Why I Stand with the Prophet in Every Issue

Some people are bothered by my statement that I stand by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on every issue. I’d like to talk about that for a few minutes, because it seems to come up often.

I think one of the reasons this statement bothers people is because independent thought and conscious choice are such valuable and essential aspects of the plan of happiness. And I agree, those things are absolutely essential, and it’s for that very reason that I feel as I do. Some would say that being so loyal to the church and its leaders is a way of handing my agency to someone else. That’s a valid concern. But remember, this is my agency. I have to choose what I do, choose what I believe, and choose whether or not to act on what I believe. Well, it’s simple. I choose to stand by the church in every issue. That’s my agency in action. That’s what I choose, and I will continue to choose it all my life. It takes a great deal of character and loyalty to make a choice like that. It takes courage, faith, and determination. It takes work. And that’s the choice I am making.

Another concern some have is that by simply obeying, I’m allowing someone else (or perhaps the church itself) to do the thinking for me. The concern is that I’m just being the obedient workhorse plugging away, pulling when I’m asked to pull (even if I don’t know what I’m pulling), and traveling when I’m asked to travel (even if I don’t know where I’m going). That too, is a valid concern. But there’s one thing that this concern isn’t taking into consideration. Who is most likely to be thinking—like, really, deeply, meaningfully thinking about the thing we’ve been commanded? Think about it. Which of these three are most likely to do the most thinking about the particular issue:

  1. The person from the outside, whose not at all interested in heeding the counsel;
  2. The one in the church, but looking for the reasons, wandering and waiting for solid logic and reason before proceeding; or
  3. The person actively doing the thing requested.

I believe those actively obeying are doing a great deal more thinking about the issue than anyone else. They’re the ones who stand by the teaching regardless of the persecution, legal ramifications, or abuse against them for doing so.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when the Lord commands something, or teaches a principle, or proclaims a doctrine, by his living prophet—even if it’s something I don’t personally understand or agree with, and I act on it, stand by it, and teach it, I can assure you I’m doing a boat-load of thinking, pondering, praying, and studying about it.

And while I’m sure both the obedient person and the disobedient person are looking to different sources for their answers, and may come to very different conclusions, I’m confident that almost always, the obedient person has put a lot more time, thought, and energy into the matter than the disobedient.

And every time I’ve obediently proceeded, and simultaneously thought, studied, prayed, and questioned the teaching, I’ve always come to see the deep spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical significance of the thing taught. I’m always left in awe at the wisdom and foresight the Lord has demonstrated in everything He has ever requested of me.

Another factor that can be difficult to explain to people is the matter of personal revelation. Even many who believe mostly as I do conclude that before they will proceed, they must receive personal inspiration from God that the teaching is right. I think it comes down to what kind of testimony a person has. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t call one type of testimony “superior” to another, but I do believe that the closer we come to the Savior, and the stronger our testimony is, the more we will be able to place our faith in Him without reservation. And the more we do so, the faster the further light and understanding come.

I once heard the prophet of God teach a principle, and I immediately accepted it. Not in a shoulder shrugging compliance, but because as he spoke, the Holy Spirit filled my heart, testifying clearly and unmistakably that the principle being taught was true. I had long since received a personal testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost that the prophet was truly called of God, and that His words, if heeded, would always lead me aright. My experience with the Spirit in that particular meeting simply strengthened that testimony. Several days later, while speaking to a friend about the teaching, she said, “But what about finding out the truth for ourselves? That may be what the prophet said, but I can’t believe it unless the Lord tells me personally as well.”

My friend was holding back until she could receive an independent testimony of the principle taught. But I’ve found that when I listen with a believing heart, I often receive that answer the moment the teaching is given. Then, the questions most worth asking the Lord are things like, how should I apply the principle in my own life, for my situation? Or what can I do to best teach this principle to others?

I have heard some suggest that those members of the church prior to 1978 that weren’t picketing against the church’s stand on the priesthood were in the wrong—that they should have been more actively involved in bringing about the change. I see two problems with that. First, it’s the Lord who made the change, not the saints. And second, those in a position to receive the revelation (Spencer W. Kimball and the twelve apostles) never once voiced a single word of opposition to the policy of the Lord’s church at that time. They received assurance from the Lord that the time would come, but they were not told when. They petitioned as they felt moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Only after faithful compliance and diligent prayer did the Lord finally give the revelation that changed church policy forever.

