I’m going to do a verse-by-verse commentary on some of Jacob 2 & 3 in order to help me think through what might be at stake here, in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant (and what that means for how fathers relate to women and children).
22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
It is interesting that even though the Nephites have the scriptures, this doesn’t make them a better people. Some read them seriously and seek to learn and keep commandments. Others use them as an excuse to do what they want to do. Since they have the scriptures, and they think they can make them say what they want them to say, do they feel (pretend) to be righteous in their iniquity? In other words, is there a part of them that is so glad they have scripture so they can get away with this? And/or does it cause them to feel self-righteous, even in iniquity, because they can use the scriptures to their advantage?
I’m also thinking of Alma 41:9: “And now behold, my son, do not risk one more offense against your God upon those points of doctrine, which ye have hitherto risked to commit sin.” Corianton was sinning because he using “those points of doctrine” he thought he could use to his advantage. He had understood that we would be restored to a perfect state, and used that as license to commit sin (Alma 41:9-13). I think Alma knew that Corianton didn’t quite believe that what he was doing was right, but still he was basing his actions on scripture and using them as an excuse to commit sin. Which is the same situation that Jacob finds himself in.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
What might we make of the fact that David and Solomon had “many” wives and concubines? When (and only when, of course) God commands for more than one wife, is He still hoping for loving, sincere marriages? Where as “many” wives and concubines becomes nothing more than a status symbol?
And even if the Nephites only had two wives, they were doing it for the same reasons a person might have many? To take advantage of women, to use them as a status symbol, to leave behind the loving, self-sacrificing nature of marriage?
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
Is there something significant here about being of the fruit of Joseph? We’ve been taking about David and Solomon’s approach to women, specifically. Even if polygamy could be done right, which I have to assume it could, there were so many negative consequences (see the following verses) that happened in Jerusalem, that is seems one way God is purifying or separating this “righteous branch” is to do away with having more than one wife.
Though I can’t give up the concept of polygamy altogether, given our church history (and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even Joseph), I can say that it appears here, in these verses, that God recognizes the awful consequences that unfortunately, all-too-often, do come along with men having more than one wife. I think that is a condemnation of specific men, rather than the practice as a whole (again I like Abraham, etc too much to dismiss the whole concept) – but all the same I think this is very significant. God recognizes that this often results in painful situations for women and children (again, see below what Jacob says about Jerusalem and the Nephites!). I’m thinking of D&C 121:39: “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” God recognizes this, and yet we still have a church organization with positions of authority. I think in both this and polygamy, God recognizes that men (and yes women too, I’m not trying to pit gender against gender here) fail. And fail miserably. And use scripture, and callings, to “excuse themselves” and commit iniquity. It does happen.
(I do find it interesting that the next verse in D&C 121 is: “Hence many are called, but few are chosen.” Chosen – exalted – able to actually live as husband and wife and be gods and goddesses – this privilege comes only to those men and women who can handle authority without using it for their own purposes, and I would assume only men who can be husbands without mistreating their wives.)
Back to Jacob.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
Note again that “this people” won’t be like David and Solomon. There is something unique about this people – again I think God is trying to purify a righteous branch and this is one way in which He is purging them of what was happening in Jerusalem.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it beone wife; and concubines he shall have none;
This, as we find out in a few verses, was the direct commandment to Lehi. This is a commandment for all the Lamanites and Nephites.
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
Chastity of women? Why not the chastity of “my people” or “of men” too?
Are whoredoms here a product of polygamy? And on whose part? When men feel free to have many women, do they rape and take advantage? Does it change their relation to the “tender” feelings of women in general, and hence any and all kinds of whoredoms are more likely?
Does this verse in any way suggest that when people misuse polygamy, that women take advantage of the situation? Do they seek to gain power by seducing men, since they feel like within unrighteous polygamy they are subservient to men’s unrighteous power? (
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
This has already been pointed out, it’s nothing new, but it is significant: there are times when the Lord commands polygamy so that a seed can be raised up in a righteous, covenant home. I can see why it was important for Abraham and Issac, for example, because there were so few seeking or keeping the covenant at that time. If Abraham’s seed carries the priesthood to teach all nations about the gospel and the covenant, well, we need some more people in this family to get things going! I can see the wisdom in that idea. It of course leaves absolutely no room open for men to take advantage of women and exercise unrighteous dominion over them.
