Chapter 12: People, Places, and More Unique Words
The book of Moses came as Joseph Smith rendered a more correct translation of the Bible, restoring lost doctrine and relevant detail. I believe the Joseph Smith Translation restores plain and precious parts that Nephi prophesied would be taken from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13:29).
From my study of the Book of Mormon, I believe Joseph read the exact text by the aid of the Urim and Thummim or seer stone, which is the reason there are unique vocabularies for over fifty-eight individuals, chiasmus, and many other Hebraic and stylistic features. Likewise with the Joseph Smith Translation, evidence from historical accounts indicates these revelations came to Joseph directly—concept-by-concept, addition-by-addition, truth-by-truth, correction-by-correction—restoring lost truths.
Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen make an interesting point by stating that as careful as Joseph “was in his efforts to render a faithful translation of the Bible . . . his criterion for the acceptability of a given translation was pragmatic rather than absolute. For example, after quoting a verse from Malachi in a letter to the Saints, he admitted that he ‘might have rendered a plainer translation.’ However, he said that it was satisfactory in this case because the words were ‘sufficiently plain to suit [the] purpose as it stands,’ (D&C 128:18)” (mormoninterpreter.com/ancient-affinities-within-the-lds-book-of-enoch-part-one). Bradshaw and Larsen state their opinion that the Joseph Smith Translation may not restore the “original” text but one that is close enough.
However, with the new revelation in Moses and Abraham—not where Joseph emended existing scripture but restored lost scripture—unique vocabularies exist. As you have already seen, Moses, God, Jesus Christ, Adam, Eve, Satan, and Enoch speak with unique vocabularies. This is strong evidence that even though the book of Moses may not be restored to its exact text, the unique vocabularies were preserved, demonstrating that Joseph was directed by the gift and power of God to use particular words. This fact adds strength to Joseph’s trustworthiness as a revelator. If he were composing the text, how could he be clever enough to attend to the minutia of creating unique vocabularies for multiple speakers? He would have had no way of anticipating that computers would allow easy scrutiny of any text to identify authorship by examining word usage, style, and vocabulary.
Listed below are the rest of the persons named in the book of Moses in two categories—those who are named only in genealogies with perhaps a phrase or two about his or her faithfulness or lack thereof, and those who have “speaking parts” with unique vocabulary or at least unique vocabulary in the surrounding text:
The non-speaking part persons are Adah, Cainan, Enoch son of Cain, Enos, Ham, Irad, Jabal, Japheth, Jared, Mahalaleel, Methusael, Methuselah, Muhujael, Naamah, Seth, Shem, Tubal Cain, Zillah.
Those who are quoted or speak in first-person with unique vocabulary are Cain and Abel, an angel, Earth, Lamech, Mahijah, Noah, and three groups of random people.
Cain and Abel
I was surprised to learn that Adam and Eve were grandparents by the time Cain and Abel were born. Here is the timeline. “Adam knew his wife, and she bare unto him sons and daughters, and they began to multiply and to replenish the earth” (Moses 5:2). Time passed and these oldest children “began to divide two and two in the land . . . and they also begat sons and daughters” (Moses 5:3). Adam and Eve taught the gospel to their children and grandchildren, but Satan came among these children, and “they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” (Moses 5:13). “And in those days Satan had great dominion among men, and raged in their hearts; and from thenceforth came wars and bloodshed; and a man's hand was against his own brother, in administering death, because of secret works, seeking for power” (Moses 6:15). Adam and Eve experienced great disappointment when their oldest children rejected the gospel.
Chronologically, the births of Cain and Able are mentioned in Moses 5:16–17. Cain’s birth brought joy and hope to Eve that this son would not follow his older siblings’ sinful ways. Eve said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord; wherefore he may not reject his words” (Moses 5:16).
