This post is part of a series of reflections on I Nephi. If you’re interested, the introduction to the series is here. To peruse earlier entries, click the authors tab at the top of the page and then click on my name. I welcome your own thoughts on these specific verses (or on my reflections) in the comments below.
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Conspicuous that Grant Hardy titles this pericapee “Nephi Commands His Brothers”—which is clearly what took place, though Nephi never explicitly states as much.
I find that this kind of critique—together with the harshness of the negative rhetoric in verses 44-47—is never more than a short-term fix. Nephi’s approach of candid, unyielding denunciation consistently results in a begrudging, temporary truce. And ultimately—failure. The great question is whether the short-term victories are worth it. Sometimes—such as when one is under what appears to be an existential crisis—perhaps it is. It’s not clear Nephi could fulfill God’s commandments otherwise, and in the scriptures God rarely gets into the details of how we are to bring about his stern commands (which makes sense—not having detailed plans demands not only our faith but our fully committed engagement and best efforts; which is always a large part of the point). I’m sympathetic to the pressures and alienation and even the self-righteousness that Nephi manifestly felt. It’s conspicuous that God both supports and restrains Nephi’s approach. Cumulatively, however, at Jerusalem, outside of Jerusalem, while starving in the wilderness, at the death of Ishmael, here at Bountiful, next on the sea, and then in the New World, Nephi’s strategy wins battles and loses the war.
The eternal cosmological drama in which we’re embedded demands that we work to reflect the divinity of our enemies back to them if we wish them to join with us in our Zionic alliance of apotheosis. And whether we do, that is what we ought to wish. There is no exaltation outside of this approach.