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

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

Lesson 12: Seek Ye for the Kingdom of God

Lesson #12- Sunday School Manual: “Seek Ye for the Kingdom of God”

1. Jacob magnifies his calling from the Lord. (Jacob 1 :)

Helpful Insights

  • Jacob as an Emotional, Sensitive Leader: Jacob speaks of having "great anxiety" for his people (see Jacob 1:5). Thoughout the rest of the book Jacob makes frequent reference to having "axiety," or "grieving" for his people, and a number of other terms that indicate concern and compassion. All of this suggests that Jacob was an emotional and sensitive priesthood leader.
  • The Meaning of "Nephite" and "Lamanite": Readers of the Book of Mormon tend to read "Nephite" and "Lamanite" as genetic or tribal terms, but Jacob 1:13-14 suggests these were broader labels that carried political meaning. Those who were "not Lamanite" were Nephites, and those who sought to destroy the Nephites were Lamanites - a simple us/them dichotomy, typical of ancient societies.
  • The Seven Lineages/Tribes: Jacob 1:13 lists seven different tribal designations for the Lehites. This arrangement was still intact, in some sense, in Mormon's day (Mormon 1:8). This structure may have been arranged by Lehi himself, and may be (in some sense) analogous to the twelve tribes of Israel. There may also be some connection to Mesoamerican traditions which trace their origins back to seven lineages or tribes.
  • Where are the "Samites"?: When Jacob lists off the names of the different tribes, no mention is made of "Samites" or descendants of Sam. This could be because Sam was promised that "thy seed shall be numbered with his [Nephi's] seed" (2 Nephi 4:11), thus Jacob and later Nephite writers may have counted Sam's seed under the tribal term of "Nephites."

Potential Criticisms

Faith Affirmations

  • The "Heads" of Prophecies, Sermons, Etc.: Jacob tells the reader that Nephi instructed him to engrave the "heads" of the prophecies, revelations, and other sacred topics on the plates. These don't seem to be "headings" in the modern sense (since there are not any of these in the the book of Jacob), but the Hebrew word for head can be used for "chief" or "precious," giving it the meaning of "most important." This seems to be the sense in which Jacob uses the term "heads", which maybe evidence of the Hebrew background of the text.
    • John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, pg. 90.

2. Jacob warns against the love of riches, pride, and unchastity. (Jacob 2-3 :)

Helpful Insights

  • The Temple setting: The temple setting of Jacob's sermon suggests several things about the nature of the event. Besides the obvious implications of religious context, and spiritual/moral condemnation (rather than legal), it also suggests that it was a scheduled event, probably the day of a religious festival.
    • Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness, vol. 2, pg. 485-486.
  • Pending Destruction: Jacob says that if the wicked do not repent then the righteous will be lead away, and the remaining wicked will be destroyed and see the Lamanites take possession of their lands (see Jacob 3:3-4). While modern readers might tend to see the final destruction as the fulfillment of these, this probably has reference to the flight of Mosiah (the first) and his group from Nephi to the land of Zarahemla.
    • Brant Gardner, Second Witness, vol. 2, pg. 502

Potential Criticisms

Faith Affirmations

  • The Historical/Cultural Context: The juxtaposition of topics (wealth/pride and plural wives) and some of the specific details in Jacob's sermon can seem out of place or confusing for many readers. Some details don't seem to add up. But when Jacob's sermon is understood in the cultural context of Mesoamerica at that time, it all makes perfect sense. Flourishing trade at the time would have led to greater stratification and all the specific conditions mentioned by Jacob. At the same time, increasing ones wives and children lead to economic advantages and wives/daughters would often be exchanged with trade partners to establish binding trade relationships. Thus trade in Mesoamerica at the time of Jacob's sermon would have produced the specific condidtions required to make sense of Jacob's choice of topics and some of the specific details mentioned in the text.
  • Wars and Contentions: Jacob states at the end of his sermon that there were "wars" and "contentions" (Jacob 3:13). Long believed to have been a peaceful time among the Maya, this time period is now known to have experienced continuous warfare.
    • Brant Gardner, Second Witness, vol. 2, pg. 507-508

3. Jacob testifies of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (Jacob 4 :)

Helpful Insights

“Looking Beyond the Mark”: Jacob 4:14 accuses the unbelieving Jews of “looking beyond the mark”. In 19th century English, the English that Joseph Smith knew and into which the Book of Mormon was translated, the word “mark” meant something equivalent to today’s word “target”. Thus, the Jews were looking beyond the “target”. Some ancient Jewish and Christian religious documents use this same phrase (“beyond the mark”) in describing their religious rivals who they believe have gone astray, thus providing a parallel for Jacob’s use of this phrase in ancient times.

Faithful Affirmations

Jacob as a Pre-Reform Prophet: Some scholars believe that Jacob’s sermon in Jacob 4 reveals that Jacob was sympathetic to some pre-Deuteronomic Reform Israelite beliefs. When Jacob speaks of “Jews” in Jerusalem, he likely has in mind a certain group of Deuteronomic Jewish reformers, not all Jews. Some of the themes that Jacob discusses in his sermon, but which were despised by these Jewish reformers in Jerusalem, include God’s association with “wisdom”, the vision of God, the relationship of Yahweh to El as a son/father relationship, and of prophetic knowledge of past and future things. Jacob was not raised in Jerusalem, but he likely learned some of these themes and of the controversies in Jerusalem from Lehi and Nephi.