Why 2 Nephi Is My Favorite Part of The Book of Mormon

3 Nephi may be the most important part of the Book of Mormon, and Alma may be the most literary, but the oft-ignored and maligned book of 2 Nephi is actually my favorite. To see why, consider this brief outline categorized by genre:

  • chapters 1-3: patriarchal blessings
  • chapter 4: blessings and a psalm
  • chapter 5: narrative
  • chapters 6-10: sermon on scriptural exegesis and the Atonement
  • chapters 11-24: scripture quotations with modifications from KJV text
  • chapters 25-26: exegesis and prophecy based on quoted material
  • chapter 27: prophecy flexibly adapting yet another scripture quotation
  • chapters 28-30: prophecy
  • chapter 31: exposition summarizing the doctrine of Christ
  • chapters 32-33: testimony

2 Nephi is a book for scripture nerds!

The Book of Mormon overall is mostly narrative, yet 2 Nephi only gives us one single chapter of that. The rest covers the gamut of inspired poetry and prose: blessings, psalms, sermons, quotations, interpretation and application, prophecy, teaching, and testimony. It’s a greatest hits of scriptural genres! A cornucopia of religious writing, a veritable little library unto itself!

And look at the topics covered! We get one of the Book of Mormon’s best sermons on the Atonement, we get our best look into the heart of Nephi with his poetry, and we get the clearest exposition of basic gospel doctrine outside of the Savior’s teachings later in the book.

2 Nephi is a joyous celebration of scripture study itself. It’s all about a way of life based on the sacred written word.

What more could anybody want? :)

 

 

 

 

 

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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

The Nephi Complex

In 2 Nephi 4:17, the usually stoic Nephi offers a rare glimpse into his inner personality when he reflects on his spiritual condition and says that such an exercise makes him exclaim, “O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of mine flesh; my soul greiveth because of mine iniquities.” 

Excuse me?  Wretched?  Iniquities?  This is Nephi we’re talking about here, right?  While it might be hard to imagine what all the shortcomings Nephi had in mind here as he mentally scourged himself, he was, of course, human, and therefore prone to all the many failings that infect us all.  Still, it’s safe to say that he was a pretty decent guy.  Considering what we know of his life, we could also assume that he was being a little hard on himself. 

Thinking of Nephi and his self-denigrating outburst here illustrates something I’ve noticed in a lot of us, and which I’ve taken the liberty of naming after him, an observation about human nature which I call the Nephi Complex: There is an inverse relationship between how spiritually successful and effective someone is, and how they perceive their own spiritual condition.  Or, to put it another way, the more serious and focused someone is on their spiritual condition, the more likely they are to find fault with themselves.

More than once I’ve seen someone who is exhausting themselves in an effort to become Christlike while magnifying their many responsibilities in life, and who will then spiral into a serious funk over some minor, understandable spiritual flaw.  (I’m reminded here of Ned Flanders on The Simpsons calling Reverend Lovejoy in the middle of the night, distraught over accidentally swatting a fly, and needing to know how to handle the necessary penance.)  Meanwhile, plenty of people in our world are heinously narcissistic and hedonistic, almost to the point of pathology, without a stray thought about any of it.  Ironic and sad.

So, to those of you who, like Nephi, are inclined to obsess over the flaws in your spiritual makeup, the “motes in your own eyes,” if you will, may I please offer a kindly word of comfort: chill out, relax.  You’re doing great.