Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2009, October 2

“Book of Mormon: A Critique of Kevin Christensen’s Proposal that Sherem Was a Mulekite” by grego

“Book of Mormon: A Critique of Kevin Christensen’s Proposal that Sherem Was a Mulekite”
(c) 2009

In addition to the many arguments of Sherem being an outsider or a foreigner, Kevin Christensen has proposed that Sherem was a Mulekite trader (keep in mind, with regards to spelling and grammar, that this was typed quickly on a discussion board):

“I’ve made the case in FR16:2, “The Deuteronomist De-christianizing of the Old Testament” that Sherem was a Mulekite trader. For me, such an identification resolves both the clear indicators of outsider status, and explains the specific conflicts that he has with Jacob. Jacob’s teachings are consistent with Margaret Barker’s description of 1st Temple teachings, and Sherem argues like a Deuteronomist reformer. That is, he preaches the Law of Moses, but denies Christ and dismisses revelations. Deuteronomy, as we have it, has no Day of Atonement in the sacred calendar, and expressly denies the need for vision and revelation. As one of Mulek’s party, still first generation, but perhaps a second generation with respect to Josiah’s reform, his conflicts with Jacob mirror those of a known historical context for Jerusalem in the 600 BCE period. He charges against Jacob are of “blasphemy,” as John Welch points out. I think that Brant is precisely correct in seeing Sherem as ‘hired gun” brought in to discredit Jacob because of Jacob’s resistance to trade. Brant [Gardner] has pointed out that the all of the social evils that Jacob preaches against in this book pre-suppose trade. (See his “A Social History of the Early Nephites”, for example.)

My presumption is that Mulek’s party had insinuated themselves as elites among another group of people. Brant [Gardner] has observed that: “The location of Zarahemla in the Grijalva River valley not only fits the geography and topography, but it links the major linguistic groups. The Nephites entered a Mayan-speaking area. The Mulekites entered a Mixe-Zoque speaking area. The movement of the Mulekites/Zarahemlaites up the Grijalva valley parallels the known movement of Zoque (a daughter language of Mixe-Zoque) up that valley. This explains why the Nephites and the Zarahemlaites spoke different languages when there was insufficient time for an unintelligible divergence from Hebrew to have occurred. (In only four hundred years some vocabulary would change, but the languages would still have been mutually intelligible.)

We are told that the Mulekites did not have written records, and the loss of someone like Sherem be a key factor in the loss in oral knowledge. The reuninion in Zarahemla comes after over 400 years of social disruption for the descendants of both groups. Both have migrated to escape conflicts. Both apparent had their own “dark ages”, as is apparent from the abbreviated records between Enos and Benjamin. Much had been forgotten.

It seems to me that Sherem story pulls together all of the themes of the Book of Jacob. Brant has shown in “The Social History of the Early Nephites” that the conflicts that Jacob preaches against presuppose trade, and the kinds of things that are going in presuppose that the Nephites had mixed with locals from the beginning. The Allegory of the Olive grove is about grafting and planting, the mixing of different peoples, and the alternate strengthening and corruption that goes with the process. In chapter 4, Jacob, starts talking about the Jews at Jerusalem who became “blind” and “looked beyond the mark.” Jacob had never been to Jerusalem, having been born just before the voyage from Bountiful. What does Jacob bring up that topic at all? It turns out that Sherem represents exactly the Deuteronomist group had removed the annointed high priest, and the visionary and atoning functions from the Temple during Lehi’s life time. Sherem as a Mulekite trader with Deuteronomist ideology explains Jacob’s need to comment on the specific nature of the blindness in Jerusalem. It explains Jacob’s themes in chapter 4, emphasizing exactly the themes of vision, wisdom, knowledge of the future, knowledge of the Christ as the Son of the Eternal father that the Deuteronomists had suppressed in Lehi’s day.”

grego writes:

This proposition is more interesting, and works well, but for two major points: if this were true, then all the hoopla about Mosiah discovering the Mulekites doesn’t make much sense.

Also, there is too much at stake between the Lamanites and Nephites with regards to whether Jerusalem was destroyed or not. I’ll explain.

The state that Jerusalem was in and the prophecy of its coming destruction was a major point of contention for the two Lehite camps with Lehi and Nephi leading one side, and Laman and Lemuel leading the other. Pretty much from the beginning on, the Lehi-Nephite/ Lamanite split was already decided by who wanted to remain in Jerusalem versus who wanted to leave. Laman et. al. believed that the people in Jerusalem were righteous; they wanted to stay there; and that their leaving Jerusalem was basically a curse. Nephi et. al. believed that the people in Jerusalem were wicked and were going to be destroyed, and thus they were led away and saved by God.

I have listed many scriptures (at the end of this article) that show this; it is supported by the Book of Mormon numerous times.

I’ll note just a few things:
–the destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied to have already happened by Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob; however, there was no “evidence” or “proof”.
–the beliefs of Nephi and Laman—with a big part being their way of regarding Jerusalem—became the basis of traditions for the entire peoples down on through their history, and is a major point of contention between the Nephites and Lamanites.
–the destruction of Jerusalem in fulfillment of prophecy is “proof” that the Lord is God, God saves, and Lehi and Nephi were correct and prophets, and that Laman and Lemuel were incorrect.

