Most readers will be familiar with the following story:
The daughter of a king is involved in a scheme where she will dance for an audience in order to please them enough that they promise to do anything for her. The desired outcome is that one of the men in the story will be beheaded, and the audience pleased by the dancing will be the one to carry out the beheading.
Most readers will notice first that this outline describes the experience of King Herod and John the Baptist. Herod’s wife, Herodias, is angry with John the Baptist because Herodias was originally married to Herod’s brother, Philip. According to the author of Mark, John is brazen enough to state explicitly to Herod that “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18; cf. Matt. 14:4). Because of this, Herod has John put in jail, but Herod was either afraid of the people who liked John (according to Matt.) or afraid of John because he was a good person (according to Mark), and so decided not to kill him against the wishes of Herodias. But, on Herod’s birthday his daughter dances for him (and a few lords, captains, and chiefs according to Mark) which pleases him so much that he makes an oath that he will give her whatever she wants. The daughter goes to Herodias who tells her to ask for John the Baptist’s head. Herod would not rescind his prior oath, and is sorry that he decides to go along with the request. The oath is what binds him to murder John, even though it was against his original wishes.
Close readers of the Book of Mormon (BM) will notice that a similar story is found in Ether 8:7-9:6 (see the relevant texts at the end of this post). In this story the characters are slightly changed around. Here Jared (not to be confused with Jared, the brother of the brother of Jared, earlier in the book of Ether) is sorrowful because the kingdom was taken away from him after he had usurped power from his father, Omer. His daughter, noticing his sorrow, tells him how he can get the kingdom back based on an “account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms and great glory” (Ether 8:9). Jared’s daughter tells Jared that if he sent for Akish that she would dance for him. Akish would be pleased with her dancing and would desire to marry her. At that point Jared would need to tell Akish that if he wants to marry his daughter he needs to bring him his father Omer’s head.
Jared goes along with the plan, and Akish makes a secret oath with many of his family and friends to help him kill the king. Instead of being able to go through with the plan, Omer is warned in a dream about his impending death and leaves with his family into the wilderness in language similar to what we find about Lehi and his family in 1 Nephi. Because the king and his full family (besides Jared) leave the kingdom, Jared is able to easily take the kingdom back from his father. He allows Akish to marry his daughter, who then becomes jealous of his father in law. Akish works with his family and friends to kill Jared so that he can take the throne. The “secret” society ends up being renown by all of the people in the kingdom, to the point that Akish and his kinsmen are able to kill King Jared openly on his throne by beheading him while he is addressing his subjects.
These two stories are closely related. Similar to many other stories in the BM, it is clear that many of the phrases and ideas in Ether 8:7-9:6 come from the New Testament (NT). The BM is aware of the story of John the Baptist, unique to Matthew and Mark, as well as others. As noted in one of my previous posts, 1 Ne. 10:7-10 is aware of and dependent on John 1:26-29, 33. The author of 1 Nephi blends materials unique to this Johannine text, not found in other gospels with a few phrases that are unique to Matt. 3, as well as other phrases that are shared between the synoptics. The author of Mosiah and Alma is aware of the NT stories about the conversion of Saul/Paul on his way to Damascus. The conversion of Alma the Younger is itself dependent on the conversion story of Paul.
In future posts I will continue to analyze ways in which the King James Bible has been used in the BM and other Restoration Scripture produced by Joseph Smith in the early years of his work. The cumulative data of the influence of the KJV on the BM and other Mormon scriptures is significant, and needs to become a dedicated area of study within Mormon Studies proper. It has the potential to effect most, if not all, areas of study in positive ways, gleaning new information on the beginnings of Mormonism and how a religion that now has 15 million members came to be.
Ether 8:7-12, 9:1-9:6 (Printer’s Manuscript) – 7 & now Jared became exceeding sorrowful because of the loss of the kingdom, for he had set his heart upon the kingdom, & upon the glory of the world. 8 now the daughter of Jared being exceeding expert, & seeing the sorrow of her father, thought to devise a plan whereby she could redeem the kingdom unto her father. 9 now the daughter of Jared was exceeding fair. & it came to pass that she did talk with her father, & saith unto him, Whereby hath my father so much sorrow? hath he not read the record which our fathers brought across the great deep? behold, is there not an account concerning them of old, that they by their secret plans did obtain kingdoms & great glory? 10 & now therefore, let my father send for Akish, the son of Kimnor; & behold I am fair, & I will dance before him & will please him, that he will desire me to wife; wherefore if he shall desire of thee that ye shall give unto him me to wife, then shall ye say, I will give her if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the King. 11 & now Omer was a friend to Akish, wherefore when Jared had sent for Akish, the daughter of Jared danced before him, that she pleased him, insomuch that he desired her to wife. & it came to pass that he said unto Jared, Give her unto me to wife. 12 & Jared said unto him, I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king… 9:1 And now I, Moroni, proceed with my record; therefore behold it came to pass that because of the secret combinations of Akish & his friends, behold they did overthrow the kingdom of Omer; 2 nevertheless, the Lord was merciful unto Omer, & also to his sons & to his daughters, who did not seek his destruction. 3 & the Lord warned Omer in a dream that he should depart out of the land; wherefore Omer departed out of the land with his family, & traveled many days, & came over & passed by the hill of Shim, & came over by the place where the Nephites were destroyed, & from thence eastward, & came to a place which was called Ablom, by the sea shore, & there he pitched his tent & also his sons & his daughters & all his household, save it were Jared & his family. 4 & it came to pass that Jared was anointed king over the people, by the hand of wickedness; & he gave unto Akish his daughter to wife. 5 & it came to pass that Akish sought the life of his father-in law, & he applied unto those whom he had sworn by the oath of the ancients, & they obtained the head of his father in law, as he sat upon his throne, giving audience to his people; 6 for so great had been the spreading of thei wicked & secret society, that it had corrupted the hearts of all the people; therefore Jared was murdered upon his throne, & Akish reigned in his stead.
Mark 6:17-29 – 17 For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her. 18 For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife. 19 Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: 20 For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. 21 And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; 22 And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. 23 And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. 24 And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist. 25 And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. 26 And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, 28 And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother. 29 And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
Matt. 14:3-12 – 3 For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. 4 For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. 5 And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. 6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod. 7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. 8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger. 9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her. 10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.