Sunday, June 11, 2017

An interesting topic shift in Nephi’s record


5 And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people.
6 Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.
7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels. (1 Nephi 19:5-7)

I am struck by these verses for a few reasons. First, because I am a writer myself, I know what it is like to write about the scriptures and then feel like others may not appreciate those things how I do. Even in the church I think we struggle against an inner lassitude about it. I wonder if it is common to not quite appreciate something in the scriptures unless you are in quite the right frame of mind or dealing with a challenge that a particular text touches on. Then there is an “Aha!” moment, and ever after it means something special.

Second, the way Nephi shifts from thinking about how his own writing might be rejected or set at naught to thinking about how the Messiah would suffer and be set at naught. He shifts pretty quickly between those two topics and spends so much time writing about that that I wonder if that was what he meant to spend time on in the first place or whether his thoughts were pulled there so strongly that he had to go at length. (Because he does go on for six more verses about the Messiah.)

At any rate, when I read this section and what follows, part of me starts thinking, “How did we get on this topic of prophecies of Christ from the topic of record-keeping?” But it shows how Nephi uses his own experiences and worries as jumping-off points to think about Christ, and that is a mentally sanctifying skill, I think. As we go through life, if in our trials we can think about how Christ experienced or suffered something similar, we can gain a greater sense that we can ask for Christ’s atonement to be applied in our behalf.

Third, I notice Nephi says he will give an account of making those plates, but I’m not sure he ever gets around to including that, just like we don’t get an extended account of how he builds the ship to get to the promised land. But the fact that he wanted to include an account of making the plates says that it must have been spiritually faith-promoting to him, with challenges to overcome, revelation gained, the way prepared by the Lord, and so on. He certainly couldn’t go out and buy them at the corner drugstore. He had to find ore (or buy it), melt it out, beat it into plates, pierce them, make rings to connect them, and engrave them.