Category Archives: Study Group notes

Jacob and the Lamanites

Last Friday’s study group was on Jacob 6:9. I could record a hundred little insights, but mostly I want to focus on what we learned about the book of Jacob and how it relates to the Lamanites.

We were looking at why Jacob is talking about “shame” as well as “guilt.” Joe’s philosophical reading defines shame as something you are responsible for, but you aren’t in control of (your mere mortality, weakness, etc., or something you inherited from previous generations, etc.). We came to a point where we wondered if all of chapter 6 was aimed at the (future) Lamanites, rather than his current Nephite brethren. We looked before Chapter 5’s allegory of the olive tree, and found that chapter 4 could be read as written to the future Lamanites. This would mean that chapter 5, though about the Jews, could be “likened” to the Lamanites specifically. That led us to read Chapter 6 as also directed to future Lamanites, so we could read 6:9 as Jacob trying to help the Lamanites not be ashamed of their fathers (and the curse that they inherited from them for a time) and rather receive the covenant that God is extending to them (also because of their fathers). (See Jacob 4:3.)

Beyond this, I suggested that perhaps all of Jacob’s writings could be aimed at softening the blow to the Lamanites so that they would read and accept this book. Joe is often pointing out how Jacob, in chapters 2-3, is criticizing the Nephites for how they are treating the Lamanites. Jacob explains that the Nephites are not keeping certain commandments that the Lamanites are keeping; the Nephites don’t treat their families well and that will have future consequences; the Lamanites behavior was taught them by their parents and they aren’t responsible for much of their tradition, etc. So what if we read all of that as Jacob’s attempt to invite the Lamanites into this book where their people will so often be described in a negative light? What if Jacob is trying to reach out to them through his contribution to this book? What if he wants them to know that the Nephites were often wrong in how they viewed their people? But, none the less, there was a curse brought on by their first parents that did affect them, and necessitated a book being written and brought to them?

We all liked that idea a lot, and thought it made good sense of Jacob 4:2-3:

“but we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us, or concerning their fathers—

Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents.”

Joe and I summed it up yesterday by saying it’s as if Jacob and Nephi are playing “good cop bad cop” with the Lamanites. 🙂







Alma 19:15-36: Another bunch of notes

Some more notes from our month-long study group on the Abish story:

  • v. 15 The servants are praying because “the fear of the Lord had come upon them also.” Is this fear spiritual or physical? Have they understood enough of what has happened to be praying for mercy, like the King did? Or is this a different sort of fear? Are they afraid for their physical lives, since they had seen that Ammon could not be killed, and yet now they see him falling because of the power of God?
  • v. 15-16 We assumed that the people watching sheep were all men, but here it says all the servants fell except one woman. Does that imply that the group of servants watching sheep included women? children?
    • Are there men who serve the King and women who serve the Queen? Later it appears that Abish is specifically the Queen’s servant
    • Ammon does call the people watching sheep his brethren
  • v. 15-16 Another possibility is that all the servants were gathered, both those who were with Ammon and others who happened to be in the palace that day.
  • One clue that Abish and other women are connected to the sheep-watching servants is that they are both called “Lamanitish.” We searched and couldn’t find that word elsewhere. (We noted that Lamanite and Nephite are rarely used as adjectives at all.) Where did this word come from?
    • Perhaps inventing an adjective. But why here? Why not used again?
    • On original plates? Mormon is borrowing the term for this story?
    • Are they only kind-of Lamanites?
      • They are in the Land of Ishmael. Is Mormon pointing out that they aren’t literally Lamanites? But elsewhere Ishmaelites are grouped together with Lamanites for simplicity, so why would that change here? Could it be that true-Lamanites have more power and they are trying to set themselves up as true Lamanites (through proving loyalty, through certain customs) to join the power structure?
      • Are they children of marriages of one Lamanite and one not-Lamanite? An Ishmaelite or a Lemuelite marrying a Lamanite?
      • Are they actually from neighboring tribes? (Not Lehi’s children at all?) Are they from other tribes but have chosen to live with the Lamanites? Are they from other tribes but have been captured or forced to live with the Lamanites and that’s why they are servants?
      • Are they children of a marriage between a Lamanite and a person from another tribe?
      • Are they the spouse of in a marriage of a Lamanite and non-Lamanite? A “Lamanite-in-law” as it were?
      • Could they be Nephite dissenters who have chosen to live with the Lamanites? They are Lamanitish because of how they have chosen to live rather than because of mixed lineage?
      • Are they children of Nephites who dissented at some point? Perhaps several generations back? Is this part of why they are servants? They are the lesser race in this culture?
      • Are they perhaps children of a Nephite and a Lamanite?
  • v. 16 Depending on which one of the above readings of “Lamanitish” we pick, it changes the story of Abish. She was Lamanitish. What did that imply about her social status in the palace? In the community? About her relationship to the Queen?
  • v. 16 What does it tell us about her vision? She has a “remarkable” vision of her father. (We discussed the ambiguity here: is it a vision he had or a vision she had about him?) Is he/she having visions because they are actually Nephites?
  • v. 17 This vision has converted her, but it also seems to prompt her to go about taking the “opportunity” to show others God’s power. Someone suggested that her vision (or her father’s vision) included the promise of the Lamanites and Nephites being reconciled, or at least of the Lamanites being converted. Perhaps she was waiting for this opportunity for a long time.
  • v. 23 Ammon is saved on account of his father, while Abish is converted on account of her father
  • v. 22-23 perhaps allusions to David & Saul (Also someone named Abishai in David’s time – interesting!) and/or Nephi & Laban
  • v. 28 it seems to me that their contentions happened so fast and so sharp because they have already been thinking about these things for some time (distrust in their king, or in the Nephites, or in Ammon’s arrival, etc.)
  • v. 28 If Abish’s vision/her father’s vision had shown the Lamanites converting, then would add to the reasons why she was so distraught
  • v. 29 “perhaps” – similar to “opportunity” – she is not being told by God what to do, but using her faith and mind to try and see what can be done. Similar to righteous women elsewhere
  • v. 29 King blesses name of God, she blesses Jesus (gives a name)
  • v. 29 King wakes up and talks about Queen as blessed because God will be born of a woman, she wakes up and blesses the childhood name “Jesus” (she continues her position as the typological mother-figure) (beautiful, really)
  • v. 29 she prays that God will bless her people, also a maternal cry
  • v. 29 But her cry is similar to the King’s cry before he passes out. Both of them are concerned about their people. A father/mother, Adam/Eve, Lehi/Sariah kind of pair.
  • v. 30 it’s of course interesting that servant raises Queen, and Queen raises King. Again, this story undoes all sorts of hierarchies, or at least ones that we have, or that perhaps the Nephites had, and we expect that the Lamanites had too.
    • remember though that the Lamanites were known for treating women better than the Nephites did (See Jacob 2-3 for example)

Alma 19:1-15: A bunch of notes :)

In case I don’t get to these individually, here is a list of a bunch of thoughts from study group:

  • v. 2 is parallel to Alma 47:33 (Amalekiah)
  • v. 3 “desired to know” – a lot like Alma 18:13-14 only the Queen isn’t afraid
  • v. 4 why doesn’t she ask Ammon to raise her husband from death/sleep?
  • v. 4-5 Queen wants a confirmation of something she knows/feels
  • v. 9 Ammon confirms her knowledge/feeling
  • v. 10 possibly one reason Ammon is so excited is that her faith is confirming his knowledge/feeling too!
  • 2 witnesses, 2 or 3 gathered…
  • v. 10 why “exceeding”? There is also “sufficient” faith in 3 Ne 17:8. What is in excess? What was sufficient for the situation, and what about her faith is in excess of that?
  • We spent a long time discussing why her faith was greater than the Nephites, but we didn’t come to any conclusions. A few thoughts
    • She believes on words alone
    • She is actually not trusting just words but a feeling from the Spirit (even though she doesn’t know what that means yet)
    • She is believing in something that is parallel to Christ’s resurrection before being taught about that
    • By saying this, he is helping her see that he doesn’t think all Nephites are superior to the Lamanites. By saying that there hasn’t been greater faith among them, he is elevating her as a Lamanite.
    • Likewise, he is helping her/us see that he doesn’t think all men are superior to women. He doesn’t say that her faith was greater than Nephite women’s faith.
  • We noted that story repeatedly makes us think about class, gender, and race. The traditional roles are reversed or made equal in this story
  • v. 11 why doesn’t she come back at the appointed time? Is she watching to be there the very second? Is it out of love? Is it tradition to stay by a dying person’s bedside anyway? Will people try to talk her into burying him if she leaves that room? Is she essentially standing guard so that no one tries to take his body?
  • v. 12 We talked a ton about this verse and the words “the woman” and also “blessed art thou.” We talked about grammatical terms and uses of woman (or lack thereof) elsewhere, but I didn’t take specific notes for most of it. 🙂 You’ll have to ask Joe if you want to know more about that part. 🙂
  • v. 12 interesting that he just says “name of God.” I like it. It’s as if he is in a transitional state from thinking of God as a Great Spirit to thinking of him as God, but still not sure what to call him. Or, it’s as if he is trying to communicate to his spouse that there is another name to call God but if I just say that, then you won’t know what I’m taking about.
    • He could also be using a form of praise used in other places in scripture. (“Blessed be the name of ______”means something like “may that person have a great reputation,” or, “I’m adding to that person’s reputation by blessing their name” – a name being symbolic for how they are known in the world)
  • v. 12 ALSO, note that when the Queen wakes up she uses a name (Jesus) and also note that when Lamoni first prays he says “Lord”
  • v. 13 sounds like an oath!! One of the best insights of the night. He wants her to believe what he has seen, so he begins by swearing to her an oath. “For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer.”
  • v. 13 interesting that he talks about sure it is that she is living, when it was recently unsure if he was living!
  • v. 13 “born of a woman” – means he will be mortal at some point, which has got to be news. He previously called God a “Great Spirit”
  • v. 13 sees Queen as a sort of Eve figure – the mother of all living – “as thou livest” could be related to Eve’s name
  • “Christ is not without his mother, neither is his mother without Christ”
  • v. 13 the Queen being “overpowered” by the Spirit is similar language to Mary being “overshadowed” by the Spirit
  • v.14 when Ammon falls, it is the first time the Lamanites & Lamanitish servants have seen Ammon by conquered by anything. Is this why the servants of the King (we are assuming these are these are the same Lamanitish servants from before) are so scared?
    • Note they cry unto God himself, not just cry out in fear. Watching and learning from all the teaching and exclamations going on.


Alma 19: comparing the Queen’s exclamation with the King’s prayer

This is one of (what I hope will be) many short posts on my notes from the Alma 19 study group nights. 

We noted early on the differences between what the King says when he wakes up and what the Queen says when she wakes up. That will make another interesting post. 🙂 For now I want to point out the similarities between what the Queen says when she wakes up and what the King says before he falls asleep:

Alma 18: 41 And he began to cry unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, have mercy; according to thy abundant mercy which thou hast had upon the people of Nephi, have upon me, and my people.

Alma 19:29 …she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!

Both of them focus on the mercy of God. And both of them start by pointing out that God has already had mercy, and asking for that to be extended to another person or group. The King believes that God has shown mercy to the Nephities, and asks for mercy to be shown to himself and his people. The Queen has already had an experience with God and believes that God has shown mercy to her (saved her), and now asks for mercy to be shown to her people.


Alma 19: Lamanitish

This is one of (what I hope will be) many posts on my notes from the Alma 19 study group nights. 

