You are here
|Title||Lecture 26: Enos; Jarom; Omni - The Struggle of Enos|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Year of Publication||1993|
|Authors||Nibley, Hugh W.|
|Book Title||Teachings of the Book of Mormon: Semester 1|
|Publisher||Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies|
|Keywords||Enos (Son of Jacob); Jarom (Son of Enos); Omni (Son of Jarom)|
Show Full Text
Lecture 26: Enos; Jarom; Omni - The Struggle of Enos
Who was Enos in the Bible? Does anybody know? Remember Adam had the sons Cain and Abel, among others. Cain disqualified, though they had great hopes for him. You know what happened to Abel. Then the next one in succession had the name of Seth, which means successor, substitute, double Adam, next Adam. His son was Enos, which means Adam or man again. It’s the same meaning exactly. It means a human being. So we have three Adams in a row there. Also there are other names [that are interesting]. You notice we had that Sherem. Who would Sherem be? All names are epithets; they describe something about where a person lived, what he looked like, and something like that in all languages. Sherem means snub nosed or pug nosed. It’s the same as the Latin Simus. They had Rufus for red hair, and Curtis for short man, etc. So Enos is man, and these other names have meanings too.
Enos is an important book, but we have to race through it here. It’s just one chapter, you notice, but what a chapter! Remember that he was very well taught. His father was the high priest. His uncle was Nephi. That would make him a duke, I suppose. He was of princely descent. His father taught him in his language “and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” His father was the high priest, and in this type of state the high priest ranks as high as the king because this is inherited from Egypt too. In the Egypt of Lehi’s day, the high priest of Thebes was equal to the Pharaoh. The Theban Pharaohs would marry their daughters or their sons into the high priestly family of Thebes in order to fix themselves because some of them were foreign dynasties. Or if it was the Tanidic or Semitic group over in the east delta, they would also take over the high priesthood. The king himself would take it over, as in the case of Korihor (good old Book of Mormon name). Or he would marry his daughter with the title “Daughter of the God,” and she would be married to the high priest of Thebes. But the priesthood and the kingship just went like that. There was much rivalry between them, and you see that Alma is quite aware of them when he talks about priestcraft later on. But here it’s the same thing; there are parallels anyway. Enos speaks of “admonition of the Lord,” so he was very well trained by his father. He had this wrestle, not with the Lord (like Jacob) but before God. He had things to settle here.
I’ll save some time by reading from an article1 here: The beginning of Enos’s story in a hunting scene has always been treated as a picturesque detail and sometimes cited as justification for the philosophy of the National Rifle Association (the great hunt, you see). It’s the classic motif of the king’s son (in this case his grandson) engaged in an activity which should keep him out of mischief and trouble. However, royalty on the hunt, as we mentioned last time, is already at risk, and the next-in-line hunting alone is courting the fate of a Siegfried (whom Hagen stabbed in the back while they were out hunting; he got him out alone) or a William II, who was shot because Tirel said he looked like a squirrel, and no less than that of sixty-seven Shahs of Persia (as we mentioned the last time) or their heirs, all murdered on the hunt. It is easy to see why princes should not hunt alone. It is not healthy; these convenient accidents do happen to the next-in-line. But it was not the risk to his life and crown that distressed Enos.
You know Prince Hal in Henry IV and Henry V of Shakespeare, the three plays. He would possibly have been the greatest king England ever had if he had lived long enough; he became Henry V. He was kept safely on the sidelines until his time should come. The king indulged him in all sorts of things. He engaged in wild pranks and became a great headache to his father with irresponsible horseplay, including highway robbery and things like that—anything to amuse himself because he was bored stiff. It’s this idea of capable young men who are kept out of the action and have to find some, so they either get into trouble or they go crazy like Enos does here. He just can’t stand it anymore. The discontented prince is the stock figure in legend and literature, but no less in history. Enos, exactly like Gautama (we mentioned him last time—Siddhartha, the Buddha) or Harun al-Rashid, was not at all satisfied with the way his life was going. Harun al-Rashid was the greatest of the caliphs of Baghdad, but he was bored. There are stories of his boredom because he had everything like the prince of Ishan. He had a giant black slave by the name of Ja»far who was always trying to think up new amusements for him. Well, it was the same way with Petronius. His business was to think up new arrangements and new amusements for the youthful Nero who got into all sorts of mischief, as you know. He was not an unintelligent person, but he was kept on the sidelines by the feuding of Olivia and other people like that. They used to masquerade, dress up, and go out among the people to see what was going on. There are some long stories about how the king is so bored. The king says, “What shall I do?”
