“He Taught Me in His Language”

Brant Gardner

Our information about Enos comes from Jacob’ s declaration that Enos is his son and was charged to receive and write on the plates according to the desires of Nephi (Jacob 7:27). We also have this short personal introduction. There is really very little that we can learn about Enos. We do not know when he was born, nor how old he was when given the charge concerning the plates.

In the discussion of Jacob 1:11 it was noted: “We do not know the precise date of Jacob’s death. The next specific date marker we have is just prior to Enos’ death where he notes that 179 years have passed since the departure from Jerusalem (Enos 1:25). From the time of Nephi’s death until Enos’ death (presuming it came soon after that 179 year marker) we have 124 years in which there are only two writers on the small plates. This is a long time, and requires advanced ages for both Jacob and Enos. Splitting the difference between them, each would have had to have had a life time of about 87 years. That is quite old for the ancient world, but Nephi lived into his 70’s, and these ages would not be beyond possibility, although remarkable. Of course any revision of Jacob’s probable date of birth to a later year makes this span shorter.”

Of course Jacob would have to have been alive for Enos to have been born, and Enos learned from his father, so Jacob lived at least into Enos’ youth. This still places both Jacob and Enos into their 90’s to make the chronology work for these two.

We can clearly assume that Enos would have known about the plates, but simply not have had the charge to write upon them. With the chronological problems, the most tempting solution is to have Enos be fairly young when Jacob dies. It might be plausible, then that Jacob gives Enos the instructions, but they do not sink in until later in Enos’ life, and hence the transformational experience he describes in this chapter.

Most curious in Enos’ introduction is the dual statement that his father taught him in the language of his father and in the ways of the Lord. We can readily understand this last idea, for we also strive to teach our children the ways of the Lord. What is much less clear is why Jacob would have to teach Enos “his language.”

The most logical reference for this would be to return to Nephi’s opening statement where he too was taught in the language of his father. While the use of language as a term in the Book of Mormon at times fits the idea of culture more than spoken or written language, the presence of the term in this verse makes much more sense as either written or verbal language than it does to culture.

Of course this raises the question as to why Enos would comment that his father taught Enos his language. Is it not automatic that parents teach their language to their children? Do not children learn language without conscious teaching?

There are two possible meanings to this phrase. The first is that Jacob taught Enos the language of the Old World because a different language has become the norm for the New World community The second reading is that Jacob taught Enos writing, and specifically the “Egyptian” that was required for the plates with which he would be entrusted. While the first reading is an intriguing possibility, and fits in with the expected linguistic adaptation to a new location, it appears more certain that the second reading should be preferred. Regardless of the spoken language, the plates appear to require a specific script and understanding, modeled after the brass plates. It is most likely that it is to this learning that Enos refers.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon