The Vanishing Jaredite Battlefield
The characters—I mean, the historical figures—in this chapter don't know it yet, but the gold plates they found contain the story of the Jaredites, an earlier transplanted-Israelite-American-settlement. Verse 8 describes the location in which these plates were found:
...a land which was covered with bones of men, and of beasts, and was also covered with ruins of buildings of every kind...a land which had been peopled with a people who were as numerous as the hosts of Israel.This is hardly my most original point, but the commonly-posed question is fair—where are all those bones? In Ether, upwards of two million Jaredites were killed in battle. That's a lot of corpses and a lot of weaponry. That's a lot of people who used to live in homes and cities. That's a hell of a lot of archaeological evidence to simply not turn up. At over two million, the Jaredites had a population that rivaled the expanse of the Mayans and the Aztecs and maybe even the Incas. There is plentiful evidence of those nations. Why are there no Jaredite ruins—especially considering the Book of Mormon explicitly states that all the archaeological evidence we would ever need was there...at one point?
Limhi (n): gullible person
Limhi is so dumb. I just can't get over it.
Let's say you're a king (you know, hypothetically). And let's say a bunch of your subjects find a ruined civilization and massive battlefields strewn with skeletons. And let's say these subjects bring you a book they found among the wreckage. And let's also say that you know a guy who knows a guy who can probably figure out what the book says. What's your first reaction?
If you said, "wet myself with excitement over the enigmatic contents of the book and praise God!" then I have some bad news for you—you're probably a Limhi:
Doubtless a great mystery is contained within these plates, and these interpreters were doubtless prepared for the purpose of unfolding all such mysteries to the children of men.
O how marvelous are the works of the Lord...Look, Limhi: I get that you want to know what's written on those plates, but nothing you just said is "doubtless." It could be that the plates simply contain the boring genealogy of the destroyed civilization and no great mysteries. It could be that the fact that King Mosiah can probably translate the records is nothing more than coincidence. And let's not forget that you're giddy as a schoolgirl over some writings found in a place where a few million people slaughtered each other. Have a little respect for the dead.
Limhi is willing to believe pretty much anything. Doubtlessly his name must have become ancient American slang for a stupid person (see what I did there?). I'm picturing a Lamanite child coming home from school in tears because the other kids called him a "Limhi-butt" and a "curelom-face."
Joseph Smith Pulls a Melville—or Maybe a Wilde
In verses 13 through 18, the narrative goes off on a bit of a tangent about seers, prophets and revelators (but mostly seers). The definitions of each of the terms are pretty unimportant and certainly not central to our salvation, but for some reason they were laboriously etched into sheets of metal to be read in our day.
To be honest, it reminded me of that chapter in Moby-Dick when Melville goes on and on about the different kinds of whales or the chapter in The Picture of Dorian Gray when Wilde rambles about his character's new fascination with different kinds of fabrics and perfumes. Joseph Smith's tangent pales in comparison, as it's only a few verses, but it shares the same characteristic—the level of detail does not match the level of significance.
By the way, all seers are prophets but not all prophets are seers. It's kind of like a square-and-rectangle thing. In case you were wondering. And I'm sure you weren't.