Tag Archives: 2 Nephi 2

Thoughts from “Opposition in All Things: Mormon Perspectives on the Fall” (a Mormon Theology Seminar Conference on 2 Nephi 2 and Genesis 2-3)


There was another Mormon Theology Seminar Conference this past weekend. The organization has held 6 of these seminars so far: one on Alma 32, one on 2 Nephi 26-27, one on D&C 42, one on the book of Revelation, and now this double-seminar (one on 2 Nephi 2 and one on Genesis 2-3), with the conferences held back-to-back. This last conference was unique (and very productive!) that way. Friday was dedicated to Genesis 2-3 and Saturday to 2 Nephi 2, but in each session there were respondents and/or questions from those who had studied the other text. The questions brought out connections or complications that generated very interesting and productive conversation. And Micah and I got to be there to see it all! 🙂 (Someday I’ll buy him a copy of the books so he can know what it was he was there listening to and clapping for. 🙂 )

Like I do in many meetings, in this conference I started out mostly let the ideas make me think (and I was also focused on Micah), but I wasn’t taking any notes. I was just letting the ideas change my thinking, or simply just enjoying the experience. Then, for whatever reason, maybe b/c Micah was asleep (or because I was sleepy and needed to do something to stay focused), or maybe it was because some idea thing struck me more than others had and I wanted to remember it… but whatever it was, I started taking notes. And then, as is my habit, once I start taking notes, I keep taking notes and I took notes the rest of the time. So my notes here really start in the afternoon of the first day, but since I thoroughly enjoyed that morning as well, I’ll write a few things from my memory.

The first paper by Julie Smith deconstructed the “Wise Choice Theory” – the idea that Eve knew what she was doing when she ate the fruit and did it completely on purpose for good intentional reasons. It was a good paper with lots of careful reading and good insight. I was trying to keep Micah quite and didn’t write down a thing! But it was very interesting.

The next paper was by Ben Spackman, and he did an excellent job of showing how and when the word “Adam” should be translated not as a proper name. Where it isn’t a proper name, what is it? Dirt, human-kind generally, a member of the human family, etc. He provided a chart as well to show how a dozen different translations over time have handled that question. Very well done, very helpful to someone like me who doesn’t know Hebrew, and very engaging presentation style. Plus, he was skyped in from Spain so that was a novelty too. 🙂

The last paper that morning was by Rosalynde Welch, and I’m going to quote her title since it will tell much more than I could about her topic: “Creation, Localism, and Appetite in the Garden World of Wendell Berry.” Interesting piece with some insights, but mostly I needed to know more about localism and Wendall Berry for me to be able to respond to her thesis. It was great to finally meet Rosalynde, though. She blogs at Patheos and does a fantastic job writing intelligent and faithful posts relating to all sorts of Mormon issues.

Now for a list of some of my insights, mostly – as usually here on this blog! – for me to archive some of my thoughts and use them in future studies.

From Jim Faulconer’s “Chaos and Order, Order and Chaos: The Creation Story as the Story of Human Community,” responded to by Julie Smith:

  • Eve got knowledge individually and not communally
  • She saw tree as good. It was, but she went outside the community.
  • How are the “curses” really grace? (My answer: note Eve still bears children, and Adam still eats food from the earth. Now both are coupled with sorrow, but they still are allowed to live out the life God gave to them in the garden.)
  • leaving garden = creation of community, relying on each other
  • “ashamed” of nakedness. Lots of possible readings. They are now “like God” but not like God. Jim suggested it one reading: they were a priest and a priestess without priestly clothing
  • God creates humans on the Sabbath. That was rest?
  • Julie asked, How do Mormon cultural ideals of self-reliance, independence, and punishment line up with the community theme that Jim as brought up?
  • (Here, but in earlier papers too:) Christ kept scars on His hands. Will the earth have scars from us that it keeps, too?
  • (From comments): There are not many examples in scripture of communities being positive. We usually read all the bad things that a society is doing. But perhaps if we had more details of how Zion was created, with the Nephites for example, we would be tempted to simply take that as a blueprint and try to imitate it, which would be a disaster. I thought, Perhaps this keeps us on our toes, hopefully forcing us to listen to the Spirit, which Brigham Young says is what Zion is all about anyway. 🙂
  • Question from the Hebrew: might Adam be present when the serpent and Eve talk?
  • Jenny: We think of Zion as “inclusive” but was Adam and Eve’s problem that they didn’t cast out Satan? How does that change our image of Zion?

Notes from Candice Wendt’s paper, “Environmental Education in Zion,” responded to by Jenny Webb – one of my favorite people 🙂

  • Eden was Adam’s “ecological education.” He was naming animals, eating fruit, tilling ground
  • Knowledge = fruit. Why?
  • “earth’s flesh becomes our flesh”
  • her general idea is that all fruit brings knowledge. So forbidden fruit could represent that b/c they had already had gained lots of other kinds of knowledge (of the earth, eating, animals, each other, etc) – what made this knowledge – this fruit – so different?wisdom?
  • “Ashamed” – there was already a gap between them and God, but still now ashamed (me: Ether 12:27?)
  • Enoch the place to think about community.
  • Jenny: Marcus Nash recently presented on taking care of the earth but he focused on how we have a responsibility to take care of the earth for future generations. Adam too passes on knowledge of the earth to his children
  • Jenny: think also about Alma 32. Your own tree…
  • I wondered – serpent was most subtle can be translated most naked. Can we translate Adam and Eve of being ashamed of their subtle way of eating the fruit?
  • Kim and I wondered – serpent naked, but in temple Satan has unique clothing?
  • Animal feeds man, shouldn’t man feed animals?
  • clothed with skins means they experience death, and then they wear it!
  • but of course it also teaches about sacrifice and Christ’s atonement. Still, they are wearing death, as it were. A corpse of an animal. They are humans now marked as humans that will someday die. Interesting!

Adam Miller’s paper:

  • Does Christ save us from death or from dying?
  • Adam makes his own garden – he is being/becoming like God
  • bowels remind us that we are bodies of dirt, we produce dirt – earth comes in, earth goes out
  • bodies pass air in and out, light passes into eyes, sound passes into ears
  • passing, repetition – that is living, that is life
  • Book of Mormon – “it came to pass” – events in life come and then go, they came (in order to?) pass
  • Comment: Why biologically repulsed by that which passes from us? Adam: it’s for the earth, for others. We are not self-sufficient creatures on this planet.

Rico:

  • Question: is Adam’s punishment mortality itself, or death in that day?
  • D&C 29 an interesting place to go looking. Spiritual death in that day?
  • Does Lehi use Isaiah 14 to get his understanding of Satan (2 Ne 2:17)
  • Not a tree of knowledge for Lehi – just forbidden fruit. Why use that name? What is he focused on?
  • I wrote down at this point: I wonder if Lehi had any idea that thousands of years later, people would so carefully work to understand every sentence in a discourse he  gave on the fall and atonement.

Jenny:

  • Jacob is Lehi’s first-born in the wilderness. If we read as a whole, could be that Nephi saw Jacob as the spiritual leader for the family.
  • Now map “flesh” discussion (running through all of 2 Nephi 2) onto this – mortal = Jerusalem? resurrection = promised land?
  • Lehi’s words in 2 Nephi call US to listen to Jacob.
  • Adam: flesh = spirit and body oriented to death, soul = spirit and body oriented to eternal life
  • Candace/Jenny: spirit and flesh opposed in 2 Ne 2
  • Sort of a “Last Will and Testament” but of spiritual traces rather than material traces

John Hilton:

  • Alma 42 quotes Geneses 3 (provided a chart – it’s very clear!)
  • Alma 42 quotes 2 Ne 2 (also very clear!)
  • In both Alma 42 and 2 Ne 2 a prophet is teaching a son
  • John charted the pattern in Alma 42:11-23 and 2 Ne 2:10-14 (I didn’t copy it well, but things like: Christ, opposition, God would cease to be God, not the case…)
  • (me:) Why “if no punishment” or misery, then God would cease to be God? Why at that point?
  • (me:) Why is THAT the key part of the list? Makes God a King or Sovereign?
  • (me:) or, b/c justice means not going back on decrees given to Adam and Eve? words always fulfilled, and punishment was one of those decrees?
  • “affixed” shows up 6 times in Book of Mormon: 3 in 2 Nephi 2, and 3 in Alma 42!
  • “affixed” implies not inherent, someone had to affix it.
  • affixed, chosen, given the law (who affixes punishment? no subject given for that)
  • (me:) having punishment and happiness affixed allows us to choose? how agency created? or am I barking up the wrong tree?
  • How did Alma quote 2 Ne 2 (and so seems to have had small plates) but also unsure of timing of Christ’s visit?
  • Could be Lehi’s message in 2 Ne 2 was also on large plates
  • But why then would not the important info of the timing of Christ’s visit also be on those plates?
  • Lots to learn from the way Alma teaches here.
  • (My favorite:) Alma cuts past the behavior, and even scriptures on that behavior, and gets to the misunderstood doctrine (of Christ)
  • Alma carefully reads – no prooftexting! 🙂
  • Note where Alma 12/13 are different (as gods…)
  • (my question in the Q&A:) how often do we use this very discourse to talk about chastity, when Alma himself doesn’t use scripture that way to help teach his son! Are there other examples in scripture where we see someone cut past the behavior to teach about Christ or another fundamental doctrine and then we see how that was really what was needed?

I realize now that I must have been taking care of Micah during Joe’s paper. I thoroughly enjoyed it (and I’d heard it before). But one of the most interesting parts of his presentation was Rosalynde’s creative description of Joe’s general presentation style. How Joe is like someone taking us down a busy road in downtown NYC and pointing out this and that to us. Or a biologist who slices something smaller and smaller and looks at it under a microscope. Etc. It was a complimentary and creative response to Joe.

Also, Deidre gave a paper in the afternoon that I failed to comment on here. I think I remember feeling like I needed to know a lot more about feminism to really appreciate what she was getting at. She did a great job, but I have a lot more to learn about feminist theory and feminist theology.

But a wonderful, wonderful conference! Every paper and every response gave me things to think about. Every lunch or dinner conversation was enlightening and fun. I don’t desire the attention and work that comes with presenting at a conference, but I think I’ve almost talked myself into writing up and submitting papers to these sorts of things (like MSH) just so I can have the excuse to go and be around the people and the conversations during these conferences.

Thanks to Sue, again, who offered to watch our kids so I could go both days! It was a great experience.

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An insight from the Mormon Theology Seminar on 2 Ne 2


There are two, concurrent Mormon Theology Seminar projects going on right now. One is on 2 Nephi 2, and the other is on Genesis 2-3, and they are going to have a big two-day joint conference in June (awesome, no?).

All the work of a Mormon Theology Seminar takes place publicly on a blog. But, only the participants can comment on the blog. So, since I can’t comment there, I thought I’d post what I found interesting from their blog and comment on it here:

Perhaps these connections suggest more generally that it’s through the sermons of King Benjamin and Abinadi that Lehi’s and Jacob’s teachings regarding the plan of salvation passed into general Nephite knowledge. That may be important for understanding the basic significance of 2 Nephi 2 and 2 Nephi 9 for Nephite thought.

That’s an interesting insight. King Benjamin, as the inheritor of a new, unified kingdom (of Zamahelma’s people and the righteous Nephite remnant) suddenly finds himself in possession of the small plates. As he reads them, he is most struck by the writings of Jacob and of Lehi’s words to Jacob. Perhaps he is struck by them and allows them to influence his discourse at the temple, or, perhaps this way of thinking was already a part of Nephite culture and so it was the more natural part to share with his people. Either way, I like the insight that since we see King Benjamin and Abinadi drawing on Jacob’s words, we can begin to see what role the small plates prophets played in general Nephite culture.


2 Nephi 2 is making sense!!


Joe and I have spent the last month or more studying 2 Ne 2. And it’s finally starting to make sense!! 🙂

The thing I wanted to record today is that I can finally make sens of “compound in one” in verse 11. I finally can see now how “compound in one” is different than “one body.” Compound means a mixture or combination of things. Things are not one, things are grouped into one. In other words, there is opposition, but opposition means more than one thing; it means things in relation to each other. A compound in one; things taken together in an opposed way. I can finally make sense of that part of verse 11! Yay! 🙂


Opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2)


My son Jacob and I are currently reading 2 Nephi 2. It has been, for some time, one of my favorite chapters in the Book of Mormon. It is also one I come back to frequently, in hopes of figuring it out a little more each time.

Today I was struck by the word “opposition.” I have tended to read it as another way of saying “opposite.” This is easy to do, when the rest of the verse (2 Ne 2: 11) goes on to talk about righteousness & wickedness, holiness & misery, and good & evil. But throughout Lehi’s discourse on Adam and Eve, I think it is important to pay close attention to this word “opposition” rather than “opposite.”

Opposition is something that opposes something else. Physically, we might say that this object opposes another, in that it stands opposite of it. In sports, however, the “opponent” is not simply the team across the way but the team that is trying to stop or block your team from accomplishing your goal.

But Lehi adds a little twist here in verses 11-12. He says that if there were no opposition and “all things must needs be a compound in one” (i.e., we’re all on the same side), then “there would have been no purpose.” Not that no one would block us in our purpose, but that there would be no purpose. Why is that? Wouldn’t it simply mean that we could accomplish our goals easily? Wouldn’t we all appreciate going through life without any temptations, for example?

Lehi says it can’t work that way. In verse 15, he continues, “And to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents” (and everything else), “it must needs be that there was an opposition; even the forbidden fruit in opposition to the tree of life; the one being sweet and the other bitter.”

So, in order for us to have a purpose (or, rather, for God to give us a purpose, or to accomplish something with us) God needed to introduce an opposition in the Garden of Eden. And the opposition that was chosen was a tree – a forbidden tree.

“Wherefore,” Lehi continues in verse 16, “the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself.” Ah, was that his purpose? Or something necessary – something along the way – to God’s purpose? “Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.” We can’t have something we want unless we have a choice; we can’t have a goal unless someone is opposing our path.

We haven’t read past verse 19 together yet. I should probably stop there, but I have some guesses growing in my brain. So, in anticipation, I’ll ask: is it that we couldn’t have goals or choices until we saw an opposition; we coudn’t understand the law until we failed; we couldn’t know happiness until we had experienced sorrow; but once this is all a part of our experience, then we wish we didn’t have the opposition of temptations and death. And guess what? God sent set up a way for this to happen: “the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because they have been redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.” Now we understand choices and consequences, but we can proceed without worrying about Satan and death. That job is done, and now it can be excerpted from the situation – as long as we believe and follow Christ. I think that is what Lehi is going to be saying here.

I also think about this in terms of little Jacob: he had experienced much “affliction” because of the “rudeness” of Laman and Lemuel (see verses 1-3), but God will “consecrate” those afflictions for Jacob’s “gain.” Is that much like the history of the whole human race? Or of Adam, as a symbol for the whole? He experienced affliction and opposition from Satan, but because Adam knows of the “goodness” of God, and as tasted of his “glory,” then Adam is redeemed and carries on regardless. Jacob had seen both Nephi’s faithfulness and Laman’s rudeness. He had a choice to follow either other brother. Having chosen Nephi, he experienced affliction and rudeness. However, this choice has also enabled him to know much about God, even being visited by God. Although his childhood was hard, it will be and has been consecrated for gain, in whatever senses Lehi meant by that. Perhaps Lehi is not only teaching about Adam and Eve, but teaching Jacob how to see his own life. (Another case of Nephite likening, I believe?)

And one more thought (half-baked since I haven’t even finished reading this chapter with Jacob yet): This guess of what Lehi is getting at is sounds similar to me to Moses 6:52-57. I’ll end with copying and pasting that passage:

52 And he also said unto him: If thou wilt turn unto me, and hearken unto my voice, and believe, and repent of all thy transgressions, and be baptized, even in water, in the name of mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth, which is Jesus Christ, the only name which shall be given under heaven, whereby salvation shall come unto the children of men, ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, asking all things in his name, and whatsoever ye shall ask, it shall be given you.

 53 And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden.

 54 Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

 55 And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.

 56 And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment.

 57 Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God,