Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baurak Ale and the Bloggernacle

When I joined the Church in 1979, the Doctrine and Covenants contained, in places, some code words for some of the early leaders of the Church. Members were taught that these code names were used to hide the identities of Joseph Smith and some of his associates so they would not be used in lawsuits against the Church. A short time before I left on my mission in 1981, the new triple combination became available. In this new printing, the code names had been changed to the real name. Now, a student of the Doctrine and Covenants will no longer encounter "Barauk Ale," "Mehemson," or "Horah," but Joseph Smith, Martin Harris, or John Whitmer.

I think these names are fascinating--not in a Hugh Nibley sort of way, but because it interests me to speculate on who chose the names and why they were assigned to certain people. Oliver Cowdery's code name was "Olihah," which seems to be a sort of Book-of-Mormonization of his real name. Imagine using this type of secret code in the Bloggernacle--if you wanted to criticize someone, you could just call him "Stevihah." That way, everyone would know who you were talking about, but he wouldn't be able to sue you!

Other names seemed to be combined from two different Biblical characters: WW Phelps was referred to as "Shalemanasseh." Just look how well that technique fits when we apply it to fmhLisa. Since she hasn't told her mother about her blogging yet, she really needs a code name. How about "Debezebel?"

Then there's the name (title?) Baneemy. This code was such a secret that no one was quite sure who it referred to! Several men claimed to be Baneemy, including Charles B. Thompson (who published a periodical titled "Baneemy's Organ") and Lyman Wight. To solve the problem, Orson Pratt interpreted the word to mean "mine elders." We might get the same problem by publishing a statement such as this:

"Mulapul is far and away the most intelligent and talented writer in the Bloggernacle."
I remember in the pre-1981 era, Sunday School D&C classes used to love to speculate about the use of these names. Did they show off Joseph Smith's knowledge of Hebrew? Were they proof that he knew the name of Enoch's father before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls? I'm afraid that some of you younger bloggers may have missed the fun. In fact, I wonder if some of you are even aware of these nicknames. Know ye, or know ye not? Feel free to date yourselves in the comments.

Yours,
Borihah in Vern-ale

20 comments:

AML said...

Michel Quinn suggests that the origin of this might have been the pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch, as well as being rooted in ceremonial magic.

'Mosie Schwab identified the angel name meaning 'god bless you' as Barakh El in magical inscriptions on artifacts in the Louvre... specifically designated for Jupiter' Early Mormonism and the Magic World View (Revised Edition) p 225

As for me, I'd never heard of them until I got into church history.

Lucy said...

I've been in the Church all my life but I didn't know about these names. So interesting. And yeah...they could come in handy.

G said...

whoa! count me in as one who missed all the fun. I had no idea!
(reading the title of this post I thought it was going to be about beer and the word of wisdom. guess that just shows where my mind is!)

Maraiya said...

Yeah, knew nothing about this until you wrote it. Does that make me young?! Yippee!

Anthony E. Larson said...

Assigning symbolic names to people, events and conditions was a common prophetic practice, anciently. So, it is no suprise that a latter-day prophet and his people would adopt such a practice.
That's why scripture is littered with symbolism and metaphors. Some of its meaning, like prophetic symbols and metaphors, remains hidden to most, even with the enlightenment that came in the restoration. It's a handy (and often colorful) device to avoid using names or explicit language. That way, some things remain secret, beyond the comprehension of those who are uninitiated in those terms, symbols or metaphor. (If you don't believe me, try explaining to someone else what each of the symbols on the exterior of the Salt Lake Temple mean.)
You've only exposed the smallest part of that practice, the tip of the iceberg.

Zen said...

Just a question here - how does Enoch's father's name differ in Dead Sea Scrolls from what we read in Genesis?

Zen-ihah

Reuben said...

You're blowing my mind. I was born in 1981 and I've never heard of this before....

ixoj said...

born in 1982 and never heard of this.

Ayla said...

i've only ever heard Quinn reference it, certainly i've never heard of it at church but i'm a recent convert

Sue said...

Fascinating. I'd never heard of this before either.

Fifthgen said...

Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember the code names. Your post kind of makes me miss them. Weird, huh?

Bored in Vernal said...

FifthGen,
I'm glad this post stirred up a bit of nostalgia. I kind of miss the wacky parts of my religion. These days everything is being so smoothed over you don't find very much of the unorthodox anymore.

Zen said...

Ok, I found the reference to Enoch's father, in case anyone was interested. And yes, the name was given as "Barakel".

http://www.piney.com/DSSBkGiants.html

I wonder what that means for biblical genealogies? Probably just an alternate name.

Bored in Vernal said...

Zen, thanks for that reference. I just knew I had heard it somewhere, but it has been so long since we used to discuss these things. It appears that Barakel is one of the Watcher Angels--but I don't know where I got the impression that he was the father of Enoch...

S.Faux said...

I think there is more going on here than simple access to the Book of Enoch. Yes, I would say Baurak Ale =Barakel, but there is far more correlation here than meets the eye. Joseph's revelation was describing dimensions from which he could simply never have access by books alone. See my essay entitled "Mahijah."

Bored in Vernal said...

Faux, your post is very interesting!! I think there are some things about what Joseph revealed that we can never explain just by saying he was a charlatan. He was a fascinating character and we are still discovering ancient connections. It certainly defies the rational. Thanks for the link.

Susanne Pappan said...

I joined the Church in '79 also and remember being a little confused, but thought it was so cool that there were codes, and other mysteries in my new found religion. I still tend to be one of the old "wacko converts" LOL.
I miss the every day discussion of topics like this. Thanks for posting it.

backandthen said...

I knew I was born to late!
1976 to be specific and my mother became a member of the church in 1978.

Derek P. Moore said...

"Baneemy" appears to be an Old English (beneme) and Irish Gaelic (bainimdh) word meaning "to deprive of", "to take away from", "to remove", or "to cut or strip off".

In the first reference to Lyman Wight (who was codenamed Baneemy) in the Book of Commandments it reads (54:5-6,12):

"5 And inasmuch as they are not faithful, they shall be cut off, even as I will, as seemeth me good. 6 And again, verily I say unto you, let my servant Lyman (W.,) and my servant John (C.,) take their journey speedily: 12 And let my servant Lyman beware, for satan desireth to sift him as chaff."

Chaucer wrote, "Ire . . . benimeth the man fro God."

Joseph Smith, Jr., had a habit of using Gaelic terms in his revelations, which is telling as he is descended from the bardic cast and ecclesiastical princes of Ireland, the ancient M’Gowan family (to which I am related through Magog’s Phœnician/Gadelian/Milesian House of Ir, Clanna-Rory, Clan King, and our common patriarch Conal Cearnach).

For example, Master Mahan: Mahan is a Gaelic term meaning "wild beast of the field". Mahan comes from Mathghabhuin — "magh": Irish, a plain; "gabhuin": a calf — "'the bear of the plain' or 'a wild calf'; for a bear is strictly a kind of wild calf".

As for a Scriptural connection between Mahan and its Irish translation to "the wild beast of the field", we need go no further than Genesis in Joseph Smith’s Translation (chapter V):

16 And Cain said, Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan; and he gloried in his wickedness.

17 And Cain went into the field, and Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, that while they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.

Bored in Vernal said...

Very interesting, Derek. Thank you for adding those thoughts to this discussion.