Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2008, December 31

“The Book of Mormon as Epic Hero: Part 1” by grego

The Book of Mormon as Epic Hero
by grego

(This is a very quick rough draft, a little mixed up… you’ve got the picture, right? ;) )

Not the first, I’ve often thought of the Book of Mormon as a type of an epic, and full of succinct hero’s journeys. (Other works show heroes and the Book of Mormon as an epic; see “The Journey of the Hero: Archetypes of Earthly Adventure and Spiritual Passage in 1 Nephi”, by Tod R. Harris; JBMS 6:2 , and especially “The Book of Mormon: Designed for Our Day”, by Richard Rust in RBBM v2/1; references courtesy of Kevin Christensen).

But there is one essential part of an epic that seems to be missing: who is the epic hero in the book? Who goes on what has become known as the monomyth, or the “hero’s journey” (such as written about by Joseph Campbell, etc.)?

No one lives through the entire story of the Book of Mormon, and could be called the hero of the epic–especially someone earthly. One could say that instead of being a typical epic, it is a collection of condensed and partial “mini-epics” and “mini-heroes”, such as Lehi, Nephi, Alma the elder, Alma the younger, Ammon, Mormon, Ether, Moroni. While many accounts of heroes are given, none of them connect it all. One might say that the epic hero is an archetype–such as “the righteous man”–or such, instead of an actual person per se.

One day, it occurred to me that the Book of Mormon goes one up on most epics and does what very few epics have done, and stands as the epitome of epic (no doubt to the chagrin of many anti-LDS): instead of just being an epic talking about a hero on his journey, the Book of Mormon–the plates and the book itself–is the epic hero, the main character, undergoing the epic journey, and it records its journey in its own pages.

That was wild.

This is a little similar to Tolkien’s “ring” in his trilogy; but the Book of Mormon was ahead of it timewise, and instead of being the purpose of the adventure, the redundancy/ irony of it being a book about itself, is somewhat different.

Here’s a quick look at most of the stages of a hero’s journey, which can be literal or figurative/ allegorical (of the many available, here’s a simple one for this: ):

*Birth/ special circumstances: plates created by prophet, by command of the Lord, similar to the brass plates; final created by a compilation/ abridgment/ formulation by a prophet, by command of the Lord

*Call to adventure, possible refusal: the making and the writing of the plates; some writers write a lot, some write one verse.

*Helpers/ amulet/ aid from a protective figure, often supernatural: the plates and all those involved with them receive divine help to keep them secure and safe for their purpose; see Nephi, Alma, Mormon, Moroni. Included along with them are all the other plates, the plates of brass, the sword of Laban, and the Liahona.

*Crossing the threshold/ point of no return (into the unknown, into the adventure): Nephi leaves the Lamanites and takes the brass plates, then starts the plates–and from the point of Nephite/ Lamanite division, the plates and their keepers are in danger of being destroyed.

*Tests/ tasks/ trials: the Lamanites want to destroy the record keepers and their records (the plates); some of the writers don’t feel righteous; it’s hard to write on the plates; there’s not much space; maybe the writers aren’t sure when they’ll die sometimes; problems choosing the next owner/ record-keeper; knowing what to write; the compilation, abridgment, and editing by Mormon and Moroni.

*Vision quest/ initiation/ meeting the goddess: writers led by the Spirit; goddesses are mercy, charity?

*Reaching bottom/ apparent defeat or death: the final Lamanite vs. Nephite battle.

*Marriage/ baptism/ blessing/ apotheosis: records/ plates are used to convert the Lamanites, sustain the Nephite Saints?

*Receiving a gift or boon from God: Mormon’s addition of the small plates to the large plates; the addition of Ether to the record.

*Helpers (along the way): the writers have the help of God in keeping and preserving the plates. The scriptures are printed and put forth. Charity and overlooking small things in appreciation of the big picture is needed to accept the book.

*Final battle: the Lamanites have sworn to kill all Nephites and to destroy their records; Moroni escapes the Lamanites and carries the plates away.

*Flight/ magic flight/ rescue: an actual flight by Moroni to keep the plates safe; the plates remain hidden, waiting the due time of the Lord.

*Rescue from without: the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone are prepared and must be used in conjunction with the plates in order to use them/ “work them” properly. The angel Moroni makes sure that another, Joseph Smith, unburies the plates and is prepared to bring their contents to light.

*Return: Joseph Smith finds the plates and translates them; they have come back in a different form to fulfill their main purpose. The plates go back to Moroni after their translation, yet their translation remains to fulfill its purposes.

*Elixir/ sharing gift or elixir with the world: the book is instrumental in the gathering of Israel, the establishment of the Church, the conversion of many, the teaching of knowledge, understanding previous words, bringing people to Christ and oneness and spiritual healing, the fulfillment of and restoration of past promises, the tool of the Lord in the final days. Comments that the future has been seen and prepared for specifically in the book. Also, the Book of Mormon contains a promise to all its readers; an invitation to partake of the elixir and change.

*Future/ preparing for next adventure: When readers accept the invitation, the book is renewed, its power active again. There are still parts of the book that have yet to be translated. The Book of Mormon will be used as one of the great books in the Judgment Day, and its writers will be at the judgment bar of God.

“Part 2” later.

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