FYI: For Your Information

Psychosomatic Illness

Psychosomatic illness is often called the sickness that is “just in your head.” Some people seem to “get sick” periodically in order to escape a task or situation that is feared or detested. Others actually break out in a rash or experience pain just before some major difficulty they are about to encounter.

Everyone knows that school, with its assignments and examinations, and employment, with its demand for excellence and deadlines, can produce stress. So Theodore Boyer, Jr., of Murray Branch in the Kentucky-Tennessee Mission, studied students at two universities who had been diagnosed by doctors at health centers as having psychosomatic illness. Ted wanted to learn as much as possible about psychomatic illness so that all of us, when we experience stress, could learn how to handle it.

The most stunning fact Ted learned was that 55 percent—over half—of all students reporting with psychosomatic illness dropped out of school during the first four weeks of the semester in which they were diagnosed as having psychosomatic illness. Why?

Here is at least one clue: Ted found that students whose homes were too far away from the university to allow frequent visits with parents and family experienced a higher incidence of psychosomatic illness than students whose homes were nearer the university. In other words, think twice about going far away to school!

Next, as expected, it was found that the closer the period of examinations, the higher the incidence of psychosomatic illness. But it was found that the illness increases just after final examinations are over, pointing out the short time-lapse that often occurs between tests and the letdown, perhaps of knowing that you didn’t do very well.

Another critical period for psychosomatic illness is at the beginning of the school year or semester, probably because of the stress of adjusting to a new location and making decisions affecting studies, money, and so forth.

Thus, it seems obvious that the person who makes quick contact with familiar settings—his new ward, his new bishop, location of Latter-day Saint friends with similar beliefs and values—will weather the storm of adjusting to the university much better than the person who strikes out on his own.

The Language of My Father

In 1967, at the site of Tel Arad in Israel, there was found an ostracon of particular importance to students of the Book of Mormon. Its significance has never been reported to the Mormon community. An ostracon—plural is ostraca—is a piece of broken pottery on which writing is found; it is the Near Eastern version of scratch paper. Upon examination, the text of this particular ostracon was found to be written in a combination of Hebrew letters and Egyptian hieratic symbols.

It has been determined that the ostracon was written just before 600 B.C., or about the time Lehi left for the new world. The ostracon’s text contains seventeen words, ten of which are written in Egyptian and seven in Hebrew. But only two of the Hebrew words have a Hebrew meaning. The others, surprisingly, are Egyptian words—written in the Hebrew alphabet! Why is this so important? If you remember, the Book of Mormon says that Lehi had “been taught in the language of the Egyptians.” (Mosiah 1:4.) The book also suggests that the language of Lehi may have been a combination of Hebrew and Egyptian. Nephi wrote: “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” (1 Ne. 1:2.)

Well, as scoffers will, many persons have pooh-poohed this aspect of the Book of Mormon story, claiming that no such combination of the two languages existed among the people of the Near East. The ostracon of Tel Arad proves differently. It proves that there were in Judea in the seventh century B.C. people who could write both Hebrew and Egyptian and that these two tongues were being intermingled.

Thus, when Nephi says that his father’s language was of the “learning of the Jews,” perhaps he is referring to the spoken language rather than the written language, which apparently was written in Egyptian script. Moroni said that the plates were written in “reformed Egyptian.” (Morm. 9:32–34.) The plates were probably written in Egyptian, but the words were not to be understood as Egyptian but as Hebrew words. This type of situation is supported—in reverse—by the Tel Arad ostracon, for while some of the script is Hebrew, most of the words in Hebrew letters have no meaning in that language, but rather have their meaning in the Egyptian language.

This finding is only one of many findings presently coming to light that tend to confirm the Book of Mormon story. Fortunately, however, no one has to wait for secular evidence to bear testimony of the Book of Mormon. All of us can know of its truthfulness through the ministration of the Holy Ghost and the testimony of the Spirit to our individual souls.

John A. Tvedtnes graduate student, University of Utah