Saturday, October 14, 2017

Changes to Joseph Smith's Revelations

I'm reading D. Michael Quinn's The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, which I highly recommend for its clear depiction of the evolution of authority in early Mormonism and especially for its inclusion of many surprising and interesting details. Some of those details consist of changes to JS' revelations, some of which I was aware of and others not.

Just for funsies, I thought I'd document some of the changes to JS' revelations in some detail. Eventually, I'll put all of the changes into one document, but for now I'll just post them as I have time.

BofC = Book of Commandments

D&C = Doctrine and Covenants
Changes in D&C occur in the first 1835 edition unless stated otherwise. Sections and verses are given from the modern edition of D&C.

P. # = page number of discussion in D. Michael Quinn's The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.

The following changes stem from the fact that in early 1829 and earlier the original revelations reflected a non-institutional group of believers being born of God without the need of baptism or priestly office or authority.
Compare BofC ch. 4 (March 1829) and D&C 5:6, 14, 16, and 17, p. 6.
    • Verse 6 is an addition, which reads, "For hereafter you shall be ordained and go forth and deliver my words unto the children of men." This is significant because the importance of priestly office/authority had not yet been established or developed in March 1829, so this addition attempts to backdate the concept. 
    • Verse 14 adds, "in this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." This change is significant, because it wasn't even clear in March 1829 that JS would be starting an institutional church. Instead, as Quinn points out, there was the idea of a non-institutional church, simply those who repented and believed, ideas outlined by a revelation in the summer of 1828 (See D&C 10:40, 46, 52, 56, and 67-68. Also see Origins, pp. 5-6). This change created a narrative supporting an earlier divine appointment of an institutional church.
    • (This is one I found.) After stating that believers would be born of God, verse 16 adds, "even of water and of the Spirit." In march 1829, baptism was not requisite for believers (see 1828 revelation D&C 10:67-68 and Origins, pp. 5-6). The change backdated the concept baptism in baptism.
    • Verse 17 is an addition in the form of instructions, which reads, "And you must wait yet a little while, for ye are not yet ordained." Again, backdating priestly office/authority.
    • (I originally heard this one in a presentation by Dan Vogel.) The D&C omits the following from the original revelation: "And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and ... I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old." The 1829 revelation linked the concept of church with a reformation, which was definitely more suggestive the original idea of a non-institutional church than a brand new church born of a restoration.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Roots of the Temple Endowment in 1829

This is a quick and bumpy ride, so if you feel like things aren't quite fitting together, hold on tight and keep reading. The most important point here is the evolution of the ideas about keys, and how early links between Peter, James, and John and keys eventually materialized in the Nauvoo endowment.

In investigating the evolving narrative of the priesthood the restoration I learned that though the names of John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John in relation to priesthood restoration didn't appear in print until 1835, there were some interesting precursors. One of the significant ones is the 1832 history which talks about the reception of the "holy priesthood" by the ministering of angels, and the reception of the "high priesthood' (no specific angels mentioned) and conferral of the "keys of the kingdom." The 1835 texts specifically link the conferral of the keys of the kingdom with Peter, James, and John, and an 1829 revelation linked Peter, James, and John with the "keys of this ministry," which was ministering unto those who would be heirs of salvation.

 Later in Nauvoo JS describes giving keys to the sisters of the Relief Society. The relevant portion of JS' comments from April 1842 read, "the keys of the kingdom are about to be given to them, that they may be able to detect everything false--as well as to the elders." JS made similar comments a month later. The History of the Church reads, "I preached in the grove on the keys of the Kingdom, Charity &c The keys are certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed."

For those who know, JS is clearly referencing the Nauvoo endowment, which would be given to a number of saints before JS' death. A more exciting insight, going back to the background I laid out above, is that JS correlates "the keys of the kingdom," a phrase used in both comments, and the ability to "detect false spirits and personages from true" or the ability to "detect everything false." This creates a phrasal link all the way back to 1832 and 1835's "keys of the kingdom," associated with the reception of the high priesthood (1832 and 1835) and a visit from Peter, James, and John (1835 only). This also creates a link between the personages of Peter, James and John and their "keys of this ministry" (1829) or "keys of the kingdom" (1835) and Joseph's Nauvoo endowment. I don't know that JS concieved of these keys in the same way across these time periods (I'm actually kind of certain he didn't, considering the "keys of the kingdom" were first associated with the apostleship, so it seems like the keys get repurposed in Nauvoo), but it's pretty cool to see some roots for the endowment stretching back to 1835, 32, and 29.

Joseph Smith's Kingly Birthright

One possible interpretation of D&C 86:8-10 is that Joseph Smith had the priesthood through birthright (see below for some complications*).
8 Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers--
9 For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God--
10 Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began. 
An early hint of JS' beliefs about his lineage come from 2 Ne 3, which teaches that JS is a descendant of Joseph (11th son of Israel), and though the lineage of Ephraim is one of leadership, it's not apparent that there is a lineal priesthood associated with it like there is for the Levites or the sons of Aaron.

However, a Smith family lineal priesthood authority is actually well attested. JS established the position of Patriarch of the church, which originally was something akin to second in command, as a lineal position given to the eldest in a direct line from Joseph Smith Sr. This clear example of a lineal priesthood eventually disappeared when the position of church Patriarch was not filled after Eldred Smith.

The position of Patriarch to the church is only half of the story. D&C 113 states, "What is the rod spoken of in the first verse of the 11th chapter of Isaiah, that should come of the Stem of Jesse? Behold, thus saith the Lord: It is a servant in the hands of Christ, who is partly a descendant of Jesse as well as of Ephraim, or of the house of Joseph, on whom there is laid much power." It is common in Mormon thought to believe these verses apply to Joseph Smith, and that seems to be a correct assumption. The line of Jesse refers to the kingly line of David, and significantly, JS prophesied "the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage," which apparently referred to one of JS' offspring. He made this clear when he prophesied that his unborn son, David, would be a "church president and king over Israel" (see D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, p. 644 April–May 1844).

In Mormon theology, a King in the kingdom of Israel is a priesthood position. Notably, JS himself was ordained as a King in this sense in the Council of Fifty, also known in revelation as the "The Kingdom of God and His Laws with the Keys and Power thereof, and Judgment in the Hands of His Servants, Ahman Christ." According to Nauvoo theology the priesthood role of King was the ultimate leader of the Church, and according to contemporary accounts, Hyrum Smith was to fill JS' shoes should he die. All of this together gives a pretty clear answer to the lineal priesthood possibly hinted in D&C 86. The Smith family was a royal family in Israel destined to lead the restoration.

*Notes on D&C 86:
Section 86 generally and these specific verses address a plural audience, an important fact that I missed when I first wrote this.

Looking into the plural aspect of the revelation has already turned up some interesting information, but before I launch into that, I'd just like to point out that the most significant idea of this post, that Joseph Smith believed himself to be of the lineage of Jesse/David and that his unborn son would be the new King David leading the church (and probably the world or something like that), is true whether D&C 86 is referring specifically to Joseph or not. In terms of the plural address in D&C 86, some pertinent information about audience is found in the source document in Revelation Book 2 on the JSP website. A note, original to the document, at the end of the revelation reads:

Kirtland December 6th. A[D] 1932 given by Joseph the seer and writen by Sidney the scribe an[d] Councellor, & Transcribed by Frederick assistent scribe and counceller

Frederick William's transcription occurred sometime in January or February of 1833 according to the JSP source note, which means the only two names specifically tied to this revelation's reception are Joseph and Sidney. Essentially, there is an argument to be made that the plural address of this revelation is specifically to Joseph Smith Jr. and Sidney Rigdon. If true, this could be seen as a follow up to an event earlier in 1832 in which Sidney Rigdon preached that the keys of the kingdom had been taken from the church, after which JS corrected him. This was no small matter apparently, and JS prophecied that Rigdon would be afflicted by Satan. Some weeks later Rigdon was spiritually attacked while laying in bed, and then still later Rigdon was reordained by JS, who was satisfied with Rigdon's repentance. From start to finish, this all apparently happened in July of 1832. Whatever Rigdon's doubts about the keys may have been, would have been nullified by a right to priesthood if they "were lawful heirs according to the flesh."

