Book of Mormon Midterm Answers Part 1

I posted the questions last week. It’s taken me much longer than I thought to hunt down my references/handouts/links, so I’m breaking the answers into two parts.

1) Nephi says several times that knowing “the things of the Jews” can help us understand Isaiah. Similarly, the “things of the Jews” can help us understand the Book of Morm on. Briefly explain two specific examples of “things of the Jews” that help us understand either Isaiah or the Book of Mormon. (4 pts.)

We talked about lots of these in class. What’s interesting to me is immediately after declaring “the things of the Jews” to be the key, he also says he deliberately has “not taught [his] children after the manner of the Jews;” (2 Nephi 25:5-6)

2 a) How do we know that when Jacob and Joseph were ordained “priests and teachers” they were not being ordained to our Latter-day priesthood offices of priest and teacher?

2 b) Why then are they called teachers? (Handout, discussed in class. 4 pts.)

First, it’s anachronistic to read our modern priesthood divisions back into the scriptures willy-nilly. Even the way we have them today is highly variable and has changed. (See Hartley, W. G. (1996) “From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829-1996” Journal of Mormon History. vol. 22 no. 1) Second, I think Joseph Fielding Smith has the right reasoning; we ordain men to one office or another, not both. The plurality of the terms suggests something else is going on. This, I think, is an example of the epexegetical vav, basically a specific Hebrew grammar term for the use of an appositional noun (or clause) after the word “and” (w-, the “vav.”) Put in General Conference terms, this is President Monson’s “even,” in which a second clarifying/expanding term follows the first: Jesus, even the Christ. Jacob and Joseph were priests, even teachers, which takes us into part 2. Israelite priests were responsible for teaching the people Torah, moral and ritual law, for distinguishing between clean and unclean. Among other passages, 2Chr 15:3 refers to Israel being without a “teaching priest.” See my handout for references and quotes.

3) Explain two principles or reasons we can allow and account for the scriptures to contain errors. (Discussed in class several times, from several perspectives. 4 pts.)

First off, error is often in the mind of the beholder.

Second, for principles, I accepted a) Line Upon Line (new revelation can expand, contradict, or supplant old, handout. This is also a great talk on the topic, which I heard first when given as a SM sermon at the Jerusalem Center in ’99. ) b)We don’t believe in either inerrant scriptures OR inerrant prophets who are mere typewriters for divine communication. (Prophets are encultured, which entails messiness.) c) Translated Correctly. While the “translated correctly” principle is valid (either mistranslated or imperfectly transmitted from the “original” to us), it tends to get abused in common LDS thinking. Go to my post here and read the section about Theological Diversity. (And see my series here on why Bible translations differ, which I haven’t quite finished yet.) Other answers possible.

4) Nephi says that we are “saved by grace after all that we can do.” What else does the Book of Mormon say that clarifies what this means? (class discussion, 3 pts.)

Here I was looking for a reference oft-overlooked in grace discussions, 2 Nephi 10:24 “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.” It’s the same author and same time period, so it’s unlikely the term would have shifted much. This suggests Nephi equated “all we can do” with “be[ing] reconciled to God.” How do we do that? We submit to his will, which begins by making a covenant of baptism and then abiding by the terms of that covenant, which do not include perfection, but have regular repentance and covenant renewal built in to the system. See handout of references, which I’ve used in several classes. Edit: see comments.

Edit:see comments.
5) The 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon differs significantly from our 1981 version in its arrangement. Indicate which things were part of the 1830 edition (and thus presumably on the plates themselves) by crossing out those things that were not in the 1830 edition. Example- The topical guide (3 pts.)

a) Our current chapter divisions. Had divisions but they were often substantially longer. The numbering was added. See handout.
b) Chapter headings under the chapter number (for example, under “Chapter 1-Nephi begins the record…”) These have been added.
c) Chapter headings above the chapter number (above Alma 17, for example, excluding the phrase “comprising chapters….”) These were on the plates.
d) Verse divisions. Added by Orson Pratt in 1879 and retained today.
e) Footnotes. First added by Orson Pratt in 1879, but completely revised.
f) Book headings (“An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah, and his four sons… ”)

On this kind of thing, see the nice little free volume here.

6) Generally speaking, who was responsible for the spelling, punctuation, and capitalization of the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon? (1 pt.)

a) God, who wrote the whole thing.
b) Joseph Smith.
c) The printer Egbert B. Grandin and his assistants. [ Egbert’s parents weren’t terribly kind with that name. I supposed he could have gone by his middle name, Bratt. Lose-lose.]
d) Obadiah Dogberry
e) Oliver Cowdery

It was Egbert, who refused to publish a book without punctuation, as it was delivered to him, “on foolscap paper closely written and legible, but not a punctuation mark from beginning to end.” Given that ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, Egyptian (and to my knowledge, ancient American languages) have no punctuation or capitalization and different sentence structure, we can sometimes get a different understanding of the text by re-punctuating, paragraphing, etc. Grant Hardy has a good example of this. Another is the name/title which appears in shorter and longer forms, e.g. “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth” etc. (Mosiah 3:8). We should probably repunctuate with an extra comma, as “Jesus, Christ, ” as Christ/Messiah is part of the title, not name. Unless it’s a gloss added by Mormon and/or Joseph Smith.

7) Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by means of:

a) The spirit and power of God.
b) The Nephite “interpreters” (Mosiah 8:13).
c) The seer stone.
d) No physical instrument at all.
e) All of the above.
f) None of the above.
g) A-C of the above.

All of the above. Joseph apparently favored the seer stone (handout), as the Nephite interpreters were set slightly farther apart than his eyes were, causing fatigue. Eventually, he needed neither to translate. I suspect they functioned like spiritual training-wheels; once he learned how to do what he was doing, he didn’t need them anymore. He said as much to Oliver Cowdery and perhaps some others. (See here, particularly footnote 22 and 23)

8) The New Testament tells us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) while the Book of Mormon tells us that “he that hath the spirit of contention is not of [God], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29) How would you resolve this apparent contradiction? (Class discussion, handout, assignment. 4 pts.)

[I kid you not, I once had this pointed out to me as one of the stronger contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, thereby proving the Book of Mormon false. I asked this as the alternate, on a different exam. “The Book of Mormon mentions “wonderful contentions” (Alma 2:5). Explain what specific steps you would take to find out what is probably meant by this phrase, and make a suggestion as to its meaning.”]

Both of these draw on our discussion about how to understand words. (Handout.) This is a much bigger problem than most people realize, whether dealing solely with English or with Greek and Hebrew. We could look up “contend” in a 1611 dictionary (OED), or look up the Greek word it’s translating, and see that it simply means something like “strive in favor of”, which is not the same as “argue violently”. Wonderful in JS’ day simply meant, “Adapted to excite wonder or admiration; exciting surprise; strange; astonishing” according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary. Of course, we need to exercise caution in using dictionaries. See the chapters by Faulconer, “Historical English Dictionaries” and “Doing Bible Research without Knowing Hebrew or Greek” from the great little volume Scripture Study: Tools and Suggestions. The one thing you can rarely do without going astray is looking up a word in a modern dictionary, since they give today’s usage, not that at the time of translation. And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sins of word study; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.

9) Discuss both the original historical context and secondary fulfillment of 2 Nephi 17 (Isaiah 7), using names and dates where possible. Use the back if necessary. (Handout, discussed in class, reading assignment. 6 pts.)

Necessarily brief treatment. Isaiah 7:14 has the “behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall call his name Immanuel” passage, but few people have ever read it in context. For full points, students needed a brief summary of the Syro-Ephraimite war c. 734 BCE, king Ahaz, Assyria, and Tiglath-Pileser. Very briefly, two northern kings (Syria and Ephraim/Israel) threatened the south (Judah) with war, unless it joined them in rebellion against Assyria. King Ahaz, caught between a rock and a hard place, receives some meager comfort from Isaiah, who offers a prophecy that before this unborn kid in the court knows enough to distinguish good from evil, Syria and Ephraim will be destroyed. Matthew later reappropriates part of this prophecy in Matt 1:23. (Beyond here, it’s complicated and probably deserves its own post, since my own view is apparently idiosyncratic.)

For the following three questions, do not use your scriptures, and don’t revise your answer after using your scriptures on the other questions.

10) Who is Amulon? (2 points) Basic question. Amulon is the leader of Noah’s renegade priests.

11) Who is Sherem? (2 points) One of three anti-Christs in the book of Mormon, in Jacob 7.

12) Extra Credit question: Six women in the Book of Mormon are mentioned by name (i.e. “daughter of Jared” doesn’t count.) Without using your scriptures at all, name the four other than Sariah and Eve. (1/2 pt each)

Sarah (Abraham’s wife, in 2 Nephi 8:2), Abish (Alma 19:16), Mary (1 Nephi 7 a short form of Miriam), Isabel (Alma 39:3 likely a version of Jezebel, which is spelled ‘iyzebel in Hebrew).

13) don’t know what happened to this question.

14) Does the Book of Mormon contain democratic elections with each person voting? Briefly explain your answer. (3 pts)

Can’t find my specific reference for this, so I’d have to word it differently. We probably have tribal elders appointing judges (speculative but likely), whose positions are then handed down patrilineally (clear from the text). Not really a modern democratic republic. In fact, in many ways, the Book of Mormon runs counter to certain modern political ideals. In this article, for example, Richard Bushman “demonstrates that most of the principles associated with the American Revolution and even the Constitution are slighted in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is “strangely distant” from the time and place of its publication. Bushman traces the roots of the Nephite political order to Old World precedents—namely the Hebrew tradition and ancient forms of monarchy.”

15) I am receiving money to teach the Gospel. LDS apostles also receive money for preaching the gospel. Given Nephi’s definition of priestcraft in 2 Nephi 26:29 [“priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.”], how do you judge if someone is practicing priestcraft? On what basis do you know *I* am not practicing priestcraft? (class discussion, 3 pts)

The crux of priestcraft is hypocrisy, appearing to seek the welfare of Zion but actually pursing prestige and/or money. It’s quite difficult to judge motives clearly, though I grant in some rare cases, I’d be comfortable labeling something priestcraft. Paul was pretty clear that apostles had a right to be supported by their churches, citing both Jesus and Deuteronomy to that extent in 1Co 9; he also makes clear that he rarely (if ever) made use of that right.

16) What is epistemology? (Secondary reading, class discussion. 2 pts)

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, or how you know what you know. I learned about it from this philosophical (consider the source) Ensign article on Korihor, on my mission. Becoming aware of this tends to make one aware of one’s own assumptions and those of the writers and editors in the scriptures, changing how we read them a bit.

17) People of Alma vs. people of Zeniff. If there is no explicit doctrine in these passages except for that preached by Abinadi, why does Mormon take up valuable plate space to tell us these two stories? In other words, what purpose does Mormon have in relating them to us and what does he want us to get out of them? (class discussion, 4 pts) [Alternate phrasing- “How are the stories of the deliverance of Limhi’s people and Alma’s people similar and different? What purpose can these stories serve if the only “doctrine” in these chapters is in Abinadi’s speech to the wicked priests?”]

I appear to have lost my nice chart I made, so I’ll summarize and perhaps remake it and revisit this question later. First, I wanted students to quit thinking about scripture as a doctrinal handbook that has unfortunately been cluttered up with story and culture getting in the way, being stuff we have to filter out to extract True Doctrine. Often times we miss the point by looking in the micro, looking for explicit doctrine in a line or two, instead of in the macro. (Both James Faulconer and Peter Enns have made this point, but don’t ask me where at the moment.) In the macro, these stories teach the Atonement. Both stories involve captivity, one “merited,” the other through no fault of their own. Both groups are eventually delivered by God’s power once they turn to him. (Really, this is a good comparison when it’s laid out neatly.) Sometimes Mormon says “and thus we see” in order to draw out a lesson. Other times, as in this case, the lesson is taught by the structure of the text, shaped by Mormon’s editorial choices, placing this story next to that story, and meant to teach us a very basic thing. Like the peoples of Alma and Zeniff, we are all captive in one way or another, sometimes through our own poor choices, other times through circumstances beyond our control. Regardless of how we got into it, the way out of it is to turn to God, repent, and we will be delivered. If there be any doctrine purer, sweeter, or more true than that, I can’t imagine what it is.

