Monday, March 28, 2016

3 Nephi 7: The Return of Nephi

The shocking development that I spoiled in my discussion of the previous chapter comes to pass:  the chief judge has been murdered by wicked members of yet another secret combination!  Cue the downward spiral of iniquity, tribalism, and political turmoil.

Yeats, Tennyson, Eliot...and Smith
Our favorite farm boy from Vermont allows his poetic prowess to leak into the scripture in verse 8:
And thus six years had not passed away since the more part of the people had turned from their righteousness, like the dog to his vomit, or like the sow to her wallowing in the mire.
These are some powerful similes.  What cracks me up—other than the gross vomit thing—is that a turning away is compared to two kinds of turning toward.  I don't enjoy the taste of grapefruit juice, but you won't catch me telling anyone that I dislike grapefruit juice in the same way that I love limeade.  Unless I happen to be caught in a poor attempt at channeling Oscar Wilde or Douglas Adams at that particular moment.

Oh, and also, pigs were introduced to the Americas by European settlers, so I'm not sure where the sow imagery is supposed to have come from.

Vague Pronoun Alert!
Okay, try and make sense of which group (or groups) of people is (or are) being discussed starting in verse 9:
Now this secret combination, which had brought so great iniquity upon the people, did gather themselves together, and did place at their head a man whom they did call Jacob;
Okay, so we're talking about the bad guys who helped murder the chief judge.  They've formed their own little clan and put a guy named Jacob in charge.  Following so far?  Okay, now verse 10:
And they did call him their king; therefore he became a king over this wicked band; and he was one of the chiefest who had given his voice against the prophets who testified of Jesus.
So far, so good.  We're still talking about the same "they" as we were in the previous verse.  Moving on:
And it came to pass that they were not so strong in number as the tribes of the people, who were united together save it were their leaders did establish their laws, every one according to his tribe; nevertheless they were enemies; notwithstanding they were not a righteous people, yet they were united in the hatred of those who had entered into a covenant to destroy the government.
Nope, I'm lost.  Since no new group of people has been explicitly named here, it stands to reason that the subject of this verse would be the same as the last two—the wicked band led by Jacob.  But once you get through all the unnecessary and unhelpful semicolons, you realize that we're talking about somebody else, because suddenly whoever we're discussing hates the people who destroyed the government.  But it was Jacob's guys who destroyed the government.  Jacob's guys aren't united in the hatred of themselves.

Any attempt to follow this grammatical shell game is further muddied by the use of plural pronouns to indicate both individual tribes and groups of tribes, all within the same sentence.  My best guess is that this verse begins by using "they" to refer to Jacob's tribe, abruptly shifts to using "they" to refer to both sides of the Jacobite-versus-everybody-who's-not-Jacobite animosity, and concludes by using "they" to refer to only those who were opposed to Jacob's tribe.

This is not the most correct book.  If God couldn't get his translator to comprehend the English language properly, maybe it's because God had nothing to do with the production of this messy, meandering tome.

Nephi Comes Off the Bench
You remember Nephi, right?  Prophet of God?  Helped Encyclopedia Brown solve the Mysterious Case of Another Dead Chief Judge?  Well, he's still around, and I guess he's had enough of this bull-hockey.  He finally decides to start testifying to his people of "repentance and remission of sins through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ" because he's so "grieved for the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds."

I want to know what took him so long.  The society has become overwhelmingly wicked, it's murdered its own leaders, and it's descended into less stable forms of government.  Multiple prophets have been stoned to death. Why does Nephi wait until after all that has happened to get off his ass and start trying to turn hearts and minds?  His apathy and torpor make his grief seem kind of disingenuous.
Or, more aptly, if you hadn't just admitted you sat idly by while your friends were murdered.

Hey, Look!  A Glaring Contradiction!
Verse 17 explains why Nephi's latest ministry is glossed over:
And he did minister many things unto them; and all of them cannot be written, and a part of them would not suffice, therefore they are not written in this book.
So I guess Nephi's adventures in proselytizing are so awesome that they won't fit in this book (although plenty of preexisting Isaiah chapters will), and only relating some of these experiences simply won't do his work justice.  Except...look at verse 19:
And in the name of Jesus did he cast out devils and unclean spirits; and even his brother did he raise from the dead, after he had been stoned and suffered death by the people.
Uh, okay.  So, you can't tell us any of the things that Nephi did because "a part of them would not suffice," but you are willing to tell us that he cast out devils and raised his brother from the dead?  How is that not a part that would not suffice?

What about the fact that it was impossible for people to disbelieve his words because angels ministered unto him daily (verse 18)?  What about the sick he healed and the signs and miracles he showed unto the people (verse 22)?  What about the baptisms and the ordinations of leaders (verse 25)?  How is a brief summary of an insanely accomplished missionary effort not a complete contradiction with verse 17's claim that none of Nephi's ministry is written in this book?

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