REPRINTS & PRELIMINARY REPORTS
A trio of papers on the so-called "Lehi's Cave" near Jerusalem begins with a short paper by Lamar C. Barrett summarizing what is known about the cave, usefully introducing a topic where speculation and folklore have multiplied. Joseph Naveh's paper from the Israel Exploration Journal (1963), describes the discovery of the cave and its contents and gives a proposed translation of the inscriptions scratched of the wall. It was obviously a burial cave since it contains three funerary benches but no riches or treasures. The inscriptions, he postulates, were done at different times and include the very unusual figures of two ships. He dates the cave between the fifth and sixth centuries B.C.
Frank Moore Cross, Jr., analyzing the inscriptions in greater detail, hypothesizes on the basis of the script that they date to the early sixth century B.C. One inscription, which Naveh translated as "Yahweh [is] the God of the whole earth: the mountains of Judah belong to him, the God of Jerusalem," is read by Cross as "I am Yahweh thy God: I will accept the cities of Judah and will redeem Jerusalem." From its poetic nature, he concludes that the inscription is part of a "lost prophecy" and concludes by announcing that he will "suppress the temptation to suggest that the oracle and the petitions may have been the work of a prophet or his amanuensis fleeing Jerusalem."
The paper by Danel Bachman from BYU Studies (1980), 321-345, describes in useful detail the recently discovered original of the Anthon Transcript, presented by Martin Harris to Charles Anthon in 1828. The author describes its discovery, authenticity, characteristics. and significance.
A Hugh Nibley duo begins with his classic Millenial Star article (February 1963) cataloguing twenty-two "Howlers in the Book of Mormon" such as "shining stones" and "sealed ships" that, to the discomfiture of scoffers, turn out to have Old World antecedents of surprising antiquity. His "Freemen and Kingmen in the Book of Mormon" follows through on a hypothesis that lopsided social relations, so typical of Book of Mormon affairs, between Mesoamerican elites and commoners may have precipitated the still mysterious disasters that overcame those civilizations.
Possible connections betwen Ezekiel 17, the Mulekites. and high New World locations and traditions are explored by John L. Sorenson is his paper entitled "Bible Prophecies of the Mulekites," Improvement Era (May 1957). Here is an elaborate series of parallels which go beyond mere coincidence to add "external testimony in support of the Nephite Scripture."
Drawn from the 1953 Bulletin of the University Archeological Society at BYU is another Reprint entitled "The 'Tree of Life' in Ancient America; Its Representations and Significance," by Irene Briggs Woodford. The tree-of-life symbol, sometimes pictured in the form of a cros, has been of interest to students of Mesoamerican religion since early Spanish colonial days. Some of the most notable occurrences are here cited, then the typical moments composing the representations are listed and interpreted.
In addition to the Comprehensive Bibliography, discussed earlier in this newsletter, a second research tool is also offered as a new Preliminary Report. This important computer print-out is John Hilton's 33 page listing of authors and literary forms from the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon. For the purposes of this study, the author is the originator of the words under question, not the recorder, abridger, scribe, or translator, and the literary forms classifying all texts are either (1) headings (introductory summarizing material in the original manuscript), (2) sermons or other forms of didactic writing, (3) first-person narratives, (4) third-person narratives, and (5) dialogue (directly quoted conversations). A sample entry is Alma 10:1, author Mormon, third person narrative, 19 words.
One further Preliminary Report available with this newsletter is entitled "Fasting in the Book of Mormon and the Bible" by Stephen D. Ricks. Here is a more detailed report of the contents of this recent study.
The practice of fasting, abundantly documented among the peoples and cultures of the world, is frequently mentioned in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Among the ancient Israelites and the Nephites, the motivation for fasting and the types of fasting vary considerably.
1. Day of Atonement Fasting, The only ritual and recurring fast prescribed for Israelites in the Pentateuch occurs on "the tenth day of the seventh month" of the ancient Jewish calendar (Lev. 23:27, see also Num. 29:7 ff.). This fast is not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
2. Fasting as a Sign of Mourning. The men of Jabesh Gilead fasted seven days after Saul's death (1 Sam. 31: 13, see also 2 Sam. 3:35). Similar fasting followed the Nephite-Lamanite war (Al. 28:6) and the murder of Seezoram (Hel. 9:10).
3. Petitionary Fasting. David fasted, asking the Lord to spare the life of his son (2 Sam. 12:16, see also 2 Chron. 20:3). Alma and the priests fasted as they entreated the Lord to restore Alma the younger's speech (Mos. 27:22, 23).
4. Preparatory fasting. Moses fasted prior to receiving his revelations on Mt. Sinai (Exo. 34:28). The Sons of Mosiah fasted as they sought the gifts of the spirit in their missionary labors (Al. 17:3, see also Alma 5:46; Dan. 10:2-3).
5. Fasting as a Pious Exercise. Fasting without explicit reason, not mentioned in pre-Exilic Old Testament writings, was common in later centuries; it became a standard practice in the early Christian Church in Palestine. The same practice occurs in the Book of Mormon Christian community (4 Ne. 1:12).
We may condude that Book of Mormon and Biblical fasting practices developed similarly from spontaneous but elaborate examples of personal fasting to simpler more institutionalized forms. In the Old Testament and in early portions of the Book of Mormon, fasting as a pious exercise plays a relatively minor role. But by the time of Christ piety has become the primary motive for fasting.