Gazelem the Jaredite

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Abstract: Alma refers to Gazelem in his instructions to his son Helaman in Alma 37:23. This article proposes and explores the concept of identifying Gazelem as a Jaredite seer. Other theories of the identity of Gazelem are addressed in this article but not explored in depth. It discusses the full context of Alma’s words, the Jaredite secret combinations and their oaths, Gazelem’s seer stone, and the Nephite interpreters. Additionally, it proposes a possible timeline that Gazelem lived among the Jaredites. It also discusses the usage of “Gazelam” as a substitute name for Joseph Smith in early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.

One of the more mysterious passages of the Book of Mormon is Alma’s reference to Gazelem in Alma 37:23.1 Gazelem has been interpreted by various authors to be the name of a seer stone, a name-title for seer, or a prophecy of Joseph Smith, among other things. This article proposes that Gazelem was a Jaredite prophet who received revelations about the Jaredites through a seer stone.2 Considering this idea necessitates the discussion of several topics: Alma’s instructions to Helaman,3 the use of a seer stone, the “interpreters,” the Book of Ether, the secret combinations [Page 86]of the Jaredites, and “Gazelam” as a substitute name for Joseph Smith in the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants.

The discussion begins with the full context of Alma’s words to his son, Helaman:

And now I will speak unto you concerning those twenty four plates,
that ye keep them,
that the mysteries and the works of darkness and their secret works
— or the secret works of those people which have been destroyed —
may be made manifest unto this people
— yea, all their murders and robbings and their plunderings
and all their wickedness and abominations may be made manifest unto this people —
yea, and that ye preserve these directors.
For behold, the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness
— yea, work secret murders and abominations —
therefore the Lord said
if they did not repent,
they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.
And the Lord said:
I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem
a stone which shall shine forth in darkness unto light,
that I may discover unto my people which serve me —
that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren,
yea, their secret works, their works of darkness,
and their wickedness and abominations.

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.

And now my son, I command you
that ye retain all their oaths and their covenants
and their agreements in their secret abominations;
[Page 87]yea, and all their signs and their wonders ye shall retain from this people,
that they know them not,
lest peradventure they should fall into darkness also and be destroyed.

(Alma 37:21–27)4


Some proposed theories about the identity of Gazelem are summarized by the quotations below. The purpose of this article is not to discredit or disprove these theories, simply to propose my own. These quotations serve as a representative sample of their number and variety. I include them here to demonstrate that there is no consensus among them, and sometimes there isn’t a consensus within them.

  • With reference to the name Gazelam, it is interesting to note that Alma in directing Helaman to preserve both the Urim and Thummim and the plates containing the Book of Ether, says that such record will be brought to light by the Lord’s servant Gazelem, who will use “a stone” in his translation work. (Alma 37:21–23.) It may be that Gazelem is a variant spelling of Gazelam and that Alma’s reference is to the Prophet Joseph Smith who did in fact bring forth part at least of the Ether record. Or it could be that the name Gazelem (Gazelam) is a title having to do with power to translate ancient records and that Alma’s reference was to some Nephite prophet who brought the Book of Ether to light in the golden era of Nephite history.5
  • “I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone.” This may well be a play on words. Is Gazelem the seer stone or the servant? It is difficult to tell from the passage and depends very much on the placement of a comma in the sentence. Perhaps it could refer to both. It is interesting to note that when Jesus called Simon Peter to the ministry, he said: “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is, by interpretation, a seer, or a stone” (JST, John 1:42). Though this [Page 88]name or title of Gazelem may be used in regard to any seer who utilizes seer stones, it seems in this instance to be a direct reference to Joseph Smith the Prophet.6
  • Whether Gazelem refers to the servant or the stone is unclear. … If it is the name or title of a servant, Gazelem could refer to the brother of Jared, who received the interpreters from the Lord, or to Mosiah, who used them to translate the Jaredite record for the benefit of the Nephites.7
  • Alma used this prophecy to emphasize the prophetic role of Mosiah II and his translation of the 24 gold plates. He apparently felt that the person “Gazelem” was Mosiah II and that it was relevant that he translated with the two seer stones bound in a metal bow.8

My Servant Gazelem

Royal Skousen has argued from a linguistic and textual standpoint that Gazelem is probably the name of a person and not the name of a stone.

Most likely, the phrase here in Alma 37:23, “my servant Gazelem,” intends to say that the name of the servant was Gazelem. One reason is that there are numerous instances in the text of the expression “my servant <name>”: my servant Abinadi (Mosiah 26:15), my servant Amulek (Alma 8:29), my servant Samuel the Lamanite (3 Nephi 23:9), my servant John (Ether 4:16). Another reason is that if the name of the stone were Gazelem, we would expect the word order to be different, with the indefinite a stone preceding its name (something like “I will prepare unto my servant a stone, Gazelem”). … The [Page 89]critical text will therefore interpret the name Gazelem as the name of the servant, not the name of the stone.9

This article will also interpret Gazelem to be the name of the servant. The question then becomes, who was he? And why does Alma refer to him?

