Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

BoM Lesson 13: Jacob 5-7

Posted by Robert C. on March 28, 2008

[Jenny W. compiled the notes below on Jacob 1-7. Other links and resources for Lesson 13 can be found at the Feast wiki here. If anyone else is willing to share their notes with the larger Feast community, please email us at feastblog999@gmail.com (without the 999’s), and we’ll be happy to post your notes. Be forewarned, however, that if you send us your notes, we will likely start harassing you to keep sending us more notes and/or begin pressuring you to become one of our permabloggers! Thanks, Jenny, for these notes.]

A Few Thoughts of BoM #12 and #13 (Jacob 1–4, 5–7)

Please note that the following is greatly indebted to Joe’s work on BoM lesson #8, Jim F.’s Sunday School questions, Joe’s seminary podcasts, and the Feast blog in general—I lurk here quite a bit and appreciate the work going on.

I submit that one of the ways to effectively read Jacob 1–4 and 5–7 is to contextualize him within what we already know.

2 Ne. 2 = Lehi’s words to Jacob, which, as discussed previously, consist of Law and Atonement, specifically in a temple/priesthood context (as in the Law of Moses and the Day of Atonement). It’s also worth noting the Creation, Fall, Atonement, Veil structure present in this chapter as well.

2 Ne. 6–11:1 = Jacob’s discourse to the Nephites delivered while Nephi was alive and placed by Nephi within his book at the beginning of the “more sacred” part of his record and the beginning of the Atonement section of 1–2 Nephi (again, as discussed previously on this blog).

We know that Jacob “beheld in [his] youth his [Christ’s] glory” (2 Ne. 2:3), that Lehi’s instructions to him indicate an expectation of priesthood and temple duties, that Jacob was ordained and consecrated (again, a hint of temple responsibilities? 2 Ne. 6:2, Jacob 1:18–19), that he valued the words of Lehi (2 Ne. 6:3), that he taught from the scriptures, especially Isaiah (2 Ne. 6:3–5, 2 Ne. 7, 2 Ne. 8), that he was often concerned with “things which are, and which are to come” (2 Ne. 6:4), and that he understood the Lehites in terms of “a righteous branch” of the House of Israel that would be gathered in the last days (2 Ne. 9:53, 2 Ne. 10:1–2, 22, 2 Ne. 6:5, Jacob 5, Jacob 6: 4–5).

This emphasis on understanding the Lehites as a branch makes sense in that we know Jacob valued Lehi’s words and that we also know that the second portion of Lehi’s great Tree of Life vision focused on comparing the House of Israel to an olive tree and the Lehites to one of the branches broken off and scattered until they might be gathered again (1 Ne. 10:12–14). We also know that Jacob was generally anxious; after watching his older brothers dismiss the teachings of Lehi and Nephi in part perhaps because they couldn’t/wouldn’t understand the scriptures (1 Ne. 15) (and it’s interesting that what is specifically confusing them are “the words which our father hath spoken concerning the natural branches of the olive-tree” [1 Ne. 15:7]), Jacob’s repeated efforts to contextualize the Lehite experience through Isaiah and Zenos—prophets who emphasized this theme of scattering and gathering—and his concern that his people understand what is at stake here is understandable.

After working through the previous writings of Jacob, Jacob 1–7 begins to come into focus in interesting ways. These are the words that Jacob speaks to Nephi’s people after Nephi has passed away, and Jacob clearly feels the weight of his responsibility (Jacob 1:1–5, 18–19, 2:2–3, 4:18). And the discourse that he chooses to record (Jacob 2–6) is specifically contextualized as a temple discourse: they are the words given to the Nephites who have gathered to be taught at the temple (Jacob 1:17, 2:2) and God specifically commands Jacob to teach these words at the temple (Jacob 2:11). And what are the main themes of Jacob’s discourse? Consecration, chastity, atonement, and the scattering and gathering of Israel. Jacob 2:12–21 deals with the Nephites and their relationship to wealth; Jacob 2:23–3:12 deals with the boundaries prescribed by God for Nephite marriage relationships. Jacob 4 focuses on writing and its relationship to testimony and ultimately the power of the atonement; in doing so, Jacob describes the atonement in terms of its connections to the past, present, and future salvation of all men (see Nibley’s comments on Jacob 4 in the transcripts of his BoM lectures for more on this idea). His concern for the relationship of the atonement to the future house of Israel and the return/redemption of the Jews leads him into Jacob 5–6, with their detailed exploration of the scattering and gathering of Israel.

I would think Joe’s earlier work on 1 and 2 Nephi as being structured by Creation, Fall, Atonement, and Veil is important here in that I see the Veil section as extending beyond 2 Ne. 31–33 and into Jacob. The discussion in 2 Ne. 21–33 focuses on baptism, entering the gate, taking upon oneself the name of Christ, and being able to speak the tongue of angels. This accurately reflects what might be termed the first half of a veil experience—and Jacob, in taking over the plates, continues with the second. (This structure makes me wonder how involved Jacob might have been with the construction of 1 and 2 Nephi—an editorial board, perhaps? He certainly demonstrates an aptitude for thematic continuity.) The second part of the Veil section deals with the commandments, laws, and doctrine a covenant, temple-going people would be expected to know: consecration, chastity, and a universal conception of the atonement as contextualized by the scattering and gathering of Israel. For me, looking at Jacob this way re-inscribes Jacob 5–6 in temple terms: the scattering and gathering of Israel is not just an interesting historical happening, but rather a covenantal experience tied to an atonement that urges us to turn our hearts back to our fathers and forward to our children.

I realize that the above is a bit rough, but hopefully there are some thoughts/readings that may prove helpful to someone.

Thanks,

JennyW

4 Responses to “BoM Lesson 13: Jacob 5-7”

  1. robf said

    Thanks Jenny, good stuff.

  2. joespencer said

    Marvelous work, Jenny. (It was very good to meet you, etc., at the conference!)

    I like this reading of the veil extending beyond Nephi and into Jacob (and the implications you suggest about Jacob’s editorial hand in Nephi… something I would find wonderfully ironic, given Nephi’s editing of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6-10…), especially because of the points you mention in terms of chastity and consecration (the two undeniable themes of the Jacob 2-3 discourse). What is interesting, moreover, is that there is a clear shift from the oral to the written in Jacob’s book: while Jacob 1-3 is mostly an oral event that has been committed to textuality, Jacob 4-6 is clearly a textual event, apparently a consequence of Jacob’s retreat from his wicked people (and thus very closely related to, say, 2 Nephi 32:6-7). (I talk a bit about this retreat into textuality in my paper for the Abraham Seminar. I don’t know whether you have had access to that or not, Jenny.) Very rich possibilities for doing further thinking.

    Thanks so much for your work!

  3. Robert C. said

    Jenny, I think these are great and exciting thoughts. I’m a bit puzzled over the “tongue of angels” bit and how it might be thought in terms of this schematic you’re proposing. I guess I was thinking more in terms of this being likened to the prayer circle or a name only spoken at the veil or something, but these would not fit the endowment chronology that you seem to have in mind. Am I thinking too literally, missing something obvious, broaching something too delicate/sacred to talk about outside the temple, or something else entirely??

    Thanks again for you thought-provoking post—I’m esp. hoping to get to the Nibley bit on Jacob 4 that you mentioned….

  4. JennyW said

    Thanks for the comments. Joe, I haven’t seen your paper, but would be interested to–I’ve been thinking a lot about the interplay of orality and textuality throughout the small plates lately.

    Robert, you make a good point. Reading the temple endowment as ending in 2 Ne., the “tongue of angels” fits nicely into the name/veil schematic. When I was rethinking on how Jacob might have extended the temple theme, I instead read being able to speak with the tongue of angels more in terms of being able to speak with and understand angels/messengers. To me, the endowment splits into two halves, the second of which begins with the implication of ongoing instruction received by angels/messengers. It then continues with the themes of chastity and consecration, as does Jacob. Does this make sense? I’m not sure it’s completely there textually, but I think enough of it is to warrant thinking about Jacob this way.

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