It seems to me that I have read the Book of Mormon at least a million times, maybe even more. Reading it daily for many years adds up! Of course this is a slight exaggeration but I have read it many times. I have read it enough to know what the next verse is going to say. I know what will happen in the storyline. Even though there are layers of understanding in the doctrine it teaches, I still know what doctrine is going to be taught. Because of such familiarity I find my mind sometimes drifting as I read, a real signal to me. Even though I really believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God, I recognized I needed a fresh way of approaching it.
In the past I have usually read it from start to finish, but I have studied it topically. I have read it looking for themes. There have been many times I have read it to find answers to prayers, which always led me to my answer. But some of these approaches were a little stale for me this time round. Like I said, I have recognized a need for a fresh approach. A way to gather new insights and meaning from this sacred scripture.
Fortunately I found a way that has not only increased my love for the book but has brought new meaning and depth to my scripture study. It’s interesting to me that God knows my personality, what I find fun and fulfilling. One day as I was thinking about my lack luster approach to the scriptures I felt inspired to study it using an 1828 dictionary. I love words, the study of words and how understanding the nuances of words broadens their meaning. It is fun for me to make connections between words and new ideas. I just love words! And so I turned to the 1828 dictionary.
The 1828 dictionary reflects word usage at the time that Joseph Smith translated the book. Sometimes changes in word usage can make a difference in understanding. I actually have an 1828 dictionary, a very heavy 2 volume set, but I found an app for my phone which makes it so much easier to use. There are also websites with an 1828 dictionary. From what I read online, there are a lot of people who use the 1828 dictionary to help them understand the bible better. So whether I’m using my phone or computer, it’s very simple to do. Turns out that many words have different meanings in today’s usage.
To really be thorough I am looking up even common words, words I am already sure I know the meaning of. Often I am really surprised by new found meanings. Some of the words and their meanings have helped me to understand verses in a totally different way. I have been writing the new meaning above the word in my scriptures. Some words that have really surprised me I have written in a notebook.
I thought it would be fun to share a few of those words with you. Words that have changed my understanding of a verse or concept. One word that had a different meaning than I previously thought was partake. I had thought partake meant to eat something, but it means in the 1828 dictionary to have part of. So when Lehi partook of the fruit of the Tree of Life he wasn’t just eating it, he was given a part of it. He had a claim on it, an inheritance. He had a part of it. And because we know the tree represents the Love of God it gives new depth to the word. I love the imagery of that.
Another word that gave me new insight was the word graft. In reading the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees I found the new meaning of the word opened up my understanding. The 1828 dictionary defines graft as a small shoot inserted into another tree to support and nourish it. Wow, what a concept! The definition goes on to say these unite and become one tree but the graft determines the kind of fruit produced. Doesn’t that just give expanded understanding of Jacob 5? Especially the concept of becoming one tree and the fruit is determined by the graft. Powerful insights!
I really like the word succor. It doesn’t just mean to offer help or aid but it means to run to help, to hurry to relieve distress. So when Alma 7:12 describes Christ as taking on our infirmities so He will know how to succor us, it’s telling us that He will hurry to our aid in our distress. He wants not only to help us, but will hurry to do so. What comforting words!
The last word I want to share the meaning of is jealous. I have always had a hard time with the scripture verses that describe God as a jealous God. Being jealous is a negative trait, something that is not good. So if it’s negative how could God be jealous?
The 1828 dictionary defines jealous as worried that another is more loved than self. When I read this I thought of the greatest commandment which we have been given. We are told to love God with all of our hearts, might, minds and strength. We are to love our God completely. God knows that when we love Him fully we will choose to follow Him and keep the commandments. This commandment was not given for His benefit, but for our own. Because the commandments guide us back to our heavenly home, back to God. As I thought about it I realized the word jealous does fit. God is worried that we will love Satan or the world more than Him. That which we love we seek after. Because He loves us, He wants us to seek after Him. He wants us to return home to him.
These are only four definitions of the many words I have found new meanings to. Even though it is slow going I have loved studying the Book of Mormon this way. Really, I don’t have to hurry. Using the 1828 dictionary has increased my understanding and my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I eagerly look for added meaning and find myself pondering the scriptures more. What a blessing it is to have access to the 1828 dictionary. Even more so, what a blessing it is to have the Book of Mormon!