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Why Look to “the Stick of Joseph” as a Standard – Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Learning of the Jews and the Language of the Egyptians

The authors of the Book of Mormon were from a small remnant of the line of Manasseh[1] which God led out of the land of Jerusalem in 600 B.C.[2]  As the family that formed the core of this remnant departed the ancient city of their inheritance, they took with them records written in Egyptian on plates of brass.[3]  These plates were said to contain the five books of Moses, the records of the Jews, and the prophecies of the holy prophets, including the book of Isaiah and many of the prophecies spoken by Jeremiah.[4]

In like manner, the authors of the Book of Mormon kept their own sacred records in a form of the Egyptian language.  Writing around 600 B.C., Nephi, the opening author of the book, began his spiritual accounting on plates of ore by stating:  “I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews, and the language of the Egyptians.”[5]  About a thousand years later, around A.D. 400, Mormon’s son Moroni wrote of how he and former stewards of their sacred records had written in reformed Egyptian because this form of writing was apparently more compact than the Hebrew form of writing of their day.[6]

Mormon 4:98,99And now behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us according to our manner of speech; and if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in the Hebrew, but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; And if we could have written in the Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.

Could the Lord God of Israel inspire a faithful remnant of Joseph’s progeny, those of his true sons, to keep such a set of records of their spiritual heritage and later reveal their writings miraculously at an appointed time?[7]  And if so, would not their records be of great worth to the whole house of Israel and to all the families of the earth based on God’s promises to Abraham and his seed?[8]  I believe so, and here are some of the reasons I believe as I do:

  • The birthright of the house of Israel (Jacob) rests with the posterity of Manasseh and Ephraim according to the blessings they received by way of their grandfather Jacob and their father Joseph.[9]
  • Manasseh and his younger brother Ephraim were adopted by their grandfather Jacob, giving them equal standing with their uncles and father in Jacob’s (Israel’s) house.[10]
  • Moses included references to Joseph in about a third of the Book of Genesis based on the covenants of the Lord. Having been raised by Pharoah’s daughter,[11] Moses likely had access to the royal library of Egypt, including Joseph’s records, allowing him to become familiar with his family’s history and God’s covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Joseph and his two eldest sons.
  • Moses would also greatly bless Joseph and his sons Manasseh and Ephraim above his brethren in keeping with the covenant blessings of Jacob and Jacob’s fathers before him.[12]
  • As Joseph’s firstborn, Manasseh received a double portion of land among the Israelites (depicted in the map to the right).[13] This inheritance was established by Joshua of the tribe of Ephraim and was the only land of inheritance in Israel that spanned the Jordan River.[14]
  • Great men of valor came of Manasseh, like Machir, Gilead, and Gideon.[15] And according to prophecy, many more will come of his line in these latter days.[16]
  • Research conducted by Dr. Douglas Petrovich and published in The World’s Oldest Alphabet shows that Manasseh was likely instrumental in developing the initial written language of the Hebrews while the household of Israel resided in Egypt.[17],[18]
  • Research published in Caractors Unlocked by Mary Jo Jackel with Faye Shaw confirm that letters from the records preserved in the Book of Mormon were an ancient form of Egyptian writing.[19]

Based on these and other factors, I believe it is reasonable to learn from the writings preserved in the Book of Mormon about a small remnant of the tribe of Manasseh that was well versed in the learning of the Jews while being conversant in a written language of the Egyptians.  In my estimation, their knowledge of God’s covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Joseph and his sons is now of great worth to their posterity and to all the nations of the earth.  Here is an example of their understanding of these covenants.

I Nephi 4

16   And now the thing which our father [Lehi] meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fullness of the Gentiles is that in the latter days when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years and many generations after that the Messiah hath manifested Himself in body unto the children of men, then shall the fullness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed.

