1 Nephi 18 – Not after the manner of Men

Have you ever built something ‘not after the manner of men’?30485879516a834af0b16aba5fd8fe23

I ask because Nephi affirms the divinity of his naval vessel to the reader. He explains that because he prayed a lot to the Lord, the Lord showed him great things. I think the same correlation would exist, even causation in fact inasmuch as we read the scriptures and study them intently. Recall that Nephi states that the Spirit shows men what we should do and the scriptures tell us what we should do.

As was powerfully demonstrated by the response to his prayer that the Lord confirm his father’s exilic revelations at the onset of the Book of Mormon (to leave Jerusalem before its eventual sacking by a foreign force), the answer to Nephi’s prayers tend to be quite visceral and virtual. That is to say, take stock of his dreams thus far:

  • The sack of Jerusalem and of Christ and of Twelve Apostles
  • A symbolic vision of the Tree of Life and Rod of Iron
  • The Birth, Life, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Christ
  • A vision of John the Revelator and of the Bible’s compilation and dissemination among the Gentiles
  • The scattering of Israel, the Apostasy, some of the Reformation, and establishment of America
  • Particular wars of the American Revolution, but also between his descendants as well as those of his brothers’ and their devolution from the Gospel of Christ
  • The coming forth of his record in the form of the Book of Mormon and the emergence of other witnesses from the remaining ten Tribes of Israel that would validate both scriptural witnesses of Christ (Bible, Book of Mormon)

I don’t have many dreams of that nature (I mean jeesh those are intense), or any at all, but the last point is critical to understanding Mormons as tried and tested Christians. Many Christians don’t afford Mormons the time of day to be considered Christian because of the existence of the Book of Mormon. Well, that myopic affirmation does very little good to both parties and to bystanders – that criticism only divides everyone. Why? Well, Mormons believe other ancient scripture will come out that will independently corroborate with what Mormons consider revealed doctrine or Book of Mormon or Bible teachings (Christ visits other sheep, God spoke to not only the Jews and therefore loves everyone). Consider the Abrahamic papyri that Joseph Smith translated or the Dead Sea Scrolls found in 1948 and the 50s that detail the life of Qumran Society Christians who anticipated a Messiah such as Christ by performing baptisms 100 years before Christ or John the Baptist were born. Nephi asserts the doctrine of baptism and he lived 600 years before Christ.

Despite this, however, from Nephi’s perspective, consider that while he appears to criticize the Bible, he simply records and claims what is irrefutably affirmed by secular scholars and religious theologians alike today: that the Bible is no perfect book with any single unifying narrator (except God I suppose) and was compiled under dozens of scholars at the behest of a Roman Emperor (and into English from the Latin Vulgate and Greek Septuagint). Yet he still exerts faith.

On the other hand, many modern religious individuals faced with no seminary training pale at this reality and lose faith. Well that’s no good. Hence the Book of Mormon – it states that it is written to secure the Bible’s place as Logos, as the revelation it has been argued to be for centuries by pontiffs, bishops, and adherents alike. Traditional Christians would do well to consider just what role the Book of Mormon plays in doing so. Without denigrating the divinely inspired reformationists (Tyndale, Wyecliffe, Luther, etc.), Mormons believe God saw fit to finally and fully restore his Son’s everlasting Gospel and Church to the earth – to make it living and breathing again with heavenly apostolic authority, new scripture, and a clear vision of life’s purposes.

The Book of Mormon was translated by one person – a 24yr old prophet of God named Joseph Smith in New York State. The Bible was first compiled by feuding ecclesiastical leaders in the 300s AD under Constantine, compiled for the people of his Empire (the OT was written to the Hebrews, the NT written by Hebrews turned Christian to the fledgling Church in the Mediterranean) I affirm this single translating effort is the Restoration warning shot across the world’s bow, that God lives and communicates through a Noah, Abraham, Moses and Isaiah again, and through apostles like Paul who wrote letters to various Christian locations in his world. The Book of Mormon restores simple Gospel principles that Paul taught, or that Isaiah taught – but most importantly that Christ taught. It is my opinion that the Bible survived not only due to faithful people down through centuries or through power hungry potentates clinging tenaciously to a claim of ‘divine authority’, but because Christ blessed the Apostle’s words to go throughout the world and to ultimately bless those who would hear them. What’s been lost is the ability to communicate meaningfully and directly to God or the ability to confirm a religious leader’s claims as Christ affirmed in John 7:17. Laman and Lemuel didn’t need such an historical apostasy to occur, theirs was already in the making: and like the Israelites it was all of their own doing.

In essence, amidst these remarkable revelations, the Lord shows an ignorant seaman called Nephi how to build a ship. Laman and Lemuel probably snickered at that claim by saying Nephi attempted to make himself feel better for not being an expert boatman (whatever apparent faults or incongruous layout of the ship might be God’s idea, scapegoating God or passing the buck – but they soon learn because they definitely make it to the promised land!). What’s more is that their iniquity or disobedience and all around lame attitude causes them to all nearly perish at sea.

I can’t claim visions on the magnitude of Nephi, but I can claim the Spirit’s subtle suggestion that I go help a certain member or I see a certain person in my mind’s eye performing some chore or duty around the house, and I see how I can help. And sure enough, that person needed that help at that time. That’s been shown to me for sure.

I’m also calling on all Christians to seriously consider this unifying message, that Christ lives and guides His church again on the earth – you don’t have to only symbolically believe that the church of Christ is the vast body of believers the world over (from which Mormons are uniquely omitted L), but that Christ is seeking to unify his believers under His authority again with Apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20; 4:11-14) who leave, like Peter and James and John, their careers to fill the call to be special witnesses of Christ and His Resurrection. There has been no such Church since Christ’s day – until now.

May this be shown to you by the Spirit as you pray to know that since 1830 God has been building His Church, His way, and not ‘after the manner of men’.

SK

1 Nephi 16 – Epic Falls and Small Obedience

A) “No references?” I asked, disbelieving anyone would ever think to omit those essentials.

“No, I have none,” he responded, dropping the harsh h down his throat as most native Arabic speakers do (as if you’re going to clear your throat).

“You didn’t fill out the rest of it”, I said flipping through it quickly for job experience.

“No, it would be a lie to”.

