Classing Mormons

May 12, 2005 | 64 comments
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The old dichotomy, under various names (Chapel v. Internet, Iron Rod v. Liahona), classed us either as folks who thought breaking rules was the same as following the Spirit or as folks who thought following rules was the same the as following the Spirit. What about those people—they exist, I met one once—who thought . . . following the Spirit was the same as following the Spirit? I therefore propose a new Mormon classification.

Our stake out here just started reading the Book of Mormon on a fixed daily reading schedule, the idea being that, for one, we should be reading scripture anyway, and why not the Book of Mormon? And for another, that every stake member reading the same chapter on the same day makes us more compact, more unified, like Saints crossing the plains together. I agree. And so I’ve been going along (in a fashion. If we’re crossing the plains together, I am ‘To They of the Last Wagon.’ I shall do better.).

We’re in, where else, First Nephi. Laman, Lemuel, Nephi,and Sam. Laman and Lemuel being the bad sons. What I’ve noticed is that Laman and Lemuel are pretty sympathetic characters. They have their settled expectations frustrated, and they don’t like it. Entirely natural. And who, really, can help not wanting to affront a powerful man (Laban) in his own home, or striking out in anger at the nearest available target when you’ve just escaped with your life from his guards? Laman and Lemuel, in short, seem very much like me (Ambrose Bierce: “ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.”). This is a common experience, I think.

Hence my scheme for classing Mormons into three different types.

The first type reads 1st Nephi and doesn’t sympathize with Laman and Lemuel at all. The first type identifies wholly with Nephi. Or Sam or Zoram, if they’re humble. Even Lehi.

The second type identifies with Laman and Lemuel and decides that they must not be so bad after all. After all, the story is only told from Nephi’s point of view, there were really faults on both sides, etc.

The third type, to which I belong, identifies with Laman and Lemuel and still thinks that they were the bad sons. The third type sees himself in Laman and Lemuel, and not to his advantage.

Oh, and I should add that there’s a fourth type. One who recognizes he’s a sinner like Laman and Lemuel but doesn’t feel smug about it.

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64 Responses to Classing Mormons

  1. John C. on May 12, 2005 at 11:21 am

    Adam, I don’t understand the difference between your third and fourth types. Please elaborate.

  2. Jim F on May 12, 2005 at 12:14 pm

    Adam, I understand the difference between your third and fourth type all too well, but I’m interested to see how you will elaborate it.

  3. will on May 12, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    How about those who consider Laman and Lemuel to be conniving thugs, but also consider Nephi to be self-righteous and tactless?

  4. Ashley Crandell on May 12, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Adam, you left out Sariah, but Nephi didn’t. Sariah, who is neither wholly sinner nor pure saint, emerges from the background as perhaps the most realistic and human member of the family. She wavers, she complains (1 Nephi 5:3), she is comforted, she expresses faith (v. 7-8). Put me down as falling in line with a sixth type: one who identifies with Sariah, though we only see the shadow of her story.

  5. Ashley Crandell on May 12, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Jumping ahead of myself–I guess that would only be a 5th type.

  6. Kevin Barney on May 12, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    I’m the second type.

  7. Rosalynde Welch on May 12, 2005 at 1:57 pm

    Interesting, Adam, and fun. I like it. The point of devising a classification systems is generally to do something with it: from your 3/4/5 types can one infer behavioral norms or other sociological phenomena?

  8. Paul Mortensen on May 12, 2005 at 2:23 pm

    Like Ashley I can’t identify with either Nephi or Lam-uel. At this stage in my life I find Nephi’s character a bit too faithful to be able to relate. But on the other hand my own self-image prevents me from perceiving myself as lacking any spiritually redeeming characteristics like Lam-uel. I take 1 & 2 Nephi as both a lesson and a warning.

  9. annegb on May 12, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    I can relate to Laman and Lemuel to a point. I have had lots of deeply spiritually validating experiences in my life and still I doubt every time the chips are down. But I never felt like killing my sister….well, my biological sister. My church sister, next door, yup, a few times. Darn, I am so Laman and Lemuel.

    Who is like that but has good intentions, anyway, scripturally? Would that be a sixth category? Um…I can’t think of anybody. There must be somebody out there to represent the gray crowd. Scripturally.

  10. A. Greenwood on May 12, 2005 at 3:05 pm

    Ashley Crandell,
    Yes, I meant to include Sariah, but I couldn’t remember how to spell her name.

    Rosalynde Welch,
    I wouldn’t want to dignify my classification by going on about its explanatory power. If pressed, I guess I’d have to speculate that it might have explanatory power, but only if one knew which category folks fit in. One doesn’t. Mostly its the other way around. From the behavior and attitudes that the categories would predict, one deduces the category.

    John C.,
    The third type, which I would think of as the conservative humanist type, is a little proud of avoiding the trap of thinking of himself as Nephi, and a little more proud of not giving in to the impulse to rehabilitate Laman and Lemuel, but mostly he’s contemptuous of those who do give in to that impulse. The fourth type is the person who is both saintly and simple, or else saintly and experienced and wise to the point of becoming simple. The third type comes up with this classification scheme. The fourth type does not.
    John C.,

  11. Eric James Stone on May 12, 2005 at 4:24 pm

    There are two types of Mormons: those who think there are two type of Mormons, and those who don’t.

  12. annegb on May 12, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    :) Eric. Maybe there are more than 11 million types.

  13. John C. on May 12, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    Rats! I was hoping to sneak into 4, but with the clarification it looks like I’ll be stuck in 3 for a bit.

  14. A. Greenwood on May 12, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    Welcome aboard, John C. We’ll be friends.

  15. Richard T on May 12, 2005 at 4:54 pm

    I used to think Laman and Lemuel were sympathetic characters,but this time through I’ve begin to realize how bad they really were.I’ve never really identified with Nephi,but I’ve started to wonder if his notorious behavior wasn’tas much or more the result of dealing w L&L than the other way around.what must it be like to live with people who periodically try to violently kill you?

  16. A. Greenwood on May 12, 2005 at 4:55 pm

    There is that.

  17. Eric S on May 12, 2005 at 5:14 pm

    Doesn’t anyone relate to Laban?

  18. Seth Rogers on May 12, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Nope, not rich enough.

  19. Richard T on May 12, 2005 at 5:32 pm

    Wrote that last post on a handheld. Didn’t work very well. Just got through the security checkpoint at Houston Intercontinental and had a chance to plug in. Let me try that again.

