Sunday, June 30, 2019

Intertextual connection between Alma 36:22 and 1 Nephi 1:8 (Alma the Younger quotes Lehi)

Intertextual connections in the Book of Mormon are numerous.  In this example, Alma the Younger (in a letter to his son), quotes Lehi.
22 Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there.

I've put in bold the words that match.

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

One interesting note--the consensus opinion is that Joseph Smith dictated Mosiah through Moroni and then started on 1 Nephi - Words of Mormon.  Hence, the passage in Alma 36 would have been dictated prior to the passage in 1 Nephi 1.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Interesting Parallels Between the Book of Ether and the Old Testament

In the early chapters of Ether, we read of the destruction of the Tower of Babel, the confounding of the languages, and the Jaredite flight to the seashore, where they build barges to travel to a new land. 

Beginning in Ether 2:16, the Lord gives the Brother of Jared many instructions on the construction of the barges. They were to have peaked ends and were sealed tight, like unto a dish. In verse 20, we read that they were to make air holes in the top and bottom that could be stopped and unstopped as needed.

In verse 23, the Brother of Jared asks what to do for light in the barges. We have the popular footnote to the word “windows,” which takes us to Genesis 6:16, discussing the windows on Noah’s Ark.

The Lord asks what the Brother of Jared would like Him to do, and in chapter 3, he made sixteen crystal stones and asked the Lord to touch them and make them glow in the darkness. When the Lord obliged, the veil was lifted and the Brother of Jared was allowed to see His finger as He touched the stones. After this, he is permitted to see the Savior fully.

Going back to Genesis 6:16, the word used for “window” was the Hebrew word tsohar, which, rather than “window,” actually means “a light.” Rabbinical teachings explain that this was a precious stone that shone in the dark, giving light to the inhabitants inside. The word is taken from the root word tsahar, which means “to glisten.” The other 23 times the word tsohar is used in the Bible, it’s translated as “noon,” or “the noonday sun.” Genesis 8:6 refers again to a window, but this time, the word used was challon,which actually does mean “window”.

In the Talmud (TB Sanhedrin 108b), Noah used precious jewels and stones to light the Ark. The Pirkê de-Rabbi Eliezer (PRE) states that those stones are in fact glowing pearls, and that Noah also sees the finger of God while receiving the instructions to build the Ark, exactly like the Brother of Jared did (PRE 23). Therefore, Noah had a source of glistening light in the Ark, and several sources specifically say that the light came in the form of glowing, precious stones.


In the Epic of Gilgamesh and other Sumerian and Akkadian legends about the Great Flood, the boat is described as being a square cube, rather than a rectangle like Genesis describes. This boat is also said in some of the legends to have had peaked ends, was without sails, was completely enclosed/sealed, and is said to have gone underwater, just like the Jaredite barges. In fact, the Epic of Gilgamesh (Tablet XI) even describes water plugs in the middle of the boat to keep out the water, similar to those mentioned in Ether 2:20.

In Jonah 1:17, it explains that the Lord had prepared a great fish for Jonah. The PRE (PRE 10) and the Zohar (Zohar Exodus 2:48a) each explain that this fish had eyes like windows of glass that also shone “in the noonday sun.” The PRE claims that these eyes allowed Jonah to see outside, and that the fish somehow spoke to Jonah and showed him different underwater sights. The Zohar gives a different explanation – that the glowing stone itself is what “made visible to him all the wonders of the deep,” just like a seer stone might do.

Further similarities in the circumstances and language used in Ether 3 and Jonah 2 are highlighted in a blog post from BookOfMormonCentral.org.

*Just as an aside, the PRE was first translated into English in 1916; the Talmud was first translated into English in 1921; and the Zohar was first translated into English in an incomplete volume in 1887, while the full copy was not translated into English until it was published in chunks between 1995-2005. Joseph Smith could not have used any of them as source material if he had written the Book of Mormon himself.


