Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2 Nephi 33: Nephi's Clumsy Closer

Ladies and gentlemen, here we have it--Nephi's parting words of wisdom.

The Written Word is Useless
Nephi seems to imply that oratory, not text, is what affects our hearts (verse 1):
And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.
Is Nephi/Joseph simply making an excuse for the crudeness of the Book of Mormon prose or is he saying that the written word has less power than the spoken word?  Is Nephi saying that the impact of reading the General Conference issue of the Ensign pales in comparison to seeing the conference live?  

That's what it seems like to me.  But then you'd have to wonder what the point of written scripture (like the Book of Mormon) would be.  If speech is what carries the power of the Holy Ghost, wouldn't it be preferable to mankind for scripture to be in the form of oral traditions?

Who Was This Written For Again?
Moving on to verse 3:
But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people.
The Book of Mormon is of great worth unto Nephi's people?  I thought it was written for us.  In fact, several chapters ago, I referenced a quote from President Ezra Taft Benson, in which the former Prophet says:
The second great reason why we must make the Book of Mormon a center focus of study is that it was written for our day.  The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times.  It was meant for us.  
So we have an ancient prophet saying that the Book of Mormon is of great worth unto his people and we have a modern prophet saying that his people never had the book because it was written specifically for the current age.  Which one of them is right?

I suppose the argument could be made that Nephi was talking about his descendants.  I think the limited church membership among Native Americans speaks for itself.  And then there's the fact that, when talking about his descendants, Nephi's preferred phrase seems to be "my seed" instead of "my people."

I suppose either Nephi or Benson was, as they say, speaking as a man instead of a prophet.

Another of Nephi's Logical Mindbenders
In verse 10, Nephi delivers another mental tongue twister reminiscent of his brilliant reasoning from the ninth chapter of his first book:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ.  And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
A simplified translation:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, complete task A and complete task B; and if ye complete not task A then complete task B.  And if ye shall complete task B then ye will have completed task A, for task B is the same task as task A.
A more intelligent, efficient way to relate the same sentiment:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, believe in Christ.  And believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.
Magic!  I've cut the word count by more than thirty percent, preserved the meaning of the verse, and saved Nephi and his editor some precious time spent slaving over a plate of gold to painstakingly etch the words of God into the metal surface.

Here at the end of his run, Nephi is seeming less and less inspired.

The Last Day is Too Late
Nephi immediately follows up that last bit with another doozy:
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye--for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.
This could be the single verse in the entire Book of Mormon that would piss me off the most if it turned out to be true.  I took Moroni's challenge many times, attempting to verify the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon according to the guidelines set forth in Moroni 10:4-5.  I was not granted an answer.  It was not confirmed to me that Nephi's words are the words of Christ.  So I'm picturing standing in front of God and Jesus after my death, waiting for my judgment.  And Jesus says to me, "By the way, the Book of Mormon is true."  And I will rage, "Thanks for telling me that now, after I've lived my entire life and it's too late to change anything!"

Thanks for that, Nephi.  It's really helpful to know that, after all the doubt and uncertainty we face in life, that after death we could have a divine "I told you so" coming.


And on that note, Nephi makes an end of his writing.

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