Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Most Correct Book Doesn't Have to Be Totally Accurate

In the early stages of the Book of Mormon, Nephi says that is record is 'true', primarily because he wrote it with his own hand and was being honest in his recording.  Joseph Smith also said it was a "correct" book, but he didn't explain what he meant by that. 

I make that point largely because the authors of the Book of Mormon mention in multiple places that there are mistakes in it - and because it is, at the most basic level, a religio-biographical record written and compiled years after the fact.  Thus, it can be both "true" and "correct" (even "most correct") without having to be mistake-free.  That is true both of what it says and what we tend to read into it, and it is true of the conclusions and descriptions it presents - especially those that deal with people other than the authors and abridgers themselves. 

Just to illustrate that final point:

I think there are far more Lamans and Lemuels in the world than Nephis - at least in the sense that "God maketh no such things (panoramic visions of eternity) known unto [them]". Nephi comes across as a wonderful person who also probably was a spoiled youngest son in his early years, at least - and perhaps even bi-polar or prone to depression, based on 2 Nephi 4. I'm not sure Laman and Lemuel weren't normal, decent blokes in their pre-flight lives - who probably were consumed by jealousy of a favored younger brother. We accept that easily enough with regard to Joseph of Egypt and his coat of many colors, and we might not have the full story about Nephi and his family's internal tensions. 

I also see Lehi a bit differently than many people, and I think I understand Laman's and Lemuel's reaction toward Nephi as much more natural and perhaps unavoidable than most people do. In other words, I don't condemn them for how they reacted in their own situation. I don't "relate" to them, necessarily, but I am inclined to be very charitable toward them - especially since stories told in retrospect, explicitly to explain and justify separation and warfare, tend to be exaggerated, even if unintentionally. (For example, if they really did want to kill Nephi, they had tons of opportunities and were really bad at it.)

Hindsight actually isn't 20/20 - especially when quite a lot of time has passed. Our memories tend to construct what we want to remember - which is why even a "most correct" book doesn't have to be unbiased and totally "accurate"


Rich Alger said...


Howard said...

Good points!

Btw your prove you're not a robot posting routine is almost impossible to get through!