What is the Book of Mormon, really?
Posted by robf on January 21, 2012
OK, there are innumerable ways to answer this. But here’s a definition that might deserve more consideration–The Word of God.
That sounds almost too cute. But consider how the Word of God is depicted in 2 Nephi 29. In short, the Lord says “I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them” (2 Nephi 29:11). The Lord speaks “unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it” (2 Nephi 29:12). And then, an odd thing happens when the two nations come into contact. When “two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also” (2 Nephi 29:8).
Perhaps, as the Word of God, the Book of Mormon can be seen as our prime example of this process of peoples, revelations, and traditions running together. In fact, the Book of Mormon seems to both depict and emobdy this process over, and over, and over again. For instance:
1) Jaredite-Nephite: Our Book of Ether is a Nephite redaction of a Jaredite record, a work of prophetic history written “to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done” (Title Page). There’s a lot to explore here about how the ancient Jaredite records (both the found plates, and perhaps the Coriantumr stone) shaped Nephite and Mulekite history and theology.
2) Mulekite-Nephite: We are only starting to consider how much the running together of these two people shaped the history recounted in the Book of Mormon, and its theology. King Benjamin’s theology seems to come out of this mix and the attempt to weld the two nations into one–as does Alma’s theology.
3) Early Nephite-Native American: There is some evidence that Nephi’s colony consisted of some prior Native American population that he somehow was able to exert leadership over. What kind of running together of the word might that have incorporated? Is Jacob’s encounter with Sherem an echo of this running together?
4) Nephite-Lamanite: There are several times in the Book of Mormon where Nephites and Lamanites are mingling. Supposing that Laman and Lemuel’s descendants also mixed with pre-Lehite populations, what kind of complex running together of people and revelations might have been happening here?
5) American-Nephite: How does it help us to better understand the Book of Mormon if we look at it as a running together of 19th Century religious thought and language with an ancient Nephite text on gold plates?
6) American-Native American: If the Book of Mormon is written to modern Native Americans, conceived as covenant descendants of Lehi, how might we reconsider how the Book of Mormon runs together with modern Native American religion and spirituality?
7) American-Non-western: As we flood the earth with the Book of Mormon, how does it run together with other non-Western religious and spiritual traditions?
8. Mormon-Christian: How does the Book of Mormon run together with other non-Mormon Christian traditions?
There is obviously way too much to cover here in a blog post. Perhaps these questions could form the outline of a book on the Book of Mormon as God’s word running together through multiple times and places and peoples. What more can we make of this idea of God’s word running together as people come together and share their revelations and religious perspectives?