Thursday, July 29, 2021

Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Nephi directly back to his narrative style. Having learned in recent years to pay close attention to words and phrases in the Book of Mormon, I discover things I never would see before. This is not a big thing and perhaps not interesting to everybody, but what I found in Alma 6 are just small signs of Mormon's work of abridgment shining through. I just like to envision the people in the Book of Mormon as individuals with distinct personalities, talents and writing styles. I see Mormon as a careful historian, with an eye for detail and concern for his future readers to learn important lessons from the Book of Mormon. Analyzing his words directly and reading between the lines, can not only help learn these lessons, but also get to know Mormon as a person. 

In a post about Mosiah 5, written more than a year ago, we see that after King Benjamin's talk, several key words and phrases are quoted in the aftermath. The same thing is going on in the first three verses of Alma 6.

And now it came to pass that after Alma had made an end of speaking unto the people of the church, which was established in the city of Zarahemla, he ordained priests and elders, by laying on his hands according to the order of God, to preside and watch over the church.

And it came to pass that whosoever did not belong to the church who repented of their sins were baptized unto repentance, and were received into the church.

And it also came to pass that whosoever did belong to the church that did not repent of their wickedness and humble themselves before God—I mean those who were lifted up in the pride of their hearts—the same were rejected, and their names were blotted out, that their names were not numbered among those of the righteous.

Consider how Mormon's narration refers back to Alma's talk in Alma 5.

For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God (Alma 5:44. Note: this is only one of several examples, including the chapter ingress which is part of the original text on the plates)
For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them (Alma 5:59)
I speak by way of command unto you that belong to the church; and unto those who do not belong to the church I speak by way of invitation, saying: Come and be baptized unto repentance (Alma 5:62)

And now my beloved brethren, I say unto you, can ye withstand these sayings; yea, can ye lay aside these things, and trample the Holy One under your feet; yea, can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts; yea, will ye still persist in the wearing of costly apparel and setting your hearts upon the vain things of the world, upon your riches? Yea, will ye persist in supposing that ye are better one than another; yea, will ye persist in the persecution of your brethren, who humble themselves and do walk after the holy order of God (Alma 5:53-54)

And now I say unto you, all you that are desirous to follow the voice of the good shepherd, come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things; and behold, their names shall be blotted out, that the names of the wicked shall not be numbered among the names of the righteous (Alma 5:57)

What does this say about Mormon? First of all, it is a strong indicator, evidence if you will, that there was a person called Mormon who was engaged in the abridgment of the Nephite records. The alternative explanation of Joseph Smith just making it up as he dictated it to a scribe with his face in a hat is problematic, because it implies that Joseph had to remember specific phrases to later bring them up. Doing so at this level of detail when you don't sit with notes or a manuscript is very difficult. It is easier for me to see a historian here, who has just spent time carefully engraving characters from one set of plates to another, who has the words of Alma before his eyes as he goes on to explain the proceedings of the church in Zarahemla. 

This is where we see the careful historian. He has studied the words of Alma well as he has engraved them. He wants to demonstrate to his readers that Alma was not just giving a great sermon. He spoke the truth and he meant what he said. What he said actually had consequences and was implemented among the people that he had spoken to.








"Divided hither and thither" -- a sermon in a phrase, part 1

My most recent post (re-)introduced a concept I recently learned about from Stisa which gives a name to a phenomenon I've noticed and blogged about in the past -- metalepsis.  In short, it's a technique used by ancient scribes to reference an older account by using key wording from that account as they tell a different story. I gave the example from Mormon 8:8, from which I unpacked four sermons last October. I ended the post by quoting Helaman 10:1 and hinting that a sermon is packed into words "divided hither and thither" in that verse.

Here is the whole verse:

1 And it came to pass that there arose a division among the people, insomuch that they divided hither and thither and went their ways, leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them. (Helaman 10)

This all began as a hunch on my part.  The initial thought was: "What a weird way to end a story!" The mental image of the people dividing into two groups and going their own way conjured an image of Moses parting the Red Sea.

