Was Nephi a real person?

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On Own Now
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by On Own Now » 01 Apr 2019, 08:04

In past society, we liked heroes. The focus was on how people could overcome weaknesses to do something great. This reflected our past view of ourselves. We all have weaknesses, but if we try hard, we have the potential to overcome and do something great. This meshes well with Christianity, BTW.

In our current society, we tend to like vulnerability more. We don't really care if other people succeed, because, I suppose, we don't expect to succeed ourselves. Instead, we hope to find flaws in good people, as a way to sooth ourselves for our own flaws that we don't intend to overcome. Like heroes of the past, I think our current fascination with vulnerability reflects our current view of ourselves. I like that you're broken, broken like me.

Nephi (a fictional character, IMO) is a classic type of hero for a bygone era. He was disadvantaged as the younger brother in a highly first-born-driven culture. He was the child of a faithful outcast. He fell from wealth to poverty as a result of the family faith. But, by being true to his father and God, he rose to a favored position, entirely on his own merits, and led his family to the promised land, literally (for all) and figuratively (for the faithful).
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." --Romans 14:13

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SamBee
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by SamBee » 01 Apr 2019, 16:00

I think our problem nowadays is the constant need to find fault in mainly good people. They will have some, but looking at the faults can override the vision of the good. I have read a lot of nasty things about Mother Theresa for example over the last few years. But reading between the lines I can see she had to make tough decisions about who to look after and who she couldn't. I wager that most of her critics have done far less good than her, despite her faults.

My view of weakness is that we should acknowledge it but not celebrate it. It is a bad thing. We are all weak/vulnerable in some area, but we rise when we transcend those difficulties, not when we give into them.

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean being unsympathetic - that's another question.

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dande48
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by dande48 » 01 Apr 2019, 22:30

On Own Now wrote:
01 Apr 2019, 08:04
Nephi (a fictional character, IMO) is a classic type of hero for a bygone era. He was disadvantaged as the younger brother in a highly first-born-driven culture. He was the child of a faithful outcast. He fell from wealth to poverty as a result of the family faith. But, by being true to his father and God, he rose to a favored position, entirely on his own merits, and led his family to the promised land, literally (for all) and figuratively (for the faithful).
It is interesting to look at Nephi through the perspective of who he was written to be. He's meant to be a hero, or rather to typify what Joseph Smith saw as heroic, and aspired to be. Lehi is a strong reflection of Joseph Smith Sr. He was a "visionary man", who was non-comittal towards "organized religion", which bothered his wife very much (as was Lehi's wife, when he "broke away from the tribe"). They had the same tree of life vision. But he was also struggled heavily with drinking, much his own shame, and lost the respect of much of his family (also, this is why I believe the WoW wasn't given as a commandment). I also think JS was highly sensitive to the reaction of his own family, which was made manifest in the diachotemy of his brothers.
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SamBee
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by SamBee » 02 Apr 2019, 01:25

I don't get the impression any of JS' brothers were as antagonistic towards him as Laman was to Nephi. I'm sure the family had disagreements but not on that scale.
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dande48
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by dande48 » 02 Apr 2019, 07:10

SamBee wrote:
02 Apr 2019, 01:25
I don't get the impression any of JS' brothers were as antagonistic towards him as Laman was to Nephi. I'm sure the family had disagreements but not on that scale.
I didn't say they were. But Joseph was still very concerned about what they would think and how they would react.
"The whole world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel." - Horace Walpole

"Even though there are no ways of knowing for sure, there are ways of knowing for pretty sure."
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SamBee
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by SamBee » 02 Apr 2019, 14:53

Probably was. I don't think Joseph's brothers ever tried to kill him though. Most families have fights of some kind, it's a given. I have a cousin who hasn't spoken to her sister during my entire lifetime.
DASH1730 "An Area Authority...[was] asked...who...would go to the Telestial kingdom. His answer: "murderers, adulterers and a lot of surprised Mormons!"'
1ST PRES 1978 "[LDS] believe...there is truth in many religions and philosophies...good and great religious leaders... have raised the spiritual, moral, and ethical awareness of their people. When we speak of The [LDS] as the only true church...it is...authorized to administer the ordinances...by Jesus Christ... we do not mean... it is the only teacher of truth."

