You are here

Jacob 2


A Covenant Plan of Salvation

      (2 Nephi--Enos)


Jacob 2-3 (Jacob's Sermons):


     According to John Tvedtnes, the teachings of Jacob are found in two sermons and a treatise recorded on the small plates of Nephi. The first sermon is found in 2 Nephi 6-10, the second in Jacob 2-3, and the treatise including the parable of Zenos is in Jacob 4-6.

     Tvedtnes notes that John S. Tanner, in an insightful 1991 article, presented evidence for internal consistency in the teachings of Jacob (See "Jacob and His Descendants as Authors," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, pp. 52-66). He attributed the use of specific words and expressions to Jacob's peculiar style. However, Tvedtnes gives a number of details to support the idea that Jacob owes much more to his father's example than to any style of his own.

     An examination of Jacob's two sermons and his treatise show that he was clearly influenced by the admonitions addressed to him by his father Lehi in 2 Nephi 2. Jacob was further influenced by the advice he heard Lehi give to other family members on the same occasion (2 Nephi 1, 3-4).

     In his first discourse, Jacob stated, "I have taught you the words of my father" (2 Nephi 6:3). In his second discourse, he also made specific reference to the teachings of his father (Jacob 2:34).

     Another example that Jacob was influenced by his father is found in 2 Nephi 6:3 where Jacob says, "I am desirous for the welfare of our souls," while in Jacob 2:3, he spoke of his "anxiety for the welfare of your souls." It seems clear that Jacob was following his father's example, as we note from Lehi's concluding words addressed in summation to Jacob and his other sons: "And I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your souls. Amen" (2 Nephi 2:30; see also 2 Nephi 1:25).

     Tanner has noted that Jacob's descendants carried on the tradition of using their father's words in their own writings ("Jacob and His Descendants as Authors," 52-66). It is a tribute to both father and son that such important instruction was remembered and repeated to subsequent generations. [John A. Tvedtnes, "The Influence of Lehi's Admonitions on the Teachings of His Son Jacob," in Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall 1994, pp. 34-48]


Jacob 2 & 3 (The Cultural Context of Jacob's Chastisements):


     According to Brant Gardner, from an internal perspective Jacob's sermon as recorded in Jacob 2 & 3 might appear problematic. However, a Mesoamerican setting can provide some insight.

     (1) We begin with Jacob's sermon on riches. Our first problem with Jacob's sermon is that he is presenting what would be a contradictory situation if we assume the city of Nephi is isolated in the land. He suggests that they have become wealthy because of the gold and silver ore that they have found, yet in the same verse he notes that these ores "abound most plentifully" (Jacob 2:12). It is difficult to get rich on anything that anyone can find in abundance.

     (2) We also have the manifestation of this wealth in "costly apparel" (Jacob 2:13). This is another situation that should not exist. In an isolated community, clothing is made by the community. The same materials are available to all; the same dyes are available to all. Even stylistic changes tend to be widely copied. It is quite common for villages to have an almost uniform dress rather than a segregation created by dress.

     (3) Jacob also denounces polygyny (multiple wives and concubines). He consistently equates having more than one wife with whoredoms and unchastity. Yet this seems as odd as valuable gold that is easily found. Note that Jacob clearly speaks of wives, not of harlots. All societies that accept multiple wives have legal regulations that legitimize the union. A plural wife is a wife, and relations with a wife do not fall under the rubric of whoredoms in any society.      

     (4) The last piece of information that Jacob talks about (although implied) comes from the words of the Lord which Jacob quotes: "I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people" . . . For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people." (Jacob 2:32-33). The practice of the social exchange of daughters for wives to establish close bonds is well understood in human history.

     So how are these problems of riches, costly apparel, multiple wives, and daughters in captivity connected? There is a cultural condition that explains all of Jacob's problems, and that condition is trade.

     (1a) Assuming a Mesoamerican setting, there were settlements along the Pacific coastal region of Guatemala at this time. If we assume that the gold and silver were being worked, using metalworking skills Nephi could have taught them, then these worked goods would have exchange value with other cities, and the resulting importation of goods creates a situation where those engaged in the trade accumulate more unique prestige goods than those who do not trade outside of their own city.

