User:Matthewfaulconer/1 Ne 1:1-5 sandbox

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Verse 1[edit]

  • Goodness and teaching. Why does Nephi equate his parents' goodness with their teaching him?
  • Afflictions and blessings. How can this verse be used to deepen understanding of the themes of afflictions and blessings throughout 1 Nephi? What kind of over-arching structure does this suggest for the book?
  • Learning equals language? What is the relationship between the learning of Nephi's father in 1 Ne 1:1 and the language of Nephi's father in 1 Ne 1:2?
  • Intended introduction? As we know from Words of Mormon, D&C 3, and D&C 10, Mormon did not intend the Book of Mormon to begin as it does now. How does this verse, in its "usurped" position, change the way we might otherwise read the Book of Mormon? How would the Book of Mormon be different if, for example, it began with an introduction to the whole text by Mormon?

Verse 2[edit]

  • Double cultures. Nephi here introduces the difficulties of translation into his still untranslated text: his work is a crossing of two cultures? How does this internal theme of translation bear on questions of Joseph's work of translating the Book of Mormon? Does this double culture of Nephi's work affect how it should be read?
  • Yea. Nephi begins this verse with "Yea," implying that this verse is a re-wording (a translation?) of the first verse, or at least a re-affirmation of it. How does this verse meet up with the first?

Verse 3[edit]

  • The record . . . is true. What does Nephi mean when he calls this record true? Why does he emphasize that he made it with his own hands?

Verse 4[edit]

  • Many prophets. Who are some of the other prophets that come forth at this time?

Verse 5[edit]

  • Lehi praying in behalf of his people. Why is it significant (considering the political situation the prophets preached about) that Lehi prays concerning his people, and not just, say, what side of the debate he should take, or whether the prophets were speaking Jehovah's will?

Lexical notes[edit]


Verse 1=[edit]

  • overall comments borrowed mainly from section titled "Introduction: Nephi's Autobiography"
  • Explanation/ discussion of double parallel structure with link to page explaining other possible structures.

(remove information on interpretation. Though it maybe necessary to understand in order to understand how structure informs interpretation, it isn't specific to 1 Ne 1:1-5 and it wouldn't make sense to repeat this everywhere structure and interpretation were discussed on Feast.)

  • several bullet points explaining Links to additoinal detail where required. (Borrow from text up to the heading "verse 2" in the original. Shorten substantially and put links where approriate to more detail.)
  • note on book of the dead

Verse 2[edit]

(move double parallelism comment to talk page until there are clearer implications.)

  • note on verse 2 as a re-translation of verse 1.
  • Making a record. A single foundational phrase underlies both verse 1 and verse 2: "I make a record." When each of these verses is stripped of dependent clauses and prepositional phrases, only this four-word sentence is left behind for each of them. The two verses would thus read: "I make a record. Yea, I make a record." This observation not only strengthens the suggestion that verse 2 is a repetition/translation of verse 1, but it also makes clear that Nephi's making a record is of foundational importance to these first few verses. Nephi uses the word "record" three times in this three-verse introduction to his text, doubly marking the importance of the term. The word generally translates the Hebrew zkrwn in the KJV, a word deriving from the root zkr, meaning to actualize, to enact, to remember, to hold in presence. Nephi's choice of this word may imply that his text is to be read as a ritual text, one to be read aloud, even acted out or presented dramatically (cf. Rev 1:3). Such a reading might well ground the endowment themes in verse 1, while at the same time both enriching and making difficult Nephi's statement in verse 3 that the record is "true."

Verse 3[edit]

  • Chiasm. After the grammatical complexity of Nephi's first two verses, the third verse reads with a striking simplicity. It is made up of three straightforward statements, all beginning with the conjoining "and I". Despite the unbalance between these short, plain statements and the far more difficult phrases of verses 1 and 2, this verse sets up a chiastic structure that runs through the whole of Nephi's first three verses:
  A  I make a record
     B  I make a record
        C  I know (that the record is true)
     B' I make it
  A' I make it

The importance of this structure goes well beyond "proofs of ancient authorship": the whole of verse 1 is set in parallel with Nephi's rather simple "and I make it according to my knowledge"; and the whole of verse 2 is set in parallel with his (also rather simple) "and I make it with mine own hand." Further, because it marks the chiastic center and has no parallel, the independent statement "And I know that the record which I make is true," with its profound focus on knowledge instead of record-making, separates itself thematically from the rest of what Nephi writes into these first three verses. More still, the doubling already recognized in verses 1 and 2 (here called A and B) is itself doubled by a parallel doubling (B' and A' might be read as a project of translation just as A and B are above). These structural observations are perhaps a collective key to interpreting this third verse.

