We are now moving past the halfway point in this series on the Women of the Book of Mormon. This time we will cover Sarai or as she is better known, Sarah. Sarah is the wife of Abraham. She actually is only mentioned in the Book of Mormon once, in the second book of Nephi. However, she is only there because Nephi’s younger brother, Jacob, is quoting Isaiah.
Look unto Abraham, your father, and unto Sarah, she that bare you; for I called him alone, and blessed him. – 2 Nephi 8: 2
Compare this to Isaiah;
Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him. – Isaiah 51: 2, KJV
There are a couple of differences. Jacob quotes the Brass Plates as stating “she” in “she that bare you,” which may have been removed from our modern version, or it may just be how it was translated by Smith from whatever language the Small Plates were written in. If Mormon re-wrote the Small Plates into reformed Egyptian, this word could have bee added per context of the language. Either way, it is clear that the KJV adds “and increased him” to the verse.
The text was recopied over and over so that we see changes from the original in our current Bibles. We do not have any copies from 600 BC to examine. When looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest versions of the Book of Isaiah (seeing that the Brass Plates are not currently available for scientists or translators to examine), around 100 BC, there are two. One is the Qumran Great Isaiah Scroll (Q or Qa) and the other is the Qumran Isaiah Scroll (Qb), which is only 75% complete. Let’s compare them:
Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you: for I called him singly, and made him fruitful, m..I blessed him and multiplied him. – – Isaiah 51: 2, DSS (Qa)
Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who bore you: for I called him singly, and multiplied him. – Isaiah 51: 2, DSS (Qb)
“Singly” means “separately or “individually.” So, this is merely another way of translating “alone.” What is interesting here though is that “and bless him” is missing from one of the texts. The phrase “made him fruitful” is very much like saying ” and blessed him.” Yet is it clear looking at the Dead Sea Scrolls that there was some tampering with the text. Even these two verses from the same group of people do not agree with each other.
At this point readers may be wondering, “what does any of this have to do with Sarah?” The answer is, of course, nothing. However, it sheds light on what we may learn from her inclusion in the Book of Mormon via the inclusion of certain chapters of the book of Isaiah. Of the sixty-six chapters of Isaiah we have in the Old Testament of the Bible, there are twenty-one (not all complete) of these in the Book of Mormon, as this chart shows:
|Isaiah||Book of Mormon|
|Isaiah 2||2 Nephi 12|
|Isaiah 3||2 Nephi 13|
|Isaiah 4||2 Nephi 14|
|Isaiah 5||2 Nephi 15|
|Isaiah 6||2 Nephi 1|
|Isaiah 7||2 Nephi 17|
|Isaiah 8||2 Nephi 18|
|Isaiah 9||2 Nephi 19|
|Isaiah 10||2 Nephi 20|
|Isaiah 11||2 Nephi 21|
|Isaiah 12||2 Nephi 22|
|Isaiah 13||2 Nephi 23|
|Isaiah 14||2 Nephi 24|
|Isaiah 29||2 Nephi 27|
|Isaiah 48||1 Nephi 20|
|Isaiah 49||1 Nephi 21|
|Isaiah 50||2 Nephi 7|
|Isaiah 51||2 Nephi 8|
|Isaiah 52||3 Nephi 20|
|Isaiah 53||Mosiah 14|
|Isaiah 54||3 Nephi 22|
These verses correct mistranslated and copy errors over time bringing us closer to the original text. It should be pointed out that Smith made some of the same translation errors as those that translated the KJV. This may have been to keep the text familiar to readers of the time, we do not know. But this does remind us that the Book of Mormon was an inspired, yet imperfect translation. I hope that one day the Brass Plates will be translated and then these errors will be fixed as well. In the mean time, the text that was added or removed at least brings us closer to the original meaning.
The inclusion of parts of the Book of Isaiah also adds to our understanding of the people of the Book of Mormon, some thought that Isaiah was referring to them in his prophecies. They also let us know which chapters of Isaiah are the most important for us today. In addition, it is yet another reference in the Book of Mormon to the importance of the Bible. It expresses the need to study all scriptures together, as they all work together as they came from the same God. Lastly, it reminds us that the Book of Mormon people are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah. Just as we are all the spiritual children of our Heavenly Father and Mother and the spiritual or adopted children of Jesus Christ, the Father of our salvation; we too are the children of Abraham and Sarah.
Sarah was not mention in the Book of Mormon in an real way that uses her life to teach us. But the fact that she is mentioned as a quote from the Book of Isaiah tells us so much more. She is our mother, just as Eve was our mother. Her blood runs in our veins. This reminds us that all scriptures come from God, Old World, New World, 3,000 years ago, or 100 years ago or even new scriptures, should we be so blessed in our lifetime. We should compare them to truly learn God’s Word for our lives.
Image: Abram’s Counsel to Sarai by James Tissot, Public Domain.