Continuing my review of the Ang Aklatan…
The Book of Ahkman
The introduction tells us the remaining chapters of the Book of Ahkman have yet to be published, so we’ll have to stay tuned for that. Unlike Suran, this is written in the first person. It gives a list of children and grandchildren of Suran. Unlike the Book of Mormon, the daughters are named.
Ahkman gives a more detailed account of his prayer and conversation with an angel which was touched upon in Suran. A temple will be built in the Philippines, which signals the temple in Jerusalem will be built, which signals the second coming: “And behold Ahkman, your seed shall prepare the way for my second advent. For I shall come first into the earth, to redeem mankind, and then I shall come unto your seed. And I shall depart. And behold I shall come again unto the world and your seed shall prepare the way for my second advent. For they shall build a temple that shall be built before my temple in Jerusalem. For this shall be a sign that my temple in Jerusalem shall be speedily completed.” (Ahkman 7)
The children of Ahkman and the children of his brother are sent out as missionaries to spread the word of the Lord. Everyone is then gathered together to hear a speech. He tells them the two different laws (that followed by the descendants of Levi and that followed by the descendants of Shem) should be united. He gives them the Ten Commandments, with a couple exceptions when it comes to adultery: “The seventh commandment was that we should not commit adultery. For behold when a man lieth with a woman who is given unto another man, he committeth adultery. For except she be anointed a Holy Woman she may be given only unto one man. But if a woman who is not married should lie with a man they cannot commit adultery.” (Ahkman 10)
He taught the people about temple sacrifices. Only Ahkman and his children can have the priesthood. Each family should build an altar in their house. He goes over various rites performed at the temple.
The Lord tells Ahkman’s brother Kodal that their father Suran rejected some of the Lord’s teachings. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad person, just that he made some mistakes. I like that we don’t get a binary good vs evil here. David and Solomon sinned when they took multiple wives, but Abraham and Jacob didn’t sin in taking multiple wives because the wives were given by God.
“And if a man taketh another wife unto himself and she is given unto him of me then it is good. But if a man taketh another wife and she is not given unto him it is an abomination and is not good.” (Ahkman 18)
We’re introduced to the Putim, which sounds a lot like the Biblical Urim and Thummin: “Now in these matters the will of the Lord was determined by way of the Putim. For behold the priest did take a vessel; and within the vessel were places [sic] two stones. And the stones were equal in size. Now one stone was white and the other stone was black. And the priest would place his hand into the vessel and draw forth a stone. And if the Lord did guide his hand to select a white stone then the Lord did approve the thing. And if the Lord did guide his hand to select a black stone then the Lord did not approve that thing. And this was the manner that the will of the Lord was determined by the priests.” (Ahkman 20)
In Chapter 21, the Lord commands a woman named Dinari to marry a man named Lekim (sometimes referred to as Likem), even though the Lord already gave her a husband that she loves and with whom she has two children. She disobeys the Lord and remains with her first husband. As punishment, she’s raped, conceives a child, is kicked out by her husband, trips on a stone, and gets impaled on a stick. Yikes. It does feel like the kind of story you’d find in the Bible, though.
In chapter 22, the Lord commands Lekim/Likem/Lekima to marry Yalime, even though they’re both married to other people. Yalime, perhaps with what happened to Dinari in mind, leaves her husband and becomes Lekim/Likem/Lekima’s second wife. He promises to love both his wives the same amount and Yalime ends up being happier with him than with her first husband. (Her first husband remarries and receives greater joy from his second wife as well, so it all works out.)
Chapter 27 speaks of the four angels Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Phanuel in a similar way to Enoch 40. Chapter 28 (similar to Enoch 61) mentions the seven orders of angels: Cherubim, Seraphim, Ophanim, Powers, Principalities, Dominions, and Thrones. Chapter 29 recounts the dream of the black bull and red bull from Enoch 85.
In chapter 30, the angel shows Ahkman (or is it still Enoch?) his descendants living upon thousands of islands. They’re poor, starving, and diseased. The land and air is polluted. Many of the people are drunks who beat their wives and children. The elected leaders steal from their people. Rich old foreigners take their young daughters as wives.
In chapter 31, a book comes forth that gives the people courage and makes them mighty and prosperous. They build a temple according to instructions in the book. They get enough food to eat, they’re able to clothe their nakedness, and their cities are cleaned. It’s an inspiring, hopeful vision of the future.
I like how this reverses the Mormon doctrine that dark skin is a curse: “And the entire land was beautiful and my seed who had loathed their dark skin insomuch that they did call it a curse, did come to look upon their skin as a blessing and a sign of a prosperous people. And they did come to a knowledge that their darkened skin had been given to them by God as a sign of the blessings that he had promised them.” (Ahkman 31)
In chapter 32, Ahkman takes his son Arakim with him to spread the word to the tribes in the south, and thus ends the record of Ahkman. However the Book of Ahkman continues for a few more chapters in the form of an appendix called the Book of the Lords (chapters 33-38) which describes the future: “For I saw in that time the people shall walk with strange garments. And they shall ride within beasts of metal.” (Ahkman 33) Five kings will be raised up from poverty and come from a distant land. The first king will write a book. The kings will be known for both their charity and their wrath. “They shall command and armies will obey, rivers will be diverted, mountains shall be destroyed, and dry seas shall be refilled.” (Ahkman 33)
Chapter 34 describes the armies wearing the armor of God described in Ephesians 6. Chapter 35 describes the residence of the kings: a great palace with a great tower surrounded by five towers, each of which is surrounded by five lesser towers. “And I beheld there shall be women to greet those who did enter therein. And they shall be beautiful and shall come from all nations. For they shall be naked and not ashamed and they shall be bound by golden rings.” (Ahkman 35) There are also many secret chambers, some with pools, some filled with treasure.
If you were icked out by the mention of naked women greeting visitors to the palace, don’t worry: “The five kings shall show great respect to women. They shall hold women sacred in their hearts, for they shall know the value of women in God’s eyes. And they shall fight for the honor of women and defend the ones they love against all manner of dishonor.” (Ahkman 36)
The kings will have multiple wives and concubines, of course. “And many of them before they shall become a wife shall fear that they should commit whoredoms. But they shall be comforted for they shall know that they shall not have transgressed God’s laws.” (Ahkman 36)
The five clans of the kings will fight for the liberty of the people and conquer the east. They will go into the heavens and travel the realm with metal beasts. “With their war beasts they shall descend from the sky. They shall fall like meteors upon their enemies.” (Ahkman 37)
People who join the clans will received a new name (like Mormons who go through the temple). Everyone will have the exact same amount of earthly goods, “And thus there shall be no poor people and all shall be made rich equally.” (Ahkman 38) Presumably, not everyone will be a king living in a palace with several wives and concubines. I think we’re just talking about all the commoners having an equal amount of wealth with each other.
The Book of Arakim
The introduction tells us the remaining chapters have yet to be published. This book is written in the third person. Ahkman and Arakim arrive in Yanyari to bring peace between their two peoples, but the people of Yanyari were blood-thirsty. The chief kills Ahkman. God loosens the ropes that bind Arakim so he can escape back to his home town.
Years pass. The righteous land in the north prospers while the wicked land in the south is cursed by clouds which block the sun, preventing them from growing food. Also, a reversal of the Book of Mormon‘s curse of dark skin: “And the skin of the people of the south did become lightened and they were a repulsive people. For they did perform many abominations. And behold God did command the people of Suran that the whiteness should be a sign unto them that they should not join with the people of the south.” (Arakim 2) Another group of people “of the many lands and waters” were similarly cursed by God, but they weren’t as bad as the people in the south, so their skin wasn’t lightened as much.
Ahkman’s six sons form six different tribes. Arakim appoints his eldest son Rakim to be High Priest, then he dies. Rakim travels to foreign lands to preach and never returns. Delek, the record keeper, wants to be the next High Priest. However, the prophet Telemek says Rakim’s brother Jaresh should be High Priest. King Shuran supports Delek. Others follow a prophet named Buru and a king named Rakaal.
