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Story. Chapters 2-3 can be understood as comprising five major sections:
- Verses 2:1-11: Jacob's burden to call the people to repentance.
- Verses 2:12-22: Call to repentance regarding riches and pride.
- Verses 2:23-35: Call to repentance regarding multiple wives.
- Verses 3:1-11: Warning of physical destruction by Lamanites and eternal damnation.
- Verses 3:12-14: Jacob writes upon the small plates of Nephi.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Chapters 2-3 include:
Relationship to Jacob. The relationship of Chapters 2-3 to Jacob as a whole is discussed at Jacob.
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- Verse 2:6
It seems that vs. 6 all ties back into Jacob 1:19 where it reads "And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence..." In Jacob 2:6, Jacob is lamenting that these wicked people are not listening, and that perhaps he is not teaching the them in a way that they will listen to him. He is literally answering their wickness upon his own head, and shrinking with shame for it.
- Verse 3:5
Whoredoms. In the Hebrew Old Testament, the term whoredom occurs only 26 times as a translation of the Hebrew verb zanah (=commit whoredom, whore, fornication). While it may be tempting to read this in light of modern practices of prostitution or sexual immorality, its use in the Book of Mormon may have more do do with sexual rites associated with the worship of fertility gods. If that is the case, the Nephites in their quest for riches and prosperity may be tempted to indulge in fertility rites involving sexual acts, perhaps with designated ritual prostitutes.
- Verse 3:8
Whiter: This seems to be a rhetorical technique suggesting that the Lamanites have a darker skin than the Nephites, but are "whiter" (i.e. "more pure"; cf. 2 Ne 30:6) spiritually. (See Tvedtnes article below.)
Points to ponder
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- Verses 2:1. Who is narrating here? Jacob? If so, why write of himself in the third person?
- Verses 2:1. What is the significance of stating that these teachings were given "after the death of Nephi"? Is there a connection between Nephi's death and these teachings, or are we just being told that to place it somehow within a chronology?
- Verses 2:2: Beloved brethren. What does Jacob mean by "beloved brethren"? Are these all his literal relatives? How big is the Nephite group at this point?
- Verses 2:2:Under. What does it mean to be "under" a responsibility to God?
- Verses 2:2:Magnify. What does Jacob mean by magnifying his office.
- Verses 2:2: Soberness. Why does Jacob mention soberness here?
- Verses 2:2: Rid garments of sins. What does this phrase mean? What is the connection between garments and sins? Jacob explains this teaching a bit in Jacob 1:19, but it is hard to see a teaching like this in the Old Testament. Where does this understanding come from?
- Verses 2:3. What exactly is Jacob's calling in the temple?
- Verses 2:3. Why is Jacob "weighed down with...desire and anxiety"? Should we feel the same way about those around us?
- Verses 2:4. If the people have been obedient to Jacob's teachings so far, why is he "weighed down with...anxiety"?
- Verses 2:5. Is Jacob preaching against the Nephite's actions, or just against their thoughts and intentions?
- Verses 2:5. How might evil thoughts be considered laboring in sin?
- Verses 2:5. How can thoughts be "very abominable"?
- Verses 2:5. How does God help Jacob know the thoughts of the people?
- Verses 2:5. Why does Jacob refer to God here as "the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth"?
- Verses 2:6. Why does the wickedness of Jacob's people cause him to "shrink with shame" before God?
- Verses 2:11. What might Jacob have been praying about when he obtained his errand from the Lord? Is it significant that he obtained it while already praying, as opposed to out of the blue?
- Verses 2:13. In what ways does material progress lead to pride? Is this inevitable, or are there ways to obtain riches and avoid pride?
- Verses 2:15. What does it mean to be pierced by the eye of God?
- Verses 2:17. What does it mean to be "familiar with all"
- Verses 2:19. Verse 19 tell us that after we have a hope in Christ we will get riches if we seek them. Then it says "and ye will seek them for the intent to do good." How should we interpret this statement. Is this something like "Those who truly have first a hope in Christ who choose to seek for riches will do so with the intent to do good"? Or, is this prescriptive--something like "Once you really have hope in Christ, seek for riches so that you can do good"?
- Verses 2:21. Does the last sentence of this verse relate to Moses 1:39?
- Verses 2:28. What is the reason for having one wife that the Lord delights in the chastity of women? It seems like the commandment is given to men specifically concerning women, so shouldn't the reason be because He delights in the chastity of men?
- Verses 3:1. What does it mean to be pure in heart?
- Verses 3:1. How might one "look unto God with firmness of mind"? What is the difference between having a firm mind and beginning to labor in sin through your thoughts (cf. Jacob 2:5)?
- Verses 3:1. What does it mean to pray "with exceeding faith"? How is this different from normal prayer?
- Verses 3:1. What does Jacob mean by promising that the Lord will "send down justice upon those who seek your destruction"? Is he speaking specifically about the current situation faced by the Nephites? Who might be seeking their destruction? Does this have anything to do with the threat of plural marriage leading "away captive the daughters of [the] people" (cf. Jacob 2:33)?
- Verses 3:2. Why are the pure in heart told to "lift up" their heads? What is the difference between a bowed and a lifted up head?
- Verses 3:2. How is one to "receive the pleasing word of God?" What is it that makes it pleasing?
- Verses 3:2. What does it mean to "feast upon [God's] love"?
- Verses 3:2. What does having a firm mind have to do with feasting upon God's love? What does it mean to have a "firm" mind?
- Verses 3:3. How does not having a pure heart make one "filthy"?
- Verses 3:3. Why are the Lamanites, who are cursed, promised as a scourge to wicked Nephites?
- Verses 3:4. Is this a prophecy of Omni 1:12? If so, how can the intervening 2+ centuries be considered a time that "speedily cometh"?
- Verses 3:5. Why do the Nephites "hate" the Lamanites? Is it because of their "filthiness" or their dark skin? Is this racism?
- Verses 3:5. Apparently at this point, there are not "whoredoms" among the Lamanites, and they are not mentioned among the Lamanites until after the peaceful period after the coming of Christ. Why are they so prominently mentioned among the Nephites, but not among the Lamanites?
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- Verse 3:8: Tvedtnes on racism, See The Charge of "Racism" in the Book of Mormon by John A. Tvedtnes.
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