Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:5:3:Exodus motif: Reasonable fears and foolish desires

Exodus motif: Reasonable Fears and Foolish Desires

Exodus motif: Reasonable Fears and Foolish Desires

The tough life in the two wildernesses led to fear of death, expressed several times in both the Book of Mormon and Exodus:

[Nephi:]
This he spake because of stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious thing, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart (1 Nephi 2:11; see also 1 Nephi 5:2; 16:35).
[Moses:]
They said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? ({{b||Exodus|14:11, see also Numbers 21:5).

This fear of death was perhaps justified given the circumstances. It was expressed as the statement that it would have been better to have died before they had gone into the wilderness:

[Nephi:]
Thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath lead us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions (1 Nephi 17:20).
[Moses:]
The children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger (Exodus 16:3).
All the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregations said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt (Numbers 14:2).

At particularly stressful moments (for example, in the Book of Mormon at the death of Ishmael or in the Bible upon hearing the spies report the risks of attacking the Canaanites in the promised land), an unwise desire was expressed to return to the place they had left:

[Nephi:]
The daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger. And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem (1 Nephi 16:35-36).
[Moses:]
All the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).

Note the striking similarity between the two occasions: there was crying and mourning, followed by murmuring, which finally culminated in the desire to return. This desire was irrational because, in both cases, to return could have meant death. The children of Israel likely would have been punished for the death of Pharaoh's host in the Red Sea, while Nephi, Laman, Lemuel, and Sam could well have been punished for the killing of Laban in Jerusalem.

That such fears and desires would be felt during such a difficult journey need not surprise us, but Nephi described these fears and desires in terms that remind us of the experiences of the children of Israel during their flight from Egypt. His purpose was to highlight the spiritual aspects of the events he experienced, and, from the way he highlighted them, it appears as though he was influenced by the wording of the Exodus account.[1]

Notes

  1. ↑ Terrence L. Szink, "Nephi and the Exodus," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 5.