Of course, Nephi had just finished teaching the people about the role of prophets, including a reference to Moses, so I went back and reviewed that passage:

11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up?
12 And now behold, if God gave unto this man such power, then why should ye dispute among yourselves, and say that he hath given unto me no power whereby I may know concerning the judgments that shall come upon you except ye repent?
13 But, behold, ye not only deny my words, but ye also deny all the words which have been spoken by our fathers, and also the words which were spoken by this man, Moses, who had such great power given unto him, yea, the words which he hath spoken concerning the coming of the Messiah. (Helaman 8)

Notice the common elements between this passage and the verse above: division/parting, "one man"/"Nephi alone," two groups of people (one preserved and one destroyed)

And just before that, Mormon described how Nephi was causing two distinct reactions among the people, a group of believers and group that was hostile:

5 Therefore [the corrupt judges] did cry unto the people, saying: Why do you suffer this man to revile against us? For behold he doth condemn all this people, even unto destruction; yea, and also that these our great cities shall be taken from us, that we shall have no place in them.
6 And now we know that this is impossible, for behold, we are powerful, and our cities great, therefore our enemies can have no power over us.
7 And it came to pass that thus they did stir up the people to anger against Nephi
, and raised contentions among them; for there were some who did cry out: Let this man alone, for he is a good man, and those things which he saith will surely come to pass except we repent;
8 Yea, behold, all the judgments will come upon us which he has testified unto us; for we know that he has testified aright unto us concerning our iniquities. And behold they are many, and he knoweth as well all things which shall befall us as he knoweth of our iniquities;
9 Yea, and behold, if he had not been a prophet he could not have testified concerning those things.
(Helaman 8)

As I read and re-read the passage, the words "divided hither and thither" really stood out as a key connecting phrase. I looked up every instance I could find in all of the scriptures where "hither and thither" is used in connection with "divide" or something like it. Aside from the verse above (Helaman 10:1), I found four references in the Book of Mormon and two in the Old Testament. That's it. Here they are:

Old Testament

8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. (2 Kings 2)

14 And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over. (2 Kings 2)

Book of Mormon

2 Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. (1 Nephi 4)

26 Now ye know that Moses was commanded of the Lord to do that great work; and ye know that by his word the waters of the Red Sea were divided hither and thither, and they passed through on dry ground. (1 Nephi 17)

11 Therefore he was constrained to speak more unto them saying: Behold, my brethren, have ye not read that God gave power unto one man, even Moses, to smite upon the waters of the Red Sea, and they parted hither and thither, insomuch that the Israelites, who were our fathers, came through upon dry ground, and the waters closed upon the armies of the Egyptians and swallowed them up? (Helaman 8)

8 For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither, to the dividing asunder, at the command of our great and everlasting God. (Helaman 12)

Aside from Mormon's more generic use of the phrase in Helaman 12 (which relates to the story it follows, for reasons I'll flesh out in a future post), the rest of these passages make reference to Nephi-2, Moses, or Elijah. Very interesting. As I read through these, I marveled at the connections between the three prophets being mentioned. Here's a rough draft of what was starting to take shape in my head:

All three had power over the elements. All three are associated with the sealing power.  Moses and Elijah were present at the Kirtland Temple dedication when important priesthood keys were restored.  All three had mysterious non-deaths (only according to latter-day scripture in the case of Moses).

What's the deeper message from all of this? Well, it seems to have a lot to do with priesthood authority and the purpose of mortality. "One man" is given power to cause a division by preaching the word of God. This results in the formation of a covenant people -- creation by division. We'll get into this in more depth in the next post.

Monday, July 26, 2021

New creation in the image and likeness of God

Lord Wilmore has written several posts lately on the new creation and spiritual rebirth. He has demonstrated that this is an ancient teaching that goes all the way back to Adam. This was in the back of my mind when I read the creation account in Genesis recently. The following passage is very well known

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness (Genesis 1:26)

As a believing member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I understand this literally to mean that we look like God. But I think there is more to this phrase. The original man in the Garden of Eden had a certain spiritual resemblance to God that was partially lost by the fall. As Lord Wilmore has explained, walking the covenant path is a spiritual re-creation. This path leads through Christ back to the Garden of Eden and the tree of life, reversing the consequences of the fall. It only makes sense then, that this reversal and spiritual re-creation is also in the image and likeness of God.

Spiritual re-creation in the image and likeness of God in the Book of Mormon

Alma hints at it when he teaches

14 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?