     (2a) The cultural problem behind the "costly apparel," is also explained by trade. In Mesoamerica, the time period of the early Nephites saw developing social stratification, and an increasing pressure towards kingship in the cities of the Maya lands. This social differentiation was supported by the accumulation of esoteric goods, often displayed on the clothing of the elite. As Schele and Matthews put it, "People throughout Mesoamerica wore these currencies as jewelry and clothing to display the wealth and enterprise of their families."186 Bringing in clothing and adornments from other locations is a way to create a differentiation in dress. It is important to remember that Jacob's issue is never wealth, but rather the social stratification that was based on wealth. The costly apparel was a unique Mesoamerican mode of creating and displaying that social separation.

     (3a) As for the problem of multiple wives and concubines, once again the cultural context of trade in Mesoamerica gives us a way of seeing this difficulty. The same context of trade provides the answer. One study uses the archaeological information to support the hypothesis that the development of "institutionalized social inequality and political privilege"187 was due to the internal social pressures of personal advancement. In terms of this theory, such seekers of advantage are termed "aggrandizers." "Aggrandizers simply strive to become more influential. It is the successful deployment of resources and labor that ultimately ensure the social and political longevity of an aggrandizer."188 Building renown commences in the nuclear unit of production. An aggrandizer first accumulates deployable resources by the sweat of his brow, and through the efforts of his wife (wives) and children. The more wives and children the better."189 The linkage between economics and multiple wives is absolutely parallel between Mesoamerica and the situation we see in the city of Nephi. Their adoption of plural wives would be modeled after foreign law, not Nephite law, and therefore subject to Jacob's denunciation as a non-sanctioned union, even though it could be seen as a legitimate wife in the greater cultural context of the region.

.      (4a) Finally, in Jacob's quotations of the Lord's words that "they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people" (Jacob 2:33), we can easily visualize a daughter who was sent to another village and how she might consider her marriage as a form of captivity because of the separation from her known community and background. The chances are certainly great for the children born of Nephite women in other communities, as well as for the Nephite women themselves, that there would be little opportunity to grow up with or worship the Nephite god in the proper manner. Therefore they would be subject to spiritual destruction.

     In summary, if the Book of Mormon events of the early city of Nephi took place in Mesoamerica, in what is now highland Guatemala, then the cultural setting fits the background just hypothesized for the sermon of Jacob in a more probable manner than any other explanation. [Brant Gardner, "A Social History of the Early Nephites," delivered at the FAIR Conference, August 17, 2001, pp. 4-7]


Jacob 2:2 My Beloved Brethren:


     According to John Tanner, Jacob's style sets him apart from Nephi. Jacob simply sounds different. . . . Jacob uses "brethren" (Jacob 2:2) often in his discourses to the Nephites. It is his preferred salutation; he employs it some fifty times and almost never addresses his audience directly as "my people," the proprietary term preferred by Nephi (Conkling 4-5). Jacob's mode of address connotes familial intimacy appropriate to a patriarch and priest; Nephi's suggests rule or ownership befitting a king. [John S. Tanner, "Literary Reflections on Jacob and His Descendants," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, p. 264]


Jacob 2:5 The All-Powerful Creator:


     According to John Welch, building upon the foundational testimony of Christ, each Book of Mormon prophet distinctively accented certain attributes of Jesus Christ. Judging simply from the names and titles that they used in referring to the Lord, we can see that each Book of Mormon prophet related to and testified of Jesus in his own personal ways, revealing to us things about Jesus Christ and also about the prophets who knew him.

     Jacob was called as a young man to serve the Lord as a priest; Lehi set him apart and blessed him to spend all his days in God's service (2 Nephi 2:3), and Nephi consecrated him to be a priest (2 Nephi 5:26). Jacob officiated in delivering the great covenant speech around the time of Nephi's coronation (see 2 Nephi 6-10); he spoke to his people from the temple (Jacob 2-4); and he and his lineage had the sacred obligation of keeping the religious records on the small plates of Nephi. To a remarkable degree, Jacob's priestly functions are reflected in the testimony that he bears of Christ.