    I’m more confused by Laman, Lemeul, and Nephi than anything. They are very complex characters to me, nothing easy about them. I’m not aware of another figure in scripture who had to endure such regular attempts on his life, from people who were so close to him, as Nephi. There’s Joseph in the OT, but his brothers never really got serious about killing him. Abraham’s dad tried to kill him, I guess. But that seems like it was a one-time event. Over the course of a decade Laman and Lemuel tried to kill Nephi several times. And they didn’t just talk about it. They were men of action. Divine providence was the only thing that kept Nephi alive more than once.

    What must that be like? I recently dissolved a business, and the haggling with former partners after-the-fact rattled my nerves and made it difficult for me to function. I felt genuinely terrorized by a lot of what happened. I suppose I would have fundamentally come apart if I’d had to endure continual plotting on my life by those I ate breakfast with every day and on whom I was dependent, in a way, for my day-to-day survival. Particularly during my teen-age years.

    Was Nephi self-righteous, or did he cling desperately to spiritual things because the rest of his world was turned completely upside down? Did Nephi choose the Lord because he was the good son? Or did he go to the mountain oft because there he found his only true friend and protector?

    Gotta catch a plane. This is such a terrific blog. Just found it. Thanks for all of your comments.

  20. A. Greenwood on May 12, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    No, Richard T. After that comment, thank _you_.

  21. matt bowman on May 12, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    To completely sidetrack the thread –

    At the same time, though, what _was_ going on with Laman and Lemuel? I think the Book of Mormon Movie, partly because of how awful it was, really brought this home to me. In reading 1 Nephi after seeing the movie (which I loved for its unique combination of ineptness and sincerity), I realized how flat their characters are. An angel stops them from beating up Nephi, then two scenes later, they’re doing it again. Nephi chastises them with the power of God – and ten minutes later (film time) they tie him up (which seems to be a sort of all purpose solution to their problems) and begin carousing.

    So, not only do they never learn – but they manage to be recidivists even after they see an angel? The film – because it tries so hard to be true to the text – lets this stand, and it doesn’t work at all, narratively speaking. They come off as ludicrously stupid, one-note characters. (Of course, so does everyone else).

    Not to say that this is a problem in the BoM, because Nephi has priorities other than good character development. But it is obvious that there is something happening in a spiritual sense with Nephi’s brothers that he does not, for whatever reason, tell us. They might just be shallow thugs, but for some reason I doubt it. Are they weak spiritually; easily affected by circumstance? There is some evidence for this – they repent, after a fashion, once or twice, and backslide. Do they resent God for choosing their younger brother – while never thinking that their own actions had a role to play? There is also some evidence for this. They had divine confirmation to a degree far beyond what any of us ever recieve – and yet still made the choices they did. That raises an interesting question about what testimonies are. Did Laman and Lemuel believe in God? Perhaps they must have – but despite this, they made the choices they did. I find these two fascinating characters, and I think we can learn a lot from them about human weakness.

    It’s interesting; perhaps it’s because 1 Nephi is a first person narrative, but I have not thought so deeply about the under-the-text development of Nephi’s character as much as I have about that of Laman and Lemuel. Thanks, Richard.

  22. Jonathan Max Wilson on May 12, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Great comment Richard T…and welcome to the bloggernacle!

  23. Jack on May 12, 2005 at 9:21 pm

    Matt,

    I collaborated on a stage production having to do with these characters. We worked through the very same concerns of which you speak regarding Laman and Lemuel. I’m not sure if we’ve nailed it yet as it’s still a work in progress, but approaching the story from a more sympathetic point of view we were able to come up with what I think were some pretty good solutions. For one, we had what I would call a “plain cloths” angel happen upon them when Nephi is being punished by Laman with a rod. He didn’t appear in his glory–he was dressed some what like a beggar. There was still a sense of the miraculous because the messenger, who was a complete stranger to them, knew exactly what to tell them. In this way Laman and Lemuel were influenced without being unduely coerced.

  24. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 12, 2005 at 10:29 pm

    I think that Laman kept expecting that once he reconciled, God would restore the natural order and put him in charge. In addition, Nephi was not above exacting the limits of the law. Remember they were eight years in the wilderness, and an Israelite slave who hit his seven hear anniversary had to choose to go free or become a slave forever. I think there is more to “Ishmael and his household” (remember, Abraham’s household traditionally included over 300 male relatives and over 900 servants) and “he made us slaves in the wilderness.”

  25. Brian G on May 12, 2005 at 10:46 pm

    I find the key to understanding Laman and Lemuel is the m-word–murmuring. This is what they are constantly doing. It doesn’t matter who the authority is, whether it’s Lehi, Nephi, an angel, or the Lord, they remain totally resistant and critical of any leadership or direction. This is illustrated best when their wickedness causes the Liahona–a representation of God-like direction–to cease to function. Nephi may come off as smug or self-righteous at times, but his attitude toward Laman and Lemuel is completely consistent with any leader who is faced with constant back-biting and criticism, not to mention outright rebellion and plotting. Any leader, particularly one that has made great decisions and basically been the glue that’s held his family together, is likely to dig in his or her heels and take the position of I’m right and I know better than you. As Richard T points out, Nephi’s attitude is a product of L&L’s behavior and attitude, not the other way around.

    Nephi’s attitude toward other members of the family that don’t constantly murmur is different. For example, Lehi murmured when Nephi’s bow broke, but Nephi still held him in such high regard and respect that he approached Lehi and asked him to inquire of the Lord as to where to get food. A self-righteous man would have relied on himself, or his own relationship with the Lord to go find food. Even if L&L weren’t attempted murderers, it’s their constant, unceasing murmuring that makes them contemptible.

    So I guess I’m in the first type.

  26. Daniel on May 12, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    Brian G: What a great comment. It reminds me of myself too often — sitting there carping on the sidelines, but without an action plan of my own — the ultimate definition of pride is being threatened by the success of others. Too often I am unhealthily cynical, rather than just healthily skeptical. The best missionaries in my mission were not unaware of the realities of the situation (in fact they were very aware), but they nonetheless chose to “feed the opportunity and starve the problem” to borrow President Hinckley’s words — they were consummately realistic optimists.

