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How would Joseph Smith have found out about sheum?

In Mosiah 9:9 we read:

And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land.

What is sheum and where would Joseph Smith have learned this word? Matthew Roper answers:

As it turns out sheum is a perfectly good Akkadian (ancient northern Mesopotamian) name for a grain dating to the third millennium B.C. This term, se um, (the s is pronounced sh in semitic languages) was a term by which these ancient Near Eastern peoples referred to barley, although it could also be applied to other kinds of grains. Book of Mormon peoples seem to have applied this Old World name to some New World crop. Could Joseph Smith have derived this name from some nineteenth century book? Impossible. Akkadian could not be read until 1857, twenty-seven years after the Book of Mormon was published and thirteen years after the Prophet was dead. This raises an interesting question. If Joseph Smith was really the author of the Book of Mormon, how did he come up with the word sheum? How did he just happen to choose this particular name and just happen to use it in an agricultural context?

– Matthew Roper – Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon

How would Joseph Smith be so knowledgeable about plants?


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