     Jacob introduced the word Christ (or its Hebrew equivalent) into broad Nephite usage (see 2 Nephi 10:3). That word in Greek or Hebrew derives from a word whose meanings include "anointed." To the extent that he himself was a "consecrated" priest, who both proclaimed the eternal gospel of Christ and performed atoning sacrifices in the temple of Nephi pursuant to the law of Moses (2 Nephi 5:10, 16), Jacob would have identified personally with the fact that Jesus was anointed too perform his holy and eternal atoning mission.

     Indeed, Jacob is the first in the Book of Mormon to expound on the atonement of Christ. He told how Christ would suffer and die for all mankind so they might become subject to him through his "infinite atonement," which overcomes the Fall and brings resurrection and incorruptibility (2 Nephi 9:5-15). He spoke repeatedly of such things as uncleanness, guilt, robes (2 Nephi 9:14), flesh being consumed by fire (2 Nephi 9:16), shaking one's garments (2 Nephi 9:44), and fatness (2 Nephi 9:51). Whatever else these words might mean, they evoke priestly images of temple sacrifice and ritual (for example, the forbidden fat belonged to the Lord; see Leviticus 7:3-31). Jacob thus saw Christ in connection with traditional atonement imagery drawn from Israelite temple practices.

     Jacob is unique in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible in referring to the Lord as "the all-powerful Creator" (Jacob 2:5). Jacob also saw fit to refer to Christ as the "great Creator" three times (2 Nephi 9:5,6; Jacob 3:7) and the "Maker" twice (2 Nephi 9:40; Jacob 2:6). Jacob has more to say about Christ as creator than any other Book of Mormon prophet, and in this connection it is significant that the creation account was an integral part of typical ancient temple worship.190

     The purpose of temple sacrifice in ancient Israel was to purify the people. The objective of their temple service was to become "holy men unto me" (Exodus 22:31), "for I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy" (Leviticus 21:8). Indeed the main body of laws of priestly sacrifice in Israel came to be known as the Holiness Code. This is consistent with the fact that Jacob, of all Book of Mormon prophets, strongly prefers to call Christ "the Holy One of Israel" (seventeen times) or simply "the Holy One" (once). During the time of Jacob is the only time the Lord is referred to as "the Holy One of Jacob" (2 Nephi 27:34). Lehi and Nephi account for the other fourteen times the designation "Holy One of Israel" appears; but after the time of the small plates this title drops out of Nephite usage--perhaps because the temple-service declined in prominence as people knew that its sacrifices merely typified the only meaningful sacrifice of Christ, or perhaps because the Nephites, over time, became less inclined to identify personally with a remote and now unfamiliar land of Israel. [John W. Welch, "Ten Testimonies of Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon," F.A.R.M.S., 1994, pp. 7-8]


Jacob 2:6 It Grieveth My Soul:


     According to John Tanner, Jacob's style sets him apart from Nephi. Jacob simply sounds different: he employs a more intimate lexicon and assumes a more diffident posture toward his audience. Nephi "delights," even "glories" in plainness (2 Nephi 31:3; 33:6); he frankly rebukes and frankly forgives his brothers (see 1 Nephi 7:21). Jacob, by contrast, is pained to use "much boldness of speech" in addressing his brethren, especially in the presence of women and children "whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God" (Jacob 2:7). He prefaces his temple discourse by admitting that he feels "weighed down with much . . . anxiety for the welfare of your souls, Yea, it grieveth my soul . . ." (Jacob 2:3). This is vintage Jacob: intimate, vivid, vulnerable. A concordance verifies that words about feelings, like "anxiety," "grieve," "tender," occur with disproportionate frequency in his writings (Conkling 3-4). For example, half the [Book of Mormon's] citations of "anxiety" occur in the book of Jacob, and over two-thirds of the references to "grieve," "tender," and "shame" (or their derivatives) appear in Jacob's writings. He is the only person to use "delicate," "contempt," and "lonesome." Likewise, only Jacob uses "wound" to refer to emotional, not physical, injuries, as in the rest of the Book of Mormon. Similarly, he uses "pierce" or its variants frequently (four of the ten instances) and exclusively in a spiritual sense. Such lexical evidence suggests an author who lives close to his emotions. [John S. Tanner, "Literary Reflections on Jacob and His Descendants," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, pp. 259-260]


Jacob 2:22 I Must Speak unto You concerning a Grosser Crime:


     According to Rodney Turner, there was a connection between the sin of pride in consequence of the Nephite's material wealth (see Jacob 1:15-16) and their "grosser crime" (see Jacob 2:22) of whoredoms. It was not just that some of the Nephites took pride in thinking that they could afford "many wives and concubines," it was that they apparently were using the scriptures (Jacob 2:23) to reason that their very wealthy status in society justified their actions. This despite more recent and specific commandments to Lehi (see Jacob 2:34). [Rodney Turner, "Morality and Marriage in the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, pp. 285]

     Note* This situation of selectively following "old" revelations on polygamy, selectively interpreting scripture, and ignoring "new" revelations seems to be a problem even to the present. [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]


Jacob 2:24 David and Solomon Truly Had Many Wives and Concubines, Which Thing Was Abominable before Me, Saith the Lord:


     Richard Grant notes that according to the current scholarly view, the Old Testament in its present form is considered to be drawn from the work of four major strands or traditions of Hebrew narration, each with its own agenda. These are identified as the Jehovist, the Elohist, the Deuteronomists, and the Priestly writers, usually referred to by the shorthand, J, E, D, and P. Briefly, these traditions each represent a different view of Hebrew history, each written to achieve a specific objective of the author or authors. The Jehovist (J) was predominantly of Judah, declaring the divine authority of the King, the temple, and the priesthood while E emphasized the role of the individual rather than the priest. Its heroes were Jacob and Joseph. As has been noted previously in the commentary on 1 Nephi 3:3, the brass plates (and thus all subsequent Nephite scripture) are thought to have been primarily influenced by the E tradition.

     With this in mind, and according to John Sorenson, it is interesting that the Book of Mormon virtually ignores the Davidic covenant, which is a J element. David is mentioned but six times (twice only incidentally in quotations from Isaiah). Two instances involved strong condemnation of David (see Jacob 1:15, 2:23-24, 31-33). [Richard G. Grant, "The Brass Plates and Their Prophets," http://www.; see also John L. Sorenson, "The Brass Plates and Biblical Scholarship," in Nephite Culture and Society, pp. 26-39] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 3:3]


Jacob 2:24 Many Wives and Concubines, Which Thing Was Abominable before Me:


     In lecturing the Nephites about chastity, Jacob quotes the Lord: “David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord" (Jacob 2:24). According to McConkie and Millet, by definition, a concubine would be either a woman kept for lewd purposes or a lawful wife of a lower social standing than her husband's other wife or wives (see also Mosiah 11:2). Hagar, plural wife of Abraham, would be an example of the latter, inasmuch as Abraham did only that which he was commanded (D&C 132:37). The offense to which Jacob made reference was the Nephites' consorting either with paramours or with wives improperly taken. At issue here is the antecedent to the phrase "which thing." Those eager to condemn the practice of plural marriage in the early years of this dispensation have used this text to argue that Jacob is denouncing the practice of plural marriage. Such is neither textually nor doctrinally correct. At various times God has called upon his people to enter that marriage discipline given to Abraham, the practice known as plural marriage. There is no indication whatsoever in the biblical account that God was in any way displeased or even concerned that Abraham took Hagar, Sarah's handmaid, to wife (Genesis 16). We learn, in fact, in modern revelation that God himself commanded it (see D&C 132).

     Why then, are the actions of David and Solomon spoken of as abominations? Why does the taking of plural wives by Abraham, Jacob, or Moses go uncondemned? Jacob was denouncing unauthorized marriages, on the part of David and Solomon. Such constituted adultery, sexual sin against the marriage covenant. David's adulterous actions with Bathsheba were unauthorized and condemned (2 Samuel 11-12). Solomon's marriage was to "strange wives," or to foreign women who turned his heart away from the everlasting covenant and the worship of the Lord Jehovah, and was unauthorized and condemned (1 Kings 11). [Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. II, p. 20]


Jacob 2:24 Many Wives and Concubines, Which Thing was Abominable before Me:


     With the previous commentary establishing some biblical historical groundwork on the doctrine of plural marriage, this might be a good time to give just a bit of non-biblical (yet Old World) cultural commentary. Jedediah M. Grant, a counselor in the First Presidency stated the following:

           Celsus was a heathen philosopher; and what does he say upon the subject of Christ and his Apostles, and their belief? He says, "The grand reason why the Gentiles and philosophers of his school persecuted Jesus Christ, was, because he had so many wives; there were Elizabeth, and Mary, and a host of others that followed him." After Jesus went from the stage of action, the Apostles followed the example of their master . . . The grand reason [for] the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based upon polygamy, according to the testimony of the philosophers who rose in that age. A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers." (Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1: 345-346; August 7, 1853)

[Quoted from Bruce E. Dana, Mysteries of the Kingdom, pp. 40-41]

Jacob 2:25-33 Wherefore, Thus Saith the Lord: (Scriptural Quote):


     The reader should note that what Jacob quotes as scripture in Jacob 2:25-33 apparently does not appear in the Bible, nor is it similar to any biblical verses. It seems to belong to an exclusive revelation to Lehi, just as Jacob states in Jacob 2:34: "And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

Jacob 2:27 And Concubines Ye Shall Have None:


     According to Potter and Wellington, Nephi's record gives tantalizing hints that there were non-family members in his party. First, the Lord referred to Nephi's party not as his "family" or "families," but as "thy people" (1 Nephi 17:8). After reaching the New World, Nephi's group separated themselves from the families of Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael. Nephi recorded:

           Wherefore, it came to pass that 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 . . . (2 Nephi 5:6; emphasis added)


     One might ask, Who are Nephi's "people"? and Who is referred to by the phrase "all those who would go with me"?

     Only two or perhaps three generations after arriving in the promised land, we find some additional statements by Jacob that might reflect on the diversity of their people. Jacob was chastising his people because "ye . . . persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they" (Jacob 2:13). Jacob also urged the people to "think of your brethren like unto yourself, and be familiar with all" (Jacob 2:17). Jacob also taught that "concubines ye shall have none" (Jacob 2:27). It would seem from these remarks that social strata had begun to appear among them, and as a result, some of the women were considered of such a lowly station that they were not to be taken as wives but concubines. The presence of servants in the Lehi's initial group might help Jacob's remarks. [George Potter & Richard Wellington, Discovering The Lehi-Nephi Trail, Unpublished Manuscript (July 2000), p. 232] [See the commentary on 1 Nephi 17:8; Ether 10:5]


Jacob 2:34 Ye Know That These Commandments Were Given to Our Father, Lehi:      


     Rodney Turner writes that in condemning the taking of "many wives and concubines," Jacob did not proclaim a new doctrine. He told the Nephites: "Ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before" (Jacob 2:34; see also 3:5). Nephi records that his father wrote "many things which he prophesied and spake unto his children" of which Nephi did not make a full account on the small plates (see 1 Nephi 1:16). Thus, although the law of Moses permitted wives and concubines, the Lord apparently forbade the practice for the house of Joseph in the Promised Land, in the Americas. This was probably in part because of its historic abuses, but also because the basis for such marriages did not exist in Lehi's colony.      

     Concubines were not mistresses or prostitutes, they were lawful wives---usually captive slaves or foreigners--who had legitimacy but not full honor. Their children enjoyed no rights of inheritance. It was a case of social inferiors becoming part of a man's family. Concubinage reflected the realities of the ancient world. It was a lesser law for a lesser time. In viewing those times the issue is not what was ideally right or wrong, fair or unfair, but what was workable. If concubinage was a relative evil, it was the lesser of evils; better a concubine than a woman alone, or a harlot. That the Lord justified his servants in having concubines--and he did--is no proof that he viewed the practice as more than a necessary, albeit unfortunate aspect of an imperfect order of things.

     The Nephites did not practice slavery, nor did they take female captives and make wives of some of them as had their Israelitish ancestors even in the days of Moses. As for the many war-produced widows found at times among the Nephites, the policy was to care for their temporal needs rather than to marry them (see Mosiah 21:10, 17; Moroni 9:16). [Rodney Turner, "Morality and Marriage in the Book of Mormon," in The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, To Learn with Joy, pp. 280-282]