Before the discovery of the Mulekites, there was no evidence that Jerusalem had been destroyed as prophesied; how could the Nephites or Lamanites have known otherwise, being so far away?

The discovery of the Mulekites was such a big event because finally there was evidence, if not proof to the Nephites, that Jerusalem *had* been destroyed—showing the fulfilling of the word of God and the prophecy to Lehi.

If Sherem had been a Mulekite, I believe there’s no way that Lamanites or Nephite dissidents would have used Sherem as an outside “hired gun”; this would have been a case of shooting themselves in the foot (actually somewhere vital would be more appropriate).

It would prove to everyone that Lehi, and Nephi, and his little brother Jacob—whom Nephi had taught and ordained—were correct about Jerusalem and its wickedness and destruction, which meant that God *was* leading *Lehi* and the *Nephites*, which means that all that talk about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, etc. was correct—which is exactly the argument that Sherem was trying to disprove.

It was akin to admitting that Sherem/ the Lamanites/ Nephite dissidents were all knowingly apostate.

For these same reasons, I find it hard to believe that if Sherem had been a Mulekite, Jacob wouldn’t have written it and linked it to the destruction of Jerusalem. Or even brought it up at the very beginning of the discussion.

I also disagree with parts of Brant Gardner’s quotes and methodology about the Mulekites, though I understand the possibilities; I also disagree with his trade argument.

Kevin Christensen’s Deuteronomist argument is still very valid, even if Sherem wasn’t a Mulekite. He could have been a Deuteronomist and a child/ grandchild of someone in the group (servant, desert dweller picked up on the way, etc.) who stayed with Laman and Lemuel, or a Nephite dissident.

It’s possible that Laman and Lemuel seem to have understood the Deuteronomist argument, and followed it somewhat.

If Sherem knew Zoram–especially if he were Zoram’s relative (son, grandson, son-in-law), he might have had a good understanding of the Deuteronomists. Suppose that Laban was meeting with the elders of the Jerusalem and drinking with them, and often related the content of the meetings to Zoram (as Zoram’s persistent asking of Nephi–masquerading as Laban–suggests to me; see 1 Nephi 4:22, 27). Were the Deuteronomists in charge of the “church” and military at that time (1 Nephi 4:36, 17:44, etc.)? At least this might give more understanding to the charge that Laban “would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord” (1 Nephi 4:11), of which we don’t have a record of his clearly not doing.

And this “Deuteronmy-thing” would likely also have to do with Nephi detesting much of the ways of the Jews (2 Nephi 25:2).

Scriptures regarding Jerusalem:

1 Nephi 1:13 And [Lehi] read, saying: Wo, wo, unto Jerusalem, for I have seen thine abominations! Yea, and many things did my father read concerning Jerusalem–that it should be destroyed, and the inhabitants thereof; many should perish by the sword, and many should be carried away captive into Babylon.

1 Nephi 1:18 Therefore, I would that ye should know, that after the Lord had shown so many marvelous things unto my father, Lehi, yea, concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, behold he went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard.
1 Nephi 1:19 And it came to pass that the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them; for he truly testified of their wickedness and their abominations; and he testified that the things which he saw and heard, and also the things which he read in the book, manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah, and also the redemption of the world.
1 Nephi 1:20 And when the Jews heard these things they were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.
1 Nephi 2:1 For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life.
1 Nephi 2:2 And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness.

1 Nephi 2:11 Now this he spake because of the stiffneckedness of Laman and Lemuel; for behold they did murmur in many things against their father, because he was a visionary man, and had led them out of the land of Jerusalem, to leave the land of their inheritance, and their gold, and their silver, and their precious things, to perish in the wilderness. And this they said he had done because of the foolish imaginations of his heart.
1 Nephi 2:13 Neither did they believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem, who sought to take away the life of my father.

1 Nephi 7:6 And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.
1 Nephi 7:7 And it came to pass in the which rebellion, they were desirous to return unto the land of Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 7:13 And if it so be that we are faithful to him, we shall obtain the land of promise; and ye shall know at some future period that the word of the Lord shall be fulfilled concerning the destruction of Jerusalem; for all things which the Lord hath spoken concerning the destruction of Jerusalem must be fulfilled.
1 Nephi 7:14 For behold, the Spirit of the Lord ceaseth soon to strive with them; for behold, they have rejected the prophets, and Jeremiah have they cast into prison. And they have sought to take away the life of my father, insomuch that they have driven him out of the land.
1 Nephi 7:15 Now behold, I say unto you that if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you, that if ye go ye will also perish; for thus the Spirit of the Lord constraineth me that I should speak.
1 Nephi 7:16 And it came to pass that when I, Nephi, had spoken these words unto my brethren, they were angry with me. And it came to pass that they did lay their hands upon me, for behold, they were exceedingly wroth, and they did bind me with cords, for they sought to take away my life, that they might leave me in the wilderness to be devoured by wild beasts.

1 Nephi 10:2 For behold, it came to pass after my father had made an end of speaking the words of his dream, and also of exhorting them to all diligence, he spake unto them concerning the Jews–
