Word Studies In The Book Of Mormon

Satire by David Padfield

(satire, 1. A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit. 2. Irony or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.).

"And they were built after a manner that they were exceeding tight, even that they would hold water like unto a dish; and the sides thereof were tight like unto a dish; and the ends thereof were peaked; and the top thereof was tight like unto a dish; and the length thereof was the length of a tree and the door thereof, when it was shut, was tight like unto a dish" (The Book Of Mormon, Ether 2:17).

In the study of the Book of Mormon, many sincere students have stumbled over the phrase in Ether 2:17, where the Lord was talking to the brother of Jared, and commanded him to build a barge the "length of a tree." I believe the trouble lies in our ignorance of the "reformed Egyptian" language. At this time I would like to clear up this matter for those who might be weak in the faith. The word "length" (Egyptian, bologna) is from an Egyptian word which means "linear extension from end to end, usually the greatest dimension or a surface of body."(1) So, when we apply this to a tree, we find that it has reference to the vertical measurement of it. There is much debate among scholars as to whether the roots of the tree should be included in the measurement. Most liberal scholars believe that the roots should be considered. However, this position causes many difficulties for the dedicated student. We realize that the same tree could have different root structures depending on the type of soil. I feel that we would be taking something away from the text if we accepted the liberal interpretation of this word.

The real problem with this verse comes when we try to determine the type of tree the Lord was talking about. According to Aesop(2), there are four words translated "tree" in the Book of Mormon. They are: a) Shrubeto, b) Busha, c) Brancheo, and d) Skyskraperito. The latter word is the one found in our text. I believe you can understand the significance of the word when you realize that our English word "skyscraper" is a transliteration of this rare word. The only other time this word is found in the original text is in 1 Nephi 8:10. A distant form of skyskraperito is found in Jacob 5:10, where it is translated "wild olive tree."(3)

Knowing that the barge in Ether 2:17 was to be the length of a large tree, the interpretation of the passage is made much easier. Recent archeological evidence indicates that some Egyptian trees were capable of reaching over 200 lengths of hair (this also would be an interesting study).

It is my desire that you will diligently study the Book of Mormon, and realize that it is true. Just as true as today's tabloid papers.


  1. Egyptian-English Lexicon of the Book of Mormon, P. T. Barnum, p. 89
  2. Aesop's Expository Dictionary of Egyptian Words, p. 1108
  3. Synonyms of the Book of Mormon, Walt Disney, p. 1356

For further study