Though, I don't know of any specific priesthood authority assigned to Rigdon's lineage, I still think this 1832 revelation could be an early indication that there was a lineal priesthood in the Smith family, which would be made explicit and irrefutable later on with the establishment of the lineal position of Patriarch to the Church. 

Looking at JSP website also I came across this interesting 1835 tie-in from D&C 107:

39 It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation—
40 The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.

 This ties patriarchal order of priesthood to "literal descendants of the chosen seed," obviously the Smith family if we judge by the office of presiding patriarch.

Anyways, the plural address of D&C 86 definitely muddies the waters. Either way, the lineal priesthood position of presiding patriarch emerges in the Smith family, and the most interesting piece stands independently of D&C 86, which is that Joseph appeared to have believed that his priesthood office of King was tied to a lineage traced back to King David, and that JS' son David would someday fill that role.

The Spiritual Worth of an Ahistorical Book of Mormon

I’ve had many spiritual experiences with the Book of Mormon, but as I studied the book deeply over the past few years I came to the conclusion that it is not a literal history. Many hours of searching, reading, and learning went into this process, and I maintained a relationship with God throughout this time. I won’t be addressing the specific reasons for the transition in this post. Instead, I would like to describe my belief that the Book of Mormon is scripture, despite my conclusion about its claims to historicity

For me, scripture takes principles of spirituality, morality, etc. and encapsulates them in narrative or in various types of revelation (e.g. vision, first person word of God). As countless students of the Book of Mormon can attest and as Joseph Smith claimed, the book does a fantastic job of describing how one can seek and achieve a relationship with God. The traditional view is that it does this well because it contains the writings of literal ancient Nephite prophets, and this view is in line with Joseph Smith’s testimony and the book’s text. However, some readers, like myself, have come to the conclusion that the book is not historical, yet still hold to the spiritual principles espoused therein. As those principles still bring me closer to God, the book functions as scripture for me even though I have broken from the traditional view.

The following are a few examples of spiritual truths I find communicated clearly by the Book of Mormon:

·       Depend on God/Christ for inner strength in changing yourself and overcoming problems of all kinds.
·       Seek revelation through study, prayer, and pondering.
·       Be courageous in the face of opposition.
·       Choose the right. :)

These principles are not dependent on historicity. For example, I can have spiritual experiences following the principles outlined by Nephi’s example and exhortations whether he was an actual person or not, and I do.

Having experienced a worldview-rending faith transition, I came out on the other side with a more flexible faith. I had to deliteralize my beliefs in many areas in order to make sense of everything I had learned, and one of the results was the paradox of accepting a book as scripture despite not believing its claims to historicity.

Joseph Smith and Multiple Mortal Probations

What follows is a thesis on the controversial doctrine from the 19th century referred to as multiple mortal probations, which fell out of favor along with Adam-God. This thesis explains a bunch of odd data points and suggests a straightforward explanation for the origin of Adam-God. The sources are quoted from and the "Multiple Mortal Probations: LDS Related Quotes" document found at

In the Nauvoo period, Joseph Smith began believed in and secretly taught something akin to reincarnation. Michael Quinn documented it as follows:
"By the time of his death in 1844, Joseph Smith had also reversed his prior rejection of the Cabala's doctrine of "transmigration of the souls."  Two of the women Smith secretly married as plural wives in the 1840s said that he privately affirmed reincarnation. Apostle Lorenzo Snow said that "his sister, the late Eliza R. Snow Smith, was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation and that she claimed to have received it from Joseph the Prophet, her husband." Prescendia Huntington Buell (later Kimball) also affirmed her belief in "plural probations," referring to a statement "in confirmation" by her polyandrous husband Joseph Smiths. In the 1840s their polygamous relationship to the Mormon prophet was as secret as his conversion to reincarnation."
These secret teachings coincided with teachings by Joseph that either explicity stated or implied that previously resurrected beings, essentially from a prior earth, could interact with mortals on this earth. Perhaps the clearest example of this is a statement recorded by Nauvoo saint, George Laub. He wrote that Joseph stated, "Now the history of Josephus in Speaking of angels came down and took themselves wives of the daughters of men, See Geneses 6 Chapter 1-2, verses. These ware resurrected Bodies, Violated the Celestial laws."

More significantly, JS' King Follett Sermon suggests that, after the resurrection, each heir to Godhood will eventually serve as a Christ in a mortal probation. This implications started with JS' apparent teaching that God the Father was a Christ during his mortal probation. This is a straight forward interpretation of the standard collated version of the sermon most often circulated, but it's made even clearer by George Laub journal summary. He wrote, "...Jesus Christ spoke in this manner; I do as my Father before me did. Well what did the Father do? Why he went and took a body and went to redeem a world in the flesh and had power to lay down his life and to take it up again."

Another George Laub journal entry on JS' Sermon In the Grove seems to confirm that this is how Laub understood it. He recorded, "But the holy ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies for the Saviour Says the work that my father did do i also & those are the works he took himself a body & then laid down his life that he might take it up again." However, Laub didn't only understand that the Holy Ghost would serve as a Christ (more on that later), but he also implied that JS' King Follet Sermon taught that all who achieved Godhood would pass through the same. Laub wrote, "For we are to go from glory to glory and as one is raised to a higher, so the next under him may take his degree and so to take the exaltation through the regular channel. When we get to where Jesus is, he will be just as far ahead of us again in exaltation." The standard version of the sermon can be easily interpreted in this fashion. Here is the relevant portion:
"...they shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? to inherit the same glory, the same power and the same exaltation, until you ascend the throne of eternal power the same as those who are gone before. What did Jesus do? why I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom I shall present it to my Father, so that he obtains kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt his glory, so that Jesus treads in his tracks to inherit what God did before; it is plain beyond disputation, and you thus learn some of the first principles of the gospel, about which so much hath been said. When you climb a ladder, you must begin at the bottom and go on until you learn the last principle; it will be a great while before you have learned the last. It is not all to be comprehended in this world; it is a great thing to learn salvation beyond the grave."
Apparently, Laub wasn't the only who understood the King Follett Sermon this way. In January of 1846, just over a year and a half after the death of JS, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball ordained each other to act as a savior. They also vicariously ordained Joseph and Hyrum to do the same. Following is the summary of the January 1846 Nauvoo Temple Record from the Multiple Mortal Probations document:
"Brigham Young laid hands on Heber C. Kimball and "Ordained him to the Godhead, and that he would act as the Savior to a world or worlds." This was part of a long prayer. Promised wives, seed without number, be full partaker with Abraham, Isaac., and Jacob. The Godhead was a different blessing from Godhood. (Some received only Godhood.) Heber C. Kimball then did the same to Brigham Young, i.e., ordained him to The Godhead. They in turn did it by proxy for Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Other saints (W.W. Phelps) were blessed to act in Trinities (or Presidencies of worlds)."
Given George Laub's explicit summary of the King Follett sermon and the short time between JS' death and these ordinations performed in the Nauvoo period, it seems very likely that the doctrine underlying the ordinations originated with JS. This teaching was perhaps even canonized as, "This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law" (D&C 132:24, see vs. 22-25). However, the teaching was probably only explicitly taught to a select few. For example, in 1860, Orson Pratt wrote, "I heard brother Young say that Jesus had a body offlesh and bones, before he came (to earth and) he was born of the Virgin Mary, it was so contrary to every revelation given." Orson Pratt apparently wasn't in on it or hadn't understood it as others had.

