Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

BOM Lesson 43: Mormon 1-6; Moroni 9

Posted by Robert C. on November 12, 2008

I want to focus on a handful of questions from Jim F.’s lesson for Mormon 2-3 (see Jim’s complete lesson here; discussion of anything else in this lesson is also welcome):

Mormon 2:8: How is the word “revolution” being used here? The Lamanites appear to be a separate group rather than a group within the Nephite nation, so “revolution” doesn’t seem to mean what we usually mean by it, an internal attempt to overthrow the government.

Mormon 2:14: Why do they wish to die and struggle for their lives at the same time?

Mormon 2:15: What does he mean when he says “the day of grace was past with them”? The word “grace” refers to a gift of some sort. What gift is no longer available to them? Why is it a gift? Why is it not longer available, because God now refuses to give it or for some other reason?

Mormon 2:26: Notice that though Book of Mormon prophets have taken Nephite defeat as a sign of Nephite wickedness, Mormon does not take Nephite victory as a sign of Nephite righteousness. Does this tell us anything about our own situation?

Mormon 3:12: What does it mean to say that Mormon loves his people? They are so wicked that he will no longer lead them. How can he love them? What was “without faith”? Mormon’s prayer? If so, why was he praying so long for them? Why would a person pray all day long for another, but without faith?

Mormon 3:14-15: What has changed so that Mormon will no longer help them? What do the Nephites now want that they didn’t seem to want before? What might that say to us about our attitudes toward our enemies?

Mormon 3:16: What is an “idle witness”?

I’ll post my own thinking on these questions as I have time throughout this week.

9 Responses to “BOM Lesson 43: Mormon 1-6; Moroni 9”

  1. Robert C. said

    First, regarding “revolution” in Mormon 2:8:

    It’s curious that Joseph Smith would use a term, which I’m guessing still had positive connotations vis-a-vis the American Revolution, in such a negative context here. When, in general, are revolutions and instability bad as opposed to good? When is political (and other kinds of) stability good? On the one hand, we might think of repentance itself as somewhat analogous to a political revolution. But perhaps, like a political revolution, repentance should be a movement toward some kind of positive and relatively stable form of life that is purged of sin. I’m inclined to think that we should constantly be in a state of humility and repentance, but perhaps that’s not really justified. That is, I think there’s a danger, analogous to a constant state of revolution, of being “too humble” and always trying to repent but never really accomplishing anything with that repentance—thus, a kind of pseudo-repentance…?

    This draws my attention to the modifying words “one complete” in the phrase: “it was one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land.” Perhaps it is not revolution per se that is bad, but the fact that the revolution was “one complete” revolution. The word “one” seems significant because it seems to lose the sense of differentiation between good and bad (I’m thinking of 2 Nephi 2 esp. here). The revolution isn’t really going anywhere or serving any purpose because there’s no differentiation, no sense of progress because there’s no “before” and “after” that is being accomplished. So too, if we live in a state of constant self-abasement without ever accomplishing anything positive, then this might be a sign that our humility isn’t the correct form of humility.

    But I find this a rather slippery distinction to try and think about, and I still wonder whether a state of constant repentance is something to strive for or not (scriptures or quotes anyone?). I think I can pull out some scriptures talking about being in a constant state of humility, but a constant state of repentance? Hmmm…..

    (After writing this, I realized that my questions mirror issues raised in thinking about “Greek,” circular time vs. linear, “Hebrew” time, which is interesting because the word “revolution” has such strong circular connotations. What I’m remembering from what I’ve read about these different understandings of time is that Hebrew thought has a kind of progressive element to it that eventually lead to a more more robust notion of progress than what could’ve been accomplished via Greek thinking alone. That is, somewhere I think I’ve read an argument that it’s this Hebrew element of thinking, via Christianity, that, coupled with Aristotle’s thought, eventually lead to the Reformation, Renaissance, and the progress of modern science.)

  2. robf said

    One thing to remember about Mormon’s day, is that at the same time that he refers to “one complete revolution throughout all the face of the land” the huge city of Teotihuacan is completely dominating and restructuring the affairs of all its neighbors–taking over Mayan city states and in many ways ushering in what we now consider to be the Mesoamerican Classic period. This “revolution” involved the installation of Central Mexican Teotihuacan elites at Mayan centers as distant as Tikal, Copan, and Kaminaljuyu (possible site of the City of Nephi) and new traditions of warfare.

    So whatever else “revolution” might mean, I don’t think we can or should separate it too far from the actual historical context that Mormon finds himself it. His small Nephite polities were probably being completely swamped by the Teotihuacan (robbers from the north?) socio-cultural tsunami sweeping Mesoamerica.

    Interesting that we were told about just such a revolution in Mesoamerican affairs over 150 years before scholars could piece this together from the Mayan glyphs and monuments.

  3. BrianJ said

    We had a high council speaker talk about this verse a few weeks ago. His take was that “revolution” was meant in a cyclical fashion, and not in a government overthrow way. And cyclical in the sense of a spiral staircase heading downwards (one revolution is one turn, one complete revolution is all the way to rock bottom).

  4. Robert C. said

    Thanks, Brian—interesting. I’m less inclined to think about there being a sharp distinction between the cyclical and government-overthrow connotations, but I like the “spiral staircase heading downwards” idea.

    Having thought about this, I was intrigued when I read the following, similar statement by Moroni in Mormon 8:8 which seems to be another play off this cyclical connotation (my emphasis):

    And behold, it is the hand of the Lord which hath done it. And behold also, the Lamanites are at awar one with another; and the whole face of this land is one continual round of murder and bloodshed; and no one knoweth the end of the war.

  5. BrianJ said

    yeah, the speaker tied into that verse in Mormon 8 as well.

  6. NathanG said

    I looked up revolution in Webster’s 1828 out of curiosity. The first 5 definitions deal with some circular or cyclical motion (either objects or time). 6 is about a government revolution. 7 was the most interesting definition here: “Motion backward”

  7. NathanG said

    I have often wondered about what is happening when the phrase is used:

    I fear lest the Spirit of the Lord hath ceased striving with them.

    This comes up several times in the Book of Mormon and a couple times in this lesson. This passage came from Mormon’s epistle to Moroni in Moroni 9.

    What type of striving is being referred to here? Does the fact that these were very wicked people who had already had years of wickedness now cause Moroni to “fear” that the Spirit has ceased to stive with them challenge our concept of stepping out of line and the Spirit leaving? Is striving used in the sense of working on something or used in the sense of fighting against something or someone?

    I favor thinking that the Spirit is working hard against the natural man to bring him back to Christ. Does the Spirit cease to strive with man if they are righteous as well as if they are a completely lost cause? Or are we in a constant struggle between spiritual man, natural man, Spirit of the Lord, and the devil to somehow overcome the flesh and come unto Christ, and this struggle will endure until the the end of life?

    I’m curious how others interpret this phrase.

  8. Robert C. said

    Nathan #7, these are great questions—I wish I had better thoughts and answers to offer. The one thought I will add is that I think there is something distinctly communal about the usage of this phrase that we have a tendency to overlook, instead understanding this in an overly-modern individualistic way (I’ve even wondered if Zeitgeist might not be the sense of Spirit being used here…).

  9. NathanG said

    Robert,
    I agree there does seem to be some sort of communal reference. This year I’ve thought that there are many things in the Book of Mormon (and likely in all scripture) that I am missing because of my individualistic way of thinking. How will Zion be established? (As a side, when I first wrote this I used a communal “we are missing” and “our individualistic”. Seems I’m willing to generalize my own shortcomings to the entire community of the Saints. How ironic).

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