Tuesday, February 2, 2016

3 Nephi 2: The Great Un-Schism

I know that this will come as a huge shock to everyone, but the Nephites are wicked again.  For the five hundred eighty-seventh time in the last six hundred years.  

Redundancy in Language
I'm not even ten words into the chapter and I'm already shaking my head at the amateurish writing.  Observe the illustrious dawning of chapter two:
And it came to pass that thus passed away the ninety and fifth year also,
Stop.  Why do we need two phrases, each utilizing the verb pass, to indicate the expiry of one unit of time?  This is bad writing, plain and simple...or at the very least it's inefficient translation.  The first six words are completely unnecessary.

Interesting Choice of Calendar
This chapter explains that, yet again, the Nephites are getting more rotten as more time goes by.  They no longer believe that they witnessed miraculous signs of Christ's birth and they no longer believe that there will be any future signs in the heavens.  And then this happens (verse 8):
Now the Nephites began to reckon their time from this period when the sign was given, or from the coming of Christ; therefore, nine years had passed away.
It's been one hundred years since the beginning of the reign of the judges.  It's been six hundred nine years since Lehi left Jerusalem.  Why would the wicked Nephites decide to start measuring their time based on a miracle that the majority of them don't believe in, especially when they already have two long-established historical benchmarks to reference?  You don't see the US switching from anno domini to since the last sighting of Elvis.

It's Almost Heartwarming
As iniquity abounds, the feared Gadianton Robbers become so powerful that they are now capable of "[laying] waste so many cities."  It gets so bad that the Nephites and Lamanites largely set aside their differences and unite to defeat the Robbers in battle.  Their societies finally begin to blend, perhaps as an outward reflection of their ideological alliance.  And just when you think the Book of Mormon is turning into an ancient American Hallmark movie, verses 14 through 16 drop like the proverbial Acme anvil:
And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; 
And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites;
And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites. And thus ended the thirteenth year.
Ugh.  There we were, reveling in the Era of Good Feelings, and then the Book of Mormon has to ruin it by reminding us how racist it is.  Why did the Lamanites have to be numbered among the Nephites?  Why couldn't the Nephites be numbered among the Lamanites?  Or why couldn't they just have continued to coexist as peers, identified by their lineage without shame or stigma?

This is also an explicit confirmation that the curse placed upon them was, in fact, their skin color.  But it's okay now, because they've been righteous for a while and have been reunited with God's favorites, so their skin can turn white.  Now they can be hot again.

I suppose this is where the claim (supported by the prophet Spencer W. Kimball) that modern-day Native Americans' skin tones were lightening as they adopted the religious and cultural values of Mormons can find its genesis.


  1. It seems like a blessing that these Lamanite's curse was lifted and now they are among God's favorite and are white and delightsome. I've read the book and I know that the Nephites are going to be destroyed. That doesn't seem like a reward. Sure they get to be hot, but destroyed too.

    1. That's a good point. It just doesn't pay to be God's favorite.

    2. Congratulations on your Brodie Award for Their Works Shall Be in the Dark! It's a great book. I really enjoyed reading it.

      I grew up in a small Utah Town. I remember the program where Native American kids were taken from their homes to live with families in order to go to high school. I remember one girl in particular who came to the school, joined the church, lived in my ward, and eventually married a local guy. My mom used to point out, just like Spencer Kimball, how her skin was getting lighter. I hate how the leaders of the church taught those racist principles to good people like my mother and that my mother believed it.

    3. Thanks! I'm actually pretty pumped about the Brodie.

      This chapter seems to imply that the Lamanites' skin became lighter very quickly. The description of their curse being lifted is all contained within the summary of the thirteenth year following the sign of Christ. If that kind of thing had happened to modern-day Native Americans, I feel like the medical community would have stood up and taken notice. Like, research studies and headlines and stuff. Instead, all we got was biased anecdotal evidence like your Mom's and Kimball saying some of them were merely "several shades" lighter. The lifting of the curse in the modern day is pretty weak in comparison to its Book of Mormon description, even if you actually believe both happened.