    This reminds me of a comment a very faithful, long-time convert in the D.C. area who was Relief Society President made to me. At one time, they were trying to bring more unity to their ward and conducted a very candid survey of the sisters in the ward. This R.S. President said that the most common response was along the lines of, “well, I am not the typical Mormon.” She noted that it was ironic that none of the women (or very few) considered themselves to be “typical” or “average” Mormons. I guess we’re all down here shlumming our way through things and trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. OK, maybe not totally on point, but I hope somebody gets as much out of it as I have since I first heard it. Kind of goes against the category thing, though, so sorry to threadjack.

  27. Kaimi on May 13, 2005 at 7:27 am

    Perhaps a modified second. I can see possible reasons why Laman and Lemuel did what they did. I don’t know that that justifies or excuses them, it just adds to the tragedy.

    One of my many back-burnered projects is a retelling of the Nephi story. The basic plotline will go something along these lines:

    Lehi is a wealthy businessman who has never had time for God. He’s not a bad guy, but not religious at all.

    His oldest son, Laman, decides to straighten up. He becomes immersed in the Jewish religion of the time, meeting regularly with the priests and elders. He also works on his family and his dad. He bugs his dad regularly to start attending the synagogue, making his sacrifices, and so forth. Dad doesn’t listen. Laman consigns himself to the role of being the righteous son, stuck with a less-than-ideal dad, but confident of his own place in heaven because of his obedience.

    So Laman is an up-and-coming friend of priests, confident of his future place in Jerusalem’s religious heirarchy (due to his own religious observance), when suddenly his crazy old dad pulls a 180 and beyond. Laman is thrilled to know that dad is now interested in religion. Then he gets the details — it’s a vision, and a commandment to leave Jerusalem.

    This doesn’t go over so well.

  28. Julie K on May 13, 2005 at 8:26 am

    Write the story, Kaimi!
    Your plot is entirely plausible and has already imprinted itself deeply in my brain.
    I’m going to have to remind myself to not treat it as historical fact!
    (I just wish that I didn’t already know how it ends.)

  29. Frank McIntyre on May 13, 2005 at 8:34 am

    I was trying to figure out why this “obedient Laman” version would be an appealing interpretation. I suppose it allows you to make the “obeyers of the law” types into the bad guy. So now those who feel like they are in tune with the teachings of the Church, or who feel that they are temple worthy (and thus on the right path) can be made into Laman-types? Or perhaps I am reading too much into your plot summary.

    But is there some reason to think this is more than wholesale invention? I’m curious what parts, if any, of the text inspired this view of Laman.

  30. Kaimi on May 13, 2005 at 9:26 am

    Frank,

    Well, as with all interpretations, it may be purely invention.

    A few reasons why I think it makes sense:

    1. Laman’s obstinacy. At every stage, he continues to resist. Either he’s a real bonehead, or he’s being driven by some higher motivation. This explains why, even as he’s lost, he continues to fight.

    2. Laman’s allegiance to Jerusalem. It comes up repeatedly. Is he just homesick, or is he attaching religious significance to the city of God?

    3. The preists’ reactions to Jesus when he said that the temple would be destroyed. Boy, were they upset. Remind you of anyone?

    4. A piece I read somewhere (FARMS Review?) suggesting that Lehi was a late convert and a successful businessman before his conversion.

    5. The history of apostasy in our own church. People didn’t (generally) leave Joseph Smith or Brigham Young because they just wanted to party and hang out and have a good time. They left because they thought that he/they were misguided, and that God was telling _them_ the true and correct path. See, e.g., Sidney Rigdon, Strang, RLDS, and others. I think that this model of apostasy probably provides a good explanation of Laman’s behavior.

    6. Laman’s an adult, or at least a young man. Lehi just left behind all his stuff and headed out for parts unknown. So if Laman’s real motivation is hedonism, why not just stay put in Jerusalem and party with Lehi’s left-behind property? Why not stay there, when Lehi sends them back for the brass plates and/or for Ishmael’s family?

    One rational explanation is that Laman saw himself as the righteous one, and was tagging along in a misguided missionary effort to try to convince his brothers and father to give up their foolish ways and return to Jerusalem.

    7. It’s not intended as a bad guy/good guy play or statement of that kind. It’s more along the lines of a classic tragedy. Laman has a lot of good traits — determination, desire to follow law, obedience to existing heirarchy. Unfortunately, he also has stubbornness and pride, and they combine to make him unreceptive to the message he needs to hear. Thus, Laman’s fatal flaws destroy him.

  31. Shawn Bailey on May 13, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Kaimi (nos. 27 & 30): I like your idea — I hear echoes of the Prince Hal / Hotspur mirroring-foiling in Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 1. Any chance your Nephi is a puckish underachiever who likes to have a good time (i.e., part Prince Hal, part the young Joseph Smith)? His calling could thus come and advance not due to prim piety—and despite his lack of polish.

  32. A. Greenwood on May 13, 2005 at 11:53 am

    I like your story, Kaimi, but I don’t think it’s the story we have in First Nephi.

    For one, I don’t think Sidney Rigdon, Strang, etc., left the church because in some causeless way they thought J. Smith, B. Young, etc. were apostate. There was a reason for their thinking so, and that reason had very much to do with resenting the exercise of authority especially when that authority was used to upset one’s expectations and take away whatever comforts and solidity one had achieved in life. I don’t think Laman and Lemuel were about hedonism, per se. I think they wanted to live the decent life they had grown up expecting, along with having some of the comforts of religion, and weren’t able to accommodate it when their father stopped being moderate about religion.

    That said, I would be interested in your story. Write it. The potential is there.

  33. Brent A. on May 13, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    The discussion reminds me of a talk given by Elder Maxwell a few years ago in General Conference entitled “Lessons from Laman and Lemuel” (See talk here http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-14-2,00.html).

    I think Nephi clearly identifies Laman’s and Lemuel’s problem: “they knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Ne. 2:12). This is apparent from their response to Nephi when the group of brothers were discussing Lehi’s vision. When asked whether Laman and Lemuel had asked the Lord, they responded “We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” (1 Ne. 15:9). Laman and Lemuel just didn’t understand, nor did they ever truly bother to find out, how the Lord deals with us.

    I think most classes of Mormons (if indeed we can classify them) fall along a continuum of those who understand “the dealings of that God who had created them” and those who do not, or do so to a much lesser degree.