Adam and Eve were valiant and “ceased not to call upon God” (Moses 5:16), but their prayers for Cain were in vain. His anger, greed, and jealousy dominated any inclinations he might have had to hearken to the voice of the Lord. The Lord knew Cain’s weaknesses and warned him of both immediate and eternal consequences. First, the Lord offered Cain hope and promises: “If thou doest well, thou shalt be accepted” (verse 23). But the Lord issued a dire warning if Cain “rejected the greater counsel” (verse 25): “And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door, and Satan desireth to have thee” (verse 23). The Lord then explained to Cain that he would become the father of lies and rule over Satan. Lastly, Cain is given insight into the premortal realm. “Thou shalt be called Perdition; for thou wast also before the world” (verse 24).
Cain’s quoted words include six that are unique: accept, iniquities, Mahan, Master Mahan, murder (used one time by Cain and one time by God), punishment. He is also infamous for phrases: “I am free,” “Surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands,” “Who is the Lord that I should know him?” “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Unlike Cain, “Abel hearkened unto the voice of the Lord” (verse 17). “The Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering” which was “the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof” (verses 20–21). Abel “who walked in holiness before the Lord” (verse 26) tried to convince Cain of the error of his ways, but “Cain was wroth, and listened not any more to the voice of the Lord, neither to Abel, his brother” (verse 26). “And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel, his brother. And it came to pass that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel, his brother, and slew him” (verse 32). Cain introduced murder into the world and his victim, Abel, was the first martyr.
No first-person words of Abel are found in the book of Moses, but there are two unique phrases and one word used in reference to him: fat, keeper of sheep, walked in holiness.
The angel who appeared to Adam and Eve used a word that is unique in all scripture. To fully appreciate this one word, the backstory is necessary.
The Lord gave Adam and Eve
commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me. And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:5–8)
The unique word, spoken this one time in all scripture, is forevermore.
As the account of Enoch proceeds, Earth, which is a female name, is revealed as a living entity with gender. In Moses 7:48–49, we learn she is “the mother of men” and feels emotion, “I am pained, I am weary.” She speaks with an audible voice: “Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof. Wo, wo is me . . . because of the wickedness of my children,” evidencing her maternal love. She has a voice, bowels, a face. She has wisdom and understanding and feels remorse. “When shall I rest and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest, and righteousness for a season abide upon my face? And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth.”
Earth has unique vocabulary: Filthiness, Mother of men; weary; wo, wo.
The information on Lamech, the father of Noah, is brief—little more than a genealogy—but there is a direct quote relating to his hope for his son Noah: “This son shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Moses 8:9). In those twenty-two words, two are unique—comfort, toil.
As I typed, “And there came a man unto him [Enoch], whose name was Mahijah, and said unto him: Tell us plainly who thou art, and from whence thou comest” (Moses 6:40), I looked in my scripture search program to see how many times Mahijah is found in scripture. It is only found this one time. So I wondered, “If Joseph Smith were making this up, why would he go out on a figurative limb and use a name no one would ever miss if it were not there?” As I thought of this, I wondered if others had asked the same question. (Interestingly, in the text there is a geographic location called Mahujah just a few verses away from Mahijah.)
In a 1977 Ensign article, Dr. Hugh Nibley relates how he wondered about the name Mahijah. He said he considered it to be “the oddest detail of the Joseph Smith account of Enoch.” With his exceptional intellect, memory, and ability to synthesize dissimilar relationships, Nibley was one day reading fragments of the Aramaic book of Enoch (found with the Dead Sea Scrolls) when he experienced “a distinct shock of recognition.” Many times throughout the ancient document was the name Mahijah or Mahujah. (Because ancient Hebrew had only consonants, the one letter vowel difference in Mahujah and Mahijah could mean the same name or two different names.)
In his book Abraham in Egypt, Dr. Nibley added more detail. “But now the name of Mahujah turns up in the oldest version of the book of Enoch, that found in Qumran Cave 1 and first published in 1976, in which Mahujah is the central figure of a strange little story that is found nowhere else in the now large and growing ancient Enoch literature except in the Joseph Smith Enoch history contained in the book of Moses, where the man Mahijah goes to the place Mahujah as the hero of the same little story” (43). No one creating a fictional document could be that lucky. The fact that the unusual names Mahijah and Mahujah are found in an ancient document about the prophet Enoch is evidence of the gift and power of God with which He endowed His Prophet.
