Moroni 10:4 as a Hebraism

Ever heard this one?

Wait a second. Moroni 10:4 says to ask if these things are NOT true… That’s a negative. It tells the reader to to ask if these things are NOT true. So if the answer you got is, “yes” then by the wording of the scripture doesn’t that mean that the answer you got is that the Church isn’t true? (Yes, these things are not true).
This was posted in an anti-Mormon message board, but it is an argument that comes up from time to time. It is suggested that Moroni’s challenge, if followed, will lead to a “no” if the answer is “yes”. The argument is of course silly and untenable, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Mormons from using it (such reasons rarely do).
LDS scholar Ben Spackman addressed this issue in a scholarly manner through the pages of Insights, a publication of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Ben (an acquaintance who I greatly admire) points out that Moroni’s question is in fact a “negative rhetorical question”, a Hebraism that shows up not only in the Book of Mormon but also in the Bible.
This rhetorical device occurs in English, but it is stronger and more common in biblical Hebrew…In contrast to a “simple question, when the questioner is wholly uncertain as to the answer to be expected,” these negative questions, Hebrew scholars have pointed out, sometimes have an “exclamatory nuance” or “a special force of asseveration” (i.e., they are being used for rhetorical effect, conveying positive or even emphatic force)…
Some critics have charged that a positive response about the Book of Mormon as a result of prayer indicates that the Book of Mormon is not true, because of the phrasing of the passage. This argument is strained and untenable given the nature of rhetorical negative questions. Moroni asks that “when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true”—rather than “if these things are indeed true.” Though from a relatively late period in Nephite history, this example nevertheless seems valid since a form of “altered” Hebrew was still in use, at least for writing (see Mormon 9:33). Additional examples of negative questions may include 1 Nephi 15:12; 2 Nephi 31:7; Jacob 5:48; Mosiah 4:19; 7:23; 20:18; 27:15; and Alma 5:11; 27:18; 39:18; 39:19; 47:34.
So next time this funny little argument crops up you can point folks to the ancient Hebrew root of this question.
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17 comments on “Moroni 10:4 as a Hebraism

  1. Kerry Wallace says:

    Thanks for the Hebrew lesson, but entirely not necessary. I would have to agree with the questioner if God was a yes / no type God but He is not. English is full of negative questions and the answer can be misleading if one does not answer completely. e.g. Do you mind if I smoke? A simple yes/no answer is misleading. “Yes, I mind” means don’t smoke while “No, I don’t mind” means you may. However a “No, please do not smoke” is perfectly correct, too. In English as well as Hebrew the NOT is added to give emphasis to the question not negate it. So when you pray, God will not just say yes or no. He will say, “it is true” or “it is false”. The question is an “if” question, a conditional. e.g. If you don’t like me, will I die? Answer. Of course you won’t die silly, beside I do love you. No yes/no answer there simply the acceptance or denial of the condition laid out by the question. Trust whether you feel good about the Book and its contents or whether you feel that the Book is false. Do not expect a Yes/No answer.

  2. John Lee says:

    It doesn’t make sense that the question “are these things not true?” would be a rhetorical question. Maybe I don’t understand it very well, but it seems like this would imply there’s no need to ask about it.

    • Kerry says:

      OK, answer this question….are you not stupid? The answer would be A. Yes, I am stupid or B. No, I am not stupid. The question is easily answered and is a valid yes/no question. By the way is your name really John Lee or are you not a John Doyle Lee fan?

  3. James says:

    That is basically correct John. To Moroni the answer to the question is so incredibly obvious that he assumes it will be obvious to us as well.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t take the challenge seriously and actually pray about it, though.

  4. weshawehu says:

    Russell Pearce ; I’ Absolutely Believe Romney calles SB…
    http://Www.huffingpost.com/…/trus...
    Mitt Romney supports national socialist party member Rand Paul/ neo nazi hate group

    google search ; Rand Paul Endorses Mitt Romney for president

    Mitt Romney visits Polish solitarity movement members of Poland; another neo nazi hate organization

    FFR#31-filter free radio- what theFOX?!-you tube
    National socialist Movement supports Romney

    Question is the church of jesus christ of latter day saints a racist organization that supports neo nazi hate groups and the kkk; the kkk not long ago held a rally to merge support with the national socialist movement who has already shown support for the kkk in racist hatred. If Thee LDS does not support neo nazi- ism then has Mitt Romney went against LDS church regulations for leaders in thier church. The national socialist party openly admits that they believe in thier angelo saxton origin in the which they do not support any faith in religion other than thier pagan faith system of thier white origion not christian.

    • Kerry says:

      Rand Paul is a US state senator for the state of Kentucky and as far as I could tell has no association with the Neo-Nazis or the KKK. He is a moderate to right Republican with some libertarian views, as well. There are a few conspiracy theorists who confuse him with Ron Paul and also distort facts to fit the conspiracy agenda, but I would not give too much credence to their ideals. Having said that, I am 100% against Willard Romney and do believe that he has strayed far from his LDS faith in order to get elected. I am a Democrat and faithful LDS and see no contradiction in terms whatsoever. If you do not like Mitt, fine, vote for Obama as I will in November, but do not make up any false ties to bigotry nor believe conspiracies with little or no merit. Now if you meant Ron Paul, that is a whole different ball game.

    • Kerry says:

      Just one more note. Mitt Romney in now any shape or form represents the LDS church. He is not a General Authority and hopefully never will be.

  5. JR says:

    I am finding all kinds of pro-LDS sites like this one. I like this site and I thank you for the work and effort you put in to it. I look forward to reading more of what you have to say.

    To Kerry: It’s nice to know that, like me, there are other faithful LDS members who are Democrat. I thought I was the only one. I think I am where I live.
    Take care everyone.

  6. James says:

    This is a response to mmilly97.

    I find this argument extremely weak. There are far better arguments you could make against the Book of Mormon. What you are suggesting is that Joseph Smith somehow saw a map of an obscure island in the Indian Ocean and for some reason decided to name one of the main characters of the book, and the Hill Cumorah, after it. Why? Why would he do this? Presumably he was perfectly capable of inventing names out of thin air. Why suddenly do this?

    Even if Joseph Smith were a fraud, it is more likely that this is just a coincidence than that he deliberately copied names from an obscure island on the other side of the world.

    The FairMormon wiki has more details about the actual availability of these details to Joseph:

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Question:_Were_the_names_“Moroni”_and_”Cumorah”_available_on_maps_accessible_to_Joseph_Smith%3F

  7. James says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything there remotely relevant.

    • Latter-day Saints believe that angels are men and women, human beings, sons and daughters of God, personages of the same type as we are. Parley P. Pratt, an early apostle wrote, “Gods, angels and men are all of one species, one race, one great family” ( Robert L. Millet, The Mormon Faith: A New Look at Christianity, Salt Lake City, UT: Shadow Mountain / Deseret Books, 1998) 39.

      Where in the Book of Mormon or Bible is this taught ?

  8. James says:

    Christian Apologist,

    The idea stems primarily from revelation received by the prophet Joseph Smith, recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants section 130:5.

  9. Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” To a Christian, Jesus is our Keystone and Cornerstone of our Faith .

    • James says:

      Is this a serious criticism? The Book of Mormon is regarded as the “keystone of our religion” precisely because it is such a powerful witness of Jesus Christ, and signifies his work in restoring to the Earth the fullness of the gospel.

      Your criticism is especially ironic coming from a Biblicist. I wonder if you would agree with the following statement: “The Bible is the keystone of our religion”. I predict that you will.

    • The Keystone and Rock is JESUS

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