2020 Come Follow Me Resources: Book of Mormon (Updated)

Black Friday sales are coming (Kofford Press already has theirs up), as are Christmas present opportunities, so I wanted to get this post out the door.

I have written elsewhere that you cannot fully learn from scripture unless you are also actively learning about scripture.The first is the act of a disciple and the second that of a scholar, although in an ideal world, they blur together. So this list includes both kinds of thing, and aimed at different audiences. I’ve got a section for Seminary teachers, for example.

The BoM is really kind of a double-edged sword; on the one hand, people haven’t been writing about it for 2000 years, so the bibliography is a bit more manageable. On the other hand, we tend to assume that because the Book of Mormon is easy to read,  it’s easy to understand, and therefore “we don’t really need anything else.” But the Book of Mormon rewards slow, careful, deep reading and teaching.

And of course, this list is all enhancement. I don’t want to imply that if you’re not reading these, somehow you lack all spiritual insight (spiritual in-tune-ness has little to do with Oxford Press) or that you are a clueless chump who knows nothing. I can, however, testify that these books have taught me things and rid me of some of my ignorance. They’re worth reading. 

Continue reading “2020 Come Follow Me Resources: Book of Mormon (Updated)”

A Paradoxical Preservation of Faith: LDS Creation Accounts and the Composite Nature of Revelation

Creation of the Sun, Sistine Chapel

My 2019 FAIRMormon Conference presentation is up now, here. There’s a lot in the footnotes as well.

The takeaway is this: Many LDS have unsustainably fundamentalist assumptions about the nature of revelation, prophets, and scripture. The conflict these cause sometimes leads to a loss of faith, instead of recognizing and reexamining the assumptions.

I draw on a variety of things to argue against these assumptions, to argue that revelation is composite, that is, always contains divine and human aspects, and we should expect those. It’s ok, though, because it’s a progressive, iterative process. As time goes on, the human progresses towards the divine until the categories overlap completely. But we’re not there yet and won’t be for a long time.

So I take Acts 15:28 as my paradigm for understanding Church leadership. “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.”

Paradoxically, it is by recognizing and understanding the presence of the human that my faith in the divine is preserved.

Give it a read.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through the Amazon links I post. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). You can also follow Benjamin the Scribe on Facebook. If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

Mormon Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It?

My image.

My image.

Occasionally, one hears Mormons (usually laypeople) critiquing Protestants for slavish and uncritical interpretation of the Bible, for “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kind of bibliolatry. Certainly, some Protestants merit this critique. The intellectual crisis and problems among Protestants, and their effects on American culture and politics have been written about extensively by Mark Noll (e.g. The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind), Randall Balmer, George Marsden, Grant Wacker, Kenton Sparks, and others. These scholars are themselves largely Evangelical, so it’s an internal critique.

No, my problem when this critique is made by Mormons is that oft-times Mormons are making it hypocritically. Continue reading “Mormon Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It?”

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 45-46: Ether

A few general notes about the Book of Ether.

First, unlike the other two Book of Mormon migratory peoples, the Jaredites (as we call them) are not Jews under the Law of Moses. Abraham>Isaac>Jacob (Israel)>>>>Moses. They’re not even Israelite (also a late term) or Canaanite, but Mesopotamian. So they are operating under a different set of religious ideas, different language (Sumerian, Akkadian, something else? Hebrew isn’t an option), different cultural background than the rest of the Book of Mormon. And indeed, Ether has a different feel to it than the rest. It’s largely political history, stories of wars between scheming royal families, imprisonment, regicide, etc. All very Game of Thrones-y.

Second, Ether has often been read as directly confirming the historicity of the Bible’s accounts of both the Tower of Babel story and the Flood, the first because of  Jared talking about “the tower” and language change, the second because of Ether  13:2 “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord.” It is assumed that this refers to the Genesis flood. There are a few problems here, which I think are illustrated in principle by a story told by Elder Oaks.

I remember the reported observation of an old lawyer. As they traveled through a pastoral setting with cows grazing on green meadows, an acquaintance said, “Look at those spotted cows.” The cautious lawyer observed carefully and conceded, “Yes, those cows are spotted, at least on this side.”

We need to take careful account of the text, and not go beyond it, leaping to conclusions. The first issue is that Ether is, I think, the most heavily edited and translated book we have. Records of some kind are kept by the Jaredites and centuries later, edited and compiled by Ether. These plates are then translated (edited?) by Mosiah. 500 years later, they are re-edited by Moroni (Eth 15:33)who makes expansive and editorializing commentary into the Book of Mormon, and then they are translated again by Joseph Smith. So although it appears we are reading an immediate first-hand eyewitness account of a tower and language change, in actuality that record passed through lots of minds and editing, who we know inserted their own comments to the record.

Another issue is that Mesopotamia had its own traditions. The Sumerian epic of Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta describes a time when all humans spoke one language (Sumerian), but because of a conflict among deities, the language was changed. The text is fragmentary, and scholars differ about how much this dovetails with Genesis 11 which few, if any, take as historical and with good reason. Note that Ether never refers to “Babel,” only “the tower” and “great tower.” Mesopotamia certainly had towers and great towers in the form of ziggurats. Genesis shows strong Mesopotamian influence in the short Tower of Babel story, and is probably using Mesopotamian traditions to argue against and ridicule Babylon as a source of confusion, not education and high culture. As for “waters receding” this is an offhand comment by Moroni, perhaps based on something he’s read (Mesopotamians had several flood stories), but it’s not a direct witness to anything except the tradition Moroni has received.

In short, I think we need to read critically and not assume Genesis and Ether are talking about the same thing, the same way.


Ether 1-Introduction, summary, lineage.

Ether 2- Begin voyage, cross, camp, build barges. 2 Problems.

Ether 3- Bro. Prepares stones, mountain episode.

Ether 4 –Moroni is fulfilling commandments/prophecy in writing them on   the plates. Testifies of their truth and a vision he had.

Ether 5-Moroni- don’t translate sealed portion and three witnesses.

Ether 6-Moroni, “and now, back to our story”. Load barges and go, 344 days (v.11) Jared gets old, picks a king.

Ether 7-The soap opera begins.Rebellion, murder, wars, prophets, etc. houses divided.

Ether 8-Continued. Akish and secret combinations. Warned against them.

Ether 9- Continues. Some kind of drought, and snakes. People repent  sufficiently for God to send rain.

Ether 10-More history.

Ether 11-Starts getting bad. “Began to be wars and contentions.” Reject the prophets.

Ether 12- get to Ether and Coriantumr. Ether and faith, Moroni diverges. Faith, atonement, charity.

Ether 13- ether and the New Jerusalem. Beginning of the end. Ether prophecies to Coriantumr. No one repents.

Ether 14- curse upon the land. Coriantumr vs. Shiz. Coriantumr wounded.

Ether 15- Wakes up, remembers Ether’s prophecy. Final battle.

Notes and tidbits

2:8-11 Curse on those who don’t obey God. This would be quite prominent in Moroni’s mind, as he’d just seen it happen to his own people. He wants Gentiles to have that example in mind.

2:13-14 The Jaredites get to the beach and apparently get too comfortable. Four years later, Brother of Jared is chewed out by God for three hours for not praying during that time. Note that after the less comfortable trip across the great waters, the first thing they do when they land is pray and give thanks (Eth 6:12). What’s the connection between our life situation, prayer, and giving thanks?

2:16-  Barges. Problem solving and the nature of revelation. (v. 25) What do you want me to do? Revelation (particularly here) includes a human component and God rarely just hands over answers.

“Usually we think of revelation as information. Just open the books to us, Lord, like: What was the political significance of the Louisiana Purchase or the essence of the second law of thermodynamics?…aside from the fact that you probably aren’t going to get that kind of revelation…this is too narrow a concept of revelation.”- Elder Holland.

3- See M. Catherine Thomas, “The Brother of Jared at the Veil” for some temple typology here.  Link to paper, Amazon link to the book.

5:1 Moroni is writing from memory.

12:26-27 Listen in your classes. We tend to misread this as “weaknesses” plural, but the text has “weakness” singular. I suspect this is the weakness of mortality, not a divinely selected package of problems customized for each person.

15:33 People of Limhi find plates. (Mos. 8:8-9). Coriantumr among people of Zarahemla    (Omni 1:21).

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 43-44: Mormon 1-9

I’m combining these lessons for two reasons. First, lesson 44 (chapters 7-8) is included within the reading of lesson 43 (chapters 1-6, 9). Second, since time is limited and both the end of the semester AND the Book of Mormon draw nigh, I need to write efficiently. So I’ll be posting the (shorter) final Book of Mormon lessons soon, along with some pre-D&C posts and my “What to Read for Gospel Doctrine.”

With Mormon, we finally arrive in “the present” or at least, Mormon’s present. He’s no longer working from records that were ancient to him; Remember, the time difference between him and Jesus is roughly the time difference between us and Columbus; rather, Mormon’s now working from his own life’s experience, his own memories and thoughts. This is now a primary source, unfiltered through anyone else (well, except translation through Joseph Smith, however that worked.)

You can’t read the beginning of the end of the Book of Mormon without thinking of President Kimball’s stark call against modern idolatry which included this observation— “We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord.”


Mormon 1– Mormon gives account of himself, how he got the records.- Gifts of the spirit are absent due to wickedness (14), 3 Nephites are gone, wars.

Mormon 2– Mormon is appointed general. Wars, mourning of the damned, too much wickedness to write.

Mormon 3– 10-year break, Mormon preaches, but no one listens. Nephites victorious two years straight. Nephites boast, and Mormon resigns. He writes unto the remnant and “gentiles”.

Mormon 4– Nephites begin to be smitten permanently, “swept off as dew before the sun”. Most wicked ever among Nephites.

Mormon 5– Mormon “repents” of the oath, leads Nephites in war. Writes to descendants and Gentiles and Jews to persuade them to accept the gospel.

Mormon 6– They arrange for the final battle, gather everyone in to the land of Cumorah. Final battle. Mormon laments for his people.

Mormon 7– Mormon writes a final time to the remnant of his people, and the Gentiles, telling them to repent and embrace the gospel.

Mormon 8– Moroni takes over, talks about what’s happening. Talks to the translator, and the people who will read the Book of Mormon, as well as what our time period will be like.

Mormon 9– Moroni continues talking to us, signs off. (then picks up with Ether.)

1:14 no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.” How does he know? Did it come upon him?

2:1 “Stature” is often used of physical size in scriptures (e.g. Luke 19:3) Likely lineage played into it as well.

2:13-14 “it was rather the sorrowing of the damned, because the Lord would not always suffer them to take happiness in sin.” C.f. Alma 41:10. Joy in their stuff for a time. 3 Ne 27:11

Their problems did not lead them to repentance. Neither did Alma’s. In other cases it did. Do we respond well to our problems or do we “curse God and die” (Job 2:9)?

3:16 “idle witness” Mormon has given up. Writes to us instead.

6:6 and Ether 15:11 Note that Mormon buries all the plates except the Book of Mormon plates he’s been writing, in the hill Cumorah. We are never told where Moroni buries the Book of Mormon plates, but early LDS reading (misreading?) assumed that the Book of Mormon too was buried in Cumorah, which meant the  hill in New York had to be where the final battle was and where the Nephites had lived. A lot of assumptions are rolled into this reading, many of which are not justifiable. (That doesn’t mean they’re wrong, necessarily.) Also, this is not necessarily a geographical question as much as a textual question. What is the traditional reading or understanding of the text, and what does the text actually say?

8:35 “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” To whom is Moroni speaking and when? Who are the “you” he addresses himself to? Does this imply a vision of a specific time, and if so, what “time” was Moroni shown? Do the verses around it provide hints? Was it 1823? 1830? 1844? 1944? 2015? 2215? A typological vision?

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 42: 4 Nephi


4 Nephi, this way. Public domain

Since I’ve already covered 3Ne 27-28 in previous posts, I’ll focus on 4 Nephi.

Why is 4th Nephi so short? Two interrelated ideas, I think. Remember, Mormon is dependent upon his written sources for writing the Book of Mormon. As Elder Widtsoe articulated, “When inspired writers deal with historical incidents they relate that which they have seen or that which may have been told them [as with written sources], unless indeed the past is opened to them by revelation.” Evidences and Reconciliations, (1960): 127.

Mormon never suggests that he’s drawing any of his information from visions or whatnot, so he’s dependent on whatever written sources he has. It may be that Mormon has less in the way of records or sources to draw on for this period. Secondly, Mormon largely skips over an apparent golden age of about 200 years. There may literally be nothing to write about. Good film and literature, even historical non-fiction, revolves around conflict, change, obstacles to be overcome. (I explore this idea with Abraham and Sarah here.)

If there’s no conflict, no tension, no change, then there’s literally no story. How would it be to read 20 straight pages “and everyone THAT year was ALSO good and kind, and nothing bad happened at all, because they were all true disciples of Jesus.” I’d rather we double the Isaiah chapters 😉

Tongue-in-cheek outline4 Nephi 1– Zion established and destroyed, 34


year through 302


. (Note that “establishing Zion” isn’t really Book of Mormon terminology.)

So, what happens to this golden age utopia? Is it destroyed from the outside? Not really. This is the problem of “the mixed multitude.” Exodus 12:38 (cf. Numbers 11:4) describes how the Israelites left Egypt as a “mixed multitude.” In other words, the Israelites may have left Egypt geographically, but as a group, they brought Egypt with them internally. It’s rarely a question of Us vs. Them, but Us vs. Us, or even I against I. This kind of struggle has been described by poets, humanitarians, and General Authorities.

William Wordsworth— “the world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn— “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Although he wrote this about his experience in a gulag labor camp in the USSR, he didn’t see a binary division in people but in hearts.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell called upon Latter-day Saints to “establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon.” (see A Wonderful Flood of Light, 47).”

A few notes on language.

4Ne 1:3 Partakers of the heavenly gift (cf. Ether 12:8-9)- This particular phraseology is unique to the Book of Mormon but echoes Hebrews 6:4, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost…” In Book of Mormon usage, people partake of

  1. the fruit of the tree of life (1Ne 8:11ff, 11x; Alma 5:34, 62; ) and
  2. the “forbidden fruit” of Genesis (2Ne 2:18-19). These are sometimes one and the same thing (Alma 12:22-23)
  3. God’s salvation and goodness (2Ne 26:24, 27, 28, 33; 33:14; Jac 1:7; Moroni 8:17)
  4. the fruits of their labors (Alma 40:26, but figuratively about the afterlife)
  5. the bread and wine of the sacrament (3Ne 18:28; Mormon 9:29; Moroni 6:1)
  6. spoils (1x, Hel. 6:38)
  7. waters of life (Alma 42:27)

4Ne 1:7- The Lord did prosper them in the land. – Use of prosper as a transitive verb is unusual in today’s English. (English reminder. Intransitive verbs cannot take objects, like “I’m sleeping.” You can’t sleep something, you have to put it to sleep. Transitive verbs can take objects, like “I’m eating pizza.”) The Book of Mormon uses it both ways, e.g. Mosiah 2:22, 3 Nephi 5:22 (c.f. KJV Nehemiah 2:20 and 1 Co 16:2). Forms of prosper often occur with forms of bless, and this suggests it is covenantal. Way back in 1Ne 1:9, prospering on the face of the land is connected with blessings for keeping the commandments, and all of this makes sense within Lehi’s covenantal setting in 2Ne 1-4, which strongly echoes the covenantal language of Deuteronomy 28.

Combined with the other language of peace, marriage, fertility, and “being blessed according to the multitude of promises” all suggests the Mosaic covenant. Compare the blessings listed in Deu 28:1-14. This may be why the very next phrase clarifies that they “did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.” So while the blessings may suggest the covenant of Moses, this suggests obedience to a post-Mosaic covenant.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 41: 3Ne 22-26

A couple of notes first. I’ll be in San Antonio for the annual joint Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion meeting in late November, plus a few extra days with family. This is a massive, multi-day meeting with thousands of people and dozens of concurrent sessions, all day every day. It’s a place to see lots of current scholarship and debate, meet people, do job interviews (not me, this time around), and also drool at the massive and discounted book section. Imagine a football field with discounted, prepublication books on religion, the Bible from every imaginable publisher, and on the last day, the discounts multiply. If you’re lucky, you even walk away with free display copies! The  legendary bookanalia…

Second, D&C is coming. I still haven’t decided how to approach it for the blog, but I will be posting a suggested reading list in another week or two, and I vow to get a jump on lessons ahead of time. So stay tuned during the November holiday.

Third, in today’s reading, Jesus quotes Isaiah 54, raising once again everyone’s favorite Book of Mormon section.

Screen Shot 2016-11-05 at 10.19.22 PMJoseph Spencer recently published a short book on reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. I haven’t read it yet, but there’s both a podcast interview (I’ll be on this podcast in the future), a panel discussion here, and a review here. Joe does great work, and I suspect this will help cut the Gordian Knot of understanding Isaiah in the Book of Mormon. I look forward to reading it.



