Bellows Or Bellowses
[Another Book of Mormon Error]

prepred by Don R. Hender


    English is a language of rules and exceptions to those rules. And often lost in that mechanics of being most grammatically correct is the very essence of communitive meaning. Such seems to be the case of the actual 'error' in the Book of Mormon of the use and meaning of the word 'bellows' or ought I say 'bellowses'. Certainly any well versed Grammarian can easily detect which is the proper English term to be used and which is not. In the 1830s, when the language was still developing and deciding what was and what was not genreally acceptable English, it may well have not been so clearly cut and determinable. And yet this 'error' may not even be directly associated and justifiable by the rules of English at all, but rather by the bottom line actual communication, that is in actual communitive meaning.

In the 1830 original edition of the Book of Mormon, when it spoke of Nephi overseeing the building of their ship, it states, "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make bellowses wherewith to blow the fire, of the skins of beasts; and after that I had made bellowses, that I might have wherewith to blow the fire, I did smite two stones together, that I might make fire; . . .". Of course any properly read English Grammarian would easily come to find fault with the use of the 'improper' word form of 'bellowses'. For whether singular or plural, the proper word is 'bellows', one bellows or forty and one bellows, the word is just 'bellows'. Albeit, in some extrodinary cases if the singular form of a word ends with an 's', to make it plural, you then do add an additional 'es', thus 'ses'.

One such exception is in the technical use of the word 'moss'. Now generally 'moss' is 'moss', whether you have a little or a lot, singular or plural. But in a technical usage when speaking of a variety of differing species of moss, such a group of several different species of moss, it is most properly spoken of as 'mosses'. That is, 'we have thirty different species of mosses'. And that is proper English.

Now with that perspective, lets us now again consider the case of bellows and bellowses. When confronted 'critically' about the use of the first edition word of 'bellowses' in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, it became a very 'easy' matter to switch to the 'proper English' form of 'bellows'. And thus in every subsequent edition, including the very latest and greatest edition of the Book of Mormon it now reads, 'And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did make a bellows wherewith to blow the fire, of skins of beasts; and after I had made a bellows, that I might have wherewith to blow the fire, I did smite two stones together that I might make fire." (2 Nephi 17:11) Now that is good English, right?

But does it contain Nephi's true and proper meaning? In perhaps the most famous art picture of Nephi buiding the ship, it shows Nephi with the typical single over head wooden handled type bellows which the smith pulls down upon to force the singular bellows to blow air upon the fire. And thus the art work gives the impression of Nephi working alone in smelting the ore and forming the tools with which to build the ship, right? But this contradicts the Book of Mormon account wherein Nephi pleads with his brothers that they must 'help' him build the ship and perform the work. Actually the artist's depicted overhead operated bellows was not the common form of bellows in use in the day and time of Nephi. Nephi's bellowses are kind of like the simple common form of a bellows seen here at the left which Nephi would have used, though it only comes close in some conceptual ways. As noticed, this hand pump bellows has a long nozzel leading from the bellows air sack which allows a distance to be maintained from the human limb operation of the bellows far from the nozzle's delivery 'spout'. And the air is thus 'forced' with a great multiplication of wind force out from the enlarged bellows' sack and down into and through the extremely narrowing nozzle's small size. This would mean that the 'air wind' is forcefully feeding the fire's flame and ' intensifiying the fire's heat. Now consider multiplying that forced air flow by say six or eight times rather than just having one such bellows feeding the fire.

In reality the actual 'ancient bellowses' of Nephi's day were not that of one 'bellows' in the singular. What was used in the smelting of ore and thus the forming and making of tools does meet the exact conceptual expression of having to have the help and aid of many workers (brothers) together to operate a number of different pairs of foot bellowses together with a 'pit manager' in control of the smelting of the ore. An earthen 'pit smelter' was formed in the ground and was surrounded by a number of sets of foot 'bellowses' opperated simutaneously together as depicted in the simple drawing at the left. At the Timnah mines and Elath smelters of Ezion-Gebber, Nephi and his brothers would have seen, if not also participated in, just such a number of several sets of foot bellowses about a central pit smelter process.

Nephi would have made any number of sets of foot bellowses, one set per bellows worker. And while the simple graphic shows but two bellowses workers, the actual arrangement allowed for 4 or more men to surround the pit smelter and for each of them to operated a set of foot bellows to feed and intensify the pit fire's flame and heat by the enhanced forced air flow. Indeed Nephi did need the aid of his brothers in not only building the ship but from the very start of the making of the metal tools to begin with.

Now as to the question of the Book of Mormon 'error'. Was the use of the word 'bellowses' incorrect or was it a matter of a dialect preference or was it an out growth from translation from a language where there were two different forms of the word denoting one as singular and the other as plural? Yes, probably, it is likely some such cause or even a combination of such, as the weakness of the one word to cover both singular and plural cases has lead to a misconception error in our Book of Mormon of today. Certainly at the least, if not the more expressive and much better communicative word is 'bellowses', which would or could be used to correct the conceptual error in today's texts, which would be accordingly better corrected to read, 'I, Nephi, did make several sets of foot bellows [bellowses].'


[I would have to consider that the Reformed Egyptian language, if not the Hebrew also, would have had two forms of the word bellows, one a singular form and another a plural form, perhaps something like 'bellows' and 'bellowsim'. And when so translating a language, if the form being translated IS NOT the 'singular' form then certainly an added 'es' after an 's' would comply with the general English rule of making such a singular word into a plural form. So just where is or was the 'error' and which gives the most accurately communicative form of the meaning being conveyed? Certainly the weakness in the English language not to have two forms of the word, one singular and the other plural, is partly in itself to blame here.]
rev. 24 May 2014