Wednesday, April 1, 2015

In Connection with the Past: Humanizing the Book of Mormon

One of the most instinctual characteristics of the human species is our emotional and physical connection with the past. We visit historical places, treasure old family stories, and seem to constantly inform the present with what we understand from the past. The people that wrote experiences in the Book of Mormon not only did it so we could have a record of the past and its lessons, but so they could follow a legacy that others had laid before them. Reading the Book of Mormon with this in mind further reveals the human elements it contains.

Like many of us today, prophets of the BOM would use the past to find strength to complete difficult tasks. When Nephi and his family face the monumental task of retrieving records from Laban, Nephi encourages his brothers by referring to stories from their common past, which happen to also be scripture. He says, "Let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither." He helps his brothers find strength from stories from the past and they gain the confidence to move forward.

Some prophets in the BOM show that they are learning lessons from the past. When Ammon is teaching King Lamoni about the existence of God, he makes a point to talk about their ancestors and the mistakes they fell into. The record states in Alma 18 that Ammon "rehearsed unto them concerning the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel...he expounded unto them all the records and scriptures from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem." I think it's interesting that among the gospel topics of the Creation, the Fall, and the Plan of Redemption, Ammon chose to include elements from his and King's own ancestral past. Their present conditions and traditions were deeply connected with the rebellions of Laman and Lemual, thus Ammon saw a connection that would allow them to learn from those past mistakes and move towards a more righteous and prosperous future.

All throughout the BOM we see references to the past. While these references fulfill a number of purposes, but they collectively represent the human element of being aware of and connected to our past.

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