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2 Nephi 1–ch. 2

Chapters one and two of 2 Nephi were just one
chapter in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon;
hence, they are considered together in this
posting. 

This is careful, stylized writing that is better
understood if it is reformatted. 

2 Nephi 1–ch. 2

These chapters begin Lehi’s blessings and warnings to the emigrants. These first two chapters address, for the most part, Laman and Lemuel.  Lehi’s youngest son, Joseph, has his own chapter, chapter three. There are statements in these chapters that militate in favor of a more general exhortation by Lehi than Nephi records. Indeed, Lehi’s exhortations to Nephi are not recorded.

The segregation of these instructions between those who did and those who did not have an inclination to follow Nephi or the Savior explain the omission of Lehi’s final words to Nephi. Lehi intended his teachings to fix the Lord as the leader of the people even though Lehi knew there would be a leadership power struggle between his sons that would divide the followers of the Savior, the Nephites, from the non-believers, the Lamanites .

Lehi had seen the vision of the world, so he understood how things would play out; hence, he was incentivized to set the emigrants from Jerusalem on the course leading to happiness and peace. It is the vision of the world—or a proper perspective on life—that is the subject of, first, Nephi’s teachings and the end of 1 Nephi and Lehi’s exhortations to his posterity, inclusive of Zoram and the sons of Ishmael. 1

Some may think that the Nephi’s division of his work so that his teachings are separated from Lehi’s is inapt. But it is not. Lehi’s teachings are archetypical of Moses’ in Deuteronomy, where Moses gives three speeches enjoining faithfulness. Just like Moses, Lehi tells his descendants they will be blessed if they follow the Lord and cursed if they do not. Thus, Lehi’s homily to the people then and readers today is, like the teachings of Moses, timeless so far as these teachings relate to following the Savior.2

Following the Savior was anathema for the Lamanites, but not the Nephites. The difference is the acknowledgment given to the Lord’s hand in the affairs of man, a dichotomy that exists today. Nephi’s first book leaves no doubt that Laman and Lemuel were insensitive to the Spirit and, therefore, had difficulty accepting a change from the traditions with which they were so thoroughly imbued, the patriarchal right of primogeniture. Thus and at least in part, the problem for the Lamanites was accepting the religious, revealed reality over the popular belief in much the same way that many in the church today have problems with accepting the doctrine rather than popular views. The want of humility, a broken heart, was lacking in the Jews at Jerusalem circa 600 BC.

Nephi records Lehi’s description of the Lamanites as being in a “deep sleep, yea, even . . . the sleep of hell . . . awful chains which bind the children of men, that they are carried away captive down to the eternal gulf of misery and woe.”3It was easy for Laman and Lemuel, as it is for many today, to follow the idee reçuse of their day, which had abandoned proto-Judaism and its polytheism. They did not think there was going be a Savior, and they gave only lip service to the God of Israel, the Savior. It was easy for them to following the mainstream of popular thought. But this comfort Lehi appropriately characterized as a sleep that doomed them along with the somnambulant fraternity of the masses.

The mainstream masses of Lehi’s day were insensitive to the enlightenment of the Spirit or, in other words, the voice of the spirit; voice of the spirit is a metaphor. The purpose of 1 Nephi is to underscore this blindness through a series of events that contrast Nephi with his two oldest brothers. The events contrasting the brothers explain how the spirit operates. Nephi is a believer and receptive to what the facts tell him while his brothers are not believers and do not believe. This is reminiscent of the observation by Ezekiel that the leaders of his day, which is the same time frame as Lehi’s departure to the Land of Promise, discounted what the prophets said by saying it did not apply to them.4

The prophetic message did apply to the people at Jerusalem just as it applies to the Lord’s followers today. The message of the prophets transcends time, because time an irrelevancy in the context of eternal or unrelated-to-time principles. One can glean from this part of the record significant information about time, itself, and the relationship between the probationary and necessarily temporal nature of this world as opposed to eternal existence where there is no time. Likewise, Nephi is used as a type for the Lord by Lehi in the same way the modern-day prophet is a type for the Lord’s followers today. Following the prophet and his example will lead to exaltation and happiness.

The exhortations to Laman and Lemuel are archetypical of Moses’ last speeches to the children of Israel before they entered the Promised Land. The Nephites had arrived in the Land of Promise, and Lehi exhorts them after the fashion of Moses’ to the Israelites. Lehi is like Moses.

