“Sacrifice and Burnt Offerings”

Brant Gardner

In addition to coming together for a speech, the people are coming for a communal religious rite. The law of Moses provides not only for individual worship but also for community worship. Community acts not only reinforce the purpose of the religious event but also help to cement the people through their mutual participation. Szink and Welch observe that the typical New Year, like most festivals” prescribed in the Old Testament, “evidently began with burnt offerings of animals of ‘the first year.’ ‘In the seventh month, in the first day of the month… ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord (Lev. 23:24–25).’”

Such sacrifices not only strengthen the supposition that this is a New Year ceremony, but also give us information about the scale of this communal rite: “And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings.” Whom does Mormon mean by “they”? This verse directly follows the discussion of those who are coming to the ceremony, not the priests who are in the town. Thus, the people themselves are apparently bringing animals to sacrifice. While only one animal would be sacrificed for each family group at most, still the number must have been very large. Probably most of the meat would provide the feast which followed. Thus, the sacrifices would not only reinforce the religious aspect of the ceremonies but also solve the pragmatic problem of feeding such a large assemblage.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 3