Jacob Chapter 7
Jacob 7 The Antichrist Sherem comes among the Nephites and leads many away from the coming Christ. He demanded of Jacob a sign, and consequently he was struck down. Several days later he died by not before calling together the Nephites and denying his previous erroneous teachings.
This chapter consists largely of Jacob's report of his experience with the antichrist Sherem. As we consider this account, we will take special note of Sherem's strategy for leading the Nephites astray, so that we might fortify ourselves against the apostate philosophies of our own day. Writing about the Book of Mormon, President Ezra Taft Benson taught: "The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention (see 2 Nephi 3:12). It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The types of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to those we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might become aware of the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time" (A Witness and a Warning. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1988, 3).
1 And now it came to pass after some years had passed away, there came a man among the people of Nephi, whose name was Sherem.
verse 1 Sherem is unlike some of the infamous apostates we will encounter later in the Book of Mormon (Nehor, Zeezrom, and Korihor-see a discussion on these three in the commentary for Alma 1:2). Sherem is not an atheist or opposed to religion. Rather he is a purist who wishes to continue living the law of Moses but resists the idea of a Messiah. He accuses Jacob of blasphemy, and for that he is ultimately punished.
2 And it came to pass that he began to preach among the people, and to declare unto them that there should be no Christ. And he preached many things which were flattering unto the people; and this he did that he might overthrow the doctrine of Christ.
verse 2 Sherem denies the reality of and the necessity for Jesus Christ. His implications are that there will be no Messiah, no Christ, and no man has the ability to prophesy of future things. We will later learn that typically the antichrist even denies man's fallen condition, and thus he also denies the fact that man has any need to be liberated from anything. Typically, today's antichrists espouse the philosophy of humanism, the idea that man, not God, is the center of the universe. According to this school of thought, there is no higher law to which man is accountable. Thus, humanism emphasizes the self-sufficiency of man, his agency, and his unencumbered right to self determination. A humanist is inaccessible to promptings of the Spirit. He feels he is alone in the universe and therefore feels he must get by as best he can on his own. Only those influences in his world which he can perceive with his physical senses are meaningful to him. He might well be considered a "good man" and a noble man and even a distinguished man. He often possesses the virtues of the world such as "common sense," integrity, education, and material success. He is an advocate, often a vocal and active advocate, for personal freedoms. He would be likely to advocate the woman's right of choice relative to the issue of abortion, and he would find nothing wrong with sex between two consenting adults. He would not oppose secular laws, so long as they did not compromise personal freedoms. He is "naturalistic" and would be inclined to be skeptical and even cynical about any idea of a divine being or any life beyond this mortal one. He might claim that a "sign" would be necessary, one which he might perceive with his senses, before he could believe. However, because he lacks responsiveness to the promptings of the Spirit, no sign could ever really convert him. No spiritual truth is actually within his reach.
"he preached many things which were flattering unto the people" What does it mean in this context to flatter? To flatter is to make people feel comfortable and encouraged when circumstances are neither comfortable nor encouraging, and to make them feel that all is well when, in fact-spiritually speaking-all is not well. To flatter also means to raise false hopes and expectations. In the context of this verse, it is likely Sherem attempted to make the people feel comfortable in their sins.
The "doctrine of Christ" is the gospel. The very essence of the doctrine of Christ is: Deliverance from death and hell and eternal torment is available through the atonement of Jesus Christ. For a discussion of the doctrine of Christ, see the introductory commentary for 2 Nephi 31.
3 And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people, insomuch that he did lead away many hearts; and he knowing that I, Jacob, had faith in Christ who should come, he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me.
verse 3 "And he labored diligently that he might lead away the hearts of the people" Why was Sherem so aggressive in promulgating his humanistic philosophy? Why did he not simply hold to his own beliefs and leave other people to theirs? Perhaps the answer is found in verse 14 where Jacob is inspired to know that Sherem once possessed a testimony of the Savior. A verse in the book of Alma is helpful here: "And thus we can plainly discern, that after a people have been once enlightened by the Spirit of God, and have had great knowledge of things pertaining to righteousness, and then have fallen away into sin and transgression, they become more hardened, and thus their state becomes worse than though they had never known these things" (Alma 24:30). It would seem that the apostate is often driven to justify himself. He must prove-mostly to himself-that there is nothing beyond this natural world. It is obvious he possesses a subtle fear he may be wrong; and that there is in fact a God. And God is aware of him. Indeed, this fear may become an obsession. He may appear unable to rest until he convinces others-and thereby himself-that he is right.
"he sought much opportunity that he might come unto me" It is obvious that Sherem was not shy in trying to promulgate his beliefs. He wanted to go right to "the top"-to the prophet himself with his message.
4 And he was learned, that he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people; wherefore, he could use much flattery, and much power of speech, according to the power of the devil.
verse 4 In modern day terminology, Sherem was articulate, attractive, charismatic, and he appealed powerfully to the people. Typically antichrists are worldly-wise, polished, glib, and clever at manipulating human behavior. We thus see an example of the principle that virtually all of the gifts of God are subject to perversion. Sherem, and indeed all antichrists, strive to make their adherents feel comfortable and at home in their carnality.
5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.
verse 5 Remember that Jacob also had actually seen the Savior (2 Nephi 2:3- 4).
6 And it came to pass that he came unto me, and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ.
verse 6 Sherem confronted directly and boldly the Lord's prophet. Sherem addresses Jacob as "Brother Jacob" in an ingratiating attempt to flatter and befriend him. This presumptuousness seems characteristic of Satan and his adherents; recall that the Lord himself was confronted personally by the devil.
"Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching" It is estimated that the adult male population descended from the original Nephite group could not have exceeded fifty by this time. This number of men is only enough to populate one modest size village. In light of this, does it not strike you as unusual that Sherem would not have had more interaction with Jacob who was the head priest and religious teacher of the Nephites? Why did he have to seek "much opportunity" to speak to Jacob in such a tiny settlement? Also where would Jacob have to go on his preaching travels to which Sherem refers if only a modest size settlement was involved? Is it possible that Sherem was a Lamanite? It seems unlikely that one from the enemies' camp would be allowed to wander into the Nephite settlement and preach at will to the people there. One solution is that the number of Nephites was much larger than we can estimate, perhaps because the descendants of Lehi joined with some other peoples which they encountered in the land on their arrival (John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?" in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, volume 1, number 1 [Fall 1992], 1-34). John L. Sorenson wrote: "Archaeology, linguistics, and related areas of study have established beyond doubt that a variety of peoples inhabited virtually every place in the Western Hemisphere a long time ago. The presence of almost 1,500 different languages belonging to dozens of major groupings which were found in the Americas when the Europeans arrived can be explained only by supposing that speakers of the ancestral tongues had been in America for thousands of years. The notion that 'the [Mesoamerican] Indians' constituted a single ethnic entity is a totally outdated one which neither scholars nor lay people can justifiably believe nowadays. Abundant facts are completely contrary to the idea. The most that is possible is that in some limited territory in a part of America, Lehi's people and those who came with Mulek had their chance to establish their own niches where they could control their own fate. . . . It seems unavoidable that other peoples were in the land, somewhere, when Nephi's boat landed on the shore of the 'west sea,' and quite certainly some of them were survivors from the Jaredite people."
The "doctrine of Christ" is the gospel. See the commentary for verse 2 of this chapter.
7 And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.
verse 7 It interesting to note that the accusations of Sherem are essentially the same as those that will be leveled by two other antichrists who will come later in the Book of Mormon, Nehor (Alma 1) and Korihor (Alma 30).
"I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things" Blasphemy is of two types: (1) speaking or acting offensively to or about the divine, and (2) claiming the attributes or prerogatives of Deity. Here Sherem wrongly accuses Jacob of the second type.
"for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come" An extreme naturalistic view of reality is typical of the antichrist. That is, they rely exclusively upon human sensory perception and human reason to discern truth. Naturalistic thoughts and preachings often contain much in the way of truth. It does not and cannot include spiritual truths, as humanists are quite unresponsive to the Spirit's promptings. And the natural man cannot accept spiritual truths (1 Corinthians 2:14). Sherem, as is typical of all doubters, assumes that since he has not experienced Christ, then there is no Christ, and no one else has experienced him either.
