More Book of Mormon journal comments --
27 Aug 2009
I just read through the first 11 chapters of 3 Nephi, and a comment about the nature of the Book of Mormon seems appropriate. In these chapters especially the black/white nature of the book is apparent. People are either righteous or they aren’t. Whole groups of people either convert or they don’t. The Gadianton robbers either infiltrate the government or the judicial system or they don’t. The Nephites either gather against the robbers or they don’t. The main characters like Nephi, Jacob, the Helamans, the Ammons, etc, are either righteous or they aren’t, Laman and Lemuel being exceptions, because as their story begins in 1 and 2 Nephi they are sometimes righteous and sometimes not. Possibly Lehi fits into this category also, because although he is a prophet he sometimes wavers and is confused about things.
Possibly this is due to the abridgement by Mormon, because 1 and 2 Nephi have more developed characters and include women, whereas the parts abridged by Mormon typically are black/white and only one woman, a Lamanite servant if memory serves, is called by name.
Contrast this to the New Testament, where Peter and the apostles are well-meaning but not generally with the program, and the 12 apostles are split 11/1 into righteous and unrighteous. Women abound, and gray areas abound.
We often speak of the Book of Mormon as the most correct book, yet the black/white nature and the absence of women doesn’t reflect our lives that well and the nuanced character of our testimonies. We can identify with Peter and Paul much better than we can identify with Nephi, who is clearly a cartoon character. Possibly Enos is a better fit, and possibly Alma, but the Book of Mormon characters are all firm in the faith and perform great deeds, while we limp along doing our best to figure out matters of faith. The Book of Mormon prophets spring forth fully formed in their faith, while Peter and Paul struggle to figure out the details.
For most people I think the New Testament is something they can relate to better. We can easily relate to Peter’s denial of Jesus, because we do that every day. The uncompromising faith of the Nephite prophets is less accessible.
29 Aug 2009
Having made it through 3 Ne 19 today I went back and re-read the accounts of Jesus’ ministry after his resurrection in the Bible in order to compare the accounts. 3 Ne has always left me kind of lukewarm before, because Christ lacks a certain sense of humility in 3 Ne that is present in the New Testament. I got more insight into that this morning.
In the New Testament Christ has 3 years to get his message across, to heal and to preach. He preaches openly to the multitude in the beginning and then to progressively smaller audiences (in general) because people come for the miracles and fall away because of his hard teachings. Plus it’s not safe for him to appear in public any more because of the opposition of the leaders. By the end of the New Testament he’s had the chance to teach those who will listen, and the only followers he has left is just a small number of disciples. Only the women have enough faith to actually go to the tomb and witness the resurrection firsthand.
By contrast, in 3 Ne the people have been through a whipsaw of faith and apostasy, over and over again. Even the disciples (apostles) need to start over and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
By the end of the New Testament Christ is appearing just to small numbers of people, whom he ministers to individually.
In 3 Ne he doesn’t have that luxury, because they haven’t had the personal visitations the New Testament crowd has had. He has to do the mass healings and baptisms because they haven’t had the opportunity to have those things. He has three years of ministry to pack into just a few days. He has to preach himself as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and heal and baptize, because there isn’t the time to toy around with parables as in the New Testament. Much of the flow of the New Testament is a winnowing out process, and this has already been done in 3 Ne. Those that didn’t believe are largely dead. People separated themselves out by belief, and like Sodom and Gomorrah the unbelievers were destroyed. The remainder are true believers.
Of course the difference in response is interesting. In 3 Ne all believe and all fall to the earth. In Matt 28:17 even as the great commission is being delivered some are doubting. Whether the doubters are among the apostles depends on your reading of the text, but it seems likely.
In the early chapters of 3 Ne people separate themselves into belief groups where people are either faithful or not, and the unfaithful are destroyed. This is much more black and white than in the New Testament, where the reaction is mixed. Even the disciples/apostles aren’t uniformly convinced. Jesus doesn’t put on the convincing performance at the end, raining destruction through earthquakes and floods and destroying unbelievers and leaving the rest gasping for breath. He merely says “put your hands into my side and feel my wounds and believe”. The resurrection is the “sign”, so perhaps there’s not the need for the convincing display found in 3 Ne. The wheat and tares are still growing together, whereas in the Book of Mormon the winnowing out is much further along.