The Book of Mormon begins with a man named Nephi writing eleven years before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Does he write in Hebrew? No, Nephi writes in Egyptian, which is remarkable because the Jews thought they left all that behind with the Exodus centuries prior to the time of Nephi.
Nephi describes a vision that his father Lehi had in the first year of the reign of king Zedekiah, king of Judah, after which his father went around as a prophet declaring that Jerusalem would be destroyed and its inhabitants carried away captive.
Well, that wasn’t too much of a stretch, because just prior to that vision in March 597 B.C.E., Nebuchadnezzar had already captured Jerusalem and took eighteen year-old king Jeconiah into captivity after a reign of only three months and ten days. And Nebbie installed Zedekiah as king over Jerusalem.
At any rate, Lehi takes his family down to Saudi Arabia, and they camp near the banks of a river that continually runs into the Red Sea. This river is reached after three days of attaining the Gulf of Aqaba. Travelling on foot with a family and livestock, you can make at best 15 miles per day. This river, which was named the River Laman after one of Lehi’s sons, must therefore be within fifty miles of the twin cities of Eilat, Israel and Aqaba, Jordan.
So scarce is water in this hot, arid region that Eilat relies on desalination. Even the valley where Eilat and Aqaba lie, the chief population center of this region, is a wadi, a dry gulch that only carries water on the very rare occasion that it rains, and only for a matter of days, if not hours. A river that continually ran into the Red Sea, so near the ancient trade routes between east and west, would have been a prize, a true gem, and the site of a great city. There’s nothing in history, outside of the book of Mormon, that says such a river ever existed. And a look at Google Earth shows that there’s no valley, certainly nothing with big enough britches to have been carved by a river.
The whole journey is a test by God to see if people would believe that Lehi, his prophet, really could tell the future. Because that’s all a prophet is in the book of Mormon, not a social reformer, not a commentator on the current zeitgeist and one who tries to get people to see the inevitable consequences of their actions, but just somebody who was given a dream by God of the future. And the crux of the test is to believe, beforehand, that a man with no credentials, from the fringe of society, is chosen by God, with no other sign than the very destruction that he’s predicting as punishment for not believing in it.
The people of Jerusalem did not believe the city would be destroyed. They tried to kill Lehi for even saying it would be, so they were cursed. God punished them for rejecting Lehi as a psychic by destroying Jerusalem.
Lehi’s sons Laman and Lemuel also did not believe that Jerusalem would be destroyed, so they were cursed by God, and this curse took the form of dark skin for their descendants.
Sam and Nephi believed that Jerusalem would be destroyed, so they were blessed with white skin and a land flowing with milk and honey was prepared just for them far over the sea.
Nephi’s father Lehi was dying and he knew it. He spoke his last words, and they filled the first four and one-half chapters of 2 Nephi. Lehi had a vision whereby he knew that Jerusalem was destroyed, and he said that had they remained in the city they would have perished. In reality, most of the inhabitants survived. The slaves were set free and their owners, about 4,000 of the leading citizens, were taken into captivity.
To his sons Laman, Lemuel, and Sam, he admonished them to listen to Nephi, and not give him any more grief, because everything Nephi had said and done was really for their own good. Lehi blessed Zoram, the servant of Laban who had thrown in his lot with Nephi, as long as he and his seed obeyed the commandments of the Lord also.
Lehi expressed a Manichaeist dualism that is never found in the Bible. He says that God’s goodness cannot exist as a foreground absolute apart from a background of resistance to that goodness. God needs the wicked in order to show forth his righteousness. He claims that if Adam and Eve never fell in the Garden, they would have had no joy, because they would have never known misery as a background against which to know joy. They would have never done good, because they would have never known sin as a background against which to judge good. The Book of Mormon, in short, asserts that God willed that Adam sinned.
Finally Lehi speaks his last words to Joseph, his youngest son, and this is where it gets confusing because Lehi tosses a lot of Josephs around. He reveals previously unknown prophesies made by Joseph, son of Jacob, the dream interpreter and Pharaoh’s lieutenant. He says that Joseph saw that a great seer would arise, also named Joseph, who would have a father named Joseph. (And Lehi is telling all this to his own son named Joseph!) This great seer is none other than Joseph Smith, Jr., who must have gotten really excited when he translated this part of the golden plates, because it was talking about himself.
One of Joseph Smith’s favorite phrases was “fruit of thy loins”, mentioned 21 times in chapter three alone. Here are just two verses from chapter three, describing the “future” authorship of the Book of Mormon, so you know what I mean:
And the Lord said unto me also: I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it. And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.
Then Lehi told his oldest sons Laman and Lemuel that they were cursed by God, but notwithstanding, they were blessed by Lehi, and the two things would cancel out and therefore in the long run their seed would not perish. But it amounted to damnation by faint praise, so it really cannot be their fault that they rebelled soon after that.
Then Lehi spoke to the sons of Ishmael, and it’s not recorded what was said to them, but whatever it was, it was sufficient to cause them to throw in with Laman and Lemuel against Nephi, Sam, Jacob and Joseph.
After that, Lehi spoke to Sam, and said he was blessed like his brother Nephi, and their seed would be blessed all of their days. Then he finally died.
Nephi’s older brothers soon sought to take his life, because they would not have their younger brother rule over them. Nephi, warned by the Lord, fled into the wilderness with all who would go with him. Nephi took the brass plates with him, and also the spherical compass that was made by God. When they arrived at a good place and pitched their tents, and the people insisted they call the place Nephi, and they call themselves the people of Nephi. So to be perfectly clear, they were the Nephites.
Nephi built a temple which was a copy of the gigantic one Solomon built in Jerusalem, which was pretty good considering that the Nephites were probably about twenty people at this point. The Nephites were all racists. Dark skin repulsed them, and God knew it, so he made the Lamanites repulsive to the Nephites with a “curse” of black skin, so they would not mix their seed. And because they were black, the Lamanites “become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety” just like the way Joseph Smith heard black people were in New York in the 1820s.
Contained within the book of 2 Nephi is a separate “book” by Jacob, a sort of prequel to the actual book of Jacob which follows the Book of Second Nephi in the Book of Mormon. It runs from chapter six through ten, before Nephi comes back in and pads out most of the rest of his book with words copied directly from the King James translation of Isaiah.
Jacob says the Gentiles will be saved if they repent and do not fight Israel and do not join the Roman Catholic Church (his actual words are “…blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved…”. This is all well and good, but it has nothing to do with Jacob’s audience in America, because Zion is an ocean away, and the Catholic Church is nearly 3000 years in the future.
Jacob says the purpose of the Messiah’s death on the cross is not to redeem man, but to put all men under his rule. He teaches that the spirit of righteous men is in paradise with God, and on the last day they are booted out of heaven to be reunited with their bodies. And this is a novel doctrine, found nowhere in the Bible. Nowhere does scripture say the spirits of the righteous are in heaven with God. The closest the bible comes to that is Jesus teaching a parable in Luke about Lazarus being in the bosom of Abraham after he dies, but this is a fable about the importance of treating people well in this life and is probably not meant to reveal the actual conditions of the afterlife. So vague is the Bible on this topic that the Seventh Day Adventists teach “soul sleep” where even the righteous dead are unconscious, and not raised, neither body nor spirit, until the last day.
To this point the Book of Mormon was written in a faux Early Modern English style with lots of “thees” and “thous” to make it sound Biblish, except that Joseph Smith had a fondness for certain phrases such as “at came to pass” and “grew exceedingly” and “fruit of my loins” and used them until they were wore out. Here the English of the Book of Mormon takes a radical jump in quality because Smith inserts, wholesale, thirteen chapters from the Book of Isaiah in the King James Version.
Curiously, the chapter breaks in 2 Nephi follow, exactly, the chapter breaks in Isaiah, even though neither Isaiah’s original text nor the golden plates, presumably, had chapter breaks in the original text. But that is a side issue. The main point I want to make is this:
The King James Bible was translated from Hebrew to English in 1611, while the Book of Mormon was allegedly translated from Reformed Egyptian to English in 1829. Over those two centuries, English shifted somewhat. Even if the golden plates did exist, when Joseph Smith translated them, there would have been marked differences in the text. But the text of chapters 12-24 in 2 Nephi correspond almost exactly to the text in chapters 2-14 in Isaiah (Smith sprinkles in a few instances of “it shall come to pass” for flavor).
What we have here is a thing like the Telephone Game, where information changes with each generation from the original source. Since Isaiah wrote in Hebrew, he had to translate Isaiah into the Reformed Egyptian of the golden plates. Then Joseph Smith, through the miracle of his seeing stone, translated this Egyptian to English. I can demostrate what is wrong with this picture by using the Babelfish feature at Yahoo (formerly Altavista).
