Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Book of Mormon Authenticity: One "Slam Dunk" Verse

If I had to pick one verse in the Book of Mormon to use as an argument for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I think I would pick a verse that may be the least quoted and yet most often repeated verse in the Book of Mormon. By most often repeated, I mean that the essence of the verse seems to be repeated at the opening of most talks in most sacrament meetings of most LDS congregations around the world, at least in my experience. This sleeper verse is one of the most humorous verses in scripture, yet actually offers what may be a potent argument for the Book of Mormon as a genuine ancient text, not a fabrication of Joseph Smith.

The verse (drum roll, please) is Omni 1:9. Here it is:
Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the records, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.
This hilariously awkward attempt at writing by Chemish, who just didn't know what to do with the awesome responsibility of caring for the nearly filled record on the plates of Nephi, reminds me of what happens in so many talks at Church: "Well, when I saw the Bishop coming, I knew he was going to ask me to talk, and I told him I really didn't want to give a talk, but he said I should, and so I here I am. Anyway, now I'm giving a talk, and . . . is that two minutes yet?"

I think most of us can really relate to Chemish. Especially when we are young, giving a talk or writing an essay can result in a lot of silly words trying to fill up the space. Yes, Chemish shows that not every word in scripture is ponderous and spiritual - but we already knew that. It shows that real humans with real weaknesses sometimes were given responsibility over the sacred records. His words are just too funny, too natural, too human, and too "naturally out of sync" with the serious nature of the plates of Nephi for Joseph to have just made that up on the spur of the moment while dictating sacred scripture. If his purpose were to impress and deceive, this is the kind of thing you would not stick in the text. But this rough spot in the Book of Mormon shows the fingerprints of a real person, someone who might have been a bit rough around his spiritual edges but had to say something to fulfill the duty he inherited, thanks to his lineage.

Sure, chiasmus and Nahom and Bountiful and cement buildings are all interesting evidences for Book of Mormon authenticity - but what can beat Omni 1:9 as a "slam dunk" refutation of the theory that Joseph made up the Book of Mormon? OK, that's a slightly tongue-in-cheek statement, but perhaps only slightly.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think Nephi used up most of the plates with what he wrote and particularly with what he copied out of Isaiah. As a result, I think everyone after him was suffering from concern with how to use the limited space that was left over.

Chemish is unusually brief and certainly deserves that kind of attention. Was it lack of preparation? Was it lack of spiritual experiences or revelations to share? Insecurity? Carpal tunnel syndrome? It's hard to tell.

It's interesting that any Chemish type characters in the Bible were probably edited out. This Chemish verse just points even more towards the fact that the Book of Mormon has more transitions and explanations of how the text was handled, edited and passed on than any other book of scripture. In fact I can't really think of any book of scripture that compares at all in this way. Even the Pearl of Great Price. Perhaps lack of transitions is an example of plain and precious truths that were removed from other scriptural books.

Danithew
http://www.wump.info/wumpblog

Mormanity said...

Excellent comments. Thanks!

fMhLisa said...

That is a really interesting point, and one I would have never thought of. I like it a lot.

Anonymous said...

Very intersting comments Bishop! Maybe that is something that I can show to my father-in-law to help him see that the Book of Mormon really is an authentic work written by prophets who where human, but who did what they could to fulfill their duty to God, however small it was.

Tianna Beebe

Alisa said...

That is so true! What a great point. You can really sense how much of a real person Chemish is, just by reading that one verse. Awesome, thanks!

Jerry said...

For all the pros and cons about the church there is one thing that nothing will ever change for me; that when I got down on my knees and asked if it was true-when I got up I knew it was. I cant prove a lot of things about the Book of Mormon and there have been times that I have wondered and it comes down to-Do I really believe that Joseph, Oliver, David O. Spencer W, Thomas S would lie to me and I dont think so.

Anonymous said...

I think Chemish was an atheist. He didn't want to write in it, and did the bare minimum just to fulfill his duty, and got rid of the record as fast as possible.

It's as backed up as any other theory I've seen proposed.