The teachings about the Land of Promise and the destruction of Jerusalem are notable for at least two reasons. First, the blessing for the righteous in the Land of Promise is also a cursing on the wicked. Lehi foresaw the oppression that the descendants of Laman and Lemuel would suffer over the centuries, an oppression second to none, including the Jews. This prophecy has been fulfilled, so what Lehi said was prophetic. No one can question it. Lehi had a great deal of anxiety on account of his vision of the future, so he begged his children to be obedient.

The second reason Lehi’s teachings are important is because of what it says about Lehi’s vision, the destruction of Jerusalem. The emigrants en route to the Land of Promise spent some eight years before they embarked from the Land Bountiful. During that period of time, no doubt, Jerusalem had been vanquished by King Nebuchadrezzar, so the emigrants would have heard about it actually happening or that it was inevitable.5 At the time of Lehi’s words and for years afterward, the Lamanites were able to discount the teachings of Lehi and his righteous sons about Jerusalem’s destruction as the delusions of an old man and his usurping sons, but the prophecy and vision remained until the time of the Mulekites who confirmed the fulfillment of this prophecy and the reality of Lehi’s seership. The evidence of the fulfillment of Lehi’s prophecy and the continued refusal of the Lamanites thereafter to accept the testimony of their ancestral father and Nephi stand as a witness against them.

Continuing the comparison of the Lamanites somnambulance to people today is productive. There are many warnings by the prophets about the dangers associated with improper conduct, from the Word of Wisdom to things like homosexuality and lesbianism. Like the Lamanites when they had proof that Jerusalem had been destroyed—or it was inevitable—but continued to ignore the prophets, when individuals discover that popular sins are, indeed, bad, having associated plagues, bad health, they, nonetheless continue in their course disregarding the words of the prophets.6

During the course of the teachings Lehi observes that his calling and election had been made sure. The reference to this knowledge is pregnant with meaning. The exact language is:

But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.7

This scripture metaphorically describes the atonement, the at-one-ment. Lehi had a theophany where he was encircled and embraced by the Savior, which symbolizes the essence of the atonement or the return to the bosom of the Savior and the Father. Indeed, the term atonement, used only once in the New Testament,8is a translation of a Greek term meaning a reconciliation or return. The welcome greeting of a reconciled and returning individual is an embrace, the most intimate of gestures short of the conjugal relationship. It is altogether appropriate, therefore, that Lehi uses this typology to symbolize the atonement, viz., the embracing or encircling of the Savior.

The practice of embracing as a welcoming grant of refuge for the fugitive was a common practice among the bedouins of Arabia.9As a result, the metaphor of encirclement by the Savior’s arms is consistent with the experience of Lehi, the bedouin practice, no doubt, having its origins in the religious concept.

This idea of encircling is a significant theme in the Book of Mormon that recurs frequently in contexts that elucidate the usefulness of the idea. For example, when Nephi describes the depression through which he went after the death of his father,10part of his prayer is that the Lord “encircle me around in the robe of they righteousness.” The idea includes the opposite extreme, too, as in the references in Alma 5 to being encircled by the “chains of hell,” a theme the reoccurs in Alma 12 and 14.

It is noteworthy that the instructions in chapter one include Sam. Sam, of course, was just older than Nephi and was beaten along with Nephi when the brothers returned for the plates, but, otherwise, there is very little in the Book of Mormon about him. It seems little odd that the instructions to the wayward sons would include Sam because, otherwise, Sam appears to have been one of the righteous. Nephi explained his revelations and visions, and Sam believed Nephi.11Lehi says he has reason to rejoice for the righteousness of Sam,12and Lehi blessed him right before his death because of his righteousness.13Alma describes him as one of the “just and holy men.”14

Certainly, Sam was closer to Nephi than his other brothers. His name is of Egyptian origin, like Nephi’s, so he was probably more educated than Laman and Lemuel, no doubt having been blessed by the affluence of his father and, perhaps, sent to Egypt to study along with Nephi. If he was more educated, he would have taken a little broader view of life, too, and been more willing to accept Nephi as the leader even though it was outside the traditional patriarchal order of the Hebrews. It may be, however, that his inclusion with his brothers is merely indicative of the fact that these instructions were given to all of Lehi’s subjects while the emphasis in Nephi’s record is affected by the points he makes.

The teachings to Laman and Lemuel are better understood if viewed without the encumbrance of modern-day versification. So chapter one is presented below in Calibri font without versification, dividing the instructions into its logical parts. Headings have been added to summarize the following subject-matter divisions of Lehi’s instructions, and comments about the various divisions follow the text in the standard Times New Roman font of this exegesis.

The divisions and allusions to Moses are plain and can be divided into the following parts.

