On Laman, Lemuel, and that angel

It’s a well-worn Mormon trope that Laman and Lamuel were a couple of halsstarrige gangsters. Exhibit A: L&L are beating Nephi and Sam with sticks; an angel appears and gives them a rollicking; L&L begin anew their murmuring ways. “How,” we ask, exasperated, “could anyone see an angel and not be spurred on to ecstatic moral heights?”

Well.

When you read the scene in 1 Nephi 3, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Probably a Gabriel/Moroni-style angel, resplendent in dazzling white, freshly arrived via a conduit to the celestial worlds. If this is indeed how the angel appeared, then Laman and Lemuel were bounders and cads of the first order.

But there is nothing in the text which demands such a reading. All we have is the following: “an angel of the Lord came and stood before them, and he spake unto them…And after the angel had spoken unto us, he departed.”

In the Hebrew Bible, “angel” means simply “messenger (mal’ak) of God.” Reading backwards, we syncretise all such messengers into the mass of cherubic hosts, but there is no reason to read every mal’ak as being of the Metatron type. Hebrews (13:2) tells us that some have “entertained angels without knowing it,” and the Patriarchs conversed with angels who appeared as ordinary men. (As far as the Sodominians could tell, the angels hosted by Lot were just three ordinary blokes.)

Thus, the angel of 1 Nephi 3 may have appeared simply as a traveller along a dusty path, commanding enough respect to cause the brothers to cease their beatings yes, but not enough to awaken them from their moral stupor and recognised as an “angel” as such only by holy Nephi.

In other words, I wonder whether when picturing this angel we should think of  Ben Kenobi in Beggar’s Canyon rather than this.

Comments

  1. Perhaps you are minimizing the angel? Since Nephi himself asks the same question in chapter 4:

    3 Now behold ye know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore can ye doubt?

    I think it speaks of Nephi’s style of writing. Although I know it is difficult for most Mormons to analyze Nephi critically, he is quite a bit egocentric (and narcissistic) and fails to truly describe his siblings in a three dimensional aspect ratio when it comes to their personalities.

    He fails to explain Laman and Lemuel, instead he pictures them as these irrational villains who can simply not be touched by anything. And thus we see Nephi is human too, and like everyone else, he finds it easier to dwell in the victim style rhetoric when it comes to describing his trials as most people tend to do.

  2. Elusive,
    Perhaps Nephi understood the experience very differently to L&L, as you say.

  3. Well, the angel clearly had knowledge that a random person wouldn’t have (“your younger brother”, “the Lord hath chosen him to be a ruler over you, and this because of your iniquities”) AND prophesied about Laban’s reactions. It had to be clear to them this wasn’t an ordinary person.

    That said, I don’t buy into the idea that L&L were completely evil, bent on destroying all that is good. I think they’re a good example of what can happen when you fail to hunger and thirst after righteousness and, instead, hunger and thirst after riches. Being impoverished by their father, they naturally lashed out at him and his (apparently) favored son. I’m not saying that’s a good excuse, but I can understand why they might feel the way they seem to.

  4. Great post, Ronan. Always glad to see your postings. I like this angle because that verse in the book of Hebrews about entertaining angels unaware has always sort of bugged me. And it also tends to strengthen Elder Holland’s recent talk about “angels among us.”

    Other than on the road to Emmaus, where the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, I’m trying to think of other “angelic” visitations in the scriptures where the messenger might have been less than cherubic and more everyday…thinking…

  5. Eric Russell says:

    Whatever word Nephi used when he wrote about it, Joseph Smith chose to use the word “angel” to express the concept in English. So the question is how the word “angel” was used in 19th Century New England. I haven’t OED access, but I’m sure a case could be made for range of meanings of the word.

  6. m,
    Oh, the angel clearly had some otherworldly mojo going on, but in a 6th century Judean world of extreme religiosity and mad prophets, meeting some Ben Kenobi character on the road outside of Jerusalem may not have been the game changing event we imagine an angelic visitation to be.

    Hunter,
    The patriarchal Old Testament has a few such examples. I think the 3 Nephites also count as “mal’ak Elohim“, no?