3 Nephi 22 Jesus quotes Isaiah 54.

3 Nephi 23 Jesus asks to see the records, to give them more.  Rebukes Nephi, makes sure Samuel gets written down.

3 Nephi 24-25 Gives them Malachi.

3 Nephi 26- Mormon summarizes Jesus actions and visit. 1/100th written.

I realize now that I accidentally included these chapters in my notes a last week (including a plug for Joe’s book, which certainly merits a second plug), so let me add these.

3Ne 22:9, compare to Isaiah 54:9 and note the KJV italicized word missing in the Book of Mormon. Recall that italics in the KJV  were to indicat words in translation that weren’t in the Hebrew. They are certainly implied by the Hebrew, and necessary to make sense in English, but not technically there. Later on with the JST, Joseph Smith is quite sensitive to KJV italics, and often makes changes there. How much sense does this make in English without those italics, as the Book of Mormon has it?

See also my post from Old Testament with Isaiah 54.

3 Nephi 23:8-12 I’ve always found this so interesting. What does it indicate about Mormon’s knowledge of the records and how he writes the Book of Mormon, that he includes Samuel’s record in Helaman 13-16 before he gets to this section about Samuel’s preaching being omitted? What bias on the part of the Nephites led to a failure to write down Samuel’s preaching? Does it change how we should read Helaman 13-16 to know that Mormon in 400+AD is using a record of Samuel’s preaching that was written from memory 30+years after he spoke it? Can you remember any talks from 30 years ago that you would feel comfortable reconstructing from memory?

Think back to Abinadi. Who gave us his words? A hostile witness who became converted, then fled for his life, and had to reconstruct Abinadi’s words from memory weeks later and on the run. I suspect there is both some inspiration and some authorial/editorial expansion, that some of Abinadi’s and Samuel’s words are “filled in” by Alma, Nephi, and/or Mormon. It’s the nature of the record. See my post here.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 40: 3Ne 16, 20-30 (Rough post)

I’m on the road and having technical problems. So I’m posting this rough, now, and will try to clean up when I get home tonight or tomorrow morning.


3 Nephi 20- Miraculous production of bread and wine; Jesus interprets Isaiah.
3 Nephi 21- Jesus continues interpreting Isaiah.
3 Nephi 22- Jesus quotes Isaiah 54
3 Nephi 23 Jesus asks to see the records, to give them more. Rebukes Nephi. Tells them to include Samuel.
3 Nephi 24-25 Gives them Malachi.
3 Nephi 26- Mormon summarizes Jesus actions and visit. 1/100th written.
3 Ne. 27 After that, the disciples were traveling and were together, prayed, and Jesus appeared to them. Name of the church, disputations.
3 Nephi 28 – (This meeting continues) Origin of the  3 Nephites.
3 Nephi 29 – Mormon explains the covenant, that the appearance of Book of Mormon is a sign that the covenant is being fulfilled.
3 Nephi 30- Mormon addresses the Gentiles directly, tells them to repent.

First, on Isaiah. Joseph Spencer has a new book out on Isaiah that sounds great, The Vision of AllJoe typically does fantastic and accessible work, so I’m looking forward to this. There’s an interview about it here, and a panel was held recently and streamed online.

23:1 Again, he’s been quoting Isaiah.
3Ne 23:6 What is “scripture” from an etymological point of view?

3Ne 24:2 Malachi and second coming. (See my post about Malachi here)

  • v. 3- Levites make an offering to the Lord in righteousness.
  • Doctrine and Covenants 128:24 (for members in temple), 124:39 for things in the temple.
  • 5 Who will he be angry at? The non-members?
  • 8 Tithes and offerings- What are these?
  • 17-Jewels- H. segullah, Exo 19:5-6 “peculiar”, Rev. 1:6, Deu 14:2, 1 Pe. 2:9

25:5-6 Only passage that appears in all 4 standard works.
Doctrine and Covenants 2, Mal. 3:5-6, Joseph Smith-History, 38-9.

26:9 (Mormon) Wrote these things to test the faith of the people. Who is “they,” the “Gentiles” or “this people?”

3Ne 26:11 How does this constitute a test of faith?

3Ne 27:13 The gospel, the good news is that Jesus does the will of the father.
What does “gospel” mean? Good news. Luke 22:42- Jesus did the will of the Father, thus the atonement came to pass. Doctrine and Covenants 19:13-19.

