Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part III

Continuing with the questionable FARMS website comments about the Land of Promise and the people there, the third point was covered in the last post and the following starts with their fourth point.

4. “The broadest societal category in the Book of Mormon is Lamanite, treated in the prophecies as including the "remnant" seed of Laman, Lemuel, and Ishmael, to whom particular promises had been made. Yet those same promises were extended also to others besides direct descendants.”

First, the “broadest societal category” would be the Nephites for they involved more groups than the Lamanites. However, this statement is meant to include all those who would come to the Land of Promise at any time and lumping them into the category of Lamanite. Thus, Columbus, the Spanish conquerors, the Europeans, the “Americans” who founded the U.S., are all being lumped into the category of Lamanite according to this statement (see #5 below).

Second. The Lord did not promise all these groups simultaneously as this suggests. The key phrase in any covenant between man and God is “IF.” In this case, the “if” had to do with Lehi’s descendants remaining faithful and righteous. “Inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land” (2 Nephi 1:9). Now who did the Lord bring out of Jerusalem? Lehi and his family, Ishmael and his family, Zoram, and the Mulekites who were probably on the way. At the particular moment Lehi is speaking to his extended family, he is primarily addressing Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael—all of whom the Lord brought out of Jerusalem and who Lehi had seen in a vision would fall away and eventually destroy the rest of his posterity. By inference, he is also referring to the future “Nephites” made up of Nephi’s, Sam’s, and Zoram’s descendants (all called Nephites), and the Mulekites who later joined with, and became known as, Nephites, all of whom Lehi knew their descendants would fall away and be destroyed by his (Lamanite) posterity. Like any righteous parent, he is trying to keep all that from happening by prophesying a warning to his and Ishmael’s wayward sons.

5. “The words of Lehi's promise in 2 Nephi 1:5 refer not only to his elder sons' literal biological descendants but also to "all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord."

This is a (self-serving) misunderstanding. Lehi is not talking about some other people besides those he had seen in a vision and Nephi later saw, which were Columbus, the Spanish and the Europeans (1 Nephi 13:12-13). The point here is that Lehi, having already seen that his descendants would fight one another (1 Nephi 12:14-15) and all fall away and dwindle in unbelief, is trying to stem that tide in the beginning by talking to Laman, Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to warn them of the path they are taking and its long-term result. Lehi already knows that the Gentiles will eventually come to his Land of Promise and that his descendants will become “scattered and smitten” by them. This is the same vision Nephi later saw (1 Nephi 11:1) when he wanted to see what his father had seen (1 Nephi 11:3), using the same language Lehi had used of “scattered and smitten” (1 Nephi 13:14).

6. “No one, Lehi added in pronouncing his blessings, would come into his promised land unless they were "brought by the hand of the Lord" (v. 6), so "this land [would be] consecrated unto him [everybody] whom he shall bring" (v. 7).

Again, this is not the meaning of the verses quoted. Lehi is verifying his earlier statement about the Lord’s promise to him, saying once again that “there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord” (2 Nephi 1:6), meaning those of his and Ishmael’s family, Zoram, and the Mulekites. To all of these, the land is consecrated. Now, “if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them” (2 Nephi 1:7)—that is, if those present and their descendants serve the Lord and keep his commandments, the land will remain a place of liberty to them. Again, Lehi knows they will not—so he tells them that the land will not remain a land of liberty for them “because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever” (2 Nephi 1:7).

(See the next post, “Who Were the Nephites and the Lamanites? Part IV,” for more of these comments and responses)

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