Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Realities of the Book of Mormon: Revised Edition

The Book of Mormon is a sacred book of scripture for many people throughout the world. Its incredible message has brought many people unto Christ and has helped so many find truth in this confusing world full of opinion and opposing views.
I've read the Book of Mormon many times but each time I find new insight to the gospel of Jesus Christ though the struggles and successes of this ancient civilization.
Usually when I read, I try to immediately apply every story to my current life or today's society in general. After all, the Book of Mormon was written for our day, was it not? But recently I re-read the introduction to the Book of Mormon and I realized that this book was written for the Lamanites and the Nephites just as much as it was written for us, if not more so. Since then, I've tried to make my study of the Book of Mormon a little different by first putting things into the context of their situation. I ask myself “What did the author mean by adding this detail or this story?” Then, I would move to thinking about the original intents and feelings of the characters, which has helped me find a much richer interpretation of many classic Book of Mormon stories.

For example, modern readers tend to give Lamen and Lemuel a really bad reputation. We talk about them as “Thee Bad Guys” of the Book of Mormon, which is slightly unfair considering that we only see them through the eyes of Nephi many years after they grew up together, after they had separated from each other. Nephi, as great a guy as he is, is a bit biased as a narrator. Just think about what the family of Lehi was being asked to do. They were asked to leave their comfortable, safe home in Jerusalem and embark on a journey through the wilderness. In this time period, wilderness equated death. There would be little opportunity to find food and water, shelter would consist of a flimsy tent to protect against sandy wind storms, and robbers circled the lesser-traveled areas like vultures. The family also didn't exactly know where they were going or how long it would take to get there. Honestly, Lamen and Lemuel had a lot to complain about. While that doesn't make complaining right, it does help deepen my understanding of why Lehi said he was "exceeding glad" to hear Nephi accept this situation (1 Nephi 3:8). Lehi would have been so relieved to hear that at least someone was going to support him in this trial because this would have been a major trial for Lehi too!
Placing the family of Lehi in their proper context has helped me to recognize the characters of the Book of Mormon as so much more than an ancient people. They have become real to me as I remember that even though they were prophets and did incredible things throughout their lives, they were just people too. They were flawed people with weaknesses and short-comings that they had to work to overcome. As a result, I applaud them that much more for what they did to draw closer to God.

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