Gazelem

I had an interesting experience that gave me some interesting insight into the word Gazelem. This is a sample from my book, Giraffe Tracks:

Elder Solomon was a great companion, and had the most interesting background. He was from Ethiopia. Ethiopia has very strict immigration laws, and it’s not easy for anyone to enter or leave Ethiopia. For this reason, Elder Solomon was the first Ethiopian to go to the temple and receive his Endowment. He was truly a pioneer of his people.

When I mention that my companion was from Ethiopia, people often picture a small, starving young man with bony ribs and swollen limbs. Actually, Elder Solomon was a tall and rather muscular elder with an almost Polynesian-type build. He had a very prosperous family. Of all my companions, Elder Solomon was the wealthiest. In personality, he was fun and charismatic, a character much larger than life, and I considered it to be a great and rare opportunity to be his companion.

His actual name was Solomon Yimer, but he insisted that he be called Elder Solomon. He even got them to print it that way on his missionary tag.

One evening after dark we were driving through the township on a dirt road, when all of a sudden Elder Solomon shouted, “STOP THE CAR!”

“What?!”

“Stop the car!” he repeated.

So I stopped.

“Backup! Backup!”

I started backing up, saying, “Why, what is it?”

“I think I saw something – stop! Right here.” He jumped out of the car, walked out to the front of the car where the headlights were shining, and scanned the ground carefully. I wondered if he’d seen a small animal or something. By the way he was searching I knew it had to be small.

When he finally came back in the car, I asked him what he was looking for. He explained, “There’s a stone in Ethiopia that glows really bright in the dark. I thought I saw one on the road. But I couldn’t find it.”

Elder Solomon’s native language was Amharic, which is a dialect of Hebrew. I thought this was interesting, but the implications of this fact didn’t drive home until one day when we were reading the Pearl of Great Price. He had only been a member of the church for six years, and had never read the Pearl of Great Price all the way through before. We had been reading it through from the beginning for companionship study, and were now to Abraham 3. We took turns reading columns.

It was my turn, and I was about halfway down my column. Elder Solomon was only halfway paying attention, and was for the moment not following along as I read:

“And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun. And he…”

“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!” Elder Solomon interrupted, “what did you just say?”

So I began to repeat the verse, “And he said unto me: This is Shinehah, which is the sun.”

“Shinehah is Amharic! It means ‘sun’”

“Wow, interesting!” I said. then I thought for a moment while looking at the verse. “What about this? – ‘And he said unto me: Kokob, which is star.’?”

“Yeah!” replied Elder Solomon, still not looking at the verse, “kokob is one of the words for star. Does it say anything about ‘olea’? That’s the word for ‘moon’.”

I read on: “And he said unto me: Olea, which is the moon.”

“That’s amazing!” Elder Solomon said, “where are you at? That’s definitely Amharic!”

I pointed to him where I was reading, and he read further, “And he said unto me: Kokaubeam, which signifies stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven.”

“Yep!” he said, “Kokaubeam means ‘stars’ alright. It’s a kind of old fashioned term, but that’s what it means.”

We read further, looking for more words, but there wasn’t any more in that verse or the next. Then a thought came to me.

“What about the word ‘Kolob’? Is that Amharic too?”

“Kolob… kolob… no, I don’t know that word.”

So we read on. Soon we got to verse 16. “If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.”

Elder Solomon blurted out, “Oh! Kolob-kokaubeam. Yeah, kolob-kokaubeam is Amharic. It’s like when many stars surround one big star.”

We searched the rest of the chapter, and found a couple more words that are in Amharic. As far as he could guess, all the Amharic words in the chapter were also Hebrew. He said hakokaubeam means ‘a gathering of stars’, and the word ‘floeese’ in Amharic only has one ‘e’ in, but means ‘moon’.

The word ‘Elkenah’ had interesting roots, according to Elder Solomon. In Ethiopia, the largest Christian church was the Orthodox church. This was not the same as the Orthodox Christian churches such as the Greek Orthodox church. According to Elder Solomon, the Ethiopian Orthodox church dates back to a time before King Solomon in the old testament. Elder Solomon explained that according to Ethiopian tradition, Queen Sheba was the queen of Ethiopia (which covered a larger area at that time than it now does), and she belonged to the Orthodox church. Though I wasn’t clear from Elder Solomon’s explanation, it seems that Christian beliefs were adopted by the Orthodox church. In this Orthodox church, the priests are called ‘Elkenah’.

We also read verse 18:

Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

Elder Solomon translated the word ‘gnolaum’ as ‘life’, or ‘eternal life’. He then went on to talk about other Amharic words with similar meaning. The Amharic word, ‘zalelum’ means ‘forever’, and the word “gezea alem” means ‘time eternal’.

The mix of those words caught my attention, and I asked Elder Solomon if he recognized the word, “Gazelem.”

He thought for a moment, and said, “No. I don’t know that word.”

So I directed him to Alma 37:23, which says, “And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem…”

Immediately he stopped, “Oh! Gazelem! Yes, I know that word.”

I had been pronouncing the word, “Guh-zay-lem,” but when he saw it written, he recognized it, and pronounced it, “Gaa-zuh-lem”

“Yeah,” Elder Solomon continued, “it’s a really shiny rock that shines bright in the dark.”

“Really? Have you ever seen a gazelem before?”

“No. But I want to. They are a strange stone. When travelers in the wilderness see one, they sometimes send people up to get them. But when they get there, they can never find it. The people at the bottom can see the gazelem shining brightly on the people looking for it, but those people cannot see it.”

“How interesting!”

I read the rest of the verse.

Alma 37:23

And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations.

Elder Solomon went on, “Remember the other day when I told you to stop the car so I could look for a glowing stone?”

“Yes.”

“That’s what I thought I’d seen, a gazelem.”

It is important to recognize that the things I am sharing about gazelem cannot be considered scholarly research. The only evidence of the ideas shared here are Elder Solomon’s words, and though he was very familiar with Ethiopian culture and lore, it would take a great deal of research to verify what he said – though I have no reason to disbelieve him. But I thought it was a fascinating insight into African culture, and an interesting perspective on the word gazelem in the Book of Mormon.

After our companionship study I read the rest of Alma 37. Alma is talking to his son about the Urim and Thummim, and how these stones will bring to light all the secret works of the wicked one to the eyes of His servants, the prophets. After learning about gazelem, I thought of what an interesting type it is for the Urim and Thummim, and by the same token, how it could be a type or symbol of the prophet.

The prophet is shown the works of evil that are happening in the world around us even though we think we are hidden in complete darkness. The prophet warns the world and strives to guide us to safety, but we ignore, because we can not see what he can see.

I also knew that in the first publication of the Doctrine and Covenants (probably when it was still called The Book of Commandments), many of the brethren had to use code names in some of the sections in order to protect them from opposition. One of Joseph Smith’s code names was “Gazelam.”
I decided that if anyone besides the Savior could be a spiritual “gazelem”, to bring to light secret works of darkness, and light the way for lost persons, Joseph Smith fits the description. We also have a prophet today, and he certainly leads people safely home. We might not see his face light up like Moses’, but he most definitely bares the light of revelation from God, and if we follow his direction, we will find our way safely home. 

Interview with Author Misty Moncur

Interview with Misty Moncur

Show Notes:

Misty Moncur is the author of the LDS novel, Daughter of Helaman. As her bio on her website, http://mistymoncur.blogspot.com/ states,

Misty fits in writing like other people fit in breathing. She writes in the Romance, Young Adult, and Religious genres.

Misty lives in Utah with her husband, her Wii-addicted son, and her curly-haired daughter. They spend a great deal of time laughing and the rest of it eating pizza

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Questions discussed in the Interview:

What gave you the idea of creating a young woman who is interested in joining Helaman’s army of 2000 young men?

I noticed that Keturah has a very strong view of gender roles. Was that difficult to write into the Nephite culture?

What kind of research did you have to do in order to write about day-to-day living in Nephite times?

There are probably many members of the church that would like to study more about what Nephite life may have been like. What sources or tools would you recommend?

Was there anything about the history or characters in the story that you didn’t include in the book (deleted scenes, unwritten backstory, etc)?

The book is obviously intended for an LDS audience. What do you hope members of the church get from Daughter of Helaman?

How did writing this book effect your testimony of the Book of Mormon?

What got you started in writing?

How did you get from an interest in writing to actually starting your first book? Was the task harder or easier than you expected?

What do you recommend to other writers who would like to write a book, but haven’t started yet?

What’s next? Sequel? Do you have another book underway?

Any advice or suggestions you would like to give new writers?

Thanks to Misty for allowing me to do the interview! Everyone go buy her book!

The Book of Mormon Set to Music: 1 Nephi 2

I don’t know how many people liked the first one, but one person requested more, so I did chapter 2.

Download MP3: 1 Nephi 2

And in case you missed the first one, here it is:

Download MP3: 1 Nephi 1

“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…

1 Nephi 1:2 – Thirty Year Old Journal

“therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days”

Sometimes we assume that the book of 1 Nephi is like a journal – that Nephi kept it as he went along. Maybe that’s the case for the other plates he kept, I don’t know, but with the version we have access to, Nephi wrote his record 30 years after Lehi’s family left Jerusalem, and well after the time they arrived in the Promised Land. (see 1 Nephi 19:1-5 / 2 Nephi 5:28-31)

1 Nephi 19:1-5

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.

2 Nephi 5:28-31

28 *And thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem.

29 And I, Nephi, had kept the records upon my plates, which I had made, of my people thus far.

30 And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people.

31 Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things.

32 And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates.

33 And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.

34 And it sufficeth me to say that *forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren.

Why does that matter, you ask? Well, I suppose it doesn’t, really. I just thought that was kind of cool.

1 Nephi 1:1 – The Mysterious Mystery of… of… Mysteries!

Having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God”

I’m sure you’ve been in church when someone has said something like, “Let’s not dive too deeply into the mysteries,” or, “that’s one of the mysteries that we don’t really need to know right now.”

Of course, they are right. The things which the Lord has not revealed are not presently important for us to have. Things like the how dinosaurs fit into the plan, the precise location of the lost tribes of Israel, and the date of the second coming are all interesting subjects that we’ll someday understand, but don’t need to now. But whenever I read verses like this one (1 Nephi 1:1), I have to question if mysteries is the right word to refer to things we’re not meant to know.

Why do I say that? Well, it just seems like every time the scriptures are talking about mysteries, they’re talking about something we should be trying to obtain.

The Scriptural Definition of “Mysteries” seems to be “Knowledge received through the Holy Ghost” (Except when spoken by a wicked person). The Scriptures say that the mysteries are “that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (D&C 42:61). It also seems clear that in order for one to receive mysteries, they must do so by the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost is not the means of making the knowledge known or confirming the knowledge of a mystery, a person cannot receive it.

1 Corinthians 2:4-14

4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Nephi 10:17-19

17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.

18 For he is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.

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.

Alma 12:9

9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.

D&C 8:9-11

9 And, therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it.

10 Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.

11 Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.

D&C 42:61

61 If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.

D&C 63:23.

23 But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom, and the same shall be in him a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.

Anyway, you get the idea. I think the Lord intends for us to seek those kinds of mysteries – meaning knowledge that must be obtained through the Holy Ghost, such as testimony and the Spirit of prophecy – stuff like that.

The only problem is, what do we call all the other weird stuff if we can’t call it mysteries? Freaky stuff? Nah, that sound too negative. Maybe just – weird stuff. Or perhaps speculation… yeah, I like that – speculative stuff. The word speculation has a bit of a bad rap already, so I guess it fits.

The Book Mormon Set to Music: 1 Nephi 1

I thought it might be fun to set music to the Book of Mormon by playing the piano while listening to a recorded reading of it. The tune was improvised on the spot so I could have the mood change with the words. It starts out a little cheesy, but overall  I think it worked okay. Let me know what you think!