The Book of Moses: Dramatized Audio with Illustrations

This is a complete dramatized reading of the Book of Moses, from the Pearl of Great Price, with various pictures and study aids. The Book of Moses really is a little masterpiece, hidden in plain sight. It’s wise, beautiful, and leads directly to Jesus Christ–a scripture classic!

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What Was the Mark of the Curse in the Book of Mormon?

A comment on a news article last week called the Book of Mormon racist because of its references to dark skin in conjunction with a curse.  I responded with the usual explanation: the curse is spiritual separation from God (2 Nephi 5:20), and the dark skin was just a useful way to distinguish those who’d been cursed.  However, the more I looked at what I’d written, the less satisfied I was.  I felt like I was missing something.  I went back to the text.

I don’t think the Book of Mormon references to dark skin are literal anymore; I think they’re only a poetic idiom.  Subsequently, I now have a different theory for what the mark of the curse really was.

The Controversial Verses

First, look at the relevant text.  There are three passages in the Book of Mormon that specifically mention dark skin as the mark of a curse (in 2 Nephi 5, Jacob 3, and Alma 3), and a fourth that bears on them (3 Nephi 2).  Here are the most controversial verses:

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Book of Moses Commentary Part V: What I Wish To Tell the Young Women of the Church

Moses 8:13-15 reads: “And Noah and his sons hearkened unto the Lord, and gave heed, and they were called the sons of God.  And when these men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, the sons of men saw that those daughters were fair, and they took them wives, even as they chose.  And the Lord said  unto Noah: The daughters of thy sons have sold themselves…”

This could have been written today.  The daughters of the sons of God were fair?  No kidding.  Everywhere I’ve seen, the local LDS young women tend to be among the most beautiful, the most talented, and the most wonderful girls there.  The sons of men wanted them?  Of course they did.  And still do.  Who wouldn’t?  Any guy in his right mind would want to be married to a Mormon girl.  And those fair daughters sold themselves into marriage with the sons of men?  I see it all the time.

I don’t know why so many Mormon girls marry non-Mormons, but I do know one thing: those guys may be perfectly fine, might even be really great guys, but when these poor girls become mothers and older women and see the priesthood and temple blessings they and their family are missing out on, and see the lack of unity their relationship has to deal with, it hurts them.  I’ve never known an LDS woman who married outside the church and never regretted it. 

So here’s what I wish to tell the young women of the church: don’t sell yourself short.  Don’t settle for anything less than a temple marriage.  And don’t be tempted by anyone outside of that goal who might want you for himself.  There absolutely will be many, many boys and young men who will want to be with you, and many of them will be good guys.  But they won’t be the right guys.  Your eternal happiness is worth holding out for the very best man.  It was true in Noah’s time, and it’s still true today.

Book of Moses Commentary Part IV: Fathers Must Teach Their Sons the Gospel

[Previous installments here, here, and here]

Quick, who can spot the pattern in these two verses?

“Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begat Enos, and prophesied in all his days, and taught his son Enos in the ways of God, wherefore Enos prophesied also.”  Moses 6:13

“And Jared lived one hundred and sixty two years , and begat Enoch; and Jared lived, after he begat Enoch, eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.  And Jared taught Enoch in all the ways of God.”  Moses 6:21

This formula is certainly used or suggested elsewhere in scripture: in the Book of Mormon, for example, Nephi starts off by telling us that he had been “taught somewhat in all the learning of my father,” (1 Nephi 1:1), just as Enos begins his story by declaring that he, “knowing my father was a just man–for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord…” (Enos 1:1), and King Benjamin had three sons whom he also “caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers…” (Mosiah 1:2)

(Maybe this post should have been called, “Fathers must teach their sons the gospel…and, apparently, literacy skills.”)

The relative silence in the scriptures about the training that comes from mothers, or towards daughters, shouldn’t be construed to mean that no such teaching takes place, nor should this emphasis on father-to-son teaching be taken to mean that no other teaching is important in the family.  After all, the Book of Moses reminds us that as Adam and Eve started having children, “Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.”  (Moses 5:12)  Adam may have had some personal priesthood interviews with Cain, Abel, Seth, and his other sons, but certainly the first family also had plenty of family home evenings where the teaching was more generally dispersed. 

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Book of Moses Commentary Part III: The Mahan Principle Extended

When I taught a lesson to the youth in our church last year about the Word of Wisdom, I asked them why we don’t drink or smoke.  “Because it’s unhealthy,” they droned, parroting the expected answer by rote. 

“Nope,” I said.  “That has nothing to do with it.  Let me ask you this: is drinking alcohol, for example, a terrible thing that immediately brings misery?”  “Yes,” they replied, this time sounding pleased to be giving back the obviously righteous response. 

“Not likely,” I answered.  “I don’t know know for myself, but I imagine that getting drunk must be a lot of fun, since millions of people volunteer to do it in their spare time.  So why don’t we drink alcohol, then?”

At this point, perceptive people will chime in with something like, “Because the Lord said not to.” 

“Exactly,” I say.  “That’s the difference between whether or not something is a sin.” 

I approach subjects this way because I worry that when we demonize everything that we want people to avoid, we give those things a power that they don’t deserve; we glamorize them and set them up as the standard objects of indulgence when rebellion will rear its ugly head.  A little more honesty strips them of that power. 

I’m reminded of some people I’ve known who might fit this cautionary pattern: the high school-age boy who suddenly stopped being a role model of righteousness because he tried and suddenly realized the pleasure of popular sins (“Hey guys,” a typical discussion around that period might go, “our leaders were totally wrong about how awful sin is; it rocks!”), or the girl described as the “sweet spirit” of the singles ward who got tired of being passed over and changed her wardrobe and standards; as soon as she started sleeping with guys–surprise!–she had a serious boyfriend within a month. 

The phrase “Mahan principle” was coined by Hugh Nibley to denote the discovery made by Cain in Moses 5:31 (“I may murder and get gain.”).  Continue reading

Book of Moses Commentary Part II: The First Two Laws

As soon as Adam and Eve had been cast out of the Garden of Eden, Moses 5:1-4 tells us, they set about the work of providing for their temporal needs according to the order given by God, started raising a family, and called on God. 

Verse 5 says that God responded to their prayers by giving them commandments, to which the text explicitly goes out of its way to inform us that Adam was obedient

Immediately after stressing Adam’s obedience to the commandments (presumably, yes, all of them), verse 6 begins the well known story of Adam being visited by an angel who teaches Adam the meaning of his ritual sacrifices.

I find it intriguing that the Book of Moses mentions that very early after the Fall, Adam is described as learning obedience, quickly followed by learning sacrifice.  Note that the footnotes to verse 5 direct us to the Topical Guide entry for “obedience,” and the footnotes for verse 6 lead to the entry for “sacrifice.”

Book of Moses Commentary Part I: In Praise of Adah and Zillah

[For an introduction to the Book of Moses, please read this.]

Genesis 4:19-24 tells the story of Lamech, who had “slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.”  Other Bible translations I looked at word this declaration to say that Lamech killed the young man because the young man had inflicted an injury on Lamech.  A footnote in the NIV Study Bible explains these verses as a cautionary tale about revenge. 

But where Genesis moves on to another story in the next verse, the Book of Moses continues further.  And that’s where his wives Adah and Zillah shine.

Moses 5:49-59 adds material that says that Lamech killed the young man (named Irad, this text tells us) because the young man had learned the secret oaths that Satan had taught Cain, and which Lamech had also learned, but Irad had exposed those oaths, spreading them to the general public. 

But that’s not my focus here.  What impresses me most about this story is the reaction of Lamech’s wives to his confession to them of his infernal conspiring and homicidal treachery.  Continue reading