9 comments for “Book of Mormon Midterm Answers Part 1

  1. Niklas
    June 28, 2012 at 2:10 am

    I never like exams, but I’d like a course with this kind of exam. If your students were capable of answering to these questions correctly, they really had learned quite a lot.

    Please, write a post on Isaiah 7:14. I am one of the few people who never have read it in context.

  2. JKC
    June 28, 2012 at 8:18 am

    On question 4, isn’t it Jacob speaking in 2 Ne. 2:10, while it is Nephi speaking in 2 Ne. 25:23? I think your point is a good one, and these two verses should be read together, but I don’t think it’s technically accurate to say that it is the same author (unless, of course, you mean to refer to Nephi as the author of the statement attributed to Jacob because of his role in creating the record, or unless you mean to refer to Mormon as the author of both statements because of his role in compiling the record).

    In any event, I think it is also important, and consistent with your larger point about grace, to look at Alma 24:11, where Lamoni’s brother (or Mormon, by choosing to include this passage, using very similar language to that expressed by Nephi) implicitly addresses Nephi’s “all we can do” statement by defining “all we could do” as “to repent of all our sins . . ., and to get God to take them away from our hearts.”

  3. Ben S
    June 28, 2012 at 8:32 am

    You’re right, jkc. Since I misplaced my answer sheets, I’ve been rewriting these all from memory, and didn’t check that, thanks. Our two speakers are still very close together. Generally speaking, the further apart two statements, the less likely they are to be using terms in the exact same way. So, even though they all say “grace” in English, hypothetically, a 400b Nephite statement, a 50 AD grecoroman 2nd temple Judaism statement, and a 1800s frontier America statement will likely differ somewhat in their conception.

    Mormon doesn’t play in here, since were dealing with (as Mormon reports) the unedited Small Plates.

    Alma 24:11 is listed on my grace handout, but I would have accepted that one as well.

  4. June 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Very nice, Ben — thanks for posting this.

  5. Kimbooly
    August 16, 2012 at 12:56 am

    In question 1, Why would Nephi be so specific to tell us that knowing/understanding Jewish culture and historic context is key to understanding words of Isaiah & Book of Mormon, yet immediately specify that he did NOT teach these things to his kids? I think I may have an answer, but I’d love to hear your take.

    Thanks so much for posting this midterm and the answers. It’s much appreciated from internet mormons who have long since graduated from college. It’s like we get to audit your class, but really a more condensed version via what you asked to assess what your students learned this term.

  6. ian
    August 24, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Ben, you talk about teaching the gospel and being paid.  You are paid by BYU not the church?  Secondly the Apostles are not paid by the church.  They give there income to the church then they split it evenly among them.   I don’t see that they are paid by the church.  They paid with their own money.

    Please clarify what i have wrong.

  7. Ben S.
    August 24, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Hi Ian.
    Sure, BYU signed my check. But you’re going to have a hard time arguing that BYU money is not a subset of Church money.

    Secondly, I’m not aware of any evidence that Apostles donate all their money to the Church upon being called. What’s your source?

    It’s sometimes said that we have no paid clergy, which isn’t quite accurate. Rather, we have a non-professional clergy; one cannot choose it as a profession, and most people in the Church do not receive any financial support. However, Apostles (and some others) DO receive money from the Church, as a living stipend. See President Hinckley’s statement in General Conference, for example, cited here.

    1 Corinthians 9 is also pretty clear that Apostles have a right to depend on those to whom they preach for their livelihood (though Paul rarely if ever made use of it), but we tend not to read that chapter.

    Kimbooly, I think Nephi had a negative view of Jerusalem and the Israelite culture, and hoped that in leaving that out, their negatives would not get “imported” into the promised land.

  8. ian
    August 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

    So they don’t live the law of consercation? I was always taught from a little kid that they do, the quorum of the 12 and 1st presdancy that is. That would be stipen but it would equally divided amoung them. I have been doing a lot of reseach on this to help answer my wifes questions. I keep finding mix answers on this.

  9. Ben S.
    August 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I don’t think they do, and I haven’t seen any evidence they do, financially.

    That said, their lives are not their own anymore. I don’t know if there’s any higher form of the law of consecration than that.

Comments are closed.