Today I was listening as my 13 year old son was explaining how Moroni felt that he had no writing skills. I wondered where he got that impression and asked him. “Right here, dad- see, it says, ‘and only a few have I written, because of my weakness in writing’ (Ether 12:40).”
I explained to my son that Moroni was not expressing his lack of writing skills, but rather a feeling of the awkwardness of trying to write on such limited space with a writing system which is not phonetic. The reformed Egyptian Moroni and his father were working with used pictures to represent words or entire concepts. This would be very difficult to use to describe the types of things they were assigned to describe.
We looked at Mormon 9:32-33 which states: “behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew: but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, we would have had no imperfection in our record.”
To me it seems obvious that the issue at hand was space. Mormon had to put the words down on materials that would last over 1,000 years and not deteriorate. Metal plates fit the bill. The problem with these plates is that space was limited. As I was discussing this with my son, a gospel principle came into view.
God expected Mormon and Moroni to make this record to the very best of their ability. Yet, with this most important task, there were some severe limitations. Even with these limitations, God did not excuse them from this task, and they felt the weight of their assignment (see Mormon 9:34-37).
So the question that came into my mind was, “how are we like Mormon and Moroni?” We all have tasks that we are given. Sometimes these seem almost impossible given our circumstances. Yet we are to do the very best we can with what we have, and God will make us equal to that task. He did for Mormon and Moroni, and He will for you and me.
I asked my son to think of circumstances he or someone he knows has been in where they were faced with limitations in the midst of an assignment. Some that came to mind were raising a family on a tight budget, playing basketball with height limitations, and just completing some of the mundane things we all have to do each day.
Sometimes I think people get hung up on trying to figure out what reformed Egyptian might have looked like, or how much the plates weighed, when what we really should be asking ourselves is: what is a teaching behind this story that applies to my life? How am I like Moroni writing on this small piece of metal? When we start asking these questions, principles will pop off the pages of the scriptures and empower us to live better lives.
Are there examples of Jewish texts and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters?
Yes! I have attached a paper by John A. Tvedtnes and Stephen D. Ricks here: Jewish and other Semitic texts written in Egypitan characters