Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Chisel in One Hand and a Sword in the Other (2 Nephi 5)

Listen now!In attempting to continue my chapter-by-chapter commentary of the Book of Mormon, I will continue with 2 Nephi 5 as the next chapter. The main themes of 2 Nephi 1-4 were covered in a previous commentary post.

After Lehi gave his posterity their prophetic blessings, he passed away. 2 Nephi 5 finds the Nephites and Lamanites separating from each other and becoming warring factions whereas the Nephites (those who followed Nephi and his teachings) were mostly defending themselves or running for their lives and the Lamanites (those who felt Laman should have been their ruler) were chasing the Nephites.
1 Behold, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the aanger of my brethren.
2 But behold, their aanger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life.
3 Yea, they did murmur against me, saying: Our younger brother thinks to arule over us; and we have had much trial because of him; wherefore, now let us slay him, that we may not be afflicted more because of his words. For behold, we will not have him to be our ruler; for it belongs unto us, who are the elder brethren, to brule over this people.
4 Now I do not write upon these plates all the words which they murmured against me. But it sufficeth me to say, that they did seek to take away my life.
5 And it came to pass that the Lord did awarn me, that I, bNephi, should depart from them and flee into the wilderness, and all those who would go with me.
6 Wherefore, it came to pass that I, Nephi, did take my family, and also aZoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me. And all those who would go with me were those who believed in the bwarnings and the revelations of God; wherefore, they did hearken unto my words.
7 And we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us, and did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days. And after we had journeyed for the space of many days we did pitch our tents.
As was the custom of nomadic Israelites at that time in the world's history, the naming of a city or dwelling or geographic region after a prominent leader, the Nephites called their new home "Nephi". They prospered in the new area through agriculture, recordkeeping, and building projects.

The Lord told Nephi that the Lamanites would become "a scourge unto thy seed, to astir them up in remembrance of me; and inasmuch as they will not remember me, and hearken unto my words, they shall scourge them even unto destruction." Knowing from his previous visions that his descendants would eventually succumb to wickedness and thus merit this scourge, Nephi began to focus on armaments with which to defend his people and their freedom to worship and work as they were taught.
14 And I, Nephi, did take the asword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many bswords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their chatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.
The most important building project on Nephi's agenda was a temple where his people could worship according to the Law of Moses and, therefore, hopefully avert the prophesied disasters.
16 And I, Nephi, did abuild a btemple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of cSolomon save it were not built of so many dprecious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon’s etemple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of fSolomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.
A temple, of course, needs priests and instructors. Nephi ordained and set apart his brothers, Jacob and Joseph, for these callings.
26 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, did aconsecrate Jacob and Joseph, that they should be bpriests and cteachers over the land of my people.
27 And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of ahappiness.
The year was now approximately 569 B.C. All of the events of the Book of Mormon up to this point totaled 30 years since Lehi had left Jerusalem with his family between 600 and 599 B.C.

Nephi's people desired him to become their king, which he refused to be. But he recorded, "nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power." This pattern of selfless servant-leadership would later be followed by King Benjamin. King Benjamin's son, Mosiah, would inherit the "throne", as it were, only to abdicate it upon his death to a rule of law according to the will of the people. Thus, Nephi's humble attitude was setting the stage for what could be described as the first American democracy.

Nephi also continued the art of plate-making and, under command of the Lord made "other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people." On these plates, he "engraved that which is pleasing unto God". That period of recordkeeping added another 10 years (569-559 B.C.), during which Nephi's people "already had wars and contentions with our brethren."

Book Review: "Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidence Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith"

Michael R. Ash has once again authored a masterpiece that is a welcomed follow up to his fantastic volume Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt. Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidence Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith is not only a delight to read but an accessible and approachable work that offers something for all readers regardless of their understanding of LDS apologetics or scholarship. From those who are just being introduced to the subject to the seasoned LDS apologist on the front lines of online message boards and chat rooms, this book is a must read for any Latter-day Saint interested in learning about the latest scholarly material supporting the claims of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Mike's book is divided into several sections, which cover topics ranging from Book of Mormon evidences from both the Old and New World, evidences for the authenticity of the Book of Abraham and evidence for unique LDS doctrines from ancient Jewish and Christian sources. From sections that are a simple paragraph to five page discourses, Mike covers topics such as the Book of Mormon witnesses, Book of Mormon geography, ancient Near Eastern parallels, Book of Abraham astronomy and evidence for ancient Jews and Christians believing in a pre-existence and a council of the gods.

Perhaps the most amiable thing about Mike's book is how simple, to the point, and matter-of-factly Mike presents his information. This makes his book an easy and enjoyable read. Coupled with ample documentation and an appendix outlining various ancient literary corpuses, Mike also stays true to scholarly catholicity. 

In short, Of Faith and Reason is a must read! A fine book that offers powerful and not so easily dismissible evidence for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Below is a series of videos I produced discussing Mike's book and offering some other recommended reading materials.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4