This Text Is Hebrew

Derk Palfreyman, Utah, USA

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    After reading the Old Testament several years ago, I gained an interest in its teachings, especially the writings of Isaiah, and continued to study it. In 2010, I found myself seated on a flight next to a Jewish rabbi. I started a conversation by asking him about some passages in Isaiah. As our conversation progressed, we discussed the importance of priesthood authority as understood in the Old Testament.

    The rabbi asked me where members of my church get their priesthood authority. I seized the opportunity to tell him about Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. We discussed the translation of the Book of Mormon and its purpose as “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

    The rabbi was intrigued. He asked how old Joseph was when he had the First Vision. When I told him Joseph was 14, about the same age as Samuel of the Old Testament, he replied that many prophets were called in their youth. He said it was consistent that God would call Joseph Smith in his teen years.

    I opened my scriptures, and together we read the testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses. I told him that several of the witnesses had left the Church but that none ever denied having seen the golden plates.

    “How could they leave the Church after seeing an angel and the plates?” he asked.

    “I remember that the children of Israel built a golden calf shortly after witnessing the parting of the Red Sea,” I replied.

    He turned to 1 Nephi and began to read. He stopped and said, “This text is Hebrew.”

    He then explained why the text appeared to be an English translation of Hebrew. I told him the book was written by a tribe of Israel. I cited Ezekiel 37:15–20, which speaks of the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph. We agreed that the stick of Judah represents the Bible, and I explained that the stick of Joseph is the Book of Mormon.

    After our three-hour conversation the rabbi expressed an interest in obtaining a copy of the Book of Mormon. When I returned home, I sent him a copy personalized with my written testimony. I am thankful that my efforts to study the Old Testament had prepared me to discuss the scriptures and share my testimony with my new friend, a rabbi.