There were previous generations of prophets who petitioned the Lord on the very same issue, and they were turned away. The Lord knew what He was doing, and every church leader stood firm by the policy, because that’s what loyalty is. They didn’t understand it, and though they had questions, and brought them before the Lord, they always stood true to the answers given.

I feel to do the same.

That brings up another important point. Sometimes a principle isn’t intended to be fully understood before the commandment or revelation is given. A good example of this is plural marriage in the early days of the church. Some today are troubled that the church once practiced it. But the revelation to live that principle is not given to us today. We are not to practice plural marriage—and if we make the attempt, we will be excommunicated. We can’t expect a testimony of the full meaning of plural marriage right now because we are commanded not to live it. We accept in faith the fact that the Lord has different instructions to different people at different times.

Many saints in the early days of the church were commanded to live it, and with the commandment came the understanding and testimony. A great example of this was Brigham Young.

Would it surprise you to learn that Brigham Young was deeply troubled by the principle? He thought it had come from an evil source. But instead of picketing against it, or speaking out about it publicly, he prayed to the Lord about it. When, up to that point, it wasn’t enough, he spoke to the prophet himself. He discussed it with Joseph in a private conversation—not in a meeting with other elders, but in the privacy of his front yard one evening after the prophet walked him home. The only reason we know about the conversation is because the night was warm, and Brigham’s wife had her window open to cool her room, and she overheard the conversation.

According to S. Dilworth Young:

Down this road came Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. She (Brigham’s wife) heard Brigham say to Joseph, “Joseph, the doctrine of eternal marriage as you described it to me is not from the right source.”

Joseph Smith said to him, “It is from the right source, and you will know it, Brother Brigham.”

Brother Brigham then moved toward the door to open the latch, and Joseph Smith walked on up the street. Then Brigham stopped. He didn’t pull the latch string. He suddenly called out, “Joseph! Joseph! The Lord has revealed it to me!”

http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1039

My point in sharing this account is to say that sometimes we’re not intended to fully understand or receive a testimony of a principle before the commandment is given. But if we are faithful, and a revelation is given that might contradict our previous views, and we seek the Lord’s guidance, He will provide us with a testimony of the principle. It may not come all at once, like Brigham’s, but when it does come, it will be so clear and sure that we may come to wonder how we could have ever seen things differently. And in the meantime, if we remain faithful and loyal to what the Lord has already revealed, we place ourselves in the best position possible to receive more light and knowledge when the Lord sees fit.

In regards to honest questions, or even doubts, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a beautiful bit of wisdom that I wholeheartedly stand by when he said,

When those moments come and issues surface, the resolution of which is not immediately forthcoming, hold fast to what you already know and stand strong until additional knowledge comes…

When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your “unbelief.” That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account: Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng

When it comes down to it, I stand with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on every issue because God has revealed to me by the power of the Holy Ghost that the living prophet has been called of God, that he speaks the word of God to the church, and that if I follow his counsel regardless of the consequences, I will be doing the right thing. I will be acting according to the will of God for me. That testimony has been burned so deeply into me that I can’t deny it without calling God a liar to His face. I know it’s true. The Lord leads this church. And what a beautiful thing that is! The Lord speaks to us through the living prophet, and God has revealed the truth of His words to me.

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Realistic vs. Faithful

And now, behold thy brothers murmur, saying it is a hard thing which I have required of them; but behold I have not required it of them, but it is a commandment of the Lord.

This is a classic case of the (so-called) realist vs. the man of faith. Being realistic, practical, and prudent is good—in its time. But this wasn’t a time to be realistic. When the Lord asks something of you, it’s time to exercise confidence in the Lord, and if you can’t do that, learn to do it. If you find yourself putting practicality over your trust in the Lord, then you need to change. It’s that simple.

And you can.

Nephi not only had the right attitude, he explained how to get the right attitude. What had Nephi been doing right before his father told him about his new assignment? He’d been speaking with the Lord.

And it came to pass that I, Nephi. . . did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers. (1 Ne. 2:16)

“Yeah,” you might say, “but the thing I’m being asked to do is a really big deal!”

Really? I guess God didn’t know that, so you better tell him. Tell him that your agenda is more important than His. Go ahead—tell Him. See what He says. Maybe He’ll change His mind. Just be prepared for when He ends up changing your mind. And don’t judge your future, faithful self against your present “practical” self—that will just embarrass you later.

God knows what He’s doing with you. Trust Him.

