Appendix B: Some Articulations
Reckoned in this tale as “loathsome,” the Bible in all its translations, alterations, editions, and versions is mostly incorrect: internally inconsistent, as history confused, and altogether corrupted by men. The Book of Mormon says as much by way of a vision to the man Nephi, who describes it as a Satanic imitation of the Book of the Lamb of God (promised to come forth from a seer Nephi calls “John”). Joseph Smith also warned Mormons concerning their idol, as I’ve explained elsewhere. And I think a few centuries of serious scholarship – textual, historical, archaeological – confirm most adult suspicions. Without institutional support, the force of empire, and the authority of tradition, the bible would enjoy far less influence.
For a Mormon, perhaps only with some difficulty might the Book of Mormon be extracted from the webs of Christian culture spun by various bibles. To ease your separation, I have written a five volume history called The Cultural History of the Book of Mormon. There I peel back the bible’s influence on Mormonism and its founding text, showing the Book of Mormon to be far more than some scriptural prop for the faltering bible, regarded by Nephi as a stumbling block and chain for all men (no matter how much “good” one attributes to it). I cannot rehearse those five volumes here. I only ask the reader to consider the possibility that the Book of Mormon was written as it was, to bring readers out of those webs, and from the darkness of the bible; without making demands that Tolkien’s work be read as “scripture” (a term that asks much more than classification of a book into a genre). Readers may turn to my Book of Mormon in Three Volumes, for commentary and interpretation designed to cut it from the bible’s webs.
Let’s say the Book of Mormon’s references to Joseph son of Jacob; to Abraham and Isaac; to Moses and the Red Sea, and so on; Adam and Eve, and so much that can be “found” also in the Old Testament’s GENESIS; let’s say we forget what we think we know about names and places; having inherited that latter book, in all its confusion, being manipulated and altered by faltering men, recent and ancient.
Let’s start fresh with those names, and the reconsider what stories we can strictly derive from the Book of Mormon.
Let’s say, moreover, if we disconnect Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham and Moses from the Old Testament (viewing that book at best as a convoluted interpretation of far more ancient records, vaguely recalled in secondary writings); that disconnected from the Bible, we may also reconsider the House of Israel, whose restoration is among the central concerns of the Book of Mormon. Much else can be unraveled, of course. And will be woven together again, rightly in time.
Where Their Writings Articulate
First we can see points of articulation between Tolkien’s wrirings and those stories told by Joseph Smith. I cannot list all the connections here, but give only a brief survey. And I don’t want to misrepresent them as pretty much the same, despite particular agreements. As stated, Smith and Tolkien both identify the New World as Aman. Both name that land after the ruling power-god, Ahman or Aman. Among the Elves (who lacked pointy ears, alas) he was called Manwë. I think Joseph Smith would name him Michael, arch-angel and vice- regent for the One called by the Elves, Eru. That being is known as the One Eternal God, so named in the Book of Mormon, Jesus. I’ll not argue about theology here, but will point you again to Cultural History of the Book of Mormon. Or to the Book of Mormon in Three Volumes, recently published with commentary.
Their respective writings name the Kingsmen those servants allied by lust and oath to usurping rulers, descendants of the “Mighty Men of Old.” Both accept the use and validity of seeing stones, lighted crystals and the like. For the sources of their tales, they both mention gold books, among other records. Their tales speak of long lives, magic swords and spells to bless and to curse. And though only bearing weapons in the last days of the Kingsmen, Numenor’s bows, it was said, were made of hollow steel.
Tolkien names the Elves “The Firstborn,” a title used in Joseph Smith’s writings for an unidentified people whose church will in the last days descend from the heavens. Both describe the lifting up of blessed lands fleeing a diminished earth long ago, bearing celestial beings promised to return in restoration of all things.
Tolkien once described the Elves as “angels,” condescending to Catholic culture in doing so. He said the Elves were earthy, and appointed to live here, forever (or until the end of the World). By “Elf,” Tolkien meant, “white” (like albumin, Alps or Alpine): beings delightsome but not Caucasian, of course. Likewise, Smith declared the angels inhabitants of this world, and in spirit here they labor, and on no other world.
It was rumored, Tolkien reports, that the gods in the beginning hoped the Children of Eru (Men and Elves) would inhabit this realm in bliss and peace. And that Men would in time take up the thrones and scepters of the Powers, having conceded governance after the Children matured. Of course, Mormons will be aware that Smith also reportedly taught that Man was divine, and directly descended from gods. Both speak of lineages blessed to inherit the Earth, and ancient, long-lived beings targeted by evil powers eager to confound the promises of the gods.
The creation stories told in their respective writings describe a “spiritual” creation preceding the material one; planned out by the gods but quickly bent crooked in reality by a liar desiring to ascend above all things. To restore the material to its spiritual designs, both speak of the one god (Eru or Jesus) condescending in mercy: being born a man, dying into spirit, and resurrecting in body to bring about a redemption of the good spirits and gods who labor here.
Both divided the ages of the world (of men) into seven epochs, Tolkien guessing we stood near the end of the Sixth Age; Smith purportedly opening the Seventh Age, wherein all things would reach their fullness and ancient knowledge be restored. In an unsent but later published letter, Tolkien describes himself as a “chosen vessel,” reluctant but to him, evident. Smith likewise revealed much. And their writings do not draw from church doctrine, being neither Trinitarian nor inclined to Restorationist theology. But both men were Christians, you may point out: Tolkien a Catholic; Smith, I suppose, a Mormon. Tolkien was orphaned as a youth, and raised by a kindly priest, and one of his three sons took up their priesthood. Smith gave his life for Mormons. Does that also imply they agreed in whole with the doctrines, practices, and myths propounded sometimes by those churches? The historical record clearly indicates otherwise. Affiliation may be just a place to be, rather than a system of beliefs and practices to which one subscribes. Both authors were critical of their institutions, one calling his church a “trap,” and intentionally attending Mass conducted by notoriously inept priests; the other warning its people had been condemned as early as 1832, and a decade later, accursed. Never was that condemnation lifted.
Finally, in a work neglected unless to ridicule, the little known “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” (abbreviated EAG) attributed to Joseph Smith gives terms not so far away from words found among Tolkien’s two dozen, variously “invented” and described languages (Adunaic being the official tongue of Numenor, lamentably among the least described by the linguistic). Here’s a passage from Smith’s EAG, “Second part 5th Degree”:
Alkebeth Ministers of God, high priests, Kings
Ba eth Ka Adam or the first man, or first king
Beth The place appointed of God for the residence of Adam; Adam ondi-Ahman a fruit garden made to be fruitful, by blessing or promise; great valley or plain given by promise; filled with fruit trees and precious flowers, made for the healing of man. Good to the taste, pleasing to the eye; sweet and delightful to the smell; place of happiness – purity, holiness, and rest even Zomar – Zion
And more from the “Fourth Degree” of interpretation:
Ah lish The first Being— supreme intillegence; supreme power; supreme glory= supreme Justice; supreme mercy without begining of life or end of life comprehending all things, seeing all things: the invisible and eter[n]al godhead.
Phah eh. The first man, or Adam coming from Adam. Ki[n]gs or right over Patriarchal right by appointment.
As any “student” of Mormonism with access to a search engine can profess, these terms and their definitions are not the academy’s Egyptian Language. And I won’t defend every word and definition, though I will pick out a few that suggest something other than unlearned, frontier morology.
Before I can provide some samples of agreement in their writings, let me give a few personal caveats. What Smith’s “Egyptian Alphabet” describes regarding grammar, say, inclinations of five degrees by way of vowel shifts, seems unworkable in practice, being perhaps founded on someone’s notion of academic rigmarole. Nor do I claim to understand it, either. But many strange words and their given meanings deserve careful consideration. Second, when Smith speaks of “Egypt” I put scare-quotes around it, for I doubt he had in mind our notion of Egypt, but rather that name stood for an ancient culture obscured by time and deceit, about the region of North Africa and the Middle East. (The same may be said of the Book of Mormon’s “Reformed Egyptian”: not our Egyptian.) Scholars say the land along the Nile was apparently called KMT, “Kemet” perhaps anciently in Semitic tongues: the Black Land. Coincidentally, Mordor also means “black land,” though it was not along the Nile. Place names are carried about by colonists, slaves, and other adventurers: New York, the Jordan River, and so on.
I think probably our Egypt, say, going back five thousand years, preserved or recovered remnants of a far older civilization; confused and misunderstood, perverted mostly by ambitious men, laboring alongside the honest and ignorant. Tolkien attributes the supposed Egyptian invention of embalming corpses to Numenor, whose kings wore a crown expressly compared by him to those of ancient Egypt. Smith’s Alphabet describes the “tradition of their elders, by whom also the tradition of the art of embalming was kept.”
The Egyptian Alphabet calls the realm Ah-Meh-Strah. Smith’s EAG reports,
The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham; and the daughter of Zep-tah. which in the Chaldea signifies Egypt, which sign[i]fies that which is forbidden. When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who after settled her sons in it.
In this text, Pharaoh is called a “righteous man,” the “eldest son of Egyptes the daughter of Ham.” (The LDS version changes both Egyptes and Zep-tah into “Egyptus,” for reasons I’ve never learned.) In the EAG tale of Abraham’s travels, Egypt (Ah-meh-strah) was buried in water, then apparently discovered by Egyptes, somehow raised and settled by her sons, descendants of Ham and Zep-tah. The “curse in the land” mentioned in that text was thus preserved, and from that lineage the priesthood was withheld. It was through this lineage that Ki Ah-broam (presumably, Abraham) also descended, his fathers having fallen into idolatry while offering human sacrifices. I believe “Egypt” in Smith’s writings points to Tolkien’s Numenorean empire, vast yet centered on that island.
In Tolkien’s world, the island of Numenor was raised out of the seas west of Africa and Europe, at the beginning of the Second Age. Its kings were mortals, despite descent from Earendel; and none claimed a priesthood until the end. A half-man, half-elf raised up to the heavens to oversee his children, Earendel was promised to return in the last days, bearing the light of the holy trees extinguished by Melkor (as told in Silmarillion). Earendel had two sons. First, Elrond, known to readers of Lord of the Rings, at least. He choose to remain numbered among the Firstborn (Elves), and thus did not die but took a ship away from the Earth. His brother Elros chose to be numbered among Men, and though living for many centuries, ultimately he died. The “curse” may be simply mortality. Death may seem a curse to those who would escape it by any means, including embalming. Death, however, was said by Elves to be a gift of Eru, just as Nephi calls mortality part of the plan of mercy brought about by Jesus.
Alkobeth in Smith’s EAG, means “Ministers not ordained of God, sinful,” contrasting with EAG Alkabeth, “Angels in an unalterable state—Sanctified.” So? Tolkien titles his account of the Fall of Numenor, “Akallabeth,” meaning, “She-That-is-Fallen,” an Elven name given by the Faithful in lamentation for their lost realm (in Adunaic it could also mean “great words from far away”).
Among the Numenoreans in Tolkien’s account of the fall of that realm, victims were chosen from the Faithful to be offered to Melkor, God of Darkness, in lust of obtaining everlasting life. Just so in Smith’s wrirings, for Abram was bound and offered, before being rescued. Ah-broam in EAG, meaning “The Father of the faithful…Ki Ah broam That which goes before, until an other time, or a change by appointment, The first, faithful, or father, or fathers.” Abraham of the Faithful is said to possess the records of the fathers; being rescued by Jehovah from a sacrificial altar, who promised, “I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name even the priesthood of thy Father and my power shall be with thee as it was with Noah.” While he speaks of two “wizards” that labored in the east against Sauron in the Second Age, Tolkien doesn’t mention Ki-Abroam. The Tale of Izilba does.
Most striking (to me, anyway) was the translation given in EAG of a drawing depicting a woman and a serpent. Although Smith’s scribe Oliver Cowdery regarded it illustrating the Serpent’s beguiling of Eve in the Garden of Eden, underneath the drawing is this alternate description:
Katumin, Princess, daughter of On-i-tas
-[Pharaoh King]- of Egypt, who <began to> reigned in the year of the world
Katumin was born in the 30th year of the reign of her father, and died when she was 28 years old, which was the
Reading this one night, I thought of a fairly obscure chronology of the Numenorean kings of the Second Age, composed by Tolkien (though he guessed it came from survivors and was recorded late in the Third Age, when events in Lord of the Rings occurred).14That chronology is found in Unfinished Tales, a loose collection of stories not included by Christopher Tolkien in the previously published Silmarillion. In that chronology you’ll find the name Ar-Zimrathon, also called Tar- Hostamir, twenty-first king. He was born “in the year 2798, and he ruled for 71 years until his death in 3033.” Zimrathon was the son of Ar-Adunakhor, the first to give himself the blasphemous title, “Lord of the West,” rightfully said of Manwë. Elven tongues were no longer taught during his rule, and Adunakhor was also first to keep the scepter until death, whereas previous monarchs had turned over their rule when the children were ready to govern. In Words of the Faithful, Zimrathon is also called King Gimilkhad (the Elder), and also names himself, On-itas father of Taurin.
When did Ar-Adunakhor die, according to Tolkien, and Zimrathon begin to reign? The year 2962.