Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kish in Ancient Mesopotamia and the Book of Mormon


Kish was an important Sumerian city from an early time in ancient Mesopotamia. As one historian notes:

"After the great flood, kingship was re-established by the gods and given to the rulers of the city of Kish, at which time we move from legend into the very beginning of the proto-historical period. . . . According to Summerian legend, the period scholars now call Early Dynastic I was dominated by then hegemony of the kings of Kish. Throughout the Sumerian period the title `king of Kish' (lugal Kish) meant hegemon of Summer, and every warlord claiming universal domination of Mesopotamia adopted `king of Kish' as one of his titles" (William J. Hamblin, Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC: Holy Warriors at the Dawn of History (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 42. See also Tohru Maeda, “`King of Kish’ in Pre-Sargonic Sumer,” Orient 17 [1981]: 1-17).

Yigal Levin notes:

“The mid-third millennium BCE was a time of great change in Mesopotamia. After several centuries of rivalry between various Sumerian city-states such as Ur, Uruk, Lagash and Umma, the rulers of the city of Kish managed to establish a sort of priority over much of Mesopotamia. The primacy of one Sumerian city over the others was an innovation. In successive generations the title `King of Kish’ would come to mean a divinely authorized ruler over all of Sumer and would be claimed at different times by the rulers of various cities. Use of the title `King of Kish’ implied such qualities as being victorious at war, a righteous judge and a builder of cities” (Yigal Levin, “Nimrod the Mighty, King of Kish, King of Sumer and Akkad,” Vetus Testamentum 52/3 [2002]: 359).

“According to the Sumerian King List, which is the very document that supplies us with most of the `hard’ information about the Sargonic period (such as names and reigns of kings), it was to the city of Kish that kinship itself was lowered from heaven after the flood. Like the biblical Nimrod, the ancient kings of Kish were the very embodiment of human kingship in the postdiluvian era. Over a thousand years later, the Neo-Assyrian kings would use Sargon’s royal title sar-kissati, taking it to mean quote literally, `King of the Universe’” (Levin, 361-62).

In addition to the name of the Sumerian city, and the honorary royal title “King of Kish” there are also attested personal names such as Kishibgal (Jerrold S. Cooper, Sumerian and Akkadian Royal Inscriptions. New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1986, 1:25), and Iphur-Kish (Douglas Frayne, The Royal Inscriptions of Mesopotamia. Early Periods Volume 2. Sargonic and Gutian Periods (2334-2113) Toronto, Buffalo, Longdon: University of Toronto Press, 1993, 103-109).

While we cannot say precisely when the Jaredites came out from the great tower (presumably somewhere in ancient Mesopotamia), and while we do not know precisely where in that region they came from, it is noteworthy that there are four “Kish” names in the Book of Mormon. We have three Jaredite kings, Akish (Ether 9:6), after whom was named the wilderness of Akish (Ether 14:14), Riplakish (Ether 10:4), and Kish the father of the good king Lib in whose reign, “they built a great city by the narrow neck of land” (Ether 10:18-20). Then we have the later Nephite conspirator Kishkumen (Helaman 1:9), who was associated with those seeking for political power and after whom a later city was named (3 Nephi 9:10). In addition to the early Mesopotamian connection it is interesting, given the background discussed by historians that the only people with Kish names in the Book of Mormon would be kings and or individuals who were seeking political power.



Monday, July 28, 2014

A Testimony of the Book of Abraham: Susa Young Gates 1913

Said my father Brigham Young to me on a certain occasion when I had been storm tossed and longed for the haven of sure belief: “Daughter, there is only one way by which you can find out whether this gospel be true or not; that is the way your mother and I took. Go down upon your knees and ask your Father in heaven to reveal it to you, as he did to Peter.”

Upon that rock–the rock of revelation to my own heart, I have builded my testimonies, many and various, of the truths of the gospel. The whole is true; so must all of its parts harmonize. I may not be able always to discern the co-relation, but again father said: “Put things you do not understand on the shelf, until you obtain more light.” And that is just what our children should be taught to do.

Shall we not then investigate, prove all things, hold fast to that which is good?  Of a surety. But let us anchor our souls, and help our children so to fasten their on anchor chains to the rock of personal revelation. Then we may bring in all the cohorts of reason to strengthen our position and to secure our arsenal . . . .

I know by the spirit of revelation that the Book of Abraham is true, and that its contents, from cover to cover, are revelations. As to the accepted revelations of the Church, I know they are true, and no power, but my own failure, can take that knowledge from me.

[Susa Young Gates, “Phase of discussion as to Book of Abraham,” Deseret Evening News, April 1, 1913].

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Miscellany of Book of Mormon Word Usage

Loren Spendlove recently published an article entitled "Understanding Nephi with the Help of Noal Webster," It contains notes on a number of word usages in the Book of Mormon. Included are (in alphabetical order not necessarily the order in the article or in the Book of Mormon):

abode (as a verb)
about
arise
arrive
astonishment
at Jerusalem
attitude
awful
bands
begat
behold
big with child
blind
broken up
breathe out
brought down
carried up
caught away
chasten
choice (as an adjective)
comfort
compass (as a noun)
condescension
confounded
consuming
contentions
convincing
counsels
crucified
cunning arts
curious
daughters
deceive
deliverance
destroy
digged
dimmed
doubt
dreary
dust
easiness
err
estimeth
expedient
fair
faithful
faithfulness
family
favored
fell down
fool
foolish imaginations
forwards
fruits
gift
give
glory
goodly
gray
guilty
gulf
happy
harlots
have place
hearken
history
holy
in one
Jews
journey
judged
like unto
linen
loading
made mention
meat
methought
ministry
molten
mount
mine
must needs
nature
neither
no more
nourish
nourishmet
obscurity
obtain
of
partook of
pass away
pleasure
preserve
probation
proceedings
prophesying
publish
purity
put forth
raise up
rebel (as a verb)
rebellion
record (as a noun)
redeemer
redemption
rent (as a verb)
required
robe
rudeness
rumors
seek
set at naught
shake
sheddeth
shewn
sight
slow
somewhat
spake
special
standard (as a noun)
stature
statute
storm
straight
strange
stricken
stumble
stumbling blocks
suck (as a noun)
swallowed up
swift
swollen
tasks
tempest
that
the which
threatenings
tidings
timbers
touch
trample under
travel
turned aside
turn away
unto
vapor
very
visionary man
wade
weakness
whatsoever
wherewith
which
white
whoso
wrath
wroth
wrought

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Heber J. Grant 1930: An Incidental Testimony of the Book of Mormon

One often encounters rare treasures in unexpected places. On July 15, 2014, a dear friend and relative, Sister Leola Tarwater Sims passed away in Colonia Juarez, Mexico. Our family had an opportunity to visit her home and settle some family business associated with her passing. While perusing some of her books on an old dusty shelf in a small back room of her her house, I found a much worn, and well used, black leather covered copy of the 1921 edition of the Book of Mormon. Pasted to the inside cover page, immediately preceding the Book of Mormon title page was the following brief, signed letter addressed to a young lady who would become Leola's mother. It reads as follows:

January 25, 1930
Miss Iola Whetten
Juarez Stake Academy
Colonia Juarez
Chihuahua, Mexico

Dear Sister:

In recognition of your success in the oratorical context on "Why Observe the Law of Tithing", I take pleasure in presenting you this copy of the Book of Mormon.

As a boy of fifteen I read carefully and prayerfully the Book of Mormon, and there came into my heart an abiding and firm testimony of its divinity. From that day to this its wonderful teachings have been a comfort, a blessing, and a guide to me.

I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I read the life of Nephi in my youth. I fell in love with him then, and his life has influenced mine for good more than that of any other character in ancient history, sacred or profane--save only the Redeemer of the world.

Wishing you success in the battle of life,

Sincerely your friend and brother,

Heber J. Grant.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Article on Book of Mormon Geography

Neal Rappleye has some thoughts on the use of statements by Joseph Smith on Book of Mormon geography.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Joseph F. Smith 1913: Part 2: A Testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham

In an earlier post I discussed President Joseph F. Smith's letter to Isaac Russell. That same month President Smith published the following in the Church's Improvement Era Magazine:

The Latter- day Saints maintain that while there was some difference between the methods of translation used by the prophet in the translation of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon ; that while he applied his own mind as far as he could, in all his work, (and his mind expanded in intelligence as he grew in age and experience,) yet in all his work he was divinely inspired— in his translations, his revelations, and his wonderful personal direction in the establishment of the work of God known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "the marvelous work and a wonder" predicted by the ancient prophets that should be founded upon the earth in the latter days.

 Men may not believe it. but nevertheless we testify to these truths. They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ— he was repudiated by his own generation, unto whom he was a sign calling to repentance. He said:
 

“The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon: and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here."— Luke 11:31.
 

As they did not believe in the divinity of the Christ, so also men repudiate the divine inspiration of the Prophet Joseph, who is a true witness of Jesus. But it is the testimony of the Latter- day Saints that Joseph Smith is an inspired prophet sent of God with the true message of salvation to the sons of men ; that the work he did was inspired ; that the Church which he was instrumental in founding is the Church of God, and that the doctrines which he taught are the restored, plain, and simple principles of the gospel taught by the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of all mankind. We invite all men, in all the earth, to investigate, to repent of their sins, and to be baptized by those who have received divine authority, thus submitting their lives to the saving ordinances of the gospel, and the unfailing promise is that they shall receive the Holy Ghost to be their surpassing daily light and joy, and their eternal guide and comfort.

Not only do we testify that Joseph Smith was inspired when he gave to the world the Pearl of Great Price, but we declare that it was by the inspiration and power of God that he translated the Book of Mormon, organized the Church of Christ, and gave mankind the precious revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants; and it is our firm belief that scientific investigation and discovery will confirm our testimony, rather than weaken or repudiate it. 


[Joseph F. Smith, “Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator," Improvement Era 16/4 (February 1913): 378-80].


Thursday, July 17, 2014

B. H. Roberts on Faith, Investigation, and Future Vindication

In 1912 Elder B. H Roberts wrote the following:

I would suggest to my own people that they should remember that there is a wide difference between the thing that one may not be able to explain and the thing which overthrows his theory altogether. One may not always account fully for his truth, nor beat down successfully all objections that may be urged against it; but it remains truth, just the same. And so in this case.
 

I believe that in the translations Joseph Smith has given to the world — confessedly not by scholarship but by inspiration, by his own spirit being quickened by contact with God's spirit — that in those translations are truths that are parts of a mighty system of truth, the like of which is not found elsewhere among men. And that system of truth, now being worked out in the experiences of both individual men and nations of men, will receive, ere the end, a splendid vindication both as a system and in all its parts . . . .  

If any new form of evidence shall hereafter be needed to meet new forms of attack, and authenticate afresh the word of truth, they will be found deposited somewhere, waiting for the fulness of time; and God will bring them  forth in their season, from the dark hieroglyphics, or the desert sands, or the dusty manuscripts, to confound the adversaries of his word, and to magnify his name. Secure in such a conviction, here let us stay ourselves, nothing daunted; and let the world's investigation of our truth be welcomed, confident, with the apostle of the Gentiles, that nothing can be done against the truth, but for the truth. 


[B.H. Roberts, Salt Lake Tribune, December 15, 1912].