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Great insight, Ronan. And I agree with Elusive that Nephi was a bit of a self-righteous narcissist, and you’ve got to read him that way to get a full, three-dimensional picture of what was going on.

  8. Just echoing Elusive and Kevin. There are a lot of things that I think make much more sense when Nephi is viewed as a great prophet who also was a spoiled rich kid and his father’s favorite – kind of a Book of Mormon Joseph of Egypt. I wouldn’t be surprised if he viewed himself as such, minus the negative stuff we can read into it in hindsight.

    I’m not saying Laman and Lemuel weren’t jerks, but seeing them all as three-dimensional, real people is interesting.

  9. I’ve often thought about the fact that Nephi, even though he was a prophet, still was the writer and chief interpreter of his own history. I have no doubt that Laman and Lemuel were probably hard hearted and recalcitrant, but we get little sense of their humanity from Nephi’s account. Perhaps the most revealing part of their story comes when Nephi, trying to teach them after they have reached the shores of Bountiful, exclaim that “the lord make no such thing known unto us”. They don’t get Nephi, he doesn’t get them.

    Whatever happened outside Jerusalem that night, it is pretty clear that Laman and Lemuel did not perceive it the same way that Nephi did.

  10. By the way, I think this would make an excellent lead-in to a discussion during Gospel Doctrine class. The instructor could display the image of the angel appearing to Joseph Smith, then a quick explanation about the meaning of the word “angel” in Hebrew, and then ask how this might change our perceptions about Laman and Lemuel’s reaction to the “angelic” visitation.

    But alas, I am not currently Gospel Doctrine teacher. So, my stealing of this idea is delayed for a while. [grin]

  11. This vignette bespeaks a larger problem in Nephi’s narrative, alluded to more clearly in Elusive’s comment: Nephi’s characterization of Laman and Lemuel is incredibly biased, unfair, and single-dimensional. As much as Nephi wishes to portray them as irredeemably wicked (thereby justifying his own claim on birthright authority and the relics of political legitimacy, not to mention his break with L&L and the position of his and Jacob’s families within Nephite society), the best he can do is label them as malcontents and murmerers, older-brother-bullies, and people who sometimes made empty threats.

    What his narrative cannot undo, despite his efforts to minimize or ignore it, is the fact that L&L did, in fact, leave behind their property and position in Jerusalem, did follow their father into the wilderness, did return for the plates (and later for brides), and did endure the journey to the promised land. If we even begin to try to imagine their perspective (and that of their descendants) it is at once evident why they considered Nephi to be a self-righteous kissass, a power hungry usurper, and a thief.

    I’m not saying that the Lamanite perspective on Nephi is a valid one, just suggesting that it is no more or less valid than a Nephite perspective on Laman or Lamanite heritage.

  12. Ivan Wolfe says:

    I haven’t OED access, but I’m sure a case could be made for range of meanings of the word

    I have OED access. Without taking a stance in this debate, here are the range of meaning in the 19th century (There are other meanings, but I’m leaving out the ones that don’t have a 19th century citation in the OED):

    I. 1. a. A ministering spirit or divine messenger; one of an order of spiritual beings superior to man in power and intelligence, who, according to the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and other theologies, are the attendants and messengers of the Deity.

    c. A guardian or attendant spirit: lit. in sense 1; but also rhet. without implying any belief in their reality, as ‘her good angel,’ ‘my evil angel triumphed,’ ‘angel of innocence, repentance.’

    d. fig. A person who resembles an angel either in attributes or actions; (a) a lovely, bright, innocent, or gracious being; (b) a minister of loving offices.

    II. from the literal sense of Gr.
    2. Any messenger of God, as a prophet, or preacher. [A Hellenism of the Bible and theological writers; sometimes an affected literalism of translation.]

    3. Title of the pastor or minister of a church, in the apocalypse, Eccles. Hist., and in some modern sects, as the Catholic Apostolics.

    4. poet. A messenger generally; fig. in angel of death, formerly used literally in sense 1.

    Make of it what you will.

