2 Nephi 5
A Covenant Plan of Salvation
Geographical Theory Map: 2 Nephi 5:5-8 Nephi Flees to the Land of Nephi (Year 021)
2 Nephi 5:6 I, Nephi, Did Take . . . Zoram . . . Sam . . . Jacob and Joseph . . . My Sisters:
In 2 Nephi 5:6 we find Nephi specifically noting the makeup of his group: "I, Nephi, did take my family, and also Zoram and his family, and Sam, mine elder brother and his family, and Jacob and Joseph, my younger brethren, and also my sisters, and all those who would go with me." This left Laman and Lemuel and their families as well as the families associated with Ishmael not represented by those who went with Nephi. This creates an interesting demographic problem. About half the family seems to leave with Nephi, yet as the future text implies, the Lamanites seem to be much more numerous than the Nephites. According to John Sorenson, the best interpretation seems to be that the Book of Mormon peoples intermingled with other populations known to have been in their areas at the time. [John L. Sorenson, "When Lehi's Party Arrived in the Land, Did They Find Others There?" in Nephite Culture and Society, pp. 65-104]
2 Nephi 5:6 Jacob and Joseph:
According to Robert Matthews, we know from an earlier passage (1 Nephi 16:7) that Laman, Lemuel, Sam, Nephi, and Zoram had each married daughters of Ishmael. It is interesting that now, a decade or so later, each of them is said to have "his family" (2 Nephi 5:6), but Jacob and Joseph are referred to only in the singular, with no mention of a family. [Robert Matthews, "Jacob: Prophet, Theologian, Historian," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, p. 36]
2 Nephi 5:6 My Sisters:
When Nephi fled from Laman and Lemuel into the wilderness, he mentions that among the people he took with him were "my sisters" (2 Nephi 5:6). How many sisters did Nephi have?
According to Sidney Sperry, the fact that "sisters" is mentioned means that at least two sisters went with Nephi into the wilderness. Were these sisters the elder daughters of Lehi who had married Ishmael's sons? It would seem highly improbable. For we remember that Lehi's married daughters were among those who had rebelled against the faithful members of Nephi's party when they were bringing Ishmael's family from Jerusalem (1 Nephi 7:6). It would be hard to believe that these rebellious daughters of Lehi would leave their husbands and children and desert to Nephi's camp without his mentioning the fact. [Sidney Sperry, Answers to Book of Mormon Questions, p. 11]
According to Daniel Ludlow, the reference to "my sisters" here in 2 Nephi 5:6 is the only specific reference in the Book of Mormon that Nephi had sisters as well as brothers. How many sisters there were, whether they were older or younger than Nephi, or what their names may have been are questions not answered in our present Book of Mormon.
However, the following statement by Erastus Snow may provide information on some of the sisters of Nephi:
"The prophet Joseph informed us that the record of Lehi was contained on the 116 pages that were first translated and subsequently stolen, and of which an abridgment is given us in the first Book of Nephi, which is the record of Nephi individually, he himself being of the lineage of Manasseh; but that Ishmael was of the lineage of Ephraim, and that his sons married into Lehi's family, and Lehi's sons married Ishmael's daughters" (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, p. 184).
The words that Ishmael's sons "married into Lehi's family" would seem to indicate that the two sons of Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 7:6) were married to Lehi's daughters (and thus to two of the sisters of Nephi).
However, the sisters referred to in 2 Nephi 5:6 are evidently still other sisters, because the sisters mentioned here follow Nephi when the schism with Laman occurs, whereas the sisters of Nephi who were married to the sons of Ishmael evidently stayed with their husbands and joined with Laman (see Alma 3:7 and 47:35). [Daniel Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, p. 131]
According to John Sorenson, the two (or more) daughters of Lehi and Sariah are presumed, on the basis of Erastus Snow's statement, to have become wives of Ishmael's sons. These sisters of Nephi were apparently (unmarried) minors at the beginning of the account, otherwise there would be no way to place them in Sariah's birth history. [John Welch's assumption that Nephi was Lehi's sixth child (two sisters older than he) is highly unlikely, for that would stretch out Sariah's fertility history to an unbelievable and unnecessary length.] I suppose that one was around twelve and the other around nine (when Lehi left Jerusalem). When they arrived in Bountiful they would have been twenty and seventeen.
It is logical that in the intimate circumstances of the camp, youths approaching sexual maturity would be in a socially awkward position. Likely, the adult role of wife would be arranged for the two daughters as soon as feasible, say around age sixteen for each in turn, but whom would they marry? The sons of Ishmael alone seem of an age to be possible husbands. Lehi's first daughter may then have become the second wife of Ishmael's first son at about the time they were in Nahom. The second daughter could have become the second wife to Ishmael's second son no later than the time the party reached Bountiful. [John Sorenson, "The Composition of Lehi's Family", in By Study and Also by Faith, Vol 2, p. 190]
2 Nephi 5:6 And All Those Who Would Go with Me:
Nephi’s mention of "all those who would go with me" (2 Nephi 5:6) seems to be the first time he explicitly refers to others who might have accompanied or joined the family group of Lehi. It also gives us the first definition of the term "Nephites" ("all those who believed in the warnings and revelations of God"). If we were to go strictly by the text, Nephi's party might have had only three adult males: Nephi, Sam, and Zoram. (Jacob and Joseph might have grown old enough to be considered adults, but the text does not say they had married. Nephi's sisters might have been old enough to be married; however, nothing is mentioned in the text.) The group left behind might have had only four adult males: Laman, Lemuel, and the two sons of Ishmael (1 Nephi 7:6) (although Laman's sons (2 Nephi 4:3), and Lemuel's sons (2 Nephi 4:8), and the sons of the two sons of Ishmael might have been old enough to be considered adults). Whatever the case, for a small group to find a safe place we would hardly need to define their travel distance in terms of "many days" (2 Nephi 5:7). On the other hand, by including others ("all those who would go with me") in Nephi's group (whether they came from Jerusalem or were native to the lands that Lehi had traveled to), it would give more significance to the "many days" which Nephi’s group would have had to travel in order to avoid discovery by Laman's group. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:6 And All Those Who Would Go with Me:
According to Brant Gardner, in order to more fully appreciate the Book of Mormon as an ancient text, we need to find multiple interconnected complex sets of connection points between it and a proposed cultural context. Towards that end, one of the first phrases in the Book of Mormon text that invites comparison to the culture in Mesoamerica at the time of the Book of Mormon is found in 2 Nephi 5:6, "and all those who would go with me."
Nephi names those who leave. Using mentioned people and their logical progeny, the only ones clearly unaccounted for in the division are the sons of Ishmael. It would certainly seem that if "all those who would go" were only one or two people, we would expect that Nephi might make mention of them, at least by their head of household, as he does for the families of Zoram, Sam, Jacob, and Joseph.
Since at this time there were a number of settlement areas along the Pacific coast of Guatemala,64 the best hypothesis to explain Nephi's inclusion of "all those who would go" is that it referred to those of the hamlet (or perhaps hamlets?) that had joined with the Lehites. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, pp. 2-3]
2 Nephi 5:7 And We Did Take Our Tents and Whatsoever Things Were Possible For Us:
Nephi records that when they landed in the Promised Land that they went forth upon the land and "did pitch our tents" (1 Nephi 18:23). Later as Nephi is fleeing from their landing area, mention is also made of tents: "we did take our tents and whatsoever things were possible for us" (2 Nephi 5:7). If the "tents" referred to here were the Arabian tents which went with them from Jerusalem to Bountiful (and might have presumably been loaded on their ship), then these tents would have weighed a few hundred pounds (see the commentary on 1 Nephi 2:4). Transporting them would have required beasts of burden. Apparently these kinds of animals were implied by Nephi when he recorded that in the land of promise "there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse" (1 Nephi 18:25). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
John Sorenson, however, offers some other perspectives on the meaning of "tents":
What was a Nephite "tent"? . . . The term tent is used some 64 times in the Book of Mormon, so the question may deserve attention.
Biblical translators have usually rendered the Hebrew root 'hl to English as "tent"; however, it has a rather wide range of possible meanings. Sometimes it referred to full-fledged tents on the pattern of those used by desert nomads of southwestern Asia; but to semi-nomads like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the term could also mean "hut" as well as "tent." In later usage, as the Israelites became sedentary village or city dwellers, its meanings were extended further. For example, in Psalms 132:3 and Proverbs 7:17 the related word 'ohel means "canopy (over a bed)," while in the New Testament, John 1:14 says literally "he pitched his tent among us" to communicate the thought "he lived among us." A Hittite account has the god Elkunirsha living in a "tent" made of wood. In writings from South Arabia in Lehi's day and also in classical Arabic, languages closely related to Hebrew, the root stood for "family" or "tribe" as well as tent. In the related Semitic language of the Babylonians, a word from the same root meant "city," "village," "estate," or "social unit," and even formed part of the word for bed. . . . Furthermore, Dr. Hugh Nibley reminds us that "throughout the ancient world . . . the people must spend the time of the great national festival of the New Year living in tents." But for this occasion Israelites came to use makeshift booths made of branches, as fewer and fewer of their town-dwelling numbers owned genuine tents. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 160] [See the commentary on Mosiah 2:6, 18:34; Alma 2:20, 46:31; Mormon 6:4]
2 Nephi 5:7 We . . . Did Journey (Using a Geographic Model):
Before one goes any further into the story of Lehi's group in the New World, it might be wise to establish a geographical model. But how does one go about setting up a standard for interpreting the geographical phrases in the Book of Mormon? Which is more important, internal textual clues or external historical, geographical, and cultural findings? For an expanded discussion on this subject, the reader is referred to Appendix B.
2 Nephi 5:7 We . . . Did Journey in the Wilderness:
When Nephi's group of followers fled into the wilderness to escape the danger imposed by Laman and Lemuel, their ultimate destination would be the land of Nephi (2 Nephi 5:8). In the subsequent text, the "land of Nephi" is always referred to as being "up." Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, there are mountains which border the entire Pacific coast. At multiple points, the coastal route can climb up into the mountain wilderness. Most all the coastal routes and mountain routes eventually connect with the capital city of Guatemala, a location many scholars believe correlates with the Book of Mormon "city of Nephi." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:7 We did journey in the wilderness for the space of many days (Illustration): From any part of the strip of wilderness near the Pacific coast . . . in southern Guatemala, the mountains are visible, beckoning with a promise of cooler climate. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 194]
2 Nephi 5:7 We . . . did journey in the wilderness (Illustration): The route from Tapachula Mexico (near the ruins of Izapa--a proposed location for the landing area of Lehi) to Guatemala City (the site of the ruins of Kaminaljuyu--a proposed location for the city of Nephi). This is an enhanced photo of the giant Relief Map of Guatemala located in Guatemala City. [Cliff Cross, Central America Travel Guide, p. 15]
2 Nephi 5:7 We . . . did journey in the wilderness (Illustration): Another perspective of three main routes from Tapachula (near the ruins of Izapa--a proposed location for the landing area of Lehi) to Guatemala City (the site of the ruins of Kaminaljuyu--a proposed location for the city of Nephi): (Route #1) proceeding along the Pacific coast to Esquintla, then upwards past Lake Amatitlan; (Route #2) proceeding part way along the Pacific coast, the climbing upwards to Quetzaltenango and then passing by Lake Atitlan; (Route #3) going a little northward and then ascending upwards to Quetzaltenango and then passing by Lake Atitlan. This is an enhanced photo of the giant Relief Map of Guatemala located in Guatemala City. [Cliff Cross, Central America Travel Guide, p. 31]
2 Nephi 5:7 We . . . did journey in the wilderness (Illustration): Another perspective of the routes from Tapachula (near the ruins of Izapa--a proposed location for the landing area of Lehi) to Guatemala City (the site of the ruins of Kaminaljuyu--a proposed location for the city of Nephi). As shown, the coastal route proceeds from Izapa (to the left out of the picture) along the coast to Esquintla, then upwards past Lake Amatitlan to Guatemala City. The other connecting route (the route of the Inter-American Highway) comes from beyond Quetzaltenango passing by Lake Atitlan. This is an enhanced photo of the giant Relief Map of Guatemala located in Guatemala City. [Cliff Cross, Central America Travel Guide, p. 27 ]
2 Nephi 5:7 Many Days:
It is hard to know, at this point in the narrative, what the phrase "many days" (2 Nephi 5:7) means. Nephi has used the phrase "many days" to describe trips of only a few hundred miles or trips as long as an ocean voyage (1 Nephi 16:15, 16:33, 18:23). A key to the answer, according to John Sorenson, might be the fact that on this occasion Nephi traveled "many days," ending up at a site where they named their settlement for their leader, Nephi. If we combine this information in 2 Nephi 5:7-8 and the information concerning the Lamanite "land of first inheritance" mentioned in Alma 22:27-34 as "on the west in the land if Nephi," we might presume that the original place of Nephi which the group first fled to was not very far from the coast. We can reason in this manner because if Nephi's group would have traveled "many days" directly inland, they would have ended up far from the sea. And thus, in Alma 22 the Lamanite "land of first inheritance" would probably not be listed within the land of Nephi. [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 139]
2 Nephi 5:8 We Did Call It Nephi:
According to Joseph Allen, the ruins of Kaminaljuyu, located where Guatemala City now stands, have been proposed as the location for the City of Nephi and the Land of Nephi. Some of the reasons are as follows:
1. The Late Formative Period of Kaminaljuyu (when a significant amount of building occurred) is listed at 500 B.C. to 20 B.C. with an estimated error of + or - 100 years. This dating (of the Late Formative Period) coincides with the time period from the arrival of Nephi and his followers on the scene until the end of Nephite influence.
2. Kaminaljuyu had a trade and travel relationship such that the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (a proposed location for the "narrow neck of land") was of importance to them.
3. The climate, agriculture base, and mountainous regions all parallel nicely with the statements in the Book of Mormon.
4. Temple mounds showing a high degree of workmanship with an apparent function of ceremonial and ritual use, including burned areas reminiscent of animal sacrifice, remind us of Nephi and his temple.
5. Dr. John Sorenson, who proposed that Kaminaljuyu was anciently the City of Nephi, notes that the site of Kaminaljuyu was for many centuries the dominant culture center for all highland Guatemala, the most important spot for several hundred miles around. The great size (at least a mile square) and impressive constructions of Kaminaljuyu underline its key importance and that of the valley. The land of Nephi is portrayed in the Book of Mormon as dominant among its neighbors to the same degree. (Sorenson 85:141)
6. As Michael Coe states, and as referred to above, the elite of the Valley of Kaminaljuyu were very literate during this time period. The elite were probably the Nephite record keepers. In all of the Americas, Kaminaljuyu was the most prominent city center that had an appropriate written language base during Middle Preclassic times, 600 B.C. to 300 B.C.
7. The term "Land of Nephi" not only fits the role of a city, but also a state, and also a country. Although this might seem confusing, this is the same structure that exists today. Guatemala is a major city located in Guatemala (the Department or State) which is located in Guatemala (the country).
8. The stone monument called "Stela 10" located in the archaeological ruins of Kaminaljuyu might be a representation of the events of the story concerning Abinadi, Noah, and Limhi. Stela 10 could become as familiar to Latter-day Saints as Izapa Stela 5 (Tree of Life stone).
9. Kaminaljuyu has an elevation of 4,800 feet above sea level and sits on a plateau surrounded by mountains. Thus it is up from the proposed land of Zarahemla in Chiapas, Mexico. One can also come down into the valley from the hills to the "north."
[Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 359]
2 Nephi 5:8 Wherefore we did call it Nephi (Illustration): The ruins of Kaminaljuyu consist of several dirt mounts. Located in Guatemala City, the site is proposed as the City/Land of Nephi. [Joseph Allen, Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, p. 360]
2 Nephi 5:8 Wherefore we did call it Nephi (Illustration): Top: The area of Guatemala City suggested as the immediate land of Nephi; Bottom: Part of Kaminaljuyu, the large site within Guatemala City that qualifies as the city of Nephi. [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 144]
2 Nephi 5:8 My people would that we should call the name of the place Nephi (Illustration): The great city at Kaminaljuyu was once at least a mile square and contained hundreds of major buildings. This photograph only hints at the former extent and the density of public structures. Encroaching suburban growth has by now destroyed all but a small portion of the site, which is preserved as a park. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 199]
2 Nephi 5:8 Wherefore We Did Call It Nephi:
According to Glenn Scott, archaeologist Joseph Michels of Penn State University wrote:
Within the onset of the Middle-Formative [600-300 B.C.] Kaminaljuyu emerges as an incipient regional center . . . the emergence of ranked [specialized] households at Kaminaljuyu was not an in situ evolutionary manifestation but . . . an intrusive organizational feature that evolved in some other region. (Sanders & Michels 1979, Settlement Patterns at Kaminaljuyu, vol. 4) [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 98]
2 Nephi 5:8 We Did Call It Nephi:
According to Richard Hauck, the archaeological site of Mixco Viejo is a viable candidate for ancient Nephi for a variety of reasons.
First, topographical maps demonstrate that along with Kaminaljuyu [19 miles to the southeast], Mixco Viejo is the one other location in this highland region where the soils, moderate slopes, and water resources could support a large pre-Columbian population. Francisco Antonio de Fuentes y Guzman, a seventeenth-century Spanish chronicler writing about Mixco Viejo, suggests that the Mixco locality may have contained from eight to nine thousand people prior to Spanish domination.
Second, Mixco Viejo has defensive capabilities, an important characteristic of ancient Nephi. The scriptural references associated with Nephi leave no doubt about the defensive nature of that location (see 2 Nephi 5:34; Enos 1:24; Jarom 1:13; Omni 1:3; Mosiah 7-22). Evidence does not suggest that ancient Nephi was ever captured or overrun by an attacking force. As noted in Mosiah 11:12, the tower at Nephi overlooked the surrounding countryside. These factors suggest that the city of Nephi was in an elevated and easily defended position.
Mixco Viejo has similar characteristics. It was a formidable Mayan fortress prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The site is positioned on the top of the plateau overlooking the Motagua River valley to the north and the Llano Grande plateau to the southeast. Access into the site is very limited, due to the steep ravines or barrancos that surround the plateau in every direction. The deep soils that compose this plateau are volcanic ash or wielded tuff. When these soils are exposed to the air, their surface stabilizes, resisting further erosion. Thus, the defensive potential of the site was amplified by men digging away the lower portions of the cliffs to eliminate any attempt by an enemy to scale the ravines in an assault.
Henri Lehmann, a French archaeologist, excavated and reconstructed the historic Mayan structures at Mixco Viejo between 1954 and 1967 . . . Lehmann's excavations were aimed at exploring the architectural structures that were contemporaneous with the Spanish invasion when the Mayan Pokomam people had their capital there. He was not interested in establishing the earliest period of occupation on the site. To do so he would have had to dig deeply below the historic structures, thus further weakening and destroying the standing architecture that he was struggling to preserve. Lehmann does note, however, the recovery of preclassic pottery sherds in the excavations, indicating that the occupation of this site extends back into the past perhaps several thousand years previous to the thirteenth century A.D. occupation prominent on the surface. . . .
A third factor that enhances Mixco Viejo as a possible candidate for ancient Nephi is its situation within seven miles of the ancient, historic trail system at Granados. That trail is identical with the orientation of the Nephi/Manti/Zarahemla route in the Book of Mormon because it links the southern highlands with the northern highlands and the lush jungles of the Peten far to the north (see Alma 17:1; 22:29). Further, the Motagua River ford near here is the main river crossing near the southern end of that ancient north-south trail. The trail's immediate proximity to Mixco Viejo enhances the potential that the marvelous archaeological site gradually opening to our view may be the location of the city of Nephi. [F. Richard Hauck, "In Search of the Land of Nephi," in This People, Fall 1994, pp. 52-63]
2 Nephi 5:8 We did call It Nephi (Illustration): Looking nearly west across restored Mayan walls of Mixco Viejo. Fifty-four verses in the Book of Mormon give some detail of the land or the city of Nephi. Though the restored city shown dates to the 11th and 12th century A.D., artifacts and excavations reveal the original city to be contemporaneous with the Book of Mormon. [F. Richard Hauck, "In Search of the Land of Nephi," in This People, Fall 1994, p. 53. (Photography by Scot Facer Proctor)]
2 Nephi 5:8 We did call it Nephi (Illustration): Afternoon light touches hillsides and the archeological site of Mixco (pronounced meesh-ko) Viejo, formidable ancient city located on the south side of the Motagua River. We may surmise that Nephi used the Liahona to guide the faithful to a place like this where they could build a city and use natural protection to defend themselves from their enemies. . . . [Scot F. Proctor and Maurine J. Proctor, Light from the Dust, p. 71]
2 Nephi 5:8 Wherefore We Did Call It Nephi:
Some people might wonder why it is that if archaeologists have found Jerusalem in the Old World, we have yet to definitely locate a major city from the Book of Mormon in the Americas, such as the city of "Nephi" (2 Nephi 5:8). According to William Hamblin, comparing the current state of geographical knowledge of the Book of Mormon and the Bible is a false analogy. . . . Without the continuity of place names (toponyms) between biblical and modern times, only about 36 of the 475 biblical place names could be identified with certainty. But in fact those 36 are identifiable largely because it is possible to triangulate their relationship to known sites, moving from the known to the unknown.
Over time, people can easily forget linguistically where even a major city like Jerusalem might be located. For example, from the Canaanite u-ru-sa-lim derived the Hebrew Yerushalem or Yerushalayim. The city was also frequently called the City of David, and Zion, giving four common names for Jerusalem in the Old Testament alone. The Greeks called the city both Ierousalem and Hierosolyma; the Latins retained Hierosolyma. However, following the Roman conquest in A.D. 135, the emperor Hadrian changed the name to Aelia Capitolina. It retained its identity as Jerusalem only because Christians eventually came to dominate the Roman Empire and changed the name back. Following the Muslim conquests, however, the city was called Aliya, Bayt al-Maqedis, or al-Quds, as it still is by Palestinians today. If Christianity had been exterminated rather than becoming the dominant religion of the Roman empire, what linguistic evidence would we have that al-Quds of today was the ancient Jerusalem?
Thus, discontinuity of toponyms (place names) is a common historical occurrence, especially in periods of major cultural, linguistic, and political transformations, similar to those described in the Book of Mormon itself. We can see just this phenomenon in the Book of Mormon, where the Jaredite hill Ramah is later called the hill Cumorah by the Nephites (Ether 15:11; Mormon 6:6).
A serious problem facing Book of Mormon geography is the severe discontinuity of Mesoamerican toponyms between the Pre-Classic (before c. A.D. 300), the Post-Classic (after A.D. 900), and the Colonial Age (after A.D. 1520). For example, what were the original Pre-Classic Mesoamerican names for sites currently bearing Spanish colonial names such as Monte Alban, San Lorenzo, La Venta, or El Mirador? These and many other Mesoamerican sites bear only Spanish names, dating from no earlier than the sixteenth century. . . . For most indigenous Mesoamerican dialects, the vast majority of toponyms were recorded only in the sixteenth century, over a thousand years after the Book of Mormon period. . . . Furthermore, Pre-Classic (Book of Mormon times) Mesoamerican inscriptions are relatively rare. Whereas several thousand inscriptions exist from Classic Mesoamerica (A.D. 300-900), Pre-Classic inscriptions are limited to a few dozen. In addition, the earliest "simple phonetic spelling developed about A.D. 400" in Mesoamerica. This means that all Mesoamerican inscriptions from Book of Mormon times are logograms. Therefore, all surviving inscriptional toponyms from Book of Mormon times are basically symbolic rather than phonetic, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to know how they were pronounced. [William J. Hamblin, "Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 164-168]
2 Nephi 5:10 We Did Observe to Keep the Judgments . . . Statutes . . . and the Commandments according to the Law of Moses:
According to John Welch, [Nephi] was a real person, who lived in a real world. It is a testimony to [him] to see how aptly his words fit into the ancient legal setting as we understand it. . ..
It is important to realize that the law of Moses did more than regulate the priestly ordinances or ritual aspects of ancient Israel. It embraced both religious and secular, cultic and civil law. For example, Jethro said to Moses, "Thou shalt teach them ordinances [hopim] and laws [torot]" (Exodus 18:20), and accordingly Moses issued laws and judgments, and established rulers and judges--not only for their religious purification, but also for the government of his people. Some of Moses' "ordinances" are ordinances in the sense of city ordinances; others are ordinances in the sense of priesthood ordinances. His judgments (the mishpatim) and his commandments (usually the mitzvot), found largely in Exodus and Deuteronomy, establish what we could consider to be the criminal, civil, family and administrative laws, as well as the constitutional fabric of ancient Israelite society. . . .
This seems to be the clear meaning of 2 Nephi 5:10, affirming that the earliest Nephites kept "the judgments [mishpatim], and the statutes [hopim?], and the commandments [mitzvot?] of the Lord in all things according to the law of Moses." [John W. Welch, "Lehi's Last Will and Testament: A Legal Approach," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, pp. 62-64]
2 Nephi 5:11 Flocks and Herds:
According to Brant Gardner, in the Book of Mormon, "flocks and herds" are a paired set. Although the term "flocks" does appear singly at times, the term "herds" is not mentioned except as in conjunction with "flocks." This usage of the paired terms "flocks and herds" matches well with Old Testament usage, where the vast majority of cases have "flocks and herds" paired. This consistent pairing indicates that there was a linguistically tied phrase common in the Old World that was perpetuated in the New World. In instances of Old Testament "flocks" used alone, the term "flocks refers to sheep, as in Genesis 29:2. Similarly, herds were typically associated with cattle. However, the KJV translation will at times use the world "cattle" as a translation for miqneh "a possession, thing purchased" (Strong's Analytical Concordance). (See for example Genesis 30:39-40.)
The Book of Mormon linking of "flocks and herds" suggests that "flocks and herds" was a linked linguistic pair that had meaning together, but not necessarily separately. "Herds" may not have existed except when generically linked to "flocks." While there is no direct evidence for the usage, there is the possibility that the Old Testament usage of miqneh "possessions" could have become the transferred meaning of the paired "flocks/herds." The usage of flocks and herds could easily fit into this meaning, where the singly used "flocks" might not (such as Mosiah 2:3)
John Sorenson suggests that flocks and herds may have been categories for smaller and larger animals respectively. He includes fowl in the flocks, which is completely expected in the English usage of the term,; but not supported in the Biblical usage (Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, p. 293). His discussion of the possible animals under semi-domestication is worthwhile, but the meaning of "flocks and herds" may have been much different than his more conventional analysis suggests. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/2 Nephi/2Nephi5.htm, pp. 10-12]
2 Nephi 5:11 Flocks and Herds:
Because of Nephi's reference to "flocks and herds" (2 Nephi 5:11), the local land of Nephi probably included a variety of animal life (the text does not mention any animals which were brought over from the Old World). 1 Nephi 18:25 lists many animals which were found "in the wilderness." Among them were "beasts in the forest of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men." The land of Nephi might have been located in or near this wilderness and thus many of the animals found there could have been the same as listed in 1 Nephi 18:25. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:11 We began to raise flocks (Illustration): American gobblers had been kept in flocks for many centuries before the Spaniards came, as shown by this ceramic effigy (dated before 500 B.C.) Their flesh, eggs, and feathers served obvious ends, but the whole fowl was also often sacrificed. [John L. Sorenson, Images of Ancient America, p. 48]
According to Ammon O'Brien, we find in the works of Pedro Carrrasco, a widely published archaeologist-ethnologist and general expert on Mexican antiquities, a native tradition regarding not only lost records, but the lost art of working metals. Chapter 19 of Archaeology of Northern Mesoamerica contains an essay entitled: "The Peoples of Central Mexico and Their Historical Traditions," in which Carrasco comments thus:
There is a native tradition however, which reaches farther into the past. It is one recorded by Sahagun (Bk. 10, Chpt. 29, part 12) as part of his account of the Mexica and is here summarized:
In the distant past the people who first arrived in this land came over the water in boats; they landed in Panotla or Pantla and moved along the coast as far as Quauhtemallan (Guatemala). They were led by their priests, who counseled with their god. Their wise men (tlamatinime) were called amoxoaque (keepers of the books); they soon left and took with them the old books and the art of casting metals. (Carrasco, c. 1966--italics added)
The words in Carrasco's observation: "they soon left and took with them the old books and the art of casting metals," refers to a specific detail in the Mexica legend which recounts that there was a split within the company, whereupon the people were divided into two factions. One of these factions, according to the legend, departed from the other, "taking with them the books," and other precious "metal" items of religious significance. This legend provides interesting similarities to the account in 2 Nephi 5:5-15, which describes the flight of Nephi, with the records and the knowledge of metalworking, from the land of first inheritance to the land of Nephi. [Ammon O'Brien, Seeing beyond Today with Ancient America, pp. 141-142]
2 Nephi 5:13 Multiply in the Land:
If we are to go strictly by the text, when it says that the Nephites did "multiply in the land" (2 Nephi 5:13), how much population growth would there have been? According to John Sorenson, the three original couples in Nephi's party, plus possibly four unmarried singles (all brothers and sisters--2 Nephi 5:6), could not have done more than, say, quadruple the adult population by the time of Nephi's death--hardly dramatic enough to be described in this way. On the other hand, the Lamanite party, if unmixed with "natives," could not have numbered more than twice as many as the Nephites. With a combined adult male population of probably no more than 60, the groups could probably only have been some limited miles apart in order for "wars" even to be feasible. Therefore, we might assume that many "others" (natives) were involved. [John Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, F.A.R.M.S., p. 218]
2 Nephi 5:14 And I, Nephi, Did Take the Sword of Laban:
Just a few verses before Nephi records that his people desired that he should be their king (2 Nephi 5:18), he notes that the sword of Laban was in his possession: "I Nephi did take the sword of Laban . . . lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us" (2 Nephi 5:14). According to Brett Holbrook, in a survey of historical and mythical literature, two patterns of swords appeared: the kingly and the heroic. Both types function as symbols of divine authority. The sword of Laban can be included among them as a combination of the two patterns. Indeed, it is comparable with an ancient Near East prototype: the biblical sword of Goliath (which became the prize of the victorious David). . . . As a symbol of power in war, the sword came to be part of the regalia (royal objects) owned by kings that justified their transfer of authority, and the giving of a sword to the new king defined kingship in various ways, but the sword's symbolism in the royal regalia was the temporal representation of divine power in the sovereign.65 Yahweh himself is known to have a sword that he used in the cosmogonic battle before creation,66 and his word was frequently equated with a sword.67 As the Messiah of Christianity, Jesus Christ was to come a second time wielding a sword in the last days of judgment (Revelations 14:14-16).68
The following is a comparison of the Swords of Goliath and Laban [and, to a certain degree, David and Nephi]:
1. Each sword was originally wielded by a man of might. (See 1 Samuel 17:4-7, 11; 1 Nephi 3:14, 31).
2. The sword's owner had his head cut off with his own sword by a faithful youth. (See 1 Samuel 17:51; 1 Nephi 4:18.)
3. The sword was unusual in appearance. (See 1 Samuel 21:9; 13:19, 22; 1 Nephi 4:9.)
4. Both of the swords were finely crafted for their time and were unique. (See 1 Samuel 21:9; 13:19, 22; 1 Nephi 4:9.)
5. The swords were revered by the people. (1 Samuel 21:9; 2 Nephi 5:14; Mosiah 1:16; Alma 37:14; Words of Mormon 1:13.)
Josephus recorded that after David slew Goliath he "carried the head of Goliath into his own tent, but dedicated his sword to God, [at the tabernacle]."69 The sword was then later kept with the ephod and priestly garments in Nob, where the tabernacle most likely was at the time (1 Samuel 21:9).70 The sword of Goliath was highly revered and kept with the implements of spiritual authority. When Saul found out specifically that David had obtained the "sword of Goliath" (mentioned by name), he was afraid and slew all the priests in Nob that helped David. Apparently Saul also respected the weapon and what it stood for, and feared when David possessed it.
6. The sword was used to lead people. (1 Samuel 23:1-5; 25:13; Jacob 1:10)
Although there is no direct mention of the name of Goliath's sword again, it is assumed that David retained and used it. Right after David acquired the sword of Goliath from Nob, the Lord instructed him to battle against the Philistines. In that battle David and his men were victorious.
7. The swords were symbols of authority and kingship. (1 Samuel 16:13; 18:6-7; 22:1-2; 22:20; 23:6, 9; 30:7(1 Samuel 24:20; 2 Samuel 5:3) (2 Nephi 5:18-19; 6:2; Jacob 1:9, 11, 15; Mosiah 1:15-16; Words of Mormon 1:13).
It was directly after David slew Goliath that the women sang, "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18:6-7). It was directly after David acquired the sword of Goliath from Nob again that he gained a following of four hundred men (1 Samuel 16:13; 22:1-2). And once he had the sword the priest Abiathar joined David, bringing with him the ephod that gave David added legitimacy (1 Samuel 22:20; 23:6, 9; 30:7). After David had the sword, Saul admitted to him, "I know well that thou shalt surely be king," and David was finally anointed king of Israel in Hebron (1 Samuel 24:20; 2 Samuel 5:3).
With the sword of Laban, Nephi led his people. As Nephi became king, and in fulfillment of the word of the Lord that he should be the ruler, he was divinely appointed (2 Nephi 5:18-19; 6:2; Jacob 1:9, 11, 15) The sword became part of the regalia, and was passed down among rulers as a sacred relic (Mosiah 1:15-16; Words of Mormon 1:13). [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 41-53]
2 Nephi 5:14 I Nephi took the sword of Laban (Similarities of Nephi and Laban to David and Goliath) [Illustration]: "A Comparison of the Swords of Goliath and Laban" [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, pp. 48-53]
2 Nephi 5:14 I Nephi took the sword of Laban (Similarities of Nephi and Laban to David and Goliath) [Illustration]: "The Transfer of Regalia in Nephite History" [Brett L. Holbrook, "The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Spring 1993, p. 57]
2 Nephi 5:14 After the Manner of:
Nephi notes that he "did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords" (2 Nephi 5:14). According to John Sorenson, in this verse "after the manner of it" does not refer to the material used but to the "manner of construction. That is, Laban's weapon was replicated in function and general pattern, but different material could have been used for the new weapons. The copies might have been metal, but need not have been. The reader should note that the phrase "after the manner of it" is also used in a parallel fashion two verses later to describe the manner of construction of the temple--it was like unto the temple of Solomon "save it were not built of so many precious things" (2 Nephi 5:16).
It is worthy of note that the Hebrew language meanings of the word translated "sword" in the King James version of the Bible include the idea that a "sword" does not have to be of metal.71 [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 324-325]
2 Nephi 5:14 After the Manner of [Laban's Sword] Did I Make Many Swords:
Nephi records that after fleeing his wicked brethren in the land of first inheritance, he settled his group in the land of Nephi. There he makes an interesting statement. He says: "And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did made many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us" (2 Nephi 5:14). One might ask, Did Nephi have metallurgical skills that Laman and Lemuel lacked? He had already crafted plates on which he kept a record of his people (see 2 Nephi 5:29-31) in addition to making out of ore the tools necessary to construct a ship according to the Lord's specifications (see 1 Nephi 17:9-10, 16). Could Nephi produce blades not only shaped like the sword of Laban, but metalically crafted to certain superior specifications? And by his statement was he saying that he personally made all these swords or was he teaching others these special metallurgical skills?
A recent article in Scientific American Magazine sheds some interesting perspective on the possible importance not only of Nephi's metallurgial skills, but his teaching of those skills to his people. John Verhoeven, an emeritus Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Iowa State University writes:
From the Bronze Age up to the 19th century, warriors relied on the sword as a weapon. Armies possessing better versions enjoyed a distinct tactical advantage. And those with Damascus swords--which Westerners first encountered during the Crusades against the Muslim nations--had what some consider to be the best sword of all.
Those blades, originally thought to have been fashioned in Damascus (which is now in Syria), featured two qualities not found in European varieties. A wavy pattern known today as damask, or damascene, decorated their surface. And more important, the edge could be incredibly sharp. Legend tells how Damascus swords could slice through a silk handkerchief floating in the air, a feat no European weapon could emulate.
Despite the fame and utility of these blades, Westerners have never been able to figure out how the steel--also used for daggers, axes and spearheads--was made. The most accomplished European metallurgists and bladesmiths could not replicate it, even after bringing specimens home and analyzing them in detail. The art of production has been lost even in the land of origin; experts generally agree that the last high-quality Damascus swords were crafted no later than the early 1800's. Recently, however, an ingenious blacksmith [Alfred H. Pendray] and I [John D. Verhoeven] have, we believe, unlocked the secret. (John D. Verhoeven, "The Mystery of Damascus Blades," in Scientific American, vol. 284, num. 1, January 2001, pp. 74-79)
[Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:14 Swords . . . Lamanites:
By making "swords" (2 Nephi 5:14), Nephi apparently expected action from the "Lamanites." If this word "Lamanites" strictly refers to Nephi's brothers and their immediate posterity, then Nephi's trip of "many days" had not separated the groups by any great distance. [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:34]
2 Nephi 5:15 Iron . . . Copper . . . Brass . . . Gold . . . Silver . . . Precious Ores . . . in Great Abundance:
Nephi mentions the fact that in the land of Nephi, they worked with "iron . . . copper . . . brass . . . steel . . . gold . . . silver" and "precious ores, which were in great abundance" (2 Nephi 5:15). According to Ben Olsen, who has some geological experience in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, ores are associated with slowly cooling magmas, or intrusive rocks, which are common in Guatemala and Mexico. The metal-laden fluids move up cracks, fissures and faults to impregnate overlying and adjacent sedimentary or metamorphic rocks. Such is the case along the Polochic-Motagua fault system (see illustration) where many metallic mines occur, as well as in various areas of Mexico. [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, p 52, Unpublished]
2 Nephi 5:15 Iron . . . copper . . . brass . . . gold . . . silver . . . precious ores . . . in great abundance (Illustration): Southeast Mexico -- Guatemala Surface Geologic Map: Compiled from 1960 Mexican and 1970 Guatemalan geologic maps. [Ben L. Olsen, Some Earthly Treasures of the Book of Mormon, Map 5, Unpublished]
2 Nephi 5:15 Precious Ores . . . in Great Abundance:
The presence of ores "in great abundance" (2 Nephi 5:15) might imply that Nephi was located in mountainous terrain. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:15 Precious ores . . . in great abundance (Illustration): Economic Mineral Resources (Recursos Economicos Minerales). [Clate Mask, "And They Called the Place Nephi," unpublished]
2 Nephi 5:15 And of Iron, and of Copper, and of Brass, and of Steel:
According to John A. Tvedtnes, the Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon help persuade us that it is authentic. . . . Hebrew uses conjunctions much more frequently than English does. One clear example of this can be found in lists of items. In English, the conjunction and is normally used only before the last item in a list, such as wood, iron, copper, and brass. But Hebrew usually uses a conjunction before each item. The Book of Mormon contains many examples of this Hebrew-like usage, such as this one found in 2 Nephi 5:15: "And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance."
This kind of repetition is so prominent in the Book of Mormon that Professor Haim Rabin, President of the Hebrew Language Academy and a specialist in the history of the Hebrew language, once used a passage from the Book of Mormon in a lecture in English to illustrate this principle, because he explained, it was a better illustration than passages from the English Bible. [John Tvedtnes,"The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon" in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 82]
2 Nephi 5:15 And I Did Teach My People . . . to Work in All Manner of Wood, and of Iron, and of Copper, and of Brass, and of Steel, and of Gold, and of Silver, and of Precious Ores:
According to John Tvedtnes, "there is evidence to show that Lehi and his family were craftsmen and artisans--probably metalworkers. . . . Evidence for Nephi's metal-working skills came after the group's arrival in the New World. It was he who prepared the plates of ore from which the Book of Mormon ultimately developed (1 Nephi 19:1), smelting the ore and forming the plates themselves. He also manufactured "many swords" based on the pattern of the weapon he had taken from Laban in Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:14). But the full range of his talents is explained in the verses of 2 Nephi 5:15-17: "And I did teach my people . . . to work in all manner . . . of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores. . . . " If Lehi and his family were metal-workers (living on a plot of land sufficiently large to grow crops as well), then the source of their wealth is readily explained. From biblical passages (2 Kings 24:11-15; Jeremiah 24:1; 29:2) as well as the Assyrian and Babylonian documents of that era, we learn that craftsmen and smiths were considered in Lehi's day to belong to the upper class. [John Tvedtnes, "Was Lehi a Caravaneer?," F.A.R.M.S., p. 13]
2 Nephi 5:15 I Did Teach My People . . . to Work in All Manner . . . of Gold:
According to Glenn Scott, in 1881, Jose Gay related that the ancestors of the Mixtec engraved ancient hieroglyphics on very thin gold plates (Jose Antonio Gay 1881, Historia de Oaxaca, Mexico, 1:4,62.). [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 91] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:28-30]
2 Nephi 5:15 I Did Teach My People to . . . Work in All Manner of . . . Precious Ores, Which Were in Great Abundance:
According to John Sorenson, the word "abundant" is what anthropologists call an "emic" concept, a word whose meaning has to be construed in the culture's own terms. The statement in 1 Nephi 18:25 on discovering ores refers to a point in time when Lehi's party had just landed, and the men available to explore were very limited (perhaps ten in number).72 Consequently their search for and discoveries of ores would only have been cursory and local. The same caution applies to interpreting "great abundance" in 2 Nephi 5:15:
And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance. (see also "abound" in Jacob 2:12 and Jarom 1:8)
Expressions such as these reflect the viewpoint of small communities, perhaps a single village. We must not distort the record by transforming the "emic" sense of "abundance" in the minds of the first few Lehites and Nephites into "etic" (i.e., objective, geological) abundance on a scale of hundreds of miles throughout Mesoamerica. [John L. Sorenson, "Viva Zapato! Hurray for the Shoe! in Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 6, Num. 1, pp. 322-323]
2 Nephi 5:16 And I, Nephi, Did Build a Temple:
The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky.73 In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh W. Nibley, the word templum "designates a building specially designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe. The root tem- in Greek and Latin denotes a 'cutting' or intersection of two lines at right angles, 'the point where the cardo and decumanus cross,' hence where the four regions come together."74 A temple is thus a central point from which one can determine the relationship between the motions of the heavens and the four quarters of the earth. [Matthew B. Brown, The Gate of Heaven, p. 1]
2 Nephi 5:16 I Nephi Did Build a Temple . . . after the Manner of the Temple of Solomon:
Nephi wrote, "I, Nephi, did build a temple . . . after the manner of the temple of Solomon" (2 Nephi 5:16). According to Glenn Scott, some critics cite this reference to a temple outside of Jerusalem as an error, assuming it was never done. However, the discovery of Hebrew temples at Arad, near Beer Sheba (Herzog 1987, "Ancient Israelite Fortress," Biblical Archaeological Review, 13:2) and at Elephantine, Egypt (Nibley 1989, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, 388) disproved that claim. A significant parallel between Mesoamerican temples and Solomon's is that they shared a common floor plan: an outer court, an inner court, and an inner sanctum corresponding to the Holy of Holies. Torquemada, a sixteenth century Spanish priest, noted the same three-part floor plan (Laurette Sejourne 1966, "Prehispanic Temples," Cuadernos Americanos, 143). [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 99]
2 Nephi 5:16 I, Nephi, did build a temple . . . after the manner of the temple of Solomon: Temple of the Cross At Palenque, Mexico. (1) Cross section showing three-part plan. (2) Interior of sanctuary with Tablet of the Cross. (3) Fray Torquemada noted the three-part floor plan of many Mesoamerican temples. [Glenn A. Scott, Voices from the Dust, p. 100]
2 Nephi 5:16 I, Nephi, Did Build a Temple:
According to John Welch, temples were important throughout the ancient world, more so than most people realize. When wandering through the archaeological remains and perusing written records of those often spectacular sacred buildings, modern secular people are disadvantaged in trying to comprehend the devotion and awe that ancient people must have felt towards their temples, whether in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, or Mesoamerica. Ancient civilizations dedicated their scarcest public resources to the extensive tasks of building, furnishing, and operating the beautiful temples that dominated the central precincts of so many of their lands and cities. Those buildings were not only viewed as "the one point on earth at which men and women could establish contact with higher spheres,"75 but they also "represented stability and cohesiveness in the community, and their rites and ceremonies were viewed as essential to the proper functioning of the society."76 Public veneration at every holy place was freely offered by the faithful, who gathered often at the temple for religious instruction, coronations, sacrifices, and other sacred rites and crucial functions. . . .
Ancient temples also combined the realms of God and man, the immortal and the mortal, the eternal and the temporal, the reign of God and the rules of society. Modern observers should remember that the separation of church and state is largely an artificial boundary that is predominantly a modern construct. In the ancient Near East, the concepts of king and prophet, palace and temple, secular law and divine commandment were close companions, if not synonymous concepts;77 . . .
Evidence in the Book of Mormon indicates that temples were equally important among the Nephites, both in their religion and in their society. Prominent on the landscape of each of the three successive Nephite capital cities of Nephi, Zarahemla, and Bountiful was a temple, probably one of the most important structures in town. These temples functioned as meeting places; there the domain of the king met the sphere of the priest, and worshipers assembled, made contact with divine powers, and learned the mysteries of God. Although we have little direct information about the design of temples in the Book of Mormon or the rituals performed in them, the scriptures give strong clues about those teachings and ordinances, leaving little doubt that temples were the site of many key events in Nephite civilization and in their worship of the Lord Jesus Christ. In or at the temple, Nephite kings were crowned, religious teachings were dispensed, and the plan of salvation was taught; there the people were exhorted to proper behavior, sacrifices symbolizing the atonement of Christ were performed, and religious and legal covenants were made and renewed. . . .
The sacred activities performed at the temple preserved, embodied, and perpetuated the historical roots of Nephite beliefs and practices in ancient Israel's past. At the same time, they symbolized and looked forward to the presence of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thus the temple unified past, present, and future. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 297-299]
2 Nephi 5:16 Nephi, Did Build a Temple . . . Like unto the Temple of Solomon:
According to Daniel Peterson, Nephi's construction of a temple, recorded in 2 Nephi 5, has drawn a great deal of attention from critics of the Book of Mormon. Nephi states:
And I, Nephi, did build a temple; and I did construct it after the manner of the temple of Solomon save it were not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land, wherefore, it could not be built like unto Solomon's temple. But the manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon; and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine. (2 Nephi 5:16)
But how, the skeptics demand, could a small family of refugees possibly build such a structure when Solomon's own temple required years of construction and the efforts of many thousands of workers?78
Seeming problems in the Book of Mormon often dissolve when we attempt to find out what the text actually says, which is not always what we initially imagine it to say. What does it mean to be built "after the manner of the temple of Solomon"? I submit that it means to be patterned after, to have the same general layout as Solomon's temple, without necessarily being on the same scale. And since we know that smaller temples did in fact exist in ancient Israel, there seems no real reason to assume, without evidence, that one could not have existed among the Nephites. "Biblical evidence," notes the Israeli archaeologist Avraham Negev, "points to the existence of numerous other cult places all over Palestine, in addition to the main Temple of Jerusalem, and such shrines have now been found at Arad and Lachish, both of a very similar plan."79 Indeed, says Negev, "No actual remains of the First Temple [Solomon's] have come to light, and it is therefore only by the study of the Bible Scriptures and by comparison with other contemporary temples that we can reconstruct the plan."80 [In correspondence, one critic of the Book of Mormon demanded to know why, if Nephites really once existed, we have not found any ruins of Nephi's temple. I would suggest that it is for the same reason that we have found "no actual remains' of Solomon's temple.--n. 38, pp. 170-171]
Negev tells of one such temple, built "after the manner of the temple of Solomon," as follows:
The most remarkable discovery at Arad is the temple which occupied the north-western corner of the citadel. . . . Its orientation, general plan and contents, especially the tabernacle, are similar to the Temple of Solomon. . . . Flanking the entrance to the hekal were two stone slabs, probably bases of pillars, similar to the pillars of Jachin and Boaz in the temple at Jerusalem (1 Kings 7:21; 2 Chronicles 4:17).81
Yet the Arad temple was only a fraction of the size of Solomon's temple. Significantly, it survived, in use, until approximately the time of Lehi. [Daniel C. Peterson, "Is the Book of Mormon True? Notes on the Debate," in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited, pp. 153-154]
2 Nephi 5:16 I, Nephi, did build a temple . . . after the manner of the temple of Solomon (Illustration): An illustration of Solomon's Temple. The Nephite temple was built like this but was not as richly decorated. Artist: Unlisted. [Thomas R. Valletta ed., The Book of Mormon for Latter-day Saint Families, 1999, p. 85]
2 Nephi 5:16 Nephi, Did Build a Temple . . . Like unto the Temple of Solomon:
Of his temple's design and structure Nephi states, "The manner of the construction was like unto the temple of Solomon" (2 Nephi 5:16). According to John Welch, in saying this, Nephi "could only have meant that the general pattern was similar."82 From this, one may understand that the basic physical conception of the temple of Nephi was essentially comparable to that of the distinctive temple of Solomon, which divided its sacred space into three areas on a straight-line axis with the innermost being the most holy. In the opinion of some scholars, Solomon's temple was distinctive in that it "consisted of three rooms one behind the other, with a narrow front. . . . What is characteristic of the Jerusalem Temple is rather that the three rooms stand one behind the other in a straight line, and that the building is the same width all along its length" with the middle room being the largest."83 Apparently, Nephi built his temple in this same fashion so that it could be used for functions similar to those performed in the temple of Solomon.
While it may be completely coincidental, and while there are obvious differences between all varieties of temples, it is interesting to observe that sanctuaries at the center of the top of certain Mayan temples (for example, at Tikal) are divided into three small areas arranged in a straight row, each one being a step higher than the other. Although little is known about Mesoamerican temples, ethnohistorians have surmised that, in cases of two- and three-roomed temples in Mesoamerica, "worshippers could enter only the outer room of the temple, while the slightly raised, more sacred, inner chamber was restricted to priests," with altars along the back wall.84 Expanding on similar ideas, John Sorenson has drawn the following further comparisons between the prototypical Israelite temple and Mesoamerican temple structures:
The temple of Solomon was built on a platform, so people literally went "up" to it. Inside were distinct rooms of differing sacredness. Outside the building itself was a courtyard or plaza surrounded by a wall. Sacrifices were made in that space, atop altars of stepped or terraced form. The levels of the altar structure represented the layered universe as Israelites and other Near Eastern people conceived of it. The temple building was oriented so that the rising of the sun on equinoctial day (either March 21 or September 21) sent the earliest rays--considered "the glory of the Lord"--to shine through the temple doors, which were opened for the occasion directly into the holiest part. The same features generally characterized Mesoamerican temple complexes. The holy building that was the temple proper was of modest size, while the courtyard area received greater attention. Torquemada, an early Spanish priest in the New World, compared the plan of Mexican temples with that of the temple of Solomon, and a modern scholar [Laurette Sejourne] agrees.85
[John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 323-325]
2 Nephi 5:16 I Nephi Did Build a Temple, and I Did Construct It after the Manner of the Temple of Solomon:
Like Israel's only temple, the American ones face east and had fine work in stone. Spaniards found that Peruvian and Toltec temples had similar gold plating. Fine woods adorn the Mayan temples (e.g., Tikal). Both Israelite and American temples were supported by columns (e.g., Sayil, Chichen, Tula), and both sported horns on each of the four altar corners (Monte Alban urn).86 Both had perpetually burning fires and the pervading fragrance of incense (still observable at Chichicastenango, Guatemala), and both had trumpets and bells to announce religious ceremonies (depicted on the Bonampak walls). Temples in both places were presided over by priests, wearing long robes and turbans, who made blood sacrifices at the altars, gave communion, and took confession. Only high priests were allowed into the holy of holies. American priests, like the Levites, were entitled to their offices by tribal inheritance--families marked for that purpose. . . .
Both the Toltecs under Quetzalcoatl, and the Israelites, prohibited human sacrifice, but submitted to it on occasion.87 Later Aztecs instigated the sacrifice of children, and by conquest times they had allowed human sacrifice to reach unbelievable proportions. More often in earlier times animals were sacrificed--but only unblemished ones. Like the Israelites, American natives were forbidden to eat the flesh of certain animals (like the peccary, or South American swine). Purification rituals for birth were similar, and in both areas boys of eight-days of age were circumcised. According to Sahagun, both cultures brought their first-born young men to the temple to serve.88
The most revered possession of the Palestine Jews was their Ark of the Covenant, a symbolic resting place for God. It was an elaborately decorated box kept in the temple and touched only on certain occasions by designated priests. Instances are rare, but Duran reports that the Mexicas had a similar Ark at Huexotzingo, "held in as much reverence as that of the Jews."89 Kingsborough states that only specific persons could touch the sacred object. James Adair, an eighteenth-century writer who lived for forty years among the North American Indians and thoroughly believed they were of Jewish origins, notes a similar Ark among the Cherokee and tribes along the Mississippi.90 [T.J. O'Brien, Fair Gods and Feathered Serpents, pp. 196-197]
2 Nephi 5:16 [The Temple Was] Not Built of So Many Precious Things:
According to John Welch, when Nephi says his temple was "not built of so many precious things" (2 Nephi 5:16), he probably is not speaking of gold or silver, which were found in the land of Nephi. The common Book of Mormon phrase "gold, silver, and precious things" appears to parallel the Near Eastern formulaic expression in which "precious things" commonly referred to precious gems. Thus, while Nephi mentions an abundance of metallic ores (gold, silver, and copper) in his description of the new promised land (see 1 Nephi 18:25), he conspicuously fails to mention gems or "precious things," such as carbuncle, emerald, sapphire, and diamond, which Solomon used extensively in constructing his temple (see 2 Chronicles 3:6; also Exodus 39:10-13).91 Accordingly, the Book of Mormon is consistent; Nephi could not decorate his temple with the same kinds of precious things as were used in Solomon's temple. [John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, p. 325]
2 Nephi 5:16 A Temple . . . after the Manner of the Temple of Solomon:
According to John Sorenson, the Nephites' first temple was constructed "after the manner of the temple of Solomon” (2 Nephi 5:16), a structure Nephi himself had seen many times in Jerusalem, for the old building was still standing when Lehi and his family left the land of Judah. . . . The Nephites used different materials, so the techniques of construction could not be the same as in the Palestinian model. So when Nephi said that the "manner of construction" was the same as in Jerusalem, he could only have meant that the general pattern was similar. . . . Torquemada, an early Spanish priest in the New World, compared the plan of Mexican temples with that of the temple of Solomon, and a modern scholar agrees. [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 143-45]
Note* What was that pattern, and what was its function? For a thorough review of temple symbolism from ancient times, see Donald W. Parry, ed., Temples of the Ancient World. F.A.R.M.S., and Hugh W. Nibley, Temple and Cosmos, F.A.R.M.S. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:16 The temple of Solomon (Illustration): The basic floor plan of both the Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon. (Notice the elevations both inside and outside the building.) [Clate Mask, "And They Called the Place Bountiful," p. 19]
2 Nephi 5:16 The temple of Solomon (Illustration): This tin roof covers the archaeological remains of a temple at Kaminaljuyu dating to around 578 B.C. By November, 1990, when we visited again, they were not allowing tourists inside the excavation of the temple. [Merrill Oaks, "Some Perspectives on Book of Mormon Geography," Slides #32-33]
2 Nephi 5:18 They Would That I Should Be Their King:
According to Brant Gardner, a phrase in the Book of Mormon text that invites the existing culture of Mesoamerica into the Book of Mormon story is found in 2 Nephi 5:18: "they would that I should be their king." Small hamlets do not have kings. To name one of a dozen men "king" is an insult, not a compliment. The only situation that sufficiently explains our text is the presence of non-Old World peoples at this early date. Nephi has just described having not only built dwellings, but also a temple (see 2 Nephi 5:15-16). Public building projects require excess labor. Even on a modest scale, a public building takes time and resources away from daily life. The very existence of a public building suggests a larger population than the pure Old World immigrants and their natural increase. Furthermore, Nephi will consecrate Jacob and Joseph to preside over the temple as "priests and teachers" (2 Nephi 5:26). If we were to assume only Old World peoples at this point, we would have a king and two priests servicing perhaps ten households at the outside. Once again, the only situation that seems to fit is the presence of non-Old World people. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, pp. 3-4]
2 Nephi 5:18 I, Nephi, Was Desirous That They Should Have No King:
In 2 Nephi 5:18 Nephi records that the people "would that I should be their king. But I, Nephi, was desirous that they should have no king. In Mosiah 29, Mosiah2 makes an argument against kingship by stating that "because all men are not just, it is not expedient that ye should have a king" (Mosiah 29:16). What was so bad about a king?
According to John Sorenson, a summary of several principles which scholars on the Bible have established to be central to the institution of Israelite kingship92 will help ground our understanding of what the Book of Mormon means when it talks of monarchy.
1. The king was the owner of the institutions of the state and as such held ownership, in a formal sense, of all agricultural land.
2. In practice, lands specifically owned and controlled by the king were granted to various royal functionaries, or to non-royal officials, as hereditary estates; in return they paid taxes to him and they were obliged to muster military and labor forces from their local subjects as the king required.
3. These elite landlords extracted from the commoners who cultivated the land a substantial portion of their produce (perhaps as much as 50 percent) as tax and rent.
4. This system of land tenure, taxation and furnishing of manpower reinforced the class structure of the society by ensuring that wealth, power and privilege were monopolized by the king and his supporters.
5. A central bureaucracy was the king's mechanism for controlling the various levels of government responsible for the military, economic, legal, and ritual activites of the network of cities and villages within the state. . . . While "the will of the people" had a certain ultimate role to play in this scheme, it would be misleading to think of the arrangement as approaching "democracy."
6. Widespread belief that the king's rule was legitimate, just, and effective was of paramount importance if the system was to keep running. Images, attitudes, and ideals associated with kingship were insistently communicated. . . . Ultimately, a king could be overthrown . . . however the only institutions by which the powers of the public could be decisively exercised were violent ones . . .
7. An organized system of religion--expressed particularly as a set of rituals--was crucial in legitimizing the king. The official priests were "his" priests, in theory; they were associated closely with the royal elite class, being supported by tax money or at least by those patrons who controlled major wealth.
It should be apparent that this form of kingly society was an integral whole, not divisible in practice among conceptual categories such as our terms "economics," "politics," or "religion" suggest. [John L. Sorenson, "The Political Economy of the Nephites," Nephite Culture and Society, pp. 200-202] [See the commentary on 2 Nephi 6:2; 5:30]
2 Nephi 5:18-19 They would that I [Nephi] should be their king. . . . Nevertheless, I did for them according to that which was in my power (Major Nephite Leaders) [Illustration]: The Major Leaders During Nephite History. [Church Educational System, Book of Mormon Student Manual: Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 160]
2 Nephi 5:21 God Did Cause a Skin of Blackness to Come upon Them:
However one defines "blackness" (2 Nephi 5:21), the question that is raised here is this: In our search for Book of Mormon lands, should we look for a location with a history of only "black" and "white" people who lived there during the years of the Book of Mormon?
Hugh Nibley explains that with the Arabs, to be white of countenance is to be blessed and to be black of countenance is to be cursed; there are parallel expressions in Hebrew and Egyptian. . . . Note that the dark skin is never mentioned alone [in the Book of Mormon] but always as attending a generally depraved way of life, which also is described as the direct result of the curse. . . . There is nowhere any mention of red skin, incidentally, but only of black (or dark) and white, the terms being used as the Arabs use them. [Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 73-74]
Note* Perhaps it might be profitable to review what the Book of Mormon has to say relative to "white" or "whiteness," and "dark" or "blackness."
1. In Nephi's vision, an angel makes the following statement regarding the twelve ministers that would judge Nephi’s seed: "For because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood" (1 Nephi 12:10). It is hard to imagine how garments could literally be made white by washing them in red blood. Perhaps the angel is using the term white symbolically.
2. In Lehi's dream, the "fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen" (1 Nephi 8:11). Are Lehi's words about the "white" inside of an apple, or is the term white symbolic?
3. In Nephi's dream, the angel says to him, "Behold these shall dwindle in unbelief. And it came to pass that I beheld, after they had dwindled in unbelief they became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations" (1 Nephi 12:22-23). If we take into account Hebrew parallelism, then darkness parallels “loathsome, . . . filthy, . . . full of idleness and all manner of abominations.” Nothing is said about skin color. Could it be that the term dark is symbolic?
4. Before Nephi ever made his return trip to Jerusalem for the plates of brass, the Lord spoke to him saying, "inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord. . . . For behold, in that day that they shall rebel against me, I will curse them even with a sore curse . . . And if it so be that they rebel against me, they shall be a scourge unto thy seed, to stir them up in the ways of remembrance" (1 Nephi 2:21-24). What was the promised "sore curse"? It was that Nephi's rebellious brethren would be "cut off from the presence of the Lord." By combining the curse with the terms discussed in #3 (1 Nephi 12:22-23), we find that being "cut off from the presence of the Lord" is associated with darkness and with being "filthy, full of idleness and all manner of abominations" (1 Nephi 12:22-23). Was this what made the Lamanites "loathsome" to the Nephites?
5. In 2 Nephi 5:21 the following phrase describes Lehi's party before anyone rebelled against Nephi: "they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome." In 2 Nephi 30:6 the following phrase refers to the future of the Lamanites in the last days: "not many generations shall pass and they (the Lamanites) shall become a pure and delightsome people.” Prior to the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 30:6 read "white and delightsome." In 1840, under the editorial supervision of the prophet Joseph Smith, this verse was changed to "pure and delightsome." Nevertheless, for some unknown reason, subsequent editions failed to include this change and reverted to the wording of previous editions. Not until the 1981 edition was this situation corrected. What is important here is the sense of Hebrew parallelism. Does "white" parallel "pure"? Are all of these words--"white," "pure," "fair," "delightsome"--parallels of one another? Could we substitute “pure” for “white” in 2 Nephi 5:21?
6. In Nephi's vision, he sees the future mother of Christ, and says the following about her: "in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white" (1 Nephi 11:13). Was Nephi trying to say that Mary had a milky-white complexion? That she was pretty? Perhaps Nephi was trying to say that she was "pure."
7. In Alma 13:11-12, Alma speaks on the character of faithful high priests: "Therefore, they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb. Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence." Now let us compare this description with what is said in 2 Nephi 5:21 about the curse. Nephi says, "that they (the Lamanites) might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them." If "white" means "pure," then does "black" mean "impure" or "full of sin"? And was it because the Lamanites were impure or full of sin (or "black") that those who were pure and sanctified ("white") would not find them enticing?
8. In Jacob 1:13-14, Jacob makes the following statement: "Now the people which were not Lamanites were Nephites; nevertheless, they were called Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites. But I, Jacob, shall not hereafter distinguish them by these names, but I shall call them Lamanites that seek to destroy the people of Nephi, and those who are friendly to Nephi I shall call Nephites, or the people of Nephi. In other words, according to Jacob, the Nephites could have had people among them who descended from every man in the original group. The reader should notice that this is after the curse of a "skin of blackness" spoken of in 2 Nephi 5:21. Thus, we might ask, "how much did heredity have to do with the curse of a "skin of blackness"?
9. In 3 Nephi 2:15, Mormon is talking about the Lamanites who have come to live with the Nephites. He says the following: "And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites." Only three verses previous to this statement, however, we find the following statement: "therefore, all the Lamanites who had become converted unto the Lord did unite with their brethren, the Nephites, and were compelled, for the safety of their lives and their women and their children, to take up arms against those Gadianton robbers." Whether these Lamanites were newly converted or whether they belonged to the people of Ammon, who had been converted some years previously (Alma 23-28), hereditary factors could not be at the heart of their becoming "white" in such a short time.
10a. After the coming of Christ, Mormon records that "it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites. . . . And even fifty and nine years had passed away. . . . And now, behold, it came to pass that the people of Nephi . . . became an exceedingly fair and delightsome people" (4 Nephi 2, 6, 10). And it came to pass . . . an hundred years had passed away . . . And there were no envyings, nor strifes, . . . neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God (4 Nephi 1:14, 16, 17). The point that should be addressed here is the length of time required to lift the "curse." Was the "curse" lifted when someone's sins were washed away at baptism (or when they were converted), or were there other requirements? And regardless of exactly how long it took to lift the "curse," we must ask again whether or not it had anything to do with genetic characteristics.
10b. The book of Daniel uses the term white: "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand (Daniel 12:10). Thus, to be purified is to be made white.
10c. The Hebrew word for atonement, Kaphar, has a variety of meanings, each of which seem to focus on different aspects of atonement with God. Among these is "to wipe clean the face blackened by displeasure," as the Arabs say, "whiten the face'" (Brown, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 497).
11. In Alma chapter 3, Mormon speaks about a dissident Nephite group called the Amlicites: "And the Amlicites were distinguished from the Nephites, for they had marked themselves with red in their foreheads after the manner of the Lamanites; . . . Thus the word of God is fulfilled, for these are the words which he said to Nephi: Behold, the Lamanites have I cursed, and I will set a mark on them that they and their seed may be separated from thee and thy seed, from this time henceforth and forever, except they repent of their wickedness and turn to me that I may have mercy upon them. And again: I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also. And again: I will set a mark upon him that fighteth against thee and thy seed. And again, I say he that departeth from thee shall no more be called thy seed; and I will bless thee, and whomsoever shall be called thy seed, henceforth and forever" (Alma 3: 4, 14-17).
In summary, according to the verses just cited, black is a symbolic term meaning impure, filthy and loathsome. Black (or darkness) is also symbolic of being cut off from the presence of the Lord (or from light). When one becomes converted to the Lord, through the atonement of Christ he becomes pure, white and delightsome. Impure people mark themselves to distinguish themselves from the righteous. [Alan C. Miner and Clate Mask, Personal Notes]
According to Hugh Nibley (Lehi in the Desert, F.A.R.M.S., pp. 73-74), we are told (Alma 3:13, 14, 18) that while the fallen people "set the mark upon themselves," it was none the less God who was making them: "I will set a mark upon them" etc. So natural and human was the process that it suggested nothing miraculous to the ordinary observer.
2 Nephi 5:21 God Did Cause a Skin of Blackness to Come upon Them:
When Adam and Eve were sent forth into the wilderness from the Garden of Eden, we know that the Lord made "coats of skins, and clothed them" (Moses 4:27). Alma refers to the clothing of the Lamanites in a similar manner: "and they (the Lamanites) were naked, save it were a skin which was girded about their loins" (Alma 43:20). Perhaps an examination of some references to "a skin" or "skins" in the Book of Mormon will add to our insight:
1. Alma the Elder poses the following question, "And now I ask of you, my brethren, how will any of you feel, if ye shall stand before the bar of God, having your garments stained with blood and all manner of filthiness? Behold, what will these things testify against you? . . . Behold, my brethren, do ye suppose that such an one can have a place to sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob, and also all the holy prophets, whose garments are cleansed and are spotless, pure and white?" (Alma 5:22, 24) When "garments" are "stained," does it mean that the person is impure and unholy as opposed to pure and holy?
2. How do garments become white? We get the answer in Alma 13:11, "therefore they [high priests] were called after this holy order [the high priesthood], and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb." Thus, blood is associated with garments.
3. Jacob says the following: "Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins" (Jacob 3:5). Could "skins" of "filthiness" be associated with "stained garments"?
4. Jacob continues, "O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their [the Lamanites'] skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God." (Jacob 3:8) Are the "skins" talked about here related to the "garments" mentioned in #1 (see Alma 5:22) in that both are associated with judgment at the "throne of God" or at the "bar of God"?
5. Mormon refers to garments in relationship to protection in battle: "Now the leaders of the Lamanites had supposed . . . to come upon them [the Nephites] as they had hitherto done; . . . and they had also prepared themselves with garments of skins, yea, very thick garments" (Alma 49:6). Were the Lamanites hoping to get added protection from garments? Were they copying Nephite principles of protection?
6. Mormon says this about the people who had associated themselves with the Gadianton Robbers: "And it came to pass that they did come up to battle; . . . and they were girded about after the manner of robbers; and they had a lamb-skin about their loins, and they were dyed in blood" . . . Here we have "robbers" who dress themselves in the "skin" of the "lamb" which is "dyed" or washed in "blood." Is this a counterfeit for "garments which are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb"?
In summary, a skin and a garment have the same purpose, they illustrate (or illuminate) the character of a person. Wickedness is represented by skins (or garments) of blackness (or darkness). Garments (or skins) can be washed clean (or white) through the blood of the Lamb. Wicked people not only mock this idea, but fight against it.
I would like to finish by quoting from the words of Alma in hopes of instilling a deeper appreciation for the purpose of the "skin of blackness" which God saw fit to bestow:
"And their brethren sought to destroy them, therefore they were cursed; and the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women. And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction. And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed. Therefore, whosoever suffered himself to be led away by the Lamanites was called under that head, and there was a mark set upon him" (Alma 3:7-10).
Thus the ability to recognize and avoid the curse of false teachings and impure character traits is a far greater blessing than to view the obvious darkness or lightness of a person's skin color. [Alan C. Miner and Clate Mask, Personal Notes] [See also the commentary on "Adam fell" in 2 Nephi 2:25]
2 Nephi 5:21 A skin of blackness (Illustration): Murals depicting white and dark people at Bonampak, Chiapas, Mexico. Murals of the walls of Temple of Warriors depicting white and dark people at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico. Photographs [The Book of Mormon, 1962 Seminary Edition, pp. 408-409]
2 Nephi 5:23 Cursed Shall Be the Seed of Him That Mixeth with Their [the Lamanite] Seed:
Brant Gardner notes that in 2 Nephi 5:23 the Lamanite curse extends to those Nephites who might marry any of the Lamanites. Thus there is not only a geographic division between the brothers and their families, but a moral and religious chasm as well. The question of marriage has become an important one because the Lord has now excluded a significant number of the potential marriage partners. While the preferred mode of marriage would be to marry someone within the same tribe (see Numbers 36:6), that option has been limited.
Marriage in the ancient world dictated the flow of rights and properties. In the case of Israel, it was not only physical property, but a religious inheritance that was passed on. Thus the injunction to marry within the tribe. This preference for marriage inside the tribe was coupled with other prohibitions against marriage outside the tribe:
In the Hebrew commonwealth these prohibitions were of two kinds, according as they regulated marriage (i) between an Israelite and a non-Israelite, and (ii) between an Israelite and one of his own community. - (i) The prohibitions relating to foreigners were based on that instinctive feeling of exclusiveness, which forms one of the bonds of every social body, and which prevails with peculiar strength in a rude state of society. The only distinct prohibition in the Mosaic law refers to Canaanites, with whom the Israelites were not to marry, on the ground that it would lead them into idolatry (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3-4). But beyond this, the legal disabilities to which the Ammonites and Moabites were subjected (Deuteronomy 23:3) acted as a virtual bar to intermarriage with them, totally preventing the marriage of Israelitish women with Moabites, but permitting that of Israelites with Moabite women, such as that of Mahlon with Ruth. The prohibition against marriages with the Edomites or Egyptians was less stringent, as a male of those nations received the right of marriage on his admission to the full citizenship in the third generation of proselytism (Deuteronomy 23:7-8) (William Smith, "Marriage" in Smith's Bible Dictionary, 1970, pp. 376-377)
The prohibition against marriage with the Lamanites comes very early, and at this point is apparently directed at the specific tribal affiliation of Lamanites/Lemuelites, etc. In the future text of the Book of Mormon when the term "Lamanites" appears to become a more generic term, akin to "gentile" it is likely that the specific prohibition was lessened, although it might have remained in place with the lineal descendants of these original Lamanites.
The inevitable intermarriage with other natives of the land, while not the preferred method when the larger population of Israel was available, was nevertheless allowed, and preferable to the more direct violation of the prohibition of marrying within ones immediate and near family (which certainly would have described the original Nephite and Lamanite bands at this point in time). [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page," http://www.highfiber.com/~nahualli/LDStopics/2 Nephi/2Nephi5.htm, pp. 25-28]
2 Nephi 5:23 Cursed Shall Be the Seed of Him That Mixeth with Their [the Lamanite] Seed:
According to Rodney Turner, it should be recalled that the Lord's edict concerning the imposition of the Lamanite mark was not limited as to duration and extent:
And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed, for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. (2 Nephi 5:23)
In all likelihood most pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Americas--of whatever original race or culture--eventually came under the edict: "I will set a mark upon him that mingleth his seed with thy brethren, that they may be cursed also" (Alma 3:14-15). If so, then through assimilation and intermarriage, other peoples like the surviving Nephites became Lamanites (Helaman 3:16). In this way the blood of Joseph was scattered among the diverse Indian peoples of the Western Hemisphere (Kimball, ". . . who is my Neighbor?" 277).
That such was the case is supported by many statements by latter-day prophets. Regardless of current theories to the contrary, every prophet from Joseph Smith to the present has declared that, in the main, the Indian peoples of the western Hemisphere, as well as certain Pacific islanders, are of Israel through Joseph (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith 17, 92-93, 232, 266-67; Jessee 324; Journal of discourses 2:200, 7:336; Kimball, ". . . who is my Neighbor" 277; "The Evil of Intolerance" 423). [Rodney Turner, "The Lamanite Mark," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, p. 153]
2 Nephi 5:24 They Did Become an Idle People:
In 2 Nephi 5:24, Nephi makes a cultural comment concerning the Lamanites that "they did become an idle people . . ." The Lamanite land of first inheritance was "bordering along by the seashore" (Alma 22:28). Also, people always journeyed "up" to the land of Nephi (see Mosiah 7:1, 9:3; Alma 17:8; etc.). This information apparently correlates with the culture and topography of Mesoamerica. According to John Sorenson, in the late seventeenth century Catholic priest Fuentes y Guzman contrasted the "lassitude and laziness" of the lowlanders (of Guatemala) with the energy of the highland inhabitants. [John Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 140] [See also the commentary on 2 Nephi 5:7, 5:8; Enos 1:20]
2 Nephi 5:26 Nephi Did Consecrate Jacob and Joseph . . . Priests and Teachers:
In 2 Nephi 5:26 we find that "Nephi did consecrate Jacob and Joseph . . . priests and teachers." According to Reynolds and Sjodahl, under the Mosaic law, the priests were appointed to offer up sacrifices for the people as well as for themselves. (Leviticus 4:5,6) Under the law, priests were also teachers of the people, as appears from the following:
Do not drink wine or strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die; it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between clean and unclean; and that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken to them by the hand of Moses. (Leviticus 10:9-11)
[George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 279]
2 Nephi 5:26 Priests and Teachers:
According to McConkie and Millet, reference to "priests and teachers" in the Book of Mormon should not be confused with the office of priest or the office of teacher as known to us in the Aaronic Priesthood today. It is believed that the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood did not exist among the Nephites unless it was brought during Christ's visit among them. [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1, p. 225]
2 Nephi 5:26 I, Nephi, Did Consecrate Jacob and Joseph That They Should Be Priests and Teachers:
According to Daniel Ludlow, many references in the Book of Mormon indicate that the Nephites held priesthood--that is, they had the power and authority to act in the name of God. However, the Book of Mormon does not refer specifically to the two major divisions in the priesthood, the "Aaronic Priesthood" and the "Melchizedek Priesthood." Thus the question has frequently arisen as to exactly what priesthood was held by the Nephites. Joseph Fielding Smith gives his answer in the following comprehensive statement:
The Nephites were descendants of Joseph. Lehi discovered this when reading the brass plates. He was a descendant of Manasseh; and Ishmael, who accompanied him with his family, was of the tribe of Ephraim. (Alma 10:3; The Improvement Era, Vol. 8, p. 781; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 23, p. 184.) Therefore, there were no Levites who accompanied Lehi to the Western Hemisphere. Under these conditions the Nephites officiated by virtue of the Melchizedek Priesthood from the days of Lehi to the days of the appearance of our Savior among them. It is true that Nephi "consecrated Jacob and Joseph, that they should be priests and teachers over the land" of the Nephites (2 Nephi 5:26), but the fact that plural terms "priests" and "teachers" were used indicates that this was not a reference to the definite office in the priesthood in either case, but it was a general assignment to teach, direct, and admonish the people. Otherwise, the terms priest and teacher would have been given, in the singular. Additional light is thrown on this appointment showing that these two brothers of Nephi held the Melchizedek Priesthood, in the sixth chapter, second verse of 2 Nephi, where Jacob makes this explanation regarding the priesthood which he and Joseph held: "Behold, my beloved brethren, I, Jacob having been called of God, and ordained after the manner of his holy order, and having been consecrated by my brother Nephi, unto whom ye look as a king or a protector, and on whom ye depend for safety, behold ye know that I have spoken unto you exceeding many things" (2 Nephi 6:2). . . . (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 1, pp. 124-126)
This seems to be a confirmation of the ordinations that Jacob and his brother Joseph received in the Melchizedek Priesthood. [Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon, pp. 132-133]
2 Nephi 5:26 Priests:
The Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family were descendants of Joseph who had been sold into Egypt (2 Nephi 3:4). Yet, the children of Lehi were ordained priests (2 Nephi 5:26).
Richardson, Richardson and Bentley write that when the faultfinders discovered these verses, they immediately referred to Bible passages that designate the Levites as those who were to perform priestly duties. (For example see Deuteronomy 21:5) In fact the Mosaic Law specified that death was the penalty for any "stranger" who would attempt to perform priestly duties (Numbers 3:10). More specifically, only Aaron and his sons, who were descendants of Levi, could hold the office of priest. Their duties included offering sacrifices, burning incense, teaching the law, transporting the Ark of the Covenant, etc.
However, the Bible tells of other men, not of the tribe of Levi, who offered sacrifices in place of a priest. Gideon, who was not a Levite but an Abi-ezrite, lived in the territory of Manasseh. He was not a priest but a warrior--"a mighty man of valour" (Judges 6:11-15). Yet, he was commanded by the Lord to offer a sacrifice upon an altar (Judges 6:26) just as a Levitical priest would do. An angel of God instructed Manoah, who was of the tribe of Dan to sacrifice burnt offerings to the Lord (Judges 13:2, 15:21). David, another non-Levite (of the tribe of Judah) offered sacrifices and blessed the people (2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Chronicles 16:2-3) as if he were a Levitical priest. (See also Mark 2:25-28, where Jesus recognized and accepted David's priestly acts.) The Bible also mentions that king David's sons, were priests (2 Samuel 8:17). In fact, the Bible specifically differentiates between priests and Levites (1 Kings 8:4; Ezra 2:70; John 1:19). Isaiah records the word of the Lord saying that He would make gentiles priests and Levites (Isaiah 66:19-21).
Therefore, those who criticize the Book of Mormon for allowing non-Levites to perform priestly functions are indirectly criticizing their own Bible for doing the same. [Allen H. Richardson, David E. Richardson and Anthony E. Bentley, 1000 Evidences for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Part Two-A Voice from the Dust: 500 Evidences in Support of the Book of Mormon, pp. 129-130]
2 Nephi 5:26 I, Nephi, Did Consecrate . . . Priests and Teachers:
According to John Welch, an essential part of the temple ascension of new potentates in the ancient world was to install temple priests and administrators who would rule under the new king. We see that Nephi consecrated Jacob and Joseph to "be priests and teachers" (2 Nephi 5:26). This consecration repeated later in the Book of Mormon when King Mosiah2 became king and when priests were appointed as the first official act of the new coregency (see Mosiah 6:3).
Of course, these Nephite priests were not priests or Levites by birth. They were ordained "after the manner of [God's] holy order" (2 Nephi 6:2). The persistence of that phrase in the Nephite record (Alma 6:8; 13:1,8,10-11) shows that the Nephites consciously based their priesthood authority on principles lodged in God's holy order, rather than in tribal rights or inheritances.93 Indeed, they looked to Melchizedek as the paragon of priesthood (see Alma 13:14-19), probably in large part because Melchizedek was the most conspicuous priest in the Pentateuch who was not a Levite.94
But Melchizedek lived before the time of Moses, and so one might well wonder how Lehi could rightly purport to live the law of Moses without having Levites to officiate in the sanctuary. If Lehi or Nephi ever struggled with this issue, they gave no indication to that effect; and we can easily imagine several reasons why they did not:
1. Revelation guided Nephi. . . .
2. The Nephites may have viewed the priestly inheritance of the Levites as belonging only to the temple in Jerusalem; . . .
3. By returning to the typology of the exodus from Egypt, Lehi's colony assumed a posture that had previously recognized all of Israel as "a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). . . .
4. Although the history of the priesthood in ancient Israel is complicated and obscure, it is clear that certain priests, such as Zadokites and Gibeonites, officiated in the temple of Solomon in addition to Levites. Aelred Cody notes that "if Ezekiel 44:6-10 condemns the practice of having uncircumcised foreigners serving in the temple, it is because the practice existed."95
5. Nephi may simply have viewed the appointment of priests as a rightful prerogative of the king.96 (King David appointed priests, including his sons--see 2 Samuel 8:15-18; 20:25-26). . . .
6. The term "Levite" may well have been a functional title in addition to a genealogical one. . . . Bright explains: "'Levite' was also a functional designation meaning "one pledged by vow'; men of any clan thus dedicated to Yahweh could become Levites. In the course of time, many priestly families and individuals not of Levitic lineage were so reckoned because of their function--as was Samuel (1 Chronicles 6:28)."97
[John W. Welch, "The Temple in the Book of Mormon," in Temples of the Ancient World, pp. 331-333]
2 Nephi 5:26 I, Nephi, Did Consecrate Jacob and Joseph, That They Should Be Priests and Teachers:
Lynn Hilton notes that he is indebted to John A. Tvedtnes for pointing out that the Hebrew original of the word "consecrate," referring to the ordination of priests in Old Testament times, literally means "to fill the hand." Mr. Tvedtnes offers the following list of Old Testament references, with the literal translation followed by the familiar King James version (KJV) rendered in parentheses:
Exodus 28:41 fill their hand (KJV: "consecrate them")
Exodus 28:9 thou shalt fill the hand of Aaron and the hand of his sons (KJV: "thou shalt
consecrate Aaron and his sons")
Exodus 29:33 to fill their hand to sanctify them (KJV: "to consecrate and to sanctify them:)
Exodus 32:29 fill your hand (KJV: "consecrate yourselves")
(See also Leviticus 8:33, 16:32,21:10; Numbers 3:3; Judges 17:5,17:12; 1 Kings 13:33;
2 Chronicles 29:5; 2 Chronicles 29:31; Jeremiah 44:25; Ezekiel 43:26)
In this private communication, Mr. Tvedtnes notes that "there are some hints that the open hand is to be filled with sacrificial items (meat, etc.). See Leviticus 8:26-28 and Exodus 29:24. . . . He further draws this enlightening conclusion:
In the Temple, the priest evidently stood with hand in cupping shape, ready to receive something which was given to him. It was probably incense, though in the last days (see Revelation 2:17; D&C. 130:11), it will evidently be the white stone or urim and thummim, with the new name written in it."
Incense spoons, or hands in cupping shape, are seen not only in the ancient art of Palestine and Syria, but also in Yemen and Mexico. [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 177-180]
2 Nephi 5:26 I, Nephi, did consecrate Jacob and Joseph that they should be priests and teachers (Illustration): Figure A-1: Egyptian spoon, dated about 1300 BC. Figure A-2: Spoon found at Megiddo, dating to the Iron II (Israelites) Period. Figure A-3: Ancient Mexican worship of the sun. Two men offer burning incense in spoon-like censers. From Father Bernardino de Sahagun's work, preserved in Florence, Italy. (Zelia Nuttal, "A Penitential Rite of the Ancient Mexicans," Papers, Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Vol. 1, No. 7, 1940). Figure A-4: Pharaoh Seti I and his son Ramses II offer incense in a spoon to honor the 76 pharaohs who preceded them on the throne of Egypt. Drawing is from a carving found on a wall of the Osiris temple at Abydos, dating to the 19th Dynasty, ca. 1300 B.C., thus preceding the Exodus by only one generation, by some accounts. (After Richard Lepsius, in Zeitschrift fur Aegyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde, Vol. 2, Oct.-Nov., 1864, p. 96). [Lynn M. Hilton and Hope A. Hilton, Discovering Lehi, pp. 175-178]
2 Nephi 5:27 We Lived after the Manner of Happiness:
According to Brant Gardner, Nephi does not say that they were happy. He says that they "lived after the manner of happiness" (2 Nephi 5:27). In Nephi's terminology, this would mean following the path of the Gospel as Nephi understood it. Nephi's use of the word is probably a result of Lehi's understanding and use of that concept:
And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto God; wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the law which the Holy One hath given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement. (2 Nephi 2:10)
Lehi considers happiness one of the eternal results that is affixed to eternal law. The obedience to Law produces happiness as a result. [Brant Gardner, "Brant Gardner's Page," http://www.highfiber.com /~nahualli/LDStopics/2 Nephi/2Nephi5.htm, p. 30]
Note* Thus "the manner of happiness" relates to covenant obedience, a major them of the Book of Mormon. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
Just before Nephi notes that "thirty years had passed away from the time we left Jerusalem," he mentions that "we lived after the manner of happiness" (2 Nephi 5:27-28). A few verses later, he notes that "forty years had passed away, and we had already had wars and contentions with our brethren" (2 Nephi 5:34). If Lehi's group arrived in the promised land after approximately 14 years of travel (see Appendix A), and if, according to the same chronology, Nephi fled from the land of first inheritance after seven years, then the Nephites in the land of Nephi might have had a period of peace of around 9 to 19 years before the Lamanites began to bother them. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
2 Nephi 5:30 Other Plates:
Sometime after "thirty years had passed away from the time [Lehi] left Jerusalem," (2 Nephi 5:28), Nephi mentions that "he had kept the records upon plates, which I had made, of my people thus far." (2 Nephi 5:29). These plates are commonly referred to as the large plates of Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:2). Nephi then goes on to mention that, "the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people" (2 Nephi 5:30). These plates are commonly referred to as the small plates of Nephi (see 1 Nephi 9:2). According to John Welch, the sequence of events in 2 Nephi 5 suggests that the small plates of Nephi were made in connection with the coronation of Nephi. Accordingly, they served as the "tablets of the law," or the pillar or stele that were traditionally set up as a monument to the creation of the new king's order. Nephi wrote on these plates things that were "good in [God's] sight, for the profit of [his] people" (2 Nephi 5:30). In addition to the religious purposes that these plates primarily served, they also acted as a founding constitutional and political document, as has been discussed by Noel Reynolds in his article "The Political Dimension in Nephi's Small Plates." [John M. Lundquist and John W. Welch, "Kingship and Temple in 2 Nephi 5-10," in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 67]
Noel Reynolds says that the writings of Nephi can be read in part as a political tract or a "lineage history," written to document the legitimacy of Nephi's rule. [Noel Reynolds, "The Political Dimension in Nephi's Small Plates, F.A.R.M.S., p. 1]
According to John Sorenson, such histories were common among the Guatemala highland Indians when the first Spanish explorers arrived. They were used for many purposes including conferring "legitimacy and sanctity on the rulers." [John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, F.A.R.M.S., p. 51]
2 Nephi 5:34 We Had Already Had Wars and Contentions:
We find evidence within the text of the Book of Mormon itself that Lehi's group interacted early on with an existing culture. Within a few years time from Lehi's landing in the New World, Nephi reports that his people "began to prosper exceedingly, and to multiply in the land" (2 Nephi 5:13). After about fifteen years had passed, he says that Jacob and Joseph had been made priests and teachers "over the land of my people" (2 Nephi 5:26, 28). After another ten years, they "had already had wars and contentions" with the Lamanites (2 Nephi 5:34). In 2 Nephi 5:14, Nephi describes his making of swords to defend his people, "lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us."
According to Nephi’s reports, his group found animals and minerals as they "journeyed in the wilderness" from their first landing site (1 Nephi 18:25). These resources are valuable items which lead to trade and/or conflict. If the land of Nephi was in the pathway of native populations that might have already established trade and travel networks, then the Nephites might have somehow blocked the Lamanites in their travel and trade with these other native groups, which would have been sufficient reason for the Lamanites to start a war. If we assume a Mesoamerican setting, we find that the land of Nephi (area of Kaminaljuyu) was a main point on the Olmec (Jaredite?) trade route which swept down from Veracruz, Mexico past Izapa (a proposed landing site for Lehi and an area which falls within the description of the Lamanite land of first inheritance--see Alma 22:28), and along the Pacific coast of Guatemala until it climbed up into the mountain valley setting of Kaminaljuyu (see illustration). [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes] [See 1 Nephi 18:23; 2 Nephi 4:12]
2 Nephi 5:34 We Had Already Had Wars and Contentions (Illustration): This chart at La Venta, Mexico illustrates the migrations of the Olmecs from their heartland along the Gulf Coast. The Olmecs (Jaredites) were considered the "mother" culture of Mesoamerica and extended along the Pacific coast of Mesoamerica during the time period when Lehi would have landed. [Clate Mask, "And They Called the Place Bountiful," p. 28]