I Have a Question


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

Why are the words adieu, bible, and baptize in the Book of Mormon? These words weren’t known in Book of Mormon times.

Edward J. Brandt, associate director, Salt Lake Institute of Religion. A similar question could be asked about the Bible: Why, for example, is the word book, which comes from Old English and was not known in Old Testament times, found in the Old Testament?

The answer to both questions is simply that the Book of Mormon and the King James Version of the Bible are translations from ancient languages through the function of translators, who diligently endeavored to convey the intended meaning of the original writers.

The challenge faced by translators is a very difficult one. As Elder John A. Widtsoe wrote, “To convert the ideas recorded in Hebrew or Greek [or any language] into another language is not an easy task. The translator at best is only an interpreter of the text.” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3 vols., arr. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, p. 119.)

The language of the Book of Mormon plates was an altered Hebrew, expressed in “reformed Egyptian” characters. (See Morm. 9:32–33.) Although the Prophet Joseph Smith acted under the powers and gifts of God to receive and translate the anciently recorded message, he could transmit the meaning of what he received only through his own expression.

Speaking of the revelations given through the Prophet after the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the Lord said, “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” (D&C 1:24; italics added. See also 2 Ne. 31:3; Ether 12:39.) This same principle had governed the Prophet’s translation of the Book of Mormon. Much of the translation is quite literal, reflecting Semitic idiom and structure. However, the choice of words came through the manner of the language of Joseph Smith, so that we might have understanding. This is why words not known in Book of Mormon times are found in the translated text.

The word adieu is defined in a dictionary of Joseph Smith’s day as “a farewell; an expression of kind wishes at the parting of friends.” (Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.) While the word is of French origin, it had found common usage in early nineteenth century New England.

The earliest known document relating to Church history is a recently discovered letter written in 1829 by the Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, to her sister-in-law Mary Smith Pierce. (See Ensign, Oct. 1982, pp. 70–73.) In the letter, she enthusiastically shares news of her son’s work in translating an ancient record and tells something of the nature of its contents. Then, after telling of the happenings of the family, she concludes with “I must now bid the[e] farewell then adieu Lucy Smith.”

This suggests the possible common use in the Smith family of the word adieu. When the Prophet received the concept or idea of a farewell at the conclusion of the portion of the record known as the book of Jacob, he used an expression he felt would convey the message to our understanding: “Brethren, adieu.” (Jacob 7:27.)

The various forms of the word baptize are found 145 times in the Book of Mormon. It comes from the Greek baptizein, meaning “to immerse” or “to dip.” The Hebrew rachts, “to wash” or “to bathe,” or other ancient expressions such as “the burial,” “the anointing,” and even “to go down in water” do not convey the full meaning that the historical Christian term baptize does. The ordinance of baptism was one of the “plain and precious things” lost or tampered with in the ancient records. (See 1 Ne. 13:26–36; Moses 6:59–60, 64; JST, Gen. 17:3–7.) In order that this generation might understand the significance of this important ordinance, the Prophet used the word baptize in the translation.

The word Bible is used eleven times in the Book of Mormon, all within four verses of one chapter. It comes from the Greek biblion, meaning “books,” and other similar ancient roots. In Joseph Smith’s time, as well as today, it was the title or synonym for the Hebrew and Greek scriptural record.

The primary word for a record or book in the ancient Hebrew is Sepher. It is translated 185 times in the Old Testament as “book,” which, as mentioned earlier, comes from Old English. Thus, in the Bible we read of the “book of the generations” (Gen. 5:1), “book of the covenant” (Ex. 24:7), “book of the law” (Josh. 1:8), “book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (1 Kgs. 14:19), and “a roll of a book” (Jer. 36:2). Even though the word book was not known in Old Testament times, it was used in the translation to communicate an idea best understood by the use of that expression.

The word book is found seventy-eight times in the Book of Mormon, and the noun record is used ninety-eight times. In some instances, these words are used to describe what we know as the Bible—the “book” brought by the “Gentiles” to this land was “a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord” (1 Ne. 13:20–23); and “the book which thou beheld proceeding out of the mouth of the Jew” (1 Ne. 14:23). The fact that Joseph Smith used the word Bible at one point should not be surprising; he undoubtedly wanted to make sure there would be no misunderstanding about which specific record was being referred to.

“And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.

“But thus saith the Lord God: O fools, they shall have a Bible; and it shall proceed forth from the Jews, mine ancient covenant people. And what thank they the Jews for the Bible which they receive from them? …

“Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?

“Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.” (2 Ne. 29:3–4, 6, 10.)

The intent of the message in the ancient record is clear, because it is after the manner of our language so we might understand.

Are activities committees optional? Can they initiate activities, or do they simply carry out activities initiated by ward and stake leaders?

Keith Engar, chairman of the General Activities Committee. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley stated it best: “There should be an Activities Committee in every ward and stake.” (Regional Representatives’ seminar, 3 Apr. 1981.) Well-planned weekday activities should be an integral part of each Church unit, and should provide ongoing and attractive alternatives to the undesirable activities available elsewhere. Many testimonies of the gospel have had their beginnings in drama, speech, dance, sport, music, camp, and other social and recreational activities sponsored by the Church.

In some wards and stakes of the Church, the meetinghouse is a place Church members can go to participate in activities and fellowship one another throughout the week. It is a place where families can participate in weeknight activities together, whether in family dances, roadshows, speech festivals, music activities, or sports activities. Wards and stakes which do not provide ongoing, meaningful activities invite their people to look elsewhere to satisfy their needs for recreation.

One function of the ward or stake activities committee is to initiate activities that reach across organizational lines and meet the needs of all age groups. As the ward activities committee chairman, cultural arts director, and physical activities director meet regularly, they may discuss how to best serve the ward or stake to meet those needs. When an activity is proposed by the committee, the activities committee chairman takes the proposal to the appropriate council for approval. He or she already sits on the councils that plan activities for the ward: the bishopric youth council and the ward council.

