Sunday School Lesson 36

September 13, 2004 | 9 comments
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Lesson 36: 3 Nephi 1-7

We will concentrate on chapters 5-7.

Chapter 5

Verses 8-26: Once again the people have repented after having to defend themselves against an enemy. Why does Mormon insert his commentary here?

Verse 9: Why does he tell us of the existence of other records? Why do we need to know about them?

Verse 10: Were you to say what this verse says in your own words, what would you say?

Verse 12: Why does he tell us the origin of his name? What was the particular transgression of the Nephites to which Mormon refers? Is there a connection between his name and what happened in that land? Is there a connection between his name and what he has just described?

Verse 13: What does it mean to be a disciple? Might Mormon be using “disciple� as we use “apostle�? What does it mean to have everlasting life?

Verse 14: Who are the holy ones to whom he refers?

Verse 18: We have an idea of what it means for a person to be just, what does it mean for a record to be just? The most common meaning of “true� is something like in “accordance with the facts,� but there are other meanings as well, such as “steadfast,� “constant,� “reliable,� and “verified.� Do any of these other meanings give further understanding of what it means for the Book of Mormon to be true?

Verse 20: He said he was making an end in verse 19, but he continues. How might you explain this? What does it mean to be a pure descendant of Lehi? Why do you think Mormon mentions this? How can knowledge bring salvation? Isn’t something more needed? Or, perhaps, is he using “knowledgeâ€? differently than we might expect?

Verse 21: How is Mormon using the word “surely�? When we use it, it usually indicates some previous doubt. Is that what he is implying? What is the point of the comment of this verse? Why is it important to notice that the Lord is blessing the seed of Jacob and that of Joseph?

Verses 23-24: Notice the repetition of “surely.� Does its use in verse 24 suggest something about the way in which it was being used earlier?

Verse 23: Is the knowledge referred to here the same as that mentioned at the end of verse 20?

Verse 25: What covenant has the Lord made with the house of Jacob? Why does the house of Jacob have to know about that covenant?

Verse 26: In this case does the word “then� mean that they will know their Redeemer after they know the covenant the Lord has made with Israel, or does it mean that they will know their Redeemer in knowing that covenant?

Chapter 6

Verse 10: The Nephite story starts all over again: riches corrupt them, causing disputes, pride, boasting, and even persecution. Couldn’t the Book of Mormon have been shorter with fewer examples of that cycle? Why does Mormon feel compelled to give us so many cases?

Verse 11: Our culture has enough negative things about lawyers that we can perhaps imagine how their presence in the Book of Mormon land accounts for the disputes, pride, boasting, and persecution, but what about the merchants? How is it a problem to have many merchants? What does it mean to say there were many officers? What would the modern equivalent of Nephite officers be?

Verse 12: Do we distinguish by ranks according to riches and opportunities for learning? We often pride ourselves on the level of learning in the Church. We also often pride ourselves on the material achievements of the members in general. But in doing so do we make those with less riches or less opportunity for learning feel uncomfortable? Do we exclude them? Perhaps even more to the point being made here, is our society one which makes it more likely that the poor will be ignorant and that the rich will be learned? If so, what should we do about that?

Verse 13: What is the connection between not returning railing for railing, but suffering persecution and affliction, on the one hand, and being humble and penitent before God, on the other?

Verse 14: What is the great inequality that began to be in the land?

Chapter 7

Verse 18: What has the daily ministering of angels to do with Nephi’s power to convince them? How does his ministration to them (verse 17) compare to the angel’s ministration to him?

Verse 24: Why does the writer need to tell us that those who were converted were baptized? Though true, it is something we might not think to include in a history. What might this say not only of the prophet’s insight into our needs, but also of the situation in his own day?

