on the PG. I think uniformity based on a lack of knowledge is a poor idea and no one should feel foolish (or superior) over their pronunciation when no correct answer is known.
    Great article though and wonderful research. I may have to order some DA books just for the coolness factor.

    • Some very good points. Pronunciation, no matter how early, is still arbitrary. I have read about eight of the DA Classics books so far, and it is a lot of fun. I probably never would have read Pride and Prejudice any other way. Now I am looking forward to reading Sense and Sensibility. Ironically, whenever people see me reading one (on a flight, etc.) they always ask if it is Hebrew.

  3. While it is true that Orson Pratt used the 1852 English Stereotype edition of the Book of Mormon to set type for the 1869 Deseret Alphabet edition, he actually used a circa 1854 or later corrected printing of that edition, and even added some corrections of his own here and there.
    Re Appendix I,
    In some cases, rather than the DA orthography from the 1869 Book of Mormon online at, the author may have followed Kenneth Jenkins’ automated printing of the DA Book of Mormon, in which many spellings are quite different. For example, rather than the correct 1869 DA spelling of Chemish (Omni 8-10), he has Jenkins’ version. In other cases, he simply has the wrong spelling, as for Gazelem (Alma 37:23), and for Melchizedek (Alma 13:14).
    He is also unaware of many variant spellings of names in the 1869 ed., e.g., Ether appears in two spellings (Ether 1:2, 15:34), while he has only one. For the two variants of Mormon, he again has only one. The author does list some variant spellings, but misses most of them.
    For a more correct listing of DA spellings, with IPA alongside, he should consult the full listing in the Name Index of the Book of Mormon Onomasticon, online at the .

    • Robert
      Thanks for your comments. I have responses and questions for you.
      1.You wrote, “While it is true that Orson Pratt used the 1852 English Stereotype edition of the Book of Mormon to set type for the 1869 Deseret Alphabet edition, he actually used a circa 1854 or later corrected printing of that edition, and even added some corrections of his own here and there.” That is a very interesting observation, and I do not doubt that you are right, but do you have a source for your information? Everything that I read only stated that the DA version was set from the 1852.
      2. I did not follow Kenneth Jenkins’ automated printing version for the transcription. I actually used my own original 1869 copy of the DA Book of Mormon. However, there were many times that poor quality printing and the small type in the hard copy made it difficult to read. In those cases I consulted the same online version that you referenced ( But, there were a few times that I consulted the online version and it appeared to differ from my own printed version. In those cases I used what appeared to me to be printed in the hard copy.
      I would like to consult my DA Book of Mormon (especially with regards to Gazelem and Melchizedek), but I am faced with a hindrance at the present. My wife and I started an LDS mission last Monday and I left my DA Book of Mormon at home. However, I will do my best to find a solution to this, and then get back to you. If indeed these names are misspelled in the article, then I can only claim scribal error. I knew going into this that my own scribal error was a definite possibility, although I was careful to avoid it.
      3. With regard to variant spellings, I have no doubt that I did not pick up on all of them. For example, after the article was typeset for publication I found a variant spelling of Amulek that I had not included in the list (Alma 8:3 in the DA version, Alma 10:12 in current version).
      I searched the Name Index of the Book of Mormon Onomasticon, as you suggested, but could not find a comprehensive listing of DA variant spellings. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong location. I did find that in the case of “Mormon,” the Onomasticon shows two DA spellings for the name, but it does not reference chapter or verse. In that case, it still comes down to visual observation of the text. In my reading I did not find any variant spelling of Mormon, but that does not mean that a variant spelling does not exist.

      • Loren,
        I will be happy to supply you with a systematic list of variants, as well as my summary on the 1852 edition readings. Just obtain my email address from Dan Peterson or Brant Gardner, or I can place those papers in the FAIRMORMON Dropbox. Whichever you prefer. I’m sure that I have some errors which need correcting also. Between us, we might just be able to generate a more accurate list.

        • Robert
          Thanks. I have requested your email address.
          I have spent my early mornings, meals and late nights for the last few days carefully reviewing all of the names in the appendix and comparing them to the online DA Book of Mormon.
          Here is the result. In addition to the 3 misspelled words that you found (Chemish, Gazelem and Melchizedek), I found three more (Curelom, Kumenonhi and Sherem). Each of the six words has one incorrect character in the word. I can understand how I made all of the mistakes but one – Melchizedek. I am still scratching my head over that one. I will make sure that all of these corrections are reflected in the article.
          I feel confident that all of the spelling errors have now been found. So, thanks for your effort in reviewing the list. Also, I have learned from this experience never to be critical of Oliver Cowdery.
          In addition, I found eight additional words with possible variant spellings – Amnigaddah, Amulek, Cumorah, Jeneum (in addition to the o), Jerusalem, Lamoni, Moroni and Moronihah. My daughter is going to photograph the relevant pages from the hard copy and email them to me. Some of the words are difficult to read clearly on the online text. Finally, I am interested to compare additional variant spellings that you may have identified.

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