Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

“Here I AM,” God Thundered Subtly

November 15th, 2017 by G.

Some Book of Mormon thoughts.

The Sign is too Big for Me to See It

After another of his inevitable wrangles with his brothers, the Lord tells Nephi that they will receive a sign of Jerusalem’s destruction.  The sign will be arriving in the promised land.  It made me realize that while many of God’s interactions with us are too subtle for the unwilling mind, a great many evidences of Him are just too obvious to be noticed.

How do we know that Jerusalem was really destroyed?

Well, here we are, aren’t we?

But, no, the facts as they are are just “how things have always been” or are “historically inevitable.”

Collapsing birth rates?  Nothing to worry about.

We have in front of us daily the experience of creation, of beauty, of the inner working of our soul, of meaning.  But those are too obvious.

Artefacts in Revelation

The standard explanation for Joseph’s seer stone and the Urim and Thummim and etc. is that they were baby aids to neophyte revelators.  And it is true that once Joseph Smith had been beavering away at the prophet gig for awhile, he no longer needed them.

(I believe the Catholic understanding of relics and such is something similar–concrete aids and focuses for devotion.  Perhaps some of our Roman friends will weigh in.)

But that does not seem to be the case with the Liahona.  Both Nephi and Lehi had received repeated, detailed visions from the Lord before the Liahona.  They did not need an aid.  In fact, the night before the Liahona shows up, Lehi receives instructions to get up and go to the Promised Land.  They also continued to receive direct revelation.  So why the Liahona?  Grimly, it seems that it might have been a way to tempt Laman and Lemuel into revolt at sea, by allowing them to tell themselves that divine aid was technological.  But the main response to my question may just be that I like everyone else these days tries to spiritualize/de-materialize the gospel too much.  Why not an artifact?  Stuff is awesome.



Have any of the old reliables, Dan Petersen or any of those guys, addressed what Shazer might mean?

A cursory search revealed a fun site on Book of Mormon names, but no convincing explanations.



Comments (8)
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November 15th, 2017 07:04:24

November 15, 2017

I think you’re half right. The Liahona was indeed for Laman, Lemuel and the other non-believers. But I think the intent was as a sign to get/constrain L&L to believe Lehi/Nephi, and go along with the group.

The angelic visitation to the four boys on that one trip leads some people to think L&L were righteous enough to see an angel. I think it was the opposite: they were _wicked enough_, and the angelic appearance was to their condemnation, not their benefit. Well, it benefited them as to getting them out of Jerusalem before the invasion. But after having an angel tell you to believe Nephi and obey him, you lose all your excuses for lack of belief and of obedience.

Laman and Lemuel were still active disbelievers, they did not accept Lehi and Nephi as prophets. (Well, if in their heart-of-hearts they really did know, then their wickedness was even greater.) They kept accusing Lehi and Nephi of making it all up. They were unwilling to get a spirtual testimony, so they needed convincing with physical proof, tangible miraculous evidence, in order to get them to go along on the journey.

Their acts of rebellion (and attempted murder) _after_ the angelic visit illustrate how wicked the two were. The angelic visit did not convert them, or provide them with a lasting sense of “we better get with the program.”

So, it’s the “wicked or stupid?” question.

In my younger days, I wondered why God didn’t just let the bad boys L&L split off and go back. But then I figured that the Lord needed the Lamanites to be a scourge to the Nephites (they had an important role in the Nephite history arc), that many of their descendants would be righteous themselves, and they were needed for a great purpose in the latter days.

The BoM is strangely silent on whether there were pre-existing populations in their Promised Land. (Sherem is a hint that there were.) If there were, the Lamanites could have played an important purpose in their history arc too.

Off the top of my head, L&L tried/intended to kill Nephi three times: once on the trip back with Ishmael’s family, once on the ship, and once in the new land. So they were murderers, at least at heart.

I can see your point on how the mechanics of the Liahona could have led them to believe it would work for them (and of course the Lord fore-knew that) but I think the Lord’s intention was that it was a tool to get them to the new land. Once He got them there, the painfully obvious miracles stopped. Once Lehi passed away, the Lamanites were on their trajectory.

So I see the angelic visit and the Liahona as extraordinary meausres to get the needed people in their needed places.

The angel and Liahona not only removed the opportunity for the blessings of willful faith-based obedience, it increased the condemnation for their disobedience. “He who sins against the greater light…”, DC 82:3.

November 15, 2017

Jeff Lindsay has a post on Shazer with links to resources.


November 15, 2017

There were likely some middle-of-the-roaders in the party too, who did side with Lehi/Nephi, who just needed that little extra push or boost of confidence from the Liahona in order to go/keep going along, when…
– things got tough in the wilderness.
– build an ocean-going ship? No one here has built a ship before.
– get IN the ship for how long?
– go WHERE? No one here has been there before.

Those were some big leaps of faith and no-going-back type of committments.

November 15, 2017

@ books:
“In my younger days, I wondered why God didn’t just let the bad boys L&L split off and go back. But then I figured that the Lord needed the Lamanites to be a scourge to the Nephites (they had an important role in the Nephite history arc), that many of their descendants would be righteous themselves, and they were needed for a great purpose in the latter days.”