Among the Nephites, the Mosaic law was in force (2 Nephi 5:10; Jarom 1:5). John W. Welch has pointed out that Sherem's allegations against Jacob were not merely random criticisms but rather well-constructed accusations based on the provisions of the law of Moses (FARMS Update, no. 74, January 1991). Sherem believed that the law of Moses was wholly sufficient. If proven to be correct, these charges might have justified Jacob's being indicted and even executed. Sherem's complaints against Jacob might be summarized as follows: (1) causing public apostasy ("Ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses"). This, according to Deuteronomy 13:1-18 was a sin punishable by death. (2) blasphemy ("I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy"). This is another capital offense (Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 24:10-16). (3) false prophecy ("no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come"). Deuteronomy 18:20 requires that a man shall be put to death if he speaks "in the name of other gods."
It is likely that Sherem was to some degree sincere in his criticism and committed to his views since he was putting his own life on the line by making these accusations. The ancient punishment for a false accuser was to suffer that which "he had thought to have done unto his brother" (Deuteronomy 19:19).
8 But behold, the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul, insomuch that I did confound him in all his words.
verse 8 The Lord blessed Jacob with spiritual discernment and insight, and he was able to "confound" Sherem. To confound is to bewilder, confuse, throw into a state of disorder, stupefy (Webster).
9 And I said unto him: Deniest thou the Christ who shall come? And he said: If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him; but I know that there is no Christ, neither has been, nor ever will be.
verse 9 "If there should be a Christ, I would not deny him" Sherem is saying, "If there were a Christ here and now for me to see and touch and hear, then I would believe." Do you suppose Sherem would have accepted Christ had Sherem lived at the time of Christ's mortal ministry?
"I know that there is no Christ" Here again we see evidence of Sherem's naturalistic bent: "Since I have not experienced him, then he does not exist."
10 And I said unto him: Believest thou the scriptures? And he said, Yea.
verse 10 Keep in mind that it is not possible to obtain a testimony of Jesus from the scriptures or from any other source without being receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Sherem's "belief" in the scriptures was obviously based solely on an intellectual understanding.
11 And I said unto him: Then ye do not understand them; for they truly testify of Christ. Behold, I say unto you that none of the prophets have written, nor prophesied, save they have spoken concerning this Christ.
verse 11 An individual can truly "understand" the scriptures only if he is responsive to the promptings of the Spirit of God. To understand the scriptures in this way is to truly feel the eternal significance of them.
Read this important verse again, and let its vital message sink in. See the commentary for Jacob 4:4. All of the prophets since Adam knew and preached of the coming of Jesus Christ.
12 And this is not all-it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, I know if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost.
verse 12 "I have heard and seen" Jacob's father, Lehi, said of his son Jacob, "Thou hast beheld in thy youth his glory; wherefore, thou art blessed even as they unto whom he shall minister in the flesh" (2 Nephi 2:4).
"if there should be no atonement made all mankind must be lost" Here is a reiteration of the important concept that without Christ's atonement, all mankind would become sons of perdition (see 2 Nephi 9:8 and its commentary).
13 And it came to pass that he said unto me: Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.
verse 13 Antichrists are typically sign seekers. The gift of faith does not come to an individual until after a trial of that faith. The prophet Moroni wrote: "Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6). A person receives no "witness" or confirmation of his faith until after his faith is tried. How does this "trial" occur? The trial comes in the "experimenting upon [the] words" of God-the deliberate acting upon his words hoping to obtain the gifts of faith. The trial of the faith is in the "experimenting." When the Spirit judges that sufficient effort has been expended-including diligently working, pondering, praying, and persisting-then the gifts of faith will be granted. For a comprehensive discussion of the concept of faith, see Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1 chapter 9, Revealed Faith, chapter 10, Deliberate Faith and Revealed Faith, and chapter 11, Other notes on Faith.