Alma’s Instructions to Helaman

The words of Alma to his son Helaman include Alma chapters 36 and 37.10 Chapter 36 is a beautiful retelling of Alma’s conversion, including personal exhortations to Helaman, formed as an ancient chiasm.11 In Alma 37, Alma instructed Helaman regarding certain artifacts, “sacred things” he would be charged with preserving: the plates of brass, the 24 Jaredite plates, the brother of Jared’s “interpreters” which Alma called “directors,”12 and the Liahona. He took the opportunity to teach Helaman certain doctrines relative to each one. Dividing this chapter into topical sections based on each of these “sacred things” reveals a structure wherein Alma combined his discussion of the 24 plates and the directors together under the broader topic of the Jaredites’ secret combinations. His reference to Gazelem originated within that discussion. Alma taught Helaman how secret combinations destroyed the Jaredites and warned him that they could also destroy the Nephites. He instructed him how to approach this subject — to readily teach the people to abhor secret combinations but not to reveal the particulars of the Jaredite oaths.

Alma described the secretive subculture that overtook and extinguished the Jaredites with these words: “mysteries,” “works of darkness,” “secret works,” “murders,” “robbings,” “plunderings,” “wickedness,” “abominations,” “secret murders,” “secret abominations,” and “secret combinations.”13 This article will refer to them simply as secret combinations. Helaman was told to freely teach the Nephites the consequences of these. Alma described the agreements between members of those secret combinations with these words: “oaths,” “covenants,” [Page 90]“agreements,” “signs,” “wonders,” and “secret plans.”14 This article will refer to them as oaths. Alma commanded Helaman not to reveal the oaths of the Jaredites’ secret combinations to their people; therefore, it stands to reason that both the history of the secret combinations and the details of their oaths were written on the Jaredite plates.

The secret combinations that Alma referred to were in the Nephites’ past — the Jaredite secret combinations. Secret combinations among the Nephites didn’t exist at the time Alma spoke these words to Helaman. They were foreign to the Nephites until just before Alma’s grandson, Helaman2, became chief judge.15 Kishkumen and Gadianton formed a secret band with their own secret signs, words, laws, and covenants. Mormon made sure to inform us that “those secret oaths and covenants did not come forth unto Gadianton from the records which were delivered unto Helaman.”16


Within Alma’s discussion of the Jaredite secret combinations, he introduced the historical context of Gazelem:

For behold, the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness
— yea, work secret murders and abominations —
therefore the Lord said
if they did not repent,
they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.
(Alma 37:22)

Note that Alma used past tense: “the Lord saw that his people began.” In light of the circumstances of these verses (Alma’s giving the Jaredite record to Helaman), this statement is clearly a reference to Jaredites and their secret combinations, as written on the Jaredite plates. It is a discussion of the past, not a prophecy of the future. Alma was summarizing the Lord’s interactions with the Jaredites — how he responded to their wickedness. He was retelling a sequence of historical events, a give-and-take or cause-and-effect. The Lord saw their wickedness; therefore, the Lord spoke. The Lord had a message for the Jaredites: repent, or be destroyed. Simple as it sounds, this conditional consequence was the crux of the Jaredites’ fate. A few verses later, Alma referred back to this prophecy by observing:

[Page 91]we see that they did not repent;
therefore they have been destroyed.
(Alma 37:26)

Later in his instructions, Alma applied the same requirements to all future inhabitants of this land:

Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever
unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction,
except they repent before they are fully ripe.
(Alma 37:31)

After introducing the history of the Jaredites’ secret combinations, it appears that Alma quoted two scriptural passages.17 His source text is not available to us.18 Neither did Alma specify where the words came from. However, we can make several deductions with confidence. These quotations were written in the voice of the Lord. They were spoken to the Jaredites. Alma was well acquainted with these words and wove them seamlessly into his teachings about the consequences of the Jaredites’ secret combinations. Alma’s omission of their source might indicate that Helaman was already familiar with the quotes and their origins. Given all this, the strongest possibility is that Alma quoted directly from the Jaredite plates, the same records he was entrusting to Helaman.