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9 Responses to Sunday School Lesson 36

  1. JWL on September 14, 2004 at 12:39 pm

    These micro verse specific questions are very insightful. However, these chapters raise a broader macro question for me. That is what are we to make of Mormon’s constant focus on the Gadianton robbers? Obviously this comes up elsewhere as well, but these chapters seem to be a good place to address this subject. Does Nephite society’s experience with the Gadianton robbers have any relevance to modern Americans? Many LDS have pointed to obvious parallels such as organized crime, or in former times, the international communist conspiracy (which I’m sure many LDS will insist is still with us). I know Dan Peterson compares them to modern guerilla movements. Aside from these obvious political examples, is there any more subtle, personal lesson LDS can draw from these episodes of Nephite history which Mormon seems to think worth dwelling on at some length?

  2. cje on September 14, 2004 at 1:48 pm

    Here’s an idea that was raised this past sunday in SS.

    GR of the BOM parrellel to modern corporations (think Enron, Halliburton etc)

    The GR were trying to take over the government using the most effective strategy of their time–namely via coup or warfare. Todays GR try to take over the government using the most effective strategy of our time — using money to influence candidates.

    Also in regards to the Pride Cycle–try this one on–If individual prosperity leads to wickedness–shouldn’t we work for a society that reduces individual prosperity.

    I’m a socialist and proud of it

    cje

  3. Jim F. on September 15, 2004 at 11:08 pm

    JWL: For me, right now, the lesson is in Helaman 6:22: the robbers made their covenant so that they could do wicked things without being injured by their brothers when they did. If I ask myself what injuries one robber could prevent by hiding the wickedness of another, I think of things like exposure and punishment, among perhaps other things.

    It is tempting to ignore or cover over the sins of our associates, including other members of the Church, when we ought not to do so. I’ve seen members of the Church do it often; I’ve probably done it myself. But when we do, when we use our association as a reason for hiding the sins of another person, sins that by their nature ought to be made known to the proper authorities, we act like Gadianton robbers.

  4. Melissa on September 18, 2004 at 1:18 pm

    Jim,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    I have been struggling this week about how I can teach this lesson without getting into the political. After all in these chapters we have a situation that is easily compared to the contemporary political landscaped. The governor receives a threatening letter from the leader of the Gadianton robbers which promises direct and imminent violence to his people. Lachoneus knows that these are not empty threats since the robbers have already been plundering and murdering the Nephites. The robbers give the Nephites one month to submit to their demands or face an attack which will end in Nephite extinction. Lachoneus appoints chief captains over all the armies, the chiefest of whom is Gidgidonni, who is also described as a prophet.

    Despite the imminent danger the Nephites face Gidgiddoni refuses to make any pre-emptive strike or any strike and destroy mission. Instead he explains to the people that they will only wage a defensive war. He says, “We will wait till they shall come against us.” When the robbers do come the Nephite armies pursue them to the borders of the wilderness. Thus, it seems like they only defend their own land.

    I’ve been concerned that this story could turn easily into a Bush-bashing/Bush-defending, divisive, unproductive political debate. Still, I haven’t wanted to avoid teaching this narrative just to prevent the potential argument either because I think that we should take the Book of Mormon seriously for what it has to say about even difficult things like pacifism (think Anti Nephi-Lehites) and alms-giving (think King Benjamin). The Book of Mormon has more to teach us than we sometimes allow, I think. As stunning as the record of the coming of Christ, the vision of the Tree of Life, and the concrete information about the resurrection are, there is more there, much more.

    I am not saying that because Gidgiddoni decided not to wage an offensive war against the Gadianton robbers we should take that as rule to follow. There are, after all,scriptural narratives which seem to advocate the reverse. Such internal scriptural contradictions make a strict and literal “liken” hermeneutic difficult, if not absurd. Still, I think we should wrestle with this text and others like it in some way. How we should do so is a big and important question that I’m still carefully trying to work out.

    It may sound strange with all the good stuff that is in these chapters but the question that I’ve thought most about this week in preparing this lesson is why the robbers were able to draw away the Nephite (and Lamanite!) youth. We read in 3 Nephi 1:28 that the robbers began to increase because there were many dissenters of the Nephites who did flee unto them.” I just can’t seem to move beyond this verse. Why were they dissenting? What were they dissenting about? And why did they “flee”? This makes it sound like they were running away, almost trying to escape from something. Why would they need to flee the Nephite Church? The easy answer is that they were sinning. But, maybe something else is going on here?