Part 1. Introduction
Part 2. The Rebellions En Route to the Land of Promise
Part 3. Jerusalem Destroyed and the Land of Promise
Part 4. The Mt. Gerizim Blessing
Part 5. The Mt. Ebal Curse
Part 6. Importuning for Laman and Lemuel
Part 7. Warning to Laman and Lemuel
Part 8. Philosophical Conclusion
Part 9. Lehi’s Leitmotiv
Part 10. Nephi’s Part in Lehi’s Leitmotiv
Part 11. Justification of Nephi
Part 12. Admonition to Follow Nephi

Part 1: Introduction
2 Nephi 1:1

 

The first verse is introductory. The instructions begin with verse two.

Part 2: The Rebellions En Route to Land of Promise
2 Nephi 1:2–3

The first division of Lehi’s instructions alludes to the emigration of the Israelites out of Egypt; hence, the selection of examples of rebelliousness that parallel what happened among the Israelites during the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Israelites fled out of Egypt through the Red Sea like the Lehi and his family fled from the wickedness of Jerusalem and were spared as they crossed the sea to the Land of Promise. Land of Promise is a parallel to Promised Land, the former referring to the Americans, the latter to the Holy Land.

Lehi’s use of the rebellions on the waters and the mercies of the Lord that preserved them is logical. Lehi uses the exodus of his family from Jerusalem to the Land of Promise as an allusion to the Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land. The Jews wore pouches on their hands and frontlets between their eyes—phylacteries—as a remembrance of the Exodus. There were four scriptures within each of these devices.15The first two record the Exodus. The scriptures from Deuteronomy refer to the Mezuzah posted on the doorpost of the Jewish home, the importance of teaching the gospel, and the blessing or cursing that will befall the Jewish people depending on their righteousness or wickedness. The two scriptures in Deuteronomy and a pericope from Numbers16constitute what is know as the Shema, a prayer repeated in the morning and evening each day. These three scriptures were memorized by all Jews, including, of course, Lehi’s family.

The second of the three scriptures that formed the Shema17forms the basis for the Jewish belief in monotheism, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” This small-cap typeset in the KJV of Lord is the substitution for the tetragrammaton YHWH or יְהוָה, which was never spoken. This monotheistic interpretation is inconsistent with the Judaism that existed before the so-called reforms of King Josiah in the mid to late 7th Century bc, but it was the idée reçue among the leaders in Jerusalem at the time of Lehi’s emigration.18It is, no doubt, the reason Laman and Lemuel could not accept a Godhood with three members.19

Part 3: Jerusalem Destroyed and the Land of Promise
2 Nephi 1:4–5

 

Part 3 is nicely written. It begins with a couplet typical of Hebrew writing. The second half of the couplet, of course, repeats the first half in different words. This couplet is followed by an two anaphora, which is also typical of ancient writing and still a powerful rhetorical device today. The first anaphora is about the blessing the land of promise to Lehi’s seed. The foregoing stylized presentation of this anaphora divides the last phrase at a syntactically illogical location, but this division signals a dramatic pause—a rhetorical device—typical of an oral recitation of an anaphora. The second anaphora expands the blessing of the land from Lehi’s seed to those who would be led here.

The emphasis underscored by the anaphora is about the blessings after Lehi and the other emigrants escaped Jerusalem, traveled for eight years in the Near East. arrived at the Land Bountiful where Nephi built a ship, and sailed to America. The escape from Jerusalem was escape from the certain death meted out to those who were considered traitorous because they preached against the wickedness of the Jews and, as a result, the impending downfall of Jerusalem. The wickedness was well-known to Lehi and the other righteous people of the day, including leaders like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.20Seeing and understanding the effect of this wickedness vis-à-vis the reality of Babylon’s hegemony and the nationalism of the Jews in Jerusalem gave Lehi information to conclude—rightly calling it a vision he had dreamed—that his life was in danger.

Lehi was no different than others who prophesied against the leaders at the time and were killed as a result. Lehi had to flee, like the others who fled, or die because those at Jerusalem thought the prophecies of doom on account of their wickedness was not directed at them. “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of times that are far off.”21Laman and Lemuel were of this ilk, “Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets.”22

Having left and traveled for so many years, it may well be that news of Jerusalem’s fall was received Lehi and his family before they embarked to the Western Hemisphere. But such news would not affect the likes of Laman and Lemuel whose confirmation bias about the greatness of the Jerusalem would not likely permit them to concede the city’s destruction unless they saw it for themselves.

Whether Lehi saw the actual destruction in a vision is not clear. His vision could be the vision he saw while yet in Jerusalem or because of information he received during the emigration. Lehi’s statement, “I have seen a vision, in the which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed,” probably does not refer to a video view of the destruction. After all, the Hebrew metaphysical paradigm,23which does not separate the thought of something from the actual thing, militates in favor of the conclusion that Lehi’s vision or dream was the product of his own conclusions and thoughts based on what he knew about the people on Nebuchadrezzar’s onslaught.