That is what I have always thought, too. But recently I was thinking that maybe that explanation takes too much away from Laman and Lemuel. For all of their faults, they DID briefly repent many times and choose to stay with the company. It was their agency that brought them to the promised land, even with their wrongheadedness and rebellion and even murderous hearts. They could have gone back, but for whatever reason, they decided not to.

Ivan Wolfe
November 15, 2017

Bookslinger – “I think it was the opposite: they were _wicked enough_, and the angelic appearance was to their condemnation, not their benefit.”

Of course, this assumes the angels were seen in all their glory and clearly seen *as divine beings.* However, this is a modern gloss on an ancient tale. In Old Testament times, angels were often seen as merely humans, sometimes their divine status was not revealed.

For example, Judges 13. Sampson’s parents aren’t sure the “man” they are seeing really is an angel of the Lord. It isn’t until verse 21 (“But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord”) that they were sure it was a divine being.

My guess, and this fits other Old Testament visitations, is that the “angel” appeared human, and thus it was easy for Laman and Lemuel to just write it off as some random dude.

November 15, 2017

“For all of their faults, they DID briefly repent many times and choose to stay with the company.”

Ehhhh… I see it as them being forced to comply. At least that’s the picture I get from Nephi. Yeah, he gives them the benefit of the doubt, and accepts their apologies, at least on the surface. But they didn’t really have an option, did they? And they always go back to murderous intent.

a) This is filling-in-the-blanks on my part, but I think the killing of Laban was the main thing preventing L&L from going back to Jerusalem. Lehi’s boys would have been the prime suspects, since they asked for the plates, tried to buy the plates, got their stuff stolen, got chased by Laban’s henchmen, Laban’s now dead, and the plates and plate-keeper (Zoram) are missing. This could have been confirmed when they went back for Ishmael and family. L&L could have stayed somewhere else in the Middle East, but loss of the family fortune when Laban stole it, “ruined” their lives. And Laban’s death prevented them from getting back the house/store/farm whatever in Jerusalem. They would have had to go to a sanctuary city, or leave Judah entirely.

I’m also interested in the reasons why they didn’t take Ishmael from the start. Was the brass plates episode and Laban’s death somehow a pre-req for getting Ishmael on board?

Also, the killing of Laban illustrated to L&L that Nephi was willing to shed blood to get his way. To guess what L&L were thinking, I’ve thought of this: if I was arguing with my brother over a matter, and he ended up killing a third party to get his way, I would worry that he’d kill me too in order to get his way.

b) The angel visit forced L&L too. If I remember correctly, that was after the first or second attempt, but before the last successful trip by Nephi. Without the angel, L&L would not have gone back.

c) There was the attempted murder, and miraculous escape by Nephi on the Ishmael trip. That forced L&L and Ishmael’s family to see that God was with Nephi.

d) The Liahona. Pretty much miraculous. Technology today might fake it, but not then. No valid option to deny it. Something written on the Liahona, that Nephi left unsaid, really got their attention too.

e) Nephi shocking them to get them to help build the ship. This harkens back to the idea that Nephi might kill them if they don’t do what he wants. Of course they are going to grovel, ask forgiveness, and promise to do whatever he wants. They’re likely thinking Nephi’s going to kill them otherwise. They “apologized”, and Nephi said “Ok, I forgive you. Now let’s get on with the work.” He gave them the benefit of the doubt, as he should have, on the surface, but deep down, he knew what was coming in the new land. Prophets give you every chance to repent that they can.

f) A sea-worthy ship “designed” and built by “little Nephi”. Kinda miraculous right there.

My overall take-away is that showy obvious physical miracles don’t generate faith. Which is what the prophets teach anyway. All the miracles L&L saw impressed the eye and ear, but “eventually faded away”, Gospel Principles, chapter 7.

If I got a Liahona on my doorstep, and writings on it told me things about my life that no one else knew, I’d probably die of fright. If I lived, it then would probably tell me stuff like the Sunday School answers and things that the prophets already tell us over the pulpit at GenConf. And then if I did them, I wouldn’t get any blessings from obedience. And if I did not do them, I’d be damned even more than without a Liahona.

If I don’t do all the Sunday School answers and GenConf instructions, I’m not ready for the bigger things that you would need a Liahona for anyway.

And if I did do all the Sunday School answers and GenConf instructions, I’d be walking so closely with the Holy Ghost, I wouldn’t need no stinkin’ Liahona.

In response to their request for proof or signs to confirm the truth of his teachings, Jospeh Smith said: “Ask God yourself.”

Numbers 11:29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

I think that’s why the Lord was so strict on the Israelites in the desert, executing people for what today we think of as minor offenses. After the plagues, the Passover, the pillars of fire and smoke, the manna, the parting of the sea, any disobedience was sinning against a great light.

November 15, 2017

Ivan, THANK YOU. That is an excellent insight.

November 16, 2017

you are killing it in the comments.

JRL, Ivan,

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