JS also gave more info about this path to exaltation, which is that the Holy Ghost, the third member in the Godhead, was going to serve as a Christ. Besides the Laub's record of JS' comment on the Holy Ghost in his summary of the Sermon on the Grove, there is an additional JS comment recorded by Franklin D. Richards in August, 1843, not that long before the King Follett Sermon. Richards wrote, "Joseph also said that the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has."
From the above we can imply that JS believed that all Gods had served as Christs, that all heirs of the Celestial kingdom would serve as Christs as part of their progression from exaltation to exaltation, and that the Holy Ghost would also serve as a Christ. Here is where my thesis becomes a bit more speculative. It's my guess that JS believed that heirs of the Celestial Kingdom would not only serve as Christs, but first they would serve as Holy Ghosts. As is common knowledge, the trio of beings who participate in the creation in the temple are Michael, Jehovah, and Elohim, and these possibly represent JS' conception of the Godhead. JS taught many times that Michael stood next to Christ in authority, and he also taught that Elohim was the head of the Gods (i.e. The Father). With this possible equivalency between Micheal and the Holy Ghost in mind and JS' probable belief that all were to serve as Holy Ghosts prior to being Christs, JS likely believed the Nauvoo endowment was a representation of one stage of what each heir of the celestial kingdom was to pass through in their climb up the ladder of exaltation. Adam-God can then be seen as based on JS' teachings and the endowment, with a simple fundamental misunderstanding on the identity of Micheal in the Godhead. Considering the modern Mormon understanding of the titles Jehovah and Elohim didn't develop until long after Brigham Young, it is understandable that he could have developed his own interpretation of Micheal, Jehovah and Elohim. In fact, he attributed his identification of Michael as God the Father to JS' commentary on Daniel and JS' equivalence of Adam, Michael, and the Ancient of Days. The apparent supremacy in Daniel of the Ancient of Days to the "one like unto the Son of Man," who JS interpreted as Christ, makes Brigham's Adam-God doctrine even more understandable.

Some additional evidence:
  • D&C 132:22-25, which dates from the Nauvoo period, can easily be interpreted as some form of reincarnation or multiple mortal probations: "For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know. But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also. This is eternal lives—to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law. Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to the deaths; and many there are that go in thereat, because they receive me not, neither do they abide in my law." 
  • There are also very strong implications in the endowment (Peter, James, and John who physically interact with Adam) that resurrected or otherwise physical beings can shed their physical forms somehow and experience a mortal probation. This implication is emphasized by JS' teachings on identifying angels vs. evil spirits (found in D&C), which he taught on multiple occasions, maybe 5 or 6 times, before and after the Nauvoo endowment had been administered. This idea lines up nicely with JS' late teaching that the Sons of God who married the daughters of men in Genesis were resurrected beings who violated celestial laws, and, of course, it all lines up with JS' teachings about exaltation to exaltation in his comments about the Holy Ghost and God the Father in the King Follett Sermon, Sermon on the Grove, and other Nauvoo era comments.
  • Michael Quinn documents an influential relationship between JS and Alexander Neibaur, who was a convert from Jewish Cabala and who related reincarnation-like Cabala sourced ideas in a couple of Times and Seasons articles during the Nauvoo era.
  • An interesting account by Joseph Lee Robinson: "We also heard him (Joseph) say that God had revealed unto him that any man who ever committed adultery in either of his probations that that man could never be raised to the highest exaltation in the celestial glory and that he (Joseph) felt anxious with regard to himself and he inquired of the Lord and the Lord told him that he, Joseph, had never committed adultery (D&C 132:41). This saying of the Prophet astonished me very much. It opened up to me a very wide field of reflection. The idea that we had passed through probations prior to this and that we must have been married and given in marriage in those probations or there would be no propriety in making such an assertion and that there were several exaltations in the servants to the Gods. Be this as it may, this is what he said." (Journal of Joseph Lee Robinson,, pp. 40-41) Some people have argued that JS's phrase, "either probation," could refer to our mortal probation and preexistence (1st and 2nd estates), and frankly, this seems like a plausible understanding of the quote, which in that scenario it at least infers that spirits were married in the preexistence. However, obviously Robinson understood Joseph as referring to some version of multiple mortal probations, which makes us wonder if there was more than what Robinson reported or if he was piecing together other things he'd heard Joseph say. No matter, he understood JS to mean multiple mortal probations. The date of the quote is more or less appropriate for MMP also, being the fall of 1841.
  • Heber C. Kimball, who taught some version of multiple mortal probations at various times, claimed that JS, in the Nauvoo period, had declared Kimball's multiple mortal probation doctrine as true: "I frequently talk about the clay in the hands of the potter. The Lord said to Jeremiah, "I will show you a thing that I cannot tell you. Go down to the potter's house, and I will be there, but you shall not see me; and I will make that potter mar a vessel." Jeremiah went down to the potter's house, and the Lord showed him the very thing he had promised; for the potter undertook to make a vessel, and the clay marred in his hands, and he cut it off the wheel and threw it into the mill; "and now," says he, "take it out again and shape it into a ball, and turn it into a vessel of honour." He did that very thing, though it is not written. The Scriptures say that out of the same lump he made a vessel first unto dishonour, and then unto honour. I USED TO PREACH UPON THAT IN NAUVOO, AND JOSEPH SAID IT WAS THE TRUE INTERPRETATION. Now, Jeremiah was a man like brother Brigham, brother Heber, Amasa, and thousands of the servants of God that were valiant. There are thousands here that have never seen a potter's house. But if I was in one, I could take a lump of clay and show you; and perhaps, being out of practice, it would mar in my hands: then I would throw it back into the mill and grind it, and afterwards I would take it up again and make a vessel unto honour. And thus the Lord said to Jeremiah, "As you see that clay mar in the hands of the potter, so shall it be with the house of Israel. They shall go and be in prison till I bring them out and make them vessels unto honour." That is to be done in the latter days, when the Lord is to say to the dry bones, "Come forth," and so on. Go and read the Bible, and you will learn about it. It will be just so with thousands and tens of thousands who will embrace "Mormonism:" they will go back into the mill again, through disobedience." (Heber C. Kimball, JOURNAL OF DISCOURSES, 5:271f)

Non-Literal Gold Plates

Following is a list of evidence from the historical record that suggests there was likely something non-literal about the gold plates.
  • The eight witnesses are always used as a proof that the plates were literally what Joseph described, but Stephen Burnett wrote that Martin Harris, speaking of the eight witnesses and the plates, stated, " the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it." Warren Parrish's also heard Harris speak. He described part of Harris explanation, "Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision; and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph not excepted." Later Martin Harris said he regretting saying these things, but only did it because it had been "picked out of him." In other words, he regretted letting the cat out of the bag, but it was true. While these are disaffected sources, they, at the very least, represent one vein of serious thought about the eight witnesses that originated within early Mormonism.
  • Lucy Mack Smith says that JS first gave the plates to an "ancient Nephite," who then brought the plates for the 8 to view who were gathered in the family's favorite secluded prayer spot in the nearby woods. An ancient Nephite (aka resurrected being or otherwise preserved) adds a heavy spiritual element absent from their witness statement. 
  • John Whitmer, on of the 8 witnesses, at one point said "the plates were shown to me by a supernatural power," though at another time he described the viewing rather mundanely.
  • The plates behaved strangely. They alluded JS' earliest attempts to remove them. 
  • The plates weren't allowed to be commonly viewed. Contrast that with the Egyptian scrolls, which were put on display with JS pointing out the original writing by Abraham and Moses to visitors. The other artifacts with the plates were also under a strict no viewing policy, including the breastplate and interpreter stones. Strangely the plates and the Interpreters were handled under a cloth by various individuals. The can-touch but can't-view approach should be a red flag. Again, contrast all of this with the Egyptian artifacts which were all put in display, including scrolls and mummies. The inconsistency is odd. 
  • Josiah Stowell sees the corner of the plates accidentally as they are passed in through the window and says it looked like a "stone of greenish caste." This statement by Stowell should raise an eyebrow since the witnesses consistently described the plates as pure gold. 
  • A verse from D&C, 17:5, suggests that even Joseph had to be enabled by the power of God to see the plates: "And ye shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them; for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith."
  • Accounts of the translation process most often have the plates either covered or missing from the scene entirely, with JS using his seer stone to access the translation.
The above opens up the possibility that those who saw the plates as an ancient artifact of pure gold, only did so in vision. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Ammon Narative's Source Material: Chapters 10-12 of the Gospel of John