  34. Paul on May 13, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    Is there no room for pessimism in the Lord’s vineyard? I am a pessimist by nature or nurture or a combination of both.

    Kaimi, I like your story too. Very plausible and compelling. I don’t think it approaches the cinematic and screen play genius that is the Book of Mormon Movie (tongue planted firmly in cheek), but it has appeal. Actually, I never saw part 1 of the BoM movie, but I hear it is embarrassing.

    Is Lemuel, then, Laman’s lackey? Or does his character deserve more depth too? Could Lemuel have been the agitator, purposefully pitting parent and younger sibling against the rightful and self-righteous eldest son? As an unimpressive middlish child, Lemuel likely looked for ways to rebel and get attention. I can see him inciting Laman to anger not because he necessarily agreed with him but because it created a schism.

  35. danithew on May 13, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    Richard T. isn’t sure if Josephs brothers were serious (at first) about killing him. It is hard to tell for sure. At a minimum they were discussing it as a serious option. There were some different rationale’s expressed among the eleven brethren as to what they were going to do with him. Reuben did not want to kill him at all and was hoping to return Joseph to his father. Judah saw a way to make some money and avoid the unpleasantry of killing their own brother. I just pulled up the text:

    Genesis 37:19-27
    19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
    20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.
    21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him.
    22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again.
    23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
    24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
    25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
    26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
    27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.

  36. N Miller on May 13, 2005 at 12:56 pm

    Have any of you read “The Promised Land” series, by David G. Woolley? Although the book is a little more on the young side of the reading spectrum (especially for the many “thinkers” who frequent this blog), I thouroghly enjoyed the authors interesting tale (I got it on book on CD so my hour long trip to work wasn’t so boring; it worked!). In the book he leaves many notes why he decided to have Laman, Lemuel, and other characters act and plot the way they did. Many of you might have some interest in the series as the author dives into many aspects that have been discussed here.

    When you put a historical figure in a ook that you have little detail about, you can come up with many different interpretations and characterizations about people, all of which are probably wrong, but it can make for an interesting story. Go ahead Kaimi, write that novel, I would be an interested reader!

  37. danithew on May 13, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    There are three things about Laman and Lemuel that seem strange to me — that really seem to demonstrate their stubborness and hardheartedness.

    The first two reasons have something to do with concrete proofs of divine assistance.

    First, that they had such dramatic experiences with the supernatural power of God — seeing an angel, hearing the voice of the Lord, obtaining the plates despite Laban’s seeming greater powers, seeing the Liahona and that it was guiding them through the wilderness and across the sea, being shocked by Nephi’s touch. At some point one would have thought that these brothers would have fully comprehended that this was God’s work and there was no point in opposing Nephi or the journey away from Jerusalem. Elder Bednar talks about tender mercies — events that demonstrate the Lord’s hand in our lives. At a certain point after many experiences of this type, a person usually recognizes the patterns and how events seem to come together for larger purposes. Laman and Lemuel seemed to ignore all of these things.

    The second reason is an event that seems so big that it would be convincing all by itself. The fact that Nephi and his brothers built a boat, got on the boat and made it all the way across the ocean to the Americas … that was a major accomplishment, blessing, miracle. It is simply an incredible thing. It seems to me that arriving at the shores of the Americas would have been majorly persuasive that Lehi and Nephi were truly receiving revelations from God.

    Finally just the fact that they would seriously consider, over and over again, killing Nephi and their father Lehi. Joseph’s brothers at least have the excuse that they were in a polygamous family with all kinds of odd internal dynamics and jealousies. Sure Laman and Lemuel might resent leaving Jerusalem … but enough to kill members of their own family over it?

  38. N Miller on May 13, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    That “ook”, was supposed to be “book”. (I will be more careful in the uture :) )

  39. Jim F on May 13, 2005 at 1:03 pm

    Adam’s point (#32) about the reasons that Rigdon and others left Joseph is an important one because it gives an alternative explanation for Laman and Lemuel’s dealings with Nephi. However, it isn’t incompatible with a version of your story, Kaimi. Your Laman could rebel against his father because he was the “good” son and now neither his father nor his younger brother seem to recognize his status, on top of which his younger brother is the one his father sees as the good one.

  40. DavidH on May 13, 2005 at 1:44 pm

    Matthew 21

    28 ¶ But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work• to day in my vineyard.

    29 He answered and said, I• will not: but afterward he repented, and went.

    30 And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not•.

    31 Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

    Laman and Lemuel complained about leaving, but they went. Do they get any credit for this? Would it have been better had they stayed in Jerusalem and been killed or taken captive?

    It wasn’t terribly long after the arrival in the promised land that Jacob preached the following:

    Jacob 3

    5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren . . . are more righteous than you; for they have not forgotten• the commandment of the Lord, which was given unto our father—that they should have save it were one• wife, and concubines• they should have none, and there should not be whoredoms committed among them.

    6 And now, this commandment they observe to keep; wherefore, because of this observance, in keeping this commandment, the Lord God will not destroy them, but will be merciful• unto them; and one day they shall become• a blessed people.

    7 Behold, their husbands love their wives, and their wives love their husbands; and their husbands and their wives love their children; and their unbelief• and their hatred towards you is because of the iniquity of their fathers; wherefore, how much better are you than they, in the sight of your great Creator?

    I wonder two things:

    1. What was the “iniquity of [the] fathers” that caused their posterity “to hate” (bear a grudge against) Nephi’s posterity? The murmuring? The rebellion (apostasy)? Something else?

    2. Is it possible, regardless of the other significants faults of Laman and Lemuel, that they loved their wives and children, and taught their posterity to love their spouses and children in the manner noted by Jacob? Where else would their posterity learn this principle? Should Laman and Lemuel get some credit for this?

    Like most people, Laman and Lemuel were not unalloyed sinners or saints. As a sinner myself, with some elements of good, I like to think that there is a good chance that, in their later years–continuing into the hereafter–Laman and Lemuel repented of their iniquities, and perhaps may yet be together with their righteous progeny in the heavens. I hope they did and that they will be.