Use of Isaiah in 3rd Nephi

Reading 3rd Nephi 21 yesterday and 22 today, I was thinking about the depth of knowledge about Isaiah on display here. In 3rd Nephi 21, the Savior explains the role of the Book of Mormon in the restoration of his covenant people. At the end of the chapter, we read that the covenant people will be gathered in the land of their inheritance. At the beginning of chapter 22, we read "And then shall that which is written come to pass:" followed by a quotation of Isaiah 54. Isaiah in general is hard for me to understand, but reading Avraham Gileadi's commentary really helped: http://www.isaiahexplained.com/54#commentary. This also helped me realize how well it fits into the context of the preceding chapter and that the author must have had a really good understanding of Isaiah. We see the same in chapter 20. There are quotes from Isaiah and Micah dispersed in between the words of the Savior when he gives his sermon to the Nephites. I find The Book of Mormon is really a gateway to understanding the Old Testament better.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

2 Nephi 1 contains references to 1 Nephi, Part 3 -- 2 Nephi 1:5 and 1 Nephi 2:20

2 Nephi 1:5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
Compare to:
1 Nephi 2:20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.

2 Nephi 1 contains references to 1 Nephi, Part 2 -- 2 Nephi 1:3 and 1 Nephi 2:2

2 Nephi 1:3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained—how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.
Compare to:
1 Nephi 2:2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.

2 Nephi 1 contains references to 1 Nephi, Part 1 -- 2 Nephi 1:2 and 1 Nephi 18:20

2 Nephi 1:2 And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.
Compare to:
1 Nephi 18:20 "they saw that they were about to be swallowed up in the depths of the sea"

1 Nephi 22:11-12 and the significance of the name 'Joseph'

This is one of the best examples of how an understanding of Hebrew greatly enhances the richness of the text. The verb in verse 11 "will proceed to" is "yasap" which shares the same root with the Hebrew name "Joseph".
11 Wherefore, the Lord God will proceed to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto those who are of the house of Israel.
12 Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.

In other words, God will "Joseph" a latter-day work.

In light of the known prophetic significance of the name Joseph (see 2 Nephi 3), this is pretty great stuff.

This paper by Matthew Bowen goes into exquisite detail on the significance of this Hebrew root in the writings of Nephi and Isaiah.

1 Nephi 19:10

The first half of verse 10 is dripping with irony:
10 And the God of our fathers, who were led out of Egypt, out of bondage, and also were preserved in the wilderness by him, yea, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a maninto the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenock, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos,

The same God who led them out of bondage, preserved them in the wilderness, and sent prophets to testify of him willingly gives himself up as a man to those same people, who have long since forgotten him and turned to their own ways. When he comes, they reject him and crucify him (for committing blasphemy by claiming to be the Messiah).

To underscore his point, Nephi references three Israelite prophets who had testified of these things. We of course have to direct knowledge of these prophets because their words have been removed from the record (too plain and precious, perhaps?).

1 Nephi 18:2-3 as a model of prayer

I like to compare the building of the ship with how we are asked to build our lives.

Nephi states that the Lord showed him "from time to time" how to work the timbers:

2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.
Similarly, we are asked to shape our lives after the manner the Lord has shown us, not after the manner of men.

How are we to know how to shape our lives. Here's verse 3:

3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.
Nephi's brothers do not have the same trust in God, and so although they help, the process probably seems much more unusual and arbitrary to them.

Perhaps it is the same with the commandments--if we regularly receive direct inspiration from God as we "go to the mount oft" and "pray oft", we will have a much easier time following the Lord's instructions than if we act out of a sense of obedience alone or based on cultural of familial expectations.

Monday, June 24, 2019

1 Nephi 17:40

40 And he loveth those who will have him to be their God. Behold, he loved our fathers, and he covenanted with them, yea, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and he remembered the covenants which he had made; wherefore, he did bring them out of the land of Egypt.
What a great verse!

Laman and Lemuel are rationalizing that the Jews must be righteous because they observe the law of Moses and Nephi points out how God called Moses to lead the children of Israel into the wilderness. Sick burn.

1 Nephi 16:2 and the Sword of Justice

2 ... the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.
Perhaps an allusion to "the sword/word of the justice of God from chapter 12 and 15?

Internal Consistency between 1 Nephi 16:29 and Alma 37

Verse 29 has a "thus we see" statement about the director (Liahona):
29 ...And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things.
Alma 37 contains instructions given by Alma the Younger to his son Helaman as he is passing along the plates and other relics. Notice two similar statements he makes in that chapter as he gives Helaman the Liahona:
6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.
And:
41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works.

