Question: What does the Book of Mormon actually say about the finding of the record of the Jaredites, and the name of the king who could translate it?


Question: What does the Book of Mormon actually say about the finding of the record of the Jaredites, and the name of the king who could translate it?

A number of chapters prior to the description of this event, King Benjamin is reported to have died after turning over the kingship to his son Mosiah

The people of King Limhi were living under domination of the Lamanites, and had been separated for a number of years from the main body of the Nephites located in Zarahemla. Limhi's group sent out a "a small number of men" to search for the city of Zarahemla. These men became lost, but they did locate "a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled, and which had been destroyed." Amongst the ruins they located a record "engraven on plates of ore." Assuming this land to be the land of Zarahemla, the search party returned to report to Limhi, bringing the plates with them. Limhi did not have the ability to translate this record and was therefore unable to determine what was contained upon these plates.

Ammon, while exploring, encountered the people of Limhi "not many days" after the plates were obtained. The 1830 Book of Mormon reports that "Limhi was again filled with joy, on learning from the mouth of Ammon that King Benjamin had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon did also rejoice." However, a number of chapters prior to the description of this event, King Benjamin is reported to have died after turning over the kingship to his son Mosiah.

The Book of Mormon itself gives two parallel descriptions of the event

L. Ara Norwood notes that the Book of Mormon itself gives two parallel descriptions of the event.[1]One of these descriptions is found in Mosiah 8:13-14, which states:

In Ammon's first person account, he simply refers to "the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla" without naming the king

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God. Mosiah 8:13-14(emphasis added)

This appears to be a first-person account of what Ammon actually said to King Limhi. Note that Ammon refers to "the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla," without mentioning the name of that king.

The other description, in which the name "Benjamin" was later changed to "Mosiah," was a third-person account written by Mormon

The other description (the one that was modified) is found in Mosiah 21:25-28. Note that this passage is written in the third person by Mormon, and that it does not quote the words of Ammon directly. This indicates the possibility that Mormon may actually have written the name "Benjamin" during his abridgment of the record.

25 Now king Limhi had sent, previous to the coming of Ammon, a small number of men to search for the land of Zarahemla; but they could not find it, and they were lost in the wilderness.

26 Nevertheless, they did find a land which had been peopled; yea, a land which was covered with dry bones; yea, a land which had been peopled and which had been destroyed; and they, having supposed it to be the land of Zarahemla, returned to the land of Nephi, having arrived in the borders of the land not many days before the coming of Ammon.

27 And they brought a record with them, even a record of the people whose bones they had found; and it was engraven on plates of ore.

28 And now Limhi was again filled with joy on learning from the mouth of Ammon that king Mosiah [changed from "Benjamin" as printed in the 1830 edition] had a gift from God, whereby he could interpret such engravings; yea, and Ammon also did rejoice. Mosiah 21:25-28 (emphasis added)

Ammon may have left Zarahemla prior to King Benjamin's death and might have been unaware that Mosiah was now the king

Norwood also notes the possibility that Ammon left Zarahemla prior to King Benjamin's death:

In other words, if Ammon told Limhi that the person who had this gift to translate was "the king over the land of Zarahemla" without mentioning who that king was by name, we have no idea whether Ammon was thinking of Benjamin, Mosiah, or either. If this is how it occurred, then it is likely that either Mormon, or an unnamed Zeniffite scribe, interpolated the passage at Mosiah 21:28 and inserted the name Benjamin. Likewise, Moroni, following the lead of his father, would have interpolated the passage at Ether 4:1 and inserted Benjamin as well.20 This would have constituted an historical error by Moroni, but an understandable one.[1]

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 L. Ara Norwood, Benjamin or Mosiah? Resolving an Anomaly in Mosiah 21:28, FAIR conference, 2001.