If we combine the two blocks of quoted text from Alma’s instructions to Helaman, we see how they may have originally been one continuous passage:

I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem
a stone which shall shine forth in darkness unto light,
that I may discover unto my people which serve me —
that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren,
yea, their secret works, their works of darkness,
and their wickedness and abominations.
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.
[Page 92]And I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations
unto every nation which shall hereafter possess the land.
(Alma 37:23–25)

Whether or not they were one passage, it is important to point out that these words were spoken by the Lord before the Jaredites were destroyed. They were given to the Jaredites as a warning. There was still a chance for them to repent. “If they did not repent” and “except they repent” are the conditions proposed. Therefore, the Lord spoke these words when the Jaredite secret combinations existed. The Lord brought their secrets “out of darkness unto light” at that time.

As discussed previously, these revelations commenced when “the Lord saw that his people began to work “secret combinations.”19 In response, he revealed their secret works to “their brethren.” A logical interpretation is that the brethren of the wicked Jaredites were the righteous Jaredites, those who served the Lord. The Lord revealed to them “all the secret works” of their brethren.

According to these passages, the instrument for these revelations was a stone, given to a servant of the Lord. The name of this servant was Gazelem, and the revelations he received were written on the Jaredite plates.

A Stone

The function of this seer stone sounds similar to what is known about the translation of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith used either the Nephite interpreter stones or his own seer stone (eventually, either instrument became synonymous with the term “Urim and Thummim”). Joseph placed the seer stone into a hat and then put his face into the hat to look upon the stone in darkness. The words revealed to Joseph were then dictated to his scribe.20 The seer stone that the Lord prepared for Gazelem was similarly a stone which would “shine forth in darkness unto light.”21

[Page 93]Thus the Jaredite record describes three different types of sacred stones which had divine functions: the sixteen stones that the brother of Jared asked the Lord to touch with his finger to give light to the Jaredite barges,22 the two stones that the Lord gave to the brother of Jared on the mount (the “interpreters” or “directors”),23 and the seer stone of Gazelem. As indicated by the text, Gazelem’s seer stone was a single stone. Conversely, the interpreters are always described in the plural — as “stones,” “directors,” or “interpreters” — specifically as “two stones … fastened into the two rims of a bow.”24


I propose that the revealing of the Jaredite secret combinations to the Nephites was a two-step process. First, Gazelem used his seer stone to reveal the secret combinations of his contemporaries during his time. Those revelations were subsequently recorded on the Jaredite plates. Later, Mosiah2 translated these words into the Nephite language with the interpreters.25 Through these two revelatory steps, the secret combinations of the Jaredites were manifest to the Nephites. Both times, interpreters and seers worked in tandem to bring them to light — first Gazelem and his seer stone and, much later, Mosiah2 and the interpreters. Alma referred to both instruments via the two quotations (above) to describe that process. The first quotation (discussed above) refers to Gazelem and his use of a seer stone. Part of the second quotation (discussed below), includes a prophecy that Alma considered to be fulfilled by Mosiah2’s use of the interpreters.

The language of the Jaredites was completely unknown to the Nephites.26 Providentially, the Lord gave the brother of Jared the interpreters, which were prepared “for the purpose of interpreting languages.”27 There are questions as to whether Mosiah2 used his own “interpreters” or the two stones given to the brother of Jared.28 I personally conclude they were the same as those given to the brother [Page 94]of Jared (which were also the same that Joseph Smith used) and that the first reference to these interpreters being used is when Mosiah1 translated a large stone containing the writings of Coriantumr, a lone Jaredite survivor who had lived with the people of Mulek for a short time.29 Decades later, Mosiah1’s grandson, Mosiah2, used the interpreters to translate the 24 Jaredite plates which had been found by the people of King Limhi.30 We do not know how Mosiah1 came to possess the brother of Jared’s interpreters or why the interpreters and the Jaredite plates were not deposited together — the Nephites recovered them separately as the passage below demonstrates. However these questions are answered, for the sake of this discussion it only matters that Mosiah2 was a seer who used the interpreters to translate the 24 Jaredite plates, then publish them.

Ammon, who aided the return of the people of King Limhi, was familiar with the abilities of a seer and the functioning of the interpreters. He told King Limhi:

I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records;
for he hath wherewith that he can look
and translate all records that are of ancient date,
and it is a gift from God.
And the things are called interpreters,
and no man can look in them except he be commanded.
(Mosiah 8:13)

He continues with the description of a seer, which can be applied to the brother of Jared, Gazelem, Mosiah2, Joseph Smith, and others in the scriptures.