He had diffidently, yet hopefully, handed me his application to work as an Arabic tutor or intake personnel for the Center at which I work. He carried the irony that tall, soft-spoken men do: gentle presence when we expect raw, Wreck-it-Ralph clumsiness. He’s in his late 20’s and family is all back in Egypt, friends too. I learned he arrived in America last August and has since moved through 5 locations with no job; I see now, he lives in nagging, exhausting fear.

For I read his application – the most reputable portion being his name and current address. After he handed it to me and returned to his desk, I saw he was hunkered over, his big yet lanky legs folded awkwardly beneath the desk. It somehow contained his massive hulk. He was seated behind a computer in the row behind me. We were now in class together because I was now observing one of my ESL courses to complete my MA practicum in Applied Linguistics. With heavy mental and emotional obstacles, his story is similar to many refugees and emigrants to the US, even many US citizens. My thoughts drifted to him as I wondered how he faces a loneliness I haven’t faced. Who knows what financial sacrifice his family made to relocate him from an unstable Egypt and war-torn region, from the choices of thousands of fellow Egyptians?

B) Two weeks earlier, as I sat with my colleague at work, she said, “I’m so mad at God. If a God really did exist, how could he allow so much evil to occur? You don’t have to answer that, but…”. Implying she’s not really asking right now, and I understood, we had monthly and weekly statistics to gather, so I didn’t feel obligated to fully answer her then and I didn’t.

But I did first agree with her concerning the sad, sorry state of the world. As I write now, I think of the evils of ISIS (ISOL or dash), Boko Haram in Nigeria, war in the middle east, human trafficking, innumerable instances of domestic abuse, regional poverty the world over and even in the US, minimal access to health care, racial tensions exacerbated in recent months in the US, job loss, and western political, social, and cultural forces appearing to upend much of the positive aspects of what’s pejoratively or denigratingly considered “traditional” in family and gender roles.

Asking if God exists, sincerely, is different than acknowledging his existence, or at least the idea of his existence, by blaming Him. It’s hard for many to learn, as had Laman and Lemuel, that God’s omnipotence does not extend into our wills (unless you believe everything’s already been done in the mind of God). Not uselessly have philosophers (St. Augustine, Boethius, and so many others) been kept busy a while considering the role agency plays in a world created by an allegedly omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent deity or otherwise numinous force.

Heeding the divine injunction of a loving Savior to keep the 2 great commandments, godly forces are present in the service that others rend to you, and as you render to others. As Nephi recounts to us, his rather obstinate yet sometimes repentant brothers made choices that resulted in not only immediate effects (rebellion against Lehi and serious quarreling with Nephi), but generational results (entirety of a millennium of conflict, bitterness and revenge). While I believe that “all men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression“, we do live through the effects of others’ so-called, personal Falls – everyday negative choices. Not only our own limited capacities and foolish choices, but the millions of others’ around us. But sometimes people ignore this complex reality, choosing not to confront it, instead creating a simple scapegoat absolving us of any responsibility (aka God) to correct, amend or otherwise improve our situation. Ultimately declining to improve their own lives in truly living God’s commandments.

My righteous grandfather died due to a car accident during a foggy morning in the late 80’s, my other grandfather passed in 2007 due to lung cancer – he never smoked, my aunt recently passed last year because a driver ran a red light and she was on her motorcycle passing through the intersection. Watch this man’s commandment-blessed story of loving and forgiving the drunken driver who recklessly killed his wife and kids. And Laman and Lemuel had it rough – leaving plush comforts of a Jerusalem home and living for years in a forsaken, nomad-ridden desert: but so did Nephi, Sam, and Lehi. I mean, Nephi’s steel bow broke – the weapon or tool that could deal death at a distance, and find food, was gone. At Ishmael’s death (1 Nephi 16:35), his daughters murmured against Lehi and wanted to return, like Laman and Lemuel, to Jerusalem. They doubted the Lord’s goodness and revelations to Nephi and Lehi, and suspected grandiose, even kingly, vengeful desires from younger Nephi (v.38). After all, at this time the eldest receives the inheritance and birthright like the quintessential Biblical lineage, and birthright reckoning disputations of, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And that’s the problem: being unable to think and live outside the social distance box they’d forged for themselves, they thought “we are older, deserve power, status and position”. To them, Nephi was never an equal, a brother – he was either more, or less, than them. I wrote last post of a spiritual equation or faith-filled formula, and I encourage you to view this brief message from a true, duly ordained, modern Apostle of the Living Christ. He analogizes the commandments as an equation for happiness – which I testify, affirm, and validate that they are to anyone willing to try them. Christ declared them to be much the same (John 7:17, 14:15, 21, 15:10) and everything He did and commanded us to do, He did so that we might know Heavenly Father (John 17:3).

The Egyptian ESL student, my colleague, and I have each made choices within the world we’ve inherited and reap the consequences. But, living the commandments of God keeps me free from the world’s stain and my own daily, epic Falls – because living the commandments places me in a state to do good, be moral (virtue is its own reward), and receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. I’m not perfect, but I try. A young man (19) I know is getting baptized on the 11th of April because He knows the Savior’s commandments are true. And I know that His commandments are true, the consequential evidence is staggering, and besides, the Savior commanded that we do them. The disturbing NYTimes headlines sufficiently (if skewed as headlines) declare man’s views of himself. The ancient and modern commandments are graceful gifts and actions that man can’t devise and are small and simple (1 Nephi 16:29) things that, when done daily, result in the natural joy of the saints.

Find someone to serve and with whom to share such wonderful news! Thanks for reading…leave your comments below 🙂

SK

1 Nephi 15 – Thickheaded and Hardhearted

“”There is a Biblical and Talmudic admonition never to speak of God as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” But rather as “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” – thus to underline that each patriarch and matriarch came directly to God. Each found him in the same way and at the same sacrificial cost.”  ~Truman G. Madsen (Clark, 2005)

Obstacles to Creating Knowledge

In similar Abrahamic fashion, the incontrovertible results of Moroni’s invitation to all readers to disprove his claim to individual revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost validates the reality that each person not only can know that his words are true, that Jesus is the Christ, but that God is a sentient being that responds to prayer. You need not rely on a bishop, apostle, preacher, imam, or rabbi – you can know for yourself. He claims one can also know “the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). Before we get to that, however, recognize that Laman and Lemuel incessantly box their ears at “this hard doctrine” (Maxwell, 2000) and never pay the sacrificial cost of placing one’s will on the metaphorical altar in daily prayer and obedience to ancient and modern commandments and covenants. The continual surrender and alignment of one’s own will, in comparison to relinquishing money or possessions is, arguably, the only kind of true sacrifice one can make, without which you are left to your own rational and empirical devices.