For example, the ward activities committee may discuss the need to unify the ward, and propose several activities in which people of all ages would participate together, such as a sports night, a ward dance, and a talent festival. The activities committee chairman would then take the proposal to the ward council. Upon approval of the proposal, the activities committee chairman would then ask various specialists on the activities committee to plan the activities. If a specialist in each of those specific activities has not been called for the ward, the chairman of the activities committee may recommend to the bishopric ward members to be called to organize each activity. Once approved, each specialist would then work directly with the appropriate activities committee executive (cultural arts or physical activities director) to plan the activity.

Stake activities are planned in the stake council meeting, and youth activities are planned in the stake Young Men/Young Women meeting. The stake activities committee chairman is a member of both committees and may be asked to implement the plans made by the committees.

Calendaring is crucial to the success of each activity. One of the most important responsibilities of the activities committee is to prepare a yearly calendar of all activities and to schedule facilities for them. Included on the calendar should be all Church-sponsored events, presentations, activities, and special programs, as well as important school and community events that Church members might attend.

As an unmarried member of the Church, what can I do to initiate and maintain lasting relationships with other people?

Dee Hadley, a marriage and family counselor and a teacher at the institute of religion adjacent to the University of Utah. I have observed that members of the Church who have enduring relationships with others usually have developed the following characteristics:

1. They are comfortable with the Lord. When we feel secure with the Lord and confident that we are in good standing with him, we can feel secure with ourselves and with others. This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect before we can have satisfying, lasting relationships—but rather that we are on sound spiritual footing, that we are working toward becoming Christlike, and that we trust the Lord’s mercy and his grace. Then, rejoicing in His goodness and knowing that we are acceptable to Him, we can confidently reach out to others.

2. They are comfortable with themselves. When a young man who isn’t sure of himself goes on a date, he will ask in a hundred verbal and nonverbal ways if he is acceptable. “Are you sure you want to go to this movie?” “Do you really like my car?” “Would you rather go somewhere else to eat?” “Are you sure your father likes me?”

This constant need for reassurance and approval puts the focus on ourselves and prevents us from focusing on the needs of others. This lack of self-confidence may lead to selfishness. When the focus is on self, it is easy to begin manipulating others—a date, a roommate, a spouse, friends, children—to gain reassurance and approval.

On the other hand, if we have self-confidence we don’t need constant reassurance and can therefore concentrate on the needs of others, which in turn encourages lasting friendships.

3. They are concerned about others. I have found that the people who have the greatest happiness are those who enjoy doing things for other people—not out of a sense of duty, but out of a genuine desire to help them. They enjoy being involved in the lives of other people and do all they can to make them feel accepted, needed, and important. They possess an uncanny awareness of the needs of others and can lose themselves in the joy of their involvement in the lives of those they love, as did the Savior.

They are also sensitive to feelings. They are honest with others and are careful not to mislead them or manipulate their emotions.

4. They are committed to their friends. Any human relationship requires commitment from both parties. Each must be willing to invest time and energy—with no guarantee that the investment will bring reward. People who are successful in finding and keeping friends are willing to take such risks. They don’t hold back—emotionally or in time and energy—waiting for the other person to give first.

5. They are able to communicate effectively. People who have good relationships don’t see communication as a “win-lose” process. Many of us have difficulty because, in our communication, winning or being right seems more important to us than maintaining the friendship. This is particularly true in courtship and marriage. We easily assume that our point of view is most accurate and that we need to “convert” others to it. When we think like this, manipulative tactics seem acceptable, and true understanding rarely occurs.

We may even jump to faulty conclusions: “You’re not acting the way I want you to. Either you must have misunderstood me, or you don’t really love me.” Of course, reality teaches us that others may well understand and love us and still not do what we want them to do.

6. They are appropriately affectionate. A few years ago President Kimball arrived early for a speaking appointment at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion. Many students gathered around to shake his hand, and he took their hands in both of his. Tears streamed down their cheeks as they felt the prophet’s warmth and affection. This appropriate, nonexploitive warmth fostered great feelings of closeness.

In any healthy, long-lasting relationship, affection is an essential element—not as an end in itself, but as an expression of genuine feeling. Speaking of affection in courtship, President Spencer W. Kimball has described an appropriate courtship kiss as “like the kiss between a mother and a son or a daughter and a father.” (In Sydney Australia Area Conference Report, 29 Feb. 1976, p. 55.) The key principle here is that appropriate affection is designed to say, “I love you. I honor and respect you.” It is never selfish or self-gratifying.

7. They are in love with life. If you look around and find people who seem exceptionally happy, you’ll find that they seem to really enjoy life. That doesn’t mean that life is easy for them, but it is clear that they enjoy it.

A great example is Diane Ellingson, a young Latter-day Saint, all-American gymnast who was paralyzed from the neck down in a fall while practicing for her debut as a professional. I have watched her since that tragic day and have seen in her someone who really loves life and enjoys what she can do. Although confined to a wheelchair, she has a positive, fun-loving attitude; she dates, speaks at firesides, and is teaching school.

People who love life have an adventurous spirit. They are willing to take risks in new ideas and exciting, wholesome activities. These people aren’t complacent—they make life happen rather than waiting for it. They attack assignments with an exciting, contagious zest for living. When they play, they play hard; when they work, they work hard. Their love of life gives them a sense of humor and at the same time enables them to treasure spiritual experiences deeply.

The characteristics I have listed are basic. To some, they may seem overly simple. Yet mastering them is a lifelong endeavor—one that can bring us the sweet joys of sharing loving relationships that endure.