FAIR Study Aids/Gospel Doctrine/Book of Mormon/Lesson Two

Table of Contents



A FairMormon Analysis of:
Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual

Lesson 2: "All Things According to His Will"

LDS Lesson Manual

Lesson 2: All Things According to His Will off-site

1. Lehi Leaves Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1-2:)

Helpful Insights

  • Nephi as Scribe: Since Nephi was the younger (youngest, before Jacob and Joseph are born) son of a wealthy family, he was not likely to inherit the family business, but would have been in training for another high status profession. Nephi’s skill in writing and other traits Nephi displays suggest he may have been in training to become a scribe. (See Brant Gradner, "Nephi as Scribe," Mormon Studies Review 23/1 (2011): 45–55. off-site wiki)
  • Goodly Parents: Nephi’s name is probably derived from the Egyptian word for “good”, “goodly” or “goodness.” Thus when Nephi says he has “goodly parents” and knows of the “goodness… of God,” he may be using a typical Hebrew wordplay technique. (See: Matthew L. Bowen, “Internal Textual Evidence for the Egyptian Origin of Nephi’s Name,Insights 22/11 (2002.)
  • Many Prophets: Nephi tells us that his father is only one of “many prophets” in Jerusalem at the time. Several contemporary prophets are known: Zephaniah (ca. 640-609 BC), Jeremiah (626-580 BC), Huldah (ca 621 BC), Nahum (ca 630-612 BC), Habakkuk (ca 622-605 BC), Daniel (ca. 606-536 BC), Ezekiel (ca 594-574 BC), Urijah (ca 609 BC). (See: David R. Seely and Robert D. Hunt, "Dramitis Peronsae: The World of Lehi (ca 700 – 592 BC)," in Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem, edited by John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely, (Covenant Communications, 2004). ISBN 0934893748. ISBN 978-0934893749. off-site
  • Gifts of the Spirit: When Nephi tells his brother Sam about the confirmation he received of their fathers vision, Sam believes what Nephi says. Sam may have been given the gift to believe on the words and testimonies of others, while Nephi was given the gift of revelation directly. Both gifts are valuable and can lead to eternal life (see D&C 46:13-14)

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Language: Critics have long attacked the Book of Mormon for having a Jew writing in Egyptian. The phenomenon of Jews using Egyptian script is now well attested through various archeological finds.

Response
The phenomenon of Jews using Egyptian script is now well attested through various archeological finds.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Altar of Stones: It is claimed that a good Jew would never offer sacrifices away from Jerusalem.



For more information

  • David R. Seely, "Lehi's Altar and Sacrifice in the Wilderness," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/1 (2001): 62–69. off-site wiki

Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Authority: Some say Lehi could not have offered sacrifices because he did not have the Levitical Priesthood.



For more information

Faith Affirmations

  • Colophon: The first three verses of the Book of Mormon are an example of an Egyptian style authorial introduction called a colophon Hugh Nibley
  • Nephi’s Name: “Nephi” is an attested Egyptian name in its Semitic form John Gee.
  • Lehi’s Name: Although in the Bible as a place name, “Lehi” was unknown as a personal name in Joseph Smith’s day, but it is now attested as a Hebrew male personal name. Jeffrey R. Chadwick
  • Sariah’s Name: In Joseph Smith’s day, “Sariah” seemed like a misspelling of a Hebrew male name. Today, it is known to be the correct spelling of Hebrew female name. [1]
  • Prophetic Call Narrative: Lehi’s prophetic call follows the typical narrative structure for the calling of a prophet found in ancient Israelite texts. Blake Ostler W. Welch
  • Jerusalem in 600 BC: The Book of Mormon only gives brief details about the situation in Jerusalem around 600 BC, but in those few details the Book of Mormon provides an accurate, albeit brief, sketch of the religious and political circumstances. Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem Hugh Nibley Margaret Barker
  • The Valley of Lemuel: While there is some disagreement, a very good candidate for the valley of Lemuel was discovered in 1995, much to the surprise of critics, who insisted that such a valley and river did not exist in all of Arabia. (See FAIR wiki: Valley of Lemuel)
  • Naming Practices: When Lehi and his family stop to camp, they name the place after a member of the party. This is a common practice for desert travelers in Arabia. Hugh Nibley
  • Arabic Poetry: 1 Nephi 2:9-10 is a perfect example of Arabic poetry. Hugh Nibley

2. Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass (1 Nephi 3-4:)

Helpful Insights

  • Rod Symbolism: Nephi’s brothers start beating him with a “rod.” The rod, or staff, was a symbol of power in the ancient Near East, thus Nephi’s brothers, by using a rod to beat Nephi with, were asserting their authority over him as the younger brother. Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 80; David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible (Tooele, Utah: Heritage Press, 2003), 43. ISBN 9780974342108
  • Laban’s Sword: Before slaying Laban, Nephi stops to admire his sword. While most Israelite swords were short and dagger-like, Laban’s seems to have been a more formidable weapon. It is likely that as a member of the elite class Laban had larger sword, such as the large sword discovered just outside of Jerusalem and dating back to the seventh century BC. [2] Laban sword is also described a “exceedingly fine.” The Dead Sea Scrolls also describe some well crafted swords made of fine materials [3]
  • Exodus Typology: Nephi makes both direct and indirect allusions to the Exodus, something that he continues to do throughout 1 Nephi. [4]
  • David and Goliath: Careful comparison shows that Nephi used the story of David and Goliath as a modal or pattern for his narrative of slaying Laban (a common technique in ancient literature). Thus by comparing the two stories interesting insights can be gained. [5]
  • “As the Lord liveth and as we live”: Nephi swears an oath with Zoram and then both parties (Zoram and Nephi plus his brothers) are pacified, showing no sign of distrust. In ancient Near Eastern culture, an oath sworn by the life of something – especially by the life of yourself and God, would have been viewed as binding on both parties. Hugh Nibley

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Steel: Nephi says that Laban’s sword was made of the “most precious steel.” Many critics have insisted that this is anachronistic.

