Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Joseph Smith and Sudoku
A relatively obscure but fascinating fact about Joseph Smith is that he allegedly often carried what is known as a Jupiter medallion in his pocket. This medallion was supposedly discovered on his person after he was assassinated in Carthage Jail. A Jupiter medallion or talisman contains several several interesting inscriptions, including the astrological symbol for Jupiter and various Latin and Hebrew phrases. It also contains a "Magic Square," a box where the digits add up to the same number (in this case 34) horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. The Magic Square on Joseph's purported medallion uses Hebrew characters to represent these numbers, which in total add up to 136, yet another symbol of Jupiter.
I can't help noticing that the Magic Square is simply another variation on the principle behind the newly popular Sudoku puzzles. For those (poor souls) who are unfamiliar with Sudoku, it is a number puzzle where you fill in a 9 by 9 grid so that each row, column, and 3x3 box have the digits 1-9 in them. There is no math involved, just logic, and it really is quite addictive. I have been enjoying Sudoku ever since the Washington Post introduced them earlier this year.
Now, admittedly Joseph did not use his Magic Square like I use the Sudoku puzzles, but I think both forms hint at the same transcendence of numbers. It is a satisfying feeling when all the pieces fall into perfect place against all odds, just as it is satisfying to see all the numbers in a magic square add up perfectly and improbably.
Though I may not be in church on Sunday morning, I will be filling out my Sudoku and occasionally thinking of Joseph.
[Edited to reflect that Joseph may or may not have actually owned a Jupiter talisman.]