Nathan (vovat) wrote,

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Thursdays with Moroni, Part 2: Nephi's Nuts

All right, let's continue with our (or, rather, my) read-through of the Book of Mormon, with the book of 2 Nephi. This one makes another mention of the people who rejected its narrator being cursed with dark skin. In Mormon belief, the American Indians are the descendants of Jews who didn't accept the teachings of Nephi. This actually isn't a totally original idea on Joe Smith's part. I remember reading that, when Europeans first came to the Americas, they tried to account for the natives based on the mentions of nations in the Bible, and decided that they were descended from the Lost Ten Tribes. Maybe you already know about this, but while the people of the Southern Kingdom of Judah preserved their religion and heritage during the Babylonian captivity, and eventually returned home when the Persians conquered Babylon, the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were never seen again after their conquest by the Assyrians. The dominant scholarly belief is that they were simply assimilated into Assyrian culture, but there has been a persistent belief throughout history that they ended up in some unlikely place. The "Ten Tribes" description comes from the fact that the Kingdom of Judah was made up of two of the old tribes (specifically Judah and Benjamin), so that would mean ten that disappeared. In truth, some of the other tribes had already died out by this point, but I'm sure that's unimportant to your average conspiracy theorist. Actually, getting back to Nephi, he's said to have been a descendant of Joseph, and the Joseph tribes lived in the north, which had already been conquered by the time that his story is supposed to take place. I guess it's possible that his family relocated to the south, but I kind of think it's representative of Joseph Smith's (hey, another Joseph; I wonder if there's a connection there) general carelessness in forming his mythology.

There isn't really anything too original in 2 Nephi, which focuses on rules and prophecy rather than narrative. We do get a criticism of people who don't want to accept the Book of Mormon because they already have a Bible, with Nephi insisting that God hasn't necessarily finished talking, and that the book was written by the Jews anyway. I think he has a point insofar as God not being finished talking; why do Christians think God stopped saying anything relevant after the first century? I would, however, think that the Almighty would come up with something other than this historically inaccurate and openly racist revelation to a two-bit swindler. Not that the Bible doesn't contain plenty of inaccuracies of its own, but the fact that it was written and compiled so long ago means we can't readily find quite as much dirt on its authors.

Let's not forget the heavy dose of anti-semitism we're given in this book. We're told that "there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their god," which I'm not quite sure about. First of all, it was actually the Romans who crucified Jesus. Also, I'm not sure but that there might be other myths about people killing their own gods, although I can't think of any offhand. Anyway, the Jews will be restored to their former glory and homeland if they accept Jesus (this Nephi certainly knew a lot about Jesus for someone who supposedly lived half a millennium before the Galilean carpenter was born), but otherwise will be crushed to death by falling buildings.

A few other highlights of this book:

  • Nephi uses the expression "fruit of thy loins." Is that the company that makes magic Mormon underwear? :P
  • "Remember, to be carnally minded, is death." So marrying a bunch of teenage girls isn't carnally minded, Joe?
  • The following excuse for why a Jew in the era of the Babylonian captivity would use such Christian-specific language: "Christ (for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name)." Um, no, "Christ" wasn't his NAME, regardless of the modern expression "Jesus H. Christ." And why would the angel use the Greek term instead of the Hebrew "Messiah"? Or was this part of Joe's translation with the magic glasses?
  • More stuff about everyone who fights against Zion perishing
  • Several chapters of the book are simply copied directly from Isaiah, supposedly because Nephi's "soul delighteth in his words." I think Smith might have just needed some more padding. Seriously, if this is entirely necessary, why not just advise readers to look up the relevant chapters in Isaiah? I'm sure it wasn't exactly difficult to find a Bible in the United States in 1830.
  • Another choice quote: "For I pray continually for them by day, and mine eyes water my pillow at night, because of them"

It looks like the book of Jacob will be next. Isn't this fun? :P
Tags: bible, history, mormonism, religion
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