FAIR Study Aids/Gospel Doctrine/Book of Mormon/Lesson Eight

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A FairMormon Analysis of:
Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual

Lesson 8: O How Great the Goodness of Our God

Lesson #8- Sunday School Manual: O How Great the Goodness of Our God

1. Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ offers redemption from temporal death and spiritual death. (2 Nephi 9:1-26)

Helpful Insights

Structure of 2 Nephi 9:

  • Jacob explains the Resurrection and the Jugement (1-16)
  • A Hymn to the Holy One of Israel (17-24)
  • The Law and the First Wo (25-27)
  • Nine More Woes (28-38)
  • Jacob Exhorts His People to Remember (39-54
    • (Structure according to Grant Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition)

Jacob's Sermon: 2 Nephi 6-10 is a sermon by Nephi's younger brother Jacob given at the instruction of Nephi (2 Nephi 6:4). This sermon is inserted into the text by Nephi with no warning, and immediately follows Nephi's conclusion of his family's journey and the eventual tragic division of the family into "Nephites" and "Lamanites". It may be that Nephi felt that Jacob's sermon appropriately addressed some of the challenges that Nephi's community was facing. Jacob begins his sermon by quoting Isaiah and commenting on the meaning of it. In chapter 6 Jacob reveals that God has told him that Jerusalem has been destroyed, but that Israel will be gathered again, both in that century and again at the Messiah's second coming. Chapters 7-8 are direct quotations of Isaiah 50-52:2.

Jacob "Read" His Sermon: In 2 Nephi 9:1 Jacob notes that he "read" Isaiah to his audience. The custom among ancient Jews was to stand and read from the scriptures in the synagogue. Jacob's sermon was originally delivered orally, and perhaps only later written down either by Jacob or by Nephi.

The Occasion of Jacob's Sermon: An Israelite Festival: LDS scholar John S. Thompson has examined the thematic elements and textual structure of Jacob's sermon and concluded that it fits the ancient Near Eastern covenant/treaty pattern. This pattern consists of a six-part form: Preamble, Historical Overview and Covenant Speech Proper, Stipulations of the Covenant or Treaty, Cursings and Blessings, Witness Formula, and Recording of the Contract. Thompson found all of these elements in Jacob's sermon. He notes, "Basing their arguments on covenant/treaty forms found in the biblical text, Gerhard von Rad and others have concluded that the Israelites periodically held a covenant-renewal ceremony during the Feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot). Hence, the presence of this structure in Jacob's sermon may also suggest the possibility that he gave his covenant speech during this festival as well."

  • John S. Thompson, "Isaiah 50-51, the Israelite Autumn Festivals, and the Covenant Speech of Jacob in 2 Nephi 6-10," in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald Parry and John Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 124-125.

Potential Criticisms

Is Hell Eternal?: Jacob describes the fate of the wicked as being "everlasting fire...a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever and has no end." Some may wonder whether this means hell is eternal. However, the Lord clarified in D&C that hell is not eternal except in the sense that "Eternal" is a name for God, and so "Eternal punishment" is "God's punishment" on the wicked.

Omniscience of God: What does Jacob mean when he says that God "knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it?". There are varying perspectives among Latter-day Saints regarding the nature of God's knowledge.

Faith Affirmations

"The Divine Warrior": Jacob draws upon ancient conceptions of Jehovah as a "divine warrior", a perspective unfamiliar to many modern people, but which was familiar in ancient Israel. Jacob explores how God will fight for Israel and at last Israel will find peace through its covenant relationship with Jehovah. This sermon comes at a time of confusion for the Nephites, who had split from their family (the Lamanites, who were now their enemies) and were finding that the Promised Land was not quite as heavenly as they had hoped.

Death and Hell as Monsters: In describing the power of God Jacob explains that God rescues men "from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell". This conception of death and hell as "monsters" echoes some ancient ideas that existed among the Canaanites and Israelites about death. God was conceptualized as fighting against, and conquering, cosmic forces which often took the form of monsters. Similar ideas are also found in Paul's "participationist" model of salvation in which sin is a cosmic power which Jesus defeats. Comparable imagery can also be founds in Mesoamerica, where many scholars believe the Book of Mormon events took place.

  • "The Personification of Death and Hell", in Testaments: Links Between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible" by David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes, Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2004
  • Brant Gardner, "Second Witness", vol 2, pg. 163-174
  • Bart Ehrman, "A Brief Introduction to the New Testament", pg. 266-268, http://www.us.oup.com/us/companion.websites/0195161238/studentresources/chapter16/?view=usa
  • John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1985), pg. 59, 187-188.

2. Certain attitudes and actions prevent us from receiving all the blessings of the Atonement. (2 Nephi 9:)

Helpful Insights

3. The Lord remembers His covenants with His people. (2 Nephi 10:)

Helpful Insights

A "Righteous Branch": Throughout Chapter 10, Jacob uses the passages of Isaiah as a framework, declaring the Nephites to be a "righteous branch" among scattered Israel.

The Way of Death and the Way of Life: Jacob echoes the teachings of his father, saying "that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life." (2 Nephi 10:23). This a common theme throughout Jacob's sermon, and also in other texts in the Book of Mormon, and studying these teachings can yield important insights about our agency and the atonement of Christ.

Potential Criticisms

The Name of Christ: 2 Nephi 10:3 uses the Greek title "Christ" which Jacob says was a "name" revealed to him by an angel. It is claimed that since Christ is Greek in origin and not a name but a title, this passage is mistaken and anachronistic. The Greek "Christ" has the same meaning as the Hebrew "Messiah" (both mean "anointed one") and "Christ" would be an acceptable English translation of the title. In Hebrew, the word shem is used for both "name" and "title".

Crucifixion: 2 Nephi 10:5 says that Christ will be "crucified." some say that since crucifixion is a Roman form of execution, it is anachronistic for Jacob to know about it. The word "crucified" may itself be a result of translation, while Jacob may have simply said something equivalent to "killed." Nonetheless, death by crucifixion was actually known by more than just the Romans. The Egyptians, Cathaginians, Persians, Assyrians, Scythians, Indians, and Germans all used the method of execution. It has been known at least as early as the fifth century BC, and some scholars believe that Deuteronomy 21:22-23 makes reference to crucifixion. If that is true, then is it quite possible that Jacob would have known of the method from the brass plates.

  • See Brant A. Gardner, Second Witness, vol. 1, pg. 184-185.