Madek, the son of Delek, wants to unite the people again and speaks on behalf of God. (He apparently succeeded Delek, though we aren’t told this explicitly.) He upbraids the people for committing adultery instead of polygamy. They pick beautiful women to be their plural wives instead of faithful women. And the young women want to marry elderly men instead of young men. “Have you not given up your pureness and delightfulness by joining those who are neigh unto death?” (Arakim 6)
Also, the men don’t want their wives having children: “For you do give unto your wives potions and brews that do render their wombs barren. And they cannot bear any children. And you do this so that their bodies may not change in child birth.” (Arakim 6)
Madek tells us that husbands should love all of their multiple wives equally, and wives shouldn’t be jealous of each other, but rather read the words of the Lord while their husband “has gone in to another woman.” (Arakim 6)
Kodan, the son of Madek, “read a command that no man should go in unto a man, as a man goeth in unto a woman. And Kodan was greatly confused for his desire was not unto women as with other men, but his desire was unto men. And he could not understand the meaning of this for surely God would not make a man as a sinner.” (Arakim 7)
He prays and God tells him he was given these desires as a trial, like when someone is “given the loss of limb.” He shouldn’t loathe himself, “for all men are deformed before me, every man.” (Arakim 7) Basically, it’s okay to have homosexual desire as long as you don’t act upon it, which is a rather modern Mormon policy to see appear in an ancient record.
Madek passes his authority to Kodan. Kodan was both a high priest (sometimes it’s not capitalized) and a prophet. The people are wicked because they’re divided and God allows tribes to invade, but a small group of righteous people still surround the temple.
Kodan dies and Sural becomes the “High priest.” Other than referring to the Holy Spirit instead of the Holy Ghost, we get another point of similarity with Mormonism here: “For if something is righteous it will be witnessed by the Holy Spirit. But if it is not of God it will not be witnessed. And to know of a witness you shall feel a feeling in your bosom. But it is not like unto an emotion for emotions are fickle and change with time. But a witness is strong yet peaceful.” (Arakim 9) Sural is succeeded by Kimesh who takes many of the righteous into the lands of the south to find a new home.
The Journeys of Gubir and Jaresh
Arakim died fairly early on in the The Book of Arakim. We now rewind back to when he was still alive. Jaresh, the son of Arakim the High Priest, goes forth to preach the law. Gubir, the son of the priest Lekim, goes with him. They head north from the City of Light. They don’t take food with them, trusting in the Lord to provide. They convert a keeper of animals named Karatang.
“There is nothing that a man can do to save himself. For surely the works of man are nothing to the works of God. But only those who may be saved are those who believe in Him. And those who believe in Him shall obey His commandments.” (Gubir and Jaresh 2) Mormons generally think you get into heaven with both good works and faith. Other Christians are insistent that works won’t save you, only faith, but if you have faith, you will do good works, so what does the debate really matter? They tell Karatang that he must die and come alive again symbolically through baptism. He and several of his people are baptized.
They convert the people in this area, then move on further north where the people hit them with sticks and stones until they flee. Gubir thinks God should make everyone believe in Him, but Jaresh thinks men should come to God of their own free will. Gubir and Jaresh argue with each other, causing the Spirit of God to leave them. They continue to the northeast.
The next section is no doubt meant to be advice to modern-day missionaries. Because of their contention with each other, they’re unable to teach in the next city. They apologize to each other, pray and fast many days, and the Spirit of God returns to them. They return to the city and have success.
An atheist named Kubal (no doubt inspired by the atheist Korihor in the Book of Mormon) asks them for proof God exists. They say plants growing is proof, but he doesn’t buy it. Jaresh says if plants growing doesn’t convince him, nothing will. “And those who shall say, I believe and there is nothing that shall disprove my belief, they do fool themselves, for they close their eyes to the world. But those who say, I shall examine my belief, and my world, and I shall seek to find the truth and I shall learn new things, and I will not harden my heart to knowledge, these are they who are righteous and have a true understanding.” (Gubir and Jaresh 6) Most people would say the former group are believers and the later are atheists, but Jaresh switches them around, accusing atheists of being the ones who believe without proof.