"Wherefore the fruit of thy loins shall write, and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write. And that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.” (2 Nephi 3:12)[1]
Book of Mormon intertextuality with the Bible is a fairly well documented phenomenon and has been observed in various modes, including lengthy quotations and short phrasal allusion. It has also been observed that Book of Mormon intertextuality often has a clear theological purpose. For example, in Nicholas Frederick’s discussion of intertextuality between the Book of Mormon and the Prologue of John, of the many phrasal allusions he examined, he observed that the most common function was to reference specific theological content from John in elucidation of the doctrine shared between the two passages.[3] It has also been argued that narrative parallels, another type of intertextuality present in the Book of Mormon, serve to bolster doctrinal and theological expositions. For example, 1st Nephi’s contains narrative parallels, often supported by phrasal allusions, to the Exodus,[4] the story of Joseph from Genesis,[5] and the story of David and Goliath.[6] These intertextualities support the theological points of the text, such as depicting the Americas as a covenant promised land and demonstrating Nephi’s divinely-appointed leadership despite being the younger brother. Similar to the above examples, the Ammon narrative found in Alma 17-20 contains both phrasal allusions, largely to New Testament passages, and narrative parallels, the most striking of which are parallels to the raising of Lazarus in John 11. Intertextuality interlaced throughout the account helps to strengthen a doctrinal exposition on divinization, or a disciple’s ability to become similar to and one with Christ, which can be seen as one of the primary themes of the narrative when one considers both the surface text and the intertextuality.

In the following analysis, I will use Frederick’s proposed methodology from his recent article, Evaluating the Interaction between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon: A Proposed Methodology.[7] Each phrasal allusion will be examined for the following criteria: 

·        Shared Terminology – The more exact consecutive words the two passages share, the stronger the likelihood that one alludes to the other. When two passages share ideas, but not exact wording, I refer to them as similar or parallel concepts. Obviously, this latter relationship carries less weight. In my analysis I will underline shared terminology and bold parallel concepts.

·        Dissimilarity –The rarer the phrase in the Book of Mormon or Biblical text, the more likely it is a legitimate example of intertextuality.

·        Proximity – When one allusion occurs in close proximity to one or more other allusions, it increases the chance that the intertextuality is intended.

·        Sequence – When multiple phrasal allusions are present in a single segment of text and these allusions all reference the same general segment of text in the bible, shared sequence between the parallel elements increases the likelihood that the examples are legitimate.

·        Context – Shared context between the two passages also increases the likelihood that an example is valid.  Frederick makes the point that context is the most flexible of the criteria and therefore the weakest. However, when examining allusions as part of a large-scale intertextuality, their context takes on increased importance as they need to reinforce the large scale intertextuality or be viewed as less meaningful.


Narrative parallels will be analyzed using a set of criteria similar to Frederick’s methodology. The proximity and sequence of related parallel events are logical starting places for analysis. Shared terminology will also be considered, whether it be shared single terms or more significant phrasal allusions supporting the narrative parallel.

Frederick also proposed that the term interaction be used to refer to examples of Book of Mormon intertextuality with New Testament passages. He indicates that this is a neutral term which does not make assumptions about which text is dependent upon the other. I agree that it is unclear by what process biblical language was carefully interwoven in the Book of Mormon text. However, I have chosen to use the word allusion to describe the intertextuality proposed in this paper for several reasons. First, the phrasal allusions in the Ammon account sometimes organize disparate biblical passages in impressive thematic fashion, which suggests dependence of the Book of Mormon on the New Testament. Second, like Book of Mormon quotations of the Old and New Testament passages, the phrasal allusions in the Ammon account appear highly reliant on the King James translation. Finally, examples of intertextuality examined below sometimes appear to purposefully reference doctrine or events found in the referenced biblical passage but not readily apparent in the shared terminology. All of this points to, at least in the English text of the Ammon account, Book of Mormon dependence on and reference to the New Testament.
Book of Mormon Divinization
Divinization in the Book of Mormon is most succinctly defined in Moroni 7:48, which states that “true followers” of Christ can “become the sons of God” and “be like him.” The phrase “become the sons of God” is likely an allusion to John 1:12,[8][9] which reads “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  In the Book of Mormon, this power comes by the reception of the Holy Ghost. Perhaps, the strongest illustration of this doctrine is found in chapter 19 of Third Nephi, in which Christ’s chosen disciples receive the Holy Ghost. While praying to receive Following that event, Christ prays to the Father, thanks him that the disciples have received the Holy Ghost, and implies that this has resulted in him being “in them” as the Father is in him and that they are “one” (3 Nephi 19:23). This spiritual unity and likeness is then demonstrated. The text states, “And his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them. And behold, they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus. And behold, the whiteness thereof did exceed all whiteness; yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof” (3 Nephi 19:25). In other words, the disciples, through the reception of the Holy Ghost and the presence of Jesus Christ, reached a kind of apotheosis. 

In other places in the Book of Mormon, the reception of the Holy Ghost is presented with somewhat less blatant divinization, but the reception of divine power, knowledge, or likeness is still present. For example, chapters 31 and 32 of Second Nephi state that after a “baptism of fire” and reception of the Holy Ghost, one gains the ability to speak with the “tongue of angels,” by which the initiate can know “all things” he or she should do (2 Nephi 31:13; 32:2-3). Angels are most often a manifestation of the divine in the Book of Mormon, suggesting that this ability is an evidence of divinization. Angels also play a role in the divinization of Nephi and Lehi. In miraculous delivery from prison, Nephi and Lehi are surrounded by fire and ministered to by angels (Helaman 5:24, 36, 38-39), similar to events preceding the divinization of the disciples in Third Nephi (3 Nephi 19:13-14). As they speak with the angels, Nephi and Lehi’s faces “shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels” (Helaman 5:36). The fire preceding the angels’ presences is most likely representative of the Holy Ghost, and fire’s association with the Holy Ghost is made explicit in verse 45.[10] The verse also states that the Lamanites are filled with the Holy Ghost and can speak “marvelous words.” Other examples of divinization in result of the Holy Ghost include Nephi’s shocking of Laman and Lemuel while being full of the “Spirit” and “power of God” (1 Nephi 17:47-48, 52-54), Abinadi’s shining face in result of the Spirit (Mosiah 13:5), the various gifts of the Spirit which come by the “Spirit of Christ” (Moroni 10:9-17), and the ability to learn all things through the Holy Ghost (2 Nephi 32:5, Moroni 10:5).[11]

Ammon and Christ
The Ammon account contains an exposition of divinization, which is also best explained through the reception of the Holy Ghost. At the beginning of the account, Ammon and his fellow missionaries receive instruction from “the Lord,” who is arguably Christ in Book of Mormon theology.[12] Part of that instruction states, “Yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may shew forth good examples unto them in me.” (Alma 17:11). The final prepositional phrase, “in me,” suggests that Ammon will be somehow unified with Christ or God in his service to the Lamanites. Later, Ammon fleshes out this idea when he states, “And a portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge and also power according to my faith and desires which is in God” (Alma 18:35). This passage invokes the prepositional phrases “in me” and “in God” in demonstration of Ammon’s unity with God, and the text makes it clear that it is the Spirit dwelling in him that gives him divine power.[13] Similarly, Ammon describes power “in” him as he prepares to defend Lamoni’s flocks (Alma 17:29). Ammon’s divinization is further evidenced by the effectiveness of his power, which is so great that Lamoni comes to believe that Ammon is the Great Spirit, the Lamanite’s all-knowing God-like being. 