After his visions, Nephi asks his brothers if they’d asked God themselves about the massive and sweeping prophecies he’d seen for himself and subsequently relayed to them (contained in the preceding 4 chapters). To which they reply “We have not: for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:8-9). They’ve thrown their hands up at praying long ago and don’t consider their unwillingness to communicate in prayer, or that they have hard hearts and at least feel for the idyllic past and the comforts of home and society in Jerusalem. An essential factor is absent: a sincere desire to know for themselves. Recall that Spirit is truth, and “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). I want to really unpack that statement, because it’s loaded. But, simply put, anything that contributes to knowledge of the past, present and future is truth (and too much of one is harmful).

They thought and hoped only for the past, like the future Pharisees and Sadducees who did not believe God revealed truth through prophets in their day. And then, boom, the Son of God appears, teaching “as one that had authority” (Mark 1:22). Just like scientific inquiry, how do we get at that truth: questions and tests. The Pharisees failed to ask the right questions of Christ, seeing his revelations as only the political challenges to their sociopolitical status and power that they without doubt were grasping to tenaciously. As one LDS author recently put it, “What makes the LDS Church so different? Questions have been restored to the earth.” (Christensen, 2013). Just as scientific inquiry uncovers or discovers natural or quantum laws, so too do LDS questions reveal eternal laws. So let’s start with the first question(s): Does God exist and is the Book of Mormon true scripture of Christ?

Getting that knowledge of God according to Moroni’s conditions (Moroni 10:3-7) 1)

Recall what God has done for you and humanity (be the opposite of Laman and Lemuel and consider all the goodness in your life as a mass of hard evidence – Moroni 10:6) 2) Literally ask God, in the name of Christ, if the Book of Mormon “is not true” 3) Ask sincerely, or with “real intent” to value the answer 4) Having faith in Christ 5) Don’t deny the power of God – so doubt your doubts If that burning or peaceful feeling occurs, don’t deny it  though you may want to for the implications are just as real – that God lives and communicates in ways we just can’t explain as of yet. Science exists because we can’t explain observable phenomena, and want to, and when you read and pray to God just as he describes, the phenomena is bound to happen. But, what if it doesn’t work (ie. I don’t feel the Spirit)? You probably haven’t satisfied any of the above conditions…It’s mind bending, I know, moreso than the general or special theories of relativity even.

Where the Scientific Method Fails

For instance, “If the hypothesis-testing process fails to eliminate most of the personal and cultural biases of the community of investigators, false hypotheses can survive the testing process and then be accepted as correct descriptions of the way the world works” (Baumgardner, 2008). Does Moroni’s test eliminate biases, or subjectivity, and achieve objectivity? Yes. In other words, you’re not going to make the answer appear out of thin air just because you simply want it to (delusional). Maybe I can explain.

For example, while I served my 2 year LDS mission in Canada ‘(05-’07) I wanted to know what level of truth and truths was in each Church or religion. So, as we attended Roman Catholic, Anglican, Salvation Army, and Pentecostal services with our investigator-friends and subsequently I felt the Spirit. Usually once a preacher or minister or priest expressed deep devotion and sincere confession of faith in testifying that they knew Christ lived and died for their sins because they had felt the Spirit testify to them too. The truth was they believed in Christ and the Spirit bore witness to my spirit that it was so, whether on the pulpit or the street. Someone once said that we in the Church have no  corner on spirituality. Eternal principles found in Hindi and Buddhist practices and worship reveal to me the Spirit works strongly in individuals not of my faith.

While I had always understood that concept, I had no stark, direct or experiential proof or evidence of that until then. I was overjoyed, shocked and thankful that Heavenly Father had validated not only truth but the process itself, the faith-based method of revelation. So then, since we are question askers and truth seekers wherever it is to be found, my mind and heart had received light and truth (intelligence) through some obedience on my part and immense grace of the Spirit on the other (D&C 93:36-39). But as I took in the rock band on stage or observed the more incoherent and convulsive speaking in tongues in the pew behind me, the Spirit left…and so did we.

Certain practices are not conducive to the Spirit, so I learned, and hence the objectivity. My mental awareness perked up involuntarily when the Spirit left those circumstances. However, I believe I felt the Spirit present during a Passover dinner at a friend’s house  while waiting for Elijah to be present at the meal and at synagogue as parts of the Torah were read. I felt the Spirit in a Mosque In Canada while observing the immense submission and prostration characteristic to Muslims during one of the 5 calls to prayer as they removed their shoes before entering the Mosque proper, as we do when worshipping in LDS temples. While I haven’t been to a separate house of worship in a year or so, I can validate I’ve felt the Spirit during conversations with coworkers and neighbors, and while listening to some bits of the news on NPR or am590, or in scientific journals, or on mountain hikes because I can differentiate and synthesize logic and faith. In essence, we don’t discard anything that is true, unless it’s superceded by further light and knowledge; and its corollary is also true from experience: we aren’t obligated to believe what’s not true.

So, have some faith and try these steps out! Even seek to disprove them like all good science experiments do by seeking to feel the Spirit in all sorts of environments (in different churches, physical locations, times of day, your emotional states etc.). Note when it works and when it doesn’t. This faith formula is in the Bible (James 1:5, Galatians 5:22 and more) but crystal clear in the Book of Mormon (Moroni 10 and Alma 32, entire book of 1 Nephi and Enos). Start obeying what Latter-day Saints believe are modern commandments and you’ll find they increase that feeling from the prayer (or that you perhaps feel as you read this…). Be like Nephi and Abraham – satisfy or reproduce the conditions, let the answers (data results) flow. This method is what everyone wants to believe but can’t let themselves – Mormon or not, let yourself test it a little more this week.