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rrosskopf
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by rrosskopf » 07 Apr 2019, 21:08

Let's look at the details. Are they plausible? According to the Book of Mormon Nephi was rich, and taught in all the learning of the Jews. He could also write in Hebrew and Egyptian. He chose Egyptian, because of the difficulty of engraving. Copies of the characters look very much like the Egyptian Demotic, a reformed Hieroglyphic. Other examples of Jews using the Demotic or Hieratic have been found - dating to that era, the one time when there was open trade between the two countries. So that is plausible.
His father was named Lehi, and he lived in Jerusalem. An estate by a man named Lehi was excavated back in the sixties, (Ben Lehi) and the estate dates to the time in question. Once again, the story is plausible.
Lehi has a dream and then a vision - unusual, but not unique. He starts preaching repentance to the Jews. That too is plausible. Then he gets into trouble; even back then they had laws against speaking against the government. So Lehi leaves the city and takes his family with him.
Nephi knows metallurgy, something he probably learned from his father. Is it just a coincidence that their journey takes them south to the area where the Jews mined their ores? After three days of travel, they pitch a tent next to a stream and offer sacrifice. All of this is plausible; there is a candidate for the stream, and by law if one was 3 days from the temple, they could offer sacrifice where they were. Nephi and his brothers are sent back to get the brass plates from Laban. Did they have that kind of technology, to manufacture brass plates and inscribe them in 600 BC? Yes, they did. Several examples have come to light, all originating from the Middle East. It is completely plausible.
Nephi then does the unthinkable - he resorts to cold blooded murder to obtain the plates. This is an anachronism that is completely at odds with the sensibilities of the 1800's, but is justifiable in 600 BC Jerusalem. Laban had tried to kill Nephi and his brothers twice already, and they were still hiding from Laban's soldiers. That alone turns it from murder to justice. But there is more; Laban is delivered into Nephi's hands. To the Jews that meant the approbation of God. It is completely plausible in that time and at that place.

Lehi and his family then journey through the worst parts of Arabia and learn to eat their meat raw, because fires will draw unwelcome attention. Even today there are robbers in the Arabian desert. Ismael dies, and they bury him in a place called Nahom. There is a place called Nahom and there is an ancient graveyard there, so still plausible. Then they change their heading to more of an easterly direction, and end up at the southern coast of Arabia. They name it Bountiful, because of the vegetation and fruit trees and honey bees. They mine iron ore and build a ship. Again this is all plausible. There is a deposit of iron ore, a bay that was once a shipping port, and tall trees to make ship timbers. Even the bees are still there. There was probably even a shipyard, since Arabs were one of the earliest sailors, and knew how to travel across seas.

It all appears plausible, and it shouldn't be, if Joseph Smith made it up. Nephi was a real person. And of course, authorship testing bears that out.

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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Apr 2019, 21:20

It is cool to see these things differently here. Thank you for your perspective.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

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SamBee
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by SamBee » 08 Apr 2019, 01:45

I find it odd that the best archeological evidence for the BoM comes from the Old World and it's not stuff that JS would have necessarily known about e.g. Demotic script and books on plates.

Roy
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Re: Was Nephi a real person?

Post by Roy » 08 Apr 2019, 09:20

I appreciate that this question hinges to a great degree on what we accept as evidence. I believe that the LDS church position is that without a spiritual witness there is not enough evidence to prove the historicity of the BoM with archeology and other sciences alone. For whatever reason, God positioned this book as something that would require faith. If JS was the source of the text and narrative then he got a good number of things right - but he also got enough things wrong to make it understandable for non-believers to continue not to believe. There is evidence, on both sides, but there is no proof.
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