BOM Lesson 2
Posted by Matthew on January 6, 2008
Over the last few years (has it been that long?) a lot of work has been done on our sister wiki for the chapters Lesson 2 covers. The wiki has about about 70 printed pages of content! You can see the entire content here. It was a fun exercise for me to go through that and pull out some of my favorite highlights. I hope you enjoy. Read on.
As is the nature of a wiki, a number of people contributed to the content. Thanks everyone for the help. In the true spirit of the wiki I’m not going to bother trying to identify who helped develop what idea and how. (Of course, you can always see that yourself by looking at the history for any page–let me know if you’d like to see that but aren’t sure how.) Nevertheless, I do want to note special thanks to Sterling, Joe Spencer, RobertC, and Seanmcox who have contributed the most to these pages. Thanks also to the BoM Groupies for their work.
Also, the wiki can always use more help, both in writing new content or in editing what’s there. If you aren’t sure where or how to get started, let me know and I’m happy to help.
- As we know from Words of Mormon, D&C 3, and D&C 10, Mormon did not intend the Book of Mormon to begin as it does now. How does this verse, in its “usurped” position, change the way we might otherwise read the Book of Mormon? How would the Book of Mormon be different if, for example, it began with an introduction to the whole text by Mormon?
- The ending of the verse, “therefore I make a record…” suggests that this verse gives us Nephi’s purpose or motivation for writing the record he does. Compare the purposes given in this verse with what Nephi says in 1 Ne 6:4, 1 Ne 9 and 1 Ne 19 and the Lord’s command to write in 2 Ne 5:31.
- To understand the relationship between the purposes outlined in this verse, it is helpful to consider the structure of this verse. There is certainly more than one way to outline that structure. As a place to start, consider the “four havings”:
(1) having been born of goodly parents and (2) having seen many afflictions in the course of my days nevertheless (3) having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days yea (4) having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God
- With this verse, Nephi has used the phrase “I make” five times. Why is that fact that he makes it himself so significant? (See also verse 17.)
- The “wherefore” connects verse 4 with verse 5. Lehi’s reaction to the words of the prophets is instructive. On hearing that the people will be destroyed if they do not repent, he prays for his people with all his heart.
- We are told that Lehi quaked and trembled much because of the things he saw and heard. Consider several possible interpretations by way of comparison to other similar experiences in the scriptures. It could be that Lehi quaked and trembled because by being in the presence of the Lord he was left with an acute awareness of his sins (see 1 Ne 22:23 and Isa 6:5). Lehi may be experiencing what simply happens to mortals when the Lord looks upon them (see Mosiah 27:31 and Hel 12:9). Possibly Lehi was overwhelmed at being called to a great work by the Lord. (Note the similarities between Lehi and Moses–Lehi’s pillar of fire may be compared to Moses’ burning bush. Both lead their people to a new land. Though we don’t have a record of Moses quaking and trembling, we do know he felt inadequate of his call (see Ex 3:2)). Or maybe Lehi quaked and trembled at the thought of the punishment that the Lord would give to those who do not repent, akin to what the sons of Mosiah felt in Mosiah 28:3.
- The books of Nephi begin with this vision of the council in heaven surrounded by angels “in the attitude of singing and praising their God” and ends with a promise that those who read and follow may join that very group and “shout praises to the Holy One of Israel” (2 Ne 31:13). In this way Nephi’s books can be read as inviting the reader from a vision of the heavenly council to participation in it.
- Verse 13 speaks of the abominations and pronounced destruction of Jerusalem. Then in verses 14-15, Lehi is rejoicing in God and his mercy. How should we make sense of this juxtaposition?
- Nephi’s statement ending verse 1 “therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days” seems to introduce this book as an autobiography. Verse 17 now seems to revise that: “after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life.” Do we see indication of where Nephi’s abridgement of his father’s record ends and his own begins? One possibility is that the 1st Book of Nephi is what Nephi considers an abridgement of Lehi’s record. And 2nd Nephi is his own. If so, the First Book of Nephi isn’t what we would normally think of as an abridgement. It is told from Nephi’s point of view and contains information that only Nephi would have known. What we see is more like Nephi weaving information about Lehi together with his own account of his life during this time.
- “marvelous.” At first glance, this word seems out of place. The dictionary definitions which seem to make the most sense in this context are: “causing wonder or astonishment,” “miraculous,” and “supernatural.”
