Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
I make a record
Nephi kept two records. The Book of Lehi, also known as the large plates of Nephi, were a record of the history of the people. They spelled out more detail about Lehi’s lineage, the specifics of their journey, and the succession of leadership.1 Nephi 6 1 And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the … Continue reading Nephi created the second record after the Spirit prompted him to do so.1 Nephi 9 1 And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates. … Continue reading This record included the books of 1 Nephi through Omni that we have today, called by them, the small plates of Nephi.1 Nephi 19:1-6 1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did … Continue reading The small plates, the record we now have, was never intended as a detailed history. It was primarily for the purpose of recording spiritual things–the ministry of the people, and their dealings with God. At first it was passed on from prophet to prophet (as opposed to the large plates, which were passed down from king to king), but later it was passed from father to child, until finally one of Jacob’s descendants had no children and realized the record would do better in the hands of Nephite leaders, especially since the plates were full. Then, handed down through the Nephite record keepers, they were there among the many records Mormon sorted through to make his abridgment. After Mormon abridged the book of Lehi, he felt prompted to include the small plates in his abridgmentTHE WORDS OF MORMON CHAPTER 1 1 AND now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction … Continue readingBut instead of copying them onto his record, he bound the plates right into the record.
In the language of my father
Lehi’s spoken language was Hebrew, but he also knew Egyptian, and apparently wrote in that language.Orson Pratt: But we will pass along and come to the second colony, that the Lord brought out of Jerusalem, six hundred years before Christ. Did they bring any records with them? Had they the art of … Continue reading But calling this, “the language of my father,” may have been even more appropriate than we think. (Mind you, this is speculation, so take this with a grain of salt) Lehi may have come up with his own original written compact version of Hebrew and Egyptian based on elements of both languages. More on that in a moment.
Learning of the Jews
A good Hebrew education was important to Lehi and Nephi,G. Homer Durham: The learning of the Jews included effort to engrave on the minds and hearts of children Moses’ prophetic instructions from the book of Deuteronomy: “Thou shalt love the Lord … Continue reading and likely Nephi assumed that later generations would know at least the basics of what that involved. He’s giving us the context from which his record is being written. Understanding the “learning of the Jews” will help a lot in understanding the writings of Nephi, especially as he later shares the words of Isaiah and his prophecies of Jesus ChristQuentin L. Cook: The Book of Mormon is of seminal importance. There will, of course, always be those who underestimate the significance of or even disparage this sacred book. Some have used humor. … Continue reading
Language of the Egyptians
It appears that Nephi had the advantage of a Hebrew and Egyptian education.Elder Levi Edgar Young: Just to read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon gives us a lesson in the meaning of education. To think that Nephi was educated in both the learning of the Egyptians and … Continue readingThe Egyptians had a number of different kinds of characters,According to Smith and Sjodahl: Lehi had mastered the difficult Egyptian language, in addition to the learning of the Jews. This is noted as one of his great accomplishments. Of Moses, too, it was … Continue reading but as far as we know, Reformed Egyptian was not an official language. Mormon informs us that the Nephites used the term for a form of Egyptian that was altered by them for the purpose of keeping a record of the people. Some call reformed Egyptian an Egyptian shorthand (not fast-writing shorthand, but compact-writing shorthand). The way I picture it, it’s like writing English words using Hebrew characters in order to save space, and then heavily simplifying the Hebrew characters to save even more space. It was likely a skill Lehi learned and used in his interactions with Egypt before leaving Jerusalem.H. Donl Peterson: “We don’t know what Lehi’s occupation was, but since he was conversant in the Egyptian language and he seemed some-what familiar with the ways of the desert, it is … Continue reading The challenge, of course, was that by the time the full record was complete, it was written in a language no one but the Nephites would understand. So why did they use it? As mentioned, it was to fit the most writing in a tiny space. It was known by the Nephite prophets that the Lord would use His own means for translation.Morm. 9:32–34 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, … Continue reading Basically, it didn’t matter what language the record was written in, because God could translate it. Joseph Smith was a powerful seer, and had no trouble doing so with the help of God. . . . . .
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Chas Hathaway is the author of the books Scripture Study Made Awesome, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with Dating? and Giraffe Tracks. Learn more at chashathaway.com. Please participate in the conversation by adding comments and sharing with friends on the web!
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|↑1||1 Nephi 6 1 And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am writing; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work. 2 For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph. 3 And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. 4 For the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. 5 Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. 6 Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.|
|↑2||1 Nephi 9 1 And all these things did my father see, and hear, and speak, as he dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel, and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates. 2 And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi. 3 Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people. 4 Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people. 5 Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. 6 But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.|
|↑3||THE WORDS OF MORMON CHAPTER 1 1 AND now I, Mormon, being about to deliver up the record which I have been making into the hands of my son Moroni, behold I have witnessed almost all the destruction of my people, the Nephites. 2 And it is many hundred years after the coming of Christ that I deliver these records into the hands of my son; and it supposeth me that he will witness the entire destruction of my people. But may God grant that he may survive them, that he may write somewhat concerning them, and somewhat concerning Christ, that perhaps some day it may profit them. 3 And now, I speak somewhat concerning that which I have written; for after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates, which contained this small account of the prophets, from Jacob down to the reign of this king Benjamin, and also many of the words of Nephi. 4 And the things which are upon these plates pleasing me, because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ; and my fathers knowing that many of them have been fulfilled; yea, and I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us down to this day have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass— 5 Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people. 6 But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. 7 And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.|
|↑4||G. Homer Durham: The learning of the Jews included effort to engrave on the minds and hearts of children Moses’ prophetic instructions from the book of Deuteronomy: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way.” (Deut. 6:5–7.) – G. Homer Durham, The Home as an Educational Institution, General Conference, April 1979|
|↑5||Quentin L. Cook: The Book of Mormon is of seminal importance. There will, of course, always be those who underestimate the significance of or even disparage this sacred book. Some have used humor. Before I served a mission, a university professor quoted Mark Twain’s statement that if you took “And it came to pass” out of the Book of Mormon, it “would have been only a pamphlet.” A few months later, while I was serving a mission in London, England, a distinguished Oxford-educated teacher at London University, an Egyptian expert in Semitic languages, read the Book of Mormon, corresponded with President David O. McKay, and met with missionaries. He informed them he was convinced the Book of Mormon was indeed a translation of “the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” for the periods described in the Book of Mormon. One example among many he used was the conjunctive phrase “And it came to pass,” which he said mirrored how he would translate phraseology used in ancient Semitic writings. The professor was informed that while his intellectual approach based on his profession had helped him, it was still essential to have a spiritual testimony. Through study and prayer he gained a spiritual witness and was baptized. So what one famous humorist saw as an object of ridicule, a scholar recognized as profound evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon, which was confirmed to him by the Spirit. Quentin L. Cook, In Tune with the Music of Faith, General Conference, April 2012|
|↑6||According to Smith and Sjodahl: Lehi had mastered the difficult Egyptian language, in addition to the learning of the Jews. This is noted as one of his great accomplishments. Of Moses, too, it was said that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22), which, of course, included the language of and their writing. The Egyptians had no less than three different kinds of characters. The oldest was the hieroglyphs. They had about a thousand of these, and some of these were pictures of the celestial bodies, human figures, limbs, animals, such as quadrupeds, birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, houses, furniture, tools, etc., all symbolic of some object, some quality or some action. The Hieratic characters were less elaborate, but still too numerous for practical purposes. The Demotic characters were the simplest. Clement of Alexandria is quoted as having said: “Those who are educated among the Egyptians learn first that mode of writing which is called epistolographic (demotic or common); secondly Hieratic, which the sacred scribers use, and lastly, the Hieroglyphic.” Those who had mastered the difficulties of the language of Egypt, spoken and written, could study the entire civilization of the country. And, be it remembered, the Egyptians excelled in architecture, in sculpture, painting, navigation, metallurgy. They knew how to work in gold, silver, copper, iron and lead. They had musical instruments and were skilled in the art of weaving and dyeing. They had a law code for which they claimed divine origin. They were great agriculturists and prosperous merchants. As for religion, they believed in One God—the only living Substance, “the only existence in heaven and on earth that is not begotten.” They further, believed in two divine Beings, whose unity was expressed in the name, “UAEN-UA,” which is said to mean, “One of One.” But they had, further, so great a number of gods that someone said it was easier to find a god in Egypt than a man. The principal gods were eight in number. Amun was the chief of these, and Maut or Mut was the mother of all. They had a priesthood and a number of consecrated women who assisted in the temple service. The presiding high priest was called Sam. They also had a system of “mysteries” into which only a few were initiated. They had altars and sacrifices, and above all, an elaborate ritual for the dead. One of their resurrection of the body and the appearance of man before the judgment seat of the gods, as understood in Egypt, are set forth. -Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 1, pg. 6-7|
|↑7||1 Nephi 19:1-6 1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them. 2 And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates; wherefore, the record of my father, and the genealogy of his fathers, and the more part of all our proceedings in the wilderness are engraven upon those first plates of which I have spoken; wherefore, the things which transpired before I made these plates are, of a truth, more particularly made mention upon the first plates. 3 And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord. 4 Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord. 5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people. 6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.|
|↑8||Orson Pratt: But we will pass along and come to the second colony, that the Lord brought out of Jerusalem, six hundred years before Christ. Did they bring any records with them? Had they the art of writing? Yes. When they lived among the Jews the art of writing was extensively known among the Jews. It was their art to write in the Egyptian language, as Nephi testifies on the first page of the Book of Mormon. “Therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days; yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” A language which their forefathers learned, while they dwelt in Egypt, and which they were familiar with, but probably lost it in some measure, but still retained a portion of it, and wrote their records in the same. Now if you will appeal to Biblical history you will find that the Israelites did write their records, in ancient times, upon metallic plates, and that these plates were connected together, with rings, passing through the leaves. Through the whole a stick was placed for carrying the record. This description we have given by those who have deeply studied concerning the Scriptures and the ancient doings of the Israelites. –Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt, delivered in the Tabernacle, Ogden, Sunday Morning, May 18, 1873, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, pg. 53-54|
|↑9||Elder Levi Edgar Young: Just to read the first chapter of the Book of Mormon gives us a lesson in the meaning of education. To think that Nephi was educated in both the learning of the Egyptians and the Jews! Today few people realize what that learning was. Some scholars maintain that the learning of the Egyptians in ancient times has never been equaled. –Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report, April 1956, pp. 32-34|
|↑10||H. Donl Peterson: “We don’t know what Lehi’s occupation was, but since he was conversant in the Egyptian language and he seemed some-what familiar with the ways of the desert, it is logical to assume that he had some occupation or some previous experiences that utilized both skills.” -H. Donl Peterson, “Father Lehi,” in First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 55-66.|
|↑11||Morm. 9:32–34 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.|