Lecture 62:
Alma 46

TEACHINGS OF THE BOOK OF MORMON
Semester 3, Lecture 62
Alma 46
The Garment of Joseph
Religious Brotherhoods
We were talking about the battles and the scrolls. I didn’t bring over the book from the other office. I can give you the reference though, of course. We are told in [Alma 46:20] that [Moroni] waves his banner and summons the people to maintain this title upon the land, entering into a covenant with the Lord. In the IQM, the Battle Scroll, in column three, line four [we read]: “to maintain their title upon the land.” They make a covenant, and they not only come under the banner but they also sign their names. They all sign their names. When it says they entered into a covenant with the Lord, they did that in Qumran the same way. This was the ancient Jewish practice. Remember, we were talking about the practices that were carried out in the early days before the temple fell. When the temple fell in the days of Lehi, that ended everything. The rabbis didn’t like the temple; they didn’t want it to come back. The first thing they did, the learned men went and asked the emperor after Vespasian for permission to found a school at Jamnia across the Jordan. He gave them permission and that was the first rabbinical school. The rabbis aren’t priests. They teach the rabbinical learning which is another thing. They don’t have the rites of the temple anymore. But these people were the covenant people, and they signed up back in those days.

The people run to the banner in their armor in verse 21, and they do that in column four, line six the same way. When they rush to sign up, naturally they put on their armor. They have to be armed. “. . . rending their garments in token, or as a covenant.” That’s a very important thing, that rending their garments. This custom of rending the garments and the story of the two garments we’ll come to presently. It isn’t found in the Old Testament. In verse 21 they tear their garments. There was recently an article by Jonathan Z. Smith called “The Garments of Shame” in which he discusses this old Jewish custom of coming and rending your garments, putting them in a pile, and stamping on them. You say, “May we be trampled on if we break our covenants.” That’s exactly what they do here. You’ll find that article in the journal, History of Religions, 1966, p. 224. It’s the same custom we have here. Again, it’s not described in the Bible, but it’s the old Jewish custom.

Verse 21: “. . . rending their garments in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress [this is what you call a mystery, when you dramatize a thing and carry it out this way] the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments.”

The way Jonathan Z. Smith explains it, they trampled on their garments. In the next verse it says they trampled on them. “. . . and they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God . . . yea, he may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet . . .” So the garments of shame are both torn and stamped on, the two things they do here. The rending of the garments takes us back to the garment of Joseph, when he was outcast and despised of his brethren. Moroni tells us this story. He recalls an old tale that was known to the Jews; they knew all about it. He says, “. . . let us remember the words of Jacob before his death . . .” You won’t find those words in the Bible. Where does he tell these stories? Well, I’ll tell you where he tells them in just a second. Be patient; don’t leave. “. . . for behold [on his death bed], he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed. And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God and be taken unto himself, while the remainder of the seed of Joseph shall perish, even as the remnant of his garment.”

So half the garment perished and was rotten; the other half was preserved and had not decayed. So he was both sorrowful and joyful at the same time. “Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy in my son . . .” Now there’s a nice contradiction; he joys and sorrows at the same time. This is a classic statement here. Let’s see what Thaclabī has to say. We have the book of Thaclabī here. I am very lucky to have it. I have the only copy I have ever seen, although it’s fairly popular. It’s required reading in Moslem universities. I got this in quite fortuitous circumstances.

Ten days before the invasion of Normandy, which I knew all about because I was supposed to (I was the intelligence clerk for the 101st Airborne; we had to be the first ones) I blew every penny I had in George Salby’s shop on Great Russell Street across the street from the British Museum. George Salby is a great big man who has this marvelous bookstore. He has no shelves; he just piles them on the floor like that in great piles. He gets them in that way. He buys whole libraries, and he knows where every book is. It’s marvelous; he can put his hand on any book in the pile. Two Arabists by the name of Howells and Ellis had both died within the month, and he bought both their libraries. So I blew all my money that I had saved in Claremont. I was like a kid in a candy shop with all these things that you couldn’t get anywhere else. It was marvelous, and, of course, Tha>lab just sent me spinning. The interesting thing is I gave him a check for everything I had. He trusted me, and eighteen months later when the war was over he sent all the stuff to me. Not a single book was missing. He could have got away with anything. He trusted me, I trusted him, and it was a perfect deal. I don’t know whether I’d trust people like that today. I got it all. He sent me the whole library, and I have them—except those I have given away.

When the Persians were converted to Islam (they are the terrible Shiites of today that make all the trouble), they had been fire worshippers before. They knew nothing of the prophets, etc. Islam is based on the Bible. The prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are constantly mentioned in the Koran. They had never heard of them. They didn’t know who they were. So the great Tha>lab made a famous commentary. This is the accounts of the prophets, how to explain them. His name means fox. He died in the year 1036. He made this survey at the end of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century so the Persians would know what they were talking about when they read the Koran, who the prophets were and what they did.

Where did he get his information? Well, Jerusalem fell at the time of Lehi and again in the time of the Romans. At the time of the Dead Sea Scrolls, they went through the same routine again. As it tells us in the Book of Mormon, Jerusalem has often fallen and been destroyed and has come back again. This is a routine. After the time of the Romans in the year 70 A.D. when it fell, most of them fled to the one safe place, the very tolerant and receptive Persian Empire. They fled to the Persian Empire at that time and were accommodated there. So there you find settlements of the Jews. What Thaclabī did was to go out and visit these old settlements where he could find the old-fashioned Jews and ask them for stories about the prophets. They would tell him, and he was very careful to document who his informers were. Sometimes he would go back five to eight generations to find out where a story came from. But this is what the Jews used to tell before the fall of the temple, and this is one of the stories that Thaclabī picked up. It’s a very important one. He explains this story of the garment of Joseph.

Well, he is talking here about the shirt of Joseph and the two things. This is what he says: “And when Joseph made himself known to his brethren, he asked them about his father. `What happened to our father, Jacob?'” He was in Egypt and he was the important man. The brethren had been brought before him, and he said, “What happened to my father after I left?” They said, “He lost his eyesight from weeping.” Then Joseph gave them the garment. He had the good half of the garment with him. That’s the part that clung to him and he still wore. Joseph handed them the garment, which is called the qamīs. Our word chemise comes from that. “And this garment was the garment of the Garden of Eden. It had the weave and the pattern of the janna.” That is the Garden of Eden. It is usually rendered just as paradise, before man fell. “It had in it the breath of the garden.” This is important. They believed that garments retained their odor. A person would come to you and say, “You come from Cordoba; let me smell the air of your garments that I may enjoy Cordoba.” The idea is that the air is more important than water. They always talk about the air of a place before they talk about the water—I guess because they didn’t have any water. They had varieties of air.

“. . . so that it never rotted.” It used the word decayed. He saw the part that never decayed. The half he had was the part that “never rotted, never decayed, and its threads never deteriorated. That was its true state.” It kept its true state. There were two parts. “. . . the remnant of the coat of Joseph which was preserved and had not decayed, whereas the other half shall perish even as the remnant of this garment.” It was decayed and rotten. We’ll hear about that one in a minute here. “Joseph gave that garment to them [this is important here:], and this was a garment that had belonged to Abraham.”

The idea of a garment of many colors is an invention. If you look in your Bible every time it mentions many colors the word colors (even in the commentary) is in italics because it is put in there by modern editors. It’s found in no ancient source. It’s not a garment of many colors at all. A garment of certain marks is the term that’s used here. We’ll see what it is in a second. “This garment had belonged to Abraham, and it already had a long history.” It’s history was lengthy because it went back to the Garden of Eden, you see. That’s the garment; it’s the only one. Just as we treat the story of Cain and Abel, we trivialize this. We say, “Joseph was the youngest kid, so his father favored him and gave him a pretty garment of many colors.” There is no mention in any ancient source of a garment of many colors. That’s an invention of modern editors trying to explain it. But here it was the garment he gave him. It was the garment of the priesthood. No wonder they were jealous of him, they being the elder brothers and he the younger in the patriarchal line coming down from Abraham. This garment had belonged to Abraham and had come down to Joseph instead of to the other brethren.

You always get lost among these little tiny things here. “And he said to them, ‘Go with this very garment and place it upon the face of my father, and his sight will return to him.'” It’s a miraculous garment. “And then come back to me and bring all the family with you.” So they did. This is when the Israelites went into Egypt. They brought Jacob back with them, and the whole family came back to Egypt. Remember the story of Joseph and his brethren. “And when they had turned their faces toward Canaan and finally arrived there, their father, Jacob, said to them, ‘Behold, I detect in this garment the odor . . .'” Rīḥa is smell or odor. It’s the same word as ruakh and the English word reek. Reeky is smoke; it’s Rauch in German. They used to call Edinburgh Auld Reekie, because it was a smoky city; they burned coal there. It’s the same word we use. The Hebrew word ruakh is the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. The same word in Arabic is rīḥa. It’s always feminine. It also means wind. In the Dead Sea Scrolls it has led to lots of controversy because when it talks about the rīh, does it mean spirit or wind? For example, in the story of Abraham in Egypt, an evil spirit has come. Or is it an evil wind? The Jewish scholars don’t like “evil spirit,” so they change it to “evil wind.” It can be read “evil wind” all right, but it obviously means (and they admit it) an evil spirit came upon Pharaoh.

This means “I detect, I perceive, I note.” (He’s blind, you see.) “. . . the odor, the spirit, the smell of Joseph, if you do not think me out of my head from old age and a bit barmy.” It talks about the spirit that is in it, the east wind that has brought it, etc. And this is a very important thing: “When they placed it upon the face of Jacob, he smelled also the smell of the Garden of Eden. For behold there is not in all the earth another garment that has that smell in it.” This is a unique thing; this is the garment. “For there is not in any other garment on earth of the winds of the garden of Eden, unless it is in this one garment.” So you can see why the brethren were so jealous; it was the garment of the priesthood. The commentator says he recognized that it was Joseph’s garment by feeling it first because it had three marks in it.

What they translate as “coat of many colors” is first ketōnet. Our word cotton is related to that. Ketōnet is a cotton shirt. The Hebrew is ketōnet passim. That means it reached down to his wrists and his ankles. The Hebrew actually tells us that it was of adequate length. A garment which is passim means a long garment which reaches down to the wrists and to the ankles. It’s quite different [from the other story]; there’s no mention of color there of any kind. The Vulgate says it was tunicam polymitam, which means it was worked very subtly with extra threads. Polymitam means “extra thread work, special embroidery, special technique.” The Greek is chitona poikila. Poikilos means “tatooed, embroidered, elaborate work.” A derived term of poikila is “of various colors, with spots or dots.” But it means with marks on something. Here it says he knew it because it had three marks on it. He recognized it from the marks. Of course, they couldn’t have been colored marks because he was blind when he felt the marks. He recognized it as belonging to his son Joseph.

Then Judah says, “It was I who took the shirt which was dipped in blood to Jacob, and it was I who reported to him that Joseph had been eaten by a bear.” That’s what caused him such terrible sorrow. He asked Joseph, “Therefore, to atone for that let me be the one to take the sound part to him.” Another source tells us that it was Judah. (I’ll get this right—Monday morning is an awful time. All the meetings, Sunday School lesson, priesthood lesson, fireside all at once and then no sleep.) “It was I who took the shirt that was dabbled in blood and gave it to Jacob and made him cry his eyes out; therefore, it is only right that I should be the one permitted to take this whole part of the shirt to him that his rejoicing in receiving it may be as great as his sorrow was in receiving the other, and joy would follow sorrow.”

