Monday, April 25, 2011

Understanding Scripture Is Not As Easy As It Seems

I read ancient stories and try to understand why they happened as they are recorded as having happened, but that doesn’t mean I am trying to insert meaning into the text that fits my own preconceived notions. It only means I’m trying to understand by parsing the text, considering the context and looking for the bigger picture that makes the most sense.

Lionizing someone and demonizing someone else (creating two-dimensional caricatures) rarely yields answers that actually work in many three-dimensional situations. How might we view Nephi without II Nephi 4 (where Nephi expresses pain and anguish over his weaknesses) - without wondering what caused his DEEP anguish in that chapter? I like to consider the family dynamic of a youngest son who insisted on leading his family and rebuking his older brothers as I try to understand the record that youngest brother recorded.

I wonder about a lot of things, because I know I don’t know much - and I look for things that will help me understand and be more compassionate (less judgmental) toward others. For example, was Lehi a traveling merchant - as Nibley believed? If so, was he gone for long periods of time while the older kids were growing up and, therefore, never developed a close relationship with his older boys? Was he retired by the time Nephi was a very young man, and did he dote on him like Jacob doted on Joseph? Did the tension among the brothers go deeper than just an easy “good guy / bad guy” stereotype?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I think they are worth considering.


Anthony E. Larson said...

You're right. It can be tough. And while I don't know much about the interpersonal dynamic you touch on, I do know something about ancient history that brings a whole new aspect to most ancient scripture. You may wish to check it out.

adam said...

Interesting thoughts... Applying my experience with family therapy, it is a mistake to blame L&L for everything. Sure, they all (Nephi, Lehi, etc. included) have some responsibility, but poor family outcomes and bad choices by individual members are often made more likely or facilitated by what happens between the family members. It's a shared problem.

Sam said...

Also, our understanding of Nephi is shaped by the fact that he wrote the record - had Sam written the record, we might have gotten a slightly different perspective.