15 Do ye exercise faith in the redemption of him who created you? (Alma 5)

The God who created us in his image before the fall wants us to be spiritually re-born and regain his image. Another example is Alma 32. This post shows that Alma is a second creation account. By referring extensively to the first creation account, he explains how the word (that created the world) is a seed that can be planted in our hearts and grow to a new creation, culminating in the tree of life.

And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness. (Alma 32:31)

In the post I linked I took this as a hint to the fourth day of creation when seeds bring forth after their own kind. But the word, "likeness" is not used there. Not until Genesis 1:26, when man is created, is the word "likeness" (Hebr. דְּמוּת, demuth), used. Even though the seed grows to a tree in Alma 32, it happens within us. So the seed bringing forth unto its own likeness is not just a reference to the fourth day of creation. This is about man/mankind (Adam in Hebrew), who was created on the sixth day, and our growth into a new creation. We grow a tree of life inside us in the likeness of the tree of life in the Garden of Eden, symbolizing God's love and his gift of eternal life.

I am not surprised that it is primarily Alma that teaches us about this spiritual re-creation. His personal experience in this regard was very dramatic and these verses in Mosiah 27 follow immediately after his conversion

25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of Godchanged from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

The antithesis to the spiritual re-creation in the image and likeness of God

We live in a fallen world. The path that leads to the spiritual re-creation in the image and likeness of God is narrow. There is another broad way that leads to spiritual death. This way is walked by those who break the covenants instead of walking the covenant path. To re-establish his covenants, God called a young boy, Joseph Smith to restore his church and the priesthood. He received many revelations that the early church members eventually decided to collect in a book. In November 1831, God revealed an introduction to this collection of revelations, now known as D&C section 1. 

15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1)

Here we are at the heart of the matter. Verse 15 clearly describes the people who have strayed from the covenant path and find themselves on the broad way leading to death, as mentioned. Then in verse 16, the antithesis to the spiritual re-creation that Alma asks us to strive for is spelled out. Notice the references to the creation account in Genesis 1. In the beginning, God created man in his image and likeness. But instead of striving to be re-created in his image after the fall, man now creates "his own god" in the image and likeness of the world. This is the exact opposite of what God wants for us. Instead of walking the covenant path out of this fallen world back to God's presence, man breaks the covenant and walks after the image of his own god "whose substance is that of an idol". 

This is why a restoration was needed. In the context of spiritual re-creation, these verses are an apt introduction to the revelations that accompanied the restoration of the covenants, priesthood and church. We have now received everything we need to become a new creation in the image and likeness of God. This will result in eternal life, symbolized by the tree of life. The alternative is walking our own way after the image of our own god that "waxeth old" (another antithesis to the new creation) and "shall perish".

Metalepsis in the Book of Mormon, an introduction

The Book of Mormon was carefully written and deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of this blog know that this is a principle Stisa and I feel strongly about. I'm in the early stages on creating a whole series of content on this specific topic.  Recognizing this fact has completely transformed my scripture study and my spirituality over the past few years. 

I owe the recent surge in my interest in the Book of Mormon to Stisa, who several years ago demonstrated to me the high degree of internal consistency found in the Book of Mormon text.  Both of us have posted at length on that topic. It's a very interesting topic, one that supplies a very intriguing line of evidence supporting the divine origin of the Book of Mormon. It has largely been untouched by the critics.

Internal consistency is very interesting and important. However, focusing solely on that might cause us to miss something much bigger, something more doctrinally relevant.  

Looking for internal consistency helped me develop a careful eye and that careful eye has allowed me to find other examples of the multi-layered richness of the text. As I trained my mind to search the Book of Mormon for subtle details, I began to find doctrinal lessons which had eluded my detection for decades. As readers of this blog will already know, I find great joy in finding and pondering these subtle lessons.

Mormon 8:8 -- four sermons in a single verse!

Here is one such example -- a series of posts on Mormon 8:8 (This link will take you to one post which links to the other posts in the series.). I spent a big part of a month studying that verse alone (along with all of the other verses those phrases are meant to point us to).  It was a very exciting discovery. Moroni wasn't just playing MadLibs with his father's writings, he was combining short phrases in a way to point careful readers to other parts of the records and drink deeply from his father's masterpiece. The lessons range from the everlasting covenant to the creation account to the resurrection.  