“Come out and look at your rose garden; you have plenty of roses. Listen to the nightingale, etc. Go into your harem. Have a banquet.”
“Look, we’ve had all that,” he says. So they go out. He dresses up and does something desperate. He’s got to get some kind of action going, so he stirs things up among his own people just to be active, you see. But this is the way it goes.
Enos said he wrestled with himself, struggling in the spirit before God before he received a remission of his sins. Notice he tells us right at the beginning here that he went to hunt beasts. It’s an intensely personal history. The words of his father “concerning eternal life and the joy of the saints” kept going through his head. This is what sunk deeply into his heart. He knew there must be something better than this [hunting], in other words. He wasn’t having any of it, so he said he was missing it terribly. “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker [he asked and said, ‘I’ve got to have something here’; he was absolutely desperate], and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul [he hungered—he wasn’t getting what he knew should be there; his father had taught him all these wonderful things]; and all the day long did I cry unto him [he wouldn’t let up; ‘get me out of this,’ he said]; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. And there came a voice unto me saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away.”
See, this was his obstacle. That’s what guilt is—the great obstacle. It’s guilt that gives you a sense of your inadequacy. That’s one place where Freud was right. Your guilt builds into you whether you cover it up or not. Your guilt will accompany you, and the more you get the worse it gets to overcome. You get mental blocks, you hesitate, you’re uncertain, you lose all confidence because that guilt is behind you. And you know it if it is only in your subconscious. He said, “My guilt was swept away,” so he was free to act then. The only thing that can break it down is faith, as he says in the next verse. “Because of thy faith in Christ,” this happened. You’ve got to get confidence from somewhere, and what is faith? We could write an essay defining that, couldn’t we? The interesting thing, as we said before, is that you don’t pray for faith—you exercise faith. You pray for health, the necessities of life, wisdom, and all sorts of things. But you have to supply some of the faith yourself; you have to be self-generating. It’s at the very center of your existence, of your consciousness and your awareness. If you didn’t have that [you couldn’t act; for example], you could convince a person that he couldn’t move his hand. He couldn’t move his hand unless he thought he could move it. I’ve seen that happen many times. Once a person really thinks he can’t do something, he becomes absolutely paralyzed. You can hypnotize persons that way. It’s a lack of faith. As soon as he gets faith and knows he can, there’s nothing to it—it can be done. But you have to generate some of the faith in yourself. We generate it with various stimuli. That’s what the preaching and the miracles serve for.
Verse 8: “Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole. Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites.” They are his brethren. He is a responsible person; his father is the big man. It was Jacob who brought the people to the temple, etc. This is a great responsibility for the people, so next it turns to that. It says, “a desire for the welfare of my brethren,” so it’s a personal concern for his brethren the Nephites now. They become his next concern; how about them being saved? And here we have a very interesting thing. The Lord will not make him any promises, and he gets the point here. “And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again saying . . .” He is struggling with what? Professor Budine, the old Danish philosopher used to say that sorrow is our limitations. It’s your limitations that make you sad. There you are again—your limitations are due to your guilt. The inadequacies are the things you have given in to. You went for easy solutions; you wouldn’t exercise your capacity or expand it or anything. So your limitations haunt you on all sides. “Cooped, cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in by saucy doubts and fears, we can’t move at all.” So we struggle with our own limitations. That’s what we are struggling for. If you had the power to take care of anything you thought was wrong, you wouldn’t worry at all. You’d enjoy doing it, wouldn’t you? Well, there you are.
So he was struggling in the spirit, and the voice came to his mind. Notice, did a loud voice resound through the forest? No, he says, “The voice of the Lord came into my mind [there is such a thing; that’s where you are going to receive it] again, saying: I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments [he knew they weren’t diligent at all; what’s going to happen here now?] I have given unto them this land, and it is a holy land; and I curse it not save it be for the cause of iniquity; wherefore, I will visit thy brethren according as I have said; and their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.” Now that’s the last word, and it’s not very encouraging: “Their transgressions will I bring down with sorrow upon their own heads.” When Enos heard that, he knew he was on the right track here, and his “faith began to be unshaken in the Lord.” As a very generous, great-hearted person, he prayed for his brethren, the Lamanites. Notice that the Lamanites are always referred to as their” brethren,” and not as “the evil empire,” though look how evil they are in this book. “And I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites.” And he tells us in verse 14, “For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith.”