17   And at that day shall the remnant of our seed know that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord;

18   And then shall they know and come to the knowledge of their forefathers, and also to the knowledge of the gospel of their Redeemer which was ministered unto their fathers by Him;

19   Wherefore, they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of His doctrine, that they may know how to come unto Him and be saved.

20   And then at that day will they not rejoice and give praise unto their Everlasting God, their Rock and their Salvation?

21   Yea, at that day will they not receive strength and nourishment from the True Vine?

22   Yea, will they not come unto the true fold of God?

23   Behold, I say unto you, yea; they shall be numbered again among the house of Israel;

24   They shall be grafted in, being a natural branch of the olive tree, into the true olive tree.

25   And this is what our father meaneth.

26   And he meaneth that it will not come to pass until after that they are scattered by the Gentiles;

27   And he meaneth that it shall come by way of the Gentiles, that the Lord may show His power unto the Gentiles for the very cause that He shall be rejected of the Jews, or of the house of Israel.

28   Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all the house of Israel, pointing to the covenant which should be fulfilled in the latter days,

29   Which covenant the Lord made to our father Abraham, saying: In thy Seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.

Of the various topics briefly outlined above, Jacob’s adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh stands out to me as being especially important to all people.  As I understand it, this adoption was a shadow of the adoption of the new covenant described by Paul as follows:

Romans 8:14-17For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

For by Jacob’s adoption of them, Joseph’s sons became joint heirs with Joseph, foreshadowing our becoming joint heirs with Jesus Christ by way of the gift of the Spirit of adoption.[20],[21]

This is yet another profound way Joseph prefigured Jesus Christ,[22] and, as such, this unique adoption has eternal meaning and value for all of humanity.  Therefore, it may be anticipated that the restoration of the posterity of Joseph in these latter days, those of the lines of Manasseh and Ephraim, will usher in the full measure of this intended blessing of adoption for all the nations of the earth.[23]

Joel 2:23-32

Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately,[24] and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.[25]  

And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.  And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.  And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.  

And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.[26]

And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.  And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered:[27] for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Dr. Petrovich’s research mentioned in the list above has also helped me appreciate more fully the background of the Book of Mormon people.  Through concluding that Manasseh was instrumental in formalizing the initial written Hebrew language based on an Egyptian script, Dr. Petrovich’s work has brought fresh insight into why the Book of Mormon was likely recorded in Egyptian as claimed by its authors.  This insight helps not only enrich our understanding of the people of the Book of Mormon and their history, but it also serves to validate claims that it is an authentic work of God’s covenant people;[28] more precisely, an authentic work of birthright holders of God’s covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and with Joseph and his eldest sons.[29]

With this insight in mind, we can see how Manasseh himself equipped a righteous remnant of his posterity for the task of keeping a sacred set of records with an alphabet based in the Egyptian form of writing, i.e. in his native tongue.[30]  This enabled his posterity to then prepare a rich storehouse of God’s words in the Egyptian language by which they could feed the house of Israel in a time of spiritual famine after the likeness of his father Joseph’s work of storing up grain in Egypt to feed his grandfather Jacob’s household in the days of a physical famine.  Please prayerfully and carefully ponder this last sentence.

In summary, the Lord’s work of reconciling Israel unto Himself involves bringing descendants of a remnant of Manasseh to a vital knowledge of their Redeemer and His covenants with them through records prepared for them by their forefathers.[31]  As faithful stewards of the birthright of the house of Israel, the original record keepers were led of the Lord to prepare the Book of Mormon not just for their own family, but for all the families of the earth.  In the next few chapters, we will review how and why the founding authors of the Book of Mormon came to Joseph’s land to prepare this plain and precious book.


[1] cf. I Nephi 1:164-168 & Alma 8:3 with Mosiah 9:2, Alma 8:3, Alma 21:54-60, Mormon 1:6, Mormon 4:17, etc.

