Source:Rediscovering the Book of Mormon:Ch:6:4:Jacob and anxiety

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Jacob and anxiety

Jacob and anxiety

Like many sensitive people, Jacob did not preach harsh messages easily. Many times he openly shared his anxiety with his audience, as in the preface to his temple discourse discussed above. The structure of that sermon may also reflect his reluctance to speak harshly. He first addressed the relatively easy issue (pride) and then, reluctantly, moved to the "grosser crime," whoredoms (see Jacob 2:22-23).

When Jacob did speak, however, he spoke vividly and even eloquently. Notice the concrete words in the phrase: "Instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God [they] have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds" (Jacob 2:9; italics added). Or consider, "The sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God. . . . Many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds" (2:35; italics added). Here are strong words welded to strong feelings.

Jacob's ability to find concrete words for abstract spiritual experience is the hallmark of his style. Perhaps he learned it by feasting upon the "tender" words of his "trembling" father (see 1 Nephi 8:37; 2 Nephi 1:14), and then passed his style on to his son Enos. At any rate, when Enos recounted the spiritual wrestle and hunger that led to his guilt being swept away, it appears that Jacob's words had sunk deep into the boy's style as well as his soul (see Enos 1:2-6). Like Jacob, Enos also described the intangible through language drawn from the tangible.

Jacob's style is evident wherever his words appear. Even his sermon recorded in 2 Nephi, separated from the Book of Jacob by many chapters and many years, bears clear resemblance to his later temple discourse. Both sermons contain vivid, emotion-laden language. Both call upon the people to "awake" lest they become "angels of the devil"—a phrase unique to Jacob (2 Nephi 9:9, 47; Jacob 3:11). Both mention Jacob's desire to rid his garments of the people's blood and his consciousness of the Lord's "all-searching eye" (2 Nephi 9:44; Jacob 1:19; 2:2, 10). Likewise, Jacob prefaced two long scriptural quotations (one from Isaiah, the other from Zenos) by expressing his "anxiety" and his "over anxiety" for his audience (2 Nephi 6:3; Jacob 4:18). It is inconceivable to me that Joseph Smith could have invented such a subtle difference of style for Jacob and then remembered to use it so many chapters later as he rapidly dictated the translation.[1]


  1. John S. Tanner, "Jacob and His Descendents as Authors," in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co.; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), Chapter 6.