This covenant in favor of Lehi’s posterity and the gentiles of later years is the same covenant associated with the promises the Lord made to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land24and the ritual enacted at Mt. Gerizim and Mt, Ebal.25Indeed, Lehi’s blessings to his posterity tracks the blessing or cursing of the people as enacted at the ritual that took place between Mt. Gerizim, from which blessings were pronounced if the people were righteous, and Mt. Ebal, from which cursing was pronounced if the people were wicked. In other words, Lehi’s prophecies were what prophets of the Old Testament did: they read and taught what the scriptures said and likened them to the situation of the people.26So Lehi’s promise of blessing or cursing of the inhabitants of America naturally turns to the alternate blessings and cursing ritual at Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. Lehi starts off with the Mt. Gerizim blessings.

Part 4: The Mt. Gerizim Blessing
2 Nephi 1:6–9

The phrase workings of the Spirit at the beginning of Lehi’s parallel to the Mt. Gerizim blessings, verse six, refers to Lehi’s logical deductions based on his knowledge of the scriptures. Thus, Lehi was working as a prophet because he interpreted the scriptures and likened them to his posterity.

The word spirit was not capitalized in the original or subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon until the 1879 revision by Orson Pratt,27so readers should guard against a too literal reading of the capitalized term as a reference to the Holy Ghost. The workings of the spirit—not capitalized—is best interpreted to mean what it meant during Lehi’s day: the logical likening by Lehi of the scriptures to his posterity. Moreover, the use of the word workings is akin to the injunction the Lord gave to Oliver Cowdery during the translation process to work it out in his mind because neither the Lord nor the Holy Ghost tell someone how to do something or give one what is wanted.28

The blessings pronounced from Mt. Gerizim was followed by the cursing from Mt. Ebal. And Lehi’s, like the ritual, follows his prophecy of blessings for the righteous with the cursing of the unrighteousness.

Part 5: The Mt. Ebal Curse
2 Nephi 1:10–12a

 

Part five, like part four, is a carEful literary construction. The center of this part is an exergasia about the Savior and is the most important part of this forewarning—prophecy—about the curse that will befall Laman, Lemuel, and their posterity if they are wicked. Again, the rhetorical device of exergasia should be read with a dramatic pause in a Qinah-like rhythm that gives emphasis to the importance of the Savior.

The anaphora preceding the central exergasia lends it self to the same reading: a Qinah-like rhythm with dramatic pauses between the lines that adds a feeling of both lamentation and incredulity.

The anaphora at the end has the same characteristics. And the Qinah rhythm is particularly apropos because of the inevitable destruction and captivity foretold.

Part 6: Importuning for Laman and Lemuel
2 Nephi 1:12b–15

Part 6 is a lamentation. It begins with a couplet importuning Laman and Lemuel to remember Lehi’s words. The couplet is followed with a series of three injunctions via exergasia: wake up, shake of the chains of sin, and rise above the temporal world by shaking free of it. The term dust is a different way of expressing the deep sleep or chains of sin binding Laman and Lemuel. This meaning of dust is clarified in Part 10, infra.

The first exergasia is about waking up. Sleeping or not being involved leads only to death, and Lehi does not want that for his sons.

Nor does Lehi want his sons to continue in their lifestyle of bondage to sin. Hence, the second exergasia about shaking off the chains binding them. The chains of sin is a metaphor used by Ezekiel in his lamentation over the wickedness of Jerusalem and the Jews, “Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.29The idea of making of chain that one must carry is a striking metaphor, and Ezekiel’s use of this metaphor may be the place where Charles Dickens obtained this notion for use in his Christmas Story; indeed, the vision Ezekiel of sin depravation recounted by Ezekiel closely parallels Dickens’ story:30Ezekiel is taken in vision by an angel to Jerusalem where he sees first-hand the wickedness of the people. Lehi, likewise, had seen the depravation of the people in Jerusalem. Lehi’s use of the chain-metaphor militates in favor of the conclusion that this metaphor was original to neither Lehi nor Ezekiel; perhaps, it was a metaphor used by one of the other prophets who wrote on the brass plates.

There is another metaphor in this part of Lehi’s teachings. Lehi says, “I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” The metaphor of an embrace or being encircled in the arms of the Savior’s love is discussed, supra at 365.

