"There is so much more in the Book of Mormon than we have yet discovered. The book's divine architecture and rich furnishings will increasingly unfold to our view, further qualifying it as 'a marvelous work and a wonder' ...The Book of Mormon is like a vast mansion with gardens, towers, courtyards, and wings. All the rooms in this mansion need to be explored..."
-Neal A Maxwell

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Déjà vu: 1 Nephi 2 & 10

In a particular Sunday School lesson I vaguely remember from my early teens, our teacher, Brother Ruff (who was kindly filling in for our regular teachers), found himself defending the assertion that every verse in the Book of Mormon--every word, even--was important, there for a divinely appointed reason. The painstaking process of recording on metal plates and the limited amount of space thereon allowed for no throwaway passages. 

"So what about this verse here?" challenged one of my friends. He was referring to 1 Nephi 2:15, which reads, "And my father dwelt in a tent." "Why is that there? Why do we need to know he dwelt in a tent? So what?"

It's a good question, really. (I still wonder the same thing about Ether 15:30-31 myself. Another post, perhaps.) I don't remember the teacher's response, except that it was unsatisfactory to my friend. I thought of this recently when I came across 1 Nephi 10:16: 
And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel. 
This may have been the first time I realized the "useless tent" verse appears twice in the Book of Mormon. I flipped back to chapter 2, verse 15 and noticed something peculiar: the verse preceding it was very similar to the verse preceding 1 Nephi 10:16; both chronicle Lehi having quite a chat with Nephi's less-than-valiant older brothers:
1 Nephi 2:14- And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them. 
1 Nephi 10:15- And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book...
As I then reviewed the verses that followed in each chapter, I soon discovered the entire latter halves of chapters 2 and 10 are incredibly similar; the basic elements of each narrative and the sequence in which those elements appear are almost identical: 

14 And it came to pass that my father did speak unto them in the valley of Lemuel, with power, being filled with the Spirit, until their frames did shake before him. And he did confound them, that they durst not utter against him; wherefore, they did as he commanded them.15 And after this manner of language did my father prophesy and speak unto my brethren, and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book.
15 And my father dwelt in a tent.16 And all these things, of which I have spoken, were done as my father dwelt in a tent, in the valley of Lemuel.
16 And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things... 
17 And I spake unto Sam, making known unto him the things which the Lord had manifested unto me by his Holy Spirit. And it came to pass that he believed in my words....by the power of the Holy Ghost...
18 But, behold, Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto my words; and being grieved because of the hardness of their hearts I cried unto the Lord for them.(I got nothin' here. Then again, the less we hear about Laman and Lemuel, the better.) 
19 And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto me, saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart....which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
20 And inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
(Repeating a couple of verses:) 
16 ...I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God...

19 ...thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart.
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round. 
(Temporal consequences of sin)

21 And inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.

23 For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power over thy seed except they shall rebel against me also.

24 And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance.
(Eternal consequences of sin)

20 Therefore remember, O man, for all thy doings thou shalt be brought into judgment.

 21 Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever.



22 And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren.22 And the Holy Ghost giveth authority that I should speak these things, and deny them not.


This really doesn't answer my friend's question--rather, it raises more: Why did Nephi repeat his narrative in this manner (if he, in fact, consciously did so)? What is he (and the Lord) trying to teach us? Or is it just cool? And why don't the first halves of each chapter match up? Or do they? 

UPDATE, 5-13-13:
Given subsequent discoveries, it's now my conclusion the purpose of this device was to frame the contrast between the temporal and eternal consequences of sin. 


No comments:

Post a Comment