Notice that his joy would be as great as his sorrow was. It says here [in Alma 46:25], “Now behold, this giveth my soul sorrow; nevertheless, my soul hath joy . . .” It’s the same story he is telling here. The only person that reports this anywhere is Thaclabī. You won’t find it in the Talmud. You won’t find it in the Midrash or the Mishnah. You won’t find it in the Bible. Where did Joseph Smith pick it up? He tells us it was an old story, familiar to the Nephites. He says here [in Alma 46:24] “. . . let us remember the words of Jacob.” He is telling the same story here.

Now let’s see what we left out here. Oh, the garment was rent. There’s no tradition anywhere that the garment was rent, except the Arabs again have a famous story: A student was working for a master as an apprentice, and they said to him, “Does your master feed you well? Does he care for you well?”

The student says, “Verily, if my master owned a house full of needles and Jacob came to him and begged for the use of a needle for one hour that he might sew up the torn garment of his son Joseph, he would refuse to lend it to him. That’s the kind of man I’m working for.” The point is that it takes for granted the torn garment that Jacob wanted to sew up, that Joseph’s garment was torn in two parts. The one part was spoiled, and one part never rotted. It belonged to Abraham, and it went back to Adam. In the tradition it was the garment of the garden, and it had the marks on it. That’s why Jacob recognized it, and that’s why the brethren were jealous obviously. It was the greatest favor he could possibly give him. This is a great thing. Here we get something in the Book of Mormon that really “sews things up.”

Then it goes on to his dialogue with death. It says all this happened on Jacob’s death bed. This is a dialogue between Jacob and death, which is a very important incidentally. It has to do with another subject. He says, “. . . let us remember the words of Jacob, before his death, for behold, he saw that a part of the remnant of the coat of Joseph was preserved and had not decayed.” It uses the very words here. There was no saqīm, which means a weakening of fiber, a sickness, a breakdown of any kind. “And he said—Even as this remnant of garment of my son hath been preserved, so shall a remnant of the seed of my son be preserved by the hand of God.” He makes this comparison. This is the other source: “The people came running, rending their garments, putting them in a pile and stepping on them.” That’s Jonathan Smith’s article, which was in 1966. The first person to notice the importance of this treading on the garments was in 1966. All these things are here, these old Jewish customs.

He says don’t get the “good guy” illusion here because of this. The remnant that perishes may even be our descendants, even ourselves. Don’t think that just because we are not Lamanites this doesn’t apply to us. Verse 27: “And now who knoweth but what the remnant of the seed of Joseph, which shall perish as his garment, are those who have dissented from us? Yea, and even it shall be ourselves if we do not stand fast in the faith of Christ.”

Then the banner is the type of the nation, as we saw before, the type of Joseph’s garment with the garment of Kawe. In verse 26 it says, “Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.” They had the written document; it was among the brass plates probably. But that was the story. That’s the way language is always used in the Book of Mormon—as pah, “the speech, the lip.” He calls it an old story. He says, “Let us remember the words of Jacob” when he starts out. Then he ends up by saying, “Now behold, this was the language of Jacob.” They had the records.

Then in verse 30 Amalickiah makes the standard move. The dissenting party seeks support in another country, as they do today. Cuba seeks support form the Soviets, and Pinochet seeks support from us. They divide that way. With North and South Korea, one seeks support from China and the other from the United Nations, mostly the United States. In ancient times the terrible general, Joab, went down and conquered Arabia. Hadad was the Arab prince down there. He fled to Egypt and married Pharaoh’s daughter. That Pharaoh was Sheshonk whose other daughter married King Solomon. The three greatest buildings Solomon built were the temple, his own palace, and the palace he built for the daughter of the king of Egypt. They were both sparring to get Egypt’s support in this division. When he [Joab] caused the trouble, Hadad went and married another daughter at the court of Egypt and started stirring up trouble for Solomon. This always happens. You go and make an alliance with a stronger nation, and then there’s trouble. In verse 30 Amalickiah skips out. It’s too much for him. Notice, he’s definitely in the minority. It says people don’t like him anyway.

Verse 29: “And it came to pass that when Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than the Amalickiahites—and he also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause.” He hadn’t convinced them completely, you see. He wasn’t the popular party anymore. His own people were doubting it. He got the message, and he skipped out. He was an opportunist and a very shrewd man. You see what he was going to do. Moroni “thought to cut off the people of Amalickiah.” The one thing he didn’t want them to do was to go and join the Lamanites, of course. This was a standard procedure. The Lamanites were more fed up on war than the Nephites were. They didn’t want any at all because they had lost to Moroni. Moroni knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger. He didn’t succeed in doing that, but he got the king on his side. Then the king started stirring things up. Then all he had to do was bump off the king and take over. We’ll see what happened. [They thought] if Amalickiah goes out and gets the Lamanites with him, we are going to be in real trouble. That was very alarming. Therefore, the only thing he could do was to march out and “cut off the course of Amalickiah in the wilderness” as quickly as he possibly could, while he was still in the wilderness before he had made contact with the Lamanites. “And it came to pass that he did according to his desires, and marched forth into the wilderness, and headed the armies of Amalickiah.” They were cut off, but he skipped out and fled with a small band.

It reminds you of Marcos and people like that. We have dictators do this all the time. What do you do with the rest of them, the ones that had surrendered, that he had cut off? The real troublemaker and a small number of his men got over and joined the Lamanites. Moroni had plenary power; he could do anything he wanted during this crisis until the issue was settled. We are told that Amalickiah’s own people were doubtful as to the justice of their cause, so they were not going to make much trouble. They were going to surrender willingly. They did because they had doubts all along. Only a few held out. They were still the enemy under arms. They refused to make any concessions at all, so the battle went on as far as they were concerned. They continued fighting. He wasn’t executing prisoners of war or anything like that. He was just continuing the battle, as he does later with Zerahemnah. The battle would continue until the opposition was stopped. Whoever wanted to stop was free to do so. As I said, this was not the killing of prisoners of war or anything like that. “. . . whomsoever of the Amalickiahites that would not enter into a covenant to support the cause of freedom . . . he caused to be put to death [in other words, if you don’t sign the surrender you are still at war]; and there were but few who denied the covenant of freedom.”

The point is they were out to rouse the Lamanites and had only to surrender to be free. Only a small number still held out. It was a very dangerous situation, and he took this desperate action and did overwhelm them. All they had to do was drop their swords and they were all right, but they wouldn’t do it. Then he planted the standard of liberty on all the towers. Was he forcing people to be free? (I used to say Ernest Wilkinson was going to write a book on free agency and how to enforce it.) What he did give them was peace, but it only lasted four years. Then all hell broke out again. There was not a permanent peace; things were still very tense here. The constitution of Benjamin and Mosiah guaranteed absolute freedom of speech and opinion, so they were able to continue here [for four years] with much peace and rejoicing.

Now we have an extremely interesting note here. Verse 40: “And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by the nature of the climate.” It says by nature of the climate there were certain diseases, especially fevers, in the land. They were able to get the best of them by many plants and roots. You notice how desperately we are searching in the jungles of Central and South America for roots. We know there are thousands of possible remedies that are disappearing every day. They say every fifteen seconds [another] species of plant disappears forever the way they are cutting down those forests there at tremendous rates to make grazing land for McDonalds. That’s where the meat goes, incidentally. But notice how the Book of Mormon is ahead here with fevers, etc. The plants and roots which God had prepared could conquer the fevers. They were able to control fevers because of the very good remedies they had from these tropical plants. Quinine wasn’t discovered until 1840. Nobody knew that the quinine bark would cure these fevers until then. They didn’t know what could cure them. They didn’t know about mosquitoes or anything else. Again, here we have a wonderful insight. There are these occasional flashes of background in the Book of Mormon, which for the most part concentrate intently on the issues of salvation. But here it just happens to note in passing (it’s good to note) that it was fever country and there were diseases to which men were subject by the nature of the climate, which was tropical and humid. The fevers were held under control by the most excellent quality of the plants.

