Additional Study Aids
F.A.R.M.S. has frequently been asked to recommend books that people might read to learn more about the world of Lehi, the ancient source of much of the Book of Mormon. Beside the classic works by Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, and Since Cumorah, a very valuable book is by Father Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, in two volumes (McGraw Hill). Although slightly dated, the book remains extremely insightful, generally readable and reliable, and conveniently available in paperback.
An alert reader will detect many anticipations of Nephite practices in de Vaux's analysis and reconstruction of pre-Exilic Israelite culture and beliefs. For example, Part III of Volume I deals with military pratices; many of his points are accurately reflected in the chapters on war in the book of Alma. For example, the way Israelite kings might consult a prophet before undertaking war (p. 263) recalls Alma 43:23. The rigorous need for purity in the camp (p. 258) reminds us of the emphatic righteousness of the sons of Helaman in Alma 57:21.
One other military point is especially striking. De Vaux describes the important role of the nes in mustering the popular militia for war: "The nes, often translated 'banner,' is not really an ensign, but a pole or mast, which was raised on a hill to give the signal to take up arms or to rally together." (p. 277) Since the word nes is not translated as "pole" in the King James Bible, it is interesting that Alma 46:13 makes particular reference to the "pole" which Moroni used as he rallied his troops, in agreement with de Vaux's point.
Under the direction of Truman G. Madsen, a computerized index listing every keyword in all the known doctrinal writings or sermons of Joseph Smith is nearing completion. "This tool will save hundreds of hours of frustrating and often fruitless searching," reports Dr. Madsen. Only a one-time limited edition of this 1,000 page work is planned. Those desiring a copy should send no money yet, but must make advance reservations. The cost will likely be between $30 and $35. Address Dr. Madsen in care of F.A.R.M.S. or contact him directly at 165 JSB, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.
Now published is a looseleaf collection entitled "A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms." It defines rhetorical devices and figures of speech used in all four LDS scriptures, giving examples of several of them. This research tool is available from Joe Stringham, LDS Church Office Building, Suite 2100, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150.
F.A.R.M.S. will soon make available a compilation of material on Stela 5, Izapa, called by many the "Lehi Tree-of-Life Stone." This material will help the reader appreciate the various informed opinions that differ on the meaning of this sculpture. Meanwhile, the Newsletter and Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology 156 (March 1984) devotes some ten pages to articles by Ross T. Christensen and V. Garth Norman on Stela 5. You can contact S.E.H.A. at SALH, BYU, Provo, UT 84602.
A new 16mm, 20 minute movie entitled "So Let It Be Written" can now be ordered by wards, stakes, seminaries, and interested individuals. Produced by Paul R. Cheesman of the BYU religion faculty, the work is available for $95 from the Religious Studies Center, 156 JSB, BYU, Provo, UT 84602. This documentary film graphically demonstrates that writing on metal plates was a relatively common practice in Book of Mormon times. Illustrations are presented from many parts of the ancient world. Although it was known in Joseph Smith's day that ancient peoples wrote on metal tablets, it appears that golden plates were never mentioned. This interesting detail has come to light primarily through archaeological finds in the last 120 years.
The July, 1982 National Geographic magazine describes a recent expedition that built and sailed a replica of an early Arabian ship from Oman to China. The voyage was undertaken to test the historical accuracy of the tales of Sinbad, which speak of Arab sailors trading with China over 1000 years ago. The expedition used only primitive technology and materials reconstructed on the basis of careful research in medieval manuscripts and charts. Readers of 1 Nephi 17 and 18 will benefit from this article, since both Nephi's ship and the Arab replica sailed from the same area. The materials and techniques could have been somewhat similar as well. Indeed, like the early Arab shipbuilders, Nephi worked without plans (1 Nephi 18:1). The National Geographic reports that "Arab shipwrights do not use drawings or plans when they build a ship. They work entirely by eye, and probably have always done so." Perhaps Nephi's own "figure-it-out-as-you-go" technique was one of the things that made his brothers skeptical of his enterprise (1 Nephi 17:18).