- There is something incongruous about this verse. In its first half, we are told that more than one prophet suffered death at the hands of the Jews and that they sought also to take Lehi’s life. “But” Nephi assures us the Lord provides “deliverance” to his “chosen” servants. In this context it seems that the deliverance spoken of is Lehi’s deliverance from death. The “tender mercy” of this physical deliverance is all the more recognizable in contrast to the prophets of old who were “cast out, and stoned and slain.” But at the same time the prophets of old seem to cut against Nephi’s very point–that these tender mercies are given to all the Lord chooses because of their faith. To reconcile this we must recognize that the Lord’s tender mercies take different forms for each person. In Lehi’s case we see the Lord’s tender mercies in preserving his and his families’ life. The prophets who were slain received different mercies. Additionally, we can read the deliverance here as referring to the ultimate deliverance from spiritual and physical death which all can recieve.
- A similar point can be made here to the point made for verse 20 of chapter 1. Lehi is blessed because he was obedient to the Lord in telling the people to repent. But we know from 1 Ne 1:3 that many other prophets were obedient as well. Yet it isn’t the Lord’s way to physically preserve all his prophets.
Verses 1-4 & Lehi’s Exodus (1 Ne 1-18)
- The Book of Mormon begins with the exodus of Lehi and his family from Jerusalem. The first four elements of this exodus are captured in summary here: Lehi’s life is threatened (1) because he has performed his duty as a prophet (2). He is commanded to depart into the wilderness (3) before Jerusalem is destroyed (4). This exodus strongly parallels Israel’s exodus chronicled in the Book of Exodus.
- The Exodus Pattern
- Oppression (Ex 2:23-25; 1 Ne 1-2)
- A Prophet Leader is Called (Ex 3; 1 Ne 1)
- A Flight into the Wilderness (Ex 12-14; 1 Ne 2:1-4)
- Destruction of Enemies (Ex 12:29-30, Ex 14:27-28; 1 Ne 4:10-18)
- Wandering in the Wilderness (Ex 13-17; 1 Ne 16-18)
- Divine Guidance in the Wilderness (Ex 13:21; 1 Ne 16:9-10, 1 Ne 17:13)
- Crossing Water (Ex 14; 1 Ne 18)
- Murmurings (Ex 15:24, Ex 16:2, Ex 17:2; 1 Ne 2:12, 1 Ne 3:29-31, 1 Ne 17:17)
- Manna Provided (Ex 16; 1 Ne 17:2-3)
- Entrance into the Promised Land (Josh 3; 1 Ne 18:23)
- Other Parallels:Besides this basic pattern, there is an extended list of parallels between the experiences of the Israelites and those of Lehi’s family. Moses’ and Lehi’s prophetic calls were both accompanied by fire (Ex 3:2–4; 1 Ne 1:6); aid was requested from both oppressors Pharoah and Laban (Ex 10:3; 1 Ne 3:12-13); signs and wonders were manifest (Ex 7-10; 1 Ne 4:20); the despoiling of the Egyptians and the taking of Laban’s possessions (Ex 12:35–36; 1 Ne 4:38; 2 Ne 5:12, 14); a new law that was to govern the Lord’s people (Ex 20:2–17; 1 Ne 2:20–24); transfiguration (Ex 34:30; 1 Ne 17:52); burial in the desert (Josh 24:32; 1 Ne 16:34); and others.
- Because of their Israelite heritage and the records they brought with them (Brass Plates), the Nephites understood the biblical exodus. They knew that it was a type and shadow of their own wanderings as well as the spiritual condition of humanity. Applying our spiritual situation to this same pattern of exodus can be instructive as we read through this second chapter of First Nephi.
- Note how quick Lehi is to give thanks to God despite the difficultly of his circumstance.
- We see in the examples of Laman and Lemuel that being obedient alone isn’t enough. They leave Jerusalem. They return to get the plates. They help build the ship. Yet their murmuring attitude throughout poisons their acts of obedience. Their obedience counts for little so that, even though they obeyed and left Jerusalem, Nephi says they were like the Jews in Jerusalem (v 13). Note that Nephi cites as the cause of their murmuring the fact that they didn’t understand the way the Lord works (v 12).
Verse 15: My father dwelt in a tent
- Students of the Book of Mormon have wondered why Nephi so often repeats that “my father dwelt in a tent.” The exact phrase is found four times in 1 Nephi: 1 Ne 2:15, 1 Ne 9:1, 1 Ne 10:16, and 1 Ne 16:6. Several theories have been advanced for why Nephi might find this fact so significant.
