Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

First 1 Nephi Thoughts

November 08th, 2017 by G.

Reading 1 Nephi like a story, using the old school chapters without verses, has jarred a lot of thoughts loose.

  • I can see how Parley Pratt and those guys could have read it in a night.  It may sound paradoxical, but today we almost approach the Book of Mormon with too much reverence to appreciate its true power and holiness.  I might say the same about parts of the Bible too.  Sit down and read Acts or one of the Gospels sometime without approaching it as Holy Scripture.  Just a true account of some remarkable happenings in Palestine.
  • I continue to be puzzled by the angel in Lehi’s dream who apparently guides him nowhere.  (See also this from earlier this week).  One thing I did notice, though, is that in real life Lehi starts in a spiritual wilderness-Jerusalem–and then is lead by vision and revelation into an actual desert.  (The actual desert is also a bit of a threat spiritually because of the lack of scripture, which is why the family has to try so hard to get the plates of brass).  So in the allegorical reading of the Lehi’s Dream, the angel leading him from wilderness to waste is literally a description of what happened.  Apologists make a lot of hay from Nephi’s description of “going down” from Jerusalem as a literal description of the local geography.  Fine.  I say that it is also appropriate metaphorically.   Going into the wilderness was in some sense a fall.  They were in some ways going from bad to worse.  It was necessary to obtain the land of promise.  But at first, it was worse.  Interestingly, this is the same experience in repentance.  There is a moment when you give up the palliative of your sin and self-deception, when you  haven’t received the sweet peace of Christ yet.  Usually more than a moment.  You go down before you can go up.  This is the same narrative as Moses’ journey to the original promised land.  It is the same narrative as the master narrative of the Garden, the Fall, and the Return to Heaven.  Sometimes it is hard not to be a Platonist or a Jungian.  Archetypes and patterns seem to appear most frequently in the truest things.
    • It’s interesting to match up Adam and Eve’s experience with the Lehites.  Both groups start out in a pleasant place that is a spiritual dead end.  Remaining in Jerusalem would result in catastrophe;  after Adam and Eve take the fruit, eating the fruit of the tree of life would damn them.  Both have to be cast out for their own good into the wilderness.  After struggles and travails in the wilderness, they establish some kind of order (more clearly a promised land in the Lehites case, the parallels aren’t perfect).  Both have rebellious children.  Both of their lines end up with murderous secret societies.
  • In Nephi’s vision after his father’s vision, the angel prophesies that the Lamanites will dwindle in unbelief and become savage and loathsome, etc., etc., but only after they have wiped out the Nephites.  That was not the view of the later Book of Mormon writers.  The Lamanites were their dangerous enemy, so they viewed them as vile savage loathsome barbarous cruel etc. etc. all along.  But there are hints that the Lamanites were decent enough in their way.  Jacob reproves the Nephites by pointing out that the Lamanites have decent, loving families.  The worse Lamanite excesses are provoked, modeled, and ordered by Nephite dissenters, who seem to be a far nastier bunch on the whole.  It isn’t until the very end that the Lamanites do anything as harsh as the Ammonihahites did in burning dissenters alive.  When we catch a rare inside glimpse of Lamanite life from the inside, as with Ammon’s mission, it seems harsh in some ways but also pretty attractive in others.  Lamoni and his wife are just good folks.  And yet it is not prophesied to end well for the Lamanites.  We might imagine the Nephites as tottering on the edge of a spiritual precipice, in great danger of falling off, whereas the Lamanites were on a gentle slope, slowly, inexorably, rolling down.
  • The Lord promises Nephi that if the Gentiles

harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father.

   Not sure what to make of that.

 

Comments (4)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: ,
November 08th, 2017 06:22:45
4 comments

el oso
November 9, 2017

I think that the ‘numbered among the seed of thy father’ has multiple meanings. From Nephi’s perspective, Gentiles become part of the house of Israel. I think he also uses that specific wording to follow the pattern of Adam and Eve. Gentile conversion gets them adopted into Israel and allows them to have Jehovah as their Father.


Steve Reed
November 10, 2017

I noticed that you refer to the personage in Lehi’s vision that leads him into the waste as an “angel.” Look again, Lehi doesn’t call him an angel, he is a “man” in a “white robe.” Nephi specifically mentions the spirit of the Lord and an angel, but not Lehi here. The substance of the vision is that there is one way to the tree, the iron rod, that although leads through mists of darkness, provides a solid and continual support no matter how much darkness there is.

I believe the man in the white robe is a false guide. He doesn’t lead Lehi to the rod, path, or the tree. He has the appearance of holiness (white robe) and thinks he knows the way, but he does not. Lehi realizes he is being led astray and prays to God for mercy. There have always been men in white robes looking for followers saying “follow me” and ignoring the rod and path.

If that were an angel he could have just asked the angel, but he never addresses this robed man again. That said, I don’t want to limit the text as to what its symbols can teach. My interpretation is just another one of many useful frameworks.


G.
November 11, 2017

I like that, and if fits with the allegorical reading of Lehi’s dream. When he first realized he needed salvation, he followed Jerusalemite Judaism, but it led him nowhere until he sought the Lord.


Ben Johnson
November 12, 2017

I have a copy of Hardy’s Book of Mormon (with the classical book layout) and it has changed my life. Seeing the words without the verses makes a difference. I do read it more like a miraculous story, like G says.

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