One of the words that confused and interested us was “Lamanitish.” We couldn’t find that word used anywhere else besides this story. We realized that Nephite and Lamanite themselves were very rarely used as adjectives. But they were on occasion, so that didn’t leave any reason for Mormon to have to use the word “Lamanitish.” We played around with a few possibilities:

  • people who don’t follow all of the Lamanite customs and traditions, but who are still Lamanite by birth?
  • people who aren’t Lamanite by birth, but do follow the customs and traditions?
    • perhaps these are Nephite dissenters?
    • perhaps these are non-Lehite peoples who lived in the area?
  • people who have been captured by the Lamanites during war?
  • descendants of Ishmael rather than Laman? (but elsewhere always lumped in with Lamanites…) Perhaps descendants of Ishmael who were trying to be more like Laman’s people in order to be higher up in some political structure?
  • (My personal favorite:) People who married a Lamanite or children of a Lamanite/non-Lamanite couple. “Lamanite-in-law” was one term we floated around.
  • note that the term is only applied to servants. So maybe these were captured, maybe dissenters finding their place in a foreign culture, maybe married in and left to live separately, maybe children of married-in parent, maybe local tribes who had been subjected — maybe any of these, but what is clear is that these are people who are servants to the king and queen.

Each of these ideas could shift the meaning of the story slightly. Think of how they would affect these questions: Why is Ammon sent to work among the Lamantish servants? Why is Abish (Lamanitish) converted? Why was her father receiving visions of Nephite religion? Why do the Lamanitish women servants work so closely with the queen? Why does the king feel like he can kill off the Lamantish men who watch his sheep? Why are the other sheep-watchers who scatter the king’s sheep called “Lamanite” and why aren’t they the ones being killed?


Alma 7:10 (Mary in the Book of Mormon)

Note: I woke up rather tired and my thinking feels rather clouded this morning. But here are some notes nonetheless:

Last night for Study Group, we looked at places in the Book of Mormon that talk about Mary. We started with Alma 7 and that became our center point as we talked about various passages.

Mary’s name

  • Why does the Book of Mormon give us Mary’s name?
  • We noticed that it was only given in two places: here and to King Benjamin’s people. Both people were especially righteous and prepared.
  • In both cases, the name of Mary was given within a quotation. King Benjamin quotes an angel, and Alma quotes the Spirit.

Origin of her name?

  • We wondered about the name Mary.
  • Does it mean “exalted”? Is it a proper name at all? His mother shall be called exalted?
  • Is it the same as Miriam? (Jesus is the same as Joshua.)
  • If so, what interesting connections might there be between the two women? Miriam watched over the vessel (basket) when Moses was in the river. Mary is the vessel which carries the child?
  • No consensus on the Hebrew meaning of Miriam. Might even be Egyptian! (We noticed that Alma in verse 1 says he is going to “attempt to address you in my language.” But we don’t know what language that is 🙂 )

How is Mary symbolically a temple?

  • “at Jerusalem”
  • precious “vessels” in temple
  • Ark holds word of God, she holds God
  • temple overshadowed by cloud by day, she is overshadowed
  • temple shadowed by smoke from incense
  • also, overshadowed idea comes up on Mount of Transfiguration, Mary, and 3 Nephi before Christ visits Nephites,

Alma 19/women in general:

  • When Lamoni wakes up, he says to his wife “blessed art thou … he shall come forth, and be born of a woman.”
  • Perhaps talking about a woman, a mother, and especially a name of a mother, makes Christ’s birth literal. They can comprehend that he actually will come to earth when we get a name of a literal mother
  • Mosiah 3:5-8, Christ comes in tabernacle of clay (in Alma 7, simply mortal tabernacle), but Mary is a “precious and chosen vessel.”
  • She was already precious before Christ came to her? It sounds like it.
  • Nephi sees she is fair and beautiful – before the Holy Ghost comes (1 Nephi 11:18-20)
  • This isn’t a sense of condescending to come into a broken, corruptible, mortal woman, but coming to something holy and beautiful
  • Mary was already chosen and precious before Christ came – that’s a beautiful thought


  • womb = bowels = womb in Hebrew (verse 12)
  • Chapter 19, when Lamoni wakes up he says “Blessed be the name of God, and blessed art thou. For as sure as thou livest, behold, I have seen my Redeemer; and he shall come forth, and be born of a woman, and he shall redeem all mankind who believe on his name.” When his wife (“the woman” and later “the queen”) wakes up, she says, “O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!” She has a very motherly reaction

A few notes from Study Group on D&C 84:39

  • The words “oath” and “covenant” from D&C 84:39 are clearly drawn from Hebrews, as any one in Joseph’s time would have recognized.
  • Note that God made oath and covenant, that it’s His (D&C 84:40). Not actually a covenant we make with God! This is one sided when it is made, and then we are told/asked to receive it.
  • D&C 132:22-25 are very worth looking at, as well as JST Genesis 14!
  • The language of confirmed is related to oaths and covenants in Bible.
  • Where else does “oath and covenant” come up together, as a phrase? In the Book of Mormon! But it always means oaths and covenants of robbers, bad secret society. Is the priesthood meant to be thought of as the “good” secret society? The one that counters the bad?
  • The consequence for breaking an oath or covenant in a bad secret society is usually death! Severe consequence. D&C 84:41 is also severe.
  • Interesting that it’s not about this life, as D&C 132 talks about (hard time this life, ok in next)
  • The good secret society. It is a fundamental change in how we relate to other people. [Tangent here about how even when we as Latter-day Saints don’t understand all that this gospel is or how deep and wonderful the covenants are, there is still a change in how we relate to others. There are all sorts of “fringe benefits”that come even from the watered-down version of things. And the real vision is still buried in there, still being carried along by the church members even though we don’t realize it.
  • Now, some notes/thoughts from what Don shared with us:
  • “According to” usually means we’re referring to something just talked about, or to something clearly established. This “accords” with that previous thing.
  • This seems to accord with Hebrews, which refers back to Psalms
  • But also, look at Gen 14 “order of the covenant” also “oath by himself”
  • JST Hebrews was worked on only 7 months earlier, and Joseph had just gone back through it about this time. So not only would the audience have thought about Hebrews, Joseph was thinking about Hebrews a lot during this time
  • Some sort of “everlasting covenant” talked about in stories of David and others but Hebrews might be only place in NT (Heb 13:20).
  • The JST of Hebrews 9 changes testament to covenant
  • JST Hebrews 7:19 adds “without an oath” Law was administered without an oath
  • JST Deut 10:2 adds “save words of everlasting covenant of priesthood” (second tablets did not have words of the covenant)
  • So with JST changes, Deut says law did not have words of covenant, and Hebrews says law did not have oath
  • D&C 84:25 God took Moses and priesthood out from them (=took words of covenant & no oath?)
  • Similar to 1 Ne 13 – took plain and precious from gospel, even many covenants. Then took from book.
  • D&C 132:19 – what is “it”?  everlasting covenant (later in 19: as hath been sealed upon their heads)
  • b/c everlasting covenant from JST Gen 14 = godhood, this makes sense.
  • D&C 132:19 and JST Gen 14 both use principalities and powers
  • D&C 84:42 “by mine own voice” also in JST Gen 14:29 and Hebrews (and Alma 13 – called)
  • Oaths – Hebrews talks about Abraham’s oath, and Christ’s priesthood oath
  • “confirm” talked about in Hebrews 7 and D&C 84:39-42
  • D&C 132:59 by mine own voice Aaron Hebrews also says called of God
  • back to covenants taken out: Covenant given to Adam etc, then missing until Abraham, then missing until Moses, then missing until Christ, then missing until Joseph Smith
  • covenant is received, as we emphasized earlier. Given by God, oath made by God. Receive covenant, receive oath, over and over. Alma 13, God ordains. God calls. D&C 84:40, D&C 66:  , D&C 132:27.
  • Consequences come after that is clear D&C 132:27, D&C 84:41
  • In 1831 office of high priest given, thought of as sealing lots of things, even sealing up to eternal life
  • D&C 84 was in 1832 developed, but think context of sealing up to eternal life
  • Joseph Smith’s later discourses, Moses’s people won’t accept last stage the gift of eternal life. Why did they reject? don’t know. D&C 84 says same thing didn’t want to enter God’s rest, see face to face. See discourses maybe March 1844
  • Receive everlasting covenant, not obey everlasting covenant.
  • Joseph Smith’s creativity with everything (laws on polygamy, etc.) may reflect his position of receiving this higher law and power, like Nephi (in Helaman), Enoch, etc. They had power to move rivers, mountains, create famines, etc.
  • did Joseph’s confidence come from lost 116 pages? God has many ways of doing His work, He is wise, I can’t ruin it, in for the ride