Both 2 Nephi 12:4 and Isaiah 2:4 say this:
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plow shares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Translated to Greek this reads:
Και θα κρίνει μεταξύ των εθνών, και θα επιπλήξει πολλούς ανθρώπους: και θα κτυπήσουν τα ξίφη τους στις μετοχές αρότρων, και τις λόγχες τους στους γάντζους περικοπής. Το έθνος δεν θα ανυψώσει επάνω το ξίφος ενάντια στο έθνος, ούτε θα μάθουν τον πόλεμο άλλο
Translated back to English this reads:
And it will judge between the nations, and epiplixei a lot of persons: and will knock their swords in the action of ploughs, and their lances in the hooks of curtailment. The nation will not raise above the sword against nation, neither will learn the war other.
In the same book where we are told that Gentiles could be saved if they, among other things, don’t fight Zion, Nephi cuts loose with some raw anti-Semitism:
For I, Nephi, have not taught them many things concerning the manner of the Jews; for their works were works of darkness, and their doings were doings of abominations.
I guess it’s a matter of “do what I say not what I do”. Nephi says don’t be like the people who stayed behind in Jerusalem, because look what happened to them they were conquered and taken away captive to Jerusalem. But the people have no way of knowing that, they only have what Nephi calls his “prophesy” which amounts to what the new-age folks call “remote viewing”. Nephi says just take my word for it, that really happened. But this news was about as important to the Nephites as a prophesy of the arctic ice cap melting would be to a Mars colony.
…and when the day cometh that the Only Begotten of the Father, yea, even the Father of heaven and of earth, shall manifest himself unto them in the flesh…
This part of the Book of Mormon has a defective view of the Holy Trinity, it teaches the Son is the same person as the Father. This is the heresy of Sabellianism or modalism, and it is also found among Oneness Pentecostals. When members of either group convert to Catholicism, their baptisms are considered non-valid and must be performed again.
Nephi says according to the prophets, the Messiah would come six hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem, and also according to the prophets, Messiah would be named Jesus Christ. But he does not identify which prophets made that claim, so no one can check the scriptures to verify it.
Now comes one of those “aha!” moments that reveals the true process Joseph Smith used to create his Book of Mormon. Of the God-fearing folk who anticipate the coming of Messiah Nephi says, “But the Son of righteousness shall appear unto them; and he shall heal them…
Where did he get that language? From Malachi 4:2 in the Old Testament, which says, “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings”
You see it, of course. Only in English is it possible to confuse the Son with the Sun.
Nephi makes a very commendable call to universal brotherhood when he says that Go “inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
Except that even by mentioning “black and white” he introduces race into Paul’s original formula in Galatians 3:28 that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” And because it’s black and white, his injection of race is from a uniquely American perspective, because of the outstanding issues left over from slavery in this country. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints forbade blacks from being in the Aaronic Priesthood (until 1978) it contradicted this passage.
Nephi prophesies the events that will surround the translation of the golden plates, that they will be hidden from the world, except that three witnesses will see it apart from Joseph son of Joseph, the unlearned man who will deliver it.
And the learned shall say: Bring hither the book, and I will read them. And the man shall say: I cannot bring the book, for it is sealed. Then shall the learned say: I cannot read it…Wherefore it shall come to pass, that the Lord God will deliver again the book and the words thereof to him that is not learned; and the man that is not learned shall say: I am not learned…Then shall the Lord God say unto him: The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them…
Anticipating the outcry that arose when Joseph Smith introduced a “sequel” to the Bible, he has the Lord say, “Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.”
That is to be expected, of course, but what makes it interesting to me is that nowhere in the Bible does the Bible mention the word “Bible”. When it talks about itself, the Bible says “the law and the prophets” and the very concept of a bible (which means library) did not come into existence until the division of the Jews and Christians led each group to define a canon, beginning at the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD and culminating with the Council of Trent in 1546.
Nephi describes the whole House of Israel as having three parts, and that someday all their writings would be restored and made known one to the other:
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews.
The problem is that only the Jews remain today among these three groups. The Nephites were destroyed (sorry to spoil the ending of the Book of Mormon), and the lost tribes of Israel are…lost. They were interbred with other people in the Middle-east and no longer exist as tribes.
In 545 BCE it was the turn for Nephi’s little brother Jacob to write on the plates, because Nephi had grown old and he saw that he was soon to die. The people were so happy with King Nephi that they wanted to call the next king Nephi II, and then Nephi III, and so on. The Romans had the same idea later when every emperor starting with Octavianus began to call himself Caesar to make folks think of JC.
Jacob indicates that all the Jacobites, Josephites, and Zoramites were called Nephites together with the actual Nephites, and opposed to them were all the Lemuelites and Ishmaelites who were called Lamanites together with the actual Lamanites.
The Nephites began to be lifted up in pride because they had been so blessed by God, and this led them to do wicked things. But Jacob and his brother Joseph tried as hard as they could to teach the people not to do wicked things, because if they didn’t, they (Jacob and Joseph) would receive all the blame for their wickedness on the last day.
“…otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.”
See, in Mormonism, culpability for sin does not rest with the actual sinner but stains the souls of other people who are appointed to be their teachers. Naturally this leads to a teacher shortage.
Jacob went to the temple to teach them. This temple was a copy of the one Solomon made in Jerusalem in seven years using seventy thousand men to bear burdens, eighty thousand to quarry stone in the mountains, and three thousand six hundred to oversee them. The King of Tyre was commissioned to provide craftsmen to do the detail work. The Nephites, numbering just twenty people, made a perfect replica. But not one stone of this temple exists today, not even the foundation, unlike the Jewish temple which still has the Western “wailing” wall and the flat courtyard where the Holy of Holies once lay, despite the best efforts of to Romans to wipe it off the face of the Earth.
What was the sin of the people Jacob was preaching against? They had begun to search for gold and silver. And some of them were better searchers than others, so they tricked out their apparel to show off that they were more ambitious and competent that their brothers. Apparently God wants everyone to be comrades who don’t flaunt their private property, but share and share alike:
Jacob says, “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.”
This explains why Mormons are mostly Republicans.
After that Jacob said he had a problem with the practice of polygamy:
“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.
This explains why the Mormons were mostly polygamists. At least until the 1890s when they had to reverse the practice in order for Utah to join the Union.
“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…”
So Jacob threatens the Nephites with a terrible punishment. He says unless they repent of their polygamy they might someday have darker skin than even the Lamanites!
“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.”
My own skin is a glorious brown. Five hundred years from now everyone on planet Earth will look like me. I don’t want to look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I would consider that to be a curse.
Jacob asks his brothers if they remember reading the words of the prophet Zenos. Well, how could they? Jacob was the only one left alive among the Nephites who could have heard the prophet Zenos back in Jerusalem. Nephi was dead and Joseph was born after Lehi left town. He just got through explaining how hard it was to write words on metal plates (which was really Joseph Smith excusing himself for being too lazy to make up hundreds of names for a fake geneology), so they were only writing the important things for the plates. So for Jacob to ask if they remember reading the words of Zenos, it could only have been words that were on the brass plates that Nephi killed Laban to obtain, because if they had taken scrolls they would have just taken a Torah and the prophets. Therefore Zenos’ words were already engraved on metal. And now Jacob is going to take the time to engrave them all over again on a fresh plate.
And besides, there never was a prophet Zenos. Joseph Smith made him up, along with the prophets Zenock, Neum, and Ezias. No real prophet would have written the boring pointless parable that Jacob “cites” here when he “cites” “Zenos”, which takes St. Paul’s metaphor of an olive tree and natural branches far, far beyond the breaking point. This is the part that separates the men from the boys. If you can get through this next part, then you’re home free. Most people can’t. This is where they slam the Book of Mormon shut, throw it across the room, and that’s the end of their torture.
“Hearken, O ye house of Israel, and hear the words of me, a prophet of the Lord.”
Nowhere in the Bible does any man ever say “Hear the words of me” when prophesying, but “Hear the words of God”.
Jacob says that Zenos spoke of the Jews as an olive tree that had grown old, and the master of the vineyard (God) tried to save it with pruning and fertilizer (words of prophets), that it perish not. And he got it to revive a little with some new branches (Nephites and Lamanites), but the main part (Israel Jews) began to die. So he told a servant to pluck off the original branches (mainline Judaism) and burn them (the fall of Jerusalem). And he told him to graft the new branches somewhere else, but graft in some wild branches (Gentile Christians) into the original tree.
The tree with wild branches grafted in bore good fruit, and the fruit was like the natural fruit (the righteousness of the Jews before they dwindled in unbelief). The tree with the natural branches which were grafted into far corners of the vineyard (the Nephites and Lamanites in America) and some of the fruit was tame fruit, and other fruit was wild fruit. The master told the servant to pluck off the branches that have not brought forth good fruit, and cast them into the fire.
