Saturday, December 1, 2012

2 Nephi 25: A Little Breather

Nephi's almost done parroting Isaiah.  Almost.

But at least he takes a short break to explain himself.  And explain a little Isaiah.

Nephi Miscalculates
Nephi says that he has not taught his people "after the manner of the Jews."  Considering he's just spent a few dozen pages quoting Isaiah's poetic blocks of prophesies drenched in Jewish cultural references, he has the good sense to acknowledge that "the words of Isaiah are not plain" to them.

So why did he copy down chapter after chapter of Isaiah?  For us, of course.  Because, according to Nephi, the words of Isaiah "shall be of great worth unto them in the last days; for in that day shall they understand them; wherefore, for their good have I written them."

Sorry, buddy.  The average person in 2012 is just as ignorant (if not more so) than your fledgling offshoot society.  Nobody knows what the golden wedge of Ophir is.  Nobody knows what it means to fly on the shoulders of the Philistines.  Nobody understands Isaiah except the people who have devoted a serious amount of time (like, possibly the length of a postgraduate degree) to the study of ancient culture or Bible scholarship.  I'm not really sure how well those people really understand it, anyway.  At that level, it's probably pretty easy to fake it believably.

Works, Grace, Both or Neither?
In verse 23, Nephi opens up a little can of works...I mean, a little can of worms. He makes the claim that "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."  As if the works/grace conflict weren't already messy enough, Joseph Smith had to throw his own little spin on it.  That last little prepositional phrase complicates an otherwise straightforward sentence unfettered by doctrinal nuance.

I still don't know what the official doctrine of the church is concerning faith and works.  I do have clear memories of, amid religious debates among friends, advocating the necessity of both.  I had this sense, at the time, that I was the only one who was really seeing through the complexities of the argument to the simple truth.  One friend would be adamant that grace was what saved us, another would be equally as vehement that without good works you get nothing, and I'd be sitting in the middle being brilliant--"Guys, guys, what if you're both right?"

I think maybe this verse works as evidence toward Smith's inability to control himself.  He could have made it simple, but he couldn't stop himself from adding a little more information than was really necessary.  "God has instructed me to restore his church to the earth and return the power of the Priesthood" is a perfectly reasonable thing to say until you end the sentence with "and I get to sleep with anybody I want."

Passive-Aggressive Much?
Observe the beauty contained in verse 28:
I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand.  And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not...
Translation?  "I'm making sure you can have no plausible deniability.  You know exactly what's expected of you so you can't whine when you get THRUST DOWN TO HELL FOR NOT BEING CHRISTIAN ENOUGH."  Nephi, apparently, is the kind of guy who will throw the rule-book at you right before he screws you with it.  Lump this in with the fact that he's an arrogant prick, a self-aggrandizing jerk, and a murderer and I kind of wonder why he thinks he has the right or the expertise to teach anyone about how to get into heaven.

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