He didn’t get a cheerful promise for the Nephites, and he is not going to get one for the Lamanites either. So this is what he prays, and it is not a prayer that is full of hope and exuberance at all. Why does he even think of this in verse 13? This was his prayer, “I desired of him—that if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed.” So he sees that as a very distinct possibility; he got the point when he had a desire for the welfare of his people. We expect a reassuring and cheerful answer when we pray for the welfare, but you notice he doesn’t get it. Must He be so brutally honest here? God goes to the point. So he prayed that if the Nephites should fall by transgression, “the Lamanites should not be destroyed [he knew Nephi’s prophecy, of course], that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites . . . that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation [it’s not too hopeful for either one of them, is it? The best he can do is hope that maybe the Lamanites might get something]—For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith [we couldn’t get anywhere at all]. And they swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers.” Well now, that was some situation! So he cried unto the Lord continually; the command was that he should ask Him. “Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.”
Then here he gets his answer in verse 16. He knows how it is going to turn out now. The promise is implicit in the answer. “And he [the Lord] covenanted with me that he would bring them forth unto the Lamanites in his own due time [so it was the Lamanites that would get the record after all—there would be no Nephites around anymore. So he knows now how it will end; it comes clear]; . . . wherefore my soul did rest. And the Lord said unto me: Thy fathers have also required of me this thing; and it shall be done unto them according to their faith.” Notice it’s the very same thing; we are back on square one again. Lehi asked the same thing, and so did Nephi when he asked what would happen. He got the answer that they [the Lamanites] would have no power over you [the Nephites], unless they also rebel against me. Then he goes forth just like Lehi did. “I, Enos, went about among the people of Nephi, prophesying of things to come.”
Let’s get back to this argument for a minute about Siddhartha and Prince Hal because this contrast is a very interesting thing. He had to come to peace with himself. It is an intensely personal story. If he had nothing better to do than to hunt by himself, he was wasting his talents and he knew it: he knows he is missing something, that this is not what he should be doing—his father had told him about that. [He said] “And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul” (Enos 1:4). He prayed all night long, determined to find release from an intolerable situation. He felt implicitly as every intelligent person does, “Woe unto him . . . that wasteth the day of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Nephi 9:27). As a good prince, once his frustration, or, as he says, “my guilt was swept away” (Enos 1:6), his next thought was for his people. Now, as I mentioned, the most significant parallel to this was certainly that of the Buddha. The latter was born in 563 B.C. This is about when Enos would have been born, which makes him strictly contemporary with Enos, a grandson of Lehi. His [Gautama Buddha’s] father too bore the title of king—Rajan, which means minor king, a priest king. But he was also like Jacob more of a counselor and tribal leader. Living in luxury (now we are quoting from his biographer), “the thoughtful young prince must have become increasingly aware of the emptiness of such a life.” Well that’s what worried Enos. So he left his wife and child [they had only been married a year] and, “as did many young people of this time, . . . sought higher knowledge in the silence and solitude of the forest.” He went out into the forest in the very way that Enos did.
Is the author of the Book of Mormon simply following the Buddhist story? Far from it. The two tales separate at this point and end up at opposite poles. Buddha found the answer to his quest in “the two fundamental principles of Buddhism,” which we mentioned last time, namely that there is no permanent existence, and that there is no enduring soul—no I nor Self. And, of course, we believe in eternity; the whole thing is eternal blessings. In fact, his last verse here is a marvelous thumbnail sketch of the Atonement—it gets every point of the Atonement in one verse there. We will get to it presently, but first the two fundamental principles of Buddhism are exact opposites [of what Enos taught]. Instead of eternal life he is after, forget that—there is no permanent existence, and there is no enduring individual soul. You will be dissolved into Nirvana. These are the two principles: As an individual there is no continuation. There is no I; there is no Self because they depend on the five factors of body, feeling, awareness, the will, and consciousness. We must get rid of all of them [according to Buddhism]. These things which Gautama renounced are the substance of Enos’s salvation—eternal life for one’s self. These are the two things that the Buddhists would never allow—no eternal life and not for yourself, certainly.
We’ll go on here. These things will be brought forth unto the Lamanites. Notice this interesting description of them; it’s about as gory as you can get. Are these children of nature? No, they are not. These are not primal or primitive people he describes here in this long verse 20. There are many recent studies on this. Lord Raglan, Joseph Needham, Giorgio de Santillana, and Levi-Strauss (the anthropologist) are showing that wherever you think you find primitives what you find is the remnants of former civilizations. After all, we believe that Adam started out at the top; he was the best and smartest man of them all. We have been going down hill ever since, and there’s plenty of evidence for that. With what we call “primitives,” you ought to be darn sure you’re dealing with people that are really primitive. They are very hard to find, actually.