Internal Consistency between 1 Nephi 16:10 and Alma 37:43-46

The Liahona is first mentioned in verse 10, though not by that name. I can't help but think of the words of the prophets whenever I read the stories involving this "director" of "curious workmanship". It is simple and leads one straight to the promised land, but it only works according to faith. Compare Alma 37:43-46:
43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.
44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.
45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.

Internal Consistency between 1 Nephi 15:7 and 1 Nephi 10:12-14

In 1 Nephi 15, Nephi's brothers complain that they cannot understand the meaning of some of their father's words:
7 And they said: Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive tree, and also concerning the Gentiles.
Five chapters earlier, just prior to Nephi's description of his grand vision, we get an account of what Lehi had been teaching his sons. See 1 Nephi 10:12-14:
12 Yea, even my father spake much concerning the Gentiles, and also concerning the house of Israel, that they should be compared like unto an olive tree, whose branches should be broken off and should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
13 Wherefore, he said it must needs be that we should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that we should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.
14 And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

1 Nephi 14:1-17 and the Two Churches

Verses 1-17 speak of the time when God shall:
manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks
The prophecy then paints a stark contrast between two paths, two types of people, and two churches.

I've created a side-by-side summary of what is said in these verses in an effort to highlight the differences between the two paths. 


The document includes names given to each church, qualities of its members, and promises and outcomes detailed in the prophecy.


NamesQualitiesPromises/Outcomes
VerseLamb of GodDevilLamb of GodDevilLamb of GodDevil
1
2they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded.
3great and abominable churchfounded by the devil and his children, that he might lead away the souls of men down to hellthat great pit which hath been digged for the destruction of men shall be filled by those who digged it, unto their utter destruction (not the destruction of the soul, save it be the casting of it into that hell which hath no end)
4this is according to the captivity of the devil, and also according to the justice of God, upon all those who will work wickedness and abomination before him
5Thou hast beheld that if the Gentiles repent it shall be well with themthou also hast heard that whoso repenteth not must perish
6wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God.
7convincing of them unto peace and life eternaldeliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil
8
9behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominationsfounder is the devil
10church of the Lamb of Godchurch of the devil; mother of abominations; the whore of all the earthwhoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church
11the whore of all the earthshe sat upon many waters; and she had dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people
12church of the Lamb of God; church of the Lamb; the saints of Godthe great whorewere also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore
13the great mother of abominationsthe great mother of abominations did gather together multitudes upon the face of all the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles, to fight against the Lamb of God
14saints of the church of the Lamb; the covenant people of the Lordthe power of the Lamb of God...descended upon the saints of the church of the Lamb, and upon the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.
15great and abominable churchthe wrath of God was poured out upon that great and abominable church, insomuch that there were wars and rumors of wars among all the nationsand kindreds of the earth.
16the mother of harlotsthe wrath of God is upon the mother of harlots
17his people who are of the house of Israelmother of harlots; the great and abominable church of all the earthfounder is the devilthe work of the Father shall commence, in preparing the way for the fulfilling of his covenants, which he hath made to his people who are of the house of Israel.

An interesting connection I noticed was that just as Jesus Christ is the bridegroom and we as his covenant people strive to be part of his metaphorical bride (as in, the parable of the ten virgins), Satan is the founder of the great and abominable church, the whore of all the earth.

1 Nephi 13:23-27 and the Old Testament

Verses 23-27 discuss the changes to the Old Testament that will happen after it proceeds forth. Specifically, plain and precious parts and "many covenants" are taken away.
Anyone who is interested in this subject should read the works of Margaret Barker, a Methodist Preacher and Old Testament scholar. She has developed a theory she calls "Temple Theology". She describes her central thesis on her website:
Temple theology traces the roots of Christian theology back into the first Temple, destroyed by the cultural revolution in the time of King Josiah at the end of the seventh century BCE. Refugees from the purges settled in Egypt and Arabia. From widely scattered surviving fragments, it is possible to reconstruct the world view of the first Christians, and to restore to their original setting such key concepts as the Messiah, divine Sonship, covenant, atonement, resurrection, incarnation, the Second Coming and the Kingdom of God.
In her 2003 essay "Text and Context" (found in chapter 12/p. 294 of this online book) she lays out a compelling (though circumstantial) case that the Jews removed many references to the temple and covenants from their canon in the early days of Christianity (after the book "proceeded forth").