  13. Which is all a way of saying: Like it or not, each of us has far, far more in common with L&L than we want to believe.

  14. I’ve always sort of found myself relating better to Laman and Lamuel than to Nephi. I too struggle with faith and believing, and I get sort of upset that Nephi gives them such a hard time. What is clear to someone for whom faith and divine experiences come easily is not always so for those who struggle.

  15. Nephi doesn’t give them that hard of a time publicly, in all actuality. When they try to kill him he frankly forgives them.

    Also, this is Nephi’s personal diary. He’s supposed to be egocentric.

  16. Oh, and Ronan, I really like this reading!

  17. Interesting post. It’s interesting that we tend to let biblical characters be complex (Eve, David, Solomon, Peter . . .) but not Book of Mormon characters.

    Another instance where the narrative in the Book of Mormon shows us we’re not getting a fair account of the Lamanites: when Jesus rebukes the Nephites, including Nephi, for failing to include the teachings of Samuel the Lamanite in their records. (3 Nephi 23:9-13) Even the prophets couldn’t recognize the truth when it was taught by a mere Lamanite.

  18. General philosophy: Always be suspicious of first-person narratives. Nobody tells exact history, just what they perceived and remembered–and they always get something wrong. I love the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau is portrayed as a man guided by hunger and eager to fight, but turns out to be generous and to have loved and missed his brother.
    Angels? I sorta doubt they really look anything like what we’ve imagined.

  19. I rather liked Orson Scott Card’s interpretation of Nephi and his brothers in Memory of Earth (and its sequels). His Nephi (Neyef) is precociously self-centered, but he means well and he struggles to overcome his egotism. His brothers, especially Laman (Elemak) are three-dimensional characters with (mostly) believable motivations. It’s not gospel doctrine :-) but it’s worth a read.

    The culture of Nephi, his family, and their descendants is NOT identical to modern American culture. The hotly worded denunciations and death threats against Nephi may not have been as serious as they appear to us.

    Finally, it’s important to remember the purpose of the Small Plates. They were written near the end of Nephi’s life under the Lord’s direction as a teaching tool for his descendants and for us. I think he wanted to teach as clearly as possible about God, His plan, and His goodness to those who follow Him using his father’s life and his own as examples. You can’t call his record an autobiography.

  20. TA Esplin says:

    Miraculous events in 1 Nephi 16, 17, and 18 only temporarily influence Laman and Lemuel, which reinforces the perception that they were recidivists who ignore divine warnings. Nephi could be using Laman and Lemuel to invite readers to examine what miracles we ignore.

    Interestingly, Laman disputes that “angels have ministered unto” Nephi in 1 Nephi 16:38.

  21. Aaron Brown says:

    I solemnly and piously proclaim that the Angel in this story had wings, a white robe, and levitated 3 feet above the ground, and no amount of philosophies of men will make me believe different.

    AB

  22. Laman and Lemuel had taken the view from the start that that they were following a fool of a father who had taken leave of his senses, all of a sudden finding fault with his neighnors who really weren’t all that bad; and then abandoning his house and all their property and valuables in order to chase his own imagination off into the desert. At first, this don’t seem all that different from a lot of ordinary skeptics, but they kept coming back to this view even with repeated experience with the miraculous.

    It’s commonly understood, and I’ve seen often enough that what’s convincing has more to do with the predisposition of who is being convinced than it does with the nature of the evidence.

    I can also easily believe that seeing visions and miracles may do very little to change a predisposition to disbelieve. It’s all too easy to forget, ignore, explain away, or even deny personal experience that doesn’t fit what we want to believe. Apparently that, too, gets easier with practice. The appearance of the angel may not have made any significant difference.

  23. It certainly fits in with Peter, James and John when visiting Adam.

  24. I like the “dusty traveler” idea, though it’s probably contradicted by Nephi’s reminder to his brothers just a little bit later on that “how is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?” (1 Ne 7:10). It is true that Laman tries the “mass hypnosis” explanation (1 Ne 16:38), but Nephi again reminds them of what they’ve seen (1 Ne 17:45).

    As for Nephi’s history, remember that he’s writing this 30-40 years after the fact and that (I believe) he’s largely writing it to explain to future generations the schism and why he took the brass plates, Liahona, and sword of Laban; in effect, why the law of primogeniture was overridden in this case. Note that hundreds of year later, the Lamanites still consider Nephi a robber, a more serious charge that simple theft (cf. Mos 10:16-17; Alma 20:13).

    I would put up a few arguments that counter, or at least soften, the claims of narcissism. First, Nephi includes all of Lehi’s patriarchal blessings upon family members — except for his (Nephi’s) own, though Lehi must certainly have given Nephi a blessing as well. Second, Nephi abruptly breaks off his account of the schism with “Nephi’s psalm” (2 Ne 4:16-35), in which he mostly laments his own anger, weakness and sinfulness. Third, Nephi reject the title of king that his people wanted him to accept (2 Ne 5:18), and outside of a few brief details in 2 Ne 5, never really talks about his “reign” (as per the start of 1 Ne; the subtitle to 1 Nephi, “His reign and ministry”, appears to have come off the plates; cf Skousen, vol. 4, part one, pp. 43-44). In fact, all of Nephi’s history ends after 2 Ne 5; the rest of 2 Ne is all sermons, readings from Isaiah, prophecy, and testimony.

    So, yeah, Nephi doesn’t always come out looking great in his own history, in spite of his clear efforts to set the stage for his assumption of the birthright from Lehi. But that underscores his own humanity and complexity. ..bruce..

  25. I see the older, contemplative Nephi as the matured version of the younger, fiery Nephi. I just wonder what the famliy dynamic might have been if he had been more like his later self during the early years.

    What I like the most from the historian’s perspective (as opposed to the believer’s view) is the real family that we see in the record – and I wonder if the struggle of which we read in 2 Nephi 4 is due in large part to his own reflection on what might have been if he had been more mature at an earlier age.

    Speculation, definitely, but I still love the peek into a complex family we get – and I think we miss a lot of possibilities if we don’t consider, at least, the nuances that seep through in the narrative. When I used the description (“spoiled rich kid”), I didn’t mean it as an insult in any way whatsoever – and I am impressed, deeply, at the change I sense in him as his account unfolds.

  26. I’d add one other clue along the lines of Brad’s #11. It seems Laman permitted his kids to have a blessing at the hands of his father, who apparently thought Lehi was nuts BEFORE he made his family stumble around in the desert for several years and almost dying on a boat headed to who-knows where.

    Or, as an alternative theory goes, maybe Lehi wasn’t being totally honest when he told Laman that he’d only let the grandkids eat healthy snacks during their sleepover, and snuck in a pivotal patriarchal blessing for the kiddies between watching unapproved movies, and then conveniently “forgetting” to tell mom or dad after the fact…

  27. From a simple family dictionary printed a dozen miles from the Smith farm:

    Angel, . . . a messenger; a spirit employed by God in human affairs; a beautiful person; a piece of ancient money [. . . Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary . . . Abridged . . . (Canandaigua, New York: Printed and Sold by J. D. Bemis & Co. . . . , 1824), p. 25 (no other definitions given)]

  28. ‘we should think of Ben Kenobi in Beggar’s Canyon’

    If this is right why wasn’t Nephi given a light-saber? That would have been useful not only for freeing himself from his brothers bonds, but building the ship (tree chopping would be a breeze). Or . . . was the Sword of Laban a subtle reference to a light-saber? It did remove Laban’s head rather effortlessly.

  29. Mark Brown says:

    In Mormon lingo, it is common to refer to one’s mother as “my angel mother”. General conference speakers do this all the time.

    Therefore, we can assume that the angel which rebuked Laman and Lemuel was actually Sariah. She told then to quit hitting their little brother, just like she already had a thousand times before. So that is why they ignored her, just like they had a thousand times before.

  30. Angels in nineteenth century were usually mystical spirits–the Hebrew usage Ronan describes was nto well understood from what I can see in the sources. However, JSJ himself at least a couple of times described encounters with angelic beings that he did not appreciate as angels immediately (the stray wanderer he said was Moroni, e.g.).

