I’ve been studying the Book of Mormon since I learned to read. Despite this, I think I’ve been missing some things from it. Sometimes I forget to think of the individual writers of the Book of Mormon as distinct people. Their messages are so unified—physically and spiritually—and sometimes seem to be separated by only a chapter heading or name of a new book. So I decided to pay close attention this time through to the differences between these men: the words and phrases they use, their moods, and how their individual lives may have influenced those differences.
I was especially curious about the first major author change in the Book of Mormon: the one between Nephi and Jacob. From a logical standpoint, it the likelihood of their writing styles being particularly different seemed low. They were brothers, after all. And they went through many of the same experiences together.
And yet I’d remembered hearing before that Jacob was the most poetic writer out of all the Book of Mormon prophets. I decided to try to quantify this somewhat—to see if Jacob’s writing was really all that different from Nephi’s. I made a list of some poetic words and phrases that were used only by Jacob in the Book of Mormon:
Magnify our/mine office, head of their corner, labor in sin, delicate, familiar, pure in heart, plead your cause, slumber, contempt, unsearchable, good hope, confessed the Christ.
And another list of words and phrases unique to Jacob:
Sobbings of their hearts, pointing our souls, firmness in spirit, overanxiety, in very word, poured in his Spirit into my soul, lonesome, mourn out our days, adieu.
Most of those sound pretty depressing, don’t they? Upon closer inspection, I noticed that a large portion of these phrases are found in the chapters wherein Jacob chastises the men in his society who are involved in immorality and tries to speak comfort to their wives and children. Perhaps Jacob even felt that he’d been left to clean up the Nephites’ act after Nephi’s death.
In this context, the tender and poignant words made more sense. Jacob did a great job using his vocabulary to put his heart and soul into a very sensitive subject that needed solving. He showed what a caring, worried, earnest man he was. I like to think (but somehow doubt) that I would’ve approached such a subject as well.
Maybe I need to pull out my thesaurus more often.