[2] I Nephi 3:2-4 & II Nephi 11:34-36; see also Genesis 41:51 with I Chronicles 9:3

[3] I Nephi 1:1-174 & I Nephi 2:1-40 with I Chronicles 9:3, Mosiah 1:6 & Alma 8:3

[4] I Nephi 1:158-168 with I Nephi 2:22,23

[5] I Nephi 1:1 & I Nephi 5:218 with Jacob 3:2

[6] Mormon 4:98-102 with Mormon 4:7

[7] cf. Isaiah 29:11-24 with III Nephi 9:86-95; see also II Nephi 11:80-160, Enos 1:23-28, Mormon 2:37-43 & Ether 1:97-117

[8] Genesis 18:18, Genesis 22:18, etc. with Genesis 12:1-3 & Galatians 3:7-29

[9] I Chronicles 5:1,2 & Joshua 17:1 with Genesis 48:3-22, Exodus 4:22 & Jeremiah 31:9

[10] Genesis 48:5 with Joshua 14:4 & I Chronicles 5:1,2

[11] Exodus 2:1-10 with Hebrews 11:23-29

[12] Deuteronomy 33:13-17 with Genesis 48:1-20, Genesis 49:22-26, Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 3:13-15, etc.

[13] https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10865624

[14] Deuteronomy 3:13-15 & Joshua 17:1-18

[15] Joshua 17:1 with Numbers 26:29-34, Deuteronomy 3:1-15, Joshua 13:29-31, Judges 6:11-40, etc.

[16] II Nephi 2:10-50 with III Nephi 9:46-106

[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g87AKnEMAKo with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7kb81AeXX4

[18] https://store.carta-jerusalem.com/archaeology/734-the-worlds-oldest-alphabet-9789652208842.html

[19] e.g. https://restorationbookstore.org/products/caractors-unlocked

[20] cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Hebrews 8:8-13), Jeremiah 32:39-42, Ezekiel 36:24-31 & Ezekiel 37:12-14 with Romans 8:11-17

[21] This adoption holds remarkable significance since their mother was Egyptian (Genesis 41:45 with Genesis 41:51).  Briefly comprehended, those born outside the covenant were made equal to those of the covenant in Jacob’s adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:1-20).

[22] Compare with https://jewsforjesus.org/learn/a-comparison-between-joseph-and-jesus.

[23] Jeremiah 31:9,10, Hebrews 8:7-13, I Nephi 3:184-205 & I Nephi 4:16-29 with Acts 2:1-47, Romans 8:14-17 & Romans 11:1-36

[24] Acts 2

[25] cf. James 5:7-11 with James 1:1-4

[26] Hebrews 8:7-12

[27] Romans 10:10-13

[28] cf. Book of Mormon Title Page with D&C 83:8a-8c

[29] cf. I Chronicles 5:1,2 with Genesis 48:1-20 & Deuteronomy 33:13-17

[30] As I was pondering this paragraph anew while editing it early this morning (16 Jan 2023), I received an impress that Egypt’s Pharoah at the time wanted his Hebrew guests to become part of his kingdom and therefore wanted their language to meld with his.  Thus, in using Egyptian characters to construct a Hebrew alphabet, Manasseh was meeting this expectation of Pharoah.  That is, this may have served as the impetus for Joseph to have Manasseh prepare a Hebrew alphabet based on Egyptian characters.  Please note that this is an impress I received by faith while prayerfully studying out the significance and correctness of what I have been led to write.  It is not meant to be a proof.  Rather, I am noting it here for what it is, a word of knowledge given to me by the Spirit of the Lord (cf. Moroni 10:10-12 with I Corinthians 12:4-11).  I, for one, trust the witness of God through His Holy Spirit so I might honor and glorify Him.  Along with the many faithful souls who have gone before me, I stand on this truth, that God cannot lie because He is the eternal God of truth and righteousness.

[31] I Nephi 3:16-19 & I Nephi 4:16-19 with Book of Mormon Title Page & Moroni 10:1,2