Since making that discovery, I've tried to really maintain a humble attitude when studying the scriptures. Whereas, I used to dismiss certain awkward phrasings as nothing more than antiquated English, I now ask myself why those precise words were used, and whether that wording might be a clue to look at other verses.

My study of Mormon 8:8 made it clear to me that important truths were waiting to be found but identifying them requires patience, humility, and a deep commitment to studying the scriptures. Nevertheless, two facts make this effort worth the investment:

  1. The process of discovery is very exciting and satisfying.
  2. The more one studies and becomes familiar with the scriptures, the easier these connections are to find.

A few months later, I learned (again from Stisa, thanks buddy) that this technique is recognized by scholars as a powerful literary device used by ancient Hebrew scribes.

It even has a fancy name! Metalepsis.


As Stisa recently posted (here), ancient Hebrew scribes used a technique scholars refer to as metalepsis, defined by Richard Hays as:

"a literary technique of citing or echoing a small bit of a precursor text in such a way that the reader can grasp the significance of the echo only by recalling or recovering the original context from which the fragmentary echo came and then reading the two texts in dialogical juxtaposition" (quoted here)

Bible scholars have noted that the New Testament is best understood when studied in the context of the Old Testament. To ignore the OT influence on the NT is to misinterpret the NT.

My not-so-technical term for this is "a sermon in a phrase." By invoking a certain phrase from a well-known story, the author can draw out new meaning from that old story and teach a deeper lesson in the new story at the same time. It makes perfect sense that this kind of technique would be used widely at a time when writing materials were harder to come by, when oral tradition played a huge role in religious tradition, and when cultures saw time as circular rather than linear. This technique allows the author to highlight an echo from the past on demand to add depth and richness to an account. I recently discovered an example that demonstrates this so perfectly, which will be the subject of my next post.

"Hidden wisdom"

This type of study is greatly helped when a reader is intimately acquainted with the source text. In other words, my relative unfamiliarity with the Old Testament puts me at a disadvantage when it come to identifying metalepsis involving the Old Testament.

This is also a great way to bless the hard work and diligence it takes to uncover these lessons. (Imagine if every possible lesson contained in the scriptures could be fully recognized in a single reading!)

Perhaps this is also part of a divine pattern, where certain aspects of the Gospel are metaphorically shouted from the rooftops, while others lay in wait to be discovered by those who earnestly seek in patience and faith.

Whatever the case, I'm hooked. My scripture study will never be the same, and I'm very glad for that!

The upcoming series of posts on Helaman 8-10 will attempt to outline some of the "sermons in a phrase" hiding in those verses.

I'll end this post with the little detail that opened up my understanding in what will follow, found in Helaman 10:

1 And it came to pass that there arose a division among the people, insomuch that they divided hither and thither and went their ways, leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.

I think I've found a whole sermon tucked away in the words "divided hither and thither," which I'll discuss in the next posts. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Christ as the stone

As I studied the repeated elements included in people rejecting prophets (see this post), I also read some interesting, related content in the Gospel of Matthew. As explained in my linked post, the Book of Mormon repeatedly describes wicked people casting out, stoning and slaying prophets. In Matthew 21, Jesus tells a parable about this

33 Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:

34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.

35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.

36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.

37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.

38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.

39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.

40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?

41 They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

The vineyard is usually symbol of the earth, but Jesus seems to narrow it down to the part of the world where the people lived that he was addressing. According to verse 45, "when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them." They were the husbandmen, who cast out, stoned and slew the prophets. After the servants (prophets), the householder (God) sent his son. He was cast out and slain. Stoning is not being mentioned there. We read in fact that the people occasionally attempted to stone Jesus, but never did (see John 8:59 and John 10:31). 