Then the master looked at the tree with the Christians grafted in, and there was all sorts of different fruit (Protestants and Catholics) and it was all bad fruit now. But the master does not want to destroy the tree just yet. He says, “I know that the roots are good, and for mine own purpose I have preserved them…”
Nevertheless, it is destined for the fire unless the master can do something for it.
He takes his servant to the far reaches of the vineyard (America) to see how that tree is doing.
And it came to pass that they beheld that the fruit of the natural branches had become corrupt also; yea, the first and the second and also the last; and they had all become corrupt.
This refers to the end of the Book of Mormon, around 385 CE, when the Nephites were completely fallen away from God and wiped out to the last man by the Lamanites. The servant explains to his master the reason that it happened: “…because the branches have overcome the roots thereof, behold they grew faster than the strength of the roots, taking strength unto themselves. Behold, I say, is not this the cause that the trees of thy vineyard have become corrupted?”
The master takes a twig from the tree in America (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) and grafts it back into the first tree with the wild branches (mainline Christianity) to see what happens, because the roots of that tree are still good. He set his handful of servants to work pruning bad branches to make room for the growth of the good, and when the time was ripe he planned to graft the natural branches (the Jews) back in again.
At last the tree was completely healthy again, and bearing nothing but natural fruit, with the Jews and mainline Christians and Mormons in complete unity, but the master predicted that a time would come again when evil fruit would be seen on his tree again (thus thwarting all his efforts as a creator and divine master of horticulture), but this time he would gather all the fruit, both good and bad, and keep the good fruit for himself, but cast the bad fruit away, and then he would burn the whole vinyard down with fire.
The only thing I learned from the entire parable is that at this point in the third “book” Joseph Smith at least had a rough plot outline set up for how he wanted the events in the bible he was writing to actually go.
After a number of years a man named Sherem went around saying there would be no Christ, and for Jacob to preach the gospel of Christ instead of adherence to the law of Moses was blasphemy pure and simple.
Jacob asserted that every prophesy ever made was really about Christ, and that it was revealed to him that if Christ does not make atonement, all humanity will be lost. Sherem demanded a sign to prove what Jacob said was true.
Jacob put on a great show of pious humility, saying who was he to tempt God to show a sign, nevertheless, “…if God shall smite thee, let that be a sign unto thee that he has power, both in heaven and in earth; and also, that Christ shall come.”
And immediately God smote Sherem, making him fall unconscious for many days. When he eventually regained consciousness, he asked for the people to be assembled so he could make his last sermon. He confessed Christ, and said he had been deceived by the devil, and retracted everything he said about Jacob. He said he feared that he had committed the unpardonable sin, which in Mormonism is lying to God, not blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Then he died.
Jacob silently prayed that God would strike all the people in the crowd with his power and knock them down, and God obeyed Jacob’s request there too, blasted them all down, and it greatly pleased Jacob to see it. He was avenged on all the people who had listened to “that wicked man” Sherem. Apparently neither God nor Jacob forgave Sherem after his deathbed confession.
Jacob finished writing on the plates and handed them off to his son Enos so he could die.
“…to the reader I bid farewell, hoping that many of my brethren may read my words. Brethren, adieu.”
Whoops, the magic transparent stone that Joseph Smith used to read the golden plates and translate them from Reformed Egyptian to English burped and spat out a French word.
The Mormon family saga continues. From Lehi to his son Nephi to his little brother Jacob, and now Jacob’s son Enos has a turn engraving the metal plates.
One time Enos was hunting in the woods and he remembered the gospel according to his father, and he got on his knees and cried all day and into the night for the salvation of his soul. Then the voice of God told Enos that his sins were forgiven.
Enos believed the voice, but he was curious about how the forgiveness was actually accomplished. In every place and age, men have a hard time believing that the creator of the universe can just let things go. They have to believe he needs some complicated scheme to come together before God can forgive sins.
God told Enos he was forgiven because he had faith in Christ, even though he never heard or saw Christ, never mentioned Christ in his prayer, and indeed it would be far in the future before Christ came in the flesh.
Enos then prayed for the salvation of the Nephites, but God said they would be blessed or cursed according to how they obeyed the commandments. Apparently faith in Christ didn’t figure in their salvation at all, that’s only for the select few, like Enos.
Enos, fearing that the Nephites would refuse to obey the commandments of God, then prayed for the Lamanites who oppressed them, that at least they would avoid destruction. And he prayed that God would preserve a record of the Nephites so that someday the Lamanites too might be brought to salvation, even though anything the Nephites said and did now in Enos’ time would have absolutely nothing to do with salvation on that future day, but only faith in Christ, whose death and resurrection from their point of view would be in the past instead of the future, giving them a distinct advantage.
Nevertheless, God made a covenant with Enos that he would bring the records of the Nephites to the Lamanites in due time.
So Enos turned into a prophet and went among his people the Nephites lest they be destroyed as God had warned Enos. Now Enos does not say if he was successful at converting the Nephites back to the true faith, but he does say that the Nephites were unsuccessful at converting the Lamanites back to the true faith. To be frank, the Lamanites probably didn’t think the Nephites were practicing what they were preaching.
Enos characterized the Lamanites this way:
Their hatred was fixed
They were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people.
They were full of idolatry and filthiness;
They fed upon beasts of prey
They dwelling in tents and wandered about in the wilderness
They wore a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads were shaven
Their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax.
Many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat
They were continually seeking to destroy the Nephites.
In short, the Lamanites were American Indians, perpetually at war with the White Man who tilled the land, grew fruit in orchards, and tended flocks of cattle and goats and horses.
By the way, horses went extinct in North America thousands of years before the Nephites and Lamanites arrived there, and were not re-introduced until around 1500 by the Spanish, who brought them by sailing ship. Mormons of course either deny that the line of horses died out in North America, or they say Nephi brought some over from the Middle-East.
In 421 BCE Enos wrote that he was close to death. His grandfather Lehi, his uncle Nephi and his father Jacob all wrote the exact same thing: they too knew when they were about to die. No one entrusted with the metal plates ever just died of a sudden stroke and left the record dangling.
And so ends the book of Enos, which was a very, very good one because it was so short.
The Book of Jarom is very short, only fifteen verses covering the years 399-361 BCE. Jerom was the son of Enos, and the grandson of Jacob, and the great-grandson of Lehi. He kept the commandment of his father to preserve the plates, and in turn he commanded his son Omni to preserve the plates. In the meantime, he scribbled these few verses on them.
He declared that he would not write his prophesies and revelations because there is nothing he could add to the plan of salvation that his forefathers didn’t already write first. Besides, there wasn’t enough room left on these plates to write very much. But Jarom recommended that his readers go to the other plates that have all the records of the wars between the Nephites and Lamanites.
Jerom says most of the Nephites have stiff necks (like a stubborn ox who won’t turn), but God is merciful to them and he has not destroyed them yet. And there are even some Nephites who do not have stiff necks, and they have communion with the Holy Spirit.
Despite having stiff necks, the Nephites have grown in population and keep the law of Moses, including no labor the sabbath day, which is Saturday. In the scriptures it is commanded that we “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”. The most important part about remembering the Sabbath day is remembering what day it is, which is Saturday. Actually, to get technical, the Sabbath runs from Friday evening at sundown until sunset on Saturday. But Mormons observe their day of rest on Sunday. Why? Because Mormons aren’t really a colony of Jews but a religion made up by someone who grew up in a country dominated by Protestant Christianity.
He said the Lamanites vastly outnumbered the Nephites, loved murder, and would even drink the blood of animals. The Nephites withstood numerous assaults by the Lamanites, and fortified their cities against them. Not one of these fortified cities exists today as ruins. To make a short story even shorter, the essence of what Jarom wants to say here is that the Nephites did decide to obey the commandments of God and they did not get wiped off the face of the earth.
The “Book” of Omni is another very short “book” where Joseph Smith hurries the plot along to get to the good stuff. In 361 BCE Jarom gave the metal plates to his son Omni, who keeps them until 317 BCE and aside from the usual mention of seasons of war and peace between the Nephites and Lamanites, Omni records only that he was a wicked man who did not keep the statutes and commandments of the Lord. Since he knew that these plates would constitute the only record of his times, he is refreshingly candid and honest. Usually it is a third-party biographer that says so-and-so did not keep the statutes of the Lord.
In 279 BCE, Amaron records that the wicked part of the Nephites had been destroyed. It’s still the “Book of Omni” but Amaron writes that one blurb in it. I suppose a “Book of Amaron” with one verse would have been silly.
Between 279 and 130 the book passes to several other guys. First is Chemish, the brother of Amaron. He asserts that it is a commandment from their fathers to keep the records and append them, but they are doing the barest minimum to fulfull that commandment. So that’s it. Chemish records no news, only a restatement that they are supposed to put the news in the plates.
His son Abinadom inherits the plates. He says he saw much contention between the Nephites and Lamanites, and slew many Lamanites with his own sword, but he has received no revelation from God, so he lets the plates be, and passes them down to his son Amaleki. Real exciting stuff here.
Only when Amaleki gets the plates does anything happen. He writes that one Mosiah was told by God to flee out of the land of Nephi, just as Lehi had been told to flee out of the land of Judah. Mosiah took a group of people through the wilderness to a place called Zarahemla, where they bumped into a second colony of Jews who left Jerusalem after the fall of that city when King Zedekiah was taken captive into Babylon.
But how Mosiah knew all that was a mystery, because the people of Zarahemla had gone native, they had brought no records with them, their language had shifted, and the people of Mosiah could not understand a single word they said. I suppose God explained it all to Mosiah. At any rate, he taught the Zarahemlans his own language and the Zarahemians recorded somewhere (not on the plates) the oral history of their fathers, but it couldn’t have been very long, going by what the Nephites had managed to record even with the ability to write.
The people of Zarahemla united with the people of Mosiah, and Mosiah became their king, with hardly a peep from King Zarahemla. Who was King Zarahemla? He was not explicitly mentioned, but Joseph Smith got confused about whether Zarahemla was a people or a person. He wrote, Zarahemla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory.
Now just as all the kings of the Nephites were named Nephi I, Nephi II, etc, it makes sense that all the kings of the Zarahemlans followed the same convention. So it was King Zarahemla that gave Mosiah the genealogy of his fathers from his memory, and then surrendered his authority over the Zarahemlans without a fuss!
The Zarahemlans had spent centuries fighting amongst themselves just as the Nephites and Lamanites did, but here comes Mosiah and they ditch their tribal identity and move in with him, becoming part of the People of Mosiah, without protest. Mosiah told them he would retain the name Zarahemla for his new kingdom, and that was enough. “Sign us up!”
THE WORDS OF MORMON
Until now the Book of Mormon has been proceeding chronologically from Lehi all the way down through the line of his son Jacob until his seed fails and the plates are given to King Benjamin in about 130 BCE. Now we jump to about 385 CE and meet the prophet Mormon for the first time. Mormon is in the process of organizing the plates and handing them off to his son Moroni, and he imagines that Moroni will witness the complete destruction of the Nephites.
This very short “book” serves as a kind of bridge linking the “small plates” of Nephi with much more extensive plates that serve as the bulk of the remaining Book of Mormon. Besides the “words of Mormon” which is really just a footnote, Mormon gets his own book later, and the whole collection of books is called the Book of Mormon too.
Mormon writes that King Benjamin stood against the Lamanites wielding the very sword of Laban which had been snagged by Nephi after he killed Laban to get from him the brass plates that said things like “Thou Shalt Not Kill” on them. With his efforts, and wisdom, the help of the prophets, and by slaying thousands of Lamanites, King Benjamin established peace in the land. And that’s pretty much everything that happens in The Words of Mormon, the last of the really short books.
Mormons believe they are essentially Jews. They call everyone else (except classic Jews) Gentiles. Except the Mormons stopped observing Shabbat from Friday sundown until Saturday sundown like the Jews did, including Jesus. Instead they observe Sunday from midnight to midnight just like Protestants from upstate New York where Joseph Smith comes from.
When creationists object to the counterclaims of atheists they just push the abiogenesis problem back a stage. Who was God’s daddy? The Bible does not state the answer to that question. The Mormons solved it: It’s daddies all the way back.
These were the salad days for King Benjamin. For the rest of his life, there would be peace in his kingdom of Zarahemla.
The king had three sons, Mosiah, Helorum, and Helaman. King Benjamin made sure they received a good education which focused on the Egyptian language. They studied the plates of Nephi and the prophesies recorded on them. He also had them learn the writings on the plates of brass which were taken from Laban, which were the only way the Nephites knew the commandments of God given to Moses. Benjamin tells his sons that the plates are the only thing keeping the Nephites from dwindling in unbelief like the Lamanites.
Then came the time when King Benjamin had to decide which of his three sons would receive his kingdom. He settled on Mosiah, and told his son to gather the people together at the temple so he could make the announcement. But that would be just a formality. Benjamin gave his son the actual reins of power immediately. Additionally he passed on to Mosiah the plates of Nephi, and the brass plates, and the sword of Laban, and the Liahona Compass Ball which was made by God himself.
In the morning the people arranged themselves around the temple in tents, each family separate from one another. The door of each tent faced the temple so they could stay in the tent yet hear the words of King Benjamin as he spoke from a specially-constructed tower.
The king spoke of his life in service to the people, and how he even labored with his own hands that the people would not be unduly burdened with taxes. Yet he does not bring this up to boast, only to affirm that he has really been in the service of God. The King served God by serving his fellow human beings.
He brings this to their mind as an example. If he, their king, labored to serve the people, then the people ought to labor to serve one another. And if he, their earthly king, merits any thanks from the people, how much more does God their heavenly king merit thanks from them.
Yet if the people served God with all their power, they would remain in reality unprofitable servants, because God causes them to exist from instant to instant. The only thing God really requires from them in payment for creating the people and keeping them alive is for them to keep his commandments.
Benjamin tells the people he can no longer be their teacher nor their king because he is very close to going the way of all flesh. It is only by the power of God that he is able to stand there and speak to them without collapsing. He declares that his son Mosiah was to be king and ruler over them.
The King tells them that if a man dies in an unrepentant state, he’s in a world of hurt because in the afterlife God’s presence is inescapable. That man has come to have an abiding hatred of God, yet after death he is unable to avoid God. This causes him to shrink back from the presence of God and be filled with guilt and pain and remorse. This state resembles an unquenchable fire, and there is no way for that man to be healed. His final state is to exist in this never-ending torment.
On the other hand, people who die in a state of friendship with God are filled with happiness at the same presence of God, and they dwell with him eternally blessed. The Book of Mormon is teaching that heaven and hell are really the same “place”, and your eternal suffering or joy depends on whether you die hating God or loving God.
In this matter, Mormonism is very much like the Eastern Orthodox tradition.
One time an angel came to king Benjamin and revealed that God himself would come down from heaven and dwell in a “tabernacle of clay” (human body). He will work miracles but be scourged and crucified because men will think he has a devil. But on the third day he will rise from the dead, and take his place as the judge of the world. His blood will atone for the sins of everyone who fell by the transgression of Adam and died not knowing the will of God concerning them. But woe to those who know the will of God and still die in their sins, because salvation only comes to them if they repent.
That means the best strategy is to close one’s ears to the “gospel” completely, because then you’ll die in ignorance and be saved under Plan A, while Plan B requires one to renounce sin!
Benjamin says little children are automatically saved under plan A. This is vigorously reinforced elsewhere in the Book of Mormon. But men need to become like little children to be saved: “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things” King Ben says.
In the future, however, this gospel will be preached throughout the world and none shall be saved under Plan A except little children who are actual, you know, little children. They will all have to come to repentance under Plan B. So when you see the missionaries at your door, DON’T LET THEM SPEAK! Your eternal fate may depend on it.
Amulek son of Giddonah gave his testimony, confessing that he hardened his heart against the knowledge of the Lord until the fourth day of the seventh month of the tenth year of the reign of the judges. An angel appeared to him and told him to go home and feed a prophet of the Lord who has fasted many days because of the sins of the people. Then the blessing of the Lord would rest upon Amulek.
So Amulek obeyed the angel and ran across Alma, and he knew he was a holy man because the angel said so. And this testimony astonished the crowd people he was speaking to, but there were lawyers among them who tried to trip up Amulek and Alma with words so they would have reason to cast them into prison or slay them outright.
Amulek called the lawyers hypocrites in a wicked and perverse generation that avoided destruction by the Lord only through the prayers of the righteous, and if they succeeded in their plan to cut off the righteous from among them, then the Lord would not stay his hand, and they would be smitten by famine and pestilence and the sword.
“And there was one among them whose name was Zeezrom. Now he was the foremost to accuse Amulek and Alma, he being one of the most expert among them, having much business to do among the people.”
Judges in the time of Alma received wages in the amount of a senine of gold per day, or a senum of silver, which was the same value. Either one could purchase a measure of barley or any other kind of grain.
(At this point the narrative comes to a complete stop as the Book of Mormon goes into a detailed narrative about the relative values of the Monopoly money Joseph Smith invented. A seon of gold was twice the value of a senine, and a shum of gold was four times the value of a senine. A limnah of gold was equal to a senine plus a seon plus a shum. An amnor of silver was as great as two senums of silver. An ezrom of silver was as great as four senums. An onti was as great as a senum plus an amnor plus an ezrom. A shiblon of silver is half of a senum. A shiblum is a half of a shiblon. And a leah is the half of a shiblum. An antion of gold is equal to three shiblons of silver. We now return you to the Book of Alma already in progress…)
Because the judges were paid by the day for the suits which were brought before them, they stirred the people up to riot against and disturb Amulek’s peace in order to djinn up their own work.