Response
There are a number of linguistic issues that should be considered when it comes to the word “steel” in translation of any ancient document. Nonetheless, “steel” (carbuized iron) has attested in the Old World during the Book of Mormon time period, and so Laban’s “steel” sword is not an anachronism.
For more information

  • William Hamblin, "Steel in the Book of Mormon," FAIR website FairMormon link
  • John L. Sorenson, "Steel in Early Metallurgy," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15/2 (2006): 108–109. off-site wiki

Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Slaying of Laban: A number of objections have been raised about the Slaying of Laban, from legal to ethical concerns.

Response
In many cases, the issue stems from the reader projecting their modern Western cultural views onto the text. In any event, these issues have been addressed by LDS scholars.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Church: Nephi mentions “brethren of the church,” which some critics say is an anachronism because there was no “church” in ancient Israel.

Response
The original meaning of “church” was simply “congregation” or “assembly,” a concept that would have been well known to ancient Israel.
For more information


Common criticisms related to this lesson topic
Lehi’s Cave: Sometimes well-intentioned members provide exaggerated claims for evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon.

Response
When our faith is supported by faulty claims of evidence, we become susceptible to criticisms. One example of this has been the so-called “Lehi’s cave.” The location is not likely to have anything to do with the Book of Mormon.
For more information

Faith Affirmations

  • Laban’s Fifty: The author of a fictional Book of Mormon could have given any number for the size of Laban’s garrison, so why such a small “fifty”? As it turns out, fifty is just the right size for a garrison of even a large city in the ancient Near East Hugh Nibley.
  • Treasury: A “treasury” seems like a strange place to keep a record or book, but that is exactly where an ancient Israelite would have kept it. John A. Tvedtnes

3. Nephi and his brothers bring the brass plates to their family (1 Nephi 5:)

Helpful Insights

  • Sariah’s Crisis of Faith: 1 Nephi 5: 1-8 happens to be the only story really told about Sariah. Unfortunately, the way we read it tends to put her in a negative light. Camille Fronk helps provide a more sympathetic approach. [6]
  • Sacrifices and Burnt Offerings: The family offered sacrifices and burnt offerings upon the sons return. While this may have been for thanksgiving, it is possible that it was an offering of atonement. Reasons for atonement in the group range from murmuring, out right rebellion, or possibly the killing of Laban. [S. Kent Brown, From Jerusalem to Zarahemla (Provo: UT: Religious Studies Center, 1998), pg. 3-5]
  • Brass Plates: In Joseph Smith, the word “brass” was commonly used for two different alloys, one of which is what we call today “bronze.” William J. Hamblin believes that the plates of Laban were actually made of bronze. [7]

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information

Faith Affirmations

  • Contents of the Brass Plates: Among the contents of the brass plates are the writings of various prophets, including mention of the five books of Moses. The earliest attested fragment of any portion of the Bible is a passage from one of the books of Moses (Numbers) found engraved on small plates of metal (silver) and dating to 600 BC. [8] [9]

4. Nephi and his brothers return to Jerusalem for Ishmael and his family (1 Nephi 7:)

Helpful Insights

  • Why not get Ishmael’s family while they were there for the brass plates? Brant Gardner suggests that “Acquiring the brass plates confirmed through their experiences that Yahweh was leading them. Thus, these experiences not only strengthened their resolve but perhaps also provided arguments that would convince Ishmael and his family to accompany them.” [Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 1:141.]
  • The Rebellion: Laman and Lamuel’s rebellion on the return journey may have been due to the realization that at this point, there would be no turning back. With the brass plates and their wives, they were now leaving Jerusalem permanently. “The desire to return was also likely enhanced by their proximity to Jerusalem, which always pulled at them, but would certainly have a greater hold on them when they were close. And perhaps they knew that now, possessed of the brass plates and future wives, there would be no more trips back. This departure was permanent and their reluctance had never been more intense.” [Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 1:146.]
  • Pleading Women: Laman and Lemuel are unimpressed by Nephi’s miraculous escape, but are swayed by the pleading of the wife and daughter of Ishmael. Ancient Near Eastern cultures had strict rules of chivalry – if the mother and daughter of another tribe pleads, then you are under obligation. The reason for their pleading may have been the realization that with Nephi dead, they were short a suitor for all five daughters. [Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, 6 Vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 1:1491-50.].

Potential Criticisms and Faithful Information

Faith Affirmations

Additional Information Related to 1 Nephi 1-7:

In 1 Nephi 6, Nephi tells his readers that he is writing with a deliberate purpose. A number of scholars have looked closely at 1 Nephi in an effort to more fully understand his purposes in writing his small plates record.

Chiasms and Other Poetic Parallelisms in 1 Nephi 1-7:

The Book of Mormon contains a number of literary structures called poetic parallelisms, chiasmus being the best known. While these are frequently used as evidence for the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, their real value is in helping shed light on the meaning and message in the text. The following passages contain examples of these structures from chapters being covered in this lesson. If you are planning on using any of these passages in your lesson, it may be worthwhile to check these structures to see if they help emphasize or focus attention on the message you hope to convey, or if they provide an alternative perspective you had not considered before which may enhance your lesson. For the sake of space, the references can only be listed here. To look at these structures, see Donald W. Perry, Poetic Parallelisms: The Complete Text Reformatted, which is graciously provided online for no charge (you have to go to the PDF file) by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

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