Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:5:2:Exodus motif: Voice of murmuring

Exodus motif: The Voice of Murmuring in the Wilderness

Exodus motif: The Voice of Murmuring in the Wilderness

The wilderness of Sinai and the wilderness of the Arabian peninsula were both harsh environments. Both the Israelites and the people of Lehi suffered hunger during their journeys, and they complained about it:

We did return without food to our families, and being much fatigued, because of their journeying, they did suffer much for the want of food. And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord (1 Nephi 16:19-20).
The whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: and the children of Israel said unto them, . . . Ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. And Moses said, . . . The Lord heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the Lord (8.{{{4}}}?lang=eng#{{{4}}} Exodus 16:2-3, 8:{{{4}}}).

In both cases the uncommon word murmur is used. In both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon, murmur is used primarily for the exoduses. Forms of the Hebrew root lwn (translated "to murmur" in the King James version) occur eighteen times in the Old Testament. All but one of them are connected with the Exodus. How is the English word murmur used in the Book of Mormon? It appears thirty-three times; of these, nineteen describe events in the Old World wilderness.

Of course we do not know exactly what word Nephi used since we do not have the original text. But this peculiar term is used with unusual frequency to describe the Book of Mormon wilderness experience in the same way that it is used almost exclusively to describe a similar experience in the Old Testament. There are two possible explanations: (1) Joseph Smith consciously copied the King James version, or (2) Nephi used the wording from the brass plates (essentially like our Bible) to remind his audience of the previous Exodus, and Joseph Smith's translation of this material was literal enough to preserve the similarity. In view of the complicated nature of the parallels between the two stories, the second explanation is far more likely.

Both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon mention that this murmuring about the lack of food was directed against the Lord himself rather than against his prophet-leaders. The similarity continues in that the problem of food was solved miraculously. For Israel, manna from heaven was the solution. For the group in the Book of Mormon, the answer was no less wonderful. They were instructed by the Lord to look at the Liahona, their miraculous "compass." When they looked, they saw written directions that led Nephi to a place where he was able to kill game. When the family saw that he had obtained food for them, "how great was their joy! And it came to pass that they did humble themselves before the Lord, and did give thanks unto him" (see also verse 39.{{{4}}}?lang=eng#{{{4}}} 1 Nephi 16:32; see also verse 39:{{{4}}}). In both cases, the Lord provided for his people in a miraculous way.[1]


  1. Terrence L. Szink, "Nephi and the Exodus," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 5.