1. The phrase is a literary ending point. The words are used to signal a culmination of one thought or story and the beginning of another.
2. Since Lehi was a well-to-do man of some importance in the land of Jerusalem, Nephi was impressed by the fact that he would leave his riches and take nothing into the desert except his family, provisions, and tents. Living in a tent was a singular thing for a rich man to do.
3. It is a note to indicate that they have adopted a nomadic style of life. This was not simply a temporary situation, but a commitment to leave their permanent home and travel into the unknown.
4. It is an expression of the father’s tent as the hub of everything. It is the official center of all administration and authority, the center of their universe. 1 Ne 3:1; 1 Ne 4:38; 1 Ne 5:7; 1 Ne 7:5; 1 Ne 7:21-22; 1 Ne 15:1 and 1 Ne 16:10 speak of the tent as the headquarters for all activities, discussions, and decisions.
5. Another possibility is that Lehi’s tent might be symbolic of the temple. Note that the verses following 1 Nephi 16:6 are especially interesting in terms of reminding us of temple imagery. Verse 6 reads, “Now all these things were said and done as my father dwelt in a tent in the valley which he called Lemuel.” First in verse 8, Lehi fulfills all the commandments of the Lord which are given unto him. Next, in verse 10, the Liahona is found, a ball which points out the course that they should go into the wilderness. Following this in verses 14-21, we are reminded of their need for constant nourishment as we read the story of obtaining food in the wilderness with bows and arrows, stones and slings. Finally, those who murmur are chastened and humbled in verse 24 and Lehi inquires of him once more. At this time, there appears in the Liahona “a new writing…which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord.”
- Note: See also Abr 2:15-16. There it is because Abraham and his company travel in tents that he says “eternity was our covering.”
- Nephi seems not to have readily accepted all his father told them. It is only after he cries to the Lord, the Lord visits him and his heart is softened that he believes all the words of his father.
- The use of “they” in verses 23 & 24 can be a bit confusing. Below “they” is replaced with the referent that seems to make the most sense given the context.
- 23 For behold, in that day that [thy brethren] shall rebel against me, I will curse [thy brethren] even with a sore curse, and [thy brethren] shall have no power over thy seed except [thy seed] shall rebel against me also.
- 24 And if it so be that [thy seed] rebel against me, [thy brethren's seed] shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir [thy seed] up in the ways of remembrance.
- Note that whether the Lamanites do good or bad, the Lord has a plan to use their works for his own righteous purposes. In this case if they do evil, the Lord uses them to be a scourge on Nephi’s seed–to bring Nephi’s seed to remember the Lord.
- How can we tell the difference between a spiritual prompting and our own rationalization?
- Nephi states his purpose for writing the plates is (to “persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham”). This elaborates on Nephi’s original statement of simply making “a record of my proceedings in my days” in 1 Ne 1:1, and stated purpose in 1 Ne 1:20 to “show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith.” And so when Nephi testifies that “the record which I make is true” 1 Ne 1:3, he may be referring more to the blessings of obedience and faith in God than simply the historical accuracy of his writing.
- Nephi admonishes subsequent record keepers not to write “things which are not of worth unto the children of men.” A similar phrase is used in 2 Ne 9:51 when Jacob is quoting from Isaiah: “do not spend money for that which is of no worth.” This is different than the KJV of Isa 55:2 which says “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?” These phrases may all come from the same original writing of Isaiah morphing through different translations. Or perhaps Nephi and Jacob are making a point in using slightly different phraseology. Regardless, Isaiah’s phrase “that which satisfieth not” suggests particular meaning for the the Book of Mormon phrase “that which is of no worth.”
- This verse doesn’t anticipate that Nephi or his brethren will have any difficulty in returning to Jerusalem this time. In what ways is this request to return to Jerusalem different from that given previously in 1 Ne 3:4?
- Nephi tells his brothers that the Lord can do all things for the children of men under two conditions. First what would be done must be according to the Lord’s will. Second the children of men for whom he would do all things must exercise faith in the Lord. This is a common theme of the scriptures: the Lord can do anything for us if it is good and we have faith. We typically think of faith in this context as believing that the Lord can do what he really can do. For Nephi’s brothers, given the miracles they have already seen, they need simply to remember in order to believe (see verses 10 & 11). But Nephi also shows us here that having faith is not simply about holding a certain set of beliefs it is about being faithful, or in other words, being obedient to the Lord’s commands.