Come Follow Me: Book of Mormon Intro and Tidbits

This is a grab-bag of sorts; I’ve been sick for a few days, without full dedicated brainpower to revise/expand. Still, there’s a lot of good stuff here, food for thought.

Readings for this lesson

I’ll repeat and expand on my comment to Kevin’s post, which you should read.

Martin Harris literally bet the farm ($3000) on the publication of the Book of Mormon, and technically lost. I’ve sometimes led up to this story in class with several stories about Martin testing Joseph.

  • The seerstone-testing story, (here in The Ensign, for one). Martin switched rocks on Joseph when he wasn’t looking.
  • The Charles Anthon story. Again, Martin tests Joseph.
  • 116 pages story, also involving Martin Harris.

Martin Harris tested Joseph Smith, and he passed every time, which is why Martin was literally willing to bet the farm. Even though he lost it, and was disaffected from Joseph Smith and the LDS Church for roughly 50 years, he testified consistently and constantly of the Book of Mormon, to his death.


Some Things about the Book of Mormon You Might Not Know 

Below are some points of interest, potential to talk about in lesson 1 or thoughts for later on.

    1. Nephi’s “goodly” parents comment probably indicates socio-economic standing, not moral goodness.
      • This is a long-standing argument among a few bloggers, including me. In the first few verses, Nephi explains that, because his parents were “goodly,” he was taught not just to read (very unusual in the ancient world) but to write (even more unusual), and moreover, to write in two scripts or languages (depending on how we understand the “Egypt” reference). That degree of learning is much more dependent upon Lehi’s financial status than his goodness. Context thus favors the meaning of “well-off.” The (weaker, in my view) counter-argument comes from dictionaries, which don’t list something like “well-off” as a meaning, so it would be fairly idiomatic usage there in 1Ne 1:1.
    2. Nephi wrote the small plates 30 years after the events they depict, largely with religious/political purposes in mind. I’ll be expanding on this greatly in Lesson 2.
    3. The small plates (1 Nephi-Omni) were translated last. Maybe.
    4. The Book of Mormon doesn’t depict a capitalist democratic society.
      • See (loosely) Richard Bushman, here.
    5. The Book of Mormon doesn’t depict a church structured like ours today.
      • Heck, the Church in 1830 wasn’t structured like it was today.
    6. Joseph Smith never preached a sermon based on a Book of Mormon text.
      • Or, at least, we have no records of Joseph Smith preaching a sermon based on the Book of Mormon. Most early saints took it as a sign of Joseph Smith’s prophethood, that the heavens were open, and as confirmation of the Bible, not as something that needed independent study and reading. This is probably what leads to D&C passages like this, telling the early Saints to start paying more attention to it.
      • … that’s what I wrote 4 years ago. I seem to recall a recent update to this, perhaps from Janiece Johnson’s work on 19th century reception of the Book of Mormon.
    7. The first two chapters of Mosiah are missing.
      • Mosiah 1-2 (original numbering) disappeared as part of the 116 pages JS gave to Martin Harris. We know this because in the Printer’s Manuscript (the hand copy made for EB Grandin to print from), our current Mosiah chapter 1 is labeled Mosiah chapter 3. See Uncovering the Original Text of the Book of Mormon, 20-21, or the critical-text work of Royal Skousen.
    8. It’s not much of a prophesy for Lehi to speak of the Babylonian captivity. (1 Nephi 1:13 and 10:3)
      • I’m not suggesting that Lehi wasn’t a prophet, just that this one was no-brainer. The Babylonians had been in control of Jerusalem since 605. There were several episodes between 605 and 587/88 of hauling Jews off to Babylon. While politically and religiously “incorrect” to say that Babylon was going destroy the city (remember Laman and Lemuel’s disbelief on this point, shared with many Israelites), it was not much of a leap to see that was the way the wind was blowing. Lots of this covered in Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem (Amazon link. Download that particular chapter at this link.)
    9. Jesus appeared to the Nephites almost a year after the three days of darkness, not immediately.
      • The two primary texts are 3 Nephi 8:5 (which states that the destruction took place in year 34, month 1 day 1) and 3 Nephi 10:18 (which states that in the *end* of the 34th year, Jesus showed himself to them.) See Kent Brown and John A. Tvedtnes. “When did Christ appear to the Nephites?” (FARMS paper, don’t know if it’s still available) and Kent Brown, “When did Jesus Visit the Americas?” in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla, 146-156.
    10. Book of Mormon prophets probably drank wine and didn’t know about three degrees of glory and similar doctrines many today consider central to Mormonism.
      • Many critics from a different religious worldview are surprised not to find much “Mormonism” in the Book of Mormon, and it’s true. You don’t go to the Book of Mormon to find explicit teachings of not drinking alcohol or coffee (that’s D&C 89), the premortal existence (that’s mostly Abraham, though implied in Alma 13), eternal marriage (D&C again), or becoming like God (that’s actually the Bible, ironically enough see here and here), AND D&C. Although, see 3 Nephi 28:10). This is from reading the text, and the principles of line-upon-line; the implication of line-upon-line is that what is known today wasn’t necessarily known or practiced in the past.
      • The “fulness of the gospel” thing doesn’t mean it’s an all-inclusive compendium; moreover, given our doctrine of progressive revelation and line-upon-line, we shouldn’t expect it to contain everything we have now.

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4 thoughts on “Come Follow Me: Book of Mormon Intro and Tidbits

  1. Some of what you said was new to mean and really interesting. Some was things I had learned or discovered before. I’ve noticed the textual support for i. as well. The last time I read it, I noticed another thing that supports a much later appearance – Jesus asks to see the scriptures and chastises Nephi for not including the account of people being resurrected. That would have made no sense if the conversation was immediately after the resurrection.

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  2. Mr Spackman,

    In this post, you posit, that Nephi came from well-to-do parents in part because he knew how to write. Yet in ‘Lehi’s Jerusalem on page 19 of the PDF the authors state that many in Jerusalem can read and write.

    I agree that Nephi came from a well off family but that is primarily based in the amount of valuables they had available to barter with Laban.

    I look forward to your thoughts on this

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  3. Wonderful insights of the background information on the Book of Mormon. Most of the things I already knew, but I didn’t know g. or c. I especially appreciate the links where additional information can be found to help me increase my knowledge

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  4. In the Maxwell edition of The Book of Mormon, Grant Hardy footnotes 1 Ne. 1:1 with speculation that “goodly” might be better stated as “godly.” How would that change the meaning of the verse for you and would that considerably take away from the idea (which I believe) that Lehi was a wealthy man?

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