  31. Laman and Lemuel had taken the view from the start that that they were following a fool of a father who had taken leave of his senses…

    Then why did they follow him? They were grown men who presumably stood to loose an awful lot by following their crazy, visionary father into the wilderness rather than assuming control of the family fortune and continuing to enjoy high society in cosmopolitan Jerusalem.

  32. From reading the comments, I’d say that at least a few of the diatribes on Nephi stem from those reading their own interpretations of his actions into his account…all couched in very impressive, “objective” intellect. I read the comments about Nephi being biased, unfair, and a spoiled rich kid, and I see people who have inserted meaning to a text that perhaps wasn’t there to begin with that better agrees with their own preconceived notions.

    On the original post, it would not surprise me in the least if Ronan’s hypothesis is true; it would also not surprise me if it were completely wrong. Either way, the point in the comments has been made that it is up to us to see within us both Nephi’s willful obedience and L&L’s tendency towards the natural man, and choose which we will cultivate and encourage.

  33. Hang tough, Aaron (#21). Don’t let the wise guys get you down.

    I’d like to add to your statement by speculating that the angel’s name might actually have been Zelph, though I suppose we’ll never really know.

  34. Following the logic presented here then one could make the case that Jesus was egocentric and his Fathers favorite therefore Lucifer was not all evil and we need to take a new look at him. We can make excuses for Laman and Lemuel and try to diminish Nephi…but L&L did try repeatedly to kill Nephi and even their father Lehi…and maybe angels aren’t really angels after all.

  35. L&L did try repeatedly to kill Nephi and even their father Lehi…

    Threatening is not the same as trying.

  36. great stuff Ronan — I agree, a plausible reading.

  37. skeptical says:

    I didn’t say threaten…I said tried…and if the power of God hadn’t stopped them I believe they would have killed him.

  38. skeptical says:

    Great post Adam F (#32) I too see people inserting meaning into the text that fits their own preconcieved notions. It is an ongoing story that allows us to decide who we will choose to follow…the Savior or the natural man.

  39. Brant Gardner says:

    I try to insist that one read the text as though it were ancient and not push modern conceptions on it, and here I have been guilty of that in my perception of the angels. I should have known better, but I’m really glad for this reading. It makes a lot of sense.

    As for the way Nephi uses the incident, it is also important to remember that Nephi is telling this story for a particular purpose and casting the story into a specific argument. I doubt that we ought to read any of his statements as absolutely accurate accounts of what was said in these occasions. I suspect they are more like what should have been said than what really was said.

  40. #32 & #38 – Just because I read an ancient story and try to understand why it happened as it happened, doesn’t mean I am trying to “insert meaning into the text that fits their own preconceived notions.” It only means I’m trying to understand by parsing the text, considering the context and looking for the bigger picture that makes the most sense.

    Lionizing someone and demonizing someone else (creating two-dimensional caricatures) rarely yields answers that actually work in many three-dimensional situations. How might we view Nephi without 2 Nephi 4 – and why is it a bad thing to wonder what caused his DEEP anguish in that chapter? How is a negative thing to consider the family dynamic of a youngest son who insisted on leading his family and rebuking his older brothers?

    I wonder about a lot of things, because I know I don’t know much – and I look for things that will help me understand and be more compassionate (less judgmental) with others. For example, was Lehi a traveling merchant – as Nibley believed? If so, was he gone for long periods of time while the older kids were growing up and, therefore, never developed a close relationship with his older boys? Was he retired by the time Nephi was a very young man, and did he dote on him like Jacob doted on Joseph? Did the tension among the brothers go deeper than just an easy “good guy / bad guy” stereotype?

    I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think they are worth considering – and I am saddened, frankly, by statements that such questions show the questioner is choosing to follow the natural man. That conclusion simply makes no sense to me, since I’ve never associated an inquisitive mind and a sincere attempt to understand people and cut them some slack in how I judge them (based on a one-sided recitation of history, even written by someone I accept as a prophet)to be a sign that I’m rejecting the Savior. I don’t get it; I truly don’t get it.

  41. Laman and Lemuel had taken the view from the start that that they were following a fool of a father who had taken leave of his senses…

    Then why did they follow him?

    Go back and (re)read Nibley’s chapter, “Man vs. Man” (ch 19) in An Approach to the Book of Mormon, where he compares the various tensions and struggles in Lehi’s family with known intra-family behavior among nomadic Arabs. He gives particular attention to the “I hate my father but need to follow him anyway” syndrome. The lure of primogeniture and the tradition of filial obedience are both pretty strong. ..bruce..

  42. That’s a very helpful reference, Bruce. Thanks.

  43. skeptical says:

    Ray–no one said that those questioning were following the natural man…we said that the text in the story of L&L and Nephi is an object lesson for our day about choices. No one said questioning is rejecting the Savior…but drawing conclusions based on speculation really doesn’t get us anywhere…it’s a pretty large jump from the text to say Nephi is egocentric and narcissistic…and he didn’t insist on rebuking his older brothers or leading over them…the angel clearly said that he was chosen to be a leader over them because of their iniquities. Who was it that placed a curse of dark skin on L&L and those that followed them and their posterity because of their hard hearts and blind eyes…certainly family dynamics played a part but in the end this was about making choices.

  44. Skeptical, using the angel’s appearance to Nephi as evidence that Nephi wasn’t an ego-maniac doesn’t hold up as an argument, seeing as how it was NEPHI who wrote that particular account. Not that I’m saying he was or wasn’t (it’s a darn juicy question, regardless), it’s just a poor argument.

  45. Who was it that placed a curse of dark skin on L&L and those that followed them and their posterity because of their hard hearts and blind eyes…

    Nobody, probably.

    Fwiw:

    Reflections from a Mixed-Race Family

  46. Skeptical says:

    james…I was not using the angel’s appearance to argue Nephi’s personality traits…only to point out the reason he was chosen to be a leader over his older brothers…now if you believe the angel didn’t appear or that he didn’t say what Nephi reported him to say then the argument isn’t valid.
    Ray…2nd Nephi 5:21…and I have read the article you noted and no where does it contradict 2nd Nephi…however the author does…did Nephi make this up as well?…did Nephi tell any truth? Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth and the Lord said it was translated correctly and that it came from him…who are we to believe?

  47. #46 – We can believe Nephi and the Lord both and not believe that every word in it is objective truth. There’s a HUGE difference between “objective” and “true” and “translated correctly” – especially when Nephi himself says he made it “according to my own knowledge” (1 Nephi 1:13), and Moroni said he wrote “according to my memory” (Ether 5:1).

    When it comes to the BofM, I am a literalist in most ways. I just don’t believe it is God’s very own words written by man – and none of the writers claimed that either. In other words, I don’t believe it is the Mormon version of the evangelical, inerrant Bible. In fact, there are multiple pleas to overlook the mistakes in it as a result of the weakness of the authors and their inability to say it perfectly. (See Ether 12:23, where Moroni says that the Gentiles will mock because the Lord did NOT make them mighty in writing, but actually made them weak in writing.) You appear to be holding the BofM to a standard that the authors themselves would reject.

  48. Ray…It seems as a leteralist you are saying that you or others can discount or discredit any part of the Book of Mormon that may not agree with your thinking or a current position of the day. It is not my standard I’m declaring but the standard of the writers, Joseph Smith and the Lord. The writers gloried in plainness so that we cannot misunderstand and that we cannot err (their words)…it was written because many plain and precious things have been taken from the Bible…the Lord doeth nothing save it be plain unto men…these writings shall come forth to confound false doctrine and to end disputations…this theme is far more prevelant and is testified to so many more times than the few statements of concern by the writers about their weakness in writing…in fact the Lord warns of our day that “men will not understand great knowledge when given them in plainness” Add to these the prophet Jposeph Smith’s declaration that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth and that a man will get closed to God by abiding its precepts than any other book. Jesus himself testified that the book of Mormon contains the truth and the Word of God.

  49. skeptical says:

    Ronan…to your question “How could anyone see an angel and not be spurred on to ecstatic moral heights?” The three witnesses to the Book of Mormon saw the angel Moroni and hefted the plates which he showed them and yet they left the church and for many years had nothing to do with it.
    We have been taught by prophets and apostles that the witness of the Holy Ghost is the sure witness. The scriptures and church history are filled with accounts of people being visited by a angels of glory with the experience having only a temporary effect on them.

  50. “you are saying that you or others can discount or discredit any part of the Book of Mormon that may not agree with your thinking or a current position of the day.”

    skeptical, please feel free to go back through the Bloggernacle archives and read my comments about the Book of Mormon. It’s actually more than a bit comical that I would be accused of “discount(ing) or discredit(ing) any part of the Book of Mormon that may not agree with (my) thinking or a current position of the day”. I can overlook it, since you obviously aren’t familiar with my view of the Book of Mormon and my DEEP respect for its people and message, but I stand by my statement that the Book of Mormon is not God’s words to man’s mouth to the pen. It isn’t our version of the evangelical inerrant Bible. Accepting it as the most correct book on earth and the keystone of our religion (which I do) doesn’t mean it is a totally objective record. Those are two very different statements.

    For the record, just for you, I have a deep and abiding love and personal testimony of the Book of Mormon. I accept it as an ancient record, not “inspired fiction” or any other construct that would lessen its literalness as an ancient record of real prophets and peoples. I believe it is central to a sure conversion to the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and a fuller understanding of the Bible, and it enlightens and enlarges my soul on a regular basis. I use it in some way or another in almost every talk I give – and I give a lot of talks. I cite it and its teachings on my own blog regularly, as it is a major part of the “things of my soul”.

    Your assumption about how I view and read it is almost as far from the truth as it is possible to get. I read it over and over and over again to try to understand it better and more deeply, and NOTHING I have written in ANY of my comments in this thread does ANYTHING to lessen its validity, power, truthfulness or centrality to the modern Church. I don’t just read it; I ponder its words – and much of my wondering comes from that pondering. If actually thinking about the people who wrote it and who are described in it – if trying to understand them and their lives and their interactions – if wondering about why they did what they did – if seeing and treating them as real, complex, multi-dimensional people – if NOT assuming I know everything about them and attempting to understand them better – if diving into the book and trying to see its words in ways that will add meaning and power and personality and depth – if all of these things are bad things . . .

    I don’t understand your complaint. All I have said is that it is easy to see common familial interactions in the way that Nephi related to Laman and Lemuel and they related to him. It is easy to see why this intra-family conflict MIGHT have developed, especially if Nibley was correct in his beliefs about Lehi – and I think the evidence within the text strongly supports Nibley’s view. How is that negative in ANY way?

    I’ve not said once that Nephi wasn’t a prophet. I’ve not said once that his record is untrue or compromised or invalid or unworthy of respect and study. I’ve not said ANYTHING that is in ANY way derogatory or mocking or critical of the Book of Mormon. All I’ve said is that he actually was a real, complex person – someone worthy of trying to understand fully, not just as a totally, 100% righteous caricature with no faults or weaknesses or family issues. His own writing and descriptions of himself support my view, so how in the world is accepting him for who he appears to be (and who he appears to want us to see) a bad thing?

    Seriously, I just don’t understand your complaint about what I wrote, as you expressed it in your last comment. The person you describe and the tactics you attribute simply aren’t me. They aren’t even close to being me.

  51. skeptical says:

    Ray…I apologize…I may have misunderstood what you were saying & I meant no offense and I do agree with alot of what you say…sometimes misunderstanding does occur…Nephi was complex and had weaknesses and to the degree we can understand him then good. However, I think it does little good when all we can do is speculate. Many today do discount and discredit teachings in the Book of Mormom by speculating what the individual meant…I think you and I see some things differently…I hope we can meet someday.

  52. I hope we can meet someday.

    skeptical, I’d love that. If you are ever in the Cincinnati area, drop me a line on my personal blog before you get here.

  53. @29 … FWIW – The phrase “angel mother” only appears 11 times in the GC addresses on lds.org. And I can’t even think that I’ve noticed its use before.

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