Thursday, July 1, 2010


I have finally finished Abraham in Egypt. I think if I can finish this monster, I can finish any book. I have a much deeper appreciation for the great patriarch. There is so much to learn from his life. I am also grateful for Joseph Smith. This book is further proof is his prophetic calling. The way the Book of Abraham fits into Egyptian history, other Abrahamic texts found after Joseph's translations, and history in general further witnesses to me that he is a prophet.
Great book. Challenging, but great.
Now...on to something a little more mindless for a while.

The Trial of Sarai

I'm not going to insert a specific quote on this post, but rather write some of my thoughts on a concept Nibley brings up regarding Abraham's wife Sarai.
In the story of Abraham and his wife traveling in Egypt, Pharaoh sees and desires Sarai. There are actually a few reasons for this besides her beauty, but you can read the book to learn more about that....Abraham is commanded by the Lord to tell Sarai to say she is his sister rather than her wife. Abraham, however does not command Sarai to say so, but rather requests, "I pray thee" in other words, "as a courtesy to me" to say she is his sister and because if she does so, "my soul shall live because of thee." The Genesis account tells us that Sarai did so and a great plague came upon Pharaoh's household. He realizes she is really Abraham's wife and the story is over.
However, according to other Abrahamic histories, there is more to the story to show this is really a trial of Sarai's faithfulness. Consider the two lives she now gets to choose from. She can stay with Abraham and the famines, warfare, and trials that continually seem to follow him. Or she can leave it all behind and become a queen in Egypt; the wife of the mighty Pharaoh. Will she remain faithful? Of course she does and hence the plague upon Pharaoh's household and the truth of her relationship to Abraham revealed.
I admire Sarai's courage and faithfulness. It seems sometimes in our world today we are always after the next best thing. We get bored with life as usual. We believe we owe ourselves more. We fail to be content with what we have. If given the opportunity, many of us would jump at the opportunity for money, power, and a life of ease. But not Sarai. She committed herself to Abraham and the Lord. Nothing could tear her from her covenants. Consider how much different our own world and our own homes would be if we were as committed to what we have. No need to daydream about what life would be like with another person or with more money or finer possessions. To be faithful. To be content. To be grateful. To love those around us. To love God. These are simple qualities that world does not preach to us but that would strengthen so much in our lives if we would but develop them. Next time we wonder how much better our lives could be if our situations changed, consider the example of Sarai, the model of a keeper of covenants.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Historicity of the Sacrifice of Abraham

Of course Nibley's book is to show Joseph Smith did not imagine the Book of Abraham, but in this quote he why it the account of the near sacrifice of Abraham does not appear in the Bible. To be fair to the skeptic it may seem odd that such a remarkable story is left out of the most basic book of the Christian faith. It is related to the principle discussed briefly in the previous post (Principles in the Sacrifice of Isaac) in that it was important for Abraham to pass his mantle to his son.

Abraham gets as much credit out of the sacrifice of Isaac as he does from his own adventure on the altar--he had already risked his own life countless times; how much dearer to him in his old age was the life of his only son and heir! And since the two sacrifices typify the same thing, nothing is lost to Abraham and much is gained for Isaac by omitting the earlier episode from the Bible. But that episode left an indelible mark in the record. The learned Egyptologist who in 1912 charged Joseph Smith with reading the sacrifice of Isaac into Facsimile 1 and the story of Abraham was apparently quite unaware that ancient Jewish writers of whom Joseph Smith knew nothing told the same story that he did about Abraham on the altar. The important thing for the student of the Book of Abraham is that the sacrifice of Abraham was remembered--and vividly recalled in non-biblical sources--as a historical event. This makes it almost certain that it was a real event, for nothing to the supreme glory of Abraham would do definite damage to Isaac's one claim to fame. If the binding on the altar...was to be the "unique glory of Isaac," it was entirely in order to quietly drop the earlier episode of Abraham that anticipates and overshadows it, just as it is right and proper to forget that the hero was once called Abram.

Principles in the Sacrifice of Isaac

In this section, Nibley discusses an interesting principle in the sacrifice of Isaac. It relates to Abraham passing down the mantel of prophet and patriarch to his son; a principle which continued to the time of Christ.

When Israel finally returns to God and goes to Abraham for instruction, we are told that instead of teaching them himself, he will refer them to Isaac, who will in turn pass them on to Jacob and so on down to Moses--it is from the latest prophet of the latest dispensation that the people receive instruction. On this principle the only words of the Father in the New Testament are those which introduce his Son and turn all the offices of the dispensation over to him.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something Unique About Biblical Prophets

In this quote from Abraham in Egypt, Nibley is discussing the fact that there were certain Egyptian Pharaohs who spent nearly every waking moment searching their libraries for information on how their predecessors received their divinity. Nibley then notes a characteristic unique to the Hebrew (and we could also say Book of Mormon and modern day) prophets:

Edwin R. Bevin noted long ago that the ancients have left us not a single instance in which men were supposed to have conversed with Zeus (in contrast with Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, who each conversed with God); all revelation came to the gentiles through voices, letters from heaven, natural objects, omens, inspired utterance (dreams, fits, etc.). In the late times we hear of messages from the oracle of Ammon of both the Egyptians and the Greeks, but they were all delivered by sortes (lots, dice, books, moving statues, etc.). It is important to bear this in mind, lest we fall into the error of supposing that the religion of Abraham and Israel was simply another tribal superstition or an offshoot from the archaic order. Between the gospel and the numerous spin-offs from the pristine faith taought by Adam to his children, there is all the difference between light and darkness--and the Egyptians felt the difference most keenly. (pg. 234)

Abraham and Ben Franklin

Okay, so this post really doesn't have much to do with Ben Franklin, but I thought it was a cool story from my current read, "Abraham in Egypt" by Hugh Nibley. This is from page 206:

But Abraham's most famous lesson in tolerance was a favorite story of Benjamin Franklin, a story which as been traced back as far as a thirteenth-century Arabic writer and may be much older. The prologue to the story is the visit of three angels to Abraham, who asked him what he charged for meals; the price was only that the visitor "invoke the name of God before beginning and prasie it when you finish." But one day the patriarch entertained an old man who would pray neither before eating nor after, explaining to Abraham that he was a fire worshiper. His indignant hose thereupon denied him further hospitality and the old man went his way. But very soon the voice of the Lord came to Abraham, saying: "I have suffered him these hundred years, although he dishonored me; and thou couldst not endure him one night, when he gave thee no trouble?" Overwhelmed with remorse, Abraham rushed out after his guest and brought him back in honor: "Go though and do likewise," ends the story, "and they charity will be rewarded by the God of Abraham." In the oldest version of the story the Lord says, "Abraham! For a hundred years the divine bounty has flowed this man: is it for thee to withhold thy hand from him because his worship is not thing?" One is strongly reminded of the Nephite law, which declared it "strictly contrary tot he commands of God" to penalize one's neighbor if he does not choose to believe in God (Alma 30:7)

Nibley on Idolatry

"The one salient, outstanding, universal, undeniable characteristic of all idols is their utterly passive helplessness; if men persist in worshiping them, it cannot be in spite of that quality, but because of it. The sophisticated people of Abraham's time wanted the sanction of holy beings which at the same time were one hundred percent compliant with their won interests and desires, just as people today search out those scriptures which support their interests and push the rest aside. As Brigham Young pointed out time and again, the enlisting of systematic piety in the interest of private greed and ambitions is the very essence of idolatry."


I've never been a blogger. I never had reason to share anything I was doing online. But recently I took on a project...

I love books. Over the years I have purchased more books than I have actually taken the time to read. My shelves would fill up and I would box up the books that didn't look interesting anymore to make room for my new acquisitions. But as I have run out of room (and book money for the time being) I made a goal to read every book I own that I haven't already read before I would buy any more. This is more difficult than it may sound. At the time I began the project I had 32 unread books. Most of them non-fiction and most of them very long. Since I began, I have read 4 or 5....but still have 30 books to go? How? People who know I love books let me borrow ones they know I'll enjoy and I read them instead of my own. Otherwise I would end up keeping their book for much too long (for example I currently have a book that someone in a college French class let me borrow...over 5 years ago.....oops).

I have also found that with some of my books I lose interest and/or motivation to keep reading.

SO I thought I would try a blog and write about what I am reading. I'll post cool quotes or thoughts. I certainly don't expect anyone will find or follow this blog, but at least it is a way for me to focus on what I'm reading.

Yes, I know this sounds very similar to "Julie and Julia" and I can't deny I may have gotten the idea from the movie. But who cares? No one is reading this anyway. However, if anyone does care about what I'm reading, you can also add me as a friend on, or as I call it, Facebook for Nerds.