Monday, April 25, 2016

3 Nephi 10: The Fog is Lifted

After that first lengthy speech from the disembodied voice of Jesus, God allows the stunned and traumatized people of ancient America to mull things over for a few hours before hitting them with another lecture.

Messing with the Timeline
Verse 9 retroactively nails down the chronology of events:
And it came to pass that thus did the three days pass away. And it was in the morning, and the darkness dispersed from off the face of the land, and the earth did cease to tremble, and the rocks did cease to rend, and the dreadful groanings did cease, and all the tumultuous noises did pass away. was dark the whole time?  3 Nephi 8:23 explains that, following the destruction of numerous Nephite cities, everything went dark for three days.  The next few verses discuss the mourning of the people.  Then chapter 9 does its thing without ever mentioning the fog of darkness.

And now we're suddenly informed that the last chapter and a half have taken place during the three days of blackouts?  I mean, this is hardly an important doctrinal distinction, but this is sure a shoddy job of explaining the situation.  If it weren't for the words "in the darkness" in chapter 9's header (which, of course, wasn't in the original text), I would have assumed that the narrative had moved past the three days of darkness since it had been so long since its brief mention.

Just seems to me like something you'd find in the work of a bad writer instead of in divinely inspired scripture.

Stockholm Syndrome
Jesus has just given a little speech about how he gathers his people like a chicken gathers her chicks under her wings.  And before that, he was talking about all the cities that he'd caused to be destroyed.  But now that he's removed the darkness, the people respond...oddly (verse 10):
And the earth did cleave together again, that it stood; and the mourning, and the weeping, and the wailing of the people who were spared alive did cease; and their mourning was turned into joy, and their lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.
What?  Really?  I mean, it's great that you can see again, but did you forget that the guy who's talking to you killed all those loved ones you were just mourning?  Did you forget that he caused the pall of blackness that held you captive for seventy-two hours?  Why are you praising this unstable, homicidal madman?

When is a Prophecy Not a Prophecy?
Verse 14 begins a peculiar line of reasoning:
And now, whoso readeth, let him understand; he that hath the scriptures, let him search them, and see and behold if all these deaths and destructions by fire, and by smoke, and by tempests, and by whirlwinds, and by the opening of the earth to receive them, and all these things are not unto the fulfilling of the prophecies of many of the holy prophets.
Jesus goes on to cite his sources:  Zenos, Zenock, and Jacob.

Zenos and Zenock seem to be the Book of Mormon's go-to guys for implied outside corroboration.  Their teachings aren't in the Bible.  Their records weren't preserved (at least not firsthand) for our day.  So they don't carry a lot of weight because we have to take the Book of Mormon's word for it not only that they prophesied of this stuff, but also that they even existed in the first place.

And then there's Jacob.  As best as I can determine (using resources, I might add), this is a reference to the Biblical Jacob—who was renamed Israel—and a blessing he gave to his son Joseph in Genesis chapter 49.  It's interesting to note that this prophetic blessing contains no mention of the destruction among Joseph's transplanted descendant's following the Messiah's death.  Nor does it mention fire, smoke, tempests, whirlwinds, or the opening of the earth.  Although I suppose the reference to archers shooting at him could be interpreted as an allusion to the conflict that has plagued the seed of Joseph during their stay in the New World.  But the bottom line is that neither Zenos nor Zenock nor Jacob lends any verifiable credibility to the claim that many of the holy prophets predicted the calamitous events of the preceding chapters.

The omission of Samuel the Lamanite is perplexing to me.  Samuel directly predicted the destruction and upheaval as a sign of Jesus's death, but for some reason Jesus doesn't refer to him.  Although Samuel didn't get all the details exactly right (he called for "many hours" of darkness when it turned out to be only three hours), he's a very recent and very public example of prophecy.  Although this wouldn't be external corroboration, it would at least be internal continuity in the same vein as Abinadi's sly foretelling of King Noah's demise.  Plus, you'd think it would be a more memorable and relatable example for Jesus's audience to understand.

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