Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:6:7:Jacob's farewell

Jacob's farewell

Jacob's farewell

The cost the wilderness exacted on Jacob is most evident in his final farewell. His parting words express the accumulated sorrows of a life of struggle: "I conclude this record . . . by saying that the time passed away with us, and also our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream, we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren, which caused wars and contentions; wherefore, we did mourn out our days" (Jacob 7:26). By now it should be clear how in substance and style this leave-taking could only be written by Jacob, of all Book of Mormon authors. It fits the facts of his life as a man, and it captures his sensitivity, vulnerability, and eloquence as a writer.

Jacob's tone here is very different from that of his brother's powerful farewell. Where Jacob ended quietly and on a minor key of distress, Nephi concluded with timpani rolls and cymbal clashes: "I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus." Nephi was all confidence: "I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat"; his words challenge us to be righteous, as he had his older brothers: "You and I shall stand face to face before his bar." His last statement restated his lifelong commitment to absolute obedience; it could serve as an epitaph: "For thus hath the Lord commanded me, and I must obey" (2 Nephi 33:6-7, 11, 15). Nephi's farewell never fails to move me.

Jacob's words are no less moving but in a very different way. Jacob, too, felt assured of personal salvation. He looked forward to meeting the reader at the "pleasing" judgment bar of God (Jacob 6:13). But his farewell seems much less optimistic about the salvation of others: "O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life. O be wise; what can I say more? Finally, I bid you farewell, until I shall meet you before the pleasing bar of God, which bar striketh the wicked with awful dread and fear. Amen" (Jacob 6:11-13).

No other Book of Mormon author uses the term dread. No one else uses lonesome, nor can I imagine any other Book of Mormon author writing "our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream," or "we did mourn out our days." None is so open about anxiety, none so poetic. No wonder Neal Maxwell called Jacob a prophet-poet. Jacob is a poet whose voice I've learned to love and whom someday I hope to meet.[1]


  1. John S. Tanner, "Jacob and His Descendents as Authors," 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 6.