Nephi Really Loves The Bible!

Today is International Day of the Bible, and that got me thinking about Nephi and his love for the Bible. Not only does he absolutely adore Isaiah–he cites, paraphrases, or comments on nearly a fourth of that prophet’s book–but consider this:

In 1 Nephi 17, he tries to teach his brothers about faith, essentially–he corrects their complaining about their lot in life by comparing it to previous precedents. Notice how detailed his metaphor is–Nephi clearly believes their situation is deeply analogous to that of their ancestors’.

Not only does he make several specific references to Old Testament material in one place, he writes that all into his record for future readers, for us–he expects us to be well versed in Bible stories, too!

Here are six references in 1 Nephi 17 to specific stories from four different books of the Bible, with the Biblical books to which he refers added in red:

 27 But ye know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh. Exodus 

 28 And ye also know that they were fed with manna in the wilderness. Exodus and Numbers

 29 Yea, and ye also know that Moses, by his word according to the power of God which was in him, smote the rock, and there came forth water, that the children of Israel might quench their thirst. Exodus and Numbers

 32 And after they had crossed the river Jordan he did make them mighty unto the driving out of the children of the land, yea, unto the scattering them to destruction. Joshua

 40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made… Genesis

 41 And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. Numbers

A Picture For A Great Book of Mormon Verse

14117824_10209866266511572_2409278205517880784_nI made this last week because it’s one of my favorite verses in the whole Book of Mormon, and there weren’t any really good pictures out there featuring it (though I had to condense it to make it readable in the space available).

I love the rhetorical power in 3 Nephi 27:14. I read it as an ironic contrast: the innocent Christ is “lifted up” by guilty mankind to torture, which enables that same guilty mankind to be “lifted up” by Christ’s loving Father to salvation.

A friend pointed out that it can also be read as a parallel as well as a contrast: “as” Christ was lifted up on the cross, “even so should men be” also, in that each of us must “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23), or that “our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Romans 6:6).

Clearly, there’s some deep and beautiful wisdom in this one verse. It should be read and lived and appreciated more. I hope you like the picture.

A Timeline for the Book of Ether

Ether timelineAs I continue to work on a single timeline integrating all the scriptures of the LDS Church, I’m still worried about how to split up Ether and match it with the Old Testament. In my draft from last year, I have the Jaredite character Lib congruent with King David, and the end of the Jaredite record running well into the Nephite timeline.

Today, I started over on that. My basis for this revision is to start with the very popular and well-supported theory that the Jaredite city of Lib (and the king its named for) is actually the historical Olmec city of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo flourished from about 1400-1200 BC.

Also, the Book of Omni is actually unclear about how long the Mulekites were established in the Western hemisphere before they met Coriantumr.

For the sake of convenience, I’m dating the meeting of Coriantumr at about 550 BC, and, based on the San Lorenzo theory (and also for convenience), dating Lib at abut 1350.

(There will be lots of estimating and rounding here, since none of this can be precise, and since the splitting and mixing of Ether into the Old Testament will have to still consider creating a coherent narrative. Take all of this with a grain of salt–this is much more speculation than science, after all.)

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Who Was Abinadi?

075-075-abinadi-before-king-noah-full

If you’ve read the Book of Mormon, you’ve likely seen this old painting; it’s of the prophet Abinadi confronting the court of corrupt King Noah. He appears here in stereotypical Old testament glory–white beard, defiant pose, an aging yet still powerful frame.

But nothing in the text warrants this flight of fancy–indeed, the Book of Mormon doesn’t describe Abinadi’s age or appearance at all. Before the sermonizing proper, the only clue we get about him is that he came from “among them,” presumably meaning that he was part of their society, and not an outsider like Samuel the Lamanite would be later.

This raises some interesting questions for me, and the answers might depend on his unknown age.

Was he of the generation of Zeniff, that first king of this group who had originally led them back into the old lands to establish a new colony there?

Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon analyzes this story and presents Zeniff as a naive and idealistic do-gooder, and then his son Noah as the kind of spoiled brat who might be the result of indulgent parenting by that naive and idealistic do-gooder.

