When the boys return, with Laban’s servent Zoram, they find that Sariah, their mother, has been complaining about Lehi’s decision to drop everything and run to the wilderness. But what the description is odd:
For [Sariah] had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: “Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.”
“Visionary” today means far-seeing; it’s hardly derogatory. I’m assuming that it meant something different in Smith’s day.
There is some textual help, though: a cross reference in the on-line version of the Book of Mormon. It refers to Genesis 37.19: “And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.”
Slick. Really, a good con — this gives the indication that the Book of Mormon was a translation, and that the term used in 1 Nephi 5.2 is the same Hebrew word in Genesis 37.19. But it doesn’t all add up. To begin with, we have no way to determine what term was used in the original BoM because we don’t have the original text; all we have is a purported translation.
Not only that, but Mormon apologists can’t even agree on the original language used for the plates:
Latter-day Saint scholars have long been divided on the issue of the language in which the Book of Mormon is written. Some have proposed that the Nephite record was simply written in Egyptian, while others have suggested that the Nephite scribes used Egyptian script to write Hebrew text. While either of these is possible, this present study will elicit evidence for the latter.
Non-Latter-day Saint scholars and others have long scoffed at the idea that an Israelite group from Jerusalem should have written in Egyptian and mocked the term “reformed Egyptian” as nonsense. Since Joseph Smith’s time, we have learned a great deal about Egyptian and Israelite records and realize that the Book of Mormon was correct in all respects.
The ancient Egyptians used three types of writing systems. The most well known, the hieroglyphs (Greek for “sacred symbols”), comprised nearly 400 picture characters depicting things found in real life. A cursive script called hieratic (Greek for “sacred”) was also used, principally on papyrus. Around 700 B.C., the Egyptians developed an even more cursive script that we call demotic (Greek for “popular”), which bore little resemblance to the hieroglyphs. Both hieratic and demotic were in use in Lehi’s time and can properly be termed “reformed Egyptian.” From the account in Mormon 9:32, it seems likely that the Nephites further reformed the characters.
While it is clear that the Book of Mormon was written in Egyptian characters, scholars are divided on whether the underlying language was Egyptian or Hebrew. (Source)
There’s a lot in this passage, and not just the admission that there’s no consensus. Most striking is this statement: “Both hieratic and demotic were in use in Lehi’s time and can properly be termed ‘reformed Egyptian.'” I think this is called begging the question. The issue is whether or not there’s something called “reformed Egyptian,” and the authors of the paper simply assume it blithly.
Getting back to Nephi’s first book, the story continues with mother being comforted, everyone offering sacrifices of gratitude, and Lehi finally looking at the critical tablets brought back from Laban. They contain the books of Moses as well as Lehi’s fathers’ geneology, enabling Lehi to trace his lineage back to to the patriarch Jacob.
This should not be surprising, given the fact that Lehi and everyone are Jews.
Lehi gets excited — “filled with the Spirit” — and declares that all nations, all humans, in all times, should see these documents.
Chapter five sets up some heavy expectations: after all, Lehi himself said “Let everyone know.” But chapter six is a disappointment. It reads, in its entirety:
And now I, Nephi, do not give the genealogy of my fathers in this part of my record; neither at any time shall I give it after upon these plates which I am cwriting; for it is given in the record which has been kept by my father; wherefore, I do not write it in this work. For it sufficeth me to say that we are descendants of Joseph.And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. For the fulness of mine intent is that I may apersuade men to bcome unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. Wherefore, I shall give commandment unto my seed, that they shall not occupy these plates with things which are not of worth unto the children of men.
It’s growing increasingly difficult to take this book seriously.