About Brant A. Gardner

Brant A. Gardner (M.A. State University of New York Albany) is the author of Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon and The Gift and Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, both published through Greg Kofford Books. He has contributed articles to Estudios de Cultura Nahuatl and Symbol and Meaning Beyond the Closed Community. He has presented papers at the FairMormon conference as well as at Sunstone.

Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 19:1-21

Chapter 19 is not a separate chapter in the 1830 edition. However, in the 1830 edition, the chapter V in which it is included ends where we have verse 21. Because that was an original chapter break, I am looking at chapter 19 only up to verse 21 to have the opportunity of looking at why Nephi would make the decision to break the chapter at that point.

1 Ne. 18:25 And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.

1 Ne. 19:1 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded me, wherefore I did make plates of ore that I might engraven upon them the record of my people. And upon the plates which I made I did engraven the record of my father, and also our journeyings in the wilderness, and the prophecies of my father; and also many of mine own prophecies have I engraven upon them.

I have added the last verse of our chapter 18 to the beginning of 19 to restore the sense in which Nephi intended us to see those two ideas. Nephi brought his narrative to the New World and gave an almost formulaic account of their arrival. They came, the found what they needed to survive, and they found “all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper.” Finding the gold, silver and copper should not be of the same survival importance of finding animals “for the use of men.” Nevertheless, it does fit into the context of exploring their new land and finding things that would be important to them. Continue reading

Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 18

Our chapter 18 is not a separate chapter in the 1830 edition.

1 And it came to pass that they did worship the Lord, and did go forth with me; and we did work timbers of curious workmanship. And the Lord did show me from time to time after what manner I should work the timbers of the ship.

2 Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men.

3 And I, Nephi, did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things.

4 And it came to pass that after I had finished the ship, according to the word of the Lord, my brethren beheld that it was good, and that the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine; wherefore, they did humble themselves again before the Lord.

This is the conclusion to the problem of building the ship. The aftermath of the conflict was temporary reconciliation that allowed the construction of the ship. The point of these verses is to verify that Yahweh was directing the project. Nephi underscores that Yahweh is the builder behind the physical labor the family contributes. Continue reading

Literacy and Orality in the Book of Mormon

Abstract: The Book of Mormon is a literate product of a literate culture. It references written texts. Nevertheless, behind the obvious literacy, there are clues to a primary orality in Nephite culture. The instances of text creation and most instances of reading texts suggest that documents were written by and for an elite class who were able to read and write. Even among the elite, reading and writing are best seen as a secondary method of communication to be called upon to archive information, to communicate with future readers (who would have been assumed to be elite and therefore able to read), and to communicate when direct oral communication was not possible (letters and the case of Korihor). As we approach the text, we may gain new insights into the art with which it was constructed by examining it as the literate result of a primarily oral culture. Continue reading

Musings on the Making of Mormon’s Book: 1 Nephi 17

1 And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth. And we did travel and wade through much affliction in the wilderness; and our women did bear children in the wilderness.

2 And so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings.

3 And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.

4 And we did sojourn for the space of many years, yea, even eight years in the wilderness.

Remembering that these verses follow immediately upon the end of the Nahom story, we must understand that Nephi saw these incidents in the same literary context as that story. Although the modern chapter break is reasonable because it marks a different set of incidents, Nephi saw it as part of the theme of his chapter. Continue reading

Another Suggestion for Reading 1 Nephi 1: 1-3

1 I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.

2 Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

3 And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge. (1 Nephi 1:1–3)

Verses 1-3 are a complete literary unit and should be read together. They form a colophon, or an indication of the author of the piece. Verse 2 has had no reasonable explanation. Nephi says that he makes a record in the language of his father, but then defines that “language” in a way that leaves modern readers without a clear understanding. There are two disparate elements to the clarification, “learning of the Jews” and “language of the Egyptians.” If Nephi intended to say that he wrote in Egyptian, he could have skipped the rest of the message. Continue reading