Verse 20: “And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, [notice this:] and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people.” They are not children of nature; that’s not the way they have lived “for millions of years.” We think we can go out and find people, such as in Australia, living as people have always lived for untold millennia. There’s no evidence for that whatsoever we now know. [It was thought] that all these primitive people throughout the world developed on parallel lines following rules of evolution wherever you go. But since [Sir James George] Frazer’s day, they have all been connected. So they were all historically aware of each other; they have all been in occupied territories; they all live on the scenes of earlier civilizations. Look at the Central American Indians among those magnificent ruins, and nobody knows to this day exactly what went on there. Nobody has the vaguest idea what it was like in 1000 B.C. They had these tremendous civilizations. They were there, and we know these people are descended from them. If it weren’t for the ruins, we’d say, “Well, obviously these are children of nature; they’ve always been here, etc.” They became the “gentle savage” when they were discovered. It’s the same thing here: “They became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people.”
People do become that way; that’s an interesting thing. If we are left alone, we become that way. If you don’t believe that sort of thing, why don’t you scout through MTV tonight and look for some of the major rock concerts. You see tens of thousands of arms all waving; it’s about as savage and primitive as anything you could imagine. There’s not a thought going on in their noggins, and these are the product of an ancient, venerable, extremely highly developed civilization with a tremendous history, literature, and everything else. These nitwits are vegetables reacting this way. You see it’s possible to bring forth this thing in our natures; we’d all do it. He is going to tell us how they had to keep up the pressure so his own people wouldn’t slide right into that very condition. The Lamanites became “full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.”
Well, they had to have something to do; they had to have a project in life. Here is the contrast—here is an agrarian civilization. A few years ago Masseyn Driver did an exhaustive study of all the Indians of North America, everything that was known about them since the time of their discovery. Ninety percent of them were agricultural; they weren’t hunters at all. They cultivated and lived in villages, and they were settled people. Driver’s study was published by the American Philosophical Association, and it’s the best summary of American Indians to date, considering all their tribes, all their distribution, their culture, what they had, and everything. It’s a big work. Anyway this is very different: “The people of Nephi did till the land and raise all manner of grain, and of fruit, and flocks of herds, and flocks of all manner of cattle of every kind, and goats, and wild goats, and also many horses.” These horses, etc., are very interesting; that has always been an issue. My friend Woodrow Bora worked for years on that at Berkeley. That was his field, and he was convinced that the Spanish didn’t bring the first horses here at all. There were plenty of them, and he talks about that.
Then notice this: “And there were exceedingly many prophets among us [that means schools of the prophets—a strange situation like in the days of Saul]. And the people were a stiffnecked people, hard to understand.” Considering what those called “Lamanites” had slid into so easily, they had to keep this from happening to their people. How could they do it? Well, it was just like New England where many people went savage. Then in 1856–57 there was the Reformation here in Utah. Brigham Young and Jedediah Grant had to launch the big Reformation because the people were getting quite wild and irresponsible—going off by themselves, etc. Some of them would live with the Indians. Some of them were very competent people, but the Reformation was necessary to bring the people back again to their religion. It was very dangerous to get out here and then suddenly everything was up for grabs. You could go anywhere you wanted and take anything you wanted—just help yourself. One thing the Indians were good for was to suppress that. Someone would go out ranching—out in Skull Valley, for example—and the next thing that was known their ranch house would be burned down. Maybe the people would be found there, and maybe they wouldn’t. A lot of that happened in Manti and San Pete County where my mother was born. People would go out and try to become too independent, and the Indians would take care of that because they would expose themselves when they did that. The Indians weren’t particularly savage, but they had their reasons. They were hungry, too.
This was the only thing [that would keep them in line]: “And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things—stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction [they would decline, and that’s what it would mean]. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” Notice this constant thing. On Normandy it was just like boys out of school. All sorts of atrocities were performed. Nobody reads about that. They don’t tell about it, but in my division there were some terrible ones. There were some awful things done because a lot of them were crooks that were only allowed out of jail on condition that they join that happy band, the Hundred and First. That was the condition. A lot of them did, and they were pretty wild. But these people are constantly in danger of subsiding into the savage way of life. A good rock concert will show that. But you have to have the New England frontier severity, the preaching, and the strictness to keep people in line.