While Ammon’s power is evidence of divinization, a primary aspect of divinization, as described in Moroni 7:48 and demonstrated in Third Nephi 19, is similarity to and union with Christ. Significantly, Ammon’s divinization is evidenced by a likeness to Christ that is realized through phrasal allusions. These allusions have Ammon speaking Christ’s words or fulfilling roles Christ ascribes to himself. An impressive example of Ammon speaking Christ’s words comes as Ammon assures the queen that Lamoni will awake.

Alma 19:8-9

8 And he saith unto the queen: He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God; and on the morrow he shall rise again. Therefore bury him not. 9 And Ammon saith unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word and the word of our servants. Nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.

John 11:8, 23, 26-27

11 These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.


23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again 


26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Clearly, Alma 19:8-9 shares a fair amount of exact terminology with John 11. I will clarify that I have included the phrase “she saith/said unto him” only because of its direct proximity to “believest thou this?” In terms of the phrase’s dissimilarity to other phrases in the Bible or Book of Mormon, “believest thou this?” occurs only once in the New Testament and twice in the Book of Mormon.[14] The strength of this this particular allusion not only rests on the nearly unique combination of three words, but also on their inclusion of the same punctuation and independence as a phrase. The other use of the question is in Alma 22:10 with Aaron as speaker. However, the entire string, “Believest thou this? And she said unto him” is entirely unique to Ammon 19:9, and John 11:26 provides a near perfect match. “I believe that” only occurs twice in New Testament and three times in the Book of Mormon. One of the other occurrences is Alma 18:29 and is part of the Ammon narrative, and the other is notably from Alma 22:11 in response to Aaron’s use of the question “believest thou this.” “Shall rise again” is still somewhat uncommon with five occurrences in the New Testament and three in the Book of Mormon. Finally, “sleepeth” occurs seven times throughout the old and new testament. However, it only occurs once in the Book of Mormon. All of the phrases and the single word sleepeth prove to be at least fairly unique creating a strong case for biblical allusion. The correct sequence and proximity of these four phrases significantly increase the likelihood of allusion. Finally, the extreme similarity of context lends further support. Ammon and Jesus are both giving assurances to female character that their beloved male family member will rise from either death or near-death. “Believest thou this” is especially impressive as it comes at the same moment in the conversations as the male speakers end their assurances.

Notably, Ammon’s words makes an additional allusion to Christ’s words in the verse directly following the above exchange.

               Alma 19:9-10

9 And Ammon saith unto her: Believest thou this? And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word and the word of our servants. Nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said. 10 And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith. I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.

Luke 7:2,7,9

2 And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die…

7 Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed…

9 When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

The shared terminology combined with clear parallel concepts, all in correct sequence, gives this example some serious teeth. Further, the phrase “so/such great faith” only occur twice in the Bible, the other occurrence being the parallel account in Matthew 8. It also only occurs twice in the Book of Mormon, the other being Christ’s words in 3 Nephi 19:35, which uses a similar formula. The single term, “word,” with its correct sequence, strengthens the above allusion. I chose Luke 7 over Matthew 8 because Luke’s context better matches that of Alma 18. In Luke 7:2 we are told that the sick servant is “ready to die,” making his healing all the more comparable to Lamoni’s promised awakening from near-death.

One more example comes earlier in the narrative. After Ammon is assigned to shepherd and the flocks have been scattered, Ammon rallies the servants of King Lamoni to help protect the flock. He addresses them with what are readily seen as Christ’s words.

Alma 17:28, 31

28 Now the servants … began to weep exceedingly, saying: Behold, our flocks are scattered already…

31 And it came to pass that he flattered them by his words, saying: My brethren, be of good cheer, and let us go in search of the flocks; and we will gather them together and bring them back unto the place of water. And thus we will restore the flocks unto the king and he will not slay us.

John 16:32-33

32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

I have included “scattered” from Alma 17:28 here because it perhaps clarifies the exact allusion. The primary shared terminology here is “be of good cheer,” a four word phrase that occurs seven times in the New Testament and twice in the Book of Mormon. Notably, this occurrence makes Ammon the only other Book of Mormon speaker to use the phrase besides Christ. In the New Testament, five of the occurrences are attributed to Christ, and two are attributed to Paul, both of which happen within a four verse span in Acts 27:22-25. It is the proximity of the the term scatter and the matching sequence of the two elements that makes this passage a likely allusion to John 16:32-33 specifically. The shared context of a spiritual shepherd comforting his metaphorical flock is also worth noting.
Other allusions can be found that place Ammon is roles prescribed to Christ. For example, After Ammon has miraculously defended the flock and servants, King Lamoni, who now believes Ammon is the Great Spirit, is hesitant to ask Ammon about it. One of Lamoni’s servants requests that Ammon stay on Lamoni’s behalf, and the servant’s words potentially allude to multiple New Testament passages. All of these potential target passages are found in John, and all of them address Christ.

Alma 18:13

And one of the king’s servants said unto him: Rabbanah, which is being interpreted powerful or great king—considering their kings to be powerful—and thus he said unto him: Rabbanah, the king desireth thee to stay.


John 1:36-38 

36 And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?


John 20:16

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

In both cases the shared terminology here is a long but inexact phrase. Alma 18:13 and John 1:39 clearly share the most terminology, making them a strong candidate for biblical allusion. The close match between Rabboni and Rabbanah and their dissimilarity to other words, excepting Rabbi, that occur in the Book of Mormon and New Testament suggest that the passage is also potentially alluding to John 20:16. [15] The similar concepts of Master/King that follows is simply a continuation of the original allusion, so there is no real case for proximity or shared sequence of multiple examples. Depending how the phrase is parsed, it lends different levels of dissimilarity. Using the tightest parameters, which is the entire phrase “said/saith unto him, Rabbi/Rabboni/Rabbanah, which is,” there are only the two above occurrences in the New Testament and the single occurrence in the Book of Mormon. Using the loosest set of parameters, looking for only the words Rabbi, Rabboni, or Rabbanah, there are seven passages in the New Testament that use one of these terms and only the single Book of Mormon passage in Alma 18. Of the seven New Testament passages, it is notable that all but one refer to Christ. The exception, John 6:25, refers to John the Baptist. Returning to the two strongest candidates given above, the context is clearly related in both instances. In John 20, Mary, after mistaking Christ for the gardener, realizes he is the risen Lord and calls him Rabboni. On the other hand, Lamoni mistakes Ammon for God, and his servant calls Ammon Rabbanah. In John 1:38, disciples of John the Baptist are addressing Jesus as Rabbi just following John’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah. This passage, like John 20:16, is about recognition of Jesus identity, and both John 1:38 and 20:16 have an inversional contextual relationship with the misidentification of Ammon as the Great Spirit or God in Alma 18.

It is possible that John 1:49 is also implicated by the above allusion. It reads, “Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” In terms of shared terminology, of the seven New Testatament passages that use either the term Rabbi or Rabboni, this is the third strongest candidate for allusion and the only of the group to share the term “King,” which occurs in close proximity to and in correct sequence with the initial phrase. Several other allusions to passages in John 1 that occur in this part of the Ammon account will be explored later in the paper, and their proximity adds some merit to this potential allusion. The context of this example, like the two previously analysed, also addresses Christ’s identity.