Part 7: Warning to Laman and Lemuel
2 Nephi 16–19a

Being a lamentation, there is not much to say about Part 7. The reference to the hard-heartedness of Laman and Lemuel identifies the chains binding them.

Part 8: A Philosophical Conclusion
2 Nephi 1:19b–20

Part 9: Lehi’s Leitmotiv
2 Nephi 1:21–22

Part 9 has a chiasmus feel and sense, Nephi recording Lehi’s return to his theme, his leitmotiv, as a metaphor using Lehi’s death as the vehicle.

There is an important hendiadys at the center of the foregoing chiasmus presentation. The phrases in one mind and in one heart should be read as a single word with expanded meaning. The heart is used as a metaphor in the scriptures to describe the seat of reason and understanding,31not feelings. Conjoining mind with heart connotes more than a mere mental process and more than simple philosophical reasoning. The word mind is directed at the routine matters of life while heart carries a higher level of thought. Something like the difference between the mind of an animal and the mind of divinity. This repetition enjoins Laman and Lemuel to rise above the temporal things of the world and be men (the first half of the central couplets), and the way they do this determined commitment expressed by the hendiadys. The necessary determination is the focus on salvation rather than death. The phrase united in all things refers to the focus they needed on the end goal of life.

Part 10: Nephi’s Part in Lehi’s Leitmotiv
2 Nephi 1:23–25

Being determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, required Laman and Lemuel to recognize Nephi’s intentions, which are explained in Part 10.

The first verse of Part 10 is four exergasia describing the same thing. This is where dust gets its definition because it is equated to being sinful: the chanins of death and the obscurity that comes from a downward vies of the earth rather than an upward view of eternal life.

The second verse is another series of four exergasia, this time describing Nephi’s valiancy. Interestingly, Lehi, himself, recognizes Nephi primacy on account of his righteousness. This sort of submission by the patriarch to the son was a good example for Laman and Lemuel, but it probably provoked rancor rather than resolve Lehi enjoined.

The third verse is a couplet. A lamentation.

The fourth verse focuses precisely on the division between the older brothers and Nephi. This division will separate the Lamanites and Nephites for the rest of their history. It is similar to the hatred of the Palestinians for the Jews today. Lehi was not content with identifying the division, he turns to the justification for Nephi’s actions, Part 11.

Part 11: Justification of Nephi
2 Nephi 1:26–27

The complaint Laman and Lemuel had against Nephi was his belief. Nephi proclaimed his belief in the Savior and the necessity of keeping the commandments, but his two oldest brothers would have nothing to do with it; rather, they characterized Nephi’s exhortations as angry, sharp words.

Verse two of Part 11 explains Nephi’s exhortations. There were not on account of angry feelings; rather, it was his knowledge of the word of God and his belief in the future advent of the Savior. Laman and Lemuel were not believers.

Verses three and four describe Nephi’s preaching as a manifestation of the power of God and the spirit of the Lord that was in him. This is another instance where the word spirit was not capitalized unto the 1879 version of the Book of Mormon. The capitalization of spirit connotes the Lord’s own or actual spirit, which is not at all the intended meaning here. Nephi was imbued with righteous principles and follow the Savior, which is the intended meaning when the verse says Nephi spoke because the spirit of the Lord was in him. Having the spirit of the Lord within one’s self can be seen by how the person acts in the face of waywardness or wickedness or blindness or ignorance. Members of the Church should have within them the spirit of the Lord, so they should act in conformance with His spirit.

Part 12: Admonition to Follow Nephi
2 Nephi 1:28–29

Part 12 is Lehi’s final admonition to follow Nephi because he had the spirit of the Lord within him. Part 12 parallels and, therefore, alludes to the Isaac’s blessing of Jacob over the firstborn, Esau. Genesis 25–27 tells the story. Of particular note is Esau’s hatred of Jacob and intention to kill him as soon as the required morning after the death of Isaac was completed:

And [Esau] said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?

37And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?

38And Esau said unto his father, Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me, even me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept.

39And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; 40And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.

41And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.32

Esau told his mother, Rebekah, that he intended to kill Jacob, so Rebekah warned Jacob, who fled for his life. Another parallel to the situation between the Nephites and the Lamanites.

Paul importunes the members of his day to follow the Lord and warns those so do no not, comparing them to Esau:

13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.33

The teachings to Zoram, 2 Nephi 1:30–32.

The teachings to Zoram by Lehi are short and to the point,34 but they are full of importance. The following provokes thought about the importance of the short statements about this man:

By keeping the commandments Zoram assured himself the same blessings as the son with the blessings of the firstborn. His background was not important; rather, his true friendship—one to be embraced—is equated with faithfulness, a saving grace. The need to keep the commandments is essential.