It turns out that Jesus is the stone. He quotes Psalm 118:22 when he says that he is "the stone which the builders rejected". Perhaps there is some sort of symbolism in the Jews casting stones at the prophets in this context of Jesus as stone, like a sign of rejecting Jesus who the prophets testify of. In any case, Psalm 118:22 is a popular quote. We also find it in Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7. In Jacob 4:15-16 we read

15 And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.

16 But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.

This is also based on Psalm 118:22 and implies that the stone which the Jews rejected (perhaps manifested by throwing it at prophets) is something they could have built on to get a sure foundation. I will not go deeper into this as I have posted about it before (here. here and here). But after finishing the parable of the householder and his vineyard, Jesus adds

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. (Matthew 21:44)

The tables are turned when instead of throwing stones at the prophets who testify of Jesus, the people will instead fall on the stone, which is Jesus, and be broken. This describes the Jews who "looked beyond the mark" as Jacob explains in Jacob 4. But the verse in Matthew goes on to add that there also will be some on whom the stone will fall and grind them to powder. Sounds dramatic. I consider falling on the stone and become broken a description of those who rejected Jesus at his first coming. The stone falling on people to grind them to powder is something I think describes the time of his second coming and the judgment. Elliot's Bible commentary explains:

Whosoever shall fall on this stone.In the immediate application of the words, those who “fell” were those who were “offended” at the outward lowliness of Him who came as the carpenter’s son, and died a malefactor’s death. That “fall” brought with it pain and humiliation. High hopes had to be given up, the proud heart to be bruised and broken. But there the fall was not irretrievable. The bruise might be healed; it was the work of the Christ to heal it. But when it fell on him who was thus offended (here there is a rapid transition to the imagery and the thoughts, even to the very words, of Daniel 2:35Daniel 2:44), when Christ, or that Church which He identifies with Himself, shall come into collision with the powers that oppose Him, then it shall “grind them to powder.” The primary meaning of the word so rendered is that of winnowing by threshing the grain, and so separating it from the chaff, and its use was probably suggested by the imagery of Daniel 2:35, where the gold and silver and baser materials that made up the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision were “broken in pieces together, and became as the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.” In its wider meaning it includes the destruction of all that resists Christ’s kingdom, and so represents the positive side of the truth which has its negative expression in the promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against His Church (Matthew 16:18).

Other Bible commentaries make similar references to Daniel 2 and the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

The Jews rejected the stone, Jesus Christ. The prophets proclaimed Him, but the people threw it back at the prophets to stone them instead. They stumbled and fell on it and became broken as a result instead of building upon it as a sure foundation. Still, the sure foundation offers healing and a second chance until it is cut loose from the mountain without hands and comes rolling down to establish the millenial kingdom and crush all other kingdoms.

There is generally not a time stamp on Christ's teachings in the gospels, but it may seem that his lament in Matthew 23 may have been spoken at the same day as the parable of the houseman in Matthew 21, or at least shortly after

37 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

The killing and stoning of prophets mentioned here, may therefore refer to the parable he had spoken of just before. Interestingly, he continues quoting Psalm 118 too. The latter part of verse 39 is quoting this Psalm, just a few verses after the verse about the stone. 

Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord (Psalm 118:26)

These words had just been spoken by the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem. But because Jerusalem stoned the prophets and even rejected the stone, Jesus Christ, the next time people will repeat that statement at the time of his second coming, it will be very unpleasant for some.

Examples of thematic repetition in Mosiah -- part 3

My recent post introduced the purpose of this series on examples of thematic repetition in the Book of Mormon.  Please read that post first before reading this one. The next post in the series covered two additional examples, found here.

In this post we'll look at two more examples.

Example #4 -- Fidelity saves, lust destroys

I couldn't help but notice two stories about daughters set right next to each other.  The first is the story of the fair daughters of the Nephites, who plead with an oncoming army of Lamanites to spare the lives of their people:

11 Now it came to pass that the king commanded them that all the men should leave their wives and their children, and flee before the Lamanites.
12 Now there were many that would not leave them, but had rather stay and perish with them. And the rest left their wives and their children and fled.
13 And it came to pass that those who tarried with their wives and their children caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites that they would not slay them.
14 And it came to pass that the Lamanites had compassion on them, for they were charmed with the beauty of their women. (Mosiah 19)

In the next chapter we read about what was done by those who abandoned their wives and children to flee the Lamanite army:

4 And having tarried in the wilderness, and having discovered the daughters of the Lamanites, they laid and watched them;
5 And when there were but few of them gathered together to dance, they came forth out of their secret places and took them and carried them into the wilderness; yea, twenty and four of the daughters of the Lamanites they carried into the wilderness. (Mosiah 20)

This kidnapping enrages the Lamanites and they direct their anger at the Nephites who had remained with their wives and children and were now in bondage (the people of Limhi).