27:16- Jesus will hold us guiltless. How is Jesus both judge and advocate? D&C 45:4-5

28:7 Three nephites. Like John?

28:36-37 Mormon adds to himself. Had prayed and had revelation. Means he’s not writing everything at once, but in pieces.

4Ne 1:27 administer sacred things to those unworthy. Eze 22:26, and the priests no longer distinguishing between the holy and the unholy contributes to downfall.

3Ne 20:10 Jesus finishes the commandment by telling the Nephites about the covenant. See Victor Ludlow, “Jesus’ Covenant Teaching in Third Nephi.” Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, p.177-185.

In discussing the law (Torah?) in 3Ne 15:8, the law is gone, but not the covenant.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.

BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 39: 3Ne 17-19

These chapters constitute the end of Day 1 of Jesus’ visit (ends in 19:3) and the beginning of Day 2 (19:4-26:15)


17- Jesus, moved by the people, stays longer than planned (or so the text appears to say). He addresses the multitude, heals people, prays.

18- Bread and wine for sacrament, various instructions and teachings, then Jesus ascends into heaven.

  • 18:5-7, 10-16 to disciples (“administrative” instructions)
  • 18:18-25 to multitude
  • 18:27-35 back to disciples

19- Everyone goes home, tells their neighbors, gather again, but into 12 groups, each taught by a disciple. People baptized. Each group prays, and Jesus prays, somewhat like John 17, the “great intercessory prayer.”

3Ne 17:3 “Prepare your minds for the morrow.” Get ready to receive. Cf. Alm 16:16, Alm 48:7 (Ready to endure.)
This or the next or the next General Conference something may change. It may be something minor, a policy or practice. Maybe something major, akin to polygamy being given or rescinded, or the revocation of the priesthood ban. Are we ready to receive something that potentially goes against our presuppositions, whatever they are?

We have some tight places to go before the Lord is through with this church and the world in this dispensation…. There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21:6.) Harold B. Lee. Conference Reports, 1 October, 1970, p. 152.

3Ne 17:6- “Bowels filled with compassion” two notes here, one on meaning, one on translation. In the KJV OT, “bowels” translates a few words that refer to your internal (Num 5:22) and reproductive organs (Gen 15:4, Gen 25:23). Israelites localized strong feelings there, both positive and negative (Jer 4:19), “a feeling of love, loving sensation, mercy (originally designated the seat of this feeling, meaning bowels, inner parts of the body, the inner person).”- HALOT  When feelings are intended, modern translations often go with “heart” (Lam 1:20), since that often captures the modern pseudo-physiological “location” of strong feelings.I doubt they are speaking Hebrew at this point in time, but to the extent that the Book of Mormon echoes (often literalistic) KJV idiom, to have his “bowels filled with compassion” is an expression of very strong feeling.

Modern translations of the Old Testament read differently. They’re translating the sense across cultures.

“There is, it is important to note, no movement among conservative Christians to argue against the modern viewpoint that our thinking and emotions are not centered in either the heart or the bowels but the brain. Indeed, I think it is worth pointing out that many Christians find themselves able to believe that they are “Biblical literalists”, and that the Bible is in all things scientifically accurate, precisely because they read the Bible in translations that have translated ancient Israel’s literal understanding into modern metaphors, replacing bowels with compassion and heart with mind where necessary.And thus we have the Catch-22 that the better the job that translators do, the more likely it is that Christians reading the Bible may be unaware that they are thinking in ways that may be similar to ancient Israelites in crucial ways, but are also vastly different from them in terms of understanding of anatomy and other matters of science.”- From this review of John Walton’s book on Genesis 1, which I review here.

3Ne 17:7 According to the New Testament, what kind of miracle did Jesus perform in Israel that he does not do here? Like with the missing altar, read the text for what it doesn’t say that we might expect it to. The New Testament has Jesus casting out demons/devils/evil spirits (e.g. Matt 9:32-35). Jesus himself doesn’t do that in the record here, although others do (3Ne 7:19, 22). “Demons” make brief appearances in Mosiah 3:6 and Helaman 13:37, both apparently figurative passages. None of these seem to imply what the New Testament does, i.e. some kind of spiritual or demonic possession. What does this mean for the beliefs of the Book of Mormon people about the supernatural? Or is the lack of “demons” a function of Mormon’s editing or Joseph’s translating?