Zeezrom said unto Amulek: “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being.”
Amulek refused to yield to this temptation despite the six onties dangling in front of him, which could buy 42 measures of barley. He said there is a a true and living God.
Zeezrom asked if there was more than one God, and Amulek said no. This was before the Mormons came up with the idea of an eternal progression of millions of gods, as men were born and worked their way up to godhood on endless planets.
Zeezrom asked him: “Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father?” and Amulek affirmed that he was. Thus Amulek espoused the nontrinitary heresy of Sabellianism, also known as modalism, or modal monarchism. It had a brief run about 200 years after Christ came, but was rejected by most of Christianity, and survives today mainly among Oneness Pentecostals. As for Joseph Smith, it is difficult to say if he was teaching modalism, because he flipped back and forth. At the end of this very chapter, Alma 11, he has Amulek say that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one eternal God, which is the trinitarian belief. I guess that’s why Mormons say the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on the Earth, because it takes every possible position.
In 52 BC the Nephites had trouble over the succession to Pahoran as judge among his sons. He had many sons, but among these, Pahoran Jr., Paanchi and Pacumeni wanted the seat. They stirred up trouble among the people as they campaigned for the position. The people selected Pahoran by acclaim, and Pacumeni assented to this.
But Paanchi had the backing of the minority and he sought to instigate a rebellion. Before he could make much headway, however, he was arrested and tried, convicted of sedition, and sentenced to death. The minority sent a hitman named Kishkumen to whack Pahoran as he sat on the bench. The assassination was done while wearing a disguise so no one could finger Kishkumen.
Men loyal to Pahoran gave chase, but Kiskkumen evaded them, and returned to the minority. They all swore to God never to utter a word that Kishkumen had murdered Pahoran. Still, some of the conspirators were found and sentenced to death.
Pacumeni was elevated to Judge in place of Pahoran.
In 51 BC the Lamanites came against the Nephites with a mighty host led by a large man named Coriantumr, descendant of Zarahemla. He was dispatched by Tubaloth, king of the the Lamanites. The political turmoil surrounding the succession of Pahoran caused the city of Zarahemla to drop it’s guard somewhat. Coriantumr slew the guards at the gates, marched inside with his whole army, slew all who opposed them and took possession of the city. Pacumeni was personally slain by Coriantumr against the walls of Zarahemla.
Coriantumr, fresh from this victory, prepared a second phase of his campaign against the land of Zarahemla at large. His next goal was the city of Bountiful in the north of the land. The Nephites in the countryside were not able to assemble themselves into a large enough force to oppose the Lamanites, so they were picked off in detail.
But Moronihah had removed the bulk of the Nephite forces to the border regions, forming a hard crust while leaving the heart of the land largely undefended. Coriantumr was misled by the relative ease of his drive. After learning of the fall of Zarahemla, Moroniahah dispatched Lehi with an army to intercept the Lamanites before they came to Bountiful. In the great battle that followed, even Coriantumr was slain.
When the Lamanites found themselves surrounded on every side by Nephites, and their leader slain, they surrendered. Moronihah re-occupied Zarahemla, and allowed the captured Lamanite soldiers to depart the land in peace.
If the Book of Mormon is another “Bible” then the gospel part of this Bible sequel is contained in 3 Nephi.
In the year 33 the people began to eagerly await the sign which had been given by Samuel the Lamanite that there should darkness for three days over all the land. In the year 34 a terrible storm came with such thunder that it shook the earth.
The city of Zarahemla caught on fire.
The city of Moroni sank into the sea.
A volcano erupted inside the city of Moronihah until the city was covered by a great mountain. Earthquakes leveled many other cities. Tornadoes carried many people away to parts unknown. Boulders were cracked in two. Roads were broken up, buildings toppled, and many people were killed.
All of these things happened in the space of three hours.
Then it was dark for three days, and no candle nor torch could be kindled to shed light. There was no sun nor moon nor stars. Then a great voice was heard in the darkness taking credit for burning Zarahemla and drowning Moroni and covering Moronihah with earth to hide their iniquities from his face. He also mentioned causing the city of Gilgal to be swallowed up by the earth and a number of other cities to be covered by water. Other towns he destroyed with fire from heaven like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Everyone who was still alive, he said, was spared because they were more righteous than those cities. He asks if they will come to him and be blessed. This is kind of like the Terminator killing everone in the police station, but leaving one or two cops alive and then saying, “Won’t you be my friend?” Nice gospel there. Who is this guy who destroys every major city in the Western Hemisphere, and then asks the survivors to be his buddy-pal?
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning.”
This must be a different Jesus. The Jesus of the Bible, aka the Prince of Peace, called some people vipers and white-washed sepulchres one t ime, and maybe turned over some tables and threw some moneychangers out of the temple with his whip, but that was the extent of his violence.
The Jesus of the Bible was also a great storyteller. The Jesus of the Book of Mormon sounded just like a broken record sometimes:
3 Nephi 10:4
O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel, how oft have I gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and have nourished you.
3 Nephi 10:5
And again, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, who have fallen; yea, O ye people of the house of Israel, ye that dwell at Jerusalem, as ye that have fallen; yea, how oft would I have gathered you as a hen gathereth her chickens, and ye would not.
3 Nephi 10:6
O ye house of Israel whom I have spared, how oft will I gather you as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, if ye will repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart.
Apparently Joseph Smith needed to pad out his little religious tract into a full-blown scripture.
The gospel in the Book of Mormon differs from the four gospels in the New Testament on many points. There was no infancy narrative or account of Jesus when he was a child of twelve years of age. There was no traveling ministry. Instead of Jesus going with his disciples from town to town, everyone came to him in the land of Bountiful as though it were a super-duper Sermon on the Mount. They were prepared for this by the Nephite prophets.
Jesus was introduced by the voice of God the Father: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name–hear ye him.” Then Jesus came down from heaven in a white robe and stood in the midst of the crowd.
Even though everyone in the crowd believed he was the Son of God who was prophesied from old and fell to the ground, Jesus bade them to arise, come forth, and put their hands into the holes left in his body from the crucifixion, as though everyone there was a Doubting Thomas. But even Doubting Thomas didn’t need to put his hands into Jesus, instead, humbled, he fell to the ground in worship and said, “My Lord and My God”. Nevertheless, every single member of the crowd did come forward and verify the marks of Christ’s execution as they were commanded.
Then Jesus said, “Nephi come forth!” which would be like standing in a crowd of a million Americans and saying “John Smith come forth!” But the correct Nephi came forward, kissed Jesus’ feet, and Jesus gave him the power to baptize. And then Jesus called an unspecified number of others to be certified for performing baptisms as well.
In 3 Nephi chapter 15 verse 5 Jesus says “I have come to fulfill the law; therefore it has an end”. And he demands in verse 10 that the people keep his commandments. That means he has established a new law. Reading through 3 Nephi I have found some precepts which are great advice (like “don’t worry about tomorrow”) but in the Book of Mormon this advice attains the authority of commands.
The Jesus of the New Testament gospels was not a stickler for the letter of the law, he tore at the skin of the law to get at the meat. People could ignore the Sabbath to do good works. Laws on hand washing were a waste of time if what came out of a man was unclean. He wanted people to obey the law in spirit, for as Paul said, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”. But the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is very specific about how he wanted the people to be baptized.
I mark the differences from the gospel of the New Testament in bold.
1. He gave to Nephi and others that he called the power to baptize the people, using the words: “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” Then they were to be immersed in the water, and come out of the water again. (In the New Testament Jesus only said baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost but gave no instructions on who was allowed to do it or how).
2. There were to be no disputes about his doctrine, because contention is Satanic. (The Jesus of the NT said nothing about quelling arguments, and even started a few himself)
3. It was Jesus’ doctrine that actions which stir men to anger must be done away with. And Jesus said his doctrine came from the Father himself.
4. Repentance from sin must accompany baptism. Salvation depends on believing in Jesus and being baptized. Anyone who does not believe in Jesus and is not baptized will be damned.