Whatsoever you shall ask the Father… it shall be granted you

There are few messages repeated as frequently in the scriptures as this; ask and ye shall receive. But have you ever noticed how often this similar message is written in the scriptures – “Whatsoever you shall ask the Father… it shall be granted you”?

It’s in there a TON. So how exactly does it work? Do we just ask? You might say, “What’s the catch?”

Well, there’s no catch. The scriptures make that clear. But there are conditions, or qualifiers that must be in place for the promise to be fulfilled. What are those qualifiers?

A few years ago I compiled a list of all the scriptures I could find that carried this message, with all the qualifying statements. In other words, if the verse said, “whatsoever ye ask in faith, ye shall receive,” then I would write down, “in faith,” and count how many other scriptures listed faith as a qualifier for the promise.

In the end, I came up with a list of all the qualifiers I could find, and this was the result:

They are listed in order of their frequency.

7 Times (meaning there are 7 different scripture verses that list this as a qualifier)

Ask in the name of Christ

Believing that ye shall receive

6 Times

In faith

3 Times

Doubting nothing

2 Times

If thou wilt turn unto me

Which is right

Hearken unto my voice

Believe

Repent of all thy transgressions

Be baptized

Ask not amiss

Ask according to the will of God

Ask in the Spirit

1 Time

Believe in Christ

Which is good

Being united in prayer according to my command

If ye are purified and cleansed from all sin

In prayer

Know good and evil

Not harden your hearts

With diligence in keeping my commandments

It shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you

Be thou humble

Now I can’t say that the importance of each qualifier is based on how many times it’s written in the scriptures. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. But the things that are repeated over and over in scripture aught to get our attention. Things like believing that He really will answer, asking in the name of Jesus Christ (we sometimes underestimate the power in that), and asking in real faith. Sometimes it’s that last one that throws people, so they think they don’t qualify for the promise. But remember faith is strengthened as it is exercised in righteousness.


“there came many prophets, prophesying… that they must repent”

One of the prophets that Nephi and Lehi were aware of was Jeremiah. Lehi mentioned him later when he said, “they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison.” (1 Nephi 7:14) Clearly things were getting pretty serious in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 26:12-20
12 ¶ Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.
13 Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.
14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.
15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.
16 ¶ Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.
17 Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,
18 Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.
19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.
20 And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-jearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah:

2 Kings 24:17-20
17 ¶ And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah his father’s brother king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
18 Zedekiah was twenty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal, the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
19 And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
20 For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

That makes me wonder just a bit about who the other prophets in Jerusalem were. We have a record of some of them in the Bible, and in the Bible dictionary there’s a nice little chronology that can help us see which known prophets were around at that time. And while we’re in the Bible Dictionary, let’s compile a sample bio of each:

Possible Contemporaries of Lehi:

Jeremiah (approx. 626-586 BC)
Born of a priestly family in Anathoth, and prophesied from the 13th year of Josiah till after the downfall of Jerusalem, a period of over 40 years, 626-586 B.C. After Josiah’s death he tried to stem, almost alone, the tide of idolatry and immorality, of self-deception founded on superficial reforms (Jer. 3: 4-5; Jer. 7: 8-10), and of fanatical confidence in the Lord’s protection, in which all classes were carried away. He had to face continuous opposition and insult from the priests (Jer. 20: 2), the mob (Jer. 26: 8-9), his townsmen at Anathoth (Jer. 11: 19), the frivolous and cruel (Jer. 22: 13; Jer. 36: 23; Jer. 26: 20), the king (Jer. 36: 19), and the army (Jer. 38: 4). After the fall of Jerusalem the Jews who escaped into Egypt took Jeremiah with them as a kind of fetish (Jer. 43: 6), and at last, according to tradition, stoned him to death.

Habakkuk (approx. 598-605 BC)
A prophet of Judah. The date at which he prophesied is uncertain – possibly in the reign of Josiah or of Jehoiakim (c. 600 B.C.). Nothing beyond this is known about him. In ch. 1 the prophet complains that his outcries against wrong-doing in Judah remain unheard by God; but he is assured that punishment by the Chaldeans is close at hand. This raises the problem as to why the pure and holy God should use for the working out of his purposes such a sinful nation. Ch. 2 supplies a solution to the problem: the Chaldeans themselves will come under judgment (cf. Morm. 4: 5). Ch. 3 contains a lyrical poem, describing the coming of Jehovah to judge and to deliver his people.

Daniel (approx. 606 BC)
The second son of David, by Abigail the Carmelitess (1 Chr. 3: 1); also called Chileab (2 Sam. 3: 3).
The hero of the book of Daniel. Nothing is known of his parentage, though he appears to have been of royal descent (Dan. 1: 3); he was taken captive to Babylon and received the name of Belteshazzar (Dan. 1: 6-7). Along with three others he refused the “king’s meat” from fear of defilement (Dan. 1: 8-16). He then won the favor of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius by his power of interpreting dreams (chs. 2, 4); and the handwriting on the wall (ch. 5). In consequence of a plot on the part of his enemies he was thrown into a den of lions (ch. 6), but his life was preserved. There are references to him in Ezek. 14: 14, 20; Ezek. 28: 3; Heb. 11: 33. Interesting points of resemblance may be noticed between the history of Daniel and that of Joseph.

Ezekial (approx. 593-598 BC)
A priest of the family of Zadok, and one of the captives carried away by Nebuchadnezzar along with Jehoiachin. He settled at Tel Abib on the Chebar, and prophesied during a period of 22 years, 592-570 B.C. The book of Ezekiel has three main divisions:
1:  1 – 24, prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem and the nation;
2:  25 – 39, prophecies of restoration;
3: 40 – 48, visions of the reconstruction of the temple and its worship. Chs. 1 – 39 are similar in manner and contents to other prophetic writings; chs. 40 – 48 are unique in prophecy.
Among the notable teachings of Ezekiel are chs. 3 and 18, which show the significance of a prophet’s warning and the individual responsibility of every person for the consequences of his own behavior; ch. 37, which depicts the valley of dry bones, each bone coming together, bone to his bone, in the resurrection, the restoration of Israel, and the uniting of the stick (record) or Ephraim with the stick of Judah; and chs. 47 – 48, the description of the latter-day temple in Jerusalem, the river running from the temple into the Dead Sea to heal it, and the building of a city “foursquare.” Ezekiel was a man of many visions and spoke much about the future restoration of Israel and the glory of the millennial reign of the Lord. The authenticity of his writings are specifically confirmed by latter-day revelation, as in D&C 29: 21.

Obadiah (approx. 586-612 BC)
The steward of Ahab who protected the prophets of God from Jezebel (1 Kgs. 18).
A prophet who foretold the doom of Edom. Nothing is known of his personal history. The prophecy was spoken directly after some capture of Jerusalem (possibly by the Philistines and Arabians during the reign of Jehoram, 848-844 B.C., or more probably by the Chaldeans, 586 B.C.) during which the Edomites had displayed hostility to Judah. (See Edom.) Obadiah foretells their punishment. For the fulfillment of his prophecy see 2 Kgs. 14: 7; 2 Chr. 25: 11-12. One of the better known passages of Obadiah is Obad. 1: 21, speaking of “saviours . . . on mount Zion,” which refers to the doctrine of salvation for the dead.

Nahum  (approx. 642-612 BC)
The prophet; native of Elkosh in Galilee. He prophesied against Nineveh: ch. 1, the manifestation of the avenging God, executing judgment on the oppressors of his people; ch. 2, a picture of the city’s fall; ch. 3, the city denounced as a harlot and enchantress. The prophecy has great literary beauty and much patriotic feeling. Nahum makes no allusion to the sin of his own people. The prophecy was probably written between the fall of Nineveh, 606 B.C., and that of No Amon (Nahum 3: 8) or Thebes, in Upper Egypt, taken by Assurbanipal about 660 B.C. The occasion of the prophecy may have been some recent aggression of Assyria, or more probably some powerful coalition against Nineveh either that before which it actually fell, or an earlier one that prompted the prophet to express his certainty of the city’s doom (Nahum 2: 1; Nahum 3: 12).
Luke 3: 25.

“My father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days”

What exactly was Lehi doing in Jerusalem? Weren’t most of the tribes of Israel scattered by now?

Yes, most were. But not quite all. For one thing, we know that the tribe of Judah stuck around beyond New Testament times. But Lehi was a descendant of Manasseh. “And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.” (Alma 10:3)

The reason I bring this up is that according to the Old Testament, the descendants of Judah and Manasseh got Jerusalem as their Israelite inheritence…

And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh;

1 Chronicles 9: 3

…which explains what a non-Judah descendent was doing in Jerusalem in 600 BC.