Another allusion that puts Ammon in a Christ-like role comes during Ammon and company’s preparation to split up and enter Lamanite lands. Ammon ministers to his fellow missionaries, and the text alludes to Christ’s words in Matthew.

Alma 17:18, 25
18 Now Ammon being the chief among them, or rather he did administer unto them, he departed from them, after having blessed them according to their several stations, having imparted the word of God unto them, or administered unto them before his departure. And thus they took their several journeys throughout the land.
25 But Ammon saith unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni.
Matthew 20:26-28
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Shared terminology here consists of an inexact single term, “minister/administer,” and an inexact three word string, “chief among them/you.” Impressively, the word string “chief among” occurs only once in the Old Testament, twice in the New Testament, and once in the Book of Mormon. However, only the passage in Matthew 20 shares the combination of the elements “administer” and “chief among” The appropriate proximity of the two elements and their correct sequence help establish the allusion. In terms of sequence, the first occurrence of “minister” in Matthew 20:26 is only bolded because here is a noun and not a verb as the later occurrence which matches the use in Alma 17:19. I also included the term “servant” as it is included in Alma 17 some verses later as a major plot point. The context here is rather different as Ammon is demonstrating actions and a role that Christ’s words recommend. However, a clear connection between Ammon and Christ is created through Christ indication he is the exemplary minister or servant.
A final example can be found during Ammon’s defensive actions, where the text alludes to Mary’s words following angel Gabriel’s annunciation.

Alma 7:37
…And he caused them to flee by the strength of his arm.
Luke 1:51
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.

The shared terminology is three words with the variable connector of/with. The shared terminology is not terribly impressive, but its dissimilarity creates a strong case. This three word combination is only used once in the Book of Mormon, once in the New Testament, and once in the Old Testament. The Old Testament example, Isaiah 53:12, does use the “of” like Alma 7. However, the example in Luke also shares the idea of causing a group to scatter or flee. The context does not appear to be shared. The allusion strengthens the connection between Christ and Ammon as the passage in Luke describes actions attributed to Christ. Mary is reacting to the announcement of Christ’s impending birth, and she specifies that she is speaking of her “God’ and “Savior” (Luke 1:47). The passage equates God and Christ, and so Christ can be seen as the person acting in verse 51.  

Lamoni’s Awakening and Lazarus’ Raising
The above phrasal allusions place Ammon in Christ’s shoes, speaking his words or fulfilling roles prescribed to him. Narrative parallels also illustrate Ammon’s divinized Christ-like status. The strongest of these is a large scale intertextuality between Lamoni’s awakening and Lazarus’ rising from the dead. Following is a table outlining the narrative parallels between these two accounts (apologies that the table didn't transfer correctly into the blog format).
Alma 18:42-43
Lamoni falls to the ground as if dead.
Alma 19:2-10
Ammon assures the queen that Lamoni will rise. The queen responds positively.
Alma 19:11-16
Ammon's promise is fulfilled and Lamoni, who was mistaken for dead, rises from his sleep, but the experience is extended as he falls to the earth again along with others.
Alma 19:16-18
Abish, the queen's servant, causes a multitude to assemble.

Alma 19:19-24
Ammon's life is threatened and he is miraculously saved.
Alma 19:25-33
Everyone rises.

John 11
Lazarus is sick and dies.
John 11:20-27
Christ assures Martha that Lazarus will rise. Martha responds positively.
John 11:38-45
Christ raises Lazarus from the dead.

John 11:28-35 (out of order)
Mary, Martha's sister, comes and a group of Jews follow her.
John 11:47-54
The chief priests plot to kill Jesus. He evades them.


Looking at the two accounts in summary, there are striking similarities between each set of parallel events, and all events in this segment of the Ammon narrative have parallel events in John 11 with the exception of the final group awakening in Alma 19, for which there is no parallel equivalent. That being said, the group rising can be seen as a climactic repetition of Lamoni’s return from visionary sleep, so it still functions as a logical expansion of the intertextuality. In terms of proximity, the events in Alma take place over 35 verses and the events in John take place over 54 verses. In other words, both sets of events occur within relatively short and comparable lengths of text. Sequence also lines up well with the exception that the parallel between Abish and Mary is out of sequence with the other events in John 11.

A closer examination of this set of narrative parallels also proves fruitful. There are more specific narrative allusions along with parallel concepts and shared terminology that support the intertextuality. For example, the queen’s conversation with Ammon lends several important details paralleled in John 11. In Alma 19:4, four she tells Ammon that she was told he is “a prophet of a holy God and that thou hast power to do many mighty works in his name,” inferring that he has power to help her husband. This is in parallel to John 11:21-22, where Martha infers Christ can raise Lazarus from the dead. She says to Jesus, “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
The following verse in Alma 19 offers further details.
Alma 19:5
5 Therefore if this is the case, I would that ye should go in and see my husband, for he has been laid upon his bed for the space of two days and two nights. And some say that he is not dead; but others say that he is dead and that he stinketh and that he ought to be placed in the sepulchre. But as for myself, to me he doth not stink.
John 11:38-39
38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

The shared terminology, “he stinketh,” is unique, only occurring once in the Book of Mormon and once in the New Testament. The proposed sepulcher for Lamoni is paralleled by Lazarus’ cave tomb and stone cover,[16] and the phrase, “two days and two nights,” breaks what is otherwise a three day scheme into two units of two creating a possible allusion to the “four days” in John.  While the sequence of presentation does not match,[17] the proximity of the two or three elements in both texts is notable.
Alma 19:6 goes on to state that a “dark veil of unbelief” wasbeing cast away from [Lamoni’s] mind.” These concepts find parallels in John 11:44 in the “napkin,” which covers Lazarus’ “face” and Jesus commands to be “loose[d].” Alma 19:6’s subsequent description of “light” filling Lamoni’s mind and dispelling a “cloud of darkness” is paralleled by Jesus statement on spiritual light and darkness in John 11:9-10. He says, If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.”
The clear allusions in Alma 19:8-9 to John 11 have been discussed above, and they strongly support the overall narrative parallel. To quickly review, Ammon describes Lamoni as sleeping, matching Christ’s description of Lazarus in 11:8. Ammon promises that Lamoni “shall rise again” echoing Christ’s promise that Lazarus “shall rise again” in 11:23. Most signficantly, there is quite a bit of shared terminology surrounding and including Ammon and Christ’s questions, “Believe thou this?” and the phrase, “I believe that,” from queen and Martha’s responses (11:26-27).

Later after Lamoni has risen the first time and the whole group, there are parallel concepts in the description of Abish gathering the people. Alma 19:17 describes Abish, saying she “ran forth from house to house.” Similarly, in John 11:29 Mary arises “quickly” and verse 31 comes “hastily” to the grave. As described in the overview both of their actions result in a group of people gathering at the scene of the action.

In all of these actions a consistent set of character relationships can be established. Ammon’s fills the role of Christ, except in his own falling and rising, an exception that will be addressed later on. Lamoni clearly parallels Lazarus. The queen serves as Martha, and Abish serves as Mary. Gender is consistent in each of the pairs. Relationships between the characters also function in parallel. Lamoni is husband to the queen as Lazarus is brother to Martha. Both of these are familial relationships. Abish is the servant of the queen, a potentially close relationship in parallel to the sisterhood of Mary and Martha. Abish is already converted already and the queen follows consistent with Mary’s early concern for spiritual things in contrast to Martha in Luke 10:39-42. Lastly, a parallel can be seen in Lamoni’s and Lazarus’ names. Both names are three syllables, start with the letters La, and are of comparable length. By itself, this similarity would not be notable, but in conjunction with the many other parallels, this similarity is worth mentioning.

The evidence laid out above points convincingly towards an intertextuality between the raisings of Lamoni and Lazarus. The account of Lamoni’s awakening contains five distinct narrative allusions to events in John 11, all of which take place within convincing proximity in both texts and mostly in matching sequence. If Ammon’s question, “believe thou this,” and the queen’s response are broken into two separate allusions, which is justified as their target passages are separated, then there are four significant phrasal allusions, three of which happen in matching sequence with their target passages. There are also two notable shared single terms, one of which is completely unique in the Book of Mormon and Bible to Alma 19 and John 11, and eight parallel concepts. Significantly, all of the phrasal allusions, both shared single terms, and seven of the eight parallel concepts happen within a five verse span (Alma 19:4-9), creating a focused, strong, and obvious set. Beyond these, there are also four consistent character relationships that further establish the narrative intertextuality. Finally, this intricate set of allusions is accompanied by five other significant phrasal allusions in the surrounding text, which were outlined in the previous section, all establishing Ammon as a parallel to Christ. One of the more significant of these phrasal is found in the Alma 19:10, the verse directly following the previously mentioned five verse span rich with allusions to the Lazarus’ account, and the immediate proximity of these allusions strengthens the overall argument. The intentionality of all of this is rather undisguised, and it clearly depicts Ammon as a “true follower” or divinized disciple, who speaks Christ’s words and wields his power. 

Ammon as the Good Shepherd
Another set of narrative parallels can be seen in Ammon’s role as a shepherd. The events surrounding the scattering of Lamoni’s flocks and Ammo’s defense of them can be seen as narrative allusions to Christ’s teaching about the true shepherd in John 10:1-18. The Lamanites who scatter the flock parallel both the stranger, the wolf, and the thief, and the servants who do not defend the flock parallel the hirelings who flee from the wolf (Alma 17:27, John 10:5, 10, 12-13). Ammon’s defense of the flocks, in which he risks his life, parallels the good shepherd or Christ, who lays down his life for the sheep (Alma 17:33-38, John 10:11, 15).

 The description of the attacking Lamanites contain a group of allusions that support the narrative intertextuality.

Alma 17:35
35 Therefore they did not fear Ammon, for they supposed that one of their men could slay him according to their pleasure, for they knew not that the Lord had promised Mosiah that he would deliver his sons out of their hands, neither did they know any thing concerning the Lord; therefore they delighted in the destruction of their brethren, and for this cause they stood to scatter the flocks of the king.
John 10:10, 12
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The shared terminology here consists of an inexact three word string, an inexact shared term, and a single parallel concept. Despite the weakness of the shared terminology, the proximity of the elements and their matching sequence help to make the group more convincing. The dissimilarity of the phrase “scattereth the sheep” and the variation “scatter the flocks” also strengthens the group. Searching all combinations of ‘scatter/scattereth the flock/sheep’ lends four exact matches in the Book of Mormon and only one example in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.[19] Of the two possibilities, John 10 is the more relevant passage due to the additional parallel concept of slay/kill and the additional narrative parallel between Alma 17 and John 10 of Ammon/Christ defending the flock, which there is no case for in the Old Testament example.

Another aspect of the narrative creates further connections between the two texts. Though at first Lamoni’s servants appear to be the hirelings who do not defend the flock, they are quickly adopted as Ammon’s metaphorical flock. He both leads them and protects them in direct parallel to Christ’s description of the good shepherd.[20] A set of allusions help to support this narrative parallel.
Alma 17:29, 32
29 …that I may win the hearts of these my fellow servants, that I may lead them to believe in my words.
32 And it came to pass that they went in search of the flocks; and they did follow Ammon
John 10:3
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

The shared terminology here is a pair of inexact two word phrases, and a similar concept. The shared terminology is fairly common. However, when the words “lead” and “follow” are combined there is only one New Testament passage that uses lead and follow together in direct correlation. The Book of Mormon uses the combination in two passages. The other is in the description of the Lamanites following the Nephites towards the land of Zarahemla (Alma 58:19, 24), and clearly, the context is very different. The proximity of the three elements help to establish this allusion to John 10:3, and the context is a closely related in the portrayal of the servants as Ammon’s flock.

A Book of Mormon allusion outside of the Ammon narrative is worth mentioning here because of its strong similarity to previous examples. Alma 5:41 reads, “Therefore if a man bringeth forth good works, he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd and he doth follow him.” The concepts of good shepherd, listening to a voice, and the phrase “follow him” all point to a likely biblical allusion to the passages in John 10. The context of Alma 5 is fairly different, but the doctrine being developed here is highly relevant to the portrayal of Ammon as a type of Christ.
It could also be noted that the phrase “I am come that they might have life” from John 10:10 is paralleled by Ammon’s general actions. While protecting the flocks of the king he is also protecting the lives of his metaphorical sheep, the king’s servants (Alma 18:16). Ammon’s actions not only save them from the Lamanite attackers but also from Lamoni’s punishment. Lastly, Ammon risks his own life somewhat similar to Christ’s declaration in John 10:15, “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Ammon and John the Baptist
As if to clarify the doctrine of divinization, The Book of Mormon text makes it clear that despite Ammon’s powers, he is not God. After Lamoni has mistakenly identified Ammon as the Great Spirit, Ammon sets the record straight. In this section of narrative, the text also seeks to clarify Ammon’s role as subservient to Christ, and it does this through allusions which create a connection between Ammon and John the Baptist, one of which occurs directly within Lamoni and Ammon’s discussion about Ammon’s identity.

Alma 18:18-19
18 Now when the king had heard these words, he marveled again; for he beheld that Ammon could discern his thoughts. But notwithstanding this, king Lamoni did open his mouth and said unto him: Who art thou? Art thou that Great Spirit which knows all things? 19 Ammon answered and said unto him: I am not.
John 1:19-20
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. [21]

The shared terminology is two three word phrases. The phrase “I am not” is fairly common, but the phrase “who art thou,” while used many times throughout the Bible, is only used three times in the Book of Mormon. In combination, the two phrases only appear together once in the Book of Mormon and once in the Bible as cited above. Both proximity and sequence support the allusion. The context is also very clearly related. The Jews are questioning whether John the Baptist is the messiah in parallel to Lamoni’s question whether or not Ammon is the Great Spirit.

A second allusion during the Ammon and Lamoni’s conversation also supports the connection between Ammon and John the Baptist.

Alma 18:33-34
33 And king Lamoni saith: I believe all these things which thou hast spoken. Art thou sent from God? 34 Ammon saith unto him: I am a man
John 1:6
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
This example’s shared terminology is short, particularly with the text’s separation of the word man. However, the phrase “sent from God” is somewhat unique as it is only used two times in the New Testament and three times in the Book of Mormon. Of these uses, only the two passages cited here use the word “man” in conjunction with the phrase “sent from God.” Besides having appropriate proximity within these two verses, this passage’s proximity to other allusions to John 1 make it increasingly likely.[22] While the sequence does not support the allusion, the matching context does, which consists of men being questioned whether they are the text’s functional equivalent to God.
The two examples discussed above help define Ammon’s role. Like John the Baptism, Ammon is an important and God-sent messenger. With Ammon’s commission comes divine power, and a unity with Christ that is demonstrated in Ammon’s words and actions. However, like John the Baptist, he is not the Christ; he is still just a man.  A different rhetorical emphasis of this point seems to also be present in Ammon’s statement “I am a man.” This phrase, which he also says in Alma 18:17, appears to be a wordplay on his name. Combined, the two words, “a man,” closely resemble the name Ammon. It is also notable that the name Ammon can be substituted. The text then appropriately reads, “I am [Ammon].” Leading up to Ammon and Lamoni’s conversation, Ammon is referred to as a “man” four times (Alma 18:3, 8, 10), and in another instance, Lamoni states his assumption that Ammon is “more than a man” (Alma 18:2). Further uses of the term man give more definition to the relationship between God and man. Alma 8:34 states that “man was created in the image of God,” directly following and qualifying Ammon’s statement that he is a man. This idea is inverted into the condescension of God in Alma 19:13, which states that the Redeemer will “be born of a woman,”[23] adding another link in the relationship between man and God. In this manner the text builds part of the definition of divinization, both the boundary line between man and God and the connections between them, into Ammon’s name.