1 Nephi 13:18 and the American Revolution

18 And I beheld that the power of God was with them, and also that the wrath of God was upon all those that were gathered together against them to battle.
An example of this in the early days of the American Revolution might be the battle of Dorchester Heights. George Washington snuck his armies onto this strategically positioned hill in the middle of the night and built fortifications there under conditions that were unusually mild for the troops and with a haze at sea level that obscured their actions to the British forces in Boston. (Source: 1776 by David McCullough)
Once the British realized what had happened, they immediately knew they needed to either attack or retreat. They planned to attack, but a terrible storm rolled in at the time of the planned attack, making it impossible to continue. British General William Howe wrote in his journal about the attack:

The contrary winds of the afternoon of March 5th, the storm that followed that night, and the weather continuing boisterous the next day and night, were the deciding factors in that they gave the enemy still more time to improve their defenses of the heights. I could promise myself little success by attacking them under all the disadvantages I had to encounter. Wherefore, I judged it most advisable to prepare for the evacuation of the town [Boston].
They retreated instead.

1 Nephi 13:12 and Christopher Columbus

12 ...I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man; and he went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren, who were in the promised land.
From his personal writings:
With a hand that could be felt, the Lord opened my mind to the fact that it would be possible to sail from here to the Indies. . . . This was a fire that burned within me who can doubt that this fire was not merely mine, but also of the Holy Spirit.
—Christopher Columbus

Read more here.

1 Nephi 12:18 and the Sword of Justice

I read a very interesting item about an error in the current Book of Mormon text compared to the original manuscript, found in 1 Nephi 12:18, described by Royal Skousen:
The phrase "the word of the justice of the eternal God" (in 1 Nephi 12:18), which in the original manuscript read "the sword of the justice of the eternal God"
So the justice of God is likened to a sword, not a word. And Nephi compares this to the gulf that divides the people in the building from the tree of life.
Other references to justice of God being likened to a sword (also from the Skousen link above):
Alma 26:19      the sword of his justice
Alma 60:29      the sword of justice
Helaman 13:5      the sword of justice
Helaman 13:5      the sword of justice
3 Nephi 20:20      the sword of my justice
3 Nephi 29:4      the sword of his justice
Ether 8:23      the sword of the justice of the eternal God
All that is already very interesting, but it gets even more interesting when you compare to 1 Nephi 15:30:
30 And I said unto them that our father also saw that the justice of God did also divide the wicked from the righteous; and the brightness thereof was like unto the brightness of a flaming fire, which ascendeth up unto God forever and ever, and hath no end.
Nephi describes the justice of God as a bright thing, "like unto the brightness of a flaming fire." Where else do we hear about a flaming sword standing between those who have transgressed and the tree of life? In the garden of Eden.
See Alma 42

2 Now behold, my son, I will explain this thing unto thee. For behold, after the Lord God sent our first parents forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground, from whence they were taken—yea, he drew out the man, and he placed at the east end of the garden of Eden, cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the tree of life
3 Now, we see that the man had become as God, knowing good and evil; and lest he should put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live forever, the Lord God placed cherubim and the flaming sword, that he should not partake of the fruit—
4 And thus we see, that there was a time granted unto man to repent, yea, a probationary time, a time to repent and serve God.
Or Moses 4
31 So I drove out the man, and I placed at the east of the Garden of Eden, cherubim and a flaming sword, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.
Or Genesis 3
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

1 Nephi 11:35-36, the Wisdom and Pride of the World versus the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb

35 And the multitude of the earth was gathered together; and I beheld that they were in a large and spacious building, like unto the building which my father saw. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Behold the world and the wisdom thereof; yea, behold the house of Israel hath gathered together to fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
36 And it came to pass that I saw and bear record, that the great and spacious building was the pride of the world; and it fell, and the fall thereof was exceedingly great. And the angel of the Lord spake unto me again, saying: Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Notice in verse 35 that it clearly states that the house of Israel participates in fighting against the apostles of the Lamb. We do this when we prioritize our own worldly wisdom over the words of eternal life. Pride (or lack thereof) is a key ingredient in this decision-making process.

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...