Category:Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World/Hidden and sealed records

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Hidden and Sealed Records

Parent page: Book of Mormon/Anthropology/Culture/Old World

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Hidden, Sealed Records

Even before one knows what is in the Dead Sea Scrolls, the story of their coming forth, "a marvelous account," as Dupont-Sommer rightly calls it, immediately puts the Latter-day Saint in mind of the Book of Mormon.6 In 1953 the author of these lessons wrote of the Scrolls:
The texts that have turned up with such dramatic suddenness in the last few years, as if a signal had been given, are the first ancient documents which have survived not by accident but by design.

We then quoted a passage from the apocryphal Assumption of Moses, in which Moses before being taken up to heaven is instructed by the Lord to "seal up" the covenant:

Receive this writing that thou mayest know how to preserve the books which I shall deliver unto thee: and thou shalt set in order and anoint them with oil of cedar and put them away in earthen vessels in the place which he made from the beginning of the creation of the world.7

The purpose of this hiding, we are told, is to preserve the books through a "period of darkness when men shall have fallen away from the true covenant and would pervert the truth." We then pointed out that the Dead Sea Scrolls had been preserved in just such a manner as that prescribed to Moses:

In specially-made earthen jars, wrapped in linen which was "coated with wax or pitch or asphalt which proves that the scrolls were hidden in the cave for safe preservation, to be recovered and used later again." By whom? The peculiar method of storage also indicates very plainly that the documents were meant for a long seclusion, . . . and to lay a roll away with the scrupulous care and after the very manner of entombing an Egyptian mummy certainly indicates a long and solemn farewell and no mere temporary storage of convenience.8

Since these words were written, it has been pointed out in high places that "those who hid their precious scrolls did not return to claim them." 9 And that while "in the case of our scrolls and wrappers, they may, as suggested, have been concealed in the cave in a time of national panic, but it is important to remember that burial in caves was the custom of the country, and so this concealment may only be the equivalent of the correct cemetery burial of the contents of a Genizah."10 That is, it is now suggested that the scrolls were not hidden away temporarily during a time of crisis and danger, as has been generally held, but were actually given a formal burial in the manner of books laid away in a Genizah. A Genizah was a walled-off bin in an ancient synagogue in which old worn-out copies of scripture were placed to be gotten out of the way and forgotten forever. They could not be destroyed since they contained the sacred Tetragrammaton, the mysterious name of God, yet the old tattered texts were no longer usable—and so they were pushed behind the wall and forgotten. But the Dead Sea Scrolls were not thus thrust aside. The whole emphasis in the manner of their bestowal was for preservation—preservation over a very long time, and since the Ascension of Moses is actually one of the fragments found in the caves, it is certain that these people knew all about the tradition according to which the righteous men of one dispensation would hide up their records, "sealed up to come forth in their purity, according to the truth which is in the Lamb, in the own due time of the Lord, unto the house of Israel" (1 Nephi 14:26). From this and many other considerations it is apparent that the people who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls had something of the Book of Mormon idea concerning books and records.[1]

Notes

  1. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 14, references silently removed—consult original for citations.