Tag Archives: Jacob

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. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Answering for sins


I’m still thinking on this topic after last week’s study group. For now I just wanted to record some verses that are getting me/us thinking:

  • 2 Nephi 2:7

    7 Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

  • Jacob 1:19

    19 And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.

  • Jacob 3:10

    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.

    (also verse 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.)

  • Mosiah 2:28

    28 I say unto you that I have caused that ye should assemble yourselves together that I might rid my garments of your blood, at this period of time when I am about to go down to my grave, that I might go down in peace, and my immortal spirit may join the choirs above in singing the praises of a just God.

  • Mosiah 29:30

    30 And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads.

  • Mosiah 29:31

    31 For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.

  • Mosiah 29:38

    38 Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.

  • Mormon 9:35

    35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.

  • Ether 12:38

    38 And now I, Moroni, bid farewell unto the Gentiles, yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood.

  • Moses 6:54

    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.


Cross/Crosses and Shame (Joe’s paper from SMPT)


Here are a few notes I took from Joe’s SMPT paper:

Shame – feeling a sense of responsibility for something you can’t actually respond/change/control.

Ashamed of accent – belongs to you, and yet, you didn’t try to learn to talk that way

Ashamed of weakness

As God says, though, He gave us weakness. Don’t be ashamed of shame. Shame here = weakness

Hebrews 12:2 says that Christ despised the shame of the cross. Doesn’t say that there wasn’t shame involved, but that he despised that shame. Joe did some work on the Greek and the work for despised means something like ignored, didn’t engage with, wasn’t worth thinking about.

He also did a lot of philosophical thinking about the word shame, and about how shame was involved with crucifixion. His reading is that what is shameful about it is that your human weakness is fully on display. Naked. Bleeding. In pain. But also: can’t swat at flies, can’t stop from peeing, etc. All human, mortal experience is on display, and you can’t cover any of it.

(Makes me think of Adam and Eve trying to cover their nakedness. I like to think in part that this is symbolic of their realization that they are weak and have no protection from whatever God might do to them. Not just that they should wear clothes like we do, but that they are completely vulnerable.)

So what does this say about Christ despising the shame of the cross? (I am summarizing my thoughts from a half-hour long philosophical paper, mind you.) It means that Christ was not ashamed of his shame. Was not ashamed of his weakness. Did not try to cover his weakness. Did not shrink from his weakness and ability to feel pain. He was mortal and did not hide that fact from the world.

In the Book of Mormon, Jacob talks in two different places about us and crosses. The discussion centered around what that might mean for us. Mostly, we talked about how the crosses of the world might be when the world wants us to feel ashamed of our shame — ashamed of our weakness. Times when the world wants to join in public social disapproval of us. (As people, or as the Church as a whole.)

(This also makes me think of the partakers of the fruit of the tree of life who were mocked by the people in the worldly building. Those who were ashamed left, and were no longer seen at the tree or the building.)

Joe also discussed the difference between not being ashamed of shame, and being completely unashamed. Here’s a summary:

Ashamed of shame = hiding of body, weakness

Not ashamed of shame = recognition of body, weakness

No shame = embrace of body, weakness

You might also say this:

Ashamed of shame = hiding of body, weakness = trying to be fully in control

Not ashamed of shame = recognition of body, weakness = admitting what we do and don’t control

No shame = embrace of body, weakness = pretending to have no control

(Only the middle one really takes up agency in a productive way)

Question for future thought: what does all this mean about our own resurrection?

 

 

 

 


2 Nephi 9:3 — Rejoice now, because later generations are redeemed?


We had a nice study group last Friday on 2 Nephi 9:3. My interest was on the Abrahamic Covenant, which was mentioned in verse 1. The verse didn’t seem odd to me because a lot of Nephi’s writings or compilations have to do with this same theme: our future posterity will be redeemed because of the Abrahamic Covenant. In fact the very title page talks about how the Book of Mormon lets the future Lamanites know that they are not cut off forever because of the covenants of the Lord. So even Mormon and Moroni are thinking about this.

But, most of the discussion revolved around the question: can you make someone feel better now by telling them that something good will happen in the future?  They were relating it to ways we try to comfort people by telling them their problems will all be fixed in the resurrection. Does that work? they asked. (They general consensus was no, it doesn’t.)

In the end, I kinda liked some combination of our discussion and the focus on the Abrahamic Covenant. What if we read verses 1-3 as saying something like this:

In the future, your family (your very descendants) will be redeemed and enjoy the blessings Isaiah describes of Zion and prosperity. In addition, remember that God has spoken through his prophets from the beginning of the world, and most especially to the house of Israel. Thus, you find yourselves in the middle of a story. God has spoken comfort to your family before, in generations past, by establishing covenants. And you have the promise now that your future family will be redeemed because of those same covenants. Therefore you, right now, are still covenant Israel. You have left Jerusalem but you are still a holy people. We have been divided into Lamanites and Nephites, but we are still a covenant family. Take the future redemption as a sign that you are still a holy people, right now. And live in light of that fact. That huge cool experience in the future won’t happen to you, true, but take it as a sign that God is watching over you now. And let that cause you to rejoice!


Sherem & Jacob (Notes from our Study Group discussion on Jacob 7)


“There came a man among the people” says Jacob, who sought to “overthrow the doctrine of Christ.” That last bit – the “doctrine of Christ,” turns out to rather crucial to this story.

It appears from the details we found in the book of Jacob generally, that Jacob’s preaching left him a bit marginalized from the community. Soon after Nephi’s death, Jacob finds himself preaching repentance to the people not just for their personal weaknesses, but for general trends in the community. When Jacob preaches in Jacob chapter 2, he explains that “this people … seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son” (Jacob 2:23). This was not an isolated occurrence, but something going on in the community generally. He also preached against seeking riches and against those who were learned.

So along comes Sherem, who “was learned” and did “use much flattery.” But most interesting is actually his specific claims against Jacob. He says,

Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you; for I have heard and also know that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ. And ye have led away much of this people that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being which ye say shall come many hundred years hence. And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy (Jacob 7:6-7)

While he may have been learned, or perhaps even rich, the encounter with Sherem focuses on the question of whether or not there is a Christ. Jack Welch apparently has a fantastic article on Sherem, where he reads this encounter as a sort of official trial for Jacob’s blaspemy! We would tend to think of Jacob putting Sherem on trial more than we would Sherem putting Jacob on trial! But it’s a productive reading. Sherem accuses Jacob of inventing this “doctrine of Christ.” And, if we look closely at the small plates so far, that “doctrine of Christ” is something taught by Nephi and Jacob. (As I understand from 2 Nephi 31-32, it is the doctrine simply of faith, repentance, baptism, and Holy Ghost.) But that phrase doesn’t appear in the Old Testament writers on their brass plates. It would be possible for to read Jacob of going beyond the scriptures. In that way, Sherem would be the purist, and Jacob would be blaspheming.

Note in verse 7 that Sherem says, “no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things to come.” However he also says he believes the scriptures (v. 10). Don’t Old Testament prophets prophesy concerning future events? Actually, as we discussed this during Study Group, they don’t in the same way that Nephi and Jacob do. Biblical prophets tended to preach about more immediate circumstances: what will happen in this or that war, what sins the people needed to fix so they weren’t destroyed within a few years, etc. Their focus was on interpreting the situation in front of them and prophesying about that.

In the Book of Mormon, we have a different sort of prophesying. The Nephites know 600 years early that Christ will come, and even what his name will be! (And the name of the person who baptizes him!) They have predictions of what generation will be destroyed after Christ comes! Alma explains that things “are made known unto us in plain terms, that we may understand, that we cannot err; and this because of our being wanderers in a strange land; therefore, we are thus highly favored” (Alma 13:23). The Nephite prophets actually are different that Jerusalem prophets. Perhaps Sherem is actually right to point out that Jacob is doing something different. You could read Sherem as saying either that “no man can know of things to come” (ie, Jacob is not a prophet like the brass plates writers and he shouldn’t pretend to be), or “no man can know of things to come” (ie, you aren’t prophesying like the brass plates prophets do so you must not really be a prophet at all).

(Sidenote: we also noted that the Biblical prophets from the exile tended to prophesy of things much further ahead: Daniel, Ezekiel…. Perhaps there is something about simply being away from Jerusalem that entitled prophets to more information about the future.)

So Sherem comes along and basically accuses Jacob of going outside of or beyond the cannon. He says that Jacob is trying to “pervert the right way of God” by adding doctrines to the scriptures without authority to do so. Note that this sounds a lot like the conversation between Abinadi and priests of King Noah. (See Mosiah 12, especially verse 32.) The priests also say they believe the scriptures, but believe that salvation comes through the law of Moses. Abinadi is trying to get them to see that Christ is real and will literally actually come to earth to save us from our sins! It might be that both the people of Nephi and the people of King Noah are trying to made their society match Jerusalem as much as possible. (This might explain the polygamy going on among the Nephites in Jacob’s time, and king Noah having wives and concubines – see Mosiah 11:2.)

Jacob responds by first confirming that Sherem believes the scriptures (v. 10) and the proceeds to explain that those scriptures also teach about Christ but Sherem hasn’t read them very well. His argument might be: whether or not I’m  a prophet, what I’m teaching is not blasphemy! But then he goes further “And this is not all” he says in verse 12 “it has been made manifest unto me, for I have heard and seen; and it also has been made manifest unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost.” But, I am a prophet as well!

It had never occurred to me before that this reference to the Holy Ghost is also a reference back to Nephi and Jacob’s teachings about the “doctrine of Christ.” (See 2 Nephi 32 especially; receiving the Holy Ghost after baptism is an essential part!) Sherem, perhaps sarcastically, says, “Show me a sign by this power of the Holy Ghost, in the which ye know so much.”

Jacob of course leaves that up to God, and Sherem is overcome such that he falls to the ground. The whole people are amazed when he confesses his fault before his death, which causes them to fall to the ground too. Jacob says “this thing was pleasing unto me, Jacob, for I had requested it of my Father who was in heaven” (v. 22). (This reminds me of Alma the elder rejoicing when his son is carried home helpless by his friends!) Whether “this thing” refers to Sherem being struck or to the people being amazed us unclear.

But whichever it was, it works. “And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man” (v. 23). Note that they actually went and searched the scriptures. This reminds me of Alma 14:11, where the people realize they’ve taught false things and dive back into study of scripture so they won’t be fooled again.

And perhaps the people again, at least for a short while, believe that there really will be a Christ who will make an atonement for their sins.


“Being right” doesn’t matter?


[I mean to work on this lots more, but in case I don’t (I’m known to forget about those saved drafts of mine), here it is, as a work in progress]

….

We also try to come up with explanations of why things are as they are. We speculate, we think, we reason, to try to understand why doctrines or principles are what they are. And doing so doesn’t make us unfaithful; often, this is an act of worship, to use our minds as well as our hearts. It is also possible to lose sight of that act as worship. It is possible to flip the order around, so that our minds’ reasons become frighteningly serious to us. Anxiety pushes us on to figure out what is real or reasonable, in order that we might act correctly and worship correctly. Fear of being wrong restrains our heart. Worship is put on hold or at least at distance. Rejoicing is paralyzed.

How do we reverse this order, or return to our sincere following out of doctrine and scripture, even though we have realized our potential to mess things up entirely? When is it safe to act?

How do we, in some sense, return to being like a child, after having our eyes opened?

The answer, I believe, comes in the form of grace. Certainly that is no shocking answer, but I hope to share another way of thinking about that path – from child, to adult, and somehow going on to a “child” again, in a forward direction, not backward.

Here grace might be coming in a surprising manner. Here’s the shocker: it doesn’t actually hold up God’s work when we get things wrong. When we misinterpret. Or when others oppress. Or even have ill intentions. Even though they aren’t good, they don’t actually matter.

Now, why would I say such a thing? Here’s why. God is very good at working within whatever situation we humans come up with or find ourselves in. Very good. Amazing, in fact. Actually, it might just be what makes God so real to me – He is so powerful, He can use any thing for good.

Or, we might say:

“[God’s] grace is sufficient for the meek … and [His] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him]; for if they humble themselves before [Him], and have faith in [Him], then will [He] make weak things become strong unto them.”

We typically interpret to this verse to mean we can work at things we aren’t good at and become good at them. And, to stay true to the point of my post, I think that is still productive and I can certainly see how God works within that interpretation to bless lives. However, I don’t think that is what Moroni and God were talking about together that day. Moroni is worried that his weakness in writing, his inability to write clearly or powerfully (or whatever exactly he wished he could do) was going to make the Gentiles mock – and hence – the work of the latter-days would be frustrated. That’s a lot of guilt he felt! His lack was going to hold back the work of God!

Like we often do to, and has been done over and over again throughout our history, he was taking what he knew of God’s word and thinking from there. From the small plates, he would have known that his people were going to be destroyed but redeemed someday. And that this record was very important. And, that the Gentiles were going to take this record to his people. Therefore, this record better attract their attention and convert them, otherwise his people were toast! (And he had just abridged a record of a Gentile group – the Jaredites – who didn’t take the words of prophets all too seriously!)

So you can see his concern. But what was God’s response? God says I know you can’t write well. I gave you weakness. And I give everyone weakness. That doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s what opens up the relationship between man and God. And as far as the Book of Mormon goes, I’ll use that weakness to my aims: as Gentiles have faith and come to me, I’ll make your weak book strong to them.

Or, we can also see it this way (from 2 Nephi 3:21): “the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.” The weak words (God confirms here Moroni’s concern!will still be just as weak as ever, but because they teach the people of the covenant they are a life-source that strengthens them. The weak umilical cord that is the Book of Mormon will still be brings the strength from the fathers to the later Nephites and Lamanites. God worked with it anyway! (And personally I love the Book of Mormon as it is… I’m not saying it’s a pathetic book or anything. But even though it is weak in Moroni’s eyes or perhaps just the fact that it is a book,   which is much easier to ignore than an angel etc., God is still doing His great work through it! Weakness doesn’t actually matter, as long as there is faith.

or, we might say,

“And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren. Nevertheless, … thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.

Even though Jacob had suffered much, even though Laman and Lemuel had been unfair and caused a very hard life for Jacob, did that stop God’s work? Nope. Even when our weakness is something given to us by another person, even when we are the ones suffering for false ideas or ways of living, it’s okay. Why? Because God consecrates those very sufferings… for our gain!

It doesn’t matter what the source – our personal weakness, or others’ mistakes or even intentional hurt, God can turn it for good. Or, as Joseph says it, nothing can stand in the way of God’s work – nothing! His power is real, and His grace is real –

“How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints.”

Just a few things I’ve been thinking about lately…


The Book of Mormon & the gathering, etc


If I didn’t already have an understanding of the gospel and the church, and I were reading the Book of Mormon, I would have to be impressed by how much it talks about the gathering and the role of the Book of Mormon in that gathering.

I’ve been spending some time in 1 Ne with that question. Today I happened to look at Jacob 4, and it was interesting to see what things Jacob mentioned in connection with the gathering.

So, a few half-baked thoughts:

Nephi’s vision shows the Great and Abominable church taking out plain and precious information from the Bible. The Book of Mormon restores this view or information and establishes the truth of the Bible. Jacob’s focus in chapter 4 is not on the future Lehites and the Gentiles here, but on the Jews of old. He says in verse 14 that the Jews “despised the word of plainness … God hath taken away his plainness from them.” Whatever this plainness is, it was taken away before the Bible went into the hands of the Great and Abominable church.

Also, if we read up on the documentary hypothesis, etc., there were likely lots of edits to the Old Testament before Christ was even born. The Old Testament has gone through a lot!

1 Ne 13 says that when the bible “proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew” it was pure; verse25 says “these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.” So, a different kind of plainness. It was pure, but God had withheld some plainness of language (I’m thinking of Isaiah here, who was called to give them more than they could handle).

Also the removal of plain and covenant parts happens after the 12 Apostles take it to the Jews who take it to the Gentiles.

Anyway, a few random thoughts strung together for now. Baby’s awake, gotta go.