Sunday, January 28, 2018

Nephi Flees for His Life -- 2 Nephi 5

What Happens

"The Nephites separate themselves from the Lamanites, keep the law of Moses, and build a temple—Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cut off from the presence of the Lord, are cursed, and become a scourge unto the Nephites."
2 Nephi 5 Chapter Heading


In our last episode, Lehi died and Laman and Lemuel were getting mad at Nephi for preaching to them.  Pretty par for the course in our story so far.  However, this chapter starts out with them getting so angry that, as Nephi puts it, "they did seek to take away my life" (verse 2).  This definitely isn't the first time this has happened, but something is different this time--perhaps the calming influence of their father, or the fact that there is no longer a higher authority to go to beyond the brothers themselves--and the Lord warns Nephi that he needs to "flee" (verse 5), along with anyone that will go with him.

Verse 6 lists some of the people that went with Nephi, including Zoram, Sam, Jacob, Joseph, and interestingly "also my sisters."  I think that is the only place that it specifically even mentions that Nephi has sisters, even though of course there is a lot of speculation about the subject.

So, they leave and go someplace else, and they call the new place the land of Nephi, and themselves the people of Nephi.  Thus the huge generation-spanning rift that echoes throughout the whole Book of Mormon begins.  Or rather, I suppose that it began much earlier, since that sibling bond had been eroding for a while, but this is the breaking point where they really become two different people, and later we hear all kinds of stories about this central split, because the two different groups raise their children to believe that it happened for very different reasons, but since we are reading about it now, it is a good thing to remember later that Nephi left because God warned him to flee.  ... Incidentally, the same reason that Lehi left Jerusalem in the first place.

We learn in verse 12 that Nephi has brought along the brass plates and the Liahona.  I'm sure that he had more need of both than people who had chosen not to heed the word of the Lord, but leaving the Lamanites without the scriptures, when the journey back to retrieve them was a dramatic event in all of their lives is huge, likely exacerbating the rift.   Not at all that I think Nephi should have or could have made a different choice here.   Just, you don't miss the scriptures until you don't have them anymore, and it becomes pretty easy to dwindle in unbelief.  But of course, God felt compassion for their state as well, and that's why he sends missionaries out to them in later chapters. :)

Nephi also brought along the sword of Laban (verse 14) and he makes many copies of it, thinking ahead and realizing that the rift will lead to violence.

In verse 16, Nephi builds a temple.  That's an important addition, essential to their spiritual lives.  I don't know if they had left one behind with the Lamanites as well, but it's possible.  This is an important tradition that doesn't always get mentioned, but significantly when Christ appears to these people (hundreds of years after this point), it is to a group that have gathered around a temple... so clearly this tradition was maintained through many, many generations as the people followed God and stayed true to his teachings.

God curses the Lamanites, and tells them not to mix, or they will receive the same cursing (verse 23).  This is an interesting direction, and indicates that God might have been concerned about contact between the groups having a corrupting influence rather than an edifying influence... the way he asked the Israelites under Moses to not mix with the other nations that were already in the land, because they would tend to start following idols and not stay true to him when they did.  Maybe we have to work our way up and be a lot more solid before we are ready to do missionary work, rather than allowing ourselves to be swayed.  ... Or maybe it was still too early for contact to result in anything better than violence.

In verse 26, Nephi consecrates his younger brothers to be priests and teachers, and in the very next verse it says "And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness."  That's a pretty cool statement, and I think there is a connection there.  Happiness goes hand-in-hand with choosing to follow God.  Things aren't always going to go right, and we won't always escape pain, but every single thing in God's plan is meant to lead us to goodness and happiness, and when we follow him, we're on that path, and that is our inevitable destination, even if we aren't there every second. :)

At the end of the chapter Nephi talks about keeping records, and about God commanding him to make a separate record (the plates that we are reading from in translation).  We *also* learn that there have already been "wars and contentions" with the Lamanites (verse 34), so in the space of 20 verses the swords that Nephi made had been used several times, and perhaps the curse that was laid upon the Lamanites helped the Nephites stay alive, since the possibility of infiltration would be very low.

Tune in next time when we get to read some things written by Jacob, Nephi's little brother, and begin our interlude into a lot of Isaiah. :)

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