  5. Adam Greenwood on September 18, 2004 at 2:33 pm

    I’m thinking along the same lines that Jim F. is. It seems to me that most Mormons have ‘tory’ sensibilities. We like belonging, we respect authority, we defer to other people’s opinions, we try to avoid controversy. This means that when a particular community gets corrupted (a corporation, a government) we aren’t by nature want to be whistleblowers. Some would say that the solution is that we need to be more independent and so on. I disagree. I think these qualities of ours are good qualities. But we need to read about the Gadiantons and realize that defending the communities we value might require a great deal of pain and action.

  6. Jim F. on September 18, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Melissa, I think your questions are excellent, quite worth discussing, but I don’t have any particular thoughts about them. I would like to know what “dissenters” means in that verse as well as why they didn’t just leave, but fled. I wonder if anyone has any ideas that might help us find possible responses to those questions.

    Adam, Thanks for bringing out something that I did not make explicit in my comment to JWL and that may need to be made explicit, namely that the danger of Gadianton robbers doesn’t mean that our associations are bad. Covenant means nothing if it doesn’t issue in important associations: family, church, community. So it seems to me that the Gadiantons are the danger they are mostly because our associations are generally good. The lesson of the Gadianton robbers isn’t that we ought to give up or weaken our associations, but that we ought not to let them become associations in which we defend or cover over evil, that we ought to remember the covenantal purpose of those associations. As you say, that may require pain and action.

    But I would add that it also requires that I know my position in the Church and what responsibility I have in that position. For example, if I know that my neighbor is an adulterer, I should speak to the bishop. If I know he is a child-molester, I must speak to the police. Nevertheless, I ought not to make myself the neighborhood policeman, looking for my neighbor’s sins so that I can then report them.

    Leaders in the early Church often repeated what they called “The Mormon Creed”: “Mind your own business.” (See Michael Hicks’s discussion of that creed in BYU Studies, vol. 26 (Fall, 1986)–the creed’s original form was “Mind your own business, and let everybody else do likewise.”) Of course that phrase need not imply the radical individualism that we often infer from it. Indeed, if it did imply that, it is difficult to understand how it could have been so widely known as the Mormon creed.

  7. Larry on September 19, 2004 at 2:45 am

    What is probably more insidious in the Church is not the unreporting of the sins we observe but the denial of those in leadership that those sins exist in their friends, even when they are reported.
    As well, the cruel artifice of gossip, where nothing is known but lots of insinuations are made behind the scenes to destroy the reputation of good people.
    Guilt by association can also be destructive when we assume all lawyers, for example, are promulgating the great evils of our time and all judges are abetting them. The same is true of merchants etc. Good companies are vilified because of some idiot in a huge bureaucracy gets greedy. Is the Church exempt here?
    My feeling is that the real gadiantons are known, as President Benson implied in one of his first addresses after becoming Prophet. They are not that difficult to see because they openly try to manipulate the law in evil ways. ie it depends on what the meaning of “is” is. ( Think of those who sat in backrooms and came up with that bit of advice to avoid justice) (and I don’t mean to imply that only Democrats do it but that one is so obvious I used it).
    The problem, as I see it in the Church, is that there are those who exhibit the attitudes mentioned in Alma 5 and behave like those in Alma 1 who return railing for railing. By engaging in our own “natural man” behaviours we abet those who seek to destroy truth because we drive the Spirit out of our lives and are then left to our own resources to solve problems that only God knows the solution to and thus we end up confused, dazed and like those in 3rd Nephi – destroyed, or in the very least impotent in doing anything to stop the spread of evil.

  8. Jim F. on September 19, 2004 at 10:46 am

    Larry said, “What is probably more insidious in the Church is not the unreporting of the sins we observe but the denial of those in leadership that those sins exist in their friends, even when they are reported.”

    I don’t disagree, but I don’t see the two things as two different things. To me, they are the same.

  9. Larry on September 19, 2004 at 2:23 pm

    Good point. It was early in the morning when I made the point and I claim no intelligence at that hour ( or any other for that matter).

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