Verse 24: “And I saw wars between the Nephites and Lamanites in the course of my days. And it came to pass that I began to be old, and an hundred and seventy and nine years had passed away from the time that our father Lehi left Jerusalem [he got to be very old; he talks about that]. And I saw that I must soon go down to my grave.” So he wrote this at the end of his life, and it had been 179 years since they left Jerusalem. Isn’t that an awful long time, you say. Wouldn’t he have to be about 140 years old? Well, not at all. I started wondering about that. It had been 179 years, and this is Enos, Lehi’s grandson. How would that be possible? Well, it’s easily possible; I started figuring out with my own family, etc. The successors aren’t necessarily the eldest. Joseph, Jacob, Ishmael, Nephi, and Israel were not the oldest sons. There could also be a lot of daughters. Lots of people live to be old. It could be somebody like Irving Berlin who is going strong at a hundred, or George Burns. You know about him. Ramses II reigned for sixty-seven years, and Seti II reigned for ninety years. Verdi did his best work after he was eighty, and Sophocles did the same. Isocrates gave his great Pan-Hellenic oration when he was in his nineties. He would have been quite competent, I think. And so it goes. In that case you don’t have to knock off even 100 from the 179, but if you do, that leaves you 79 years. His father, Jacob, was born 8 years after they left Jerusalem, so knock 8 years off the 79. His father would have been 69 or 70 years old when he was born. That was by no means rare among the Patriarchs. That’s not impossible. The sexologists tell us today all sorts of things about how people should go on having affairs into their eighties, etc. Such are the morals of our time. But anyway, it was quite possible. This is not a fantastic thing. It would be if they had been very young along there. It depends on his age, but he gives the impression of being very old. He began to be old and would soon go down to the grave. He reports this rather late; I would say eighty or ninety years later. That would [have been] plenty of time.
He has rejoiced above all things in the world in the gospel. Notice this verse 27. As I said, it brings in every point of the Atonement in proper order. First of all he says, “And I soon go to the place of my rest [that’s the thing that people do just after they die], which is with my Redeemer.” Note that the Redeemer is the one who has bought you back to where you were. You once belonged to him; now he redeems you. Redemptio means someone who buys back something that he has sold before, talking about a slave. If I sold a slave and now I buy him back, that’s redemptio. I go back to where I started—to the Lord, dependent upon him. “For I know that in him I shall rest [next comes the rest]. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality [that’s the Resurrection that comes next], and shall stand before him [that’s the Judgment], then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me [this is atonement, being united, coming back home again]: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.” Of course, a mansion is a house which is yours, and there are many mansions where you stay overnight as you progress on your journey. When a great king or lord made his tour, the Royal Progress, where did he stop at night? He didn’t camp; he had mansions. He had special houses built for him to stay overnight. The first year of his reign he had to make the complete tour of his kingdom. I wrote a long article on that in the Western Political Quarterly years ago.2 The mansion is the place where you stay during the course of your progress on your journey. You continue to have your mansion, and on you go. There you have your eternal progression; you have everything there in this one verse. How neatly he puts it together. They had the full gospel of the Atonement here.
Now we come to Jarom. His name is interesting. Notice, these names are not in Hebrew. They are in Aramaic or Arabic which were near to the language of Lehi’s people, I’m sure. Jarom means “to prosper or to get a good share of something.” It means “to support one’s family properly.” It also means “to have good luck in business” or “finding something of value.” It can also mean “to grasp or snatch something” or “to be a crook.” That’s the way these words do; one meaning leads to the next. They are very rich, but the basic meaning of Jarom is “to be prosperous, to be happy.” What English word do we have? Well, Richard means the same thing, “to be rich, to be well off.” So we will call Jarom, Richard here, just as we called Enos, Adam, and we called Sherem, Pug. And Jacob in Hebrew means the heel. Verse 1: “Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept. And these plates are small [he has just written a little bit] and as these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little.” Now here is the important thing; you notice the secret is out here. He writes it for the benefit of the Lamanites. He’s not writing these Nephite plates for the Nephites. He knows they’re not going to be here after a while. He writes these plates for the “benefit of our brethren the Lamanites.” Now he does some prophesying too, “but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations.” Now this is a very interesting thing. We talk about the living prophet. He prophesied and he had revelations, but he doesn’t write them down. Why not? Because they are already written down. “For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.”