The Lord does not use the term friend freely. He calls Abraham His friend,35and James expressly equates this appellation with his faithfulness.36In Matthew the parable of the laborers in the vineyard involves the complaint of the work that felt mistreated when he was paid the wages promised, the lord of the vineyard addressing this work fairly paid as a friend.37In an ironic usage, the Savior salutes Judas as a friend when he is betrayed.38In John the Lord says he rejoices when His friend hears his voice.39When Pilate sought to release the Savior the charge the Jews made against him was that he could not be Caesar’s friend if he did so.40James characterizes Abraham, as noted above, as a friend because of his faithfulness, but he also says those that are the friends of the world are enemies to God.41Later in Alma, Alma is called a friend of the Lamanite king Lamoni because of his faithfulness.42Teancum’s death was a great sorrow to Alma and Lehi because he was a “true friend to liberty.”43In the eighty-eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord says that only those who can be saluted as a friend should be are to have place among the saints.44The Lord calls his faithful His friends.45

Lehi’s blessing of Jacob, 2 Nephi 2. Lehi’s blessing of Jacob has a different tone than the first chapter. The words are tender and sweet, and the exposition is uncommon for the Book of Mormon. The words of assurance recognize the Jacob’s sensitive nature.46

Lehi’s teachings concerning the fall of man and the Garden of Eden have a less intimate tone than the introductory words of comfort to Jacob, verses one through four. The exposition of the fall of man the plan of his salvation is the most significant scriptures.47Lehi’s explanation of these important concepts make allusions to the temple and, therefore, the familiarity the people had with these principles because of what must be their acquaintance with the inchoate endowment performed in the temples of that era.48

An outline of Lehi’s admonitions is helpful because it demonstrates two important things. First, Lehi’s teachings begin and end with Lehi’s personal words, words to Jacob at the beginning and to everyone at the end. Second, the central point is addressed to all of Lehi’s followers, not just Jacob; in other words, the first statement in this chapter, “And now, Jacob, I speak unto you,” provokes something of a misapprehension in many readers, a misreading reinforced by the convenience of the chapter division and an aside to Jacob that begins in verse eleven.

It is clear that Lehi addressed his teachings about the forbidden fruit and the probationary time for mankind to more than just Jacob for two reasons. First, verses fourteen, twenty-eight, and thirty use the plural for son and soul. All editions of the Book of Mormon have used the plural in these verses even though the printer’s manuscript for verse fourteen says son, a change the RLDS church made to their version of the book in 1908. More than this, however, is the difference in tone between the exposition of the fall of man and his probationary state when compared with the intimate words to Jacob. The exposition of the fall of man and this probationary state is explanatory, not tender like the introductory comments to Jacob and the parenthetical in verse eleven, which begins with the second sentence of verse eleven. Verse thirteen says, “and if ye shall say there is no law,” something it is unlikely Jacob would say, but something his oldest brothers would. Verse fourteen uses sons, as do verses twenty-eight and thirty. Lehi spoke these words “unto you all, my sons” because he cared for the “welfare of your souls.”


The Fall and Free Agency. The teachings by Lehi to Jacob about the fall and the free agency of man, teachings that are repeated by Alma to Zeezrom,49and to his son Corianton,50add to the doctrine of the fall/free agency—the Garden of Eden—as contained in Genesis and other scriptures in the Bible that refer to but do not explain the doctrine implicitly assumed to be understood by the reader.

Genesis, for example, is allegorical. The garden is planted. Rivers run through and from it. Man is placed in the garden to dress and keep care of it. There is the forbidden tree, too, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the serpent who beguiles the woman into eating of the fruit. Man also partakes, and he and his wife become as the gods, themselves, so they are driven from the garden to live an arduous life. The tree of life is guarded by an angel with a flaming sword, and the story ends. This is the story of the fall and resulting probationary period granted to mankind.

The books following Genesis, including Abraham and Moses, do not give much elucidation to this original story of the fall. Abraham tells, essentially, the same story, but it uses the idea of organization and command and obedience by the elements. The emphasis in Abraham is more directed at the pre-creation period. Moses is also directed at the events that transpired before the creation of the garden, but it recounts much the same allegory as contained in Genesis, ending with a unique injunction: not to show the words of the revelation concerning the creation and the Garden of Eden to anyone other than those that believe until commanded.51

Perhaps, this injunction holds the key to understanding why the references to the fall are so cryptic: this information is to be disclosed only to the faithful. These allegories involve the temple endowment, which is an experience reserved only for the faithful even today.

The allusions Lehi makes to the temple endowment are very direct. The turning point of the chiasmus forming his teachings, levels C–C´, present what is obvious to those who have attended the temple—the vehicle used in the temple for the presentation of the endowment.

This would explain why other references in the Bible to the fall and its meaning are obtuse. For example, Ezekiel compares the king of Tyrus or Tyre to Adam’s situation in the Garden of Eden, “Thou has been in Eden the garden of God . . . . Thou art the anointed cherub . . . . Thou was perfect in they ways from the day thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. . . . therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God . . . .”52This allusion to something that was commonly understood among the faithful of the time—that man was while in the garden and before the fall an immortal and perfect being—is similar to the reference in Isaiah 14 used to describe the fate of the king of Babylon, a great person that has fallen from immortality to mortality. Ezekiel compares the pharaoh to the fallen Assyrians using illusions to the Garden of Eden.53

The Old Testament prophets used the story of the Garden of Eden as a device to import meaning. The reader, therefore, must understand the imagery, which, in these instances, means the reader must understand the doctrine of the Garden of Eden, the symbolism of the tress with its branches, and the rivers of water.

What can be gleaned from the sketchy references in the Bible to the fall and the Garden of Eden is limited to general concepts of the prior immortality of man—Adam—and his condemnation or fall to mortality because of transgression after having made one of two conflicting or opposing choices.

Endnotes

  1. Nephi’s teachings commence in 1 Nephi 19:22, and Lehi’s commence at the beginning of 2 Nephi.
  2. Moses’ teachings include the Deuteronomic Code, which includes regulations regarding sacrifices, teachings against Canaanite cults, clean and unclean animals, feasts, birthright, hygiene, etc. Such particulars are not applicable today. It is Moses’ prophetic messages that apply: the Mount Gerizim/Mount Ebal ritual found in Deuteronomy 27–28 is important as it forms the paradigm for Lehi’s teachings.

    Lehi’s last words to his descendants—the emigrants from Jerusalem—is as timely today as then. Nephi’s said he “likened all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning,” 1 Nephi 19:23. Lehi’s exhortations should be likened to the present day and applied to today’s readers in the same way Moses’ speeches apply today.

  3. 2 Nephi 1:13.
  4. Ezekiel 11:2–3; 12:27..
  5. Jerusalem fell in August 586 BC. Saying the emigrants had heard of the destruction of Jerusalem means they left Jerusalem within the eight prior years of the city’s fall, and saying the emigrants had heard about the fall of Jerusalem can mean that they had heard of the siege and inevitable fall. 
  6. People keep smoking while dying from emphysema. See the discussion on AIDS in conjunction with D&C 5.
  7. 2 Nephi 1:15.
  8. Romans 5:11.
  9. Nibley, Hugh, Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Semester 1 (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993) at 251-252.
  10. 2 Nephi 4:16-35.
  11. 1 Nephi 2:17.
  12. 1 Nephi 8:3.
  13. 2 Nephi 4:11.
  14. Alma 3:6.
  15. Exodus 13:1–10, Exodus 11–16; Deuteronomy 6:5–9, and Deuteronomy 11:13–21.
  16. Numbers 15;37–41
  17. Deuteronomy 6:5–9.
  18. A discussion of the nature of King Josiah’s reforms is discussed supra at ?.
  19. And it is, probably, the reason John records the Lord’s explanation of the Holy Ghost, his physical separateness from the Father, and the Lord’s intercessory prayer in John 16–17. Indeed; after explaining the Holy Ghost in John 16, the Lord explanation and his apostles reaction is recorded, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world , and go to the Father. His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.” John 16:28–29.
  20. A discussion of the wickedness in Jerusalem and Josiah’s reforms are covered at page 204 , supra. Josiah’s reforms began during the twelfth year of his reign, when Josiah was twenty, 2 Chronicles 34:3, are portrayed Josiah dithyrambically. 2 Kings 23:24–25. The encomium found in 2 Chronicles 35 is a similar panegyric. But the reforms are likely a debasement of the religion. The book that led to these reforms was found in the temple by Hilkiah, the high priest, and given to Shaphan, the king’s scribe, 2 Kings 22:8. Shaphan read this newly found book to King Josiah, but Ezekiel, carried to Jerusalem in a vision, saw the ancients committing wicked abominations, and Ezekiel says, “[A]nd in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan.” Ezekiel 8:11. There is a sarcastic castigation of the leaders in Ezekiel 11 when Ezekiel’s vision takes him to the door of the temple. There he sees another Jaazaniah and one Pelatiah. This Jaazaniah was the son of Azur, whom Jeremiah characterizes as the father of the false prophet Hananiah. Jeremiah 28:1. There are scholars who believe the Diaspora solidified a change in Judaism so that proto-Judaism, the religion and priesthood of the first temple period, was lost to a metamorphosed Judaism as preserved in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew bible, the basis of the King James version of the bible. E.g. Margaret Barker, The Older Testament (Sheffield, TN: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2005).
  21. Ezekiel 12:27.
  22. 1 Nephi 2:13..
  23. Discussed, supra at 114, 228, 324.
  24. Deuteronomy 11:13–32.
  25. Deuteronomy 27–28.
  26. Lehi’s contemporary, Ezekiel, address what it is to be a prophet. Indeed, he declaimed against false prophets, the speakers or spokesmen among the people who interpreted the scriptures for their own purposes. Speaker and spokesman are definitions of the Hebrew word translated as prophet. Ezekiel condemns these people for giving interpretations of the scriptures that were wrong. They spoke flattering and pleasing words rather than assurances of condemnation for the people’s wicked practices. Examples from Ezekiel’s writings demonstrate the earmarks of these prophets and show the watershed between a true and a false prophet. (1) They follow their own spirit. Ezekiel 13:2. (2) They have “seen nothing” or do not put things into the Lord’s perspective. Ezekiel 13:3. (3) They are not steadfast, but variable. Ezekiel 13:4 (LXX). (4) They gather congregations that are opposed to the Lord’s gospel and commandments. Ezekiel 13:5 (LXX). (5) They build on what their predecessors say rather than the word of the Lord Ezekiel 13:10–16. (6) They flatter and seduce the people. Ezekiel 13:10.
  27. It would be more accurate for me to write that the editions through the 1840 edition, the last one edited by Joseph Smith do not capitalize spirit.. I do not have copies of the editions between 1840 and 1879 and have not bothered to find facsimiles on the internet.
  28. See D&C 8:7–9. The reprimand of Oliver Cowdery for supposing he did not have to work at the translation of the Book of Mormon applies here. Lehi had to work things out; hence, he uses the phrase workings of the spirit.