Consider the astonishing wealth of evidence in this one chapter here. The question immediately arises, can Joseph keep up the pace? We could have spent the whole semester on this chapter with all these things. Can he keep making so many “bull’s eyes,” one after the other, things that nobody would have guessed back then. As I said, quinine, the first remedy to be discovered, was in 1840. But they knew all about this in the Book of Mormon. It was tropical, and they knew what to do about it. For the first time within the last ten years we are suddenly beginning to realize that as those tropical forests go we will lose probably the best remedies possible for many diseases. They talk about curing AIDS and all sorts of things, if we can only have time to test the numerous plants and roots.

Now we have a very important thing. In this chapter of the Book of Mormon four different cultures are mentioned—four sharply marked cultures, which are hostile to each other. They are all related. We are going to list them this way. First of all, you will find the brotherhoods. We’ll call them that. These are very ancient societies that you will find from the earliest times. The first I’m going to call “the brotherhoods.” That’s what Santillana calls them, for example—the brotherhoods that Newton identified himself with. You recognize them in the Book of Mormon; they flourish. They are the Rechabites, the people that flee out into the desert. But they don’t flee disorganized, just to become desert wanderers, food gatherers, or anything like that. They are organized, and they form a closed society. Of course, this is Lehi and Nephi and Mosiah. Remember, Nephi leaves as soon as they land in the new world and goes out. They are very well organized. They build a temple. They keep the ordinances, etc. They are a brotherhood, brothers and sisters. It tells us how they lived and it describes their acts by the Waters of Mormon. It describes the Waters of Mormon so beautifully. There’s an ecstatic passage about the Waters of Mormon, and there is just such a passage in the scroll about the beauties of the place where they went out to settle. It mentions the trees that grow there, the groves. Remember, it keeps repeating how beautiful it is because there is salvation there.

The people of Ammon were the same way, very well organized. They were living the gospel. They are subdued minorities that are described in the Book of Mormon. They never dominate in the Book of Mormon as the humble followers of Christ. There are always a few humble followers of Christ. You find these everywhere, such as the Egyptian phylai. The knowledge of Egypt was not general. It was not known to [the people]. It was always reserved to the phylai of priests, certain groups of priests. They call them the s3. A beautiful example of that is from the two Petosirises. You will find a couple of dozen passages right out of the Old Testament, way back earlier than that. They won’t accept that. Lefebure, who made a thorough study of Petosiris II, said it was just a coincidence that they taught the same thing. The Egyptian priests were organized, and the knowledge was secret. They had ordinances into which you would enter. It was not all secret. They preached the gospel, but there was certain knowledge they kept to themselves. They didn’t shout from the housetops.

Incidentally, I have written more than one article on each one of these cultures in Gentile journals. On this one I would certainly [include] “Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum,” a study in the Revue de Qumran on the Qumran society, which was just such a society.1 Then we have other cases like the forty-day ministry of Christ. During the forty days after the resurrection of Christ, we are told he taught the apostles in secret, and he taught them in secret before. They said, why do you speak to us openly? You speak to all the rest of them in parables. Why do you speak to them in parables and speak to us openly in the clear? “He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.” (Matthew 13:11.) It was a closed society with these instructions. They were the brethren and called each other “brother and sister.” They were the humble followers of Christ. These same societies existed throughout the ancient world. The Egyptians are a classic example. They are Hermetic societies. Just how old are they? That’s much debated about. We say something is hermetically sealed. Hermes was the Egyptian Thoth, and in the beginning he taught the books of wisdom. Secret societies of holy men were formed around him. Hermetic literature appeared very suddenly in the fifteenth century and got the Europeans all excited. They thought, this is Hermes; this is the old knowledge that goes back to the beginning. Then in 1613 Casaubon showed that it was probably a production of the Christian period, first or second century, and wasn’t ancient at all. But now we know it was ancient because it just picked up an ancient thread and elaborated on that. You find Hermetic societies all doing about the same sort of things. It means going back to Hermes, the original wise man who taught in the beginning. I have the whole book of the Hermetic writings. They teach things that are very familiar in the gospel. There’s nothing strange about them.