1 Nephi 1:3 – Nephi Knows

It takes a lot of confidence to say, “I know I’m right.” In fact, I’d have to say it takes more than confidence – it takes spiritual conviction. Even the accomplished scientist won’t say, “I know this theory is true.” So what is it that gives Nephi the right to say that he knows the things he’s writing is true? Some would call this blind, naïve, or delusional. But that’s assuming that Nephi is wrong. But he’s not wrong, and he knows it.

1 Nephi 11:16-17

And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?

And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

2 Nephi 4:35

Yea, I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen.

2 Nephi 25:7

But behold, I proceed with mine own prophecy, according to my plainness; in the which I know that no man can err; nevertheless, in the days that the prophecies of Isaiah shall be fulfilled men shall know of a surety, at the times when they shall come to pass.

8 Wherefore, they are of worth unto the children of men, and he that supposeth that they are not, unto them will I speak particularly, and confine the words unto mine own people; for I know that they shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them.

2 Nephi 31:1

And now I, Nephi, make an end of my prophesying unto you, my beloved brethren. And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; neither can I write but a few of the words of my brother Jacob.

1 Nephi 3:7

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

So anyway, there’s a few of the things Nephi knows. So I guess the next question is, how does he know? Well, since Nephi’s the one we’re talking about let’s see if Nephi can answer that for us:

1 Nephi 10:19

For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

2 Nephi 32:4-5, 8

Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.

And now, my beloved brethren, I perceive that ye ponder still in your hearts; and it grieveth me that I must speak concerning this thing. For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.

It kind of sounds like he’s saying, if you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you. But he doesn’t stop there. He says that you need to seek the answer from God. If you don’t know the gospel is true, or you don’t know what to do to get real solid answers to your prayers, ask God, and seek an answer. Truly seek. Beg for it. Listen for it. Humble yourself to receive whatever answer he gives you. God really does want you to know, but He’s not going to force it on you. You have to ask. You have to seek it. Really seek it.

Reformed Egyptian

1:2 “the language of the Egyptians”

I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

That sounds to me like Lehi wrote in Hebrew style, but in the Egyptian language – well, some kind of Egyptian language. Obviously Lehi would be fluent in Hebrew, but why would he speak or at least know how to write in Egyptian?

“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.

Okay, so I guess Lehi probably did work that was facilitated by a knowledge of the Egyptian language. I looked up in some commentaries to see what Judah’s relationship to Egypt was like at the time, and here’s what I found. I would summarize, but it would take me more words to say what they did:

1Nephi 1:1–3 . The Book of Mormon Language

In Mormon 9:32–33 , Moroni indicates that the plates were written in reformed Egyptian that had been altered by the Nephites according to their manner of speech. Some scholars believe that reformed Egyptian was a type of shorthand. Moroni explains that if the plates had been larger they would have been written in Hebrew, and then the record would have been without imperfections (see v.33 ). This suggests that reformed Egyptian must not have been as precise and accurate as Hebrew, and it must have required less space to write reformed Egyptian than to write Hebrew. Knowing this gives us a greater appreciation of how efficient the reformed Egyptian language must have been.

The Hebrew language is very compact when compared to English and many other western languages. A typical English sentence of fifteen words will often translate into seven to ten Hebrew words. We have no indication of the size of the characters Mormon and Moroni used, but if they rejected Hebrew because the plates were not “sufficiently large” ( v.33 ), then reformed Egyptian must have been a language remarkable for its ability to convey a lot of information with few words.

Book of Mormon Student Manual Chapter 2 – 1 Nephi 1 – 5

The language seems to have had some changes over the course of the thousand years that the Book of Mormon covers. The native Nephite language was Hebrew, which was also altered over time by the Nephites. The Book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian because the Hebrew characters are too large. See verse 33.

Also, See footnotes to the Title page for possible reasons for the record to be engraved on gold (rather than some other substance), though it is not certain whether the plates were made of gold, or just a gold-colored metal. Here are the verses mentioned in the last quote:

Mormon 9:32-34

32 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.

33 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.

34 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.

Don’t ask me why this is so interesting, but I think it is. Not only did they write in an obscure language, but they wrote in a language that no one understands by now. Wouldn’t that be cool to write in a language NO ONE can read without God’s help?

Maybe I’ll start keeping my journal in a language no one can read…

Wait, with my handwriting I guess it kind of already is.

Just kidding. I went digital a few years ago and I’ll never go back! But I could print it in Wingdings.

Nah…