“When They Had Hanged Him They Did Cry with a Loud Voice Saying”

Alan C. Miner

According to Terrance Szink, it is interesting to note that after surrounding the robbers, the Nephites took their leader, and hanged him upon the top of a tree.

And when they had hanged him until he was dead they did fell the tree to the earth, and did cry with a loud voice, saying: May the Lord preserve his people in righteousness and in holiness of heart, that they may cause to be felled to the earth all who shall seek to slay them because of power and secret combinations, even as this man hath been felled to the earth. (3 Nephi 4:28-29)

This ritual is similar in underlying thought to Egyptian oaths called execration texts. In such texts, the Egyptians of the Middle Kingdom ritually cursed their enemies by writing their names on bowls or figures of clay and then smashing them. As they broke the bowls or figures they believed they were destroying the power of those whose names were inscribed thereon. The following is an example of a text written on such a bowl: "All men, all people, all folk, all males, all eunuchs, all women, and all officials, who may rebel, who may plot, who may fight, who may talk of fighting, or who may talk of rebelling, and every rebel who talks of rebelling--in this entire land."

The reader should note that there is a subtle difference in the two rituals--the Egyptians directly cursed the enemy, while in the Book of Mormon the people asked that they might be strengthened through their righteousness in order that they may destroy the enemy. [Terrence L. Szink, "A Just and a True Record," in Studies in Scripture: Book of Mormon, Part 2, pp. 132-133]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary