Tag Archives: Nephi

Another thought on 1 Nephi Chapter 18 (Looking for the Abrahamic Covenant)

It dawned on me this morning that if this were written in third person, it would probably be easier to see how it’s similar to Exodus. Or, vice versa, what if Moses’s story of wandering the wilderness with the children of Israel had been written in first person? (Presumably there was first-person account written originally…) but what if our account were written in first person? I see and understand the criticism that Nephi is glorifying his own righteousness over that of his brothers. But he does it so frankly and bluntly that it has a strange feel to it. It’s too matter-of-fact at points. So, I wonder, if what happens is that Nephi sees in their story a straightforward parallel to the children of Israel and Moses, and finds it almost crucial to point out those similarities so that his people can see themselves as covenant Israel — literally, really, covenant Israel — so he is willing to put into his very, very short narrative of their 8 years those moments that show their similarities such as rebellion and lack of faith, leadership calling to repentance, repentance and forgiveness, and then how God mercifully led them towards the promised land when they repented. If that’s Nephi’s goal, then he does a good job of it; but why does it sound awkward sometimes? I think it is because Moses’s story, as we have it, is third person. We read it and think, “Of course Moses is glorified in some ways by the story; he was Moses!” 🙂 It is easy to see the pettiness of the Israelites and we don’t assume Moses is embellishing the story. But with Nephi, we have an account written in first person, which means those moments were Nephi is the hero and his brothers are petty sound a bit suspicious. I don’t distrust Nephi myself, but I can see how the literary approach would lend itself to finding Nephi a bit self-serving. However, even there I think there is an awkwardness and frankness about the story that calls me to be suspicious about the suspicious reading. 🙂 He always shows when his brothers repent, he shows his father’s humbleness and prophetic power alongside his moment of murmuring, and he always attributes his power to God and not himself. Even the moment when he slays Laban, he shows how he was a weak person who didn’t want to listen. Imagine again all of this in third person — how would it sound? Very different.

Anyway, just a thought I hope was worth sharing/recording this morning. 🙂

Nephi’s answer to prayer in 1 Nephi 2:18-24

I suddenly feel a great interest in figuring out the logic of these verses.

Nephi is grieved because of the hardness of his brothers’ hearts and prays for them. Is he worried for their sakes, for their salvation, or is he worried that their family won’t really be able to do whatever it is God wants them to do because Laman and Lemuel will be holding their family back? Is he worried about his brothers as individuals or as members of their group?

The answer to the problem (whichever it is) comes in two parts:

1) Inasmuch as they rebel against Nephi, they will be cut off from the presence of the Lord

2) In the day that they rebel against God, they will be cursed and have no power over Nephi’s seed

The logic attached to the first part is really kind of cool: inasmuch as they rebel against Nephi (who is being blessed, prospered, and led, according to v.19-20), they will be cut off from the Lord (that is, they will not be blessed, prospered, and led.) But, if this happens, God will make Nephi a ruler and a teacher over them. At first this sounds like a position of power granted as some prize for being more righteous that someone else. But I think the move is pretty clearly an answer to help Laman and Lemuel: if they are cut off from God’s presence, then Nephi is given the authority to be a teacher (that is, to be in God’s presence for them, to receive instruction for them, and so forth). In the grander scheme of history, the Nephites’ record becomes this teacher for the Lamanites’s descendants.

It’s all a bit complicated though. If they rebel against Nephi, then Nephi has authority to rule over them. You would think it would have to go the other way around, that he would have to have authority first for them to even rebel against Nephi. In fact, the other parts seem backwards too: they are cut off from the presence of the Lord and then rebel against God. Wouldn’t it make more sense the other way around? It would instead go like this: If they rebel against God, then they are cut off from his presence. If that happens, Nephi is set up as a teacher and a ruler. If they rebel against Nephi, then they are cursed and have no power over him. That would be logic I would set up myself! So why is the logic otherwise? I don’t have any great ideas, myself! Anyone out there (who might actually find and read this) have any thoughts?

Joe’s post on Nephi at Feast (on 12/27/11)

I am really, really enjoying Joe’s posts at Feast. I just finished his post on “Getting Ready for Book of Mormon Lessons 2-11: Some Preliminaries on Nephi.” These were some of my favorite parts:

It seems clear to me that Nephi’s vision early in his wilderness travels gave him a set of themes to study: first and foremost (1) the role of the covenant in the history of Israel and (2) the role to be played in that covenantal history of a book that would be written, sealed up, and then brought forth. When Nephi began to read Isaiah (note that the first mention of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon comes in Nephi’s explanation of his vision/his father’s dream to his brothers in 1 Nephi 15!), he found that it was the clearest resource for thinking about the stakes of his apocalyptic vision. The larger structure of Nephi’s record, it seems to me, works to introduce Isaiah slowly to its readers, culminating in the massive quotation of Isaiah 2-14 in 2 Nephi 12-24, which paves the way for Nephi’s final exposition of his vision—an exposition that works as a weaving together of Nephi’s vision and the text of Isaiah 29. In his final reflections, Nephi brings the two trajectories of his record together with real force: his visionary experience with its themes and his obsession with Isaiah’s writings and their themes. These two foci give Nephi’s record its power and orientation.

This seems to me to be one of the clearest, most straightforward readings of why Nephi includes Isaiah. I love it! I noticed the other day that Nephi says, ” I will send their words [Jacob and Isaiah] forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true.” (See 2 Ne 11:3.) He feels like he needs them in order for his children to believe the vision he had. Fascinating!

Isaiah is in the temple when he suddenly has a vision of the Lord on the throne. Shocked and prepared to be obliterated, he is shown mercy when a seraph presses a burning coal to his lips, cleansing his language and allowing him to join the heavenly throngs surrounding God’s throne. This initiation of sorts marks the unmistakable turning point of the Isaiah chapters Nephi quotes at such length (the shift from prophecies of destruction to prophecies of restoration).

I had never thought about Isaiah’s experience as a symbol for Israel! He “deserves” to be destroyed (in his case, not because of some malicious act, but simply because of the rules), but God shows him mercy and instead gives him work to do – to go teach and save everyone else. That is just like Israel. At some point, Israel will be restored and given a work to do – to go teach the world and save everyone else. It is a very nice parallel. And, as Joe points out, Isaiah 6 is placed, both in Isaiah and Nephi, in certain order on purpose to draw out this parallel. Nice!

Where is the “Millennium” in Book of Mormon?

Joe has pointed out to me before that the Book of Mormon doesn’t talk about the millennium or the Second Coming. Today I noticed that Nephi actually points out that he has much to say, but has been commanded to leave it out. The Book of Mormon is quiet on this topic, on purpose.

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