Then along with that are the Orphic societies. We have the Orphic gold plates, for example. They are very much like Lehi’s story. Brother Wilfred Griggs wrote an article about that. And, of course, we all know about the Pythagoreans, who lived in sacred communities and gave us the Pythagorean theory. They studied cosmology. They all studied these things. They all dressed in white, had common meals, and lived with their families there in sacred societies. They inspired the rage of all the others living around them and were persecuted and exterminated for that reason. They lived in the wealthy, lavish society of southern Italy at that time. Then there was Plato’s Lyceum. It’s always this idea of a group of philosophers or men in the know, those who understand, those who have been initiated. If you don’t understand what they are doing, if you are not in on it or are not interested, you can’t be initiated because you wouldn’t qualify. You wouldn’t want it; you don’t know anything about it.

A good example of that is “The Passing of the Church,” that article in Church History [June 1961, pp. 131-54].2 That passed away. The Catholics said the gospel had to be preached from the housetops. There was no initiation; there were no secrets in the early church at all. Well, don’t fool yourself; there were all kinds. After the resurrection he came and taught them. For the first time they knew what he was talking about. Both in 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon and at the end of Mark, beginning with Moses and the prophets he laid all the scriptures open to them. Then for the first time their eyes were opened. Then they understood for the first time, and this was after the resurrection. We don’t have a word of the sermon he taught them. Anytime you find a very early Christian writing it is almost bound to begin, “This is the secret teaching that Jesus gave the apostles after the resurrection.” The people that have that knowledge call themselves Gnostics (the Knowers). Gnostics are fake Hermetics; they are fake brotherhoods. They did everything to fake. We have a great literature [on them]. The second century is the century of heresy. It’s not the century of enlightenment. Epiphanius has listed 88 sects of Gnostics of that time, each one claiming that it was the original church founded by Jesus and it was based on the secret knowledge that he gave the apostles after the resurrection. They were the Gnostics. This recognized the existence of the brotherhoods always.

Then there are the Seven Wise Men. If you go back to archaic times, there’s the idea that there were Seven Wise Men. They came together once every seven years and compared notes. Then they went out seeking and spreading wisdom, spreading healing throughout the human race. These were the sophoi, the wise men that traveled. They are connected with the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. They formed a sacred society, and Qumran is mixed up with the sacred society. Many people claimed that they were the Seven Sleepers. They fell asleep in a cave and slept for several hundred years and then came alive again. As I said, in 1964 I went out to Raqim, south of Amman there, with Auni Dajani, who was the head of archaeology for Jordan. We visited the settlement and it was just like Qumran; they had everything there. But I went back ten years later and what had happened? They were building a huge mosque there. They have changed the whole thing, and they say the original Seven Sleepers were here. They have made a great Moslem shrine of it now. It shows how you can make a holy place overnight like that. They have invented the whole thing. But they are called “the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus,” so I don’t think they would be the Seven Sleepers of Palestine. I wrote a long article on that in the Revue de Qumran.3

Then among the Moslems you have the same society. They are the Sufis. And remember Abraham had such a society, the 318 which he circumcised and took into the covenant. You couldn’t be a follower of Abraham unless you were taken into the covenant. The Cabala is very important. (You can spell it almost any way you want. They usually spell it with one l today.) Cabal means to receive—what you have received back from Adam. [They claim] that it is the original knowledge, the gospel preached by Adam, then handed down through Seth to Noah, Enoch, Abraham and right down to our times. This is called the Cabala, the received knowledge that went back to the beginning. They form themselves into closed societies which are very secret. They study very advanced knowledge, astronomy mostly. That’s was you get in the book of Abraham. In the West they flourished as the Cathari, the Bogomils, the Waldensians, etc. It’s very interesting. When I was on a mission I was in the Black Forest most of the time. I came upon a man who said he was one of the Waldensians. He asked me to go out and visit their people. They lived in a little village way out of the way. Even the bus didn’t go there. All the names in the cemetery were French. They were Waldensians who had fled in the thirteenth century and had lived there ever since. They claimed to be a Brotherhood, and that’s why they were driven out. We have these societies in Europe. A book that has caused quite a flurry recently is called Holy Blood, Holy Grail, by three English BBC investigators. It goes into that particular subject. You can get it in the Bookstore.

Then in modern times Utopian societies flourished that tried to get back to that. In America they reached their peak in the 1840s. There were half a dozen very much like the Church. In fact, [section 49] of the Doctrine and Covenants deals specifically with the Shakers. They were one of those groups. There’s a recent volume of National Geographic on the Shakers. They reached their peak in 1840-50. One of the members of the Church had been an active Shaker, and the brethren were sent to the Shakers to preach them the gospel, but were told, “Don’t let them preach it to you.” Today there are twelve members left of the Shakers. They still have their society. They ate at a common table and had all their things in common, etc. They had all these idealistic ways. They believed that they had to live in complete chastity; therefore, they never married. But that wasn’t why they dwindled away to nothing. They grew very rapidly and were very popular when people wanted to retreat and join and finish their lives with them. That didn’t stop it; they just withered up is all. So many of these, like the Amana Society, are little and rather picturesque today—the Owenites and various model communities in New England. The first spiritualists started out in the same way. They started out in Maine and then they moved to Rochester, New York, right near Joseph Smith. Within ten years they had ten million members. Today there is nothing left of them. They tried to be these secret societies. The most interesting was [led by] a man called Jung-Stilling in the eighteenth century. He got three million acres of land from the Czar Alexander I of Russia for his people. They got themselves covered wagons and started migrating. Incidentally, the three million acres were in Bessarabia on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. It was good land, and they started to go there and do their pioneering. He was going to find a new Zion. There was all this talk about Zion. On the way he had a vision that told him that was not the place. Another people would do it later. They would go in the opposite direction and would be led by a man with his name, Jung. So that ended the movement. He became a very famous mystic at the time.

Even in primitive societies you have fratres and clans. They are divided. The Hopis are divided into the Antelope Clan, the Snake Clan, the Bear Clan and the Turtle Clan. They have their secrets, their initiations, etc. They are brotherhoods. You find these brotherhoods everywhere. And then you find monastic movements, beginning with monasticism in the fourth century with St. Pachomius and naturally St. Anthony—then going on to Cluny and the Cistercians. They became rich and powerful, but they were closed societies of brotherhood living together, sharing secret knowledge with initiates, etc.

Lehi was contemporary with the Buddha. Everywhere you have Buddhist monasteries all over the East, as you know—the monastic movements of the Buddhist brethren, succeeding the Lamas brethren, who were earlier. They are all the same thing. They live in these great monasteries. They think they are living the life of angels, a heavenly existence, etc. They are the brotherhoods. You find them Christian; you find them Buddhist, and you find them among the Moslems. This is our Type I, the brotherhoods, and they exist in the Book of Mormon. We want to consider the others because they have relevance.

1. Reprinted in Mormonism and Early Christianity, vol. 4 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1987), 10–44.

2. Reprinted in Mormonism and Early Christianity, 168–208.

3. Hugh W. Nibley, “Qumran and the Companions of the Cave,” Revue de Qumran 5 (April 1965): 177–98; reprinted in Old Testament and Related Studies, vol. 1 in CWHN, 253–84.