Saturday, February 18, 2012

1 Nephi 7: Family Ties

Lower That Incest Quotient
Joseph Smith has reached another problem. He's got the basic direction of his plot planned out, but he hasn't hammered out the details before "translating" them for his scribe. And he realizes that he's about to send one family to the uninhabited American continent with zero options for populating it.

Well, there are options. But I'm betting the Book of Mormon wouldn't have caught on so well if it had glorified incest. The Bible did have at least one notable incident of incest (I'm thinking Lot and his daughters but there could be more, I don't really remember.) but the Bible had the advantage of being compiled over centuries and staying in circulation. The Book of Mormon just popped out of nowhere in the nineteenth century. Smith had already had his protagonist behead a defenseless sleeping guy so maybe he figured he'd created enough controversy for seven chapters.

Which is why, after leaving Jerusalem and going back to get the brass plates and leaving Jerusalem again, Nephi has to go back to the city one more time to get Ishmael's family. Ishmael apparently brings an extended family with him so that there can be lots of sex and lots of children in America...without any messy issues with incest. Great story-planning, Joe.

Nephi Is One Uppity Little Prick
Laman, Lemuel, and some of Ishmael's family rebel against the good guys as they're returning to Lehi's camp. Apparently not everybody was too keen on abandoning civilization. So Nephi gives a speech to convince them to continue. This speech includes this brilliant argument (verse 8):
Behold, ye are mine elder brethren, and how is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds, that ye have need that, I, your younger brother, should speak unto you, yea, and set an example for you?
Why, you little brat. You can't help but work in another "I'm younger than you, but I'm also better than you" jab? Looks like what that angel told Laman and Lemuel about living in Little Brother's shadow went to your head. It comes as no surprise, then, that this and other comments pissed Nephi's brothers off and they decided to tie him up and leave him to rot in the desert.

Begin the Miracle Parade
So Nephi prayed for strength to burst his bonds and--holy crap!--he hulks out enough to free himself. So far we've had a decent amount of visions and dreams and angels...but now we start the full-on miracles. Nephi bursts a length of cord by the power of God. Impressive, right?

Then, Nephi preaches at them again, tells them he forgives them, and advises them to pray to God for forgiveness. And thus, Nephi continues to be One Uppity Little Prick.

Either Nephi's an Idiot or Smith Writes Bad Characters
In verse 21, after Nephi says that he advised those who rebelled to pray for forgiveness, he adds, "And it came to pass that they did so." Not only does that strike me as modern phrasing (though I am in no way a linguistics expert) but it makes Nephi (or Joseph) look stupid.

As far as Nephi is concerned, it looks like he fell for it when his brothers pulled a fast one on him. They've tried to kill him twice now. They clearly don't trust any of the God-given revelation that Nephi or Lehi has received, and all they really want to do is go back to Jerusalem, and--I don't know--murmur and rebel. Because murmuring and rebelling is all they're good for. But yeah, I bet they poured their hearts out to God begging for forgiveness, just like Nephi said. Because they've exhibited such pious behavior in the past.

Psst...Nephi...they faked it. Watch your back, dude!

The other option is that Joseph Smith is a terrible writer. He either doesn't know his own characters or he doesn't put a lot of effort into keeping track of their motives and characteristics. Laman and Lemuel are bullies who are hardly given pause when a freaking angel comes down to tell them to lay off their brother. Why would Nephi wriggling out of his restraints and one of Ishmael's daughters switching sides in the argument change the fact that they hate Nephi and they wish he were dead? Inexplicably, though, they're suddenly happy little altar boys, praying for forgiveness and performing burnt offerings. I wrote stories that made more sense than this when I was in fourth grade.

Oh. Wait. Didn't Joseph Smith only have a third grade education or something?

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