Posted by joespencer on March 8, 2012
As I mentioned in last post, I’ll be tackling all of Jacob 4-7 in this post. I noted last time that chapters 1-3 form a unit, while chapters 4-6 form a distinct unit, and chapter 7 forms a unit all its own. So I’ll be addressing chapter 4 in connection with chapters 5-6. And I’ll add some notes about chapter 7 as well.
I’ll be frank at the start that I don’t much like writing or talking about the allegory of the olive tree. Largely that’s because I find that it’s one of few places in the Book of Mormon where Latter-day Saints have done seriously dedicated work to understand the text. (If only we collectively used the same sort of care in reading Isaiah!) I’m mostly happy to let people work on those already productive readings. It’s also, though, because I find the dominant interpretation a bit overpowering. I suspect there are other, quite important things going on in the allegory than a kind of basic map of covenantal history, but I have a hard time finding my way out of the dominant approach.
But my task remains my task. We’ll see what can’t be learned by coming to it again. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on February 29, 2012
This is the first of the two lessons dedicated to the relatively short Book of Jacob. The task here is to tackle chapters 1-4, while the next lesson tackles chapters 5-7. I’ll arrange my notes slightly differently. It’s quite clear that chapters 4-6 make up a single unit (chapters 4-5 were a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon, at any rate), so it seems strange to me to couple chapter 4 with chapters 1-3, which also form a single unit (with chapters 2-3 being a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon). So, in this post, I’ll tackle only the first three chapters of Jacob here.
As the original chapter breaks suggest, it’s probably best to take chapter 1 on its own, and then to take the pair of chapters 2 and 3 together. That’s what I’ll do. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on February 25, 2012
As I’ve been explaining since the beginning of my posts on Nephi, 2 Nephi 31-33 forms a kind of conclusion to the fourfold structure of Nephi’s record. Here the task is, after a creation story, a fall story, and an atonement story, to introduce the reader of the record to the Lord at what Nephi presents as a kind of veil. These last chapters of Nephi’s record are deeply theological, and I’ll take them a piece at a time. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on February 21, 2012
As I explained in my last post, I’m going to treat 2 Nephi 25 here, along with 2 Nephi 26-30. I’ll note also that I’ll do a little bit of retroactive treatment of 2 Nephi 11, since it is closely tied to 2 Nephi 25. Principally, the aim here is to deal with Nephi’s prophetic contribution to what I’ve been calling, since the beginning, the “atonement” stretch of Nephi’s record. (See here and here for other details concerning all this.) What we have in 2 Nephi 25-30 is the final culmination of Nephi’s crucial record. After this we’ll have only his concluding appendix, if you will. Everything Nephi’s been working on comes to a real fruition right here.
Indeed, what we have in 2 Nephi 25-30 is the final weaving together of Nephi’s two obsessions: (1) his vision from 1 Nephi 11-14, in which he saw the whole panorama of covenantal history, and (2) the writings of Isaiah, which he’s been inserting according to clear patterns (which I cover in the posts linked to above). He now brings to its highest point his work of “likening,” making sense of Isaiah through his own visionary knowledge, and making sense of his own visionary knowledge through Isaiah. If we want to get our brains around what all this Isaiah stuff is doing in the Book of Mormon, it’s in these chapters first and foremost that we’re given to understand. Let’s look quite closely at it, shall we? Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on February 13, 2012
We come now, as I’ve been saying from the beginning and have reiterated again and again, to the most privileged and central part of Nephi’s record. To miss Isaiah in the Book of Mormon is to miss the Book of Mormon.
I take as my task in this post, then, to work carefully through what seems to me to be the focus of Nephi’s quotation of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 12-14. Also included in this lesson, as laid out in the manual, are chapters 11 and 25, the former being Nephi’s brief introduction to the Isaiah chapters and the latter being the first of Nephi’s follow-up comments after the fact. For my purposes, I want to consider 2 Nephi 25 along with 2 Nephi 26-30, so I won’t be dealing with it until next week. I know this seems strange since it’s in 2 Nephi 25 that Nephi supposedly provides the “keys to understanding Isaiah.” I’m less convinced that Nephi’s doing anything of the sort there. Isaiah’s plenty understandable on his own, and what Nephi has to say in 2 Nephi 25 is more for his own people and the beginning of what he goes on to say in the chapters following than for us as readers of Isaiah. (Indeed, I think 2 Nephi 26-27 is more help for those struggling with Isaiah than anything in 2 Nephi 25.) So I’ll leave all that for later.
Here’s how I’d like to proceed: Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on February 8, 2012
We come, now, to what I called in my preliminaries post the “Atonement” stretch of Nephi’s record—twenty-five chapters focused on prophecies concerning the eventual reconciliation of the Lamanites with the Lord (see some details setting this up in my last post). The first part of these “more sacred things,” the crucial and only commanded part of Nephi’s record, is Jacob’s sermon in these five chapters: 2 Nephi 6-10. I’ll be taking these chapters in three parts, since they originally appeared as three chapters in the Book of Mormon: Chapter V (now 2 Nephi 6-8), Chapter VI (now 2 Nephi 9), and Chapter VII (now 2 Nephi 10).
Obviously, we’re most generally wont to spend all our time in 2 Nephi 9 when we look at Jacob’s speech. There’s something right about that: 2 Nephi 9 is perhaps the most remarkable sermon on atonement to be found in the Book of Mormon, and its profound connections with 2 Nephi 2 deserve close attention. But there’s also something wrong about our insistence on spending all our time in 2 Nephi 9: we focus there because it helps us escape the task of making sense of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 6-8, 10. We need to be spending our time dealing with Isaiah, as I hope I’ve already begun to make clear in an earlier post (and elsewhere). To avoid Isaiah is to miss entirely the point of Nephi’s record.
So here’s my plan: Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on January 30, 2012
Just as with my last post, I’m here again free to spend a bit more time focused on details, since only three chapters are being considered here. After this lesson, we’ll be doing some racing again, and unfortunately through the most important part of Nephi’s record (one week on 2 Nephi 6-10, one week on 2 Nephi 11-25, and one week on 2 Nephi 26-30). Since I’ll be frustrated by the necessity of racing later, I want to try to relish the experience of taking my time with 2 Nephi 3-5.
The difficulty is that I find these three chapters among the less interesting in the Book of Mormon. They’ve got some remarkable things in them (some of the prophecies and complications of 2 Nephi 3 are quite important), and they’ve got some beautiful things in them (Nephi’s psalm in 2 Nephi 4 of course comes to mind), and they’ve got some structurally crucial things in them (2 Nephi 5 is of critical importance for the structure of Nephi’s record)—but all these things are, I think, relatively straightforwardly explainable. (Interestingly, each of the three chapters under consideration here were individual chapters in the original Book of Mormon, making them all the easier to tackle here.) I anticipate this post being a bit shorter than usual as a result, and I’ll take advantage of the time that leaves me to get to work on the series of posts that will keep me busy for the next few weeks and that I’m going to try to say as much as I can about.
To work, then—but with the reminder that the preliminaries post remains important (indeed, becomes quite important again at this point). Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on January 26, 2012
At last, a lesson that covers only two chapters, thus allowing me to do some close textual work and theological development! This lesson covers only 2 Nephi 1-2 (and the one after it only 2 Nephi 3-5), so this should be some fun.
The situation, of course, is Lehi’s instruction to his children and others just before his death—all of this apparently happening on the same occasion during which Nephi recounted and commented on Isaiah 48-49 (see 2 Nephi 1:1). Chapter 1 is dedicated principally to Lehi’s words to Laman and Lemuel (together, interestingly), but it contains also Lehi’s words to Zoram. Chapter 2 is entirely dedicated to Lehi’s words to Jacob. Quite nicely, for once, the content of the lesson made up a single chapter (Chapter I) in the original Book of Mormon. I think that works quite nicely.
My plan is to work through 2 Nephi 1 in relative brevity, and then spend the bulk of my time on 2 Nephi 2. Hopefully there’s the same theological interest among others that there is in me. And, as always, I recommend a close reading of my preliminaries post. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on January 19, 2012
This lesson is supposed to finish off First Nephi, though chapters 19-22 are something of a tack-on (included only under “Additional Teaching Ideas”). I’ll tackle all seven chapters, I guess, though I’ll have to be a bit more spare than I’ve been in the previous couple of posts. I’ll proceed as follows. First, I’ll address briefly the parallel plot lines of 1 Nephi 16 and 1 Nephi 18. Second, I’ll give a bit more attention, at the theological level, to 1 Nephi 17. Third, I’ll add a brief discussion about the wrap-up of 1 Nephi 18 and its complex relationship to 1 Nephi 19. Fourth, I’ll say a handful of things about 1 Nephi 19-22 more generally. Fifth and finally, I’ll take up 1 Nephi 20-21, that is, Isaiah 48-49.
That’s a lot to tackle. But I’ll see what I can do here. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by joespencer on January 14, 2012
As I noted in my previous post, this third lesson on Nephi’s writings is meant to focus only on 1 Nephi 12-14, while the preceding lesson focuses on 1 Nephi 11 and 1 Nephi 15 (in connection with 1 Nephi 8). In order to follow as closely as possible what Nephi himself seems to be doing with his own chapter breaks and the like, I focused in my notes on lesson 2 on the whole of 1 Nephi 6-10, and I’ll take as my focus here the whole of 1 Nephi 11-15. I think it’ll become clear why it’s important to do that.
I have, nonetheless, thus split 1 Nephi 10 off from 1 Nephi 11-14, which is illegitimate in my eyes. The whole of 1 Nephi 10-14 is a single chapter in the original Book of Mormon (and thus according to Nephi’s own chapter breaks). And we should note the fact that 1 Nephi 11:1 opens with “For,” clearly indicating that the experience Nephi recounts here has to be understood in connection with what he’s just been saying in the final, transitional verses of 1 Nephi 10. I thus refer you back to what I had to say about 1 Nephi 10 in my last post. But here I’ll get to work on Nephi’s vision itself, as well as—more briefly—on Nephi’s exchange with his brothers subsequent to his visionary experience. Read the rest of this entry »
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