Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Jacob 1: Growing Pains

And so Nephi's brother Jacob takes the reins.

Eschewing History
Jacob says that, when his older brother passed the plates on to him, he included a "commandment" to only write things that were "most precious" on them instead of "the history of this people."  Apparently Nephi's vision for the small plates--which was supposed to have been God's plan--got watered down or lost over the centuries.  For example, the later books of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman and Ether have large chunks of political and military history.  I suppose the other explanation is that describing how many men were killed in battle and explaining who assassinated which leaders were considered "most precious" by the later authors of the plates.

Population Explosion
Jacob includes a little obituary for his recently departed brother.  He mentioned that Nephi hand-picked his successor to the "throne" of the apparently fast-growing Nephite society.  However, when describing how beloved Nephi was, Jacob mentions that he "wielded the sword of Laban in [the people's] defence."  That's kind of odd considering the family had only been in the Americas for about fifty years.  How many wars could such a small society have in such a small period of time?  How many of them could be left after so much fighting?  Come to think of it, how could a society in need of a monarch have sprouted up so quickly?  Fifty years ago it was like twenty people and now it's a burgeoning civilization with wars and kings?

In verse 13, Jacob lists the different factions and families as Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites.  It seems like every man who came across on that boat had his own following.  Where did all those extra people come from?

Jacob:  A Paragon of Altruism
Jacob and his brother Joseph established an ecclesiastical structure as the government and the inexplicably large population slid toward wickedness and the Book of Mormon's most venomous foe--pride.  In verse 19, Jacob explains:
And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
That Jacob--always looking out for number one.  He doesn't say that he preached to the people so that they could rediscover the happiness offered by the gospel.  He doesn't say that he taught them for the benefit of their eternal souls.  He doesn't even say that he proselytized to unite the people around a common belief.  He just realized that he took on the responsibility of spreading the word of God and that if he didn't do it, God would punish him.  Although, to be fair, that kind of thinking probably still factors in to the decision to serve a mission today.

And so Nephi died.  He was an uppity little prick, and he wasn't too bright, and of course there was that whole murdering business.  But he was undeniably a badass--but not the last one the Book of Mormon will throw our way.

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