BMGD #47: Moroni 1-6

December 10, 2012 | 2 comments
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CHAPTER 1

1 NOW I, Moroni, after having made an end of abridging the account of the people of Jared, I had supposed not to have written more, but I have not as yet perished; and I make not myself known to the Lamanites lest they should destroy me.

Note how this verse drags the story of the Jaredites into the text.

“Abridging” is an unusual word for a situation where he interjected himself into the text a half dozen times.

Interesting how he shows his fallibility in this verse:  I thought I was done, but I guess not.

How would you think differently about the BoM if it had ended with Ether?

One of the more interesting things that happens in the BoM is that it is a book with a half dozen endings, because they keep thinking they are done, but they aren’t.  There is a lesson by example here about being willing to work on the Lord’s timetable and not on your own.

Is it correct to read this verse to say that he thought he would have been killed by this point and is surprised that he has not in fact been?

What other prophets wrote while in hiding?  How does Moroni’s experience compare with theirs?

Are there any experiences that we might have today that are analogous to being “in hiding”?

 

 2 For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce among themselves; and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ.

I think “among themselves” is sort of interesting–why would they be killing Nephites if the wars are “among themselves”?  How does the logic of this verse work?

What would motivate them to kill anyone who would deny Christ?

 3 And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine own life.

What does “wander” suggest to  you?  Is it different from hiding?

Interesting contrast with v1, where he was surprised that he wasn’t dead yet, and here, where he is actively trying to preserve his own life.

Speaking of which, what happened to “it mattereth not” if they kill me?  Why is he trying to preserve his life here if that is how he felt?

 4 Wherefore, I write a few more things, contrary to that which I had supposed; for I had supposed not to have written any more; but I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord.

This is the second time in four verses he mentions the “I thought I was done but I guess not” theme.  Why do you think he returned to it?

It is pretty amazing that he’s expending effort to write things down for the descendants of the people who are trying to kill him.  There’s an entire sermon on forgiveness hiding in here.

I doubt many of us would be as optimistic as Moroni (“in some future day”), or as future-focused as he is, given his current circumstances.  Note how he is totally able to get beyond and outside of his own experience of death and destruction to focus on a future brighter day.

CHAPTER 2

1 The words of Christ, which he spake unto his disciples, the twelve whom he had chosen, as he laid his hands upon them—

This is a little curious . . . where did this record come from?  Were there a sheaf of papers that became 3 Nephi and then later Moroni found that this one had fallen on the floor behind his desk (so to speak), so he put it here?  Or perhaps there was some error and this was never written down but Moroni learned it through revelation?  What else might have happened?

Would you say, given this verse, that this is an ordinance?  If so, which one?  Or is it a blessing?  If so, why does Jesus apparently say exactly the same thing to each one?

2 And he called them by name, saying: Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it, for thus do mine apostles.

Is it significant that Jesus calls them “by name” and then tells them to call on the Father in his name?

Does “call on” mean pray, or does it mean something else?  Does “in mighty prayer” in the next phrase answer this question?

Note the recursiveness:  Jesus is laying hands on people as he tells them about the power they shall have when they lay hands on people.

What does this verse teach you about power?

What does “mighty” mean in this verse?

Does “for thus do mine apostles” indicate that they were the only ones who could bestow the Holy Ghost?

Does “apostles” apply only to the Old World disciples, or the New World ones as well?

“For thus . . .” makes it sound as if that is the reason for saying this prayer “in my name.”  Is that the best way to read this verse?

Does “after ye have done this” mean that the rest of the verse describes something that happens _after_ the prayer is over?  In other words, is this verse describing a prayer and then a separate laying on of hands?  (See 3:2 for similar.)

Does this verse imply that one gets the authority to bestow the Holy Ghost by praying for it?

3 Now Christ spake these words unto them at the time of his first appearing; and the multitude heard it not, but the disciples heard it; and on as many as they laid their hands, fell the Holy Ghost.

What does “at the time of his first appearing” mean?  The first day he appeared?  Something else?

Why wouldn’t the multitude have heard this?  Wouldn’t it have been good for them to know how this was supposed to work?

I think this verse invites the reader to consider herself part of the disciples, not the multitude, since she is “hearing” it.

Why “fell”?

Again, why is this material here and not in 3 Nephi?  Would  you read 3 Nephi differently if this material was in those chapters?   Crazy speculation alert:  what if some of the problems that the Nephites had right after Jesus left (which we know were related to contention over church procedures) were related to not having this very information?

Is it fair to conclude from this chapter that the ability to confer the Holy Ghost was the key aspect of the disciples’ ministry?

CHAPTER 3

1 The manner which the disciples, who were called the elders of the church, ordained priests and teachers—

Again, is this material that was supposed to be in 3 Nephi?  (If so, why wasn’t it there?  What would that suggest to us about the fallibility of scripture?)  Or is the point, as the end of the last chapter implied, that this material was _not_ for the average member but only the leaders, and now Moroni is “publishing” the “Handbook” because he thinks the game is pretty much over?

Why have we been calling them “disciples” if they were called “elders”?

Are disciples, elders, priests, and teachers four different things in this verse, or what?

2 After they had prayed unto the Father in the name of Christ, they laid their hands upon them, and said:

Note that they are following the prayer-and-then-ordinance procedure set out in the last chapter.  (Should priesthood holders today always pray before they perform ordinances?)

Why do you think we get the exact wording here?

Note how similar this is to the process for conferring the Holy Ghost.  What are the implications of this?

3 In the name of Jesus Christ I ordain you to be a priest, (or, if he be a teacher) I ordain you to be a teacher, to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end. Amen.

Does “to preach . . .” imply that priests and teachers had precisely the same assignment?

I just don’t like the parentheses placement in this verse.  Shouldn’t it be “(or, if he be a teacher, I ordain you to be a teacher)”?  Of course, quotation marks would help, too.

Are repentance and remission of sins the same thing or two different things?

“Endurance of faith” is an unusual phrase; why do you think it is used here?  What precisely might it mean?

4 And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers, according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost, which was in them.

What does “gifts and callings” mean?  Does it imply that some people (the ordainer or the ordainee?) have a gift of the calling?  Or what?

Notice the parallel between “priests and teachers” and “gifts and callings.”  Is this significant?

General thought:  we get virtually nothing about the nuts and bolts of church organization in the BoM, but we do here.  Why?

What does the power of the Holy Ghost have to do with callings?

Jim F.: “Was the ordination of priests and teachers among the Nephites accomplished by means of a set prayer that we find here? If so, what does it mean to us that we no longer use a set prayer for those ordinations? If not, what makes you think that it wasn’t?”

CHAPTER 4

1 The manner of their elders and priests administering the flesh and blood of Christ unto the church; and they administered it according to the commandments of Christ; wherefore we know the manner to be true; and the elder or priest did minister it—

Does “manner” sound a little informal to you–like it is describing a tradition and not an ordinance?

Why “flesh and blood” and not “the sacrament”?

What work does “wherefore we know the manner to be true”  do?  Who is the “we”?  I’m curious about the logic of the “wherefore”–does it imply that you know something is true if it is according to the commandments?  Or is this a statement of personal testimony on Moroni’s part?  Or something else?

How can a “manner” be “true”?  True to what?

This verse implies that either elders or priests can do this; the last verse treated priests and teachers the same.  What’s going on here?

2 And they did kneel down with the church, and pray to the Father in the name of Christ, saying:

Does this verse imply that the church members kneeled during the prayer?

Is the kneeling ritually significant?  (If not, why mention it?  If so, what does it suggest?)

3 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it; that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given them, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

Why “eternal” and not some other name for God here?

Analysis of sacrament prayers here; be sure to read comment #7.  More analysis here.  And here.  And a really helpful diagram here.

Do “bless” and “sanctify” mean the same thing, or are they two different things?

The main segment of this prayer is “we ask thee.”  I think that can get lost in such a long statement.  In what ways is it significant that the sacrament prayer is primarily petitioning and not gratitude (or whatever else)?

How does this prayer compare with the Zoramite prayer?

Why “souls” and not “people” or “bodies” or whatever?  Is it significant that a physical thing is blessing our soul and not our body?  Perhaps one way to think about this prayer is that it transforms a physical thing (bread, eating) to a spiritual thing (body of Christ, spiritual fulfillment).  What are the implications of this idea?

Webster 1828 “partake” : “To take a part, portion or share in common with others; to have a share or part; to participate; usually followed by of, sometimes less properly by in.”  I think this is significant; I suspect most modern readers think partake is just a fancified version of “eat,” but it isn’t–it has a definite emphasis on community.

“Eat in remembrance” is a somewhat odd idea.

Does this verse imply that keeping the commandments is the meaning of “remember him”?

So we have the passover, the last supper, and the sacrament–all basically the same thing, but all different.

Why would we remember the body of Christ?

Why is “O God, the Eternal Father” repeated in the middle of the prayer?  Does it suggest that the material that follows it is parallel to the material that followed that phrase at the beginning of the verse?

CHAPTER 5

1 The manner of administering the wine—Behold, they took the cup, and said:

Compare 4:1–why so much less detail here?

Note that no LDS person seems bothered by the fact that we don’t use wine and we use more than one cup (ew).

2 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee, in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

How does this prayer compare to the one over the bread?  Why are they different?  Why are there two prayers and not one?

Brant Gardner points out that we are being asked to think of shed blood, not blood in the body here.  How might this be significant?

(How) is the symbolism different if you use water instead of wine?  What does our comfort in using water instead of wine suggest to you about the (im)mutability of this text?

CHAPTER 6

1 And now I speak concerning baptism. Behold, elders, priests, and teachers were baptized; and they were not baptized save they brought forth fruit meet that they were worthy of it.

Is it significant that it is “I” Moroni speaking here?

Do you think they baptized regular members or just priesthood holders?  (You could infer from this verse only leaders.  You could also infer that they ordained people before baptism, although I doubt that was the case.)

Why is “fruit” a good image here?

Why does one need to be “worthy” of baptism?  How can “fruit” show that you are worthy?

2 Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.

In all seriousness, I think you could read v1 as saying that potential phood holders needed to bring forth fruit to show worthiness for baptism but this verse suggests that you non-potential-phood holders needed to bring a broken heart and contrite spirit.  Another possibility is that he is saying the same thing twice, in slightly different wording.  If that is the case, then why are “fruit worthy of baptism” and “broken heart and a contrite spirit” paralleled?  Are they the same thing?  Brant Gardner reads v1 as saying that _even_ the leaders needed baptism.  (But I still find this weird, because presumably they weren’t leaders before they were baptized, right?)

Do people today have to witness to the church that they have repented before they are baptized?

Brant Gardner points out that this verse has the effect of banning infant baptism.

3 And none were received unto baptism save they took upon them the name of Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end.

We got the nitty gritty for other ordinances; why don’t we get details on how the baptisms are performed?

How well does this verse work for you as a summary of the baptismal covenant?

4 And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith.

What does “wrought upon” suggest to you?

Are wrought upon and cleansed the same thing, or two different things?

Do we normally think of the Holy Ghost as having a cleansing property?

How literally do you take “numbered” and “names taken”?  Of what might these be symbolic?

I like “remembered and nourished.”  What does “nourished” convey to you?

How does remembering and nourishing people keep them in the right way?

Does this verse define “the right way” as “continually watchful unto prayer”?

What does “unto prayer” mean?  Is it the same thing as praying?

What do we rely on besides the merits of Christ?

Why is “merits” a good way to describe what we rely on?

In what sense is Christ the “author” of your faith?  Is that the same as or different from “creator”?  Does it mean that your faith is a book?

In what ways is Christ the “finisher” of your faith?  Does that mean that your faith is “finished”?  What would that mean?

Joseph B. Wirthlin:

The greatest tool the Lord has to welcome new converts warmly and “keep them in the right way” is the love each of us extends by taking the time to introduce ourselves to new members, learning their names, listening to them, and learning something about them. Joining a new church and starting a new life is never easy and often frightening. Apr 98 GC

Bruce C. Hafen:

So we must willingly give everything, because God Himself can’t make us grow against our will and without our full participation. Yet even when we utterly spend ourselves, we lack the power to create the perfection only God can complete. Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the “finisher of our faith.” At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough. Apr 04 GC

5 And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls.

Why do you think he isn’t more specific about how often they met, given the specificity of the prayers, etc., that he has just given us.

You know, it must have been supersad for Moroni to write this, given that he doesn’t have this association with church members anymore.

Is it significant that fasting is mentioned before prayer here?

If you viewed the three purposes of church as fasting, speaking, and speaking of the welfare of souls, what might be different about your church experience?  (Note also the next verse on this?)

What does “welfare” (in this context) convey to you?

In general, what does this verse suggest to you about Nephite church meetings?

Robert D. Hales:

Take special note of the repeated reference to the welfare of souls. This implies much more than just food, clothing, and shelter for temporal needs. Apr 86 GC

6 And they did meet together oft to partake of bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.

Is it significant that he’s calling it “bread and wine” and not “flesh and blood” (as previously) here?

7 And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ.

What does “iniquity” mean in this verse?  (It is pretty vague.  How strict do you think they were?  What the implications of their practices for us today?)

Why do you think three witnesses and not just two were used?

Is it right for church members to be “condemning” other church members?  (I think he means “accuse,” but “condemn” is a harsh word.)

The “confessing not” part is a little troubling to me.  What about innocent people accused?

Why do you think Moroni felt compelled to share “church court” details with us here?

Do you think the witness/condemn thing is the _only_ way that they prevented iniquity among themselves, or do you think the first part of the verse implies that they did other thing as well?  What else might they have done?

8 But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven.

Does this verse imply that seeking forgiveness is or is not part of repenting?

Do you think this applied to _all_ sins?

9 And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.

Do we or do we not do this today?  Should we?

Are “Spirit” and “Holy Ghost” referring to the same or different things in this verse?

Are preaching and exhorting the same or different?

Are praying and supplicating the same or different?

General thoughts:

(1) I suspect if Moroni had been using modern conventions, most of these chapters would be appendices.  They have a sort of random character to them.  On the other hand, by way of comparison, Hugh Nibley has pointed out that the Pearl of Great Price, which can also seem like a random grab-bag of stuff, has material from each “dispensation.”  Which makes me wonder:  is there some organization or method or pattern to the material in this book?  What might it be?  Or is the collection random?  Interesting reflections on the endings here.

(2) Is it fair to say that Moroni’s life was spared so he could include these chapters in the record?  If so, why were they important to include?

(3) In these chapters, Moroni gives us a picture of church organization, somewhat akin to a handbook of instruction.  Why do you think these business-y type items were included?  Is there placement at the end of the BoM significant?  We might say that most of the BoM focuses on doctrine/principles, but this section emphasizes practices/procedures.  Is it significant that this is at the end?

(4) The problem with set prayers (which, of course, we normally don’t approve of) is that it is possible that you have heard them so often that you’ve never heard them at all.  Why do you think we have set prayers for the sacrament?  What would be different if we didn’t?  What do we need to do to be sure that we “hear” the prayers?

(5) One way to teach 6:1-9 would be to ask you class members to take the position of (1) a new convert, (2) a missionary, (3) a ward member, (4) a priesthood or Relief Society leader and see what this chapter teaches them about their responsibilities.

(6) In his scripture study book, Jim F. used Moroni 4 as a sample chapter for making study notes.  You can read it here–lots of good info.

(7) In the 1930 BoM, the chapters are much longer than ours are (usually about 5x).  But this section has its original chapter divisions.  Some scholars have suggested that the original divisions usually indicate shifts to different sources.  Does this seem likely to you and, if so, what does it imply about the material in these chapters?  (Seems to make sense to me except why would the prayer over the bread and the prayer over the wine come from two different sources?)

(8) Brant Gardner points out that there is no hint in the BoM of any higher church authority than disciples/the twelve in the church that Jesus establishes.  Why isn’t there a prophet/president?  (My thought:  doesn’t Nephi get a special mention at one point?  Like 3 Nephi 11:18. Although I realize that that is pretty slender evidence.)

(9) There almost seems to be a sense in which you can think of the sacrament as two separate ordinances.  (Hence the two prayers.)  Would this be useful?  If not, why do you think that there are two prayers, something we don’t see for any other single ordinance?  Brant Gardner writes, “The parallelism of the phrasing emphasizes to the listeners the sameness of the two prayers, and therefore of the two different symbols. The bread and the wine might be two different things, but they are part of the same sacrament.”  (Citation)  Which raises the question:  is one of the points of the sacrament for us to sense the sameness of the flesh and the blood and, if so, what are we to learn from this?

(10) It appears that in both the NT and BoM contexts, the sacrament was originally a meal and not just a token.  How would life be different if that were true today?

2 Responses to BMGD #47: Moroni 1-6

  1. Mary Rencher on December 13, 2012 at 12:17 am

    in 2006 you wrote an article about Cheryl White after visiting with her in her studio. I have a set of her Joseph and Emma dolls, similar to the dolls pictured in the article. I would like more information about the dolls. My research has only lead me to your article. I am wondering if you still have contact information for Cheryl White? Thank you,
    Mary Rencher

  2. Julie M. Smith on December 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Mary, I am sorry to say that I no longer have any contact information for her.