Of Limhi and Seer Stones

Of Limhi and Seer Stones May 17, 2020

 

Teichert, Limhi, and Ammon
Ammon Stands Before Limhi  (Minerva Teichert, ca. 1950; BYU Museum of Art)

 

From John W. Welch, et al., eds.  Knowing Why: 137 Evidences That the Book of Mormon Is True (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2017):

 

Knowing Why, pages 197-198, provides a short summary of John Gee, “Limhi in the Library,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1, no. 1 (1992): 54–66.

If Mormon had not quoted extensively from his speeches, Limhi — son of King Noah, grandson of Zeniff, and a Nephite king in his own right — might be unknown to us.  As John Gee pointed out, “Direct quotations of Limhi occur in the following places in the record: (1) The trial of Ammon, Amaleki, Helem, and Hem (Mosiah 7:8–15); (2) an official address given to all his subjects at a covenant renewal ceremony (Mosiah 7:17–33); (3) the discussion with Ammon about the records (Mosiah 8:5–21); and (4) the interrogation of the king of the Lamanites (Mosiah 20:13–22).”

Gee continues:

Something subtle and quite authentic has been done here in the Book of Mormon. All the direct quotations derive from situations where an official scribe would be on hand to write things down: a covenant renewal ceremony where the king would have ‘caused that the words which he spake should be written’ (Mosiah 2:8), two trials, and an inspection of the records where Limhi obviously hoped to get a translation of some otherwise mysterious records (Mosiah 8:6, 11–12). The quotes come from other official (i.e., court) records, scriptures, and personal accounts (e.g., Zeniff’s first-person narrative).  (197)

This is very different, Gee argues, from the style of the novelists of Joseph Smith’s day — including Solomon Spalding [or Spaulding].  It also looks like real historiography.

 

***

 

On pages 199-200, Knowing Why briefly discusses the concept of a seer, including the reference at Mosiah 8:13:

 

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.

 

In this regard, a good parallel is available in the Americas before Columbus:

 

There are . . . analogues among the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, where ritual specialists would use “crystals” or “clear rocks” called zaztun (“stone of light”) “as a medium through which they receive revelation.”  LDS Mesoamericanist Mark Alan Wright has noted the similarity between how Mayan ritual specialists use zaztun and the depiction of seership in Mosiah 8 and elsewhere in the the Book of Mormon.  Hence, notions of seership in the Book of Mormon fit comfortably in [the] pre-Columbian American context.  (200)

 

For further reading:

Steven C. Walker, “Seer,” in The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, N. Y.: Macmillan, 1992), 3:1292–1293.

Richard E. Turley Jr., Robin S. Jensen, and Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Joseph the Seer,” Ensign, October 2015, 49–54.

Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2015).

Michael Hubbard MacKay and Nicholas J. Fredrick, Joseph Smith’s Seer Stones (Provo, UT and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book, 2016).

 

 


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