A person might say, "Before I pay my tithing, I must know for sure that it is a true principle." The Lord's way is just the opposite. His way is to first act in faith and deliberately pay your tithing. Then over time your faith in the law of tithing will be granted as a revealed spiritual gift.
An individual who demands outward evidence of the power of God as a condition for his believing is seeking to circumvent the process by which faith is universally developed. He wants proof without paying the price. As with an adulterer, he wants the benefits, superficial and transient though they may be, without accepting any responsibility-pleasure without obligation. This is exactly the opposite of the Lord's way. Thus it is "a wicked and adulterous generation [that] seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 16:4). Joseph Smith affirmed this principle, saying it "is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man" (TPJS, 157). Though the sexual sin of adultery is warned against abundantly in scripture, adultery is referred to by the Lord, at times, in quite another context. In scripture the Lord often characterized himself as the bridegroom or husband while his people or the church are symbolized as the bride or wife. When the symbol of the adulterous wife is used, it may refer to the unfaithful breaker of covenants, one who chases after other gods leaving behind the true Lord and Master. Hence, a "wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign" (Matthew 16:4).
Almost all heavenly signs are given as a reward for great faith to further strengthen those who manifest that faith (D&C 63:11). The doubting sign seeker is only rarely afforded the opportunity to witness a miracle. In these unusual instances the sign usually takes the form of a divine judgment upon the doubter (Alma 30:48-56).
14 And I said unto him: What am I that I should tempt God to show unto thee a sign in the thing which thou knowest to be true? Yet thou wilt deny it, because thou art of the devil. Nevertheless, not my will be done; but if God shall smite thee, let that be a sign unto thee that he has power, both in heaven and in earth; and also, that Christ shall come. And thy will, O Lord, be done, and not mine.
verse 14 This is a remarkable and difficult verse. Jacob discerns that Sherem is requesting a sign for something he already knows is true. It seems likely that he had previously received a witness of the truth of the gospel and of Jesus Christ. Without continued re-enforcement of one's testimony by ministrations of the Spirit, a testimony will deteriorate and soon disappear. Therefore, it seems unlikely that Sherem at this particular time still possessed a testimony of the Savior.
15 And it came to pass that when I, Jacob, had spoken these words, the power of the Lord came upon him, insomuch that he fell to the earth. And it came to pass that he was nourished for the space of many days.
verse 15 "he was nourished for the space of many days" This may mean that since Sherem was unable to care for himself, his physical needs were provided for. It might also mean something quite different. Study the use of the word "nourished" in Jacob 6:7. Perhaps Sherem's spiritual needs were addressed as well.
verses 16-19 In this incapacitated state, it is obvious that Sherem still had use of his mental faculties. Why would a man who is about to die confess his sins? See the commentary for Alma 1:15.
16 And it came to pass that he said unto the people: Gather together on the morrow, for I shall die; wherefore, I desire to speak unto the people before I shall die.
17 And it came to pass that on the morrow the multitude were gathered together; and he spake plainly unto them and denied the things which he had taught them, and confessed the Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost, and the ministering of angels.
18 And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment.
verse 18 "he had been deceived by the power of the devil" Sherem was now apparently speaking the truth. He had been deceived. Those who teach doctrines which appeal to the carnal and materialistic within us, in due time, come to believe and practice their own teachings.
19 And he said: I fear lest I have committed the unpardonable sin, for I have lied unto God; for I denied the Christ, and said that I believed the scriptures; and they truly testify of him. And because I have thus lied unto God I greatly fear lest my case shall be awful; but I confess unto God.
verse 19 Sherem is desperate and fearful and is attempting a "death-bed" repentance. It seems highly unlikely that Sherem had committed or even was capable of committing the unpardonable sin. In order to commit such a sin, one must reach a rather lofty state of spiritual development and then turn altogether therefrom. Sherem had not likely reached this requisite spiritual state. In addition, even though his death-bed repentance was not optimal, it is obvious that he was at least inclined toward some form of repentance, a characteristic which is foreign to those who will become sons of perdition (TPJS, 358).
Some critics of the Book of Mormon have seen a doctrinal anachronism here (see a discussion of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon in the commentary for 1 Nephi 16:18). They see the mention of the unpardonable sin (see also Alma 39:6; cf. 2 Nephi 31:14) as anachronistic because the doctrine of an unpardonable sin is not taught in the Bible until New Testament times, well after Lehi and his family left Jerusalem (e.g., Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10; cf. Hebrews 10:26; 1 John 5:16-17). In response, it should be noted that the unpardonable sin is defined as "deny[ing] the Holy Ghost when it once has had a place in you" (Alma 39:6). It is evident from the text of the Book of Mormon that the descendants of Lehi knew of and received the witness of the Holy Ghost (e.g., 1 Nephi 10:17-19; 1 Nephi 10:22; 2 Nephi 31:13; 2 Nephi 31:18; Jacob 6:8; Alma 9:21). They thus had knowledge sufficient to commit such a sin and to be warned against committing it.
20 And it came to pass that when he had said these words he could say no more, and he gave up the ghost.
21 And when the multitude had witnessed that he spake these things as he was about to give up the ghost, they were astonished exceedingly; insomuch that the power of God came down upon them, and they were overcome that they fell to the earth.
verse 21 The "power of God" in this context is the Holy Spirit.
22 Now, this thing was pleasing unto me, Jacob, for I had requested it of my Father who was in heaven; for he had heard my cry and answered my prayer.
verse 22 "this thing was pleasing unto me" Jacob refers to the spiritual renewal of his people not the pitiful fate of Sherem.
23 And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man.
verse 23 You might read this verse and say, "Of course the people didn't hearken any more to Sherem's words, he was dead!" However, he could well have left behind written records that were still circulating, and adherents to his worldly philosophies who were still inclined to proselyte.
Jacob has now completed his account of Sherem. He concludes this chapter by reflecting on the sorry plight of the Lamanites, expressing his desire that his son Enos inherit the small plates, and saying goodbye to his readers.
24 And it came to pass that many means were devised to reclaim and restore the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; but it all was vain, for they delighted in wars and bloodshed, and they had an eternal hatred against us, their brethren. And they sought by the power of their arms to destroy us continually.
verse 24 This verse is particularly poignant and sad. The reader should keep in mind that Jacob grew up in a house divided. He saw a family feud evolve into a more or less permanent state of war. Consider what it meant to be Laman and Lemuel's brother. The Lamanites were not distant, faceless, nameless enemies. They were kinsmen-brothers, nephews, and cousins whose names and families he knew. Here, Jacob seems to suggest that he feels some personal responsibility for failing to "reclaim and restore" his brethren the Lamanites.
25 Wherefore, the people of Nephi did fortify against them with their arms, and with all their might, trusting in the God and rock of their salvation; wherefore, they became as yet, conquerors of their enemies.
verse 25 The expression "as yet" in this verse carries with it an ominous implication. To this point the Nephites had held their own against the Lamanites. Jacob suggests that he holds a suspicion that the Lamanites might eventually overrun the Nephites.
26 And it came to pass that I, Jacob, began to be old; and the record of this people being kept on the other plates of Nephi, wherefore, I conclude this record, declaring that I have written according to the best of my knowledge, by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days.
verse 26 The "other plates of Nephi" are the large plates of Nephi. "This record" refers to the small plates of Nephi.
"the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream . . . wherefore, we did mourn out our days" This melancholy and poignant verse speaks powerfully of the hardships that had occurred in Jacob's life. Jacob also may have had in mind the transient nature of this mortal life. A verse with similar meaning is 1 Chronicles 29:15: "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow." When viewed in hindsight this mortal probation is fleeting and over almost in an instant.
27 And I, Jacob, saw that I must soon go down to my grave; wherefore, I said unto my son Enos: Take these plates. And I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me, and he promised obedience unto the commands. And I make an end of my writing upon these plates, which writing has been small; and to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu.
verse 27 "I told him the things which my brother Nephi had commanded me" Jacob gave to his son Enos the same commandments his brother Nephi had given him. These can be reviewed in Jacob 1:1-4. They included that Enos should write a few precious spiritual things that occurred among the Nephites and not spend too much time recounting their history. Also he should preserve these small plates that they might be handed down from generation to generation.
"he promised obedience unto the commands" Already Enos displays inclination toward obedience to the Lord's commands.
"which writing has been small" Jacob probably intended by this phrase that his writings were not as lengthy as those of his older brother Nephi.
"adieu" Some have poked fun at the Church because of the way in which Joseph translated Jacob's farewell. Why would Joseph have used the French word for "goodbye"? After all, Jacob was writing over four centuries before Christ, and the French language didn't even come into existence until the eighth century AD. We should remind ourselves that in a translated documented such as the Book of Mormon, we are bound to see evidences of influences from various sources. The personality and character of the author himself will be evident. The original documents were written by men fluent in the Hebrew tongue, and they wrote down their Hebrew expressions in an Egyptian-type glyphic form. Thus we will see elements of Hebrew and of Egyptian language and culture. Part of the record was abridged by the prophet Mormon. Some of his idiosyncrasies and thought processes are undoubtedly present in our present day Book of Mormon text. The original plates were likely engraved and abridged in Mesoamerica. Thus, Mesoamerican culture and language are likely evident, if only we knew what to look for. Finally, the plates were translated by Joseph Smith, Jr., in Pennsylvania and New York in 1829. Certainly, we would expect to see features of the book that reflect Joseph's environment, culture, and period. Every translation contains features which are characteristic of the translator. Similarly, every translation is at the same time an interpretation-by the translator.
Why would Joseph have chosen to use "adieu"? Was there any French influence in the area of New York? Certainly there was. Just across the St. Lawrence River is located French Canada. The word "adieu" is a word rich in meaning. It may be translated roughly "that you may hasten on your way back to God" or "I commend you to God." Undoubtedly Joseph was inspired to know Jacob's farewell, and the word "adieu" came into his mind. Perhaps it seemed to catch Jacob's meaning better than simply "farewell" or "goodbye."
There are other words found in the Book of Mormon that did not exist at the time the plates were originally engraved. Examples included words of Greek origin such as "Bible" (e.g., 2 Nephi 29:3-4; 2 Nephi 29:6), "baptize" (e.g., 1 Nephi 10:19; 2 Nephi 31:4), "Christ" (e.g., 2 Nephi 25:26), "synagogues" (e.g., 2 Nephi 26:26) "Timothy" (3 Nephi 19:4), and even the Greek expression "alpha and omega" (e.g., 3 Nephi 9:18). After all, if the Nephites had really been Hebrews they would never have used such terms, say the critics. The same explanation pertains for these words and expressions' being found in the Book of Mormon. They were both familiar to Joseph Smith and are familiar to us. They help us to understand the concepts being taught.
Some critics have gone so far as to conclude that the use of the word "adieu" here creates for the Latter-day Saint a major dilemma. "Either he must admit that there was French on the plates, a thousand years or so before French came into existence, or we must admit that the Book of Mormon is a late forgery." Daniel C. Peterson in answering such a critic said:
How absurd! Had Joseph Smith been so inclined, he could have translated the Nephite word, whatever it was, as "shalom," "ciao," or "sayonara." "Adieu" was simply a word in his vocabulary-and a word, by the way, that so unsophisticated a young man as Joseph Smith was might not even have known to be French (Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language includes "adieu," as does the 1980 Oxford American Dictionary). What difference does it make if Joseph Smith used "adieu" to render what he found on the plates? If, instead, he had said "good-bye," would that have proved that there was English on the plates? If so, we don't need to read until Jacob 7:27 in order to find clear disproof [sic] of the Book of Mormon's antiquity. The very first word in 1 Nephi 1:1 would serve just as well: The first-person, singular English pronoun "I" certainly did not exist in 600 BC (Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, 60).
Thus in translating the original language of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith used the English words and expressions of his day that would be best understood by his contemporaries, without concern that some might appear anachronistic. His major concern in translating was understanding. God does the same, for he "speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding" (2 Nephi 31:3; cf. D&C 1:24). For additional discussion of the issue of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, see the commentary for 1 Nephi 16:18.