Wednesday, April 25, 2012

2 Nephi 3: Overestimation

Lehi now turns his attention to his youngest son, Joseph.  This chapter mentions four Josephs (apparently the writer of the Book of Mormon really liked the name):  the son of Lehi, Joseph of Egypt, Joseph Smith Jr. and Joseph Smith Sr.

Joseph Smith (Junior) apparently used this chapter to bolster his reputation by weaving in some hefty prophecies about himself.  Some of these prophecies are...problematic.

Joseph Overestimates Himself
In verse 7, Joseph of Egypt prophesies that Joseph Smith will be a "choice seer" of Joseph's descent who will be "highly esteemed" among Joseph's descendants.  Considering that the tribes of Israel have been scattered and it's difficult to know who is descended from which tribes (if any), this is a pretty useless statement to make.

Unless, of course, you go with the adoption principle the Church teaches, in which members are "grafted in" to the tree of Israel regardless of their ancestry and told which tribe they now belong to in their patriarchal blessings.  That would mean that being "highly esteemed" among Joseph's descendants would include being "highly esteemed" in the church.  But considering that Joseph of Egypt lived thousands of years ago, his descendants must be staggering in number, and the 26,000 members of the church at the time of Joseph Smith's death, even if they all loved him dearly, would only represent a negligible fraction of Joseph's seed.  And considering how many enemies Smith had, I don't think it's fair to say that there are very many people outside of his church who held him in high regard.

If you are highly esteemed by a tiny percentage of a group, is it accurate to say that you're highly esteemed by the group in general?

I guess it could be referring to the claim that Lehi was of the house of Joseph and so, therefore, are the Native Americans.  But where's all the love for Joseph Smith among the Native Americans?  Again, it seems to be a very small part of the group.

Joseph Overestimates the Book of Mormon
In verse 12, Joseph prophesies that the book of Judah's tribe (the Bible) and the book written by Joseph's seed (the Book of Mormon) will  "grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins."

The Bible and the Book of Mormon together have not confounded false doctrines or laid down contentions.  There's no obviously correct interpretation of scripture now that there are two testaments of Jesus Christ.  Doctrines still vary and continue to branch out, and the presence of the Book of Mormon has increased the amount of contention in the Christian world.

As far as peace among Joseph's descendants...if you go with the Lamanite interpretation of that phrase, then perhaps there's a certain level of peace among the Native Americans now...although there was plenty of strife and slaughter during Joseph Smith's lifetime and for decades after.  So there may be peace among the fruit of Joseph's loins, but it came after a long period of war and unrest.  If you interpret the phrase broadly, including every person on the planet who is descended from Joseph...who knows if there's peace?

Joseph Overestimates his Notability
In this chapter, Joseph Smith compares himself to Moses (verse 9:  "And he shall be great like unto Moses") and Joseph of Egypt (verse 15:  "And his name shall be called after me.... And he shall be like unto me...").

Talk about an ego.  I suppose it makes sense from a certain perspective--Smith needed his followers to think he was friggin' awesome.  So in his made-up scripture, he uses a familiar Biblical character to "prophesy" of his life and his awesomeness and to compare him to another revered Biblical character.  That makes it that much more difficult for one of Smith's followers to dare defy him or question his authority.

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