The second issue of the Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture for 2012 features five articles that delve into aspects of words in the Book of Mormon. The cover design reflects that unifying theme and presents word in various languages and scripts.
In King Benjamin’s address at the temple in Zarahemla on the occasion of his son Mosiah’s enthronement, he caps his covenant sermon with a declaration of his people’s royal rebirth (or adoption) as “the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters” and their potential enthronement at God’s “right hand” (Mosiah 5:7, 9). Matthew L. Bowen explains in his article “Becoming Sons and Daughters at God’s Right Hand: King Benjamin’s Rhetorical Wordplay on His Own Name” that Benjamin’s juxtaposition of “sons”/“daughters” and the “right hand” constitutes a deliberate wordplay on his own name, traditionally taken to mean “son of the right hand.” The name of Christ, rather than Benjamin’s own name, is given to all his people as a new name—a “throne” name. However, he warns them against refusing to take upon them this throne name and thus being found “on the left hand of God” (Mosiah 5:10), a warning that also constitutes an allusion to his name. Benjamin’s ultimate hope is for his people’s royal, divine sonship/daughterhood to be eternally “sealed.”
In “The Covenant of the Chosen People: The Spiritual Foundations of Ethnic Identity in the Book of Mormon,” Steven L. Olsen explores the literary sophistication of the Book of Mormon. A prime example of this craftsmanship is the concept of ethnicity—that is, how different social groups are defined and distinguished in the record. Nephi defines ethnicity with four complementary concepts: nation (traditional homeland), kindred (descent group), tongue (language group), and people (covenant community). While all four concepts are relevant to the Nephite record, the term people is by far the most frequently used noun in the Book of Mormon and is the basis of a distinctive covenant identity given by God to Nephi. Following God’s law was the essential condition of this covenant and the basis of most of the sermons, exhortations, commentary, and other spiritual pleas of this sacred record. The covenant of the chosen people accounts for much of what befalls the Nephites and Lamanites, positive and negative, in this history. Mormon and Moroni follow Nephi’s covenant-based definition of ethnicity in their respective abridgments of the large plates of Nephi and the plates of Ether.
A study by John Hilton III and Jana Johnson of the usage of one specific word, resurrection, shows that individual voices are preserved in the Book of Mormon through Mormon’s abridgment and the translation into English. The word resurrection is employed at varying frequencies in specific books and by individual writers in the Book of Mormon. Although Alma uses resurrection most often overall, Abinadi uses it more often per thousand words spoken. Some phrases in which resurrection is used in unique patterns by different speakers include power of the resurrection, first resurrection, and resurrection with time or with body. Some phrasal uses of resurrection in the Book of Mormon are not found in the Bible (such as resurrection and presence appearing together). This exploration helps answer these questions: Who uses the word resurrection in the Book of Mormon? How is it used? and How is it used differently in the King James Bible?
Andrew C. Smith suggests in “Deflected Agreement in the Book of Mormon” that certain ungrammatical English constructions that occurred in the dictation of the Book of Mormon may have been precipitated by the language on the plates rather than ascribed wholesale to any nonstandard English of Joseph Smith’s day. Deflected agreement is a grammatical phenomenon found in Semitic languages—it is ubiquitous in Arabic and found occasionally in biblical Hebrew. Deflected agreement is a plausible explanation for some grammatical incongruities in the original and printer’s manuscripts and printed editions of the Book of Mormon in the grammatical areas of verbal, pronominal, and demonstrative agreement. This finding gives greater credence to the plausibility of the antiquity and historicity of the Book of Mormon.
In 1892, when John Gilbert—the compositor (or typesetter) for the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon—was 90 years old, he talked about the process of setting the type for the book at the Grandin Print Shop. Gilbert makes claims about the number of manuscript pages, the number of copies and the price, the number of ems (a measure of type width) per printed page, a comparison of manuscript versus printed pages, a description of the font, the process of receiving the pages to be typeset, proofreading the title page, the decision not to correct grammatical errors, scribes for the printer’s manuscript, paragraphing and punctuation, capitalization in the manuscript, Gilbert’s taking work home to punctuate, and details about the signatures. Royal Skousen* explores Gilbert’s claims to see how his account matches up with the accounts of others or even with the extant physical evidence. In every aspect, Gilbert’s recollections are either precisely correct or easily explained.
In this issue of the Journal we are proud to present two original pieces of art by young LDS artist Annie Henrie: Abridging the Plates (pp. 14–15) and Resurrection Dawn (p. 34).
Back issues of the Journal can be found free of charge online at http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms.
* The original version of Skousen’s article was published in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 383–405.