31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
“In all the lands of my people.” Does this include other groups of people who had been led to other lands? This seems like a time when God would normally command polygamy, now that I think of it. Perhaps the Nephites/Lamanites were an experiment: let’s see what happens if we don’t command polygamy with this branch.
32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Ooh, this is tough criticism. First Jacob mentions the sorrow of the women in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, because of their husbands. And now, he reveals that the Nephites are in the exact same situation.
33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
“Lead away captive”? What an interesting phrase to use here. Are we talking deception? Or force? Or is the verse structure of polygamy, when not commanded, a type of captivity? Anyone who would take upon themselves to enforce polygamy and “excuse themselves” is taking authority they don’t have, and hence unrighteously dominating over women?
And what is the connection between this act and “destruction?” Is it because of this iniquity specifically that they are destroyed almost a thousand years later? Does that mean they kept up the practice even when it was condemned? Does it mean that they are already breaking commandments and it is the breaking of commandments – especially specific ones that set them apart as a special branch of Joseph – that make them lose their covenant promise of protection and so they are destroyed?
34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
Again, this is pretty significant news to us, that this commandment was given to Lehi. This isn’t their interpretation of the Bible verses Jacob’s interpretation of the Bible. This is a commandment of God they are trying to get around by looking to history.
35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.
What kind of society are we setting up here, where wives and then children can’t trust their fathers? Who’s teaching the next generation? What’s happening here sociologically?
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.
Is this talking to women? All the women? Just women? Do many of these husbands qualify as “those who seek your destruction”? Or will only those who are pure in heart keep the covenant and hence receive protection (in war) as God’s people?
3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.
Interesting how soon these words, which were given to Nephi, are applicable to this people. Amazing.
See the end of the Book of Omni! King Mosiah did just that. And the “land of Nephi” will become the land of the Lamanites.
5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one wife, and concubines they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.
6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful unto them; and one day they shall become a blessed people.
This is huge! “Because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them.” Because they love their wives and keep that one commandment, they will not be destroyed.
Why? What is it about this one commandment that makes or breaks them? Is it because it has to do with seed/families? Is it because it was a commandment given to Lehi and hence outside of the scriptures than only half of the children of Lehi have? What is it about this one commandment?
7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?
Their families are in tact. And the things that caused the curse on their skins were because of their fathers, not because of them. And Lehi already promised them, back in 2 Nephi 4:5-7:
5 But behold, my sons and my daughters, I cannot go down to my grave save I should leave a blessing upon you; for behold, I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.
6 Wherefore, if ye are cursed, behold, I leave my blessing upon you, that the cursing may be taken from you and be answered upon the heads of your parents.
7 Wherefore, because of my blessing the Lord God will not suffer that ye shall perish; wherefore, he will be merciful unto you and unto your seed forever.
It seems like Lehi recognized that Laman and Lemuel’s kids had a trait of being very obedient. He told them that, ” I know that if ye are brought up in the way ye should go ye will not depart from it.” And we see this later in the Book of Mormon, where the Lamanites are very exact in their obedience.
Lehi has already said too that this curse (which the Nephites use as an excuse to feel superior) will be “answered upon the heads of your parents.” By Jacob’s time, Nephi is dead and probably so is Sam, Laman, Lemuel, and anyone else from that first generation. So Jacob tells them:
8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.
9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.
How easy is it for any of us to want to find someone else to point to as “unrighteous” so we can get away with whatever we want to do. The curse on the Lamanites became for some Nephites a great excuse to do iniquity.
10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.
Wow, and here we see the situation of the Lamanites applied to second-generation Nephites. Perhaps their own children, because of their bad example, will be filthy, following the same pattern they just watched with the Lamanites. The difference is that the Lamanites have been promised that their seed will never be destroyed, but the Nephites have no such promise.
Could it be, as has been suggested by others (whose work is described here), that the destruction of the Nephites was a consequence of how the fathers treated their wives and their children? Did the Nephites fail the test of being a part of the Abrahamic Covenant – a covenant of righteous fathers and mothers, kings and queens, priests and priestesses?
Certainly something to think about here in Jacob 2 and 3, at any rate!