-SK

References

Baumgardner, J. (2008). Exploring the limitations of the scientific method. Acts & Facts. 37 (3): 4

Christensen, C. (2013). The power of everyday missionaries. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company.

Maxwell, N. (Oct, 2000). Insights from my life. Ensign.

1 Nephi 14…Moroni’s Challenge, the Scientific Method, and Knowledge

Good evening, I hope everyone’s enjoying the holiday season!

Christmas has ended (at least the commercial aspect of it, unless you’re returning gifts I suppose) and the New Year has come and gone. With it comes the ubiquitous hope of well-intended ‘resolutions’ that, let’s admit, too often end in fizzled fashion like soda gone flat. Or so predictably like Cubs fans saying – “maybe next year”. Maybe New Year’s hasn’t held much weight for me because, here’s the thing, I renew my most significant Christian moral, ethical, and worldview resolutions every Sunday in Sacrament. So, 52x a year. While I, or any Latter-day Saint, officially renew my commitments to my baptismal (1993), priesthood (1997) and temple (2004) covenants each Sunday, this sacred practice by no means precludes a/any New Year’s resolutions being made, like working out daily to P90x…yikes 😦

So heck, I’ll start, as for this blog, I’ll renew my goal of posting once a week, however with a limit of 800 words per post. Neither you or I with our busy lives has the time to read or write anything longer – so here’s a jump start on the New Year! Good luck with your own resolutions 🙂

The Question

Are science and religion wholly incompatible bodies of knowledge, views and experience?

I would say no, they are complementary. And the tools of reason and logic in science do not necessarily, or by definition, preclude the divinely communicated truths of the Church as any individual comes to know through experimentation of one’s own. LDS Apostle Elder Henry B. Eyring’s father, Henry Eyring, was a renowned and well-respected scientist in physical chemistry who offered what I think is one of the best responses ever to this question. When Henry Eyring wanted to attend the University of Arizona in 1919, his father Ed (Elder Eyring’s grandpa) told him while bailing hay: “…in this Church you don’t have to believe anything that isn’t true. You go over to the [U of A] and learn everything you can, and whatever is true is part of the gospel” (Eyring, 22). Apparently, this experience has been distilled into the simple phrase “The Church doesn’t require you to believe anything that isn’t true” (23).

Theories, hypotheses, models and constructs are all pieces to methodologies that form various modes of inquiry: such as the scientific method as employed through empiricists like Berkeley, Locke, and Hume who interpret reality according to proof and physical evidence; or the rationalism of thought experiments from the likes of Descartes, Leibniz, or Spinoza who argued that knowledge is gained independent of sensory experience, like thought experiments. If  you’ve gone to high school, like me, you’ve employed the steps of the scientific method (but you might have forgotten some of them) in physics, biology or chemistry classes: ask a question, do back ground research, create a prediction or hypothesis, test it or prove it by experimenting and creating a body of data, analyzing that, then concluding and listing any implications to whatever field you were studying in.

Found at the end of the Book of Mormon, a similarly rational and somewhat scientific spiritual mode of divine inquiry referred to by current missionaries and members alike as Moroni’s Challenge, is arguably a faith-based scientific method unto itself. The wording of the few verses appears to some to be a rather audacious attempt to resolve the question of how does God answer mankind’s earnest, even desperate pleadings for comforting evidence that God can and does listen to each person who prays and that there is a way to know. As true as it is bold, there are logical steps or conditions, like a beaker or petri dish in science, that allow the independent answer to form, to be realized. Really those steps secure the awareness of the Spirit of God to your own spirit (which is logical when you accept the premise that “there is no such thing as immaterial matter” because “all spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure” (D&C 131:7)). So, setting the conditions over a bunsen burner in 10th grade chemistry class to validate the temperature at which, let’s say, Magnesium combusts is not so different because spirit is matter too. That implies it can be quantified – but I don’t have much to comment on that just yet.

So, how to recognize the Spirit? Just consult James, John or Paul (see James 1:5, John 7:17, Galatians 5:22-23, then  Alma 32:28). Alma refers to this mode or method of inquiry as an experiment – and just as knowledge is constructed by rigorous scientific experiment and anecdotal experience, so too is the term ‘knowledge’ in the LDS worldview based upon testable or reproducible experience with the Holy Spirit of God.

Moreover, this faith-based method is at the same time both critical of and adherent to whatever level of current knowledge of God the enquirer possesses, or in this case, whatever concept of God one possesses (D&C 130: 18-20). To do so, one merely has to be a truth seeker, wherever that truth exists, as Ed Eyring stated to his son Henry. I know a Heavenly Father exists because of this method, the Book of Mormon is true, the KJV Bible is true, Christ lives, I can be forgiven of sin and disobedient screwups. Prophets walk and serve today. You can find out too.

I’m at 800 words (including the New Year’s intro) – so next week I’ll try to review the main steps and conditions necessary to feeling what we believe and know to be the Spirit of God. So, like the growing body of knowledge in every scientific discipline, like my field of applied linguistics over the past 30-40 years through tests and predictions, build your personal experimental knowledge of God and Jesus Christ by taking Moroni’s Challenge (Moroni 10:3-5) like I did when I was 16.

Because the “glory of god is intelligence…or light and truth” (D&C 93:36) this perhaps explains Nephi’s vision in ch. 14 that the scattered and covenant latter-day saints of the church of the lamb were “armed with righteousness and the power of God in great glory” (v.14). Or otherwise read as – The power of God in great intelligence, or in great light and truth. Irrefutable, testable results. Each saint has experiential, independently verified evidence and knowledge of the Spirit that brings a feeling and humble power that nothing else on earth can. It’s as simple to verify as gravity when observing the constant rate of acceleration by dropping a pin and a golf ball (thanks Newton!). The Spirit is pretty constant to me as often as I obey…so take the challenge, discover it for yourself.

Good searching!

-SK

Eyring, Henry J. (2008). Mormon Scientist: The Life of Henry Eyring. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.

The Desiring Apprentice – to See, Hear, and Know

Preface (that’s ominous!) – I try to keep these to 800 words, but the content is too rich not to discuss in detail!

Nephi records on the small plates that Lehi prophesies that a ‘Messiah’ and ‘Redeemer of the world’ would emerge by the hand of God from among the Jews…600 years to be precise. Sometimes I really enjoy word-play and verse 4 of chapter 10 provides a playground for doing so. It wasn’t translated as emerge, although by my interpreting the act of the “Lord God raising up a prophet from among the Jews” as ’emerging’, it becomes less clear how it could be interpreted.

