Why is the word ceremony used in Mosiah 19:24?

Why is the word ceremony used in Mosiah 19:24?
Hmmmm… serious question. Anyone want to fess up to asking this question???

I’m trying to figure out who would ask me a question like this. Obviously somebody Mormon & well acquainted with the Book of Mormon… But this is an obscure enough question that not just any run-of-the-mill Mormon would come up with it. It’s probably somebody who has already googled it, read a few academic articles about it, and doesn’t actually expect me to know the answer. Hmmm. Puzzling.

Ok, but obviously, I don’t know the answer to this question. Here’s the backstory from the Book of Mormon for anyone that isn’t familiar:

There are two groups traveling around in the wilderness trying to find each other. They finally meet and are filling each other in on what has been happening since they last saw each other. Then verse 24 says “And it came to pass that after they had ended the ceremony, that they returned to the land of Nephi….” But previously there had been no mention of ceremonies, so what ceremony ended?

So obviously, I can only speculate. I think it’s important to establish who chose the word ceremony (i.e. Joseph Smith or Mormon)? There are ongoing debates regarding how the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith (or if he just entirely made it up). Members of the church will differ on whether they think Joseph was a passive or active translator – meaning whether he dictated specific words shown to him, or whether he chose the words himself. I tend to think that Joseph Smith was an active translator – that the words in the Book of Mormon are of 19th century origin – that the Book of Mormon is not a translation of the prophet Mormon’s words in a literal sense. The stories, the themes, and the teachings may originate from ancient American prophets, but the English words are Joseph’s.

So that being said, why did Joseph use the word “ceremony”? Four options:
1) he didn’t, but by some transcription or scribal errors, the word ceremony turns up in the modern Book of Mormon
2) he used the word ceremony in a bizarre, nuanced way to describe the meeting that had just taken place – using the word to mean something like “important conversation” or “retelling of important stories”
3) he meant to imply that some sort of actual ceremony had taken place – perhaps with priesthood ordinances being performed
4) he flubbed up in referring to a ceremony ending, forgetting that he never mentioned one starting

I think it’s option 2, but I’m just guessing.

11 comments to Why is the word ceremony used in Mosiah 19:24?

  • The ceremony referred to in this verse could be a ceremony of the death of king Noah who was burned.?

    Who knows? If the law of moses was still in affect, there could have been some type of ceremony after the death of king noah, because of unclean or repent for following a wicked king.

  • Kristy, yea, if it is referring to an actual ceremony that took place, some sort of funerary or mourning ceremony is a good guess.

  • Reuben – This is fascinating, and definitely something I never noticed.

    It reminds me of an interesting little scriptural conundrum in the Gospel of Mark.

    If you read Mark 10:46 carefully, the first half of the verse will strike you as rather odd. "And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho…" Huh? Why does the author mention the coming to Jericho at all, if he's only going to follow by simply saying they left Jericho?

    In 1958, however, some texts came to light in which some missing fragments of the Gospel of Mark were quoted. One of the text fragments actually fills in what Jesus did in Jericho.

    Scholars have debated the significance of the missing text fragments, but one consensus that seems to have emerged among scholars is that the missing fragments were part of a "secret," more complete Gospel of Mark that was used as part of a secret/sacred Christian initiation ritual involving initiates wearing nothing but a white linen cloth. (One of the missing text fragments describes Jesus administering such an initiatory ritual.)

    This is all information brought to light by non-Mormon scholars, though Mormons should be very interested in it, for reasons anyone who's been to the temple would be familiar with…

    The word "ceremony" in Mosiah 19:24 might point to incomplete editing of the text by the text's author (not by the translator), intended to avoid revealing information about a ceremony that shouldn't be publicly discussed.

  • John, interesting. I've never noticed that verse in Mark before. You're very right – if there actually was a ceremony taking place here, the omission of details could have been made by Mormon or the original author (which was…??? mind is blank…) as well as by Joseph Smith.

  • If there's anything to my speculation (let me underline, speculation!), I doubt that in 1829 when the Book of Mormon was being translated that Joseph Smith would have known anything about sacred/secret ceremonies that ought to be edited out of the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, it stands to reason that the reason a ceremony was mentioned at all is because Mormon was familiar with and going off a more complete account of what had happened. So in my speculative scenario, the most likely culprit for editing the text in this way would have been Mormon — who after all knew that he was creating an account intended for an uninitiated audience, and would have known to leave out details inappropriate to that audience.

    Again, I'm fascinated by this verse…

  • Anonymous

    I submitted the question. I noticed the word while reading, and thought about that word. Then I googled the scripture and found that others had also wondered about that word. One explanation I saw was that the word ceremony was mistakenly transcribed either by the translator or substituted during the printing process (your reason number 1). And to me, this seems the most probable explanation of the bunch.

    However, something that I WANT to believe (because the BoM would be that much more interesting if it were so) is that perhaps the ceremony required the shedding of (non-innocent) blood.
    As I read it:
    The "they" in vs. 19-22 who came across Gideon's men had just killed the King and were going to try and put the priests to death. But the priests fled. Then Gideon's men came, and the "they" in vs 19 explain to Gideon's men what they had done. Immediately after that explanation, we see verse 24. One might conclude that the "ceremony" was related to the previously described actions.

    Another avenue which I have not pursued is that there is an alternate meaning to the word ceremony that is no longer in use. I don't have a dictionary from cir. 1820s, so I don't know for sure.

  • OH it was submitted by ANONYMOUS! That clears things up…

    anonymous, you sound pretty blood-thirsty! It's a good question, though. keep them coming.

  • Ren

    I'm going with your theory #2.

  • look4rainbows

    I think the ceremony has to do with the death of the king and they are obligated to do some ceremony as quickly as possible, thus they don't wait until they return to the land of Nephi.

  • look4rainbows – good guess. That's as good a guess as any.

  • look4rainbows

    Thanks. I just finished reading about it and here is my blog post of what I found.
    http://look4rainbowslearned.blogspot.com/2010/02/why-is-word-ceremony-used-in-mosiah.html