  • Record-making and testimony. As mentioned above, the chiastic center of Nephi's first three verses is a grammatical inversion of every other step of the chiasm. In other words, whereas verses 1 and 2 unite with the second and third statements of verse 3 in a project of subordinating (grammatically) knowledge to the record Nephi makes, this central (most important?) statement subordinates (again, grammatically) the record to Nephi's knowledge: "And I know that the record which I make is true." Again, it might be said that the great majority of Nephi's three-verse introduction to his story understands Nephi's "knowledge" (and "learning" and "language") to be sublimated (or at least spoken) in the text is writes. At the same time, however, the most central message of that same three-verse introduction is a reversal of this sublimation: the record gathers itself up in Nephi's testimonial "I know," is sublimated (or, again, at least spoken) in the knowledge he has. In short, the complex structure written into Nephi's first three verses suggests a sort of dialectic of testimony: knowledge is channeled into a text, and a text is channeled into knowledge. Record-making and knowing are undeniably--even if impossibly--interwoven in Nephi's introduction. The LDS theme of "testimony" might well be re-read through these verses, in a reading that appears to adhere carefully to the implied roots of the Hebrew term for testimony, `dwt (from a root that arguably means to carve or engrave in stone).
  • Another structure? If the comments above concerning the semi-independent clause near the beginning of verse 1 are taken into account, an alternate structure for Nephi's first three verses emerges, recasting the function of this third verse. If Nephi's ungrammatical "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father" is taken as an independent clause, then six statements (rather than five) precipitate out of 1 Nephi 1:1-3. Moreover, the sixth component of the surface structure of Nephi's introduction would disassemble the chiasm and replace it with an entirely different structure:
  A  I was taught somewhat
     B  I make a record
        C  I make a record
  A' I know (that the record is true)
     B' I make it
        C' I make it

Such a reading would make verse 3 a wholesale doubling of verses 1 and 2. Further, the two parallelisms mentioned in the chiastic reading would be switched ("with mine own hand" would parallel Nephi's fourfold life experience, and "according to my knowledge" would parallel the "language of my father"). Perhaps most important, Nephi's testimony ("I know that the record which I make is true") would here be parallel to his learning ("therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father"). Both of these parallel statements work out Nephi's "knowledge," perhaps strengthening this structural reading of these three verses.

Verses 1-3[edit]

  • Teaching as an impossibility. Nephi's first three verses should be read as a single literary unit (marked separate from and yet tied inextricably to verse 4 by the latter's introductory "For"). However, the comments collected above suggest that this "single literary unit" is bound together by an undeniable tension. At the root of this tension is the ungrammatical interruption early in the first verse: "therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father." Not only does this phrase break with the grammatical structure of the first verse, thereby setting up a syntactical tension, it forces a double semantic (better: structural) tension into the whole three verse introduction, as laid out in the comments above. In other words, what might have otherwise been a very straightforward three-verse introduction on how and why Nephi wrote his record is disturbed, unbalanced, perhaps even frustrated, and precisely in Nephi's having been "taught." It is not too much to say that Nephi's introductory text puts on display how the "simple" dialectical process of record-making is grounded on the violent, aporetic, and yet necessary work of "being taught." The implications of Nephi's "ungrammar" are rich, but remain to be worked out at length.

Verse 4[edit]

  • Zedekiah's reign. Zedekiah's reign marks the historical beginning of the story, but it probably should not be assumed that Nephi's text therefore "legitimizes" him. In fact, the text draws an important parallel that, to some degree, de-legitimizes him: whereas this verse portrays the enthroned Zedekiah as surrounded with prophets speaking disparaging messages, verse 8 will portray a parallel God upon His throne, surrounded with angels who sing and shout praises to Him. The comparison might well betray Nephi's attitude towards the king.

Related links[edit]

Verse 1[edit]

  • A great knowledge of the goodness of God. Neal A. Maxwell (GC 1999) contrasts Laman & Lemuel's lack of faith with Nephi's great faith in God's goodness.
  • Mysteries of God
    • See 1 Ne 2:16 for an explanation by Nephi of how he gained knowledge of the mysteries of God.
    • See 1 Ne 10:19 where Nephi teaches that one must diligently seek to find the mysteries of God.
    • See Mosiah 1:3 where Mosiah teaches his sons that without the scriptural record they could not know the mysteries of God.
    • See Mosiah 2:9 where Mosiah starts his talk to his people with an invitation listen to him and open their ears, hearts and minds they they may learn the mysteries of God.
    • See the entry on mysteries of God in the Guide to the Scriptures.