I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

Why do the Book of Mormon selections from Isaiah sometimes parallel the King James Version and not the older—and thus presumably more accurate—Dead Sea Scrolls text?

Robert J. Matthews, chairman, Department of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University First, we should remember that the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon come from the brass plates of Laban, which were compiled at least as early as 600 B.C., some four hundred years before the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. The Isaiah source for the King James Version was written much later.

With that in mind, let me suggest two reasons why the Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon are more like those in the King James Version than those in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The first reason is that part of the Dead Sea Scrolls are of questionable authenticity. Some scholars have thought the scrolls would be more reliable than the King James Version because the scrolls’ text is older—recorded more closely in time to the events depicted.

But this is not unfailingly the case. For example, the St. Mark’s Isaiah scroll of the Dead Sea collection dates from about 200 B.C., but differs considerably from parallel accounts in the Greek Septuagint, also of second century B.C. vintage.

We learn from the Book of Mormon (1 Ne. 13–14) and the eighth Article of Faith that the Bible has been deliberately altered by men. The variant texts of both the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls confirm that fact and tell us that the alteration was in process at least by 200 B.C. The St. Mark’s Isaiah scroll, particularly, is regarded by some scholars as a text written by amateur scribes, and containing many errors. The quality of the penmanship and the number of on-page corrections also tend to put this scroll in a less than reliable position.

Thus, textual preferences cannot be determined simply by dating. Even though the Dead Sea Scrolls may be older than the King James sources, they are not necessarily more accurate.

A second reason why the Book of Mormon Isaiah passages differ from similar passages in the Dead Sea Scrolls is that the translation of the Book of Mormon may not always reflect a minute and highly detailed analysis of every word on the gold plates. It is evident that Joseph Smith was closely allied to the text of the King James Version, and it is possible that he used it in the translation of passages that parallel the Book of Mormon, particularly when Isaiah is concerned. That doesn’t mean that he copied it from the Bible, but that he might have relied upon the language of the King James Version as a vehicle to express the general sense of what was on the gold plates.

Basically then, I would emphasize that the Book of Mormon, as an independent witness, tells us that the Dead Sea Scrolls text of Isaiah is not as good as some scholars think it is, and also that the text of the King James Version is not as bad as some of them think it is—remembering that we are dealing with details and matters of tense, punctuation, and the like.

In 1961 a master’s thesis at BYU compared the St. Mark’s Scroll of Isaiah, the Book of Mormon portions of Isaiah, the King James Version, and Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation. The author, a member of the RLDS Church, concluded that the differences were too slight and of not sufficient frequency and regularity to form an interpretive pattern. (See Wayne Ham, A Textual Comparison of the Isaiah Passages in the Book of Mormon with the Same Passages in the St. Mark’s Isaiah Scroll of the Dead Sea Community.)

How do you handle the life-style conflicts between the gospel and your art?

Larry Bastian, freelance composer, arranger, and conductor; member of Bountiful Forty-second Ward, Bountiful Utah Stake I began my musical career when I was fifteen, playing on weekends with local dance bands in my home city of Spokane, Washington. Since I occasionally had to stay out late, my father was concerned about the influence these experiences might have on me. Understanding my intense interest in music, he wisely offered me this proposition: “Son,” he said, “I’ll make you a deal. You can stay out as late as necessary for your musical work as long as you’re ready to go with me to priesthood meeting on Sunday morning.” I quickly agreed and have never forgotten the conversation. It influenced me not only on Sunday morning but on Saturday night as well. I knew I had to be ready for priesthood meeting.

Lifestyle conflicts affecting Latter-day Saint professionals in the performing arts and other fields often have a bearing on family life, Church activity, and purity of thought. If not resolved correctly, they can jeopardize one’s testimony. I think it’s safe to say that some compromise in either the career or the gospel life is usually required.

A dancer may be asked to perform a provocative dance or to wear an immodest costume. (This applies not only to popular entertainment.) A singer may be asked to sing suggestive or obviously immoral lyrics. An actor’s role may call for him to smoke or to use profane or obscene language on stage. A musician may be asked to accompany a performance that doesn’t meet gospel standards.

Besides these and other rather obvious difficulties (financial instability, evenings away from the family, long periods of travel, constant close association with people of different moral values), there is another major challenge to the performing arts—and other professions are not immune from this—that the Lord has cautioned us about: The reason that many who are called fail to receive the blessings is that “their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men.” (D&C 121:35) The career of a professional performing artist, in particular, is intimately connected with the things of this world and the honors of men. Unfortunately, some members of the Church have found the prospect of worldly success as performers so attractive that they have compromised their gospel standards rather than their careers. On the other hand, many have kept their priorities straight and have done much good while pursuing satisfying artistic careers.

Because of the prevalence of spiritual hazards, the decision to seek any full-time career should be made only with confirmation from the Holy Spirit that such would be pleasing to our Heavenly Father. To receive this guidance from the Lord may require much pondering, prayer, and fasting, and perhaps the guidance of a priesthood blessing.

Like many professions requiring considerable sacrifice, the performing arts are in some ways not so attractive as one might think, especially to a Latter-day Saint. However, the Lord uses talented people to assist in his work. I believe he is also raising up faithful Saints to be highly capable in new artistic areas, so that he may use them at the proper time in the building of his kingdom. They may have to be thoroughly tested to prepare them for that responsibility.

After one has sought the Lord’s guidance and finds himself pursuing a career in this field, what may he do to avoid the pitfalls? I would give him these suggestions:

1. Stay close to your leaders—your bishop, your quorum or Relief Society leaders, and your home teachers. Let them know what you’re doing and how you feel about it. Help them help you keep first things first.

2. Since performances are in the evenings, performers must be away from home at night. Work diligently to compensate. Plan extra activities. Be sure to give each family member your undivided attention on a regular basis. Avoid the temptation to abdicate leadership in the home and the responsibility to teach the gospel.

3. Live the gospel in your career. Think of your career as a mission where “preaching” is done by example. Bear your testimony enthusiastically as the Lord provides the opportunities.

4. Be ready, when the showdown comes, to compromise your career instead of the gospel, to refuse a job rather than lower your standards. Remember the Savior’s loving admonition: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

We have been counseled not to “multiply words” in our prayers. What exactly does that mean?

Keith L. Sellers, coordinator, Department of Religion, Ricks College To multiply means to increase or add to. To multiply words means to unnecessarily add words to words. The counsel that we not multiply words in our prayers suggests that we speak sincerely with our Father in Heaven, avoiding empty, padding words and phrases used only to impress listeners or to lengthen the prayer. It means to avoid vain repetitions.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie has explained that public prayers (those offered by a person acting as mouth for a group or congregation) “should be short and ordinarily should contain no expressions except those which pertain to the needs and circumstances surrounding the particular meeting then involved. They are not sermons or occasions to disclose the oratorical or linguistic abilities of the one acting as mouth.” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966, p. 582) President Francis M. Lyman said: “We ought to take into account the occasion, and let the prayer be suited exactly to it. Sometimes our habits may control us more strongly than the Spirit of the Lord. … Offer short prayers, and avoid vain repetitions.” (Quoted in McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 583) In general, this is an excellent guideline for not multiplying words in public prayer.

However, I understand that, within reason, there should be no time limit on private prayers. How, then, can an individual pray privately for long periods of time without “multiplying” words? And during a fast, how can one pray for a particular blessing several times throughout the day without repeating words? How can we follow the Savior’s injunction to avoid vain repetitions (see Matt. 6:7) when we are told to pray both individually and as a family at least every night and morning?

The ideal situation is described in the Book of Mormon account of Christ’s ministry among the Nephites. When his disciples prayed, “they did not multiply many words, for it was given unto them what they should pray, and they were filled with desire.” (3 Ne. 19:24) Inspired by the Spirit of the Lord, and “filled with desire,” the disciples prayed with real intent. Their words were vehicles for their thoughts and feelings, not decorations for them. Instead of thinking about the words they were using, they simply allowed the thoughts of their hearts to flow forth.

If we realize that our Father in Heaven is actually listening, and if we are actually thinking about and feeling what we are saying, we will be less likely to needlessly multiply or repeat empty words and phrases. We, too, will then allow the Spirit to inspire us as we pray, and every thought will be meaningful.

Other suggestions on how we can pray effectively include—

1. Preparing ourselves spiritually. Sometimes this will involve fasting or counseling with a priesthood leader. Meditation, reading the scriptures, and pondering the significance of prayer are helpful.

2. Asking for specific, not general, blessings. Our Father knows what is best for us, but he also desires that we ask him for it. He has promised that we will receive if we ask. (See D&C 88:63.)

3. Being as specific in expressing gratitude as in asking for blessings. Sincere gratitude will make it impossible for us to pray without thinking. “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.” (D&C 59:21)

4. Living as we covenant to live in prayer. It is extremely difficult to pray sincerely when we have not lived sincerely.