In his eleven-word question, Mahijah used unique words: comest, plainly.
The name Noah appears twenty-five times in the book of Moses from Moses 7:42 to Moses 8:30. Readers are introduced to Noah as part of Enoch’s comprehensive vision of the history of the world. In this vision Enoch “saw Noah and his family, that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation” (Moses 7:42). Enoch saw the ark and the results of the flood. He felt bitterness and wept saying, “I will refuse to be comforted” (Moses 7:44). A few verses later, Enoch asked the Lord, “Wilt thou not bless the children of Noah?” (Moses 7:49).? Enoch had intense interest in Noah because Enoch he is the father of Methuselah, who is the father of Lamech, who is the father of Noah—, making Noah Enoch’s great-grandson.
Noah and his three sons— Japheth, Shem, and Ham— were a righteous family. “Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God” (Moses 8:13). The Apostle Peter references Noah’s family: “wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:20).
Until I typed the text of the book of Moses, I could not have told you who ordained Noah to the priesthood. It was not Methuselah, who was left behind when Enoch and his people were translated because he sinned when “he took glory unto himself” (Moses 8:3). His pride brought him under Godly condemnation, and as a consequence, “There came forth a great famine into the land, and the Lord cursed the earth with a sore curse, and many of the inhabitants thereof died” (Moses 8:4). Nor was Methuselah’s son Lamech worthy to ordain Noah to the priesthood. So who ordained Noah? “The Lord ordained Noah after his own order” and “commanded him that he should go forth and declare his Gospel unto the children of men, even as it was given unto Enoch” (Moses 8:19). The Lord ordained Noah to the priesthood and set him apart as a missionary.
For 120 years Noah preached and warned: “Believe and repent of your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, even as our fathers, and ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, that ye may have all things made manifest; and if ye do not this, the floods will come in upon you; nevertheless they hearkened not” (Moses 8:24). Despite the raging wickedness surrounding him and his little family, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord; for Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation; and he walked with God, as did also his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Moses 8:27).
The last verses of the book of Moses state the reasons for the flood: “The earth . . . was filled with violence. . . . For all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth” (Moses 8:28–29). Consequently, the decree from God came: “I will destroy all flesh from off the earth” (Moses 8:30).
Noah is not quoted with any unique words, but in the descriptions of him, two unique words are used: corrupted, grieved.
Three Groups of People
Group One: A group who went “forth to hear” Enoch preach described him with unique vocabulary, using the words seer, wild, yonder. “And from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people. . . . And they came forth to hear him, upon the high places, saying unto the tent-keepers: Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us” (Moses 6:36, 38). The word seer is only found two times in the Pearl of Great Price, both usages are by this group of people.
Group Two: Moses 6:54 quotes a group of people who identifies doctrines that Enoch was teaching. They used four unique words: atoned, guilt, parents, ORIGINAL. (Original is only found this one time in all scripture.) “Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.”
Group Three, after listening to Noah, said:
We are the sons of God; have we not taken unto ourselves the daughters of men? And are we not eating and drinking, and marrying and giving in marriage? And our wives bear unto us children, and the same are mighty men, which are like unto men of old, men of great renown. And they hearkened not unto the words of Noah. (Moses 8:21)
In their comments are three unique words: mighty, ourselves, renown.
The geographic places mentioned in the book of Moses are worth mentioning: Cainan (land of promise), Canaan, City of Holiness, east sea (an “east sea” is mentioned three times in the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.) Enoch (Cain’s City), Garden of Eden, land of Assyria, land of Enoch, land of Ethiopia, land of Hanannihah, land of Haner, land of Havilah, land of Heni, land of Omner, land of Sharon, land of Shem, Mt. Simeon, Muhujah, Nod, river Euphrates, river Gihon, river Hiddekel, river Pison, Shulon, valley of Shum, Zion.
(c) Marilynne Todd Linford, 2017