“Halt” apparently means unable to walk whereas “lame” means an appendage that is obviously less or non-functional due to withering or injury or birth defect, e.g. clubfoot.
“leprous” = skin disease, not leprosy or Hansen’s Disease. In OT never actually refers to leprosy. “NT lepra, if it refers at all to leprosy, does so only as one among many skin conditions.”-Anchor Bible Dictionary (must be out of print, the price has doubled!)

3Ne 17:14 If Jesus groans “within himself,” how do the people or Mormon, four-hundred years later know about it? Cf. John 11:38 “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.” There the Greek means “to be greatly disturbed, deeply moved.”

3Ne 18:7-11 Sacrament symbolism begins. Bread = body= physical resurrection/rebirth. Wine=blood=atonement/spiritual rebirth/salvation.

3Ne 18:27-35 Administrative instructions given to disciples about who can and can’t attend and partake of the sacrament.

What was the status of the disciples?
They’re given power to give the Holy Ghost by laying on of hand in 3Ne 18:37.
They don’t have the Holy Ghost “given to them” until 3Ne 19:9. Is this the gift of the spirit or just a manifestation thereof?
They are then baptized in 3Ne 19:12 (or rebaptized?)
Then the Hoy Ghost falls upon them. 3Ne 19:13

3Ne 19:23 Cf. John 17:21. Oneness of God.

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BoM Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38: 3Nephi 12-15

Screen Shot 2016-10-08 at 10.52.09 AMToday we enter into a very interesting section of the Book of Mormon. Like the Isaiah chapters, it closely parallels a section of the Bible. Like the Isaiah chapters, there are some subtle differences. 3Ne 12-15 parallels the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7. It’s been lined up so that if you want to compare verses (and you should!), subtract 7 from the Book of Mormon chapter number to get the right verse in Matthew, e.g. 3 Nephi 12:48  ≈ Matthew 5:48. Let’s compare these.

KJV Mat 5:48 Book of Mormon 3Ne 12:48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.

Close reading and comparison of the KJV and Book of Mormon sermon can generate some interesting and productive questions. For example, in the KJV, only the Father is perfect. In the Book of Mormon, the Father and Jesus are perfect. What happens to Jesus between these two texts to change his status, and what does that suggest about how the Book of Mormon is using “perfect”? Does that have implications for how we should understand the (apparent) command for us to be perfect in the KJV?

Secondarily, note that the Book of Mormon seems to soften the KJV. Instead of a straightforward command, it’s phrased as an expression of will, “I would that ye should…” or “I want you to be…” As I said, this could be a softening of the command. Or, the KJV may not be representing the Greek very well. (NB:I’m not suggesting the Book of Mormon better captures the Greek.) The Greek verbal form can either be a command or a future tense. Coming at the end of the beatitudes, and taking note of the “therefore,” we could understand it to mean something like “Therefore (if you do all these previous things) you will be perfect” future tense.

Regardless, reading the Book of Mormon without comparing it precludes all these productive questions.

Fortunately, John Welch has a book looking at many of them in depth. First published in 1990, it got an update several years later, and is now known as Illuminating The Sermon at the Temple, and the Sermon on the Mount, available online from the Maxwell Institute, or Amazon. There’s even a 3-column comparison of the KJV, JST, and Book of Mormon text.

3Ne 15:21-22. – “ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. And they understood me not, for they supposed it had been the Gentiles;….and ye are my sheep, and ye are numbered among those whom the Father hath given me.”

This refers back to John 10:34, but the metaphor is not invented there. As he often did, Jesus is likely drawing on the Old Testament. Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who are contemporary with Lehi, talk about Exile to Babylon in terms of scattering of sheep.

 Jer 23:1 NRSV Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the LORD.

Eze 34 NRSV -The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them — to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 4 You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them. 5 So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.

7 ¶ Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; 9 therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.

11 ¶ For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Now, I don’t think either Jeremiah or Ezekiel knew about Lehi per se, but they are certainly part of the sheep scattered in the 6th century by the Babylonians. Is it plausible, then, for Jesus in John 10:34 to be speaking inclusively of the Nephites and others? Absolutely.

As always, you can help me pay my tuition here, or you can support my work through making your regular Amazon purchases through this Amazon link. You can also get updates by email whenever a post goes up (subscription box on the right). If you friend me on Facebook, please drop me a note telling me you’re a reader. I tend not to accept friend requests from people I’m not acquainted with.