So in one case the fidelity of husbands to their families allow their daughters to evoke compassion from the approaching army. On the contrary, the faithless priests who abandoned their wives lusted and abducted the daughters of the Lamanites and this led to war and death among the innocent victims of their actions.

Example #5 -- An oath of peace changes hearts

The next example involves a little-known story with several direct connections to a much more well-known story from the Book of Alma:

23 And now Limhi told the king all the things concerning his father, and the priests that had fled into the wilderness, and attributed the carrying away of their daughters to them.
24 And it came to pass that the king was pacified towards his people; and he said unto them: Let us go forth to meet my people, without arms; and I swear unto you with an oath that my people shall not slay thy people.
25 And it came to pass that they followed the king, and went forth
without arms to meet the Lamanites. And it came to pass that they did meet the Lamanites; and the king of the Lamanites did bow himself down before them, and did plead in behalf of the people of Limhi.
26 And when the Lamanites saw the people of Limhi, that they were without arms, they had compassion on them and were pacified towards them, and returned with their king in peace to their own land. (Mosiah 20)

The specifics differ a little, but note that a Lamanite king swears an oath of peace,  "went forth to meet" them unarmedbows down before the oncoming army to plead for the unarmed Nephites. This act stirs the would-be attackers to compassion and peace.

Compare to the more well-known account in Alma 24, where the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi take a similar course of action with a similar result:

6 Now there was not one soul among all the people who had been converted unto the Lord that would take up arms against their brethren; nay, they would not even make any preparations for war; yea, and also their king commanded them that they should not....
17 ... and they did bury them up deep in the earth.
18 And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives;
and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands....
21 Now when the people saw that they were coming against them they went out to meet them, and prostrated themselves before them to the earth, and began to call on the name of the Lord; and thus they were in this attitude when the Lamanites began to fall upon them, and began to slay them with the sword....
23 Now when the Lamanites saw that their brethren would not flee from the sword, neither would they turn aside to the right hand or to the left, but that they would lie down and perish, and praised God even in the very act of perishing under the sword—
24 Now when the Lamanites saw this they did forbear from slaying them; and there were many whose hearts had swollen in them for those of their brethren who had fallen under the sword, for they repented of the things which they had done. (Alma 24)

Monday, July 19, 2021

Internal consistency -- Nephi's prophecy

In my last post, I quoted 2 Nephi 26:3, where Nephi prophesies of the coming of Christ.

And after the Messiah shall come there shall be signs given unto my people of his birth, and also of his death and resurrection; and great and terrible shall that day be unto the wicked, for they shall perish; and they perish because they cast out the prophets, and the saints, and stone them, and slay them; wherefore the cry of the blood of the saints shall ascend up to God from the ground against them.

I had not noticed all these details before, but this is another example of internal consistency, where different parts of the Book of Mormon correspond to an astounding level of detail. Compare with the following scriptures from the prophecies of Samuel 5 years before the coming of Christ and the fulfillment of Nephi's prophecies as described in 3 Nephi 8 and 9.

Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God (Helaman 14:2)

And behold, again, another sign I give unto you, yea, a sign of his death. (Helaman 14:14)
23 And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen; and there was great mourning and howling and weeping among all the people continually; yea, great were the groanings of the people, because of the darkness and the great destruction which had come upon them.
24 And in one place they were heard to cry, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and then would our brethren have been spared, and they would not have been burned in that great city Zarahemla.
25 And in another place they were heard to cry and mourn, saying: O that we had repented before this great and terrible day, and had not killed and stoned the prophets, and cast them out; then would our mothers and our fair daughters, and our children have been spared, and not have been buried up in that great city Moronihah. And thus were the howlings of the people great and terrible. (3 Nephi 8)
hide their wickedness and abominations from before my face, that the blood of the prophets and the saints shall not come up any more unto me against them. (3 Nephi 9:5, 7, 8, 9, 11)



Examples of thematic repetition in Mosiah -- part 2

My last post introduced the purpose of this series on examples of thematic repetition in the Book of Mormon.  Please read that post first before reading this one.