    Teaching about the workings of the Spirit is the overarching purpose 1 Nephi. The Spirt, meaning the Holy Ghost, operates through the enlightenment of what is know to the prophet or individual, and that enlightenment results in a realization of what is going to happen or how to do things. This is discussed in the overview of Nephi’s two books beginning, particularly, at page 131, supra.

  29. Ezekiel 7:23.
  30. Ezekiel 8–ch. 11.
  31. The Hebrew word lev (לכ), taken literally, refers to the physical organ we call the heart, and as a consequence most translations use the English heart wherever the original Hebrew has lev. But in most cases, this translation misses the meaning of the biblical authors, and in many it leads to outright mistakes in translation. Classical Hebrew has no parallel to the later Western dichotomy between the “heart” as the seat of emotions and the “mind” as the seat of thought. For the biblical authors, sentiments are a part of the process of human thought and of reason, and not something separate from it. And when human beings are thinking, or reasoning, or believing, they do so with their lev, which is most directly translated as mind. Hazony, Yoram, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

    The definition of heart in the Oxford English Dictionary recognizes the complicated nature of the word:

    5. a. = mind, in the widest sense, including the functions of feeling, volition, and intellect.

    b. In this relation spoken of as having ears, eyes, etc., meaning those faculties of the mind, understanding, or emotional nature, that have some analogy to these bodily organs.

    Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition on CD-ROM (v. 4.0)(Oxford University Press, 2009) s.v. heart.

  32. Genesis 27:36b–41.
  33. Hebrews 12:13–17.
  34. 2 Nephi 1:30-32.
  35. Isaiah 41:8.
  36. James 2:23.
  37. Matthew 20:13.
  38. Matthew 26:50.
  39. John 3:29.
  40. John 19:12.
  41. James 4:4.
  42. Alma 18:3.
  43. Alma 62:37.
  44. D&C 88:133.
  45. D&C 84: 63, 77; 88:3, 62, 117; 93:45; 94:1; 97:1; 98:1; 100:1; 103:1; 104:1; 105:26; 121:9.
  46. A personality trait discussed infra at 479.
  47. Alma 40–ch. 42 is a similar exposition of the fall and salvation of man, but is focused on the interplay between mercy and justice as Alma pleads with his son, Corianton, to avoid the justice of God.
  48. The word inchoate is used because the Paul refers to the need the faithful ancestors had for the completion of their temple work following the resurrection of Christ. See Hebrews 11:13, 39.
  49. Alma 12
  50. Alma 42.
  51. Moses 4:32.
  52. Ezekiel 28:11–19
  53. Ezekiel 31:2–18

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