Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Author's Touch: Revised Edition

The Book of Mormon was not written by perfect people, and it certainly wasn't written by perfect authors with respects to story development and conventional literary knowledge. However, some of the red herring details have actually strengthened my testimony.

For example, in 1 Nephi 2:6, Nephi describes himself as being "exceedingly young, nevertheless being of large stature" before diving into his anxiety to know the truth from God. Why would Nephi mention his size in relation to his age and its connection to his spiritual disposition? I had a friend once who read Nephi's writings as if Nephi had an unrestrained ego, but that is not what I read here. I see a man giving a simple detail of interest to better allow the reader to picture and understand him. It would be similar to me saying, "I, Nick, being exceedingly young and a little less coordinated than your average teenager." These little details, for me, are glimpses into a man who actually lived, and an author who (perhaps without much thought or literary foresight) simply described a cardinal attribute about himself that he considered indistinguishable from a full depiction of himself.

Another instance of an author's signature can be seen in Alma 24. This account relates the story of the Anti-Nephi-Lehis (a complicated name to begin with). After vowing with God to never draw their swords again in battle, they are met and exterminated by the Lamanites. The slaughter has the effect of humbling the Lamanites, which the author explains as follows:

"And thus we see that, when these Lamanites were brought to believe and to know the truth, they were firm, and would suffer even unto death rather than commit sin; and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace."

The last phrase may catch the attentive reader off guard. The term "weapons of peace" is not one we commonly see in scripture, especially in relation to a group abandoning its previous engagement in warfare. This may be an editorial mistake, and perhaps an indication of how hard it is to erase mistakes when writing in stone rather than paper, but it could also account for a very peculiar style of authorship. I personally like the amendment, because the author catches himself in describing "weapons of peace," realizing that the point of the story is that warfare does not bring the same peace that diplomacy and repentance are capable of.

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