Notice that the living prophet doesn’t supplant the scriptures. When we get to 3 Nephi 23, you will see how the Lord asked to see all the scriptures, went through them, checked them, and said, You are going to need these [paraphrased]. He corrected mistakes that had been made and added Malachi who wrote after Lehi left Jerusalem. Here was the Lord himself. He could have said, “Forget the scriptures—I’m the one that gave them.” No, he didn’t do that; he said that you use the scriptures. It’s the same thing in two passages at the end of the gospel of Luke—in the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke, verses 32 and 44. He opens the scriptures to the disciples in verse 32, and they begin to understand him. Right at the end they begin to understand, but they didn’t understand the scriptures before. Then finally it tells us, beginning with Moses and the prophets He went right through the scriptures after the Resurrection, explaining all things concerning himself. He wanted them to have those scriptures. So don’t think because we have living prophets they can supersede the scriptures—they don’t. You notice that the prophets cling more to the scriptures than anyone else. I didn’t bring along an apparatus text of the Greek or the Hebrew testaments, but there you will find solid margins of quotations. The book is nothing but a pastiche of quotations from earlier scriptures. What’s the New Testament? In Matthew the angel comes, and all he does is quote the scriptures; he said nothing else. All throughout the scriptures, the Lord when he preaches, and the apostles when they write the letters, are quoting the scriptures. We have this on-going library, and they all tell the same story. Jarom says he is not going to bother to repeat because you have it all here. You have it all if you pay attention to it.
Why is it necessary to go into detail like this? It’s the way people are. These are the same people we have been talking about all along. Verse 3: “Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land [another very hopeful record and commentary, isn’t it?]. And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked [ah, there’s a ray of light, you see—this is why things go on] and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit.” You know in the beginning of Luke, it uses the words Holy Ghost in the Bible. Mary was filled with the Holy Ghost. When they went to the temple and brought the Lord, Simeon was filled with the Holy Ghost. He repeated again, “I was told by the Holy Ghost that I would live to see the Messiah.” Then the Prophetess Anna in the temple was filled with the Holy Ghost and bestowed a blessing. So the Holy Ghost, operative before the coming of Christ, is preparatory. The Holy Ghost prepares them that way, and it’s that way here. “The Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.”
Well, two hundred years had passed away now, “and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land [this is twenty years later; Jarom and the priests have had twenty-one years working on them, and they have improved; it’s very obvious]. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict [they are still keeping it, and the people are behaving]. And they were scattered upon much of the face of the land, and the Lamanites also. And they were exceedingly more numerous than were they of the Nephites; and they loved murder [and all that sort of thing]. . . . They came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle.” What could they do? They had to arm themselves, but the only defense they had was righteousness, it tells us here. Notice he says, “But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites [because they were taught the ways of the Lord] and swept them away out of our lands.” Then they began to fortify their cities. There was pressure on them all the time, but throughout the Book of Mormon all battles take place on Nephite territory, every one until right at the end. In Mormon 4:5 he says, if we hadn’t invaded their territory, we would never have been defeated. Because of that the Lord told us we were asking for it, and we were destroyed. But their wars were always defensive and always the three-times rule. They let them invade, but it was always fought on Nephite territory. Don’t go fooling around with other nations. Remember, that’s what the Lord told Israel when they went into Palestine. He said, you are going to have them on your borders, but no matter how they treat you, no matter how dangerous they are, this is a commandment—you shall not meddle in their affairs [paraphrased]. This is a very important thing.
Verse 8: “And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold.” They had quite a culture. There was great emphasis on metal work, and that’s what you do find. Whether you dig in Peru or in the Mississippi Valley, you find metal objects and things mixed with metal—malachite and turquoise and things like that. They got themselves prepared for war, but that didn’t keep the peace. “And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us. But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land [there’s the secret]. And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi [all the time; they had to keep that up, you see; arms didn’t make them secure], according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land [that was the danger]. Then they kept the law of Moses, “and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was.” We should live as if the Messiah had come, shouldn’t we, because he has come before our time? In the sacrament we remind ourselves of that as much as we can. But we still put off the hard things until he gets here. We say, “Well, when he gets here we will start living the Law of Consecration, etc.” Is that what he wants? Verse 12: “And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land [that’s what happened; they preached to them constantly, threatening them, etc.]; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up to repentance.” It wasn’t their military might; they were destroyed at the peak of their preparedness and their experience. The most magnificent army ever on the continent was that of the Nephites destroyed at Cumorah. As a matter of fact, smaller armies had beaten larger armies of Lamanites again and again, as Mormon tells us before they came up to Cumorah. That wasn’t the thing at all. They had to keep running to stand still though. They were continually stirred up to repentance. Then we have more sidelines on race, etc. “After the manner of wars, and contentions, and dissensions.” That means going off and joining other groups in the woods or wherever they were. Dissensions are where people dissent, fall away, and go off and join other groups. That’s in internal affairs, etc. And it talks about separate journals being kept. There are other plates of Nephi. If you want to read about the wars, that’s where you read about them. The kings had their own records, and the priests had theirs—just as in Egypt from the twenty-second to the twenty-sixth dynasty when Lehi was living.
Now we come to the book of Omni, whose name is very obvious. It means belonging to Amon. Remember, Amon is the name in the Book of Mormon. There are more Ammon names and Amon compounds than anything else because actually in the time of Lehi Amon was the god of the empire. It was the one time when God filled the earth. Amon filled the earth with the Egyptian Empire. They claimed everything, but always in the name of Amon. We have the marvelous sermons of Wenamun, the Egyptian ambassador to the court of Biblos. He was on business there when he talked about “Amon who rules all the seas and rules all nations.” We have songs in which we refer to Adam-ondi-Ahman and Amon as an epithet for God. Actually, it means “the one who is not known, the secret one whom we can’t name, whose name is not known to us.” But Omni means he who belongs to Amon. “I, Omni, being commanded by my father, Jarom, that I should write somewhat upon these plates, to preserve our genealogy. Wherefore, in my days, I would that ye should know that I fought much with the sword. . . . But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done [no wonder things aren’t going too well here]. And it came to pass that two hundred and seventy and six years had passed away, and we had many seasons of peace; and we had many seasons of serious war and bloodshed. . . . And I make an end.” This man is not a very inspired writer. He admits he is wicked; he’s at least honest. He’s a patriot and a military hero, but not a particularly good man, although honest.
Then Amaron writes next. There’s your nation-ending again. Off-hand Amaron means our beloved. Amar is from Mary and Mar. It means good, great, and all sorts of things. That root is very rich. Mar is a chief or a prince. The chief friend of the king is a mar. It means friendly, friend, or anything like that. In verse 5 we get another chronology; it says “three hundred and twenty years had passed away” at that time. Well, you take off the 179 years that Enos talked about, and you get for these three men—Jarom, Omni, and Amaron—141 years, which gives them an average of 47 years. That is not fabulous by any means, but the chronology is moving right along here. Notice that the arms didn’t prevail after all. Verse 5: “And the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed.” How very selective of the war, but wars are selective, aren’t they. What happened to the SS, to the Nazi empire, etc.? The more wicked part of the Germans were destroyed. They were definitely; it was very selective. The rest are very good people, most of them—just as good as we are. That [the destruction of the Nephites] illustrates the fact that “inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land.”
Wilford Woodruff made a point on this idea that prospering is a sign of virtue and righteousness. He said that many Latter-day Saints have the idea that since you prosper if you are virtuous, therefore wealth proves virtue. You must be righteous if you are rich. If you are so righteous, why aren’t you rich, in other words? But the Book of Mormon explains that constantly. It says the settlement comes when the cup is full, when the fruit is ripe. The Lord gives you as much rope as you want. He lets you go all the way, as far as that goes. You can be as rich as you want. He won’t mind about that, but you catch up with yourself. And I said that wars are selective. Look at verse 7: “Wherefore, the Lord did visit them in great judgment; nevertheless, he did spare the righteous that they should not perish, but did deliver them out of the hands of their enemies.” This is where security lies then, and war is strangely selective—not just in great numbers, but individually. That’s a thing one is very much aware of in the field. I could a tale unfold on that theme.
Verse 8: “And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish.” Now that’s an obvious word. Chemish is the same as the Latin Quintus. It means the fifth, either the fifth son, or the fifth in line of succession. Is he fifth? He looks more like sixth. If you have Jacob, Enos, Jarom, Omni, and Amaron, that would make him the sixth. Unless it is after Jacob; who knows? Anyway it is a perfectly good Semitic name which means the fifth. It’s a common proper name too. There’s the town of Chemish. As I said, the Latin word Quintus means the same thing, the fifth son. “Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother [you see he wasn’t the eldest; he was a younger brother, so he could very well have been the fifth brother, the fifth in the line; Nephi himself was the fourth; Sam was older than he was, I suppose]; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote.” This is how it was passed on; the records overlap here. He wrote it with his own hand while I looked at it; then he handed it to me to make sure I delivered it with my hand [paraphrased]. This is a typical colophon. The main thing in passing down a record is to ascertain where it comes from and how authentic it is. That is the Egyptian colophon which was always put on. “This was written by my own fingers,” the scribe says, “and it was taken from a book in library So-and-So or it is from my own knowledge.” That’s what they keep doing in the Book of Mormon. The colophon is very important, you see. The Book of Mormon starts out with it, telling who wrote it and what time period it is. We call it colophon which means “something glued on, something added.” When you had a roll how would you know what was in the roll? The roll goes around like this, looking at the end. Then you would glue on something here to tell you who wrote and what it is in the library so you can find it. Otherwise, you’d have to unroll the whole darn thing to find out what was at the beginning of it. You glue it on; it’s not part of the roll itself, just something added. We have these things in the Book of Mormon, especially in the first part.
