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

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

Lesson 7: I Know in Whom I Have Trusted

Lesson #7- Sunday School Manual: I Know in Whom I Have Trusted

1. Lehi teaches that his descendants will be blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. (2 Nephi 3:)

Faith Affirmations

  • Joseph of Egypt's Prophecy: Lehi quotes an otherwise unknown prophecy from the ancient patriarch Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. At least part of this prophecy can be corroborated by ancient sources.

2. Nephi laments his sinfulness but glories in the goodness of God. (2 Nephi 4:)

Helpful Insights

3. The anger of Laman and Lemuel increases against Nephi, and the Lord commands the followers of Nephi to separate from the followers of Laman. (2 Nephi 5:)

Helpful Insights

  • The Politics of Nephi's Book: In 2 Nephi 5:3 Laman and Lemuel repeat a concern that they express elsewhere in the text: that they do not want Nephi to “rule over us.” It is important to remember that Nephi is writing this account decades after the fact, and during a time when he has already split from his brothers and is now the ruler over the people of Nephi (v 9). As Nephi writes about events from his past he has at least two messages for his audience: 1) the gospel message and 2) that he is the rightful heir to Lehi's spiritual and patriarchal authority, not Laman and Lemuel. Nephi is not writing a neutral and objective history, but rather he is selectively crafting a narrative that will support and legitimize his (Nephi’s) claim to leadership among his people. It is, as one prominent LDS scholar has suggested, a “lineage history”.

  • Non-Lehite Natives: 2 Nephi 5:6 explains that Nephi, Zoram, Sam (including each of their respective spouses and children), Jacob, Joseph, and Nephi’s sisters, all fled with Nephi from Laman and Lemuel (and their followers). Curiously, Nephi adds to this list of people by including “and all those who would go with me.” Is this a passive reference to the pre-Lehite natives of the Americas who had possibly intermingled with the Lehites? There is no doubt that there were other people on the continent when Lehi and family arrived (and not just the Jaredites). Later in the chapter (2 Nephi 5:34) it is noted that after only a few decades the Nephites and Lamanites had already had “wars and contentions”. This makes the most sense if the groups are much larger than the original group (plus subsequent children) who came on the boat (about 40-50 people). The greater numbers required for “wars and contentions” could be easily be explained by the native inhabitants of the land who joined themselves to the Nephites and Lamanites.
    • John Sorenson,"When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?" Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 1 (1992): 1-34
    • John L. Sorenson, Nephite Culture and Society, ed. Matthew R. Sorenson (Salt Lake City: New Sage Books, 1997), 66.
    • Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, vol. 2, pp 6-9.

  • The Small Plates of Nephi: The books of 1st and 2nd Nephi, sometimes referred to as the "small" plates of Nephi, were written by Nephi many years after the events they describe happened, when Nephi was an old man. They are actually the second record that Nephi made, the first being a "large" set of plates. The small plates of Nephi record the more spiritual aspects of Nephi's ministry. When Mormon was editing and compiling the Book of Mormon he did not intend for the small plates of Nephi (1st and 2nd Nephi) to be a part of his book. They ended up in the Book of Mormon because the Book of Lehi, which was Mormon's summary of the same events, went missing with Martin Harris. The Lord inspired Nephi to make that second, smaller, record, and we are very grateful he did or we would not know the story of Nephi.

Potential Criticisms

  • Metallurgy and Swords: Metalworking in the Book of Mormon has not yet been completely supported by archaeology, but the case has become substantially stronger in the past few decades as new data has emerged. New information may continue to emerge in the future. Swords are mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but the text should be examined carefully to see what it does and does not say about the nature of these swords. The ancient Mesoamericans had a unique type of sword which was very deadly.

  • Nephite Temple: Nephi explains that he caused his people to construct a temple “after the manner of the temple of Solomon”. Some critics argue that a devout Israelite (Nephi was not a Jew, being from the tribe of Manasseh) would never build a temple outside of Jerusalem. However, this is simply not true as several examples of Israelite/Jewish temples have been excavated in areas very far from Jerusalem. Furthermore, it is now known that some Mesoamerican “temples” had a similar floorplan to Solomon’s ancient temple.

  • Black Skin and the Lamanite Curse: Nephi explains that because the Lamanites hardened their hearts “the Lord did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them” (2 Nephi 5:21). This has traditionally been interpreted very literally by LDS readers as a miracle in which the Lord actually changes the color of the skin of the Lamanites. In recent years LDS scholars and researchers have challenged that notion by pointing to examples in the text where a black/white division between Nephites and Lamanites does not make sense. Instead, the description of the Lamanites as being “dark” or having a “skin of blackness” can be read as a metaphorical description of their state of wickedness. This kind of metaphorical use of skin color has precedent in the Old Testament, and makes the more sense of some Book of Mormon stories. Furthermore, it is useful to distinguish between the “curse” and the “mark” that was placed on the Lamanites. Finally, these passages have nothing whatsoever to do with the pre-1978 priesthood ban and can not be appropriately used, as some have tried to do, to demonstrate that Mormons are racist.