We last heard from Mary while she was living in Jerusalem, and we’re excited to welcome back her insights as we round out the year. In addition to her stint in Jerusalem, Mary has lived on the east coast and overseas in England—though she’s a Utah native and currently resides in Utah Valley with her husband and children. She’s an avid reader, a committed student of the gospel and religious studies more broadly, and has spent a number of years teaching both seminary and institute. Welcome back Mary!
Nephi’s eclectic messianism can be read as prophesying an ethical futurism.
All my life I’ve imagined the Book of Lehi—those tragically lost 116 pages—as having been written by Lehi. But the Book of Lehi was engraven on plates
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. * * * * I Nephi 18:23-19:1 They arrive at the promised land. They pitch their tents. I can’t help but picture elation and Hollywood scenes of the family kneeling to kiss wet sand as water rolls over their feet. They made it! Now what? At the end of years of travel, when one finally reaches one’s destination, what does one do? As Nephi goes on to note, they’re in a new land with new flora and fauna and resources—but a land of which they’ve zero knowledge. Particularly when it comes to survival, local knowledge is everything. I imagine a profound funk of “what now?” hung over them. After more than eight years, are they simply to stop? Do they stop and build right on the coast? Do they look around for a fertile valley? Do they have to try and find an uninhabited location? Are they sure that God doesn’t want them to continue on further into the wilderness? Nephi makes no comment about these decisions and does not mention revelation here. It’s unclear that the Liahona—so integral to their ocean voyage—could…
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. * * * * I Nephi 18:17-22 Above all, this passage reveals the deep hypocrisy of Laman. In verse ten Laman is the adamant defender of tradition and the cultural norms that ought to govern our lives—he refuses to accept rule from a usurping younger brother. In verse seventeen and eighteen, however, he has no compunction with regard to deposing the patriarchal rule of his father—a far greater infraction of tradition. Even more, he shirks the duty of the firstborn to care for the parents in their old age; quite the opposite, he creates conditions that bring his parents to the point of death and refuses to alter course when this becomes clear. Even taking Nephi’s account with a grain of salt, it’s hard to imagine a scenario here where Laman doesn’t come off very poorly.\ Part of the function of this passage is to reveal the utter ungovernability of Laman. It’s not just that he won’t submit to Nephi, a younger, usurping brother; it’s that he won’t submit to any form of authority, any of the cultural norms and constraints—Laman is refusing…
Murmuring undermines one’s relationship with God and one’s ability to cope either with the storms of the cosmos or the wounds inflicted by our family members.
“And they did worship the Lord”—that’s the conclusion to the whole row. I wonder at it. What was the change?
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.
This is a powerful ethic. I feel its pull deeply. But there is a second half, a dark side
In mythically promoting our history we risk undermining it—at least we do so in today’s information age. But this chapter with Laman and Nephi sparring makes me think that perhaps this is always the case.
I don’t care what kind of faith you have, Nephi’s idea on the face of it is loony.
Two remarkable items: the repetition of Nephi’s mantra concerning the need to keep the commandments of God in order to prosper and to see the hand of the Lord; the placement of this mantra immediately preceding Laman’s criticism.
In passages like this one, Nephi strikes me as incredibly concrete and practical in nature—much more a Brigham Young than a Joseph Smith.
Like the story of Moses (to which Nephi often refers) the story of Lehi’s & Saraiah’s exodus is epic and foundational, as well as typological.
Sandwiched in between the Daughter’s of Ishmael’s complaints about their afflictions and Laman’s complaints about the women’s afflictions (16:35-36 and 17:20-21), Nephi acknowledges that they were indeed afflicted.
Perhaps I ought to be grateful that no such crisis demanding the voice of the Lord has come into my life. Or perhaps I should wonder at the silence of the heavens.
It’s hard for us, as humans, to pry apart the empirical from the normative—and for good reasons. Facts don’t come to us bare of value. Especially with regard to those facts that we appreciate and evaluate in existential contexts (i.e., contexts related to our identity and overall worldview), they always already appear normatively laden (i.e., as meaning something). At least as a pragmatic matter, bare facts are secondary abstractions (whatever metaphysical status we ultimately attribute to them). Nephi certainly saw Laman & Co. as acting in ways that had specific meaning and bearing, and I’m convinced that he saw his written record as likewise bearing an unavoidable upshot (this gets noted briefly in chapter 6 and becomes abundantly clear when we get to II Nephi 25). Similarly, we (all) do the same thing when we read commentary on the scriptures. Textual artifacts don’t simply get picked out—rather, the ways in which we pick combines with the social context in which we’re picking, and the picked artifacts’ display already has meaning (however neutral the language doing the displaying). In a public context like Times and Seasons, there are different, sometimes competing contexts, approaches to, and projects with regard to the scriptures. Consequently, a narrative that is candid about textual details is inevitably going to appear at least somewhat differently to different readers. [FN 1] For example, it’s an empirical fact of the text that Nephi only discusses Laman & Co. in…
Why did everyone tremble when they looked on the Liahona?
I can’t help but picture the women pregnant, nearing full-term. Nephi rarely mentions the women or their condition, but this strikes me as likely, almost a certainty; particularly when considering Sariah’s age.
Food is a huge issue for Nephi. I’m tempted to add up the verses that account for the eight years between the Valley of Lemuel and Bountiful and divide them by the number of verses speaking about food. Quantitatively and qualitatively, this is the issue—in a way that it isn’t and really could never be for most of us.
Would we have the Book of Mormon if Lehi had not ignored Jeremiah’s jeremiad and embraced his dreams? Even so, can you imagine—honestly—forsaking your home and property, putting your wife and children (and grandchildren?) in significant jeopardy over a dream?
There are times when the androcentric nature of the Book of Mormon is stark and unavoidable. These verses are rough.
My typical reaction in reading this vision (or, as more often is the case, segments of the vision) and Nephi’s sermonizing and exhortations is to rejoice. This confrontation Nephi has with Laman (et al) pulls me up short, though.
Three more quick points: first, the tree is no longer merely metaphorically or symbolically, but now explicitly made to be the Tree of Life.
I … see two differenet Nephi’s in this passage, and I’m not sure which is more accurate.
I suspect that his brothers’ lack of understanding had less to do with their inability to grasp our simplistic Sunday School summary of the allegory of the olive tree, and much more to do with how culturally and theologically “other” this picture was compared to their own understanding.