In light of that analysis, if Abinadi was a contemporary of Zeniff–one who had emigrated into the wilderness with him from the established Zarahemla settlement–then he might have been as old as these paintings depict him as, and maybe he, too, was a zealous idealist. Seeing the noble values of his own generation, then, abused and broken under the lazy thumb of Noah would have been more than just disappointing–his always contrarian heart might have been moved to rebel against the status quo by following the examples of past prophets, just as he had done decades before when he followed Zeniff out into the wilderness to found their acsetic sect in the first place.

That scenario makes sense to me, but it seems there’s nothing in the text to confirm or deny it. Maybe Abinadi was a younger man, a contemporary of Noah himself, trying to reestablish a righteous society that he only dimly remembered from his own youth under King Zeniff.

Who knows? If any reader sees anything in the text that bears on this at all, please share.

Recommended: BookofMormonCentral.Org

To mark today’s 186th birthday of the Book of Mormon, I wanted to share this amazing resource about it.

Book of Mormon Central has been online for about three months now, and I keep liking it more and more.

At first, I worried that it would only be a collection of apologetic materials, which would be redundant, as FairMormon has that abundantly covered.

As the weeks have gone on, though, I’ve seen much more breadth to it: yes, there is plenty of timely and appropriate “defending the faith” stuff, but they also feature plenty of material about simply understanding the text, as well as analyzing how it works as a written text, and even how to use it to improve our faith and discipleship. (Most all of these take the form of short pieces presented as answers to common questions, called “KnoWhys.”)

In short, it has already become the most comprehensive Book of Mormon web site.

This site announces its mission as “to increase and diffuse knowledge of the Book of Mormon,” but it really is more than that: this whole site is a giant love letter to the Book of Mormon. They love it. They celebrate it. This isn’t missionary work as much as it is a big romantic gesture. Consider their beautiful #BoMday hashtag on social media!

They sponsored a “Book of Mormon Temples” fireside recently and it’s already on their fledgling but impressive YouTube channel. It’s worth your time, and it’s not the work of casual fans, but devoted fanatics who love the Book of Mormon with a passion.

This great web site could help all of us have a bit more of that passion.

 

Is Mosiah 7:29 A Reference To 2 Nephi 4:33?

Mosiah 7:29:

For behold, the Lord hath said: I will not succor my people in the day of their transgression; but I will hedge up their ways that they prosper not; and their doings shall be as a stumbling block before them.

Note the two distinctive phrases there: “hedge up their ways” and “a stumbling block.” King Limhi introduces the quote in this verse with the phrase “For behold, the Lord hath said,” but there is no scripture known to us with any quote quite like this.

Was Limhi quoting a scripture we don’t have? Or a revelation given to himself?

Maybe. Or maybe he was alluding to 2 Nephi 4:33 and, since it’s scripture, attributing it to the Lord.

O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness! O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Wilt thou make my path straight before me! Wilt thou not place a stumbling block in my way—but that thou wouldst clear my way before me, and hedge not up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.

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Read This, Then 2 Nephi 3

There are great doctrinal truths here, of course, but I had long been confused by the nature of 2 Nephi 3. Elderly Lehi is about to die, and he takes his youngest son aside for a moment to…talk about ancient history and prophecy about the future. That’s pretty much it. There’s really not much here that seems to relate directly to the young man himself.

Reading it again recently, I went looking for an answer. Why does Lehi spend his last words to his son lecturing about such seemingly random stuff? Here’s the answer I found:

I ended up imagining this implied context for the chapter. Read 2 Nephi 3 again after this, and see if it doesn’t open up better:

Joseph, my youngest son, you’ve already had a hard life out in the old desert wilderness, on the raging seas, and in this new jungle wilderness, and I wish I could promise that things will get easier, but honestly, they won’t. I haven’t been able to protect you much, but even that little comfort is about to be lost to you. I’m dying. After I’m gone, you will continue to face challenges in life.

But remember this:

There are three great Josephs at major turning points in history who will help advance the Lord’s work.

One was Joseph of Egypt, in the distant past. He endured serious adversity also, but founded a people who were close to the Lord. He knew of us and wrote about us.

