The African Roots of The Book of Mormon
Reformed Egyptian was the language of instruction to the prophets of an entire nation that lasted for a millenium.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ does have African roots. The obvious connection to Africa is the language. The book was written in Reformed Egyptian. There it is! This is the connection to Africa. The very language that the record (that was translated into English by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1829) was written is a mutation of the Egyptian language.
The significance of that astute observation that the book that is associated so often with a religious culture that did not fully accept sub-Saharan African people into liturgy readily began with a set of records drawn from an African language.
Nephi, the father of religious and historical record keeping of Nephite society and the father of the nation of the same society recorded at the beginning of his history that
...I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father... Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. 1 Nephi 1:1-2
At his admittance, Nephi was a student of normal Hebraic education of the period (about 600 b.c.e.). He states that he was taught "somewhat in ALL the learning of my father." Several inferences present themselves from which to conclude about Nephi's father.
- He was educated.
- He was well traveled
- He was wealthy.
The languages that Nephi and his family learned and perpetuated throughout Nephite history are Hebrew and Egyptian. Moroni, the son of Mormon, chief author of The Book of Mormon, indicates in the record that both the Hebrew and the Egyptian languages were modified by his society as modern societies modify language from nation to nation that shares the same language--such as British English and American English.
A further observation made by King Benjamin (a Nephite prophet-king nearly seven centuries after Nephi and his family's exodus from Jerusalem (recorded in 1 and 2 Nephi) is that the records that the Nephites used for scriptures also were of African script. King Benjamin instructions to his sons recorded in Mosiah chapter 1 of The Book of Mormon states,
And he [Benjamin] also taught them [King Benjamin's sons] concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time. Mosiah 1:2-3
Reformed Egyptian was the language of instruction to the prophets of an entire nation that lasted for a millennium. It was also that language of educated people and constituted the token of wealth in association. An African language did God use to instruct the Hebrews who traveled to the ancient Americas.
An entire culture continued based on the teachings written in the Egyptian language in a record known as the Plates of Brass in the Book of Mormon. Not unlike the Muslims regarding the Quran, in Nephite religious society, Egyptian was taught to each generation so that the scriptures could be read in purity. The pure language in which the gospel was written was Egyptian, an African language.
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Laban, a relative of Lehi, the father of Nephi, kept the records which were handed down to him by his ancestors. It is probable that Moses caused the record to exist written in the Egyptian language and preserved by the scribes. It is just as probable that the Egyptian record could have been translated from Hebrew or vice versa.
In any event, the Nephite people used African language for instruction, correction and revelation. It was of such importance that a modified version of this African language was used to convey the gospel message of salvation to the modern world through Joseph Smith, Jr. This record in African writing was so important it was taken into Heaven after it was translated by Moroni, an angel of God and last historian to record on the plates using the African language!
To avoid taking the African angle out of context, Moroni did state in his record that
if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record. Mormon 9:33
The Lord had in mind something special when He instructed His prophets to continue to use this Reformed Egyptian to record. Moroni intimated that Egyptian was easier to inscribe and took up less space on the plates of gold to convey the message of the gospel. Moroni was more familiar with the Hebrew than the Egyptian; therefore, he worried that others might judge the imperfections in the record and discredit the work of both his and his father Mormon.
Besides that admission by Moroni, God chose an African language to record His witness for the Americas! Moroni trusted in God's reasoning for preserving that ancient African language.
Explanation of Reformed Egpytian
Just to provide perspective of how amazing it is that Moroni was able to write or engrave using Egyptian or a derivative of Egyptian, think of Latin, a dead tongue for all intents and purposes. No nation has a large Latin speaking population yet there are those who speak the language, linguists for example, fluently. Latin was used as recently as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It has been modified from Old Latin to Medieval Latin, Classic Latin and Vulgar Latin. The language was modified until it no longer served a purpose outside of scholarship, pursuit of truth!
Reformed Egyptian to Nephite society is what Latin is to European society. It may not have been common language, but everything written in the language was for the purpose to preserve the truths of the gospel.
There is a cultural trend with many activist apologist of Mormon culture to try to grasp at any type of connection to African heritage just to prove that "Mormons" are not racist against Blacks.
This article is not purposed to refute any past history or teaching associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints directly or indirectly. It is not to show any inherent social justice in any way by The Book of Mormon to counter any prohibitions or restrictions related to church policies. It is to show that there is an African connection to the scripture that should be obvious to all readers though it may be unrealized. It is to show readers of the book that in spite of the things many in the past may have taught or believed about African people in the past, the entire book is African!
- Leaders of Promise
Great leaders of the scriptures come in all sizes. Not all of them are as noteworthy as Nephi or Moses having entire cultures based on their name or a religion based on their teachings. Some of these leaders in the Book of Mormon are simple people wi
© 2014 Rodric Johnson
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