But a seer can know of things which are passed,
and also of things which are to come;
and by them shall all things be revealed
— or rather shall secret things be made manifest —
and hidden things shall come to light,
and things which is not known shall be made known by them,
and also things shall be made known by them
[Page 95]which otherwise could not be known.
(Mosiah 8:17)

He further declared, “a gift which is greater can no man have.”31

Alma taught Helaman the crucial role that these interpreters played in revealing the Jaredite secret combinations by quoting a second passage from the Jaredite plates. In this second Jaredite quotation, the use of the connecting pronouns “they” and “their” — referring to those who indulge in secret combinations — suggests that it is a continuation of the first Jaredite quotation.32

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.
(Alma 37:24–26)

This second Jaredite quotation has three important parts. The first two lines are a continuation of the first Jaredite quotation. The next line is the source for the words that Alma paraphrased to Helaman as he began his discussion of the 24 plates: “[T]he Lord said if they did not repent, they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.”33 The last two lines are a prophecy that future nations would know of the Jaredite secret combinations. After quoting this prophecy, Alma pointed out its fulfillment to Helaman. Mosiah2 had used the interpreters to translate the Jaredite plates and publish them to the Nephites. Alma emphasized, “And thus far the word of God hath [Page 96]been fulfilled; yea, their secret abominations have been brought out of darkness and made known unto us.”

According to Alma, the fulfillment of this prophecy is one of the purposes of the interpreters. They “were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled.” Their instrumentality brought the secret combinations of the Jaredites to the knowledge of the Nephites. However, this prophecy includes more than just the Nephites; it also predicts that a knowledge of the Jaredite secret combinations will come to “every nation which shall hereafter possess the land.” Hence Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon and our knowledge of its contents, especially Moroni’s abridgement of the Book of Ether, continues its fulfillment in our day.

The Book of Ether

Having considered the idea that Gazelem was a Jaredite and that he brought the secret combinations and oaths of the wicked Jaredites to light through revelations from the Lord, which were subsequently written in the Jaredite plates, the question then arises: When did Gazelem live among the Jaredites?

Moroni abridged the Jaredite plates (or their earlier Nephite translation) and included it with his writings at the end of the Book of Mormon.34 His abridgement is relatively small, and includes many of his own thoughts. In the course of his account, he wrote the names of 55 individuals; 30 are the same as those given at the beginning of the book, in the genealogy from Ether to Jared, but in reverse order.35 Of the 55 named individuals, 34 were kings. Non-specific groups of “prophets” are mentioned seven times, but none of the prophets are named except Ether.36 Even the brother of Jared isn’t named. It isn’t surprising then, that Gazelem’s name wasn’t included in the abridgment. Moroni said, “I could not make a full account of these things which are written” and “the hundredth part I have not written.”37 We can therefore appreciate how much of the record he was able to append.

Without any specifics about Gazelem from the Book of Ether, we can only guess as to a possible time that he lived. Alma prefaced his reference to Gazelem by saying, “The Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness.”38 Using this information as a starting point, we can find [Page 97]multiple times in the Book of Ether when the Jaredites were involved in secret combinations. However, the first instance of secret combinations is notable because Moroni included many details of its establishment, mentioned the oaths, inserted his own commentary, and added a warning about secret combinations to latter-day readers.39 This beginning was in the days of Jared, the son of Omer, five generations from the original Jared.

Jaredite Secret Combinations

Jared’s daughter was “expert” and inspired him in a plot to kill his father and obtain the kingdom. She asked her father:

Hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep?
Behold, is there not an account concerning them of old,
that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory?
(Ether 8:8–9)

Moroni appropriately placed the blame on the three individuals who initiated the secret combinations that plagued the Jaredites until their destruction:

And it was the daughter of Jared
which put it into his heart to search up these things of old;
and Jared put it into the heart of Akish.
(Ether 8:17)

Akish willingly led the coup, following the plans of Jared and his daughter:

And Akish did administer unto them [his kindred and friends] the oaths
which was given by them of old, who also sought power,
… And they [the secret combinations] were kept up by the power of the devil,
to administer these oaths unto the people, to keep them in darkness,
to help such as sought power to gain power
and to murder and to plunder and to lie
[Page 98]and to commit all manner of wickedness and whoredoms.
(Ether 8:15–16)

Akish eventually had Jared beheaded using these same secret combinations. He then assumed the throne.40

With this historical backdrop, Moroni broke from his abridgment to discuss, at length, the evils of secret combinations:

For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations,
neither doth he will that man should shed blood;
but in all things hath forbidden it from the beginning of man.
(Ether 8:19)41

Moroni’s entire discourse there is worth reading. He added a warning to his future readers about secret combinations in their day, but he also obeyed Alma’s commandment not to disclose the specific oaths:

And now I Moroni do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations,
for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people;
… And they have caused the destruction of this people of which I am now speaking,
and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.
(Ether 8:20–21)

Moroni’s declaration that he would not include their oaths at this point in his abridgment implies that the oaths were written in the Jaredite record in connection with the history of Jared and Akish. If the Lord revealed the oaths proximate to the same time they happened in Jaredite history, the association between Alma’s discussion with Helaman and these historical events is strengthened. For the righteous Jaredites (who presumably kept the records), knowledge of these specific conversations between Jared and his daughter, the secret meetings of Akish and his kindred, and the specific oaths they used would have required revelation from the Lord.42 The detailed record of their deeds corresponds with Alma’s description: when the Lord “saw that his people began to work in [Page 99]darkness,” he declared that he would “discover to (his people) the works of their brethren … all their secret works and abominations.”43

Close reading of the events that led to the first Jaredite secret combinations, coupled with a close look at Moroni’s commentary therein, leads to the dating of Gazelem’s lifetime sometime within the generations surrounding the reign of Jared and Akish.44

Gazelem the Jaredite

The Lord mercifully warned King Omer in a dream to flee before Akish could assassinate him.45 His family (and a few others who eventually joined them) fled to the seashore, to a place called Ablom.46 Perhaps Gazelem was a member of Omer’s household, who fled with him. If he didn’t, the prospects for survival under the reign of Akish weren’t very good. “So great had been the spreading of this wicked and secret society that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people.”47 A civil war “which lasted for the [Page 100]space of many years,” between Akish and his own sons left only 30 people alive.48 Omer then returned to reclaim his kingdom unopposed.

The Lord speaks of Gazelem in the third person — “my servant Gazelem”49 — which includes the possibility that the Lord is speaking about Gazelem to someone else. Perhaps these words of the Lord that Alma quoted were part of Omer’s dream.50 The Lord may have instructed Omer to take Gazelem and the others with him and promised Omer “I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone.”51 Those people who fled with Omer to the seashore may have been the righteous servants to whom Lord revealed the secret combinations through Gazelem: “That I may discover unto my people which serve me (Omer and his people) — that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren (Jared and Akish), yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations.”52

Their proximity to the seashore may have reminded Omer’s people of the voyage their ancestors made across the sea. The description of the 16 stones the brother of Jared put in each end of the barges shares similar wording with the description of Gazelem’s stone — “Thus the Lord caused stones to shine in darkness, to give light unto men, women, and children, that they might not cross the great waters in darkness.”53 When the Lord said he would prepare for Gazelem “a stone which shall shine forth in darkness unto light,”54 perhaps he was drawing a parallel that had deep cultural meaning for the descendants of those who crossed the sea with lighted stones.

It’s possible Gazelem found his stone at the seashore. But it seems too speculative to glean any more from the Book of Ether. We don’t know what became of Gazelem or his seer stone.[Page 101]


The concept of Gazelem as a Jaredite prophet raises several questions. Why would the Lord reveal these things to Gazelem through his own stone and not the interpreters given to the brother of Jared? Did Gazelem have access to the interpreters? It is possible that none of the Jaredites did. The brother of Jared was commanded “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.”55 What we know from the text is that the Nephites found the interpreters and the 24 plates independently.56 Therefore, the prophet Ether may not have inherited the interpreters in the end — they aren’t specifically mentioned as being in his possession. If he did have them, why would he deposit them apart from the 24 plates? Perhaps the brother of Jared buried or hid the interpreters with his sealed record. Moroni comments that he was commanded to hide the sealed portion and the interpreters “again in the earth.”57 This implies that they were hidden in the earth previously. Mosiah1, may have been guided to where the Brother of Jared buried them.58 Some of these questions may have been answered on the lost 116 pages.59 In any case, if Gazelem didn’t have access to the interpreters, it makes sense for the Lord to prepare a seer stone for him.


When Joseph Smith and his associates were preparing the publication of the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, the names of many individuals and places were substituted with other names to protect the identity of church leaders. Joseph Smith’s name was replaced with the [Page 102]names “Enoch,” “Baurak Ale,” and “Gazelam.”60 This may have been an alternate spelling or misspelling of “Gazelem.” Joseph Smith’s and early church members’ interest in learning Hebrew or the language of Adam may have played a role in which names they selected.61 These names were gradually removed from subsequent editions of the Doctrine and Covenants and the real names inserted.

Many early Latter-Day Saints used the name Gazelam (Gazelem) to refer to Joseph Smith or his seer stone. The following are some notable examples, compiled by Mark Ashurst-McGee:62

  • Of Wilford Woodruff, it was written: “In his possession he had many relics, among which was the seer stone, known as ‘Gazelem,’ which was shown of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith.”63 It is not clear whether the unknown author of this statement was quoting President Woodruff or if they interjected the phrase about Gazelem themselves.
  • In 1855, approximately 11 years after the funeral of Joseph Smith, William W. Phelps wrote down the sermon he gave on that occasion, according to his memory. He wrote: “Joseph Smith, who was Gazelam in the spirit world, was, and is, and will be in the progress of Eternity: — The Prince of Light. ‘Tis so; and who can dispute it?”64
  • Brigham Young and Willard Richards included an index to the 1841 edition of the Book of Mormon which had the entry: “Gazelem, a stone, (secret).”65

[Page 103]How do these usages of the name reconcile with the idea of Gazelem as a Jaredite prophet? One line of reasoning is that our knowledge of the name Gazelem began when early Latter-Day Saints became familiar with the Book of Mormon. Since Alma 37 is one of the few places in the Book of Mormon that mentions the act of receiving revelations through a stone, early church members readily repurposed the name Gazelem and associated it with elements of Joseph Smith’s divine calling as a seer.66 In addition, for the early saints, this passage initiated the question of whether Gazelem is the name of the person or the name of the stone, with no apparent consensus. The same question persists among the saints today, also without a consensus. The substitution of “Gazelam” for Joseph’s name in the Doctrine and Covenants reinforced the perception that it was a prophecy of Joseph. After his death, that perception would have been amplified by a nostalgia for Joseph by those who knew him, or a desire to elevate his prophetic station.

We don’t know whether Joseph saw himself as a fulfillment of these verses, just felt a kinship with whoever Gazelem was, or even chose the substitute name himself. There are no surviving statements from Joseph declaring that he or his seer stone was named Gazelem.

A prophecy concerning Joseph Smith already exists in the Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi chapter 3, and it mentions his given name “Joseph” explicitly. This prophecy actually comes from the plates of brass — the writings of Joseph of Egypt — with which Alma would have been very familiar. Immediately before giving Helaman the 24 plates, Alma had entrusted him with the plates of brass.67 But Alma doesn’t appear to be prophesying of future events. He points out that these prophecies and words he quotes have already been fulfilled “thus far,” including the use of the interpreters.

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.
(Alma 37:26)

In this context, it doesn’t seem that Alma is prophesying of the then future restoration to be accomplished by Joseph Smith in the latter-days, other than the quotation of the Lord that he would “bring to light all their secrets and abominations unto every nation which shall [Page 104]hereafter possess the land.”68 Interpreting Gazelem as a Jaredite prophet does not diminish Joseph Smith’s foreordained calling or his important work of translating the Book of Mormon.


This article is an attempt to determine who Gazelem was, placing the burden of proof on the text of the Book of Mormon instead of the myriad subsequent interpretations or applications of the name.

The purpose of this article is also to provide a scriptural framework for interpreting Gazelem as a Jaredite prophet. Some important points for understanding this concept are summarized below:

  • In these verses about Gazelem, Alma speaks to Helaman about the Jaredites — the Jaredite record, the Jaredite secret combinations, and their destruction.
  • Alma quotes twice from the Jaredite plates.
  • Alma uses the quotations to teach about both the seer stone of Gazelem and the use of the interpreters by Mosiah2.
  • Gazelem was a servant of the Lord, whose revelations were recorded on the Jaredite plates.
  • Alma is speaking to Helaman about history — prophecies already fulfilled. The Jaredite secrets had been revealed. Gazelem was a seer in their past, not the future.
  • Gazelem’s seer stone is a different revelatory instrument than the interpreters. Thus, the Book of Mormon describes the prophetic use of both a seer stone and the interpreters as examples we can study to understand Joseph Smith’s experience in translating and receiving revelation.
  • Gazelem’s stone and the brother of Jared’s interpreters were both used to reveal the Jaredite secret combinations to the Nephites in a two-step process. The stone was used at the time the secret combinations began and the interpreters were used during the time of the Nephites.
  • Gazelem [Page 105]is not mentioned by name in the Book of Ether because the names included in the abridgment are typically the Jaredite kings or their political relatives.
  • Alma recounts a history when secret combinations started, when “the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness.” One possibility for Gazelem’s ministry, then, is the reign of Omer, when Jared and Akish founded the first secret combinations of the Jaredites.
  • “Gazelam” was used as a substitute for the name of Joseph Smith in early publications of the Doctrine and Covenants. He may have seen the language in Alma 37 as echoing his own experience with a seer stone, and adopted the name as a fitting substitute.


The text indicates that Gazelem was a Jaredite prophet, that he lived among the Jaredites at a time when they had begun to indulge in secret combinations, and that a seer stone had enabled him to reveal those secret combinations to the righteous Jaredites. These revelations were written down on the Jaredite plates — to justify and record the reason the Jaredites were destroyed. After the people of Limhi discovered those plates, Mosiah2 used the interpreters to translate them. This included the revelations that had been received by Gazelem through his seer stone. Alma referred to both instruments, quoted twice from the Jaredite plates, and noted the fulfillment of those prophecies as he taught his son Helaman about Jaredite history, their secret combinations, how those secret combinations were brought to the knowledge of the Nephites, and why the Nephites should reject such wickedness.


1. The Book of Mormon has multiple individuals named “Alma.” The Alma referred to in this article is commonly called “Alma the Younger” or Alma2. Throughout this paper this individual will simply be referred to as “Alma.”

2. The word “Jaredite” is never used in the Book of Mormon but is used in this article. The phrase “Jaredite plates” is used as a substitute name for the record of the Jaredites: “the twenty and four plates which were found by the people of Limhi, which is called the Book of Ether” (Ether 1:2).

3. The Book of Mormon also has multiple individuals named “Helaman.” In all instances in this paper, except one, references to “Helaman” are to the son of Alma. The one exception, noted hereafter as Helaman2, is to Alma’s grandson.

4. Royal Skousen, The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). This edition is used for the passages quoted from the Book of Mormon throughout this article. The bold italic text indicates suspected quotations from the Jaredite plates.

5. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 307.

6. Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 3:278.

7. Stan Spencer, “Reflections of Urim: Hebrew Poetry Sheds Light on the Directors-Interpreters Mystery,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, 14 (2015): 187–207, note 18.

8. Michael Hubbard Mackay and Nicholas J. Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book/Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center-Brigham Young University, 2016), 103.

9. Royal Skousen, “Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part Four: Alma 21–55” (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2007), 2361–63.

10. The chapter breaks in the Original Manuscript indicate that Alma 36 and 37 were originally one chapter.

11. See John W. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10, no. 3 (1969): 69–83.

12. The word “directors” was replaced with “interpreters” in the 1920 LDS edition of the Book of Mormon. For a discussion of this change see Skousen, “Textual Variants,” 2359–2361. See also: Stan Spencer, “Reflections of Urim” 187–207.

13. Alma 37:21–32.

14. Alma 37:27–32.

15. Helaman 1:9–12; 2:2–14; 6:15–31.

16. Helaman 6:22–26. See also Alma 63:12.

17. See the bold italic text in the passages quoted at the beginning of the article.

18. “While we do not yet have Ether’s full record, we do have what may be a fragment from that account in the prophecies of Alma when he entrusted these records to his son Helaman.” (Matthew Roper, “A Fragment from the Unabridged Record of Ether,”, September 19, 2017).

19. Alma 37:22.

20. Richard E. Turley Jr., Robin S. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Joseph the Seer,” Ensign, October 2015, 49–54; Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2015); Roger Nicholson, “The Spectacles, the Stone, the Hat, and the Book: A Twenty-first Century Believer’s View of the Book of Mormon Translation,” Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 5 (2013): 121–90.

21. Alma 37:23. Moroni alludes to Joseph Smith’s future translation of the gold plates in Mormon 8:16: “And blessed be him that shall bring this thing to light, for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness and come unto the knowledge of the people, and it shall be done by the power of God.”

22. Ether 3:1–6; 6:1–3.

23. Ether 3:21–4:7, Mosiah 8:12–18, Mosiah 28:11–19, D&C 17:1, JS — H 1:35.

24. Mosiah 28:13, see also JS — H 1:35.

25. Mosiah 28:11–19.

26. Mosiah 8:11. “[T]here is no one in the land that is able to interpret the language or the engravings that are on the plates.”

27. Mosiah 28:14.

28. Mackay and Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones, 96–102.

29. Omni 1:20 “And it came to pass in the days of Mosiah there was a large stone brought unto him with engravings on it, and he did interpret the engravings by the gift and power of God.” Joseph Smith used the same phrase, “by the gift and power of God” to describe his experience with the translation of the Book of Mormon (The Book of Mormon, 1830, Preface).

30. Mosiah 28:11–19.

31. Mosiah 8:16.

32. The bold italic text indicates suspected quotations from the Jaredite plates. The interpreters may not have been explicitly mentioned in the original Jaredite quotation here. Alma apparently saw how the interpreters fulfilled this prophecy and inserted his comment into the middle of the original quotation.

33. Alma 37:22.

34. Ether 1:1–2.

35. Ether 1:6–33.

36. Ether 7:23–26; 9:26–29; 11:1–3; 11:5–8; 11:12–13; 11:20–22; 12:2.

37. Ether 3:17, 15:33.

38. Alma 37:22.

39. Ether 8.

40. Ether 9:5–6.

41. See also 2 Nephi 9:9.

42. In this and other secret combinations, revealing the secrets is discouraged by being punishable by death. See Helaman 6:24, Moses 5:29.

43. Alma 37:22–25.

44. Besides the time of Jared and Akish, there are five other times when secret combinations are mentioned, which are also candidates for when Gazelem lived: (1) The reign of Heth, 8 generations from the original Jared: “Heth began to embrace the secret plans again of old,” killed his father, and commanded his people to kill the prophets (Ether 9:26–29). (2) The reign of Com, ~22 generations from Jared: “there began to be robbers in the land, and they adopted the old plans and administered oaths after the manner of the ancients” (Ether 10:33). Com fought against the robbers and protected the prophets who prophesied of the destruction of the people. (3) The reign of Shiblon, ~23 generations from Jared: his brother (who is not named) caused that the prophets should be put to death (Ether 11:4–8). There was a great calamity; “they hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord because of their wicked combinations.” (4) The days of Ethem ~26 generations from Jared: “there came many prophets and prophesied again unto the people; … the Lord would utterly destroy them from off the face of the earth except they repented” (Ether 11:12–13). The people hardened their hearts and “the prophets mourned and withdrew from among the people.” The similar wording here to Alma 37 should be noted; Alma 37 may be the actual quotation from the Lord and Ether 11:12 may be a summary or paraphrase made by Moroni. (5) The days of Coriantor ~28 generations from Jared: “many prophets … prophesied of great and marvelous things and cried repentance unto the people” (Ether 11:20–22). The Lord would utterly destroy them, and “bring forth another people to possess the land … they did reject all the words of the prophets because of their secret society and wicked abominations.”

45. Ether 9:1–3.

46. Ether 9:3.

47. Ether 9:6.

48. Ether 9:12. The almost entire destruction of Akish’s kingdom may be a partial fulfillment of the promise of the Lord that “except they repent, I will destroy them from off of the face of the earth.”

49. Alma 37:23.

50. Similarly, the prophet Lehi also received specific revelations from the Lord in a dream — when he was told to flee Jerusalem, eventually journeying to the seashore. See 1 Nephi 2:1–3.

51. Alma 37:23.

52. Alma 37:23.

53. Ether 6:3; see also Ether 3:4. Matthew Roper, “A Fragment from the Unabridged Record of Ether,”, September 19, 2017.

54. Alma 37:23.

55. Ether 3:28.

56. Mosiah2 already possessed the interpreters when Limhi’s people discovered the Jaredite plates. See Mosiah 8:6–21.

57. Ether 4:3.

58. Ether 4:1–7. Perhaps the sealed portion was buried with the interpreters and Mosiah1 found them together. If so, then the 24 plates that Limhi found would not have had the sealed portion written on them. The Nephites may not have known about Mosiah1’s possession of this sealed record. It was “forbidden to come unto the children of men until after that [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”. After Christ came, “he commanded that they should be made manifest”. Moroni again sealed up this record and reburied it in the earth.

59. See Don Bradley, “Piercing the Veil: Temple Worship in the Lost 116 Pages,”, 2012,

60. Joseph Smith Papers, “Substitute Words in the 1835 and 1844 Editions of the Doctrine and Covenants.”

61. Ibid., 1.

62. Mark Ashurst-McGee, A Pathway to Prophethood: Joseph Smith Junior as Rodsman, Village Seer, and Judeo-Christian Prophet (MA Thesis, Utah State University, 2000). Ashurst-McGee conjectured that Gazelem may have been both Joseph’s spirit/temple name and also the name of his white seer stone, a theory that combines all these sources.

63. No author, untitled statement, George A. Smith Papers, Box 174, folder 26, Manuscripts Division, Marriott Library, University of Utah.

64. William Wines Phelps, “The Funeral Sermon,” MS, 13 June 1866, Church History Library. Phelps reconstructed his funeral sermon in 1855.

65. The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon Upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi, trans. Joseph Smith (Liverpool, UK: Printed by J. Tompkins for Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Parley P. Pratt, 1841), 640, col. 1.

66. Mackay and Frederick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones, 105–106.

67. Alma 37:3–20.

68. Alma 37:25–26.

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About Elliott Jolley

Elliott Jolley was born and raised in Vernal, Utah, and served a mission in Jamaica. He met his future wife (Michelle Wold) while studying biology at Brigham Young University. After graduating from dental school at Nova Southeastern University, Elliott completed graduate dental studies in orthodontics at the University of Pennsylvania. He practices orthodontics in Utah and western Colorado. He lives in Vernal where he and his wife raise their six children.

48 thoughts on “Gazelem the Jaredite

  1. Pingback: Gazelem: Shining in Darkness | The Lunch Is Free

  2. 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.

      • 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.
        (Alma 37:24–26)

        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.
        Helaman 7:29
        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

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 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.

        • Elliott,

          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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

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