Another Joseph will be in the distant future. He will endure serious adversity as well, but will found a people who will be close to the Lord. He will know of us and will write about us.

The third Joseph is you, my son. Just as the Joseph long before you and the Joseph long after you have their part in overcoming opposition to start new dynasties of righteousness, you have yours. Our little family here will grow to become a dispensation of a thousand years, whose story will someday go to all the world. And you’re here at the beginning, to help make sure it happens. This is your place in the story, and this is the difference you make.

The words which the ancient Joseph saw in vision and which the future Joseph will publish are the words which are being written now by our family. You’re an important part of this larger plan. 

The Joseph before and the Joseph after will know you in the eternities as their brother in this work. They are counting on you. I am counting on you. Indeed, a world is counting on you. Follow Nephi and serve with him. Make Joseph of Egypt and Joseph of America proud. Make the Lord proud. Make me proud. Good bye, my son, and fare well. I believe in you.

Seven Things Tolstoy and Mormon Have In Common

As I read War and Peace, it occurred to me that it has a bit in common with my favorite book, the Book of Mormon.

  1. Each narrator–Tolstoy in War and Peace, and Mormon in the Book of Mormon–is relating an epic historical tale about the history of his own nation, with its great successes and failures.
  2. Each book cites from older historical records in the course of its narrative, and makes references and allusions to countless others (see, for example, Part 10, chapter 27 or Part 13, chapter 2 in War and Peace, and Mosiah chapter 29 or Alma chapter 54 in the Book of Mormon).
  3. The further along each book goes, the more pronounced the narrator’s voice becomes; neither is neutral, but is intimately and passionately invested in their story. Indeed, each narrator breaks into the story with increasing frequency to openly editorialize about the narrative’s themes (see, for example, Part 11, chapter 1 in War and Peace, or Helaman chapter 12 in the Book of Mormon).
  4. Each narrator grounds his story in alternating tales of domestic conflict and military war.
  5. The military episodes largely focus on the patriotic exploits of one chief leader (Kutuzov in War and Peace, Moroni in the Book of Mormon).
  6. Each narrator uses these stories to comment on human nature and illustrate his themes about the meaning of life.
  7. Each narrator ultimately wants his story to show the readers that acknowledging Christ as God and patterning our lives after his is the way we should live. Each narrator openly testifies of this near the end of his story. In fact, each narrator, shortly before the climactic episode of his story, even recounts the interactions of protagonists with an idealized, morally perfect person who inspires others by his example (Platon Karataev in War and Peace, Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon).

Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Lesson #4: In Nephi’s Vision, Who’s Talking When?

I mentioned in my notes on lesson #1 that I like to picture and even map out the structure of text, but I also find it useful to mark out who’s talking when there are multiple speakers.

Below is a PDF copy of 1 Nephi 11-14 with all the dialogue color-coded. The angel doesn’t have much to say at first, but monologues quite a bit in chapters 13 and 14.

Some of this attribution is speculative or convenient, though, so take it with a grain of salt. For example, in 13:34, I have “Behold, saith the Lamb of God” as spoken by the angel, just to make it clear that the angel is quoting the Lord there, but that phrase might very well be part of the Lord’s statement–in fact, it probably is. Ditto in 14:7.

Nephi’s Vision– Color Coded Dialogue

Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Lesson #2

My suggested personal study aids for this week. (I’ll try to post earlier in the week from now on.)

Lesson objective: “To help class members see, through the examples of Lehi and Nephi, that safety and salvation come through obedience to the Lord.”

When my family studied 1 Nephi 1 together this week, we stopped in verse 4 to check out the references in footnote d. Two of them go to Jeremiah.

With that in mind, I first want to recommend this movie:

 

 

From a post about it four years ago:

Checked this out from the library a while back and really enjoyed it.  This drama not only has better production values than most small, Biblical movies, but it even stars future Grey’s Anatomylead Patrick Dempsey, to boot.

Jeremiah tells a vivid story of the Old Testament prophet’s reluctant, melancholy rebellion against a corrupt and complacent status quo, and keeps the major narrative very faithful to the Biblical text.  Dempsey shines in this role; his acting strong suit has always been an uncanny ability to convey betrayed surprise–the hurt look on the face of a lost puppy dog.  That woeful innocence comes in handy a lot as he portrays the saddest prophet in Israel’s history.

