Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book of Mormon Word Usage: Pretend

The English word pretend comes from the Latin, praetendo meaning to hold forth. Even in Latin, the term held the connotation of holding forth something that is not actually the case. Thus, in Joseph Smith's day, Webster's dictionary defined the term as meaning:
To hold out, as a false appearance; to offer something feigned instead of that which is real; to simulate, in words or actions. . . . To show hypocritically; . . . To exhibit as a cover for something hidden. . . . To claim. . . .To put in a claim, truly or falsely; to hold out the appearance of being, possessing or performing.
The six uses of the term pretend in the Book of Mormon follow this pattern. In all cases, those who use the term imply that what is pretended is actually false, although they are not always accurate in their assessment.

Thus Abinadi's accusers say:

he saith thou shalt be as the blossoms of a thistle, which, when it is fully ripe, if the wind bloweth, it is driven forth upon the face of the land. And he pretendeth the Lord hath spoken it. (Mosiah 12:12)
In this case, his accusers are mistaken.

Korihor, likewise promotes the accusation:
Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is God—a being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be. (Alma 30:28)
Again, Korihor is mistaken in his accusations.

Abinadi himself uses the term:

And now Abinadi said unto them: Are you priests, and pretend to teach this people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying, and yet desire to know of me what these things mean? (Mosiah 12:25)
Abinadi notes that Noah's priests, who held themselves out as understanding the spirit of prophesying, could not understand the prophecies. Abinadi, however, was not mistaken.

Nephi uses the term ironically:
Has Nephi, the pretended prophet, who doth prophesy so much evil concerning this people, agreed with thee, in the which ye have murdered Seezoram, who is your brother? And behold, he shall say unto you, Nay. (Helaman 9:27–28)
Nephi knows quite well that the people he is talking to do not believe that he actually is a prophet. He is in custody and those who have put him in custody have been trying to refute his prophecies and are trying to frame him for murder.

For others, the term is used not so much ironically as cynically:
Nevertheless, they durst not lie, if it were known, for fear of the law, for liars were punished; therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief. (Alma 1:17)
The most egregious example of this cynical use has to be the traitor Amalickiah, who, having failed to seize power over the Nephites, is in the process of seizing power over the Lamanites. He has already betrayed the Lamanite king by handing his army over to another general, whom he in turn betrayed by poisoning him, and he has just had the Lamanite king assassinated:
And it came to pass that Amalickiah commanded that his armies should march forth and see what had happened to the king; and when they had come to the spot, and found the king lying in his gore, Amalickiah pretended to be wroth, and said: Whosoever loved the king, let him go forth, and pursue his servants that they may be slain. (Alma 47:27)
As the word usage shows, the Book of Mormon condemns those who pretend to be something that they are not.