  41. Frank McIntyre on May 13, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Kaimi,

    Thanks for the more thorough explanation. I think that this is far from the most plausible reading, but

    1. The record does not refute that Laman believed in God and went to synagogue, so he may have.

    2. As Adam said, it would be an interesting story even if it isn’t the story of 1st Nephi.

    I think that whatever Laman’s purported goodness, his quick turn towards attempting to kill Nephi are a pretty good indicator of where he actually stood. The record of Nephi gives no indication that Laman was particularly righteous in any way. His Father continually counsels him to hearken to God and there is no mention of what a righteous son he was in these discussions. He sees an angel and yet, for all his being the righteous son he is quickly looking to kill Nephi again.

    Certainly it is possible that he was a proto-Pharisee, with no testimony to speak of or only a very weak one, since the text is silent on that point. But if so it is very odd that this extremely interesting point never comes out in Nephi’s narrative. Nephi knew how to tell a good story and how to teach moral truths, and yet we are to believe he completely, completely bypasses this fascinating drama? That is simply bizarre. And if Nephi did choose to do so, it was probably because that is not the best way to understand the story. In which case, why would it be the right way for us to understand it?

  42. emily f on May 13, 2005 at 2:14 pm

    Reading the beginning of the Book of Mormon feels to me like reading Nephi’s 20 lb. journal. I write in a journal quite a bit, myself, and I notice that I sound like a pretty great gal according to my own record, which I know to be true–yet it’s not an application for the afterlife so I opt to omit certain things here and there so that I seem like an even greater gal than I really might be. If I don’t talk about myself and all the things affecting me, other people steal the show for a couple lines, but still, it’s how they interact with me, my thoughts on them, my opinion, etc.

    I like to write. I like to read. There is a small uncomfortable place inside of me with no wallpaper or furniture that I rarely voluntarily visit, for it is the chamber of “rewrite what you read.” I avoid cited research papers accordingly. There is a secret tunnel leading from this chamber to another (for all shady, secret chambers connect with one another) that promotes equally as comfortable loitering called “too much loitering,” in fact. That’s the place I’ll find myself when my metaphoric mind gets out of control. Often, blogs will escort me right there.

    I would probably not feel comfortable writing what Kaimi is aiming for, though I admit it sounds interesting. What I would have to do just for my own sake is change the names of the characters and kinda change the setting or something because the story has already been written by God, by Nephi. Nephi just did what he was told and merely “an hundreth part” of his story was even told, but it suffices to explain where the Nephites and Lamanites came from and how. And works as a “hook” to make me want to know how it ends, ya know? I think the story is true, frankly. It matters that Laman and Lemuel were mentioned, for how many times later in the book does it say how the Lamanites are angry for having been tricked out of Jerusalem and robbed of inheritance? It’s a book with a beginning and an end, it’s a true book. I know the validity nor testimony nor belief nor opinion of the book is entailed under this discussion. Will my inner or vocal declaration of which optional classification I am under affect the rest of my experience in the Book of Mormon? (see comments 11 and 12….) Well, perhaps. I kinda class myself with the now seventh or eighth “Nephi wrote the beginning of the book” category. It includes recognition of “admired” characteristics with Nephi (cuz it’s amazing what God can do with a mere mortal (wo)man), with Sariah (cuz my weakened faith will worry sometimes that the Lord won’t come through), with Laman (cuz I murmur), Lemuel (cuz I conform) and even the angels that want to jolt-smack some sense into Laman and Lemuel here and there (cuz, yeah). And then just kinda leaves it at that. It’s a good story.

    (“Smug” adj.: Exhibiting or feeling great or offensive satisfaction with oneself or with one’s situation; self-righteously complacent)(cuz I didn’t really know the definition)

  43. Richard T on May 13, 2005 at 3:15 pm

    Nephi says he had “great desires to know of the mysteries of God,” and this desire prompted him to “cry unto the Lord,” following which he states that the Lord visited him–he doesn’t clarify the nature of this visit–”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,” (1 Nephi 2:16).

    The Lord softened Nephi’s heart, and Nephi plainly attributes his faith–which inspired his legendary obedience– to this mighty change the Lord caused in his heart.

    Here we have the first real Nephite patriarch–who penned the stories we read in 1 Nephi with some 10-40 years of perspective (2 Nephi 5:30-34)–pointing to one of the central messages in the Book of Mormon: we come to this earth already dead, and without redemption, sin and death are our only reality, not choices. “For all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of the Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual,” (Helaman 14:16; also see 2 Nephi 9:8-9). Thus severed, mortal, and tempted, we “become become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature,” (Alma 42:10).

    I think Nephi had it in him to be just as awful and Laman and Lemuel were. I think he struggled with similar temptations. The primary difference between them, in my opinion, is that Nephi recognized his fallen nature and realized that without the Lord’s redemptive touch, he’d utterly fail to be what he needed and wanted to be. He gives us an intimate glimpse into his personal struggling and the meditation and prayer he’d use to repel his carnal nature in 2 Nephi 4.

    Laman and Lemuel tried many times to turn things around. But the record suggests that they never sought for strength and knowledge from the Lord; they are the first examples in the record of what Nephi later described–perhaps with more familial intimacy than we realize when we read his words–as trusting in the arm of flesh. “I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm,” (2 Nephi 4:34).

    Nephi feared himself and trusted in and relied on God. Laman and Lemuel trusted in and relied on themselves.. The first path leads to greater light and happiness. The latter leads to greater darkness and misery. “All men that are in a state of nature, or I would say, in a carnal state, are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; they are without God in the world, and they have gone contrary to the nature of God; therefore, they are in a state contrary to the nature of happiness,” (Alma 41:11).

    I don’t think it’s accurate to say that people who don’t trust in God aren’t capable of honorable behavior. The Lamanites loved their wives, and in a similar vein Laman and Lemuel were probably very good men–hard workers, intelligent, friendly, fun, loyal, etc.–on a regular basis. Nephi, on the other hand, probably struggled with all the same fobiles of human nature that plague the rest of us: pride, foolishness, vanity, anger, lust, etc.

    They were all mortal men. But Nephi continually tried to choose liberty and eternal life through the Lord, and regularly experienced the redemptive fruits of that effort, including incredible faith through which he performed miraculous feats and had heavenly visions throughout his life. By not choosing the Lord, Laman and Lemuel by default chose captivity and death.

    Gotta run.

  44. Jack on May 13, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    Frank,

    I think there’s a good story to be told along the lines of Kaimi’s interpretation regardless of whether or not it’s supportable by the original text. But even so, I think there are a few things that do, at least, point the reader in the direction of such an interpretation. First of all, the overarching problem between the two parties is the complication caused by the doctrine of the Two Ways–the problem of revelation. If Lehi and Nephi had been acting under false pretenses, Laman and his followers may have been justified in putting them to death–as the Law required such a penalty for false prophecy.

    Secondly, Nephi does record that Laman and Lemuel believed that the inhabitants of Jerusalem were righteous because they lived the Law of Moses. Now, we can easily (and perhaps legitimately!) chalk this up to an over-zealous sense of national theology on their part, but as such, it still points to an allegience to a tradition of sorts–an outward formality, if you will.

    And so what we have is a shadow of the kinds of justifications that brought the Savior to His death at the hands of those who were considered to be the religious leaders of their day–those that were thoroughly indoctrinated in, and socially empowered by the concurrent religious tradition.

    Amittedly, I defend Kaimi’s ideas also because I’m a co-writer (composer) on a project dealing with these very characters, and we’ve employed some his (Kaimi’s) approaches. Sorry Kaimi! Don’t let our project steal your thunder. Who knows but what you’ll do much better job than we have!

  45. Frank McIntyre on May 13, 2005 at 4:19 pm

    The part where Laman and Lemuel see an angel makes it a bit of a stretch to say that they didn’t know that there was revelation involved. And yes, the law of Moses mention is about the best that one gets in this direction, but what else would a not very good but sort of good person say to buttrees his claims to want to return? Nephi, as I recall, notes that they liked their nice things, but he makes no mention of their supposed righteousness. In fact, does he or Lehi ever make an appeal to LL on the basis of their purported extra-strong affiliation to God?

    Like I said, I see where one could run with what the text doesn’t say, and stretch what it does, into this kind of interpretation. But it seems a rather large stumbling block that this is not how Nephi approaches it. If Laman was considered the righteous son as his defining personality trait why does Nephi make pretty no mention of this?

  46. Eric S on May 13, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Richard T:

    That is the most inspiring post I have read at T&S since I began visiting this site a few months ago. Thank you.

  47. Jack on May 13, 2005 at 4:49 pm

    Yes, I think it would out of step for Nephi to “define” Laman as the “righteous son”. Nevertheless, it could be possible that Laman possessed a certain degree of “piety”.

    In 1Ne ch. 17 Nephi records that his brothers followed their father “because [they] would hearken unto his words”. I think this demonstrates some belief on their part (how ever small) that they had tried to be “good”. Also re: revelation; let’s not forget that they accused their father of following “the foolish imaginations of his heart”. Regardless of their experiences with outward manifestations, they were really hung-up on the idea of their father being a prophet–let alone their younger brother.

  48. A. Greenwood on May 13, 2005 at 4:56 pm

    Not all angels are celestial. We can say that in Laman and Lemuel’s defense.

    We can also say, what? That I’ve read accounts of the Gulag (and, I think, of the Nazi equivalent) in which lone prisoners sometimes charged the guards. Known to be futile. So what if an angel appeared, and you knew God was real and what he desired of you? What if what he desired of you was intolerable? Might you not madly resist anyway?

  49. Frank McIntyre on May 13, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I think this demonstrates some belief on their part (how ever small) that they had tried to be “good”.

    I absolutely agree with this and hope you did not get a different impression from my writing. I think the record is very supportive that LL tried at certain times and that they did have some interest in following the truth.

    “Regardless of their experiences with outward manifestations, they were really hung-up on the idea of their father being a prophet–let alone their younger brother.”

    While I agree that they did have this hang up, I am not sure it differentiates LL as being proto-Pharisees as opposed to being typical mortals. Doubting that someone is a prophet seems like a pretty standard reaction among a broad range of people including, for a while, Sariah. Doubting that someone is a prophet is not particularly indicative of being a righteous synagogue man.

  50. Jack on May 13, 2005 at 8:48 pm

    Frank,

    Thanks for the clarification in your first paragraph–sorry for not reading your comment carefully enough.

    “Doubting that someone is a prophet is not particularly indicative of being a righteous synagogue man.”

    True. Nevertheless, we have “righteous synagogue men” trying to kill Jesus during one of their meetings. Not trying to be cheeky–just clinging to the possibilty.

    That said, I don’t think I can go the distance with Kaimi in terms of sympathy–that is if he’s implying that Laman was a soft hearted seeker of truth. I can, however, sympathize with a character who’s charismatic and ambitious, who’s on the path of success, who’s married to a religious tradition that bolsters his every aspiration; to succeed his father as heir; to receive a scribal training of sorts as perhaps was expected of the eldest (which would position one to receive the highest honors that society can bestow), etc., etc. In this sense we have a character who’s doing what he’s been brought up to do, and in fact, would do wrong not to pursue such a course regardless of what his motives are. This, I think, would be the “good” synagogue going man–at least in his own mind.

  51. Kaimi on May 13, 2005 at 9:20 pm

    Frank,

    I’m in full agreement that you can’t make a positive case for this from the text. The text just isn’t clear. I do think that this is a reasonable gray-area interpretation.

    It’s obviously not one that you find particularly appealing. As far as I’m concerned as a storyteller, that just tough. I’m telling a story the way that it works for me.

    You seem to be thinking that I’ve got some hidden agenda here. Alas, I can’t claim sufficient literary talent to craft a story around any sort of agenda. And I haven’t done so here. (It’s not like I get bitten by the muse so often that I can pick and choose my stories. I’m a lawyer, and I sometimes write in my spare time when I have that rare combination of energy plus story ideas).

    Sometimes a story is just a story. I saw what looked like a nice potential character hook here, and I’m planning on running with it. And I think it’s pretty clear that a flawed, prideful son who thinks that he’s properly following the law (and is resentful towards his father and brother out of his own perceptions of righteousness) is a lot more interesting a character than the cardboard evil-Laman type.

    That’s all that there is. You don’t like my hook, and that’s your prerogative, but my idea seems to be one that appeals to a number of other readers, which frankly makes me feel pretty good. I welcome constructive critique of the idea, or suggestions. But if you’re just going to snipe at my not-yet-written story over issues which it may or may not actually include or develop — well, can’t you find better things to do?

  52. Jack on May 13, 2005 at 11:38 pm

    “I think it’s pretty clear that a flawed, prideful son who thinks that he’s properly following the law (and is resentful towards his father and brother out of his own perceptions of righteousness) is a lot more interesting a character than the cardboard evil-Laman type.”

    Right-on Kaimi! Run with it!

    If I may be so presumptuous as to speak for Frank: I don’t think he saw your ideas as a fictionalization so much as an alternative enterpretation of the text.

  53. Jack on May 13, 2005 at 11:39 pm

    oops, interpretation…

  54. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 14, 2005 at 9:04 am

    One of my many back-burnered projects is a retelling of the Nephi story. The basic plotline will go something along these lines:

    Lehi is a wealthy businessman [and politician] who has never had time for God. He’s not a bad guy, but not religious at all.

    His oldest son, Laman, decides to straighten up. He becomes immersed in the Jewish religion of the time, meeting regularly with the priests and elders. He also works on his family and his dad. He bugs his dad regularly to start attending the synagogue, making his sacrifices, and so forth. Dad doesn’t listen. Laman consigns himself to the role of being the righteous son, stuck with a less-than-ideal dad, but confident of his own place in heaven because of his obedience.

    A point.

    At the time of Laman, Jerusalem was undergoing a religious revival of sorts. They felt entitled to the aid of God. The revival was combined with what I often refer to as neoCalvinism (a correlation of wealth and the grace of God) and a willingness to seek wealth at the expense of the poor. So, even as Lehi and other prophets are preaching to them that they need to repent, they are congratulating themselves on how holy they are.

    Next, Laman felt, and would have culturally felt, a right to Nephi’s role and that any divergence in roles was only a temporary thing, a flaw in the natural and the holy order that should resolve. So every time he does a course correction, he would expect that the immediate result would be that he would now revert to being the favored son with the mandate of Heaven.

    When you read his complaints later, that Nephi has used cunning arts to trick them and to deprive Laman of his natural place and lead them all out where Nephi can be in charge, you can read the echos of that. The “God makes no such thing known to us” line is a “I follow the laws, I do what God has made known to us will make us holy, God has given us no such instruction to do this other thing” — a rejection more than a “why didn’t I think to do that, uh, I’m passive and stupid” comment.

    And, if the terms household and house, etc. were used in their normal context, the entire expedition has slaves, servants and relatives (of Ishmael) running around. When Nephi is building his boat, the “withholding of labor” is holding back Laman and Lemuel’s share of the servants and such, not their personal labor, which is why they are so shocked at the end when they see the finished boat — they have not been working on it themselves and seeing it every day.

    When Nephi leaves in the wilderness in the new world with the “list” of primaries and “whosoever” that isn’t a code word for some nameless daughters of Ishmael and a few children in arms — it means that Nephi has taken off with all the servant class types and left Laman and Lemuel high and dry. Kind of like if you went into work at the family business one morning and found your younger brother had cleaned out his office, taken 95% of the employees and all the inventory and left you to support yourself by hunting.

    Read this way Lamen and Lemuel are more tragic and more understandable, fit better in their cultural context. The various statements of loss and entitlement (the historical complaints of various groups) make excellent sense as well.

    Then, added to that, if you take the group as politically trained and moving in on the natives and establishing elites, Jacob in the Temple makes a lot of sense. If it is just 30-40 people, how are people taking wives and concubines and no one notices … If it is 200+ in an environment where they are an elite moving in on locals numbering a few thousand or more, then it makes a lot of sense.

    As do the statements later on in the Book of Mormon about how the wars rage on after the Nephites are slain and how they are hunted down — the Nephites are just a faction (though very important to the author) and the group being hunted down is the elite governing group — the other factions taking time to mop up elite members, not hunt down all the farmers and peons.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see this thread.

  55. emily f on May 14, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Well, you can read in to the book what ever you’d like for it to make sense if it’s really confusing you that bad.

  56. Adam Greenwood on May 14, 2005 at 7:07 pm

    Kaimi, I think you’re way misunderstanding Frank M.

    Here’s yet another way to look at Laman. Maybe he had a bit of a struggle within himself earlier in life with living the Law of Moses, etc., which he eventally won, and now he feels like he’s done enough. Religion? Got it covered. Pretty pleased with it, in fact.

    Only, God has other plans.

  57. Carolee on May 14, 2005 at 7:31 pm

    As far as discussing interpretations of the lives of Nephi’s family, I thought I might mention that I gained some insight into the characters in 1 Nephi through Alma from reading Orson Scott Card’s “Homecoming” series (Memory of Earth, Call of Earth, Ships of Earth, Earthfall, Earthborn) which is a sci-fi series loosely based on the Nephi story. The BOM events made more sense when they are fictionalized and personalities were explored. Identifying with the Nephi-character doesn’t seem so high-and-mighty when you consider the thought processes that may have been involved in his choices. (Has anyone else read these books, or am I the only geek on this board?)

  58. Frank McIntyre on May 16, 2005 at 1:02 am

    Kaimi, Jack is correct. As I said before, if you wish to write such a story, then power to you. I am just arguing with Jack about its plausibility as what actually happened. For example, I read the first OSC book Carolee mentioned, and there was some sort of computer playing the role of deity/angel. Well I had no problem with that as a fictional device to make the story go. But had OSC then claimed that he thought what he wrote was what actually happened, well that would be nuts. SImilarly we agree that your story hook is more interesting as a dramatic device than what Nephi presents, even though, in my opinion at least, it is not the most plausible accounting of what actually happened.

  59. Mark B. on May 16, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    Once you get to Second Nephi, you can recast your categories–into Mormons who act, and those who are acted upon.

  60. A. Greenwood on May 16, 2005 at 1:19 pm

    Or those who read the Isaiah chapters and those who skip them.

  61. JKS on May 16, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    I tried reading OSC’s Homecoming. I didn’t make it through the first book. I figured, I knew what had happened….I’ve read the original BoM. I have enjoyed many other OSC books, but the used of the Nephi story in his own seemed weird. I’ve read a couple of his books with Biblical women where he tries to tell their story and I had no issue with that. I guess because it was more acknowledged that he was writing a historical novel–with his own ideas and interpretation of actual people and events. The Homecoming series just struck me as he didn’t have any ideas and decided -hey, I’ll just use the Nephi story but change it so much maybe no one will notice it. LOL.
    I kind of chuckle thinking of sci-fi fans being tracted my missionaries. They read the book of mormon and start thinking “hmmm, it sounds so familiar…” Maybe they’ll think the BoM is a knockoff of OSC’s books.

  62. A. Greenwood on May 16, 2005 at 6:04 pm

    I read it Homecoming as a fascinating intellectual problem–how to make a story that makes sense as an SF story, but actually turns out to be a retelling of Lehi’s family? And Mr. Card pulls it off.

  63. RoAnn on May 16, 2005 at 7:50 pm

    When I first read the first Homecoming book I quit in the middle, very disturbed by the Book of Mormon parallels, probably because he invented motivations and actions for the characters corresponding to Lehi and family that I felt were inappropriate. Some years later, I read the whole series, and truly enjoyed it. I had stopped trying to read it as a competing explanation of the Book of Mormon, but as very good fiction. I then found that Card’s ideas about his characters actually helped me appreciate the real book of Mormon people in interesting and different ways, and opened my mind and spirit to new understanding of the actual Scriptures.

    I also feel very positive about Card’s Women of Genesis series, which is historical, rather than science, fiction. Historical fiction can definitely work, but fiction based on Scripture perhaps runs a greater risk of alienating readers because of the preconceived opinions LDS readers are likely to have.

  64. Mike on May 18, 2005 at 12:02 pm

    When I first quaffed through comment #35, I thought it referred to Joseph Smith, not Joseph of Egypt…. (Joseph’s brothers were serious (at first) about killing him…) Then I thought, sometimes our honest mistakes are windows into our mind that leads to new insights.

    Since we have brought up the realm of science fiction and various fictional movies, then mixed in some scripture and find the resulting brew pleasing, I would like to take the next step. Some people I know believe the Book of Mormon is “true” in a spiritual sense, that it was composed by an inspired Joseph Smith in the 19th century as a scaffolding of pious fiction upon which is vividly presented the principles of the gospel. In this mind set the story of Lehi’s family becomes thinly disguised autobiography for Joseph Smith.

    Obvious parallels suggest themselves:

    Lehi= Joseph Smith Sr.

    Sarah= Lucy Mack Smith

    Nephi= Joseph Smith Jr.

    From here it gets dicy:

    Sam= Samuel Smith?

    Laman= Alvin Smith? (3 of 5 letters the same)

    Lemuel= William? (two l’s and 2 e’s substituted for 2 i’s)

    Jacob= Don Carlos Smith? (c’s and o’s)

    Joseph= Hyrum Smith? (doesn’t fit, except they were always together in life and in death)

    Nephi’s sisters= the 3 Smith sisters?

    And perhaps too much of a stretch:

    Emma Hale= Nephi’s unnamed wife?

    Ishmael=Isaac Hale?

    Emma’s brother’s=Sons of Ishmael? (they would certainly have liked to tie him up)

    Now before those of you who know/believe in the literal historicity of the story blow a cork and completely dismiss this parallel, remember that real history often repeats its self. Many things seem to happen over and over with amazing regularity. That the first family in the Book of Mormon has a very similar structure to Joseph’s own family (6 brothers and several sisters) and remotely (very remotely, almost subconsciously remotely) similar names and highly speculatively similar personalities does not prove anything, for or against the Book of Mormon. Perhaps God has a reason beyond our comprehension for selecting prophets from certain family structures at certain times in history. Giving children names is often a deeply spiritual experience.

    Another parallel foams to the surface. I recall reading an article in the Ensign many years ago about the dreams of Joseph Smith Sr and the similarity between the dreams of Joseph of Egypt. I also seem to recall that the incredible dream in 1st Nephi, given to Lehi and then elaborated upon by Nephi, about the tree of life and the iron rod. This dream was also described in Lucy Mack Smiths journal (?) as being given to her husband Joseph Smith Sr. many years before the Prophet Joseph was old enough to experience these things. Can you imagine what the Prophet Joseph must have thought as he translated the description of that dream out of 1st Nephi that his very own father had told him about as a small child? Two fathers and two sons whose lives are all changed by that unforgettable dream.

    I read a article (that I really did not understand) about “Deep Order” that seemed to make this point about parallels in unexpected places. For example the solar system with planets rotating around it parallels the structure of the molecule with electrons in orbit around a nucleus. There is no obvious reason why this must be to mere mortals, but to the theo-rhetorical physicists there are compelling reaons. Supposedly there is even more striking similarity in the quantum mechanics that is used to describe these things.

    We have so much better access to the rest of the history of Joseph Smith in comparison to the history of Lehi. If we can get beyond trying to prove/disprove the historicity of the Book of Mormon (which seems to be an obsession of our time), we might find some amazing insights.

    Here is a start, not really amazing, but a little snort of a start. Alvin was supposedly very skillful in some of the folk magic (a derivative of pre-Chrstian European religion really) practiced by the Smith family. He also died when he was quite young and several months later was exhumed by his father and brothers. Joseph was a young teenager at the time and it must have been a shocking experience. Laman was the term used to refer to secret documents with magical symbols handed down from generation to generation in the Smith family prior to Joseph. William if I recall correctly was emotionally immature and got into angry wrassling matches with his older brothers even as an adult and Joseph was the only one strong enough to physically restrain him. This caused quite a bit of trouble. This is just a start. Better minds than mine can undoubtedly come up with better insights. Why create fantasy when history is better?

    On another side topic discussed above; (#30, #32, #39) I think Sidney Rigdon left the church when he learned of Joseph’s attempt to marry his 16 year old daughter. I worked with a woman once who was a direct descendant of Rigdon and this is what she said her family believed. I think Oliver Cowdery left over the Fanny Algers episode, mixed in with some jealosy of Rigdon. I think William Law left when Joseph asked him for his wife’s hand in plural marriage. I think Emma Smith left because she disliked Brigham Young and could see no other future role for herself and her small children (who would all be a threat to church authority) except as Brig’s plural wife. If you found out that President Hinckley was secretly and illegally married to, lets say ( I am just making this up, please do not start up false rumors) Sheri Dew and/or that Brazilian pop star who sang so beautifully in conference a couple years ago, (Liriel?), wouldn’t it shake you up? I do not judge these men harshly, because I doubt that I would have done any better, or worse depending on your perspective.

    This brew is getting too intoxicating, time to sober up. Slap me if I offended anyone.

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