Thursday, October 23, 2014

Alma 48

(October 23, 2014)
                To understand this idea, I have to detail a basic idea of how I mark my scriptures.  I include underlines with various colors for personal application of the scriptures, brackets of various colors for the topic of the scriptures, and a vertical line for the type of scriptural discourse (psalm, storyline, editorial comment, parable, prophecy, words of the Godhead, etc.).  

                This pattern has been working quite well for some time, and in particular there are very few times I really need to think about what vertical line I need to use – and when I do need to think about it, it serves the very purpose of marking my scriptures (causing me to pay close attention to the text to identify exactly what is being said and by whom and why).

                All of that changes in one section of the Book of Mormon, though – the writings of the prophet Helaman as edited by Mormon.  I don’t know exactly the reason why, but Helaman’s writings edited by Mormon almost defy any attempt to differentiate between storyline and editorial comment.  I suppose it could be because the great amount of editorial comment included in Helaman’s writings, but I really doubt that.  Instead, I think that Helaman was self-depreciating to a point that became problematic for Mormon as an editor, so a substantial portion of Helaman’s writings needed to be edited in light of what Mormon knew (the signs are there, if you look).

                But the reasons why aren’t really the reasons I bring this up.  Instead, the reasons I bring this up is the sheer fact that when we pass from one writer in the Book of Mormon (Alma) to another (Helaman), the text changes so much that it is impossible to ignore.  Not changes that can only be detected by wordprint studies or similar metrics, but detected by a simple test of trying to discern whether a particular line contains storyline content or editorial comments.  Once again, this is something that I could not imagine Joseph Smith had the capacity or inclination to fabricate.

                While on the subject of the writers of various parts of the scriptures, it is interesting to me to see Helaman praising Moroni for his virtue and moral character.  Then we see Mormon intervene in what can only be described as an editorial on the editorial highlighting the virtues of Helaman (another reason why I believe that Helaman was self-depricating and Mormon was trying to rectify that).

                I had two other thoughts on this chapter.  The first were on the manner in which the Nephites were able to prosper – by staying close to the Lord they were able to discern when to flee and when to prepare for war.  I am in a situation where many people are telling me to flee, but I am not certain what the Lord wants from me.  I am preparing for war (metaphorically – fighting with towards a goal rather than against), but I am constantly seeking the Lord’s guidance on whether He wants me to prepare for war or to flee.  And, most importantly, I am clinging to the Lord’s promise that if I am called to prepare for war he will let me know how to defend myself (as He promised the Nephites).

                Finally, the response of the Nephites to the destruction of the Lamanites is instructive.  The Nephites knew the suffering the Lamanites would experience in the event that they went to war.  They knew (and lamented) that the Lamanites would be entering the next world unprepared.  But the Nephites also knew that what they were doing was necessary for the protection of their family and children.  In a similar way, I am in a position where I am trying to avoid a course of action that would bring a great deal of pain and heartache to someone, but that very person at times seems committed to taking the course that will lead them to pain and heartache.  I wish that I could help them to avoid that result, and it breaks my heart to see the choices this person is making, but ultimately it has to be each and every one of us who decide for ourselves.  As much as I might regret seeing the pain these decisions bring about, I have to make the correct decision in line with the Lord and what is best for my children and rely on the Lord to take care of the rest.

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