The next one is Abinadom. Now we have a good old Canaanite word. This is a Canaanite name. I’ll bet Abinadom means Abineṭchem. It’s a combination, a typical Canaanite name. It means Abi (my father) is friendly, gentle, loving. Neṭem means sweet or agreeable in Egyptian, and it’s a borrowed word. So Abineṭchem could very well mean “my father is benevolent or sweet.” These are guesses, but they are good. If you are inventing names, he couldn’t do better. He is hitting targets right and left here. Verse 10: “Behold, I, Abinadom, am the son of Chemish. Behold, it came to pass that I saw much war and contention [and his was their way of life], . . . and I, with my own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defence of my brethren. [And here are the parallel records:] And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations [but they are sinking pretty low now; they are running down with all this fighting, etc.] and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy [he knows of no revelation or prophecy in his day; the prophets were silent]; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written [because they don’t want any more].” Well, it’s time to do something now, so what happens? Ah here’s the Rechabite motif again! Somebody has to move out, just as Lehi had to move out of Jerusalem and Nephi had to move out, leave their community, and go out by himself with the people of Nephi. They have become faithless and corrupt now, so somebody has to leave them. This is what Mosiah does; he decides to cut out with all the people he can get to go. This is that procedure which is the Rechabite formula. It’s time to leave them.
Verse 12: “Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom [of course, that’s a simple name; Amaleki simply means my king]. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah [a very interesting name, a combination of Moses and Yahweh, Jehovah; we come to him later and see why that is so, why his father gave him that name], who was made king over the land of Zarahemla.” We haven’t heard of Zarahemla so far. It always got me because there’s an important trading center in the middle of the Sahara that goes by the name of Dar al-Ḥāmrāʾ which means red city. Of course, it depends on the dialect. Zarahemla means red city, but what attracts me about that is that the Hopis say that their people came from the “great Red City of the South when it was destroyed because of the wickedness of the people.” They were led by prophets and came north. They call it “the great Red City of the South.” Of course Zarahemla means red city. “For behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness.” So here we have the story again of fleeing out. They are leaving the Nephite society now and going out with Mosiah himself. Into the wilderness is where they go with their tents and all the rest of it. It’s the story of the frontier. “And they departed out of the land into the wilderness as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings [there’s das wandernde Gottesvolk, God’s wandering people, like the Puritans, like the Pilgrims, etc. Like the Saints coming to the valley here, they were led by preachings and prophesyings]. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla [how far that was we don’t know]. And they discovered a people, who were called the people of Zarahemla.”
I see the time is up now. We will stop with the people of Zarahemla because they weren’t Nephites at all, and they are much more numerous than the Nephites. They are the main people in the Book of Mormon. We talk about “Nephites or Lamanites.” Forget about that; these are the people Zarahemla. And they rejoiced exceedingly because they [Mosiah’s group] brought a record of the Jews and they were another group that came from Palestine. Here in one verse they cover what has taken fifty pages to describe. Nephi describes in fifty pages how his people got from Jerusalem to here. Now these people came from Jerusalem too, and we are told how they came here in one verse. So this obviously is not a history of the Mulekites. This is the Mulekites that came here; it doesn’t give them the name yet. It was a general migration. They would have left about 586 B.C., and they would have been here now about 350 years living this way. We get some racial complications here because they were visited by Coriantumr who was king of the greatest tribe of the Jaredites up north who had come there thousands of years earlier. They overlapped because he lived with them for nine months. So it goes.
1. Brother Nibley is reading from his book, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, CWHN 8 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1989), 535–37.
2. See Hugh W. Nibley, “Tenting, Toll, and Taxing,” Western Political Quarterly 19 (1966): 599–630; reprinted in The Ancient State, CWHN 10 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 33–98.
Items in the BMC Archive are made publicly available for non-commercial, private use. Inclusion within the BMC Archive does not imply endorsement. Items do not represent the official views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or of Book of Mormon Central.