An allusion found in Lamoni’s comments after rising from his vision add another layer of meaning to the relationship between God and man.

Alma 19:13
…For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer, and he shall come forth and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name.
John 1:12
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

The phrase “believe on his name,” an exact four word match, occurs a number of times in the Book of Mormon, but it only occurs once in the New Testament making the allusion clear.[24] This phrase appears again in Alma 19:36 with a similar sentiment, and the repetition helps rhetorically emphasize its importance and the author’s purposeful use of the allusion. Its proximity to other allusions to the Gospel of John just a few verses prior is also notable. In terms of context, the theology is the common thread. As explained above, John 1:12 teaches that all those who believe in Christ can become “sons of God.” This elevated status is a type of divinization, and the repeated allusion helps clarify and emphasize the idea that man can fulfill the potential of his own creation, becoming more like God.

This nuanced relationship between God and man plays an integral role in one of Joseph Smith’s unpublished revelation dating to 1832. The revelation gives names for God, the Son of God, man, and angels in the “pure language.” They are Awman, Son Awman, Sons Awman, and Awmans Anglo-men. Each name is given further definition. Awman is “the being which made all things in all its parts.” Son Awman is “the greatest of all the parts of Awman which is the God-head, the firstborn.” Sons Awman are “the human family, the children of men the greatest parts of Awman, Save the Son Awman.” Finally, Awmans Anglo-men are “Awman’s ministering Servants sanctified who are sent forth from heaven sent forth from heaven to minister for or to Sons Awman, the greatest parts Awman save Sons-Awman Son-Awman.” Similar to the Ammon narrative, all of these parts are connected, so much so that they each bear the name Awman. Bruce R. Mckonkie related the name Awman to Moses 6:57, a verse dictated in 1830. The pertinent segment reads, “in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man.” This connection is likely relevant as there is a similar though partial list structure, similarities in the names,[25] and reference to the language of Adam. The pure language and the Adamic language are one and the same in the early church.[26] If Moses 6:57 is directly related to the revelation on pure language, the name Ahman’s association with the title Man of Holiness would be closely related to the wordplay in Ammon’s declaration that he is “a man” and that “man was created in the image of God.” The clear similarity between the names Ammon and Ahman is also significant. More particularly, Ahman contains the word man while Ammon contains the syllable “mon,” which the text imbues with the meaning man. Lastly, relevant to the doctrinal exposition in the Book of Mormon, mankind or sons Ahman are defined as both distinct from and part of God, somewhat similar to the definition fleshed out in the Ammon narrative.
Significantly, similar word play incorporating the word man can be seen in Abish’s name. Matthew Bowen’s article, “Father is a Man: The Remarkable Mention of the Name Abish in Alma 19:16 and its Narrative Context,” convincingly lays out Abish’s role as a counterpart to Ammon...
(I never finished writing this section so I'll sum this up.)
Basically, the hebrew meaning of Abish means "Father is a man", which according to Bowen, and he argued convincingly, the text uses to create wordplay with the fact that she had been converted on account of a vision of her father and to be the spiritual counterpart to Ammon, who clarifies twice "I am a man," in the conversion of the Lamanites. I would take it a step further and point to the wordplay I've already acknowledged in Ammon's name (Ammon = A man). Finally, I would also argue that her name's hebrew meaning points to the doctrine being rhetorically unfolded in the Ammon account, which is that God is the "Man of Holiness" or that the "Father is a man" and that man is his creation in a father/son relationship with potential for divine growth.

[1] Joseph Smith and Royal Skousen. The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), Kindle Edition. All Book of Mormon quotations will be taken from Skousen’s edition of the Book of Mormon.


[3] Nicholas Frederick, “Line Within Line: An Intertextual Analysis of Mormon Scripture and the Prologue of the Gospel of John,” (PhD diss., The Claremont Graduate University, 2013), 138.

[4] Mark J. Johnson, “Notes and Communications: The Exodus of Lehi Revisited,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 123–26, accessed April 3, 2016, 18295; Terrence L. Szink. “Nephi and the Exodus,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson et al. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1991), accessed April 3, 2016, 1111&index=6; George S. Tate, “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” in Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience, ed. Neal E. Lambert (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1981), accessed April 3, 2016,; Ryan Thomas, “Nahom and Lehi’s Journey through Arabia: A Historical Perspective, Part 1,” Faith Promoting Rumor, September 14, 2015, accessed April 3, 2016, faithpromotingrumor/2015/09/nahom-and-lehis-journey-through-arabia-a-historical-perspective/.


[6] Ben Mcguire

[7] Nicholas J. Frederick, “Evaluating the Interaction between the New Testament and the Book of Mormon: A Proposed Methodology,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24 (2015), accessed April 3, 2016,

[8] Frederick, “Line Within Line: An Intertextual Analysis of Mormon Scripture and the Prologue of the Gospel of John,” 128-137.

[9] The other Book of Mormon use of the phrase, “Become the sons of God,” is in 3 Nephi 9:17, and the connection between this passage and John 1:12 is so strong that Frederick labels it as a quotation. See Ibid., 117-118.

[10] Explicit association between fire and the Holy Ghost is also made in 3 Nephi 19:13 and 2 Nephi 31:13.

[11] Knowing all things an attribute of God recognized in the Book of Mormon. See Words of Mormon 1:7, Alma 18:18, and Moroni 7:22.

[12] ??

[13] In an earlier verse Ammon plans to show his power, or the power that is “in” him, in defending the kings flocks and servants (Alma 17:29).

[14] If the Old Testament is not mentioned specifically there are no occurrences of that phrase.

[15] Rabonni is emphatic form of the word Rabbi, and Jesus as resurrected Lord in John 20:16 certainly merits the emphasis.

[16] A common definition for sepulcher is a stone burial chamber.

[17] The sequence is actually inverted.

[19] The example in the Old Testament comes from Jer. 23:1-4, and it is possible that Jesus is expanding this passage in John 10. Verse 1 reads, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.” The metaphor is people to sheep is the same, and the warning against false shepherds is similar. The shared terminology of destroy and scatter is important. It is notable that these two terms are shared between both Jeremiah and John and John and Alma.

[20] Ammon’s defense of Lamoni’s servants is made explicit in Alma 18:16.

[21] John the Baptist’s response uses the phrase “I am,” which shares the source Greek phrase, “ego eimi,” with John 8:58. These passages also share the initial question “Who are thou” (John 8:25). Christ’s use of “I am” has long been identified as a possible allusion to the name of God given to Moses in Exodus. I think it is possible, when considering the shared elements between John chapters 1 and 8, that the Baptist’s use of “I am” could be an inversional intratextuality with Christ’s use, emphasizing the point that John is the forerunner and Christ is “I am”.

[22] Examples of proximate allusions to John 1 include Alma 18:13/John 1:36-38 and Alma 18:18-19/John 1:19-20, both discussed above. Another proximate possibility is Alma 18:34/John1:1-4.

[23] Bowen

[24] Frederick, “Line Within Line: An Intertextual Analysis of Mormon Scripture and the Prologue of the Gospel of John,” 90-92.

[25] Ahman contains the word man, and similarly, Son Ahman is a close match to Son of Man.