5. Be reconciled with one’s brother before asking to be reconciled with Christ.
6. Do not look on a woman with lust.
7. Do not divorce your wife except on grounds of unfaithfulness.
8. Do not swear oaths.
9. Do not resist evil.
10. When compelled to make a plaintiff whole in a civil suit, make more than full restitution.
11. When pressed into labor, do twice the work that is compelled.
12. Do not turn away anyone who asks to borrow.
13. Love your enemies.
14. Do not make a public display of alms-giving.
15. Do not make a public display of prayer or use vain repetition.
16. Do not visibly emphasize your misery when fasting.
17. Do not judge.
18. Ask God for all things through prayer with faith.
19. Do not follow after false prophets.
20. Jesus’ words must be declared to the ends of the earth.
21. “Ye shall call the church in my name.” (In the NT Jesus did not specify what he wanted the Church to be called)
22. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house. (The Jesus of the NT specifically said “the children of the Kingdom are free” with respect to the temple tax, and said nothing about requiring tithes, other than to praise a woman for giving two mites, which were all that she had)
23. Never cease to pray in your hearts (3 Nephi 20:1)
24. Suffer not any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily. (This is a concern that Paul spoke about in his letter to the Corinthians, the Jesus of the NT said nothing about it)
25. Ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not. (Jesus said nothing about the frequency of gatherings, and only said that the little children should be allowed to attend as well)
26. Always pray unto the Father in my name (The Jesus of the NT made no commandment to do anything in his name, but merely praised those who would do miracles or receive children in his name)
27. Keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you (3 Nephi 18:14)
28. There shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name. And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you. (The Jesus of the NT did not specify who was allowed to consecrate the Eucharist, only that the disciples should “do this in memory of me”)
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the only sign that given was a star which the Wise Men followed to his manger (back when they thought stars were very nearby ceiling ornaments). Meanwhile in America, the sun went down but the land was remained in light somehow all “night” until the sun came up again. And the Nephites and Lamanites could also see the new star, because after fulfilling its purpose of leading the Wise Men to the place where Jesus was born it apparently drifted off to the western hemisphere too. A star did.
The Nephites stopped counting years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 BCE and started counting them from the day these signs appeared, which theoretically put the Nephite calendar in sync with our own Western calendar today. In practice, it was off by a few years. Centuries after Christ came, a monk took a best guess at when he came and chose 753 AUC (ab urbe condita – in the year of the city of Rome) but we now know it could not have been later than 4 BCE when Jesus was born, because Herod died in Jericho in that year. But for the sake of brevity I will pretend the two calendars are in sync so I can get on with it. In the year 34 and 35 the disciples of Jesus formed churches throughout America. And if someone truly repented of their sins, they were baptized in the name of Jesus and received the Holy Spirit.
By the year 36, all the people in the Western Hemisphere, both Lamanites and Nephites, were in the church of Jesus Christ. There were no more wars of even arguments between them. And they shared all their property.
For the passages from the Old and New Testament that appear again in the Book of Mormon we know Joseph Smith plagiarized the King James Bible rather than translated them anew from the Reformed Egyptian on his plates, because he even included the italicized words which were included by the translators of the 1611 Authorized Version for clarity, but do not appear in the original text.
When Joseph Smith plagiarized the King James Bible, there were passages of great beauty, because it is a beautiful Modern English translation. Even I, an atheist, admire it as literature. But when Smith, who had almost no formal education, struck out on his own he produced prose like this:
And thus did the thirty and eighth year pass away, and also the thirty and ninth, and forty and first, and the forty and second, yea, even until forty and nine years had passed away, and also the fifty and first, and the fifty and second; yea, and even until fifty and nine years had passed away.
As a result, the Book of Mormon is three or four times longer than it has to be.
The Nephites stopped obeying the law of Moses and obeyed the commandments of Jesus instead. After the year 100 CE, all the original disciples of Jesus had died, except for three which he allowed to live on and on until the end of human history. But new disciples were ordained to replace the ones that died.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness. . . no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of –ites…
Yes it actually says “nor any manner of -ites.”
A whole generation came and went, over the course of 110 years, and there was no contention in the land. Imagine, by analogy, that the last contention in America was the Civil War, which ended in 1865. Now imagine that for the whole period ending in 1976, no one rekindled the issues from the Civil War at all. No Jim Crow laws, no segregation, no KKK.
The Nephi who recorded the coming of Jesus to American died, and the keeping of the plates passed to his son Amos, who kept it for 84 years. And there was still peace in the land, but a small group of people began to call themselves Lamanites again. No reason for introducing this flaw into the perfect utopia is given. In my analogy, it is the year 2060, almost two hundred years after the southern states declared independence from Washington, and some of them inexplicably start calling themselves the Confederate States of America again.
After that, the people started to get rich, and wear expensive clothing and jewelry, and divide themselves into rich and poor, and the communist sharing of private property came to an end. Then they formed churches which were essentially businesses for the purpose of gaining profits. One of these churches began to persecute members of the True Church of Christ, casting them into prison (but the prison then broke in two), or casting them into fiery furnaces (but the victims walked out unscathed), or casting them into a lion’s den (but the victims played with the animals as if they were lambs). “And they did smite upon the people of Jesus; but the people of Jesus did not smite again.”
In the year 231 the non-Lamanites began to call themselves Nephites again, for no reason. But the strangest thing was the Lamanites “did not dwindle in unbelief . . . but they did teach their children that they should not believe, even as their fathers, from the beginning, did dwindle.” This is like parents retaining their belief in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus, but teaching their own children not to believe in them. But the Nephites became mostly wicked too, until only a tiny remnant still believed in Jesus. “And it came to pass that when three hundred years had passed away, both the people of Nephi and the Lamanites had become exceedingly wicked one like unto another.”
So despite God’s best efforts, even after allowing two generations to die out as a buffer between the old warring factions and the new, and even after sending the Son to establish a Christian Utopia in America, the old controversy between the Lamanites and Nephites reared up once again. Except this time the Nephites were just as wicked as the Lamanites, and the target of their wrath became a mere handful of faithful men who went into hiding. That is the overarching message the Book of Mormon is sending. That no matter how good you think you are, or how much faith you have, or how hard God works to give you blessings, at some point everything is going to turn to shit anyway, for no logical reason.
There is another Book of Mormon tucked inside the Book of Mormon, written by none other than Mormon. He calls it the Book of Mormon, but it’s really the Plate of Mormon. No Nephite ever wrote on paper.
Ammaron once came to Mormon when he was ten years old, because Ammaron judged him to be a serious child who was as smart as a whip. He tells Mormon that when he’s twenty-four years old he needs to go to the land of Antum and to the hill Shim, where he can find all the plates which Ammaron buried. He is supposed to take only the plates of Nephi but leave the other plates in the ground. Then he is to keep a journal of the doings of his people on the plates of Nephi.
When Mormon was eleven, his father Mormon took him south to the land of Zarahemla. Mormon found that land to be completely covered with buildings and people. He witnessed a war between the Nephites and Lamanites along the borders of Zarahemla. The Lamanites were beaten by a force of 30,000 Nephites, then they withdrew and there was peace for four years.
But there was so much wickedness among the Nephites that Jesus ordered a recall of his disciples, and their work of miraculous healing came to an end. But Mormon himself received the Holy Spirit because of the soberness of his mind. He wanted to become a preacher, but his mouth was stopped shut by God due to the wilfil rebellion of the Nephites.
There were robbers among the Lamanite who roamed the land, causing the Nephites to bury their worldly goods in the earth, but the land was cursed, and it would not securely hold their valuables.
When war came again between the Nephites and Lamanites in 327 AD, Mormon was appointed the leader of their armies because he was large in stature, despite being only sixteen years old. But the Lamanite armies were so great that Mormon’s armies would not fight, and they began a retreat toward the north.
There they took possession of the city of Angola and fortified it to defend against the Lamanites. But it was still not enough, and they where driven by their enemies out of the city. And they were driven out of the land of David.
Then Mormon’s army came to the land of Joshua and tried to make a stand, with the Pacific Ocean hard by. The Lamanite king Aaron came against Mormon’s 42,000 with 44,000 of his own men, and was defeated in battle. This was in 331 AD.
There are other Yeshuas besides Yeshua bin Yosef (Jesus) in the Bible including Yeshua bin Nun, who is the subject of the Book of Joshua, as well as one who is the son of the high priest and another one who is the son of Josedech. So when we get to Mormon 2:6, which reads “And we marched forth and came to the land of Joshua, which was in the borders west by the seashore.” JS should have translated that “the land of Jesus”. Yeshua was a late-Hebrew shortening of the early-Hebrew name Yehoshua, and it was the name his contemporaries actually called him. In Nehemiah 8:17 the short form Yeshua is used about Yehoshua bin Nun (Moses’ padawan learner Joshua) showing that the names are all essentially the same even as languages shift.
Nehemiah 8:17 And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.
Finally it dawned on the Nephites that they could not keep their own property on account of the robbers and the bewitched land, and there rose up a great lamentation. Mormon hoped that they would now turn back to the Lord and receive his blessings again, but his hope was in vain, because they were not sorrowful for their sins, but sorrowful for their lost property.
The Nephites were pursued by the Lamanites to the land of Jashon before Mormon could get them to stop and make another stand. The city of Jashon, by coincidence, was near the place where Ammaron told Mormon to dig up the plates of Nephi, which Mormon promptly did. Fourteen years prior, Ammaron told Mormon to dig up only the plates of Nephi and update them with the current doings of the Nephites.
Mormon has seen nothing but wickedness and abominations around him all his life, so he made an account of them on the plates of Nephi and they ended up in the hill of Cumorah. But only a brief summary of their wickedness was recorded on the plates that Joseph Smith translated.
Essentially, the Nephites were not sorrowful for their sins, but sorrowful for the property they were losing to the robbers infesting the land, even when they buried it in the ground. Besides much theft there was murder and witchcraft in the land. They boasted in their strength and made oaths. They fought without asking God for help. Mormon said they were doing abominations too, and we have no record of what that entailed.
The Nephites were again hunted until they came northward to the land of Shem and fortified the city there. Mormon inspired the people to at last stand boldly and fight for their wives and children and hearth and home. It seemed to work, they did not shrink back when the Lamanites attacked Shem. Mormon’s army of thirty thousand defeated a Lamanite army of fifty thousand.
Finally in 350 AD the Nephites made a treaty with the Lamanites which divided the Western Hemisphere into two regions. The Nephites would get North America, the Lamanites would get South America, and the dividing line would be Panama.
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from golden plates, which were different from the brass plates, the small plates of Nephi, and the large plates of Nephi. There were twenty-four other plates which were a record of the Jaredites in North America, and these became the Book of Ether, which was actually written by Moroni.
Moroni says their story really began with Adam, and went all the way to the Tower of Babel, and he supposes that story is retained by the Jews, as well as being duplicated on the other plates. The story of the Jaredites begins at the Tower and it ends before the Nephites ever meet any of them. So their story is a self-contained little bubble inside the Book of Mormon.
At the Tower of Babel, God was frightened that human beings collectively were beginning to do godlike things. Just as he kicked Adam and Eve out of the garden so they couldn’t become godlike with immortality, he confounded the language of men at Babel so they couldn’t understand one another and eventually encroach on God’s territory.
Somehow, word got out of what God was doing (he didn’t do the confounding part all at once). Thinking quickly, Jared told his brother (who remains curiously nameless throughout the story) to pray to God, which his brother did, and God had mercy on Jared and did not confound their language. So Jared could still talk to his brother.
And God told the brother of Jared to gather his family his flocks, and the family of Jared and his flocks, and all their friends and their families, and go down into the “valley which is northward” named Nimrod. Unfortunately for Mormon geography, Babel, which later was the site of Babylon, was on the west bank of the Euphrates River flowing to the southeast, and to go northward was to go up the valley.
Nevertheless, the party ended up on the shores of the sea after crossing many waters with barges. They called their seashore camp Moriancumer, and dwelt there for four years. During that time they forgot the Lord, and never called his name, and at the end of the four years the Lord came to “the brother of Jared” (who remained nameless even though he was the only go-between in God’s dealings with Jared’s party) and complained. The brother of Jared begged forgiveness, and God said he would forgive him and Jared this one time.
The Lord told him to make more barges like the ones they made before, and when Jared was done his brother told the Lord there was no airholes in them, and if they get inside they won’t be able to breathe. God said okay, you’re absolutely right, it slipped my mind, so maybe you should make a couple holes in them for air, and if the water starts to come in you can plug them up again.
So Jared made the holes, but there was the problem of no light. His brother begged the Lord not to make them endure the crossing while dwelling in darkness. And God told him there was no way to have light in the barges because of basic engineering considerations. He can’t have windows because they will be broken to pieces. Fire won’t work in an airtight space. They’re going to spend have the trip underwater like a submarine anyway because the waves are so great. So they’re pretty much S.O.L. when it comes to light.
The project pretty much ground to a standstill. There was no way the Jaredites were getting into dark barges for months on end, and God couldn’t think of a way to solve the light problem.
But the brother of Jared went up the flanks of Mount Shelem and smelted sixteen small stones from molten rock which were white and translucent. He went to the very summit and said, “O Lord do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee, but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock; touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness.”
So the Lord, thinking it was a pretty good idea, did just as the brother of Jarod asked, but the brother of Jared saw the finger of God, and it was just like a human finger, so he collapsed in fear. He was afraid that God would smite him for learning his secret that the creator was made of flesh and blood.
God told the brother of Jared that no man ever had as much faith as the brother of Jarod, that was why the brother of Jarod could see his finger. But if the brother of Jared had more faith than any man, why didn’t the brother of Jared accept the Lord’s opinion that there was no way to have light and air inside the barge at the same time?
God redeemed the brother of Jarod from the fall of Adam right there on the spot so the brother of Jarod could see his whole body and not just his finger. It was a special offer. The rest of humanity would need to wait until Jesus died on the cross before they could be redeemed. But if the brother of Jared’s faith satisfied God’s justice for the fall of Adam such that he restored the brother of Jared to his presence, why did Jesus have to die on the cross at all?
God identifies himself to the brother of Jared as Jesus Christ, who is the Father and the Son. He said the brother of Jared was now looking at the body of his spirit. And Moroni, who is translating this account from the Jaredite plates, opines that the brother of Jared had no more faith, because he knew for sure, and there was no more room for doubt. In one fell swoop the brother of Jared went from the man who had more faith than any other man in the history of Earth to a man with absolutely no faith.
In the days of Com many prophets predicted that the people would face destruction unless they repented, but the people didn’t like to hear that and they sought to kill them, so they went into Com’s Prophet Protection Program. He took payment in the form of prophecies and he found himself blessed for the rest of his life.
Com begat Shiblom and the brother of Shiblom, who made war upon each other, and this war involved the whole land.
The brother of Shiblom executed all the prophets who brought bad news about the destruction of the people if the people refused to repent. Following that there was a great destruction, “. . .such an one as never had been known upon the face of the earth. . .greater than the Noah Flood even, if the text is correct.
But apparently this greatest destruction of all time was confined to the Western Hemisphere because there was no report of even the fringes of this destruction in the Bible (the time period was perhaps 800 BC), and after the destruction there were many Jaredites left over while the Noah Flood involved the entire earth and killed everyone not in the ark.
Shiblom was slain, so his son Ahah ascended to the throne. He did much iniquity, and the days of his reign were short. His son Ethem also did much iniquity but reigned a bit longer.
Just like what happened in the days of Com, many prophets came around predicting that God would wipe the people off the face of the earth unless they repented. But the people wouldn’t listen, so the prophets backed off.
Ethen did what was wicked before the Lord, and he begat a son Moron, and Moron, true to his name, did what was wicked before the Lord too.
A descendant of Jared overthrew Moron and took his kingdom. Moron was put into jail, and there he begat Coriantor (by binary fission, apparently, since women do not appear in the Book of Mormon except in rare occasions) and Coriantor lived in prison all of his days, from birth to death.
While Coriantor lived his life in jail, the prophets came out again and did their “repent for the end is nigh” schtick again, and they were rejected again.
Coriantor divided by mitosis and begat Ether in captivity, thus producing a second generation of jail babies named Ether. Then he died.
Ether could not be restrained because the Holy Spirit dwelt in him. So he came out of prison and preached to the people during the days of the reign of Coriantumr the king.
All kidding aside, of course they had their wives with them in captivity. But that doesn’t make much sense, because Coriantumr was essentially allowing his captive enemies to multiply in captivity, when all he had to do was let their women go free.
My question isn’t that Moron’s wife was in jail with him, because his captors could have been compassionate enough to allow Moron and his wife to stay together under their house arrest or imprisonment or whatever it was. But Coriantor was born in captivity and died in captivity. So how did he meet his wife, the mother of Ether? Did they make a habit of bringing unmarried girls to prison to get with the inmates?
Moroni breaks off his tale there to preach from another New Testament epistle that somehow made its way to America (maybe like a message in a bottle), this time the Book of Hebrews chapter 11, and the discourse on faith. He asserts that Christ only showed himself to men of faith after he died, but if that was true, why did he appear to Thomas, or to any of the disciples cowering in the upper room, devastated at the death of their Lord?
Even more to the point, Moroni says God does not have power to perform any miracle among human beings unless they have faith! It seems God is not omnipotent after all. So he substitutes the recap of Bible stories made possible by faith with a recap of Book of Mormon stories made possible by faith.
By faith Alma and Amulek that caused the prison to tumble to the earth. By faith Nephi and Lehi that wrought change upon the Lamanites. By faith Ammon and his brethren wrought a miracle among the Lamanites. By faith three disciples were made immortal by Christ and would walk the earth until the end of history. And last but not least, by faith the nameless brother of Jared saw the actual finger of God.
And now for a bit of the old ultraviolence. Moroni commits to plates the tale of the destruction of the Jaredites.
They had rejected the words of Ether, that their land was chosen of God for those who serve him, and it would be the place of the New Jerusalem that would come down from heaven and be the dwelling place of the Lord in the messianic age. Problem: There wasn’t even an old Jerusalem yet, there was only Salem whose king (later when Abram immigrated into the Levant) was Melchizadek.
And Ether said that the old Jerusalem would be built up again in Israel. Problem: There was no Israel when the Jaredites made their way to the New World. Israel was named after a man who hadn’t even been born yet.
Ether said the the inhabitants of the New Jerusalem would fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham. Problem: The Jaredites departed in the Genesis 11 time-frame. The covenant with Abraham was made in Genesis 12 and was applicable to his children, none of which included any of the Jaredites.
Ninety-nine years after the flood, Peleg was born. His name means ‘division’. Genesis 10:25 says ‘for in his days was the earth divided’ which refers to the scattering of men from Babel. Abram was born 191 years after Peleg. Abram was born nearly two centuries after the Jaredites began their migration.
All these prophesies had absolutely nothing to do with the Jaredites, other than they would have to give up their choice land in the New World to accommodate the children of Abraham who would take possession of it and build the New Jerusalem.
So all this talk from Ether about new this, old that, and covenants that hadn’t been made would have been only so much crazy talk to the Jaredites. No wonder they rejected Ether’s prophesies.
Ether was a contemporary of Coriantumr, circa 600 BC, but Ether was the Jaredites’ only source of what was or had happened in the Old World, because their history broke off from there in the era of the Tower or Babel. Ether might as well have been talking about another planet, and his prophesies spoke about another people inheriting their choice land anyway. The only choice they had was to repent and live to see their dispossession, or not repent, and only Coriamtumr would live to see it.
Coriamtumr did not repent, and sought to capture Ether, but Ether fled to a cave and watched everything from afar, and recorded it. What follows is the most boring part of the entire Book of Mormon, and that’s really saying something.
A man named Shared rose up and gave battle to Coriamtumr, and brought him into captivity, but the sons of Coriamtumr released him.
Coriamtumr came again after Shared with his armies, and they met in the valley of Gilgal, and Shared was driven to the plains of Heshlon. Then Shared turned and fought Coriamtumr, and drove him back to the valley of Gilgal.
The next time they fought in the valley of Gilgal, Coriantumr slew Shared, but Shared wounded Coriantumr in his thigh, which took him out of commission for two years.
And there was a curse on the land so that when people set objects down at night, in the morning they disappeared. So everyone started keeping their worldly goods and weapons on their own person.
Then the brother of Shared, who was named Gilead, gave battle to Coriantumr, and was driven to the wilderness of Akish. But the brother of Shared waylaid a part of the army of Coriantumr because they were drunken. And he went to the land of Moron and placed himself on Coriantumr’s throne. Meanwhile, Coriantumr stayed with his army in the field for two years.
Gilead’s high priest murdered him as he sat upon the throne of Coriantumr. Then Lib was elevated to king just in time for Coriantumr to come back to Moron and give battle. Lib wounded him in the arm, but the army of Coriantumr drove the army of Lib to the shore of the sea.
But the army of Lib smote the army of Coriantumr and drove them through the wilderness of Akish to the plains of Agosh. On the plains of Agosh Coriantumr smote upon Lib until he died, but Lib’s brother Shiz rose up in his place and gave battle, causing Coriantumr to flee.
Shiz chased after Coriantumr, burned down many cities, and slew women and children.
And all the people in the land flocked into either the army of Shiz or the army of Coriantumr.
So far the war had been so bloody that the whole face of the land was covered with dead bodies, and no one took the time to bury them because they were busy marching to make more dead bodies. And the land stank.
Shiz pursued Coriantumr to the seashore and gave battle for three days. The people of Shiz grew frightened and fled to the land of Corihor, while Coriantumr pitched his tents in the valley of Shurr, and assembled his army on the hill of Comnor hard by.
In the battle Shiz smote upon Coriantumr with many wounds, and Coriantumr fainted from the loss of blood and was carried away. Casualties were so high on both sides that Shiz ordered his people not to pursue the armies of Coriantumr.
When Coriantumr recovered from his wounds he remembered the words of Ether and saw that two million of his men had been slain already, and also their families, and he realized that the prophesies had been fulfilled to the letter. So Coriantumr wrote a message to Shiz that he ought to resign for the sake of the lives of his people. Shiz said no way.
Then Shiz wrote a message to Coriantumr that if he game himself up, he would spare the lives of the people. Coriantumr said no way. So the people of Coriantumr gave battle to the people of Shiz. But when Coriantumr saw that he was about to be defeated he fled from the armies of Shiz.
They came to the river Ripliancum, which was the greatest river in the land, probably the Mississippi. In the morning the armies fought. Coriantumr was wounded in battle and fainted with the loss of blood.
The armies of Coriantumr drove the armies of Shiz southward to Ogath. The army of Coriantumr camped at the hill Ramah, which is also the hill Cumorah, where Mormon hid the plates of Nephi and where another battle would take place that would result in 240,000 deaths.
Four years were spent by both sides rounding up all the people to fight. Every single one who still lived, except Ether, who would be an observer.
All the people in the land fought here at the hill Ramah/Cumorah. Men, women, and children were all armed with weapons and wore armor. Men killed women and children as well as other men. Mothers killed other mothers and their children. The children of Coriantumr killed the children of Shiz, and vice versa, so much did they hate each other.
After that day’s fighting, Coriantumr wrote a message to Shiz to the effect that he didn’t want to fight anymore, but Shiz didn’t agree to stop.
The next day they fought again until there were 69 folks with Shiz who where still alive, and 52 folks with Coriantumr.
The next day they fought again until there were 32 folks with Shiz who were still alive, and 27 folks with Coriantumr.
Shiz and his men chased down Coriantumr and his men, and they fought until only Shiz and Coriantumr still lived. Then Coriantumr gained so many hits on Shiz that Shiz passed out from the loss of blood. Then Coriantumr smote off the head of Shiz. And that woke him up:
And it came to pass that after he had smitten off the head of Shiz, that Shiz raised upon his hands and fell; and after that he had struggled for breath, he died.
In 4 Nephi, the Lamanites and Nephites were converted to Christ and lived in peace for at least two hundred years, but this rated only a few verses because peace, love and harmony are so womanish. But having Shiz raise up on his hands after his head was chopped off and try to breathe before dying, now that’s good meaty “Spike TV” stuff. The Book of Mormon is filled with that sort of thing, and if I go “Eeeewwwgghh!” I’m not treating it as sacred.
In Moroni chapter 9, his father Mormon reports that he is still alive, but the Lamanites were victorious in battle, and a number of leading Nephites have been slain. Mormon fears that the Lamanites will utterly destroy his people. Nevertheless he is still preaching the Word of God to them, but when he uses harsh words they get angry, and when he uses soft words they harden their hearts against it. I guess the trick when preaching to genocidal maniacs is to use medium-harsh words.
The Lamanites took many prisoners in the battle. They slew all the men. They fed to the women the flesh of their husbands and they fed the children the flesh of their fathers, and gave them almost no water. Still, these atrocities paled in comparison to those of the Nephites in Mariantum, who availed themselves of the daughters of the Lamanites, tortured them to death, and ate their flesh. Mormon asks his son, rhetorically, how God could be expected to withhold judgment from such a people. He especially grieves for the widows and their daughters in Sherrizah, who are starving because both armies have carried away most of the food. And Mormon can do nothing for them, because the army of the Lamanites is between him and that city.
In 421 CE Moroni wrote a few more things before adding his plates to the ones his father sealed up in the hill Cumorah in western New York, which just happened to be where Joseph Smith Jr. used to go looking for buried treasure when he was a kid. Moroni asks anyone who reads the records in the latter days to ponder them in his heart and ask God in prayer, in the name of Christ, if the things are true. And if they ask with a sincere heart, the truth of them will be made manifest through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is asking that the seeker rely on an interior emotion to verify the truth value of the records.
Because this inner assurance, if it comes, is the gift of God, and here Moroni uses telepathy to copy the apostle Paul’s dissertation on the fruits of the spirit found in 1 Corinthians 12, despite the distribution of that epistle being limited to the Eastern Hemisphere. Except that he differs from Paul in that Paul said faith was the gift of God (as he also does in Ephesians 2:9) but Moroni says only that great faith is the gift of God, which seems to leave open the door for the doctrine that a basic faith is of ourselves.
Failing all that, Moroni recommends we accept what he says in the records is true now, because it will save a lot of grief when we see Moroni in heaven and God says, “Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?” So he pretty much closes the Book of Mormon with Pascal’s Wager, which reduces faith to nothing more than a risk-benefit calculation from game theory. “I covered my bets, Lord!” I’m sure that will go over well with the Judge.
Then he falls silent. The last of the Nephites had passed away, and the Lamanites reigned victorious throughout the Western Hemisphere. Their descendants are found today as the native American community. Except that the Jews (thus Lamanites) were caucasoid, while the original Americans are mongoloid, originating in the steppes of east Asia and migrating here over a land bridge between Siberia and Alaska around 9,000 BCE.