Jaresh asks Kubal what proof he needs and Kubal says anything that shows God exists. Gubir, reversing his earlier position in chapter 4, says God doesn’t have to prove himself to anybody. Kubal points out that if God wants to be worshipped, He should prove He exists. Gubir says God doesn’t show himself to people until after they believe, contradicting what Jaresh said about righteous people examining their belief earlier in this very chapter.
Kubal points out the God of the scriptures is an evil God who gets angry and kills people. He asks if God loves all men, why are there hardships? Jaresh says bad things happen so we can be tested. Kubal realizes he’s lost the debate (really?) and runs away into the forest. Gubir and Jaresh convert all the rest of the people there.
After many years, they continue north to the sea of Wayin. They sail north on a bamboo boat. They come to an island where a woman named Holingu greets them. An angel prophesied to her of their coming. (Why didn’t the angel cut out the middle man and simply tell her the word of the Lord directly?) Holingu is the shamanka of the Ibata people. She travels with Gubir and Jaresh to the large northern island (however, she disappears from the story at this point, so I think the author kind of forgot about her).
The people of this island capture them and bring them to their king Oram. After many days, a woman of the village feeds them. She teaches them her language. They’re kept prisoners for one and a half years. Like Pharaoh in Genesis 41, King Oram has a dream that needs to be interpreted. The wise men aren’t able to explain it to his satisfaction. Gubir and Jaresh say they can interpret it. The king separates them to see if they’ll both give the same interpretation.
He dreamed of a white snake coiling around a water buffalo and holding him captive for many years. An eagle chases off the snake. A dragon then chases off the eagle, but the eagle returns and chases off the dragon. The eagle then returns to its land and the water buffalo becomes weak. The water buffalo then eats a scroll and becomes strong enough to dominate the tail of the eagle, the claws of the dragon, and the tail of the white snake.
Gubir and Jaresh intrepret the dream the same way: The water buffalo represents the nation in the south and the other animals represent foreign nations. The scroll represents the book we’re reading. The nation in the south will then gain control of portions of the foreign nations. Knowing they’re sent by God, King Oram pulls a Kubal and flees to the woods, but comes back and promises to convert his entire kingdom. Gubir rejects this plan. He doesn’t want people forced to believe, he wants the people to hear of his god, but to let them decide for themselves if they believe.
There is only one God. “He hath no equal, nor a parent, nor a child.” (Gubir and Jaresh 11) He has a physical body and we are his children. King Oram points out Jaresh just barely said he has no children. Gubir clarifies that he has no children that we worship, but he does have children. In the future, a prophet will atone for the sins of all men and some will mistake him for God. (This seems like a Muslim idea.)
The king asks why men need to be saved from sins. Gubir explains that God created a man and woman and put them in a garden and commanded them to have children to “fill again the earth.” (The word “again” implies the earth was filled before the creation of humans. What filled the earth before humans were created?)
However, it wasn’t possible for the man and woman to have children because they were perfect. Only imperfect people can have children, but God isn’t capable of creating them in an imperfect state. Therefor, God creates a tree and commands them not to eat of it. The woman eats of the tree and learns that God wanted her to eat of the tree so she could be punished so she could have children. Because of this, all men sin, but are incapable of saving themselves from sin, so an atonement is needed. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.
You can only be saved if you believe in the atoning prophet. If you believe, you’ll follow the commandments. One of the commandments is to repent of your sins, which means never doing that sin again. However, it’s impossible for men not to sin, so you must repent your whole life. (But if the definition of repenting means never sinning again and this is impossible, how can anyone do it?) Chapter 13 goes on to list the gifts of the spirit from 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, among other things.
Gubir and Jaresh stay in the land converting people for years, then return home. (The book ends here, but we know from Arakim 5, that the people will split into factions with Jaresh being only one of the claimants to the High Priest position.)
Stay tuned for the next part of this review…