BMGD #12: Jacob 1-4

March 12, 2012 | 3 comments
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CHAPTER 1
1 For behold, it came to pass that *fifty and five years had passed away from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; wherefore, Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven.

Does the fact that one human is giving another a commandment in this verse nuance your thinking about what the word “commandment” means in the BoM?

Do we know why Sam or one of Nephi’s sons didn’t inherit the record-keeping job?  NB that all of the other small plates keepers are from Jacob’s line.

Brant Gardner:

It is interesting to speculate how it is that Jacob knows that these plates are “small.” It can only be that there is another set of plates for comparison (and there were) and that Jacob had seen them (which is not surprising). What is only slightly surprising in this scenario, is that while Jacob was sufficiently familiar with the large plates to be able to use them as the standard of comparison he apparently knows little about these “small” plates. He would surely have known of their existence, and Nephi would have no reason to hide them, and in a small community most things are known. However, Jacob either does not know why they exist, or Nephi’s instructions are a formality rather than a necessary companion to the plates. Citation

2 And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious; that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi.

Given that Jacob was identified in v1, what work does the name Jacob do in this verse?

Does the metaphor of “touching” suggest anything to you about what Jacob thought about history?

How would you calm down a historian upset over the fact that Jacob defines the set of “most precious things” as not including the set of “history of this people”?

How does the opposition of precious things and historical things shape your interpretation of the BoM, particularly the war chapters?  What hermeneutic does it suggest is most appropriate to reading the historical materials in the BoM?

What work is the phrase “which are called the people of Nephi” (a fact that we already know) doing in this verse?

L. Tom Perry:

How often we read the record primarily as a history of a fallen people, failing to remember that it was compiled by inspired prophets for the purpose of helping us come unto Christ. The major writers of the Book of Mormon did not intend it to be a history book at all. In fact, Jacob said that his brother Nephi commanded him that he “should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people” (Jacob 1:2). Each time we read the book we should probably ask ourselves: “Why did these writers choose these particular stories or events to include in the record? What value are they for us today?” Oct 05

3 For he said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation.

Why were there two sets of plates?  Why did Jacob think it was important to share with us the directions Nephi gave him for compiling the plates?  Why was the material divided into “precious” and “historical” and not in some other way (or no way at all)?

4 And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of our people.

Notice the break in the parallelism:  preaching/sacred, revelation/great, and prophesying/???.  I’m also curious about the arrangement of the terms:  Is not revelation sacred?  Is not preaching great?  And what is the difference between revelation and prophesying?

“Heads” probably means “the most important.”

In what way would this record be “for Christ’s sake”?

5 For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen unto them.

We usually think of anxiety as a bad thing.  What does this verse suggest about anxiety?  Here is a link to other uses of anxiety in the BoM; what do they suggest?

Who is the “us” in this verse?  (I’d presume Nephi and Jacob.  Who else might it be?  Perhaps the royal “we”?)  If we assume that it is Nephi and Jacob, then why does Jacob draw Nephi in, when v1-2 worked to separate them?

The BoM record shows people with an enormous concern for what would happen to their descendents.  (This concern is much more muted in the Bible.)  What might we learn from it?

6 And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.

Is there a difference between revelations and prophecy in this verse?  Is there a difference between the spirit of prophecy and prophecy?

Why choose the metaphor of a kingdom for this verse?

7 Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.

I’m curious about the word “persuade.”  In what ways might that term shape our approach to sharing the gospel?

Is “persuading them to come unto Christ” and “partaking of the goodness of God” two different things or two different ways of stating the same thing?

Why does Jacob choose to bring in the experience in the wilderness at this point?  Is it a reference to the forty years of wandering as being forbidden to enter into the rest of the Lord, or perhaps to their eternal judgment?  How do you know?

If a person did it, we would not consider “swearing in his wrath” to be a good thing!  What’s going on in this verse?

Does “days of temptation” refer to the temptation of the Lord or of the people?  If the people, what were they tempted with?

I will probably ask the class what words jump out at them as they read this verse.  My nominations:

–‘persuade’–not force, but kindness

–‘partake of the goodness’–not bind them down, invite

–‘enter . . . rest’–what does this phrase suggest?

–why bring up the Israelites now?

Cf. Isaiah 11:10 here–is that what Jacob is alluding to with “enter into his rest” and, if so, how might that passage impact your reading of this verse?

8 Wherefore, we would to God that we could persuade all men not to rebel against God, to provoke him to anger, but that all men would believe in Christ, and view his death, and suffer his cross and bear the shame of the world; wherefore, I, Jacob, take it upon me to fulfil the commandment of my brother Nephi.

Why does God get angry when we rebel?  Should we get angry when our children rebel?

Is it fair to say that this verse sets rebellion and belief as opposites?  If so, what might you learn from that?

What does Jacob’s invitation for all people to “view his death” mean?  Have a vision?  Take a certain view of his death (i.e., as the pivotal moment in human history)?

What does Jacob mean when he asks people to “suffer his cross”?  (Is he also asking people to bear the shame of the world?)

How does the “wherefore” in this verse relate to the material before it?

How does fulfilling Nephi’s commandment (which was, see v1-2, presumably to keep a record) relate to the material in this verse?  What does it suggest about what the reader should be looking for in Jacob’s writings?

9 Now Nephi began to be old, and he saw that he must soon die; wherefore, he anointed a man to be a king and a ruler over his people now, according to the reigns of the kings.

This is yet another ambiguous entry in the discussion of Nephi’s (possible) kingship:  I’m still not convinced that we can really determine one way or the other whether Nephi was a king.  This verse does, however, make clear that Nephi anointed a king.  It also suggests that “king” and “ruler” may possibly have been two separate roles in their thinking, but united at this point.

What does “according to the reigns of the kings” mean?

Assuming that no local people have joined the Nephites, they have a population of maybe 2-3 dozen adults at this point.  So we might hatchet down our thinking about a “king” just a notch or two.  ;)  We’d probably translate as “chieftain” or “tribal elder” or somesuch today.

NB that Jacob is not the next king.  Jacob does, however, have a temple and teaching role.

NB that this new king is not named.  This article points out how weird that is (these people are obsessed with records, remember) and then suggests that “second Nephi” (the king, not the book) was Sam or Sam’s son.

10 The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare—

Nephi told us zilch about his rule–there are no stories from that time in the record as we have it.  The only detail we get is here–that the people loved him.

Once again (2 Nephi 6:2), Nephi’s role as a protector is mentioned.  I can’t help but thinking that this is somewhat at odds with the OT view that the prophets keep reiterating that the covenant people are supposed to look to the Lord as their protector.

Once again (see 2 Nephi 5:14), the sword of Laban is mentioned in connection with Nephi’s role in leading his people.  We usually read the beheading of Laban as a story primarily about either obedience or the importance of having the scriptures, but the BoM, it seems that at least a good chunk of the importance of the Laban story is the role that the sword of Laban would play in future events in Nephite history, at least in the sense of being a symbol of the ruler’s ability to provide security for his people.  Should this reception history impact our understanding of the original Laban story?

11 Wherefore, the people were desirous to retain in remembrance his name. And whoso should reign in his stead were called by the people, second Nephi, third Nephi, and so forth, according to the reigns of the kings; and thus they were called by the people, let them be of whatever name they would.

Why does Jacob bother to tell us this?  (And, sidenote, what about Nephi’s children?)

12 And it came to pass that Nephi died.

13 Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites.

Is it significant that the Nephites are described as what they are not (“not Lamanites”)?

Why do you think the Nephites maintained these distinct names?  Was it a good or a bad thing?  Why do you think Jacob bothered to tell us about it, after that introduction about not including any history and only the “most precious” spiritual things in this record?

14 But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi, according to the reigns of the kings.

Naming is very important, especially in the Bible.  To name someone connotes having power over them.  Names also, in the Bible, often have deeper meanings.  What happens to the reader when Jacob defines “Lamanites” as those “that seek to destroy the people of Nephi”?  Is that fair?

What does “according to the reigns of the kings” do in this verse?

15 And now it came to pass that the people of Nephi, under the reign of the second king, began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son.

Was Nephi the first king?  Or, is this the third leader (Nephi, one king, the second king)?

Is it ironic that in the immediately preceding verse, we were told that the “friendly” people will be called the people of Nephi, and then the very first thing those people are described as doing is to become hard-hearted?

What does the word “indulge” in this verse suggest to you?

How do you reconcile this verse with D & C 132:38:  “David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.”

Why “somewhat” in this verse?

Why would hard-heartedness result in desiring many wives?

16 Yea, and they also began to search much gold and silver, and began to be lifted up somewhat in pride.

Why “search”?

Is the desire for wealth related to the sins of v15?

Where does all of this (desire for multiple wives, wealth, pride) come from?  Why doesn’t Jacob give us more information about the things that led to these sins?

17 Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord.

Is it significant that this teaching is in the temple?

In the OT, the temple is not generally (ever?  did I miss anything?) a site of instruction.  (In the NT, Jesus does listen/teach there.) Why do you think it is here?

Why does Jacob mention that he was on the Lord’s errand?

What do you take from the fact that the people who needed to hear Jacob’s message about polygamy, wealth-seeking, and pride are in the temple to hear it?

18 For I, Jacob, and my brother Joseph had been consecrated priests and teachers of this people, by the hand of Nephi.

What work is this verse doing?

Is being a consecrated priest related to his teaching assignment here?  (I’m thinking the commingling of teaching imagery and sacrificial imagery in v19 might be a potent answer to that question!)

(As far as I remember . . .), there isn’t a distinct office of “teacher” to which one was consecrated in the OT.

19 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.

Webster 1828 “magnify”:

1. To make great or greater; to increase the apparent dimensions of a body.

2. To make great in representation; to extol; to exalt in description or praise.

3. To extol; to exalt; to elevate; to raise in estimation.

Thinking both about the definition of “magnify” as well as what Jacob does in the text, what did it mean for him to “magnify” his office?

Jim F.:  “The KJV translation of the Old Testament uses “magnify” 34 times in several ways: it speaks of magnifying the Lord’s name (for example, 2 Samuel 7:26); it speaks of the Lord magnifying one of his servants (for example, 2 Chronicles 1:1); and it speaks of those who magnify themselves against the Lord (for example, Psalms 55:12). As far as I can tell, however, it never speaks of magnifying an office. (The closest it comes is in 2 Chronicles 31:8, where it says the priest sanctified themselves in their office.) The KJV translation of the New Testament uses “magnify” 6 times, in five cases as the Old Testament does. In Romans 11:13, however, Paul speaks of magnifying his office. Here “magnify” can also be translated “praise” or “honor.” When used to refer to the resurrection, the Greek verb that Paul uses here means “to clothe in splendor.” The noun form of the word means “glory,” and refers specifically to God’s glory. The Book of Mormon uses the term “magnify” only five times, three times as the Old Testament does and twice in terms of magnifying one’s office. (Every use occurs before the coming of Christ.) Jacob is the only Book of Mormon writer to use “magnify” in connection with magnifying one’s office (Jacob 1:19 and 2:2). However, the Doctrine and Covenants differs from the other scriptures in that it only uses “magnify” in connection with magnifying one’s office. What do you make of those differences in usage? ”

If someone said, “I want to magnify my calling, but I just don’t know how!” what would you say?  I’ll probably also ask the class to share any experiences that they have had with magnifying their callings.

In a few conference talks, this verse and the one prior have been used as examples of good teaching or as patterns for good teaching.  If you read these verses that way, what might you conclude?

CHAPTER 2
1 The words which Jacob, the brother of Nephi, spake unto the people of Nephi, after the death of Nephi:

Do we presume correctly that this is the material that Jacob taught in the temple, as a response to the people’s wickedness, according to the errand of the Lord (see 1:17)?  (See v2 for temple reference.)

Why did Jacob bother mentioning (again) that this is after the death of Nephi?

Why is Jacob referred to in the third person here?

2 Now, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob, according to the responsibility which I am under to God, to magnify mine office with soberness, and that I might rid my garments of your sins, I come up into the temple this day that I might declare unto you the word of God.

We talked about “magnify” in the last chapter, but a cynic would say that if you do what the Lord tells you to, that ain’t magnifying–that’s just doing.  Why do you think Jacob twice uses the word magnify to describe completing his errand from the Lord?

Why “beloved” brethren?

NB that “brethren” may mean “brothers and sisters.”

soberness = seriousness

Again, we get the “rid garments of sins” language.  The purpose of the OT temple rituals was to rid individuals, clothing, homes, lepers, etc. of ritual impurity.  In this discourse, Jacob has framed the teaching of correct doctrine as having the same effects as the temple rituals.  This is a big deal.

3 And ye yourselves know that I have hitherto been diligent in the office of my calling; but I this day am weighed down with much more desire and anxiety for the welfare of your souls than I have hitherto been.

What does the “weighed down” metaphor suggest?

Ch1 referred to faith and anxiety; here it is desire and anxiety.

4 For behold, as yet, ye have been obedient unto the word of the Lord, which I have given unto you.

How do you reconcile this verse with 1:15-16?  (One approach:  2:5 may imply that what was described in 1:15-16 was just thoughts in those directions which here would not be defined as sins.  How else might we read it?)

5 But behold, hearken ye unto me, and know that by the help of the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth I can tell you concerning your thoughts, how that ye are beginning to labor in sin, which sin appeareth very abominable unto me, yea, and abominable unto God.

Why does Jacob choose “all-powerful Creator” instead of a different title here?

How common do you think it is for a leader to know a people’s thoughts?

Why “labor” in sin?  Is this a childbirth metaphor?  If it is garden-variety labor, why is that a good metaphor for sin?

Usually we say that something “appears” someway if it, in fact, is not that way.  Presumably, that isn’t Jacob’s intention here.  Why then does he say that their sins “appeareth” abominable?

Why mention that it is abominable to Jacob?  Wouldn’t it have been enough to say that it is abominable to God?

As the rest of the sermon will suggest (especially the idea that the women and children will be horrified by the news!), these men are not yet engaged in these sins–they are just thinking about them and planning them.  It might be interesting at this point to have a conversation about thoughts.

6 Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame before the presence of my Maker, that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts.

Is grief our usual response to others’ sins?  Should it be?

I think we’d tell Jacob that he has no need to be ashamed for others’ sins.  Is that the right attitude to have?

Why “shrink” with shame?

Is he really ashamed to talk about their sins?  Why?  (Is he just a prude?)

Wait–the Lord is the one who gave him this assignment–why would he shrink with shame for completing it?

7 And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;

On the one hand, this is the kind of verse that makes feminist readers batpoop crazy–when you realize in the middle of the discourse that women are not a part of the audience after all.  On the other hand, this verse tells us that women and children were present in the temple.  Unless we understand temple to actually mean the area surrounding the temple (and there is some ambiguity about the NT use of these terms . . .), then the Nephites allowed women into the temple in a way that was not done in the OT.  So that’s a big deal.

I think the interpretive key to this discourse, and particularly this passage (and the others like it that show an enormous concern for the sensibilities of Jacob’s female audience members), is 2:4, where we find out that these men have not sinned yet.  Jacob knows their thoughts, so he knows they have some huge plans in the wealth-seeking, multiple-marrying, concubine-accumulating department, hence the talk.  But they are just plans at this point.  Presumably, their significant others do not know about them.  That’s why Jacob hates to give this speech:  the women will find out what the men are planning.  He knows it will pierce them.  That’s it.  It isn’t that he thinks that they can’t handle a talk about polygamy.

Dallin H. Oaks:

In the second chapter of the book that bears his name, Jacob condemns men for their “whoredoms” (Jacob 2:23, 28). He told them they had “broken the hearts of [their] tender wives, and lost the confidence of [their] children, because of [their] bad examples before them” (Jacob 2:35). What were these grossly wicked “whoredoms”? No doubt some men were already guilty of evil acts. But the main focus of Jacob’s great sermon was not with evil acts completed, but with evil acts contemplated. Apr 05 GC

What’s interesting about this is the idea that the women would be so appalled by the idea of polygamy and/or concubines–two practices that are not condemned in the OT and were part of the culture.  Where does this abhorrence for polygamy come from?!?

The fact that Jacob frames the issue that the women’s distaste for polygamy is pleasing to God is most interesting. . .

8 And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.

9 Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.

I can’t think of any time in the Bible where anyone is so dang skittish about fulfilling their preaching assignment because of the delicate sensibilities of their audience (gender-based or otherwise).  What the heck is going on here?

How do you reconcile this verse with v4, where Jacob tells them that they haven’t sinned yet?

How on earth does Jacob think he could heal their wounds besides getting them to stop sinning?

10 But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God, and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations, in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart, and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.

Again, the contrast to v4 . . .

6 A Yea, it grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame
B before the presence of my Maker,
C that I must testify unto you concerning the wickedness of your hearts.
7 D And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech
concerning you,
E before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly
tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God;
8 F And it supposeth me that they have come up hither to hear the
pleasing word of God,
G yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.
9 H Wherefore, it burdeneth my soul that I should be
constrained, because of the strict commandment which I
have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes,
I to enlarge the wounds
I of those who are already wounded,
H instead of consoling
G and healing their wounds;
F and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon
the pleasing word of God
E have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds.
10 D But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to
the strict commands of God,
C and tell you concerning your wickedness and abominations,
B in the presence of the pure in heart, and the broken heart,
A and under the glance of the piercing eye of the Almighty God.

This chiasmus is from this book.  What I find compelling about it is that it puts the focus of the passage on the wounding of the innocent.

11 Wherefore, I must tell you the truth according to the plainness of the word of God. For behold, as I inquired of the Lord, thus came the word unto me, saying: Jacob, get thou up into the temple on the morrow, and declare the word which I shall give thee unto this people.

Do you have any sense as to what he was asking the Lord?

This is a very long introduction.  Why do you think Jacob does this?

12 And now behold, my brethren, this is the word which I declare unto you, that many of you have begun to search for gold, and for silver, and for all manner of precious ores, in the which this land, which is a land of promise unto you and to your seed, doth abound most plentifully.

I think we assume that Jacob’s concern with the delicacy of his female audience is related to the unpleasantness of having to talk about s-e-x in mixed company.  And yet he leads off with the search for wealth.  If you re-read v7-10 thinking about the fact that he’s going to talk about the search for wealth, then what do you make of that passage?  (More offensive, or less?)

You can just see the audience at this point thinking, “well, the Lord gave us this land . . . the Lord filled it with gold and silver . . . we’re looking for the gold and silver . . . what’s your problem, dude?”  What’s the answer to that?  What I’m trying to get at is this:  Jacob sets this up by pointing out that (1) they were given the land and (2) the land is filled with gold and silver.  How/why then would searching out that gold and silver possibly be bad?

13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.

How can a hand smile?

Does this verse suggest that it isn’t wealth per se but the unequal distribution of wealth that is inimical to righteousness?  If so, might that point us in the direction of focusing on the fact that Jacob’s critique (mentioned once in the last chapter and twice so far) is focused on “seeking” gold and silver.  In other words, this verse says that they have obtained riches and the last verse says that the Lord gave them the land that had the riches.  All that might be well and good, and the problem is that they are now “seeking” more so that they can have more than other people.  Is that the real problem?  (And, if it is, how might that nuance our understanding of how/why Jacob thinks this conversation would wound their delicate women?)

They are proud of their fine (=better than other people) clothes.  They got these by seeking out more wealth than other people, and therefore concluded that they are better than other people.  The end result of this was persecuting other people.  What does this pattern teach you that might be useful to your own life?

Do you think a fair reading of v12-13 is that seeking and accumulating wealth is not problematic; what is problematic is thinking that you are better than someone else because you are wealthier than they are.  Next question:  Is it possible to seek and accumulate wealth without thinking that you are better than someone who hasn’t done this?

14 And now, my brethren, do ye suppose that God justifieth you in this thing? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. But he condemneth you, and if ye persist in these things his judgments must speedily come unto you.

What part(s) of v13 are condemned here, and how might we be guilty of the same things today?

15 O that he would show you that he can pierce you, and with one glance of his eye he can smite you to the dust!

Is the piercing in this verse related to the piercing in v9?  What about v10?

16 O that he would rid you from this iniquity and abomination. And, O that ye would listen unto the word of his commands, and let not this pride of your hearts destroy your souls!

Shouldn’t it be “rid this iniquity and abomination from you”?

17 Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

Is it possible to be in harmony with this commandment if you have more than another saint has?

(And, again, is this part of the discourse that Jacob was horrified of speaking in front of the delicate women?  If so, why?)

18 But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.

19 And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.

Is it generally true that everyone who has a hope in Christ and seeks riches will get riches?

Do you read this verse to say that anyone who has riches who is not using them to clothe the naked etc., does not have a hope in Christ?

How can riches liberate the captive?

L. Tom Perry:

So often it is the order of things that is fundamental in the Lord’s instructions to us. The Lord is not telling us that we should not be prosperous. This would be inconsistent with the many records we have of Him blessing His people with prosperity. But He is telling us that we should seek prosperity only after we have sought and found Him. Then, because our hearts are right, because we love Him first and foremost, we will choose to invest the riches we obtain in building His kingdom. Apr 87 GC

It seems that every time the topic of wealth comes up in a classroom, people go into Justification Mode instead of Introspection Mode.  They “aim” the verses at the super-rich (that is, they do not consider themselves wealthy, despite the fact that a lower middle class American has more wealth than pretty much everyone in history and the vast majority of people on earth today), they tell you about the GA that they knew once who had a Ferrari, they tell you that the poor would misuse additional money (by buying drugs), they tell you that we shouldn’t encourage dependency by just giving the poor stuff, they tell you that they are saving their money so they can always be self-sufficient and go on a mission when they retire.  Why does the wall go up, and what might we do about it?

20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?

Why do you think Jacob asks this question?

Dallin H. Oaks:

In all of our testifying we must avoid arrogance and pride. We should remember the Book of Mormon rebuke to a people who had such pride in the greater things God had given them that they afflicted their neighbors (see Jacob 2:20). Jacob said this was “abominable unto him who created all flesh” because “the one being is as precious in his sight as the other” (Jacob 2:21). Later, Alma cautioned that “ye shall not esteem one flesh above another, or one man shall not think himself above another” (Mosiah 23:7). Apr 08 GC

21 Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust; and for the selfsame end hath he created them, that they should keep his commandments and glorify him forever.

It is presented almost as a sidenote, but what do you make of Jacob sneaking in the idea that all people were created to keep the commandments and glorify God?

22 And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.

Really?  He just said they were guilty of abominable sin but now he says that his heart would rejoice?

23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.

In 1:15 and 16, Jacob mentioned polygamy first and wealth-seeking second.  Is it significant that here, where he preaches on those topics, he inverts the order?

I’m curious about the use of this verse as an interpretive key to the OT.  That is, the Nephites seem to be interpreting the OT by thinking, “hey, this king did something, so that something must have been OK.”  Whereas the Lord is commanding Jacob to say, “just because an OT king did something does not mean that it was OK!”  Assuming that you agree with that analysis, how should it inform your approach to interpreting the OT?

I’m wondering whether the plans for multiple wives and concubines is an outgrowth of (the quest for) wealth and pride.  Not only is wealth necessary to support more than one woman (and her children), but it seems possible that women (and children) might just be one more indicator of social standing and/or opportunity to showcase clothing and jewels.

Assuming that my reading above (namely, that the men had not yet committed physical sins but were in the planning stages) is correct, then this verse suggests that part of that thinking process was that the men were (mis)reading the David and Solomon stories in order to justify their own misbehavior.  What’s interesting about this is the role that it assigns to misinterpreting scripture in the expansion of sin.  This would be a good time to have a discussion about how we can ensure that we are properly interpreting scripture.

24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.

I’m repeating my question from above:  How do you reconcile this verse with D & C 132:38:  “David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.”

25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.

26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.

Reading v24-26, is there at least the implicit suggestion that David’s sins were the “root of all evil” that necessitated Lehi’s people taking off into the wilderness?

27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

Why just the chastity of women (and not men), which is really the issue here, no?

Why would the chastity of women be harmed by polygamy?

29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.

Does this reference to the land tie in to the previous discussion about the gold and silver in the land?  In any case, why would a curse on the land be an appropriate response to not keeping the law of chastity?

“For their sakes” is interesting.  (NB that that is the same language used after the Fall.)

30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

This verse has been used by some to explain that polygamy is only ever a departure from the norm used “to raise up seed unto me.”  Are you persuaded by that reading?

31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.

This is a very interesting verse to think about in relation to 19th century LDS polygamy.  Was the Lord less concerned about their sorrow?

32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

This is a nice pro-woman verse.  Why on earth do you think Jacob would not have wanted the women to hear this?

33 For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.

Why would polygamy “lead away captive” the women?

Above, Jacob thought that this discussion would be a problem given the women’s “tenderness”; here, it is the practice of polygamy that Jacob is preaching against that is an offense to their tenderness.  What do you make of that?

Brant Gardner:

Since a legal marriage nicely protects chastity, the meaning here must be that the women are being given in marriages that do not have legal sanction in Nephite society. In most societies, the exchange of women between groups is a mode of strengthening relationships. Such political intermarriages have been the backbone of European politics for centuries. It is possible that what is happening with the women is that they are being given outside of the Nephite society into a society that allows polygamy. Thus they are given as polygamous wives to a society that accepts that practice. Since the practice was forbidden by Lehi, it would not be the sanctioned practice of the Nephites, and therefore falls outside of the legal definitions. From the Nephite view, it is a “whoredom” because it is not sanctioned. The wailings of the women would come from their forced entry into political unions not sanctioned by the Lord’s command to Lehi. This context also provides greater depth of meaning to the women being lead away into captivity, a situation more understandable if it actually describes the women being removed from Nephite society and into a different city/culture.  Citation

34 And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.

Given the ubiquity of polygamy in the OT, why would Lehi have been given the commandment that they were to be strictly monogamous?  And, why is this the first we are hearing about this commandment?

35 Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.

If we follow the “they are in the planning stages only” line of thinking, note that even that planning is worse than the sins of the Lamanites.

Is the “bad example” really the issue?  I thought it was polygamy!

Many readers have noted Jacob’s very empathetic words in this section–he isn’t opposed to polygamy and concubinage in some abstract way, but because it is emotionally painful to women and children.  This is very odd.  First, polygamy is A-OK in the OT; why does Jacob have a problem with it at all?  Secondly, the feelings of women aren’t exactly anyone’s primary concern in the OT (or NT [except for by Jesus], or now . . .).  Third, in a society that wasn’t steep into companionate marriage, it is somewhat difficult to understand why polygamy would have been so emotionally painful.  Fourth, there have certainly been some women who have thought polygamy was not an entirely bad idea (and I don’t think children would have been too offended by it–why would they?).  What’s going on here?

CHAPTER 3
1 But behold, I, Jacob, would speak unto you that are pure in heart. Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause, and send down justice upon those who seek your destruction.

There is no chapter break in the original English BoM–NB this is part of the same discourse as ch2.

What does it mean for God to plead your cause?

Did the men’s sins constitute seeking the women’s destruction?

2 O all ye that are pure in heart, lift up your heads and receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love; for ye may, if your minds are firm, forever.

Is it safe to assume that the people here addressed as the pure in heart are the women and children?  What are we to take from the idea that “pure in heart” and women and children are synonymous?  (I don’t like it.  What happened to their agency?)

Why do the pure in heart get only two paltry verses?

NB that I think the pure “in heart” language strengthens the case for reading the men’s sins as “in the planning stages” only.

3 But, wo, wo, unto you that are not pure in heart, that are filthy this day before God; for except ye repent the land is cursed for your sakes; and the Lamanites, which are not filthy like unto you, nevertheless they are cursed with a sore cursing, shall scourge you even unto destruction.

It is fascinating that the first time the Lamanites become an issue, it is in the context of them being more righteous than the Nephites.

4 And the time speedily cometh, that except ye repent they shall possess the land of your inheritance, and the Lord God will lead away the righteous out from among you.

Interesting that, in this context, the righteous would be mostly women . . .

5 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins, 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.

NB Lamanites are described as “your brethren” here.

Interesting–is the hatred a good or a bad thing?

This verse is quite a smackdown.  We shouldn’t need to be talking about the priesthood ban false doctrinal supports any more, but if we do, this verse should be exhibit A.

It is a big stinking deal that Lehi (presumably) was given a commandment to monogamy.  First, this is counter to the OT.  Second, that commandment isn’t included in any of Lehi’s teachings as we have them in the BoM.  Third, it causes us to consider:  Why would the Lord have given these New World covenant people a much different pattern for marriage than the Old World covenant people?

We usually read Jacob’s discourse as being about (1) wealth/pride and (2) sex, but it seems like we might add (3):  prejudice, probably racial.  If you read it this way, Jacob’s sermon has a high degree of unity:  the first section isn’t so much about wealth, but about the oppression of those who are not wealthy; the second, not so much about polygamy, as about the oppression of women harmed by it; the third, the oppression of those of a different racial/cultural group.  So we can start calling Jacob “the politically correct prophet” if you wish.

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.

Fascinating:  despite all of the other sins of the Lamanites, the fact that they are monogamous prevents their destruction.  Doubly fascinating:  this isn’t following OT law for them–it is following a teaching unique to Lehi.

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?

Can you (should you) read the beginning of this verse to suggest that anything other than strict monogamy is incompatible with love within family relationships?

This begins a major theme in the BoM:  the (current crop of) Lamanites are not to blame for their wickedness; they are just doing what they have been taught.  Think more about this.

The presumed answer to the final rhetorical question is:  none.  What does this suggest to you about the division of the people into Nephites and Lamanites?

8 O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.

I’m not entirely sure how to reconcile this with 2:4–have they or have they not sinned yet?  (I think v9 is saying that they are sinning with regard to their attitude toward the Lamanites, but they haven’t yet sinned with regard to wealth and polygamy.)

I presume a metaphorical reading of this verse is preferable. . .

At the risk of being too much of an apologist, is it possible that Jacob was using “skins” as a synonym for “garments”?  This seems to be the usage in Alma 43:20.  (This would fit in with the frequently-used metaphor of bloody garments.)  Here is a list of references to “skin” or “skins” in the BoM.

9 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.

Why do you think Jacob has pivoted to the issue of their attitude toward the Lamanites?

10 Wherefore, ye shall remember your children, how that ye have grieved their hearts because of the example that ye have set before them; and also, remember that ye may, because of your filthiness, bring your children unto destruction, and their sins be heaped upon your heads at the last day.

11 O my brethren, hearken unto my words; arouse the faculties of your souls; shake yourselves that ye may awake from the slumber of death; and loose yourselves from the pains of hell that ye may not become angels to the devil, to be cast into that lake of fire and brimstone which is the second death.

NB how similar this is to Lehi’s last words to Laman and Lemuel . . .

So we’re 55 or so years from leaving the Old World.  That’s not a very long time, especially considering the fact that we’ve already had one “purge” of naughty people when only those people who wanted to be with Nephi took off with him and left L&L behind.  How do you account for this level of wickedness, particularly given that these are (mostly) descendants of Sariah and Lehi?

12 And now I, Jacob, spake many more things unto the people of Nephi, warning them against fornication and lasciviousness, and every kind of sin, telling them the awful consequences of them.

13 And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings.

14 These plates are called the plates of Jacob, and they were made by the hand of Nephi. And I make an end of speaking these words.

What work is this verse doing?

Is there anything significant about the fact that Nephi and not Jacob made these plates?

CHAPTER 4
1 Now behold, it came to pass that I, Jacob, having ministered much unto my people in word, (and I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates) and we know that the things which we write upon plates must remain;

Who is the “we” in this verse?  (I’ve asked this before, but now Nephi is dead.)

What does “remain” mean?

Interesting that above, he said they had plenty of gold and silver (and so, presumably, could make more plates).  And here, he points not to a lack of materials, but to the difficulty of engraving.  In another context, we might tell him to quit being a wimp–the word of God is worth whatever hand cramps he might need to suffer to engrave the record that he was commanded to keep.  What do you think is going on here?

2 But whatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates, which will give our children, and also our beloved brethren, a small degree of knowledge concerning us, or concerning their fathers—

3 Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents.

What is Jacob worried about?

4 For, for this intent have we written these things, that they may know that we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us.

Do you take the “all” literally or hyperbolically?

5 Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son.

This verse is an interpretive key to how we read the Law of Moses.  For an example of what that might look like, see here (self-promotion alert).

This verse may also be an interpretive key to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac.  If you read it that way, what would you conclude?

6 Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.

8 Behold, great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God.

Brant Gardner:

Jacob has now set up a neat logical and philosophical problem. He has declared a God that is interested in us and does works that are directed towards us, yet is utterly incomprehensible to us. How shall we please a God we cannot understand? How might man properly interact with a God who is unfathomable? Citation

9 For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?

10 Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.

11 Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh.

12 And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?

Is it possible for a human to have a perfect knowledge of Christ?

13 Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be; wherefore, these things are manifested unto us plainly, for the salvation of our souls. But behold, we are not witnesses alone in these things; for God also spake them unto prophets of old.

14 But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.

Thinking about seeking for things that you can’t understand–how to balance that against the idea of seeking for knowledge (which is a good thing)?  Where’s the line?

Do the Nephites have things that they can’t understand?  Do we?  Would God give us something today that we can’t understand?

15 And now I, Jacob, am led on by the Spirit unto prophesying; for I perceive by the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that by the stumbling of the Jews they will reject the stone upon which they might build and have safe foundation.

16 But behold, according to the scriptures, this stone shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the Jews can build.

17 And now, my beloved, how is it possible that these, after having rejected the sure foundation, can ever build upon it, that it may become the head of their corner?

18 Behold, my beloved brethren, I will unfold this mystery unto you; if I do not, by any means, get shaken from my firmness in the Spirit, and stumble because of my over anxiety for you.

General thoughts:

(1) Jacob is the first BoM writer who has no recollection of or personal experience with Jrsm.  Can you sense any ways in which his experience (which was so radically different from Lehi and Nephi’s) shaped him as a writer or leader?

John S. Tanner writes:

Jacob’s stylistic stamp is also evident in other features throughout his writings, which are replete with a vivid, intimate vocabulary either unique to him or disproportionally present. Two-thirds of the uses of “grieve” and “tender” (or their derivatives) are attributable to Jacob. Likewise, he is the only Book of Mormon author to use “delicate,” “contempt,” “lonesome,” “sobbings,” “dread,” and “daggers.” He deploys this last term in a metaphor about spiritual anguish: “daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds” (Jacob 2:9). Similarly, Jacob alone uses “wound” in reference to emotions, and never uses it (as do many others) to describe a physical injury. Jacob uses “pierce” or its variants four of nine instances in the Book of Mormon, and he alone uses it in a spiritual sense.  Citation

 

Grant Hardy writes:

I don’t think we see much development in Jacob as a writer, but he is nevertheless an intriguing figure to me because everything he knew about spiritual matters came from just three sources—direct revelation; family members such as Lehi, Sariah, and Nephi; and a single volume of scripture.  In fact, the Brass Plates was apparently the only book he had ever seen.  What would your mind look like if it had been forged upon a single text?  Surprisingly, given Jacob’s brief contributions (just his own short book and 1 Ne. 6-10), he appears to have coined several dozen distinctive phrases, including “gathered home,” “infinite atonement,” “spiritual death,” “plan of redemption,” “nourished by the good word of God,” “clothed with purity,” and “keeper of the gate” (speaking of the Lord).”  Citation

Marilyn Arnold:

Although Jacob is gifted in language and solid in his testimony, to me he seems unusually tender, even a bit fragile, in his emotional makeup. Clearly, Jacob is no Nephi, nor need he be, but in a written text, as in life, he can serve as a complementary foil to his physically and spiritually imposing brother.   Citation

 

3 Responses to BMGD #12: Jacob 1-4

  1. Matt W. on March 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I wonder if the planning going on by the nephites in chapter 2, is actual verbal discussion in the temple, with the women in audience hearing the men preach on these things. And here is Jacob standing up to them.

  2. Matt W. on March 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Also, it sure seems like Chapters 2-3 were written by someone other than Jacob. Perhaps they were written by someone named Nephi, perhaps even the king who replaced the original Nephi? All speculation…

  3. Julie M. Smith on March 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Yes, Matt, it is hard to figure out what to do with the 3rd person reference in 2:1.

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