If I could ask them one question about
the Church’s Book of Mormon, Come Follow Me, Lesson 20
For May 18-24, 2020
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Why don’t modern seers translate like Book of Mormon seers?”
Things to consider:
- This coming week’s reading tells us the prophet king, Mosiah, translated the writings from the 24 Jaredite gold plates using interpreters, which were apparently stones. It also explains that “whosoever has these things [interpreters] is called seer” (Mosiah 28:11-16, see also Omni 1:20, Mosiah 8:13-17, 19, and the 8th paragraph of the Testimony of Joseph Smith).
- This Book of Mormon account seems to teach that when writings are found that cannot be understood by linguistic skills of mere mortals, devout believers turn to seers to translate the writings.
- After all, “Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have” (Mosiah 8:16).
- But, as far as I can tell, Mormon prophets since Joseph Smith have not done any translating as seers. One might think that perhaps they cannot because they do not have this greatest gift of all, but the men in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the men in the first presidency of the Mormon Church are routinely sustained by devout Mormons as prophets, seers, and revelators twice a year in the Church’s worldwide general conferences and I believe once a year at the stake or district (group of several local congregations) level and also once a year at the ward or branch (local congregation) level.
- One could ask whether there’s anything left for seers to translate. The answer is that there’s plenty.
- The Egyptian papyri from which the Church’s Book of Abraham is supposed to be translated. The papyri had been lost, but much of them were rediscovered in 1966. Instead of the modern seers, the Church had scholars study these fragments. Much speculation of men, mingled with scripture, has been given to explain why the remaining papyri have nothing to do with what Joseph Smith claimed they were, but why not have the seers tell us, “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
- The Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.
- The Kinderhook plates the Church had/has in its possession. The Church claimed for decades that these were authentic ancient engravings providing evidence of the prophetic calling of Joseph. That is, they claimed this until technology revealed that these were indeed a 19th century creation and a hoax that Joseph fell for.
- These are “characters reportedly copied by Joseph Smith from the gold plates”. What if they represent some portion of the gold plates hitherto untranslated - maybe a glossary entry for the neas, sheum, cureloms, or cumoms of the Book of Mormon?
- And, there are a number of indecipherable writings that have no apparent connection with the Church (for example: 8 Ancient Writing Systems That Haven’t Been Deciphered Yet). But, what if some of these are from the lost tribes of Israel or hold some other treasure of knowledge?
- Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these writings, and the current seers have at their disposal the very same seer stone Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon (“Joseph the Seer”).
- “And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have” (Mosiah 8:16). So please, use your gift. Or, is it already lost?
- “But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such, for mine anger is kindled against them.
“And it shall come to pass, if they are not more faithful unto me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have” (D&C 60:2–3).
Other observations about this lesson’s reading:
- The term “sheep” seems anachronistic (Mosiah 26:20-21).
- An instance in which the miracle precedes the faith (Mosiah 27:11-17).
- Another Book of Mormon example of a group being so astonished or overtaken by the Spirit that they all fall to the earth (Mosiah 27:18-19).
- In defense of the Book of Mormon! The reading says that after they fasted prayed for two days and nights, Alma the Younger was able to talk and stand again (Mosiah 27:23) after his Pauline experience. Later we learn it took Alma three days and nights to recover (Alma 36:10). Some think this is a contradiction, but it’s not.
- The apparently ambiguous or misleading terms “eternal,” “everlasting,” and “endless” are used to describe punishment and torment (Mosiah 27:29, 31 and Mosiah 28:3).
- It declares the Tower of Babel account a literal and factual event (Mosiah 28:17), and I think that’s even less likely than Elder Holland doing another interview with this guy.
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 20