Latter-day Saints have a special soft spot for Jeremiah, I think, as the Book of Mormon suggests that he was a contemporary of the first patriarch in that sacred text, a man named Lehi, who likewise foretold doom in Jerusalem and was violently rejected for it.  One can easily imagine Lehi preaching just around the corner in most scenes of this film.

The few shots of violence are tasteful and true to the source material, but perhaps a little too intense for the youngest viewers.  Other than that, anyone with an interest in Biblical literature, history, or belief would be better off for seeing Jeremiah.

Speaking of 1 Nephi 1, I like to picture the structure of things I read, as it helps illuminate for me the author’s intended messages more clearly. The following arrangement of verse 1 shows just how much information is packed into that first sentence: six factual statements about Nephi–three paired clauses describing who he is and how he got to be that way, and all meant to explain why he’s making this record; only that last of the six statements shows an active choice on Nephi’s part:

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Also, these two posts about the Book of Mormon come highly recommended:

2016 Gospel Doctrine- Recommended Resources on the Book of Mormon. I endorse all the titles shared there, most especially Grant Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon.

A Book to Kill For #BOM2016

And, of course, I must urge you to keep up with the development of Book of Mormon Central this year. If it lives up to its potential, it’ll be a fantastic resource.

 

Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Lesson #1

Each week in 2016 I’ll post (or re-post) things relevant to that week’s Sunday School lesson about the Book of Mormon.

Lesson #1 has the following objective: “To help class members understand how the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and how abiding by its precepts helps us draw nearer to God.”

These items might help with that:

 

 

 

The Condensed Book of Mormon, in 15 Verses

Lehi, King Benjamin, and President Monson On Why We Follow the Prophet

When Did Mormon Give the Sermon in Moroni ch. 7?

Spoiler: I’m going to propose that this amazing, majestic sermon was probably written and delivered by Mormon when he was just a teenager.

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I read Moroni chapter 7 this last weekend. That’s where Moroni records his father’s great sermon about faith, hope, and charity. The rhetorical background of this text intrigues me.

First of all, we know to whom it was delivered; Mormon says quite clearly at the beginning that it’s for “you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven” (v. 3).

We can infer from the text, and what we know of that period of history, why it was given: surely, this was during a period of societal decline, and these faithful church members–no doubt a beleaguered minority–needed encouragement and guidance for dealing with their troubled times.

The text does a great job of achieving that goal. Here’s how: Mormon counsels them to, first and foremost, maintain righteous desires in their hearts (vv. 5-11), then proceeds to remind them of how to discern between good and evil (vv. 12-19–note that here he also stresses that everyone originally has the light of Christ in them [v. 16], which would be a striking teaching as they were surrounded by an increasingly wicked, crumbling society).

Mormon goes on to comfort and motivate them by preaching of the blessings of having faith (vv. 20-39), which leads to the blessings of enjoying hope (vv. 40-43), which leads to the blessings of exercising charity (vv. 44-48).

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But my big question here is when it was given. Mormon’s most typical teaching mode–extrapolating morals from historical narratives (i.e. all of his famous “and thus we see” statements)–is completely absent here. Indeed, even the many contextual details that he drops in his second letter to his son in Moroni ch. 9 about the imminent doom of their ruined society has no corollary in ch. 7. In fact, the odd absence of that facet of Mormon’s modus operandi leads me to the theory I propose here.

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9 Book of Mormon Insights Into Human Nature

One of my favorite things about the Book of Mormon is its pragmatic view of human nature. Undoubtedly, its authors knew the best and worst of the human experience, and weren’t pulling any punches.

An example of this is the honest depiction of missionary work here, namely its tediously frustrating reality. Though the Book of Mormon does have some more neutral general observations about how people are (such as here and here), most of the time the text is pessimistic.

Here are nine such passages:

 

1. People tend to resent the truth when it corrects them

1 Nephi 16:2

…the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.

2. People tend to think that they know all that is necessary

2 Nephi 9:28

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
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