Presenter Information

Alyssa R. TimpsonFollow

Content Category

Literary Criticism

Abstract/Description

The word, “weakness” in Ether 12:27 is commonly generalized to mean “the lack of a strength” and interchangeable synonyms—according to modern definitions—might be “fault” or “infirmity.” However, when read in context, these words are not at all interchangeable: “weakness” is almost always a lack of writing ability; “fault” is always associated with a specific sin such as greed or murder; and “infirmity” is always accompanied with Jesus Christ and the Atonement, suggesting that an infirmity is something that is specifically taken on by Jesus Christ. The consistency of usage suggests that the ancient definitions of these words had slight, but significant difference that modern readers overlook and misinterpret, though, interestingly, the 1828 Webster's Dictionary clarifies that Joseph Smith's understanding of weakness, fault, and infirmity was likely similar to our 2017 interpretation. Taken together, these 3 words form another small but significant evidence of Book of Mormon: it is highly unlikely that Joseph Smith could author a book that consistently uses three words in subtly different ways though, to him, the words were interchangeable.

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Make Weak Things Strong in Ether 12:27

The word, “weakness” in Ether 12:27 is commonly generalized to mean “the lack of a strength” and interchangeable synonyms—according to modern definitions—might be “fault” or “infirmity.” However, when read in context, these words are not at all interchangeable: “weakness” is almost always a lack of writing ability; “fault” is always associated with a specific sin such as greed or murder; and “infirmity” is always accompanied with Jesus Christ and the Atonement, suggesting that an infirmity is something that is specifically taken on by Jesus Christ. The consistency of usage suggests that the ancient definitions of these words had slight, but significant difference that modern readers overlook and misinterpret, though, interestingly, the 1828 Webster's Dictionary clarifies that Joseph Smith's understanding of weakness, fault, and infirmity was likely similar to our 2017 interpretation. Taken together, these 3 words form another small but significant evidence of Book of Mormon: it is highly unlikely that Joseph Smith could author a book that consistently uses three words in subtly different ways though, to him, the words were interchangeable.