Example #2 -- The type and shadow of things to come

Our next example teaches an extremely important lesson in a subtle way.  This is accomplished through the story of Abinadi and Noah.  Early in Mosiah 13, Mosiah attempts to have Abinadi killed:

1 And now when the king had heard these words, he said unto his priests: Away with this fellow, and slay him; for what have we to do with him, for he is mad.

They tried in vain to kill him, and Abinadi explains why:

3 Touch me not, for God shall smite you if ye lay your hands upon me, for I have not delivered the message which the Lord sent me to deliver; neither have I told you that which ye requested that I should tell; therefore, God will not suffer that I shall be destroyed at this time.
4 But I must fulfil the commandments wherewith God has commanded me; and because I have told you the truth ye are angry with me. And again, because I have spoken the word of God ye have judged me that I am mad.
5 Now it came to pass after Abinadi had spoken these words that the people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on him, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.
6 And he spake with power and authority from God; and he continued his words, saying:
7 Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message. Yea, and I perceive that it cuts you to your hearts (see 1 Nephi 16:2) because I tell you the truth concerning your iniquities.
8 Yea, and my words fill you with wonder and amazement, and with anger.
9 But I finish my message; and then it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved. (Mosiah 13)

There is so much to say about these verses, but I'm trying to limit my comments to the concept of thematic repetition. Here are two key points:

#1: Connections to Nephi

Compare this story to Nephi's encounter with his brothers in 1 Nephi 17:

  • His brothers call him a "fool" because he thinks he can build a ship (1 Nephi 17:17).
  • They are certain the people in Jerusalem "were a righteous people" (v. 22) because they kept the law of Moses. (Noah's priests teach the law of Moses.)
  • Nephi is "filled with the power of God" (v. 48)
  • Nephi is protected by the Spirit of God (1 Nephi 17:52)

Each of these details matches up with Abinadi and Noah.  Abinadi plays the role of Nephi, and Noah and his wicked priests match up with Laman and Lemuel. 

#2: Connecting looking beyond the mark at the law of Moses to spiritual death

The next thematic parallel is more subtle, but it aligns with a major theme from the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon -- rejecting the everlasting covenant leads to spiritual death.  I believe this is taught in Mosiah 13 when we look at two verses with very similar wording:

10 But this much I tell you, what you do with me, after this, shall be as a type and a shadow of things which are to come.

31 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.

In verse 10, Abinadi is speaking about himself. This direct prophecy is fulfilled when the people burned Noah in Mosiah, but there is a deeper parallel when we connect verse 10 and verse 31.  Abinadi says in verse 9 that after he finishes his message, "it matters not whither I go, if it so be that I am saved." In other words, his physical death is swallowed up in eternal life because of Christ. 

The context of verse 31 is also important, as it makes reference to the fact that the law cannot save anyone from anything. To quote Abinadi:

28 ...I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

The law was only meant to serve as a type of things to come, not a means of salvation in itself. By referring to the strict "performances" and "ordinances" of the law of Moses as a type of things to come, Abinadi is also pointing back to his own words about himself (and about Christ's sacrifice for mankind).  If we read between the lines, he's assuring them that strict adherence to the law alone (ignoring its deeper meaning) will lead to spiritual death. Only Christ has the power to save, not the law of Moses.

Example #3 -- Alma teaches privately

We'll end this post with a very subtle, short parallel about Alma-1.  In the first few verses of Mosiah 18, we learn that Alma-1 taught the people the words of Abinadi "privately" (see verses 1 and 3). Compare this to the description of how Alma-2 and the sons of Mosiah would later go about trying to destroy the church:

10 And now it came to pass that while he was going about to destroy the church of God, for he did go about secretly with the sons of Mosiah seeking to destroy the church, and to lead astray the people of the Lord, contrary to the commandments of God, or even the king (Mosiah 27)

Perhaps it's too much of a stretch to connect these two details with a lot of certainty, but the simple message I see in this is the importance of having a righteous king. If you don't, the Gospel must be taught in secret. Another lesson might be that the sins of the fathers resonate down to future generations even after sincere repentance.

In the next post we'll look at a few more examples.

Mormon's references to Alma 5

Alma 6 is a short transitional chapter between sermons in Alma 5 and 7, where Mormon moves from quoting Alma's words on the plates of Ne...