Thursday, July 28, 2011

What could I write more than my fathers have written?: A critique of Jarom and Omni

Between the Books of Jarom and Omni there is a regression that is detectible. Jarom says, “I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.” (Jarom 1:2) So he occupies his time writing about how others preached. It is interesting that he says, “it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts” (v3) but I get the feeling that he is unwilling to get involved because it seems like such a big job. (Perhaps this was the same attitude that he had about writing his prophecies on the plates; there is so much to do that he is overwhelmed.) Throughout his account he speaks as if from the outside, looking in on the preaching and prophesying because he declines to share his own with us.

This suddenly seems like it applies to me. I sometimes hesitate to start writing insight down when I get one that is so hefty I know it will take an hour to get it out. (I am not saying this to boast; I bet you all get your own monster insights that you chew on for days.)

In the next generation, Jarom’s son Omni admits that he himself is a wicked man and has not kept the commandments as he should have. (This makes me wonder if Jarom took the same approach to teaching Omni as he had with keeping the record—there was so much to teach that it was paralyzing, so he did less than he knew he should.) And Omni writes even less than Jarom does and says next to nothing about spiritual things among his people.

Omni’s son Amaron says merely that the wicked were destroyed according to the word of God, then passes the record to his brother Chemish. Chemish only says he’s keeping the record like everybody else and then he passes on the record to his son Abinadom. (Chemish writes like the plates are some sort of guest book that he is signing.) Abinadom drops the chilling false doctrine of sufficiency: “I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written.” (Omni 1:11) This is a new low point and it indicates how far gone the Nephites are. If no one knows of any revelation except what has already been written, they are in a very bad way.

Happily, the Lord yanks the record out of this dark pit in a single generation with Amaleki. A mere two verses later, Amaleki tells us of a splinter group led out of the land of Nephi by the first Mosiah with the word of God, with preaching, prophesying, and the power of the Lord’s arm. The gifts of the Spirit are back and the record is living again as a spiritual reservoir, as Amaleki views history through the lens of the gospel. But his spiritual exhortation lasts only two verses as he entreats his readers to believe in spiritual gifts and come to Christ to be saved; afterward he returns to recounting history.

So in Jarom and Omni, we see some people who occupied the plates with things of less importance. Thank goodness it only lasts two pages out of the whole book. Compare the measly unabridged writings in the Books of Jarom and Omni to the vast abridged records of Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, and Nephi, about the same number of generations! Alma’s weighty collection of writing shows us that contrary to Jarom’s assertion, more can be written besides what one’s fathers have written.

I have observed that when I don’t write down what happens, it is really hard for me to remember any of it at the end of the month. My husband writes a monthly account for a family newsletter on his side, and if we didn’t look at our calendar (or if I didn’t look at my journal), I really don’t think we would remember anything enough to write.

I suspect the record keepers of Jarom and Omni had this problem; they weren’t writing down things on more perishable media as it happened, so when they got to the end of their lives and found that they had to write something most important on the plates for the benefit of future generations, they had a very hard time without a consistent record of their own to pick the best from.

It seems that we have to have made our large plates before we can distill it down to the small plates.

Update: I put this in cue to post and then the Lord started to show me some things from the Book of Jarom that are special, so it seems I may have posted prematurely.

1) Jarom is the first book to use the term "plan of salvation." Before it is called "the merciful plan" or the "plan of our God" or "the plan of redemption," but Jarom gets the credit for recording this term by which we usually identify it.
2) Jarom points out that those who are not stiffnecked and have faith have communion w/ the Holy Ghost. It seems so simple, but it is true. So if we have faith and we aren't having communion with the Holy Ghost, there is some stiffneckedness that needs to be rooted out of our lives. (Hmm, I'm thinking that self-identifying our characteristics of stiffneckedness is worth its own post..)



Kimberly said...

I think I have a massive amount of large plates. Hopefully I'm as good at abridging as Alma and Mormon were.

thatgoodpart said...

I've always felt like there was a limited amount of space in the Small Plates, and that may have been a small part of the reason that there is so written by these prophets.

But, I also agree, that there is some kind of spiritual degradation happening, and we see it very clearly with Omni (however, I applaud his ability to openly admit his weakness - he recognizes his wickedness, and I often wonder if the act of writing this in the small plates led him to have an experience with God that he never had earlier)...(I mean, I don't think that he had to include an admission of his wickedness. He could have just left it out and we would never have known the difference. In any case, there seems to be a difference in devotion throughout Jarom and Omni - as you have mentioned.

I also agree with you - in that, if you don't write inspiration down while you are learning, often we lose the inspiration received. Writing can feel tedious, but I find that when I write and really think about what I'm learning, that is when it becomes a part of me.

Michaela Stephens said...

I wonder about Omni openly admitting his wickedness. I wonder if he then repented afterward or whether he just realized the wickedness at the end of his life. If so, that must have been painful. I hope he was able to use the atonement.