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Out of Bondage through Covenants

      Jarom -- Mosiah







Jarom 1:2 What Could I Write More Than My Fathers Have Written? For Have Not They Revealed the Plan of Salvation?:


     In Jarom 1:2, Jarom declares: "For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me." Jarom seems to be humbled by the thoughts of following not only Nephi and Jacob, but his father Enos as caretaker of the small plates of Nephi. Jarom declares that they wrote on the plan of salvation. For a brief discussion on Enos' similar feelings of inadequacy and a brief discussion on this literary theme of the plan of salvation, see the commentary on Enos 1:27. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Jarom 1:2 The Plan of Salvation:


     Joseph McConkie and Robert Millet write that among the "plain and precious" things taken from the Old and New Testament records (see 1 Nephi 13:26, 28) are references to a "plan" whereby men might obtain salvation. In his declaration that there is but "one Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5) Paul alludes to the fact that there is and can be but one "plan of salvation." Yet the Bible can be searched in vain for a direct reference to a divine plan which the children of God might follow in their quest to scale Mount Zion and find a place in the heavenly abode. By contrast, the Book of Mormon is replete with such phrases as "the merciful plan of the great Creator" (2 Nephi 9:6), "the plan of our God, " (2 Nephi 9:13), "the great and eternal plan of deliverance" (2 Nephi 11:5), "the plan of redemption" (Alma 22:13), the "plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8, and "the plan of mercy" (Alma 42:15). [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 106] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 13:26; 2 Nephi 9:13]


Jarom 1:5 [The Nephites] Observed to Keep . . . the Sabbath Day Holy:


     Susan Easton Black notes that for the ancient Israelites, only the seventh day of the week was assigned a name--Sabbath.1 Sabbath is derived from the Hebrew word shabat, meaning to break off, to desist, and to rest.2 On this holy day, "the last in creation, [but] first in mention,"3 the children of Israel remembered and observed the goodness of God.4

     The Sabbath remains a sacred sign (Hebrew: ot) for the Jews. As the rainbow is a sign that the flood waters will never cover the earth again and as circumcision is a sign of the Abrahamic covenant, the Sabbath is the sign of the sanctifying covenant between God and Israel.5 Exodus 31:13 states, "Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign [ot] between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." The invitation to the covenant of Sabbath is recorded in the Decalogue, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8).6 According to the biblical account, God's command to keep the Sabbath holy was first given in conjunction with gathering a double portion of manna on the sixth day to preserve the sanctity of the Sabbath (Exodus 16:5, 22-30). This coincides with a major theme of the Sabbath, the divine process of creation wherein God rested the seventh day: "wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exodus 20:11). [Susan Easton Black, "The Sabbath As a Covenant in Mormonism and Judaism," in Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism, pp. 59-60]


Jarom 1:5 [The Nephites] Observed to Keep the Law of Moses and the Sabbath Day Holy:


     In Jarom 1:5 we find that "the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. . . . And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict."

     According to John Welch, while Jarom may have had in mind only the weekly sabbath, he may also have been speaking of the holy days such as Passover, Pentecost, and the Day of Atonement, for those days were also holy days under the law of Moses.7 For example, assuming that a version of Leviticus 16 was found on the plates of brass, then the Nephites celebrated the Day of Atonement with its respective temple ordinances, for the law defined that day as "a sabbath of rest unto you" (Leviticus 16:31). The Day of Atonement was a sabbath no matter on what day of the week it fell. Although we cannot know for sure which holy days were considered sabbaths by Lehi or his posterity or how they observed them, Jarom's statement puts us on notice that the Nephites were strict in some way to observe each day that was a sabbath under their law, which most likely would have required the observance of certain temple-related holy days. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 303-304]


Jarom 1:5 They Profaned Not:


     Joseph McConkie and Robert Millet write that the "profane" is that which is "out of the temple," meaning that which does not center in God and a sacred or covenant relationship with him. To profane is to be in a state of irreverence or impiety. It is to have contempt for the things of God, to pollute or to desecrate the sacred. For Jarom to testify that his people "profaned not" is for him to attest that they were a religious people who earnestly sought to live in accordance with the covenants they had made with their God. [Joseph F. McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, p. 108]


Jarom 1:6 And [the People of Nephi] Were Scattered upon Much of the Face of the Land, and the Lamanites Also:


     Jarom makes the comment that not only the Nephites, but the Lamanites "were scattered upon much of the face of the land" (Jarom 1:6). It is possible that by Jarom's time the Lamanite population had drifted much more toward the Nephite population, possibly to the extent of having a mixed population in some parts of the land (see Enos 1:20).

     According to Garth Norman, the Nephites had fortified many of their farming cities because the hostile Lamanites, who far outnumbered the Nephites, were also scattered upon much of the face of the land. In this scenario, one can picture how the temple city center of Izapa, along with numerous others along the pacific slopes and highlands [of Guatemala], could have been built and controlled by Nephites, while large neighboring wilderness areas could have been the domain of Lamanites. Later on, after Mosiah's exodus from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla, when the "more idle part of the Lamanites" still lived in the wilderness (Alma 22:28), one can also visualize how some of these temple centers could have become the synagogues of Lamanites under the control and influence of apostate Nephites (see Alma 21:1-11). [Garth Norman, Archaeological Digest, Fall 1991, p. 16]

     Note* Although it is difficult to know exactly how far the "face of the land" extended during Jarom's time, one might wonder if Jarom's "land" extended into what would ultimately become the land of Zarahemla. One might also wonder how much of this "land" became familiar to the Nephites before the exodus of Mosiah1. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Jarom 1:6 And they were scattered upon much of the face of the land (Illustration): Nephites & Lamanites Multiply & Spread Upon the Face of the Land -- Preclassic communities in Mesoamerica,. [John F. Henderson, World of the Ancient Maya, p. 37]


Jarom 1:6 [The Lamanites] Were Exceeding More Numerous Than . . . the Nephites and . . . They Would Drink the Blood of Beasts:


     Enos characterized the Lamanites as being wild, ferocious, blood-thirsty hunters, eating raw meat and wandering in the wilderness mostly unclothed (Enos 1:20). Jarom now reinforces that picture by saying that "they (the Lamanites) would drink the blood of beasts" (Jarom 1:6). Jarom then makes a key comment that "they (the Lamanites) were exceeding more numerous than . . . the Nephites" (Jarom 1:6). According to John Sorenson, this situation, that is the disproportionate growth in the population of the Lamanites, is so contrary to the record of human history that it cannot be accepted at face value. Typically, hunting peoples do not capture enough food energy in the form of game, plus non-cultivated plant foods they gather, to feed as large or as dense a population as farmers can. Almost invariably, settled agriculturalists successfully support a population a number of times greater. It would be incredible for Lamanites living only under the economic regime reported by Enos to have supported the superior population he credits to them. How can we explain their numbers?

     Only one explanation is plausible. The early Lamanites had to have included, or to have dominated, other people who lived by cultivation. Their crops would have been essential to support the growth in overall "Lamanite" population. Such a situation is not uncommon in history; predatory hunter/warrior groups often enough have come to control passive agriculturalists off whose production they feed via taxation or tribute. . . . After all, that is what the Lamanites later did to the Zeniffites, taking a "tax" of up to half their production (see Mosiah 7 and 9). But this scenario works only if a settled, non-Lehite population already existed in the lands of promise when Lehi came. [John Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived, Did They Find Others in the Land?," in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, F.A.R.M.S., p. 26]


Jarom 1:6 [The Lamanites] Would Drink the Blood of Beasts:


     In Jarom 1:6 we find that the Lamanites "loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts." One might ask why such a fact would be significant.

     Vicki Alder notes that President Brigham Young taught that there is life in a physical body that is independent of the spirit. He said: "There is life in the material of the fleshly tabernacle, independent of the spirit given of God to undergo this probation." (J.D. 3:277)

     The Lord has repeatedly taught in the scriptures that the life of the physical body is in the blood. God has said: "therefore I said unto the children of Israel, ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh is the blood thereof: whosoever eateth of it shall be cut off." (Leviticus 17:14; see Leviticus 19:26; Genesis 9:4) The Lord has allowed the eating of meat, but has strongly condemned the eating of blood because it is the life of the meat. The Lord has cautioned: "Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 12:23, 25; see also Leviticus 3:17, 7:26; Deuteronomy 12:16)

     Blood is certainly the life stream of the human body. This red fluid performs many tasks, and no part of the body can live without it. (World Book Encyclopedia, 2:324, 1980) Because blood is the life of the body, anciently it was considered a sin against the Lord to eat it. (1 Samuel 14:33-34) The Lord promised: "I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people." (Leviticus 17:10)

     In the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites violated this law and became wild and ferocious. It was said of them: "they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, . . . And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat;" (Enos 1:20; see Mosiah 10:12). [Vicki Alder, Mysteries in the Scriptures: Enlightenment through Ancient Beliefs, pp. 160-161]


Jarom 1:7 We . . . Began to Fortify Our Cities, Or Whatsoever Place of Our Inheritance:


     Brant Gardner notes that for many years the prevailing scholarly opinion of the Mesoamericans was one of peaceful stargazers, in no need of fortifications. Therefore the notion that the Book of Mormon should describe fortification of cities was taken as a proof against the text. However, more recent work has shown that this is no anachronisms, and that fortifications fit into the Mesoamerican political framework.

     In a study of the extant archaeological literature on the subject, fortifications were listed by time period. The reader should keep in mind that these numbers are not comprehensive since they depend on the accidents of discovery. A chart lists the following totals of fortified and defensive sites created within the period:

Time Period                              Definite      Possible

Early Pre-Classic (pre-1000 B.C.)            0            1

Early Middle Pre-Classic (1000-600 B.C.)      0            2

Late Middle Pre-Classic (600-400 B.C.)            5            1

Late Pre-Classic (400-50 B.C.)                  30            2


[John L. Sorenson, "Fortifications in the Book of Mormon Account Compared with Mesoamerican Fortifications," in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, p. 429]      

     Note* Jarom would have lived around 399 B.C.


Jarom 1:8 Rich in Gold and in Silver and in Precious Things:


     According to Angela Crowell, usually in Hebrew syntax "when a preposition governs more than one object, it is normal to repeat it [the preposition] before each one [object] . . ." (Williams 1976:44). In ordinary English usage we avoid repeating the preposition unless it is for emphasis. A good example of this Hebraism is found in Jarom 1:8, "exceeding rich in gold and in silver and in precious things . . ." [Angela M. Crowell, "Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon," in Recent Book of Mormon Developments, Vol. 2, p. 6]


Jarom 1:8 Fine Workmanship:


     In reference to the "fine workmanship" mentioned by Jarom (Jarom 1:8), Hunter and Ferguson note that Ixtlilxochitl and several other sixteenth century writers (on Mesoamerica) claim that the Tultecas of ancient Bountiful-land were highly skilled in the various arts and crafts. "The Tultecas were great architects and carpenters and were skilled in the mechanical arts, like silversmiths. They took out (mined) gold and silver and smelted it, and carved precious stones; they did the best thing of what there is in the world." [Milton Hunter and Thomas Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 257]


Jarom 1:8 Fine Workmanship (Lost Arts):


     John Sorenson gives some cautionary words to those who look for absolute proof in everything related to the "fine workmanship" (Jarom 1:8) of the Nephite culture. "Archaeological remains discovered at any given moment give only a partial record of ancient life and thus of migrations." Future finds by archaeologists may further challenge the anthropological orthodoxy that New World civilizations were essentially independent of the Old World. In some cases, it is possible that technology was simply lost. It may have lost its usefulness in the new location, or it may have been forgotten as certain people became less cultured or less civilized. In other cases, the archaeological evidence may simply be incomplete or unrecognized.

     The true arch is often cited to support the idea that there was no contact between the pre-Columbian Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Professor Linton Satterthwaite had accepted that view, but then found himself having to change: "It has been usual to suppose that the principle of the true arch was unknown to the American Indian, though here and there in some particular structure it has been argued that the principle, though not obvious, was really present." Yet finally, on the basis of a field reconnaissance, Satterthwaite was left with "no doubt that the Maya at La Muneca roofed a long room with the true arch, and that they knew exactly what they were doing.

     Earlier, Alfred Tozzer had reported that at Nakum, Guatemala, "two lateral doorways have what may be truthfully called concrete arches, . . . the only examples of the true arch which I have met with in Maya buildings. [John L. Sorenson, "Lost Arts," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 101-103]

     John Sorenson provides an extensive survey of metal objects discovered in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, showing that various types of metals were known and used in this region ("Metals and Metallurgy Relating to the Book of Mormon Text," F.A.R.M.S., 1992). Nonetheless, it seems that complex metallurgical knowledge and smelting techniques were not widespread in Mesoamerica during the Book of Mormon period. Why would Near Eastern metallurgical knowledge not have become more widespread in Mesoamerica? Could iron working technology have been introduced in the region, yet never have been fully adopted by the majority of the inhabitants?

     According to research by William Hamblin, a partial answer to these questions can be found by comparing the history of iron working in the Norse colonies of Greenland and Vinland (northeastern North America). (See Eric Wahlgren, The Vikings and America, 1986, and Gwyn Jones, The Norse Atlantic Saga, 1986.)      

     The Vikings were familiar with all forms of medieval European metallurgy. They brought iron smelting technology to North America by about A.D. 1000, as indicated by the discovery of a smithy and iron slag at the Viking site of L'Anse aux Meadows in Labrador. Yet, despite known contacts between the Vikings, Eskimos (Inuits), and Algonquian Indians, iron smelting technology was never transmitted from the Vikings to the Native Americans. In other words, the Viking experience in Greenland and northeastern North America provides an example of the introduction of iron smelting technology into a new region, but the failure of Native Americans to adopt that new technology.

     This example is quite instructive for students of the Book of Mormon. Nephi was familiar with ancient Near Eastern metallurgical technologies, which he brought from the Near East to the New World. Metallurgy was known and utilized to a limited extent by the Nephites during certain periods. It is possible that the full range of metallurgical knowledge may have been lost at some point in time. When the Nephites migrated to new areas where ores were not readily available, knowledge of metallurgy could have been lost within a single generation. [William J. Hamblin, "Vikings, Iron, and the Book of Mormon," in F.A.R.M.S. Update, Number 86, January 1993]


Jarom 1:8 We Became Rich in Buildings, and in Machinery:


     Brant Gardner writes that if we assume that Kaminaljuyu was the city of Nephi, then during the time period discussed by Jarom we find some interesting correspondences to the account of being "rich in . . . buildings, and in machinery" (Jarom 1:8). Researchers have found in the Middle and Late Preclassic years that,

     religious architecture got off to a good start. Temple-pyramids, which in some cases served also as burial mounds were arranged along both sides of a long rectangular plaza or avenue. Religion was the driving motivation, and all nearby peoples must have contributed heavily, in time and muscle, to the necessary labor force. . . . The glory and luxury evident at Kaminaljuyu can only signify a high degree of social stratification with wealth, power, and prestige in the hands of an elite few.8

[Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," Jarom/ Jarom1.htm, p. 10]


Jarom 1:8 Machinery:


     Tom Valletta notes that "machinery" can be any type of complicated work (see Noah Webster, American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828, s. v. "Machinery"). [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 178]


Jarom 1:8 We Became Exceedingly Rich . . . in Iron, Making All Manner of Tools:


     Jarom mentions that "we [the Nephites] became exceedingly rich . . . in iron" (Jarom 1:8). The mention of iron is problematic for a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. Hunter and Ferguson explain that it is the consensus of opinion among the archaeologists that the ancient Americans did not work with iron. It should be borne in mind, of course, that iron is one of the most perishable of metals. It would have been particularly subject to rapid corrosion in the damp tropical regions where the principal center of early American cultures were located, in southern Mexico and . . . Guatemala. Even at the present time, in the middle of the twentieth century, ornamental iron is used very little in the gulf coast region of Mexico. Covarrubias points out that the ornamental balconies of the homes in the city of Vera Cruz are of "turned wood (because iron rusts too quickly in the tropical sea air)." American archaeologists have found but one or two small pieces of iron.

     Nevertheless, at Uaxactun, Guatemala, within an ancient pyramid were found some jars containing oxide of iron and iron (hematite) crystals. Furthermore, the Mesoamerican historian Ixtlilxochitl, like the Book of Mormon, says the Tultecas (Bountiful people) used it. He says that when the Tultecas fought they used, among other things mentioned by him, ". . . long lances, and others [javelins] which are thrown, and clubs garnished [nailed] with iron." [Milton R. Hunter and Thomas S. Ferguson, Ancient America and the Book of Mormon, p. 263]


Jarom 1:8 In iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every king (Illustration): Sahagun's Florentine Codex pictures an Aztec metalworker plying his craft with a very simple but effective apparatus. Molten copper pours from the crucible into a mold to form an axe head. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 53]


Jarom 1:8 In iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind (Illustration): (a) The practical quality of metal tools like these mainly of copper, left much to be desired. They did not retain a good cutting edge for long. A stone axe was cheaper and about as effective as one with a metal head.9 (b) Custom-finished obsidian tools were sometimes made from large, semiprepared chunks of the raw material at or near markets, where customer needs could be matched more easily than at the obsidian source. (c) Skilled men used an antler tip or a bone point to press at key points on chunks of the volcanic glass, splitting off thin fragments one after another. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 52]


Jarom 1:8 Steel:


     According to Matthew Roper, many critics of the Book of Mormon have cited the mention of "steel" in 1 Nephi 4:9 as evidence against the Book of Mormon's historicity. "Steel," it is argued "was not known to man in those days."10 Today, however, it is increasingly apparent that the practice of "steeling" iron through deliberate carburization was well-known to the Near Eastern world from which the Lehi colony emerged. . . . Chronologically speaking, steel is never mentioned after Jarom's day (Jarom 1:8). And iron, although known to some of the Zeniffites in the land of Nephi, is never mentioned after Noah's day (Mosiah 11:3,8). This tends to support the idea that some metallurgical technologies possessed by Nephi and others may have been lost over time. Other interpretations are also possible. For instance, the phrase "after the manner of" is ambiguous and could simply mean that subsequent Nephite blades were made after the general pattern of Laban's sword--a straight double-edged blade. Webster's 1828 An American Dictionary of the English Language offers a variety of definitions for "manner," including: "1. Form; method; way of performing or executing. . . . 3. Sort; kind. . . . 4. Certain degree or measure. It is in a manner done already. . . . This use may also be sometimes defined by sort or fashion; as we say, a thing is done after a sort or fashion, that is, not well, fully or perfectly." [Matthew Roper, "Unanswered Mormon Scholars," in FARMS Review of Books, 9/1 1997, pp. 149-150]


Jarom 1:8 Making all manner of tools of every kind (Illustration): (a) Ancient tools and their modern equivalents are shown paired. (b) Either a stone-tipped stick or a pole with its wooden end hardened by fire serve for digging. (c) One type of drill was rotated by the back-and-forth motion of a bowstring. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 52]


Jarom 1:8 Weapons of war . . . the dart (Illustration): An artist's sketch of a hunter about to throw an atlatl dart illustrates how that instrument functioned. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 131]


Jarom 1:14 Other [Large] Plates of Nephi . . . Are Engraven according to the Writings of the Kings:


     [See the commentary on Omni 1:11,12]


Jarom 1:14 Or Those Which They Caused to Be Written:


     According to Brant Gardner, Jarom makes a brief but important note at the end of Omni 1:14. He notes that the other plates (the large plates) are "according to the writings of the kings, or those which they caused to be written." This is important because it is apparently a significant shift from the time of Nephi, who kept the records himself as the king. It is likely that his next successor (or two) also kept them personally, but by the time of Jarom the political and social complexity seems to be sufficient that the kings cause them to be written. This is a subtle but unmistakable indication of the increasing complexity and stratification of Nephite society (which, as we remember, was a theme against which Jacob had preached--see Jacob 2). [Brant Gardner, "Book of Mormon Commentary," LDStopics/Jarom/Jarom1.htm, p. 15]


Jarom 1:14-15 I [Jarom] deliver these [small] plates into the hands of my son Omni (Nephite Record Keepers) [Illustration]: Nephite Record Keepers. Adapted from [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 155]



Jarom 1:15 Omni:


     According to Hugh Nibley, the meaning of the name "Omni" is very obvious. It means belonging to Amon. Remember, Amon is the name in the Book of Mormon. There are more Ammon names and Amon compounds than anything else because actually in the time of Lehi Amon was the god of the empire. It was the one time when God filled the earth. Amon filled the earth with the Egyptian Empire. They claimed everything, but always in the name of Amon. We have the marvelous sermons of Wenamun, the Egyptian ambassador to the court of Biblos. He was on business there when he talked about "Amon who rules all the seas and rules all nations." We have songs in which we refer to Adam-ondi-Ahman and Amon as a epithet for God. Actually, it means "the one who is not known, the secret one whom we can't name, whose name is not known to us." But Omni means he who belongs to Amon. [Hugh W. Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1, pp. 425-426]