One possible meaning refers to the parenting process: that is that the Redeemer of the world, as the Christ child, is raised as a parent raises children, teaching them, protecting them, feeding them as they grow and gain intelligence, knowledge and experience. That view certainly corroborates with the idea that “the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” and, when 12yrs old, he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” and not exemplified least because of the intentional occasions the Savior took to be “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors,  both hearing them and asking them questions”, being, as he directly and comfortingly put it to his worried mother, Mary, “about my father’s business” (Luke 2:40-52). He is, it seems evident, in Heavenly Father’s tutelage, or at least is heavily being actively influenced and directed by God. Moses’s prophecy that the LORD “will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren” (Deut. 18; 15, 18), is similar Old Testament phrasing in which the verb ‘raise’ is used twice to describe the future event. Without having thought about it, this single verse validates the Book of Mormon’s Old Testament-times historicity.

Not to be forgotten, within the Book of Mormon as a whole, raise is used at least 21 times in the Book of Mormon. Here are its categorical references: Messiah x2, a mountain x1, ‘seed’ or families x2, to judgment x2, Moses x3, righteous/mighty nation or branch of Israel x4, from the dead x6, and lastly to eternal life x1. Arise and rise, in various tenses and contexts, also occur frequently and are used in similar categories. Just in terms of the word ‘raise’, we find it refers to many distinct people (Moses, Messiah, families) and broader concepts (nations, from death, to eternal life, to judgment). It seems to be a verb that is synonymous with establish, to sustain, to cause to grow and to do so successfully.

However the next possible interpretation is supported by the phrase “and after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain, he should rise from the dead” (v. 11). So, if we’re investigating any immediate verses that might indicate what Nephi means by ‘raising’ or ‘rising’, this is perhaps a next best guess.

The next three possible interpretations lie in the references to his baptism by immersion at the hands of John the Baptist (vv. 9,10) at the moment he’s being raised out of the water of the River Jordan and his being raised up on the Cross, or raised from the Dead, or resurrected. Is there any sure way to know if any of these are meant to be the ‘one’ true interpretation? In this chapter Nephi states Christ “should rise from the dead” (v. 11). That is a singular moment, with a short and rather immediate time-frame. He’s risen up on the cross, as Moses’s staff typified and foreshadowed. However, if we look at these references, it seems probable that Nephi means to say that Heavenly Father would establish, over the process of time, as in a person’s lifetime, a prophet, or the Messiah among the Jews.

Some of you reading this might’ve thought from the beginning that such a search is meaningless, or choose to say with certainty that that verse means only one thing (it means only ____). You might say it’s indisputable enough to not warrant this simple analysis. Perhaps, but I’d like to give the Spirit plenty of reasons to dictate truth to me if I’ve done the work to earn it. We talk of magnifying callings, why not magnify the scriptures, or our studying efforts? Whatever the interpretation, it’s evident that this is done by the will of the Father, the emphasis being that He organized this raising, the Son increasingly learning this eternal truth, and that this effort is the central means in his “work and his glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

I admire Nephi’s trust, his faith in following the desires he has to pray to Heavenly Father and know for himself “by the power of the Holy Ghost” (10:17) if these visions his father has are true. Nephi includes this while abridging the larger record, for future generations. And Mormon chose Nephi’s words after having seen our day. So, when was the last time we prayed to know the truth contained in The Book of Mormon, or from our leaders’ General Conference addresses? or to know that the Hastening the Work of Salvation broadcast and revelations are true and from Heavenly Father? I’m not perfect at doing so because I also have had a growing gift of faith to believe and already recognize them as true  because I feel the Spirit as they speak, the words Apostles and the Prophet speak from the conference center pulpit.

But, I’m thinking out loud, perhaps that this logic is tinged with a slight sense of some intermittent complacency and smacks of becoming “past feeling” in its own right (in other words, giving to the tendency to rely more heavily on past experiences instead of appropriately seeking further light and knowledge when current questions arise – Laman and Lemuel syndrome)? That view doesn’t devalue the righteous act of remembering (which the Book of Mormon advocates) past revelations of eternal truths to one’s spirit, or espouse disregarding past revelatory moments as inconsequential or irrelevant enough to be of no use in determing how to approach Heavenly Father in sincere prayer or act when tempted, as if to rely too much on having at all moments to be told what to do and think. Because I know from experience and scripture that Heavenly Father honors agency. No, I think that view (of feeling the Spirit during talks and addresses) ultimately advocates diligent supplication with diligent obedience, diligent prayer with diligent service, scripture study, repentance, etc. Why? Because recognizing the truth (ability to heed the Holy Ghost) in those moments is a product those diligent actions create. And I can do much better at that because I know the moments I haven’t felt the Spirit are quite numerous too.

Prophets and Apostles, like Lehi, help us as a Church collectively, when inspired by the Spirit, and as separate individuals, in our very personal efforts to follow the Master, to emulate Him and keep His commandments. Since the Lord is The Master, then aren’t we by logical extension, the apprentices? This form of one-on-one training  isn’t perhaps so prevalent in modern times – trainings can be done online or in school and college classes, even vocational education is often conducted in classes with multiple students involved. Learning has become democratic, with its benefits. And yet we’ve all personally covenanted with Him, and have and hold the scriptures in our hands and own our personal copy of the Standard Works, and we learn collectively in Sunday School, it is ultimately our own responsibility to absorb the book’s messages and pay attention to the Spirit’s witness of its verity.

Furthermore, as Nephi’s words demonstrate, the Holy Ghost (whom the Lord called the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, John 15:26/16:13-14) will ultimately guide each of us to “see, hear, and know of these things” for ourselves if “we but diligently seek him” (v. 17), as Nephi’s example demonstrates here. It seems clear that if we are to benefit from Heavenly Father’s work and plan for our happiness here and in eternity, that we better continually desire sincerely to know the Lord in scripture and seek His Spirit more often and regularly than we now do.

As members of the Lord’s Church and kingdom, we’ve been given the Gift of the Holy Ghost, “given to all those who diligently seek him” (1 Ne. 10:17) to be refined and cultivated as we pay attention to its influence. I write this, hoping that we all cultivate this gift with more diligence this week and become more disciplined to acting on the Spirit’s gentle nudges, in our emulation of the Master – a state of devotion always in need of tending to and purposefully seeking to grow – that each of us might “see, hear, and know” for ourselves that He lives and guides His Church today.

Good Studies!

Nephi…as Narrator

Who doesn’t like an ‘Aha!’ or ‘Eureka’ moment, when the veil of ignorance is pulled back and true reality sets in. It’s really a liberating feeling. What do I mean? I’ll introduce the topic by posing a question with a multiple choice answer list of choices: When did Nephi write 1 and 2 Nephi?

Was it:

A. All during his journey, travelogue/diary style, aka as it happens

B. On the borders of the Red Sea where his family camped for eight years

C. On the long sea voyage to the Promised Land (what else do you do if you’re not on a Carnival or Disney cruise and navigating ocean tempests?)

D. Once they’d landed and established themselves in the New World

E. In solemn retrospect and divine command, after having lived and reigned as a King to his people in the Promised Land (New world in America)

The answer is: most likely E! Which means roughly thrity to forty years after having left Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5: 28-34).

I’d been reading and studying the Book of Mormon under a certain implicit assumption, some of my interpretations had begged the question. In other words I had asked you and me to assume together that Nephi had written his books (the large and small plates) during his journeyings, as a diligent recorder would. What was I thinking? He barely had time to do anything but hunt and literally protect his family from not only his brothers but from the elements of nature surrounding them from the moment they departed Jerusalem and sailed across vast oceans.

So 1 Nephi 6 and 9 are his insertion from a later date, a narrative device to indicate his intentions in skimming over the genealogical and historical records that were in his father’s record. Chapter 9, and a couple like it, 19:1-5 and 2 Nephi 5:30, further differentiate the ‘other’, large plates from the smaller, ‘these’ plates. The large historical plates seem to contain an ongoing account of some kind perhaps, or otherwise official record. But as to the date?

So, Nephi’s two books are argued to have been “written after the death of Lehi, after the separation of Nephi from his brothers Laman and Lemuel, after the small Nephite party knew of the life-threatening animosity of the Lamanites against them, after Nephi knew that he would eventually accept the role of king, and after the temple of Nephi had been constructed” (Welch) because he states “these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the  more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people” (1 Nephi 9:4). Welch means to wonder ‘how likely is it at this point in time in the Arabian wilderness that Nephi expected there to be kings and wars and a people named after him?’ The Lord did tell him he’d rule over his brethren (2:22) for sure, but it seems hard to imagine he talks of kings and rulers and his people while they’re still a band of two families and Zoram roaming around the desert. The contention between his brothers is bitter and brutal, without a doubt, but not war-like enough to suggest these larger cultural terms and phrases (wars, people, kings) from the pen of Nephi, when those categories didn’t even exist until thirty to forty years into their journey (5:28, 34). He’s first called a king in 2 Nephi 6:2.

Welch continues: “These overt disclosures invite us to ask how the timing of Nephi’s writing influenced the final form of the first parts of the Book of Mormon. How happy biblical scholars would be to know the time and place when the book of Exodus or the Gospel of Matthew took their final forms, for then they could probe the nature of those texts more certainly. In the case of Nephi’s writings, because we know when, where, and why he wrote what he did, we can confidently turn our attention to pursue intriguing interpretive questions and to extract meaning from the lessons he left behind”. Those interpretations are certainly in the domain of our personal reading and diligent study we each must bring to the practice of likening them unto ourselves.

As an experiment, a little over five years ago, I thought I’d liken the simpler pattern of small sacred scriptures and keep a larger separate history of my life in another journal. Wanting to imitate it literally, I got a smallish journal and even wrote “The Small Plates” on the title page. I’ve got 118 pages of spiritual experiences, amounting to my tender mercies the Lord sent my way. It may not be what the Lord had in mind for Nephi, but something great has happened in my life. It starts while I was single of about a year following my mission and up to 24 Oct. of this year. And I’m telling you now, I have had 10 x more spiritual experiences than what I’ve recorded. I’ve recorded what have mostly been the more powerful promptings and impressions with some subtle ones thrown in that I took the time to record.

As I review those entries, I can humorously see not only my ignorance of but, more seriously, also my growing understanding about the Spirit’s manner of influence in my life, how the Spirit speaks to me. Nephi’s records are laced with this principle but his last two chapters especially are also focused on the Holy Ghost and how to judge the truth that is in his words. Moroni does the same thing in chapter 10:3-5 of his book. Mormon finishes his record (Mormon 7) by trying to persuade readers to realize the Book of Mormon was written to buoy up the Bible because it too would be attacked in the latter days for its historicity and validity as a genuine document testifying of the literal Christ.

Most of us may not be commanded to record sacred events for other generations in the future to read, but is it any wonder that the modern prophets and apostles have stressed record-keeping, from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson? Their potential to transmit faith is immense. What findings and implications have each of us discovered once realizing the overall arc of the Book of Mormon’s narrative form (according to three major narrators – Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni, who review their life’s events in relation to the Lord’s interventions?).

References

Welch, J.W. (1999). Why Nephi Wrote the Small Plates: Serving Practical Needs. FARMS Update in Insights (April), 2.

Dante and Lehi (Reason and Revelation)

My classes overwhelmed and delayed me, sorry for the two week delay!

We commonly know 1 Nephi 8 as the Tree of Life chapter in which the famous ‘rod of iron’ is first introduced to us. Perhaps no other metaphor or image in the Book of Mormon has been recreated and reinterpreted in art as much as that of the Rod of Iron. As for chapter 8, as I read Lehi’s vision at first, I wanted to include Nephi’s expansion of this vision found in chapter 11 and the interpretations the angel he sees provides him. But I won’t be roped in to anticipating that future chapter! There’s plenty to say when it comes up later in October. For now, it’s sufficient to not all of the family’s current relations and dynamics are mirrored in this vision.

So for example, if we recall, over the last seven chapters, Nephi has obeyed Lehi’s inspired commands, and not without question. He prayed for himself, that he might know independent of his father and his brothers that the Lord had actually prophesied for their benefit, and for the city of Jerusalem. In chapter 8, we get a framed narrative: Nephi is retelling (in writing) Lehi’s journey-vision after he’d told it orally to all of his family, with particularly ominous admonitions for Laman and Lemuel.

Lehi’s initial reference to his two rebellious and stubborn sons as they relate to the dream seems particularly incensed with tender emotions, for he appears to fleetingly entertain the thought of explaining himself right then and there, but then declines to do so, turning instead to mentioning his perception of a “dark and dreary wilderness” (v. 4) and apparently chooses to take the clear, longer, version of the dream, which in his mind would probably lay out choices and consequences clearly. But was he upset, visibly to his family? Did he contain his emotions if he had any? I’d say yes, because after his recitation of the dream-vision, he “exhorts them with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words” (v. 37).

Back to the beginning, in verses two and three he says he’d seen a vision and was happy for Nephi and Sam, saying he has plenty of reason to thank the Lord and reasonably believe that they and their descendants would be saved. Then he turns to L&L, and says he fears “exceedingly” because of them (their thinking, what did this visionary father of ours see anyways? Just lay it on us, come on Dad.) I wondered here, how would Ishmael’s family react, and Zoram too, to this spiritual event?

In any case, Lehi finds himself bidden by a man in white (presumably an angel of sorts but not definitively so) to follow him, soon leading to “a dark and dreary waste” (v. 7) in which he traveled for many hours (v.8).  Interestingly enough, it opens like the great, three-part 13th century epic, The Divine Comedy, by Dante Aleghieri, whose protagonist, Dante the Pilgrim, finds himself: “Midway along the journey of our life/I woke to find myself in a dark wood,/for I had wandered off from the straight path/How hard it is to tell what it was like,/this wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn…/a bitter place! Death could scarce be bitterer./How I entered there I cannot truly say/I had become so sleepy at the moment/when I first strayed, leaving the path of truth;/but when I found myself at the foot of a hill,/at the edge of the wood’s beginning, down in the valley,/where I first felt my heart plunged deep in fear,/I raised my head and saw the hilltop shawled/in morning rays of light sent from the planet that leads men straight ahead on every road” (Canto I, 1-18).

In Dante’s medieval/Renaissance cultural context, the heavens were composed of 7 levels with 7 corresponding planets – the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. So, it seems Dante sees the Sun. For it, more than Venus or Mercury which are always near the Sun (dawn or dusk) due to their close proximity to it, would lead men “ahead on every road”, ya know, shine light on every road because the Sun can illuminate magnitudes more than a planet’s reflective light can.

Dante’s material concerned the matter of Rome and sought to mediate the rivaling ideas of Imperial and Apostolic Rome during the political infighting of his day in Florence, Italy – and so chose Virgil, the famed Latin poet who authored the classical epic, the Aeneid. We should realize that Virgil appears to Dante the Pilgrim in the midst of encountering the three sins of lust, pride, and avarice in their symbolic forms as a leopard, lion, and she-wolf while he’s trapped in the dark wood, unable to exit the dark place without external help. Does Lehi here encounter his own frailty, weaknesses, and even sin represented by the darkness he’s lost within?

The difference being that Virgil represents “Reason or Human Wisdom…the means through which man may come to an understanding of the nature of sin” which Dante will understand on his journey through Hell (Inferno) and while there “will see the penance imposed on repentant sinners” (Musa, 75). But, Lehi sees a divine being, an angel. And the light that illuminates the dark and dreary waste is none other than the Tree of Life, the same found in the Garden of Eden, which as we find out later from Nephi represents the love of God. Both of these differences (the spectre of a deceased mortal poet v. an angel and a planet v. the Tree of Life) illustrate the source of these visions or stories – Human Reason as much as it can be inspired on one hand and pure Revelation straight from heaven.

The Dream-Vision Contents

So while Dante implores Virgil to help him escape the three sins and dark forest, Lehi in his faith then prays that the Lord, not a revered poet, would have mercy on him and he sees a large and spacious field. Interesting answer to a prayer, hunh? And presumably the tree he sees next is in this field, a tree whose fruit “was desirable to make one happy…was most sweet, above all that [he] ever before tasted…was white to exceed all the whiteness that [he] had ever seen…filled [his] soul with exceedingly great joy…that it was desirable above all other fruit” (vv.  10-12). Desiring that his family also eat of the fruit (how often do we value a thing or idea enough to tell others about them? What are they?), he looks around him, aware again of his surroundings, and sees a river of water running past the tree he stood by. He followed it’s stretch until he spotted Sariah, Sam, and Nephi at the head of the river, seemingly confused, appearing to be lost.

Lehi loudly calls out to them to come unto him and eat the fruit that he ate. They located him and ate the fruit. Then Lehi searched for L&L towards the river’s head, saw them, but they ignored him, refusing to come to him and eat the fruit (vv. 15-18). Only now did Lehi see the ‘rod of iron’ and the ‘strait and narrow path’ beside it leading from the river’s fountain to the Tree. That leaves us to question whether Lehi or Nephi, Sam, and Sariah needed the rod of iron. Of course they did, because of what we later find out it represents (Ch. 11). However, one scholar (Swift, 2005) chalks up the omission to the very nature of the dream-vision elements forming in his mind at random sequence, like any common dream.

Then, he saw “numberless concourses of people” seeking for the path and finding it. But the mist of darkness materialized, darkening the way and helping the people to wander off the path, becoming lost (v. 21-23). Others held the rod of iron firmly, forging their way through the misty umbrage until they arrived at the Tree and ate the glowing fruit like Lehi. They were ashamed of having eaten the fruit. Lehi, curious as to why, turned and saw opposite him on the other side of the river, massive crowds of people of all ages finely dressed “mocking and pointing their fingers” toward Lehi and the people who’d eaten the fruit after their precarious journey. Well, these ones succumbed to their taunts and arguments and philosophies and wealthy appearance, to their mortal power, and “fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (v. 28).

Now, Nephi states Lehi saw much more, but to be make a long story short, more people fought the mist and ‘held fast’ to the iron rod and fell down at the foot of the Tree. I imagine they heard the mockers all the way, but exhausted themselves, making that unbelievably sweet fruit, truly sweet in contrast to all that vitriolic bitterness and dark mists. However, others made their way toward the massive building, many unable to cross the river, drowning within it, and others were straight lost, “wandering on strange roads” (32), out of his view. L&L, heeding the deliriously prideful scoffers, refused to make the journey up to the Tree, let alone eat the fruit. This is probably where Lehi began to fear for them, seeing the consequences of so many perilous paths laid bare before his eyes. However, it’s important to note that L&L did not cross the river to the Great and Spacious building. This mirrors their choices in reality – they did, reluctantly, follow Lehi and Nephi into the wilderness. They won’t say they follow the Lord, but they did leave Jerusalem, however much they desire that enticing ‘building’ full of Jewish mockers.

Speaking of the ‘kaleidoscopic structure’ of Lehi’s dream, that disjointed dreamy quality in which elements don’t overlap (he sees whole groups of people, then moves on to another group – his vision moves from location to location), one scholar notes “It should be remembered, though, that visionary literature is “heavily symbolic but rarely pictorial.” The symbols are meant to convey images of meaning, not necessarily pictures” (Swift). Our attempts to picture where exactly the river bends and how big the building is and its proximity to the river are somewhat futile; however, preferably “we can imagine what we need to imagine, but if we try to be too precise we lose the sweeping grandeur of the vision and are caught up in details that cannot be worked out” (Swift). I agree with that. Some of the large amount of Lehi’s Dream artwork I prefer might illustrate this point: WARNING! there are spoilers ahead! Lehi did not interpret the imagery (in Ch. 8) he saw to the doctrinal interpretations we commonly, and correctly, associate them with, because Nephi hadn’t ascended into a nearby mountain to pray to know what his father had seen. Lehi had summarily recounted his miraculous dream to his family members, prophesied some things, and then urged them, mostly L&L, to keep the commandments.

aboveallotherfruit_sml

But, for those of you who can’t resist more discussion, this piece is by an artist named Nick Stephens.

To me, the many white, transparent windows seem to represent the ‘great and spacious building’ suspended in the air, foundationless; the dark field stands for the ‘dark and dreary wilderness’ or the ‘large and spacious field’ he spies from his vantage point; also the yellow-gold wheat field feels inviting and to me implies growth and labor to till the soil, sow the seeds, and nurture until the crop sprouts and blooms to be harvested, and therefore offer life and sustenance. Now even though the Tree of Life represented by this branch is suspended in mid-air, it should not be equated with the rigid array of transparent windows. For, while the golden field represents sustenance and life, it is like unto manna, only temporary, mortal, of this world. Like the improbability and otherworldliness of an angelic visitor, who in scripture is often suspended above the ground, this Tree descends to the world offering fruit above all that can be tasted here. Its roots are unseen, for the moment, as roots usually behave, but these are heavenly roots, located where “neither moth nor rust doth corrupt”. The repetitive, interlacing white lines form a beautiful image that extends beyond the frame, in my imagination. Their large sweeping reach call for that motion or extension in my mind quite naturally. And they reach higher, inexorably so, than the building does, with no end in sight, stretching forever expectedly. What do they emanate from and what kind of fruit is offered?

Latter-day Saints will readily recognize the stark red geometric shapes that literally encompass and contain the Tree. We’ll jump a couple chapters, even though I’m getting ahead of myself, because we have to for this to make interpretive sense: Nephi is told the Tree represents the Love of God (Ch. 11). Being literally a square and a circle, one drawn with a square and one drawn with a compass, we inevitably suppose this suggests that the Love of God is accessed or attained or reached by being exactly obedient and faithful to God’s commands, which are contained in His simple Gospel. By virtue of receiving the commandments alone into our lives we will have received the Grace of Christ.

Happiness, according to Lehi, is not attainable by riches, position, and prideful paths: it is reached by heeding the Lord’s simple commands, sowing the seeds of eternal life, as Nephi is has been learning this whole time. All of our myopic impulsive-natural man-appetites are to be circumscribed or pursued within the covenant limits that the Lord has set in His covenants. To step out of bounds, well, we see Israel’s demise and the correlation to breaking covenants that Jeremiah laments. As for the red color that draws the eye to it: it might be a subtle choice to highlight what Nephi later learns – that “because of their faith in the Lamb of God their garments are made white in his blood” (1 Ne. 12:10-11). Keeping covenants allows the righteous to gain the Redeemer’s Atonement-produced mercy and grace, cleanse them, and free and liberate them as Lehi states (2 Ne. 2:27) from Death and Hell and the Devil, and thereby make them happy now (experience His pure love) and grant them eternal life – the very fruit of the Tree of Life. Or…it’ s just a pretty red. But I tend to think otherwise…

Dante admirably invokes Virgil, or Reason, using the beautiful rhythm of the Italian verse form of terza rima, (although Musa uses a rhymeless iambic pentameter or blank verse in translation) to transcend the mundane speech rhythms we use, to invoke the transcendent. However, the divinely and humbly written Book of Mormon shows the reader that, as Elder Holland writes, from “the very outset of the Book of Mormon, in its first fully developed allegory, Christ is portrayed as the source of eternal life and joy, the living evidence of divine love, and the means whereby God will fulfill his covenant with the house of Israel and indeed the entire family of man, returning them to all their eternal promises.”

Amen to that.

WFRR

PS – In what ways can we compare and contrast the Tree of Life in Lehi’s vision with the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden? According to what we read from Lehi’s perpective, in what ways do they function in parallel fashion (what does it offer the beholder or is supposed to do for the person that beholds or partakes of the fruit?) I also wondered, did the Adamic account in Genesis perhaps inspire Lehi, after he’d presumably read it in chapter 5? We could safely assume so, but neither he nor Nephi actually reference it as having inspired them. There’s no nod back to it in Ch. 8. Although Lehi does teach his family of the effects of Adam and Eve’s choices in the Garden of Eden in 2 Nephi 2-3, before he passes away.                                                                 

References

Holland, J.R. (1997). Christ and the New Covenant. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.

Musa, M. (2003). The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: The Inferno. New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Stephens, Nick. http://www.nickstephensart.com/new-religious-work/new-religious-work/16872797.

Swift, Charles. (2005). Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life: Understanding the Dream as Visionary Literature. Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol. 14 (2), (pp. 52–63, 74–75). Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute.