Reimagining the Book of Mormon

A collaborative effort to join the worlds of JRR Tolkien & Joseph Smith

Battling for hearts and minds

Every story is made of strokes: of the pen in ink crossing over itself upon the sheet of paper; of the sound of a telling in the air, carving up where before was still plainness, inaction, inert unvibrating air, as water frozen, flat, waveless; Every story is made of strokes swung by a character’s hands, and arms; leaps, landing in a battle attack, as two lionesses suddenly become a single whirlwind of anger, reborn for a brief time to cut across some still land; strokes of a knife into flesh, inert made, or rendered suit for meat at meal to eat; strokes of flashes of lightning cut into the black page of night, or of stars into that arena come, a sky hewing; so may iron of a star’s fall cut, and of its material, be forged a sword, for cutting, and if broken, in time, of shards may be written, upon plates of brass, by that same iron’s instrumentation, now in pen held to cut by strokes a tale, whose telling will strike the fateful blow, of an enemy not by meteor, nor sword, nor brave assault, ever at last felled.

I think this excerpt from Slumbered is possibly the most eloquent and beautifully written part of either book. A close second would be Pengolodh’s description of childbirth as a compressing star. But I like this one better. It underscores an idea that fascinates me about the Tolkien legendarium, which is the power of lore.

One story that demonstrates my fascination with this is when Finrod battles Sauron as he and Beren (with others) try to sneak past Sauron’s tower disguised as orcs. The two become locked in something like a rap off, singing to and against each other, their lore. Finrod almost gains the mastery but Sauron’s final song that references the shame of the Noldor (kinslaying, oaths, curses) seems to cause Finrod to falter, which gives Sauron the mastery. I wonder if Finrod could have prevailed had those curses not been in place.

then the gloom gathered; darkness growing
In Valinor, the red blood flowing
Beside the sea, where the Noldor slew
The Foamriders, and stealing drew
Their white ships with their white sails
From lamplit havens. The wind wails,
The wolf howls. The ravens flee.
The ice mutters in the mouths of the sea.
The captives sad in Angband mourn,
Thunder rumbles, the fires burn-
And Finrod fell before the throne.

Slumbered also tells of Daeron’s power of song which allowed him to go just about anywhere he liked:

So also came a-straggle, Dairon, as a minstrel, lightly minding what others headed in dread: the commands of “Eru- Black”; False God of they who have not the True Light Revealed; and laughing at hunters in songs, where was told the capture and torment and worse, of many an elf, he (Dairon) mocked this God of Arda, and sang about his realm, a challenge: to sit and listen awhile, to his tune, untuneful (if it be); yet no answer to the minstrel’s vain boast in challenge ever came to him, and he wandered free, asinging, whither he would

Luthien’s singing could unfreeze winter and cause flowers to sprout. She used her lore in song against Morgoth:

out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he [Morgoth] listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her

And of course Ea itself was brought into being (spiritually at least) by song.

Words, especially in song, have real power apparently. Greater power than the sword even. And so Pengolodh’s poetic description of writing as a battle that will finally defeat what strength of arms never could intrigues me.

We see in the First Age that battle was mostly by strength of arms. I’ve mentioned a few exceptions above, but the elves and men of that age gathered with arms to defeat Morgoth, who likewise had various weapons which he used. Perhaps the greatest lesson of the Silmarillion is that this proved a tremendous folly that led to tears unnumbered. Their heroic deeds fell short and we see in this twilight of the age of men a different kind of battle taking place — one that involves pens and keypads as the weapons of choice.

Alma maybe learned from the Brass Plates (or just his own experience) that doing battle with lore/song/words was a better way:

the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.

The Book of Mormon has examples of words bringing about change that swords never could. How long did the Nephites battle to regain the lands of their inheritance without success? And yet, it was preaching that led to the Lamanites giving the lands back freely. It doesn’t always work, or course. The ANLs had to flee for their lives, after all. Or maybe if the ANLs had better lore they could have merely sung for their protection? If a song can dismay Morgoth I’ve gotta think there’s a song to dismay some Nehors.

But the point is, it’s a new kind of battle compared to what we saw in the First Age. Today it appears the battlefront hinges on lore. And it’s not just the good guys making strokes with a pen.

In fact, the devil made a huge pre-emptive strike it seems. The Book of the Lamb was apparently written some time ago and in a pure form by “a Jew” (Thingol I presume?). But “the devil” somehow preempted it with a counterfeit Bible that keeps Gentiles in an “awful state of blindness…because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church.”

Lore seems to be the weapon of choice for both sides today. The good guys produce true lore and the bad guys create a counterfeit that is apparently good enough to lead a billion plus people into an awful state of blindness. This counterfeit Bible has a tremendous impact all over the world. Who is behind it? Based on my prior post about who the devil is, I assume it was authored by one of the three remaining wraiths. They would certainly have the knowledge and ill will to bring about a convincing counterfeit.

But they aren’t content with just that since I’m sure they knew the true lore/lay/song will have the power to undo their own fake lore. The utility in having the Bible is that it causes a huge stumbling block that prevents the Gentiles from doing what they’re supposed to do when the Book of Mormon comes out. The true lore of the Book of the Lamb can’t come until the BOM is received and strips away unbelief. Knowing this, the three put out their counterfeit to wrap the BOM in chains. It’s a temporary success, but a success nonetheless. Those three sons unrepentant buy themselves time.

Time for what?

For a bigger play. These words came to Daymon after a dream about the dead and a chant to “remember the dead”:

Lofty perceiving, speaks not a Great Spirit True fading out; The evil ones, the not-them, who are not, Great Spirit by Heats Fading out, they went to lowest airs to bring the Grey Prince’s Lay returned to nothingness.

In order for the counterfeit to really succeed, they have to keep the true lore from coming out. Thingol is apparently the key player for this happening. Eru told Beren and Thingol one of them had to stay to see things through, so to speak, and he also warned Thingol that if he stayed too long he’d inherit something worse than Mordor. This venture has a very real risk to Thingol and us. Hence the importance of turning Thingol’s Lay to nothingness.

The three wraiths with Carcaroth set a trap using a silmaril. Apparently it was a good trap since Thingol has been stuck there for quite some time. Perhaps a hundred years or so.

Remember the Dead, remember the dead, this chant was unto you said, and we hear it too, and fear that though Thingol be indeed trapped below, he is now without friend, beset by foes of ancient allegiance, and kin-strife; yet in his Seeing now told, these too shall see, and in him seeing, discern their own folly, and through his wisdom, the liberation of their souls from shackles unrelenting, without release, and impervious to tale or weapon otherwise.

As an aside, I wonder if this trap is what is referred to here by Isaiah:

And wo unto them [the three wraiths] that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord! And their works are in the dark; and they say: Who seeth us, and who knoweth us? [they would naturally assume so since their trap worked and no one comes to Thingol’s rescue] And they also say: Surely, your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter’s clay. [in other words, they see in their trap a turning of the potter’s wheel that even Eru did not foresee or is able to undo. they think their plan is going to destroy the labors of Eru and his friends] But behold, I will show unto them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that I know all their works. [but fortunately their works are known and their potter’s clay is smashed maybe by a stone out of a mountain or something]

Regardless, it sounds like the trap was so good that no one even knew Thingol was missing for awhile or with certainty where he could be. The key to his escape, apparently, isn’t some call to arms but a call to write. Dyon Ruel is first called forth to tell tales:

The dead then return, and one climbing high upon the rock- horn is John Ruel. To destine a creature in spirit, a great spirit does not end knife- fang-tooth encircled.

But the tales don’t do the trick. The lore is strong but perhaps not strong enough. It seems like the Elves are trying to thread some needle. They need to free Thingol but they have to be careful what they reveal:

And Dyon Ruel came forth, being born a man in England, and a teller of tales divine, comical, and myth-heroic; so has captured many, enchanted thus yet only suspended so, and not yet firmly set afoot upon Faëry, where few are allowed; And he set bonds upon thy house, and protectors also, so that these tales’ weight might suspend fewer in those Airs above, and thence drawing them down to earth, fire setting all dead things that stand above a mouldering thirst, depriving of water and light, as it were, seeds long ago set and waiting;

Dyon’s lore enchants many but it’s the lore that comes through Daymon that apparently brings the missing piece that results in Thingol’s freedom. It’s told that Melian played a pivotal role though we don’t really have the details. Perhaps Daymon’s lore helped Melian escape her own trap and find Thingol to help him also escape. Just a guess.

But the point is that it was strokes on a page that dealt the fateful blow. Apparently there was a call to arms to free Thingol and it failed. 100 women spirits, hearing what was done to White Tree Nimloth girl by these wraiths, nursed a grudge and sought to avenge rather than heal. They could not overpower the three, however.

Dior’s tribe(144)-tells spirit-friend
dyon ruel a mountain hiking, away with this plan! Vala-kind
wishes-battle where place-begot-pair-immortal, of all those beings who-fear-true-word
Come-the-lamentation of-dead-ones!

And after the failed attempt:

If only had felt [those] women one hundred: retire nursing grudges to kill not heal

If those 100 women had instead sought to heal those three through lore, perhaps they would have been freed from their oaths and repented. Either way, the call to arms fails. The heroes lose. It is instead lore that frees Thingol.

So now what? Presumably now Thingol gets to undo the lore of the 3. He is apparently out and the 3 are apparently “no more”. Daymon has suggested Manwe now has the silmarils but that Thingol is taking a breather before doing what’s needed next to heal Arda. I presume that next step is to bring forth true lore in the form of the Book of the Lamb to undo the spell of the counterfeit Bible and cause the Remnant to cast off their unbelief and build zion like they once did.

There’s a cryptic part of Slumbered that says:

whose scattering [the House of Israel] now has run its course, even to confusion, light for dark, lost for found; and in His Chosen’s Telling, Thingol’s Lay announced … what cannot be here told, but will soon be revealed, and by him, again restored;

Ah the infamous ellipses AND double cross, both of which indicate omissions by Daymon. This is a double whammy and no less bitter to the taste than the other omissions. But there is a nugget there. Thingol’s Lay announces something that will “soon be revealed” that will restore something. Who knows what “soon” means to an angel/elf. I hope he’s using it the way a mortal would mean it but there’s no telling.

Regardless, the battle of lore rages on and it appears that the good guys now have the upper hand. Once the true lore comes out, my understanding is that is the generation that will see the end of all things. Perhaps a rapid conclusion is about to be triggered. If that’s where we’re at, it’s an exciting time to be alive and a good reason to take this exploration and reimagining seriously.

Who is the devil in this reimagined world?

One of the questions that has puzzled me from the very beginning of this exploration is the topic of the devil. Specifically, who is he? Daymon states in the intro to Faithful that Melkor approximates the Christian devil. Fine. No real problem with that. Except that Melkor is gone and has been for a very long time. By “gone” I mean not in this world and not even whatever he once was, being much diminished by the time he was cast out of Arda.

The question of whether Melkor will ever return seems to be open for debate depending on how much stock you put in things like the Dagor Dagorath (good reasons exist to doubt it’s still an accurate prophecy). As such, I’ve set aside the question of whether the devil Melkor will return. I assume since he is a spirit he can’t be destroyed but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was so diminished that his spirit lacks any meaningful potency.

Perhaps the fate of Sauron isn’t much different than the fate of Melkor such that we could look at Sauron as type or “shadow” (see what I did there?) of what happened to Melkor? Gandalf states in Return of the King:

“If [the ring] is destroyed, then [Sauron] will fall; and his fall will be so low that none can foresee his arising ever again. For he will lose the best part of the strength that was native to him in his beginning, and all that was made or begun with that power will crumble, and he will be maimed for ever, becoming a mere spirit of malice that gnaws itself in the shadows, but cannot again grow or take shape. And so a great evil of this world will be removed.”

So assuming something like that also happened to Melkor (or even if it didn’t, it may not matter since he has been gone for ages), the question of “who is the devil” becomes more pressing. Why? Because the devil is referenced quite a bit in “scripture” as if he were a real being with real power now, then, and in the future. He’s not referenced as if he were a fallen Power that had lost his power/glory and has been MIA for many thousands of years with no real prospect of returning.

I suppose, then, that “devil” refers to his lasting influence in one sense. After all, Melkor spent himself by literally giving his power to those who followed him in exchange for their oaths of allegiance to carry out his will. By the time of the War of Wrath he was a shadow (I did it again!) of his former self. Of course, the extent of his efforts to thwart Eru’s song at his own expense was so severe that he marred the very nature of Arda, leaving “seeds” to sprout forever that Eru alone could heal.

And even after he was removed, he left behind no shortage of laborers who were apparently still bound to serve him. It is said that Sauron initially repented after Melkor was removed but it was short lived. His oath of allegiance perhaps could not have broken without doing as instructed to return to Valinor and face judgment (healing, more like). He was soon back to his old ways, bringing to pass Melkor’s visions of dominance and corruption.

I suppose in that sense, Sauron was the “devil” for a time. He followed Melkor’s example in creating powerful servants who were bound by oath to do his will to the uttermost. But as Gandalf explains above, Sauron is long gone and his power too so can he still be the devil? On the other hand, Slumbered speaks of three remaining wraiths even in our day:

“Three Sons remain, wraiths to a spectre King Imaginary, Thû resident on Arda no longer, who once was feared by all, here;”

It has been told that those three were recently made “no more”, as in, no longer here raising hell, having been defeated by Thingol’s Lay (as I understand it). But that was only very recent. At the time Slumbered was published, those three with Carcaroth had Thingol trapped in a cave and nearly defeated. But as all good stories, the good guy prevailed and those three are “no more” (though we mourn that they did not instead repent and be healed).

What have those three been doing all these many years? Apparently serving a fallen master! An imagined king who was here and powerless to carry out his own will. But to those three, bound still by oaths, Sauron’s sway over them was not diminished.

I suppose those three were the “devil” the past 10,000 years. Now that they are gone, who carries the banner? I would guess that they did what their predecessors did in establishing lieutenants, oath-bound sycophants, to carry out their will, which is really Sauron’s will, which is really Melkor’s will. I doubt whoever is left is as powerful as those 3, but there are certainly robbers and Gadiantons in our day (as Ether foretold). Who knows what actual form they take. World bankers and politicians would be at the top of my list but maybe they are mere pawns to something more sinister.

The BOM warns us against saying there is no devil. It warns that the devil himself whispers that he doesn’t exist. Perhaps he doesn’t whisper these lies himself anymore but others who have taken up his cause spread these lies. Although frankly, it seems like a huge portion of the world believes the devil exists so the lie isn’t all that convincing perhaps.

Apparently Melkor’s seeds have serious lasting power though:

and in the writing of the tale of Izilba, you have committed to paper an ancient thing, the unfolding of which will undo all that remains of the flowering of Melko.

It’s a really hopeful thing that these tales are going to undo whatever remains. Better days are hopefully soon upon us. But man still does what the prior devils are no longer here to do themselves:

“and among these seeds sprouting are also to be found men implementing his desires. To break the word from the heart, and to make of it a thing to think on, only, yet outside of one’s soul, pondered: this and more he would do, has done, and may yet undertake.”

It’s curious that Pengolodh says Melkor “may yet undertake” these things. Maybe M does somehow come back at the end? Or maybe he may attempt his work again elsewhere, outside Arda, like he did at Endar, and Pengolodh merely admits that he doesn’t know Melkor’s fate.

At any rate, I think I have a much better idea now of what is meant by “the devil” in scripture. I’m not sure the writers of those records didn’t have an inaccurate view of the devil and such that the way they present him doesn’t fully match with these views. But that’s ok. False tradition is everywhere, and I surely have it wrong in some ways myself.

My other question in this vein is what the hell is hell? Does it even still exist? Is there really a lake of fire and brimstone or did that end with the destruction of Mordor, or perhaps with the resurrection of Christ? Is this Arda marred all that’s left of hell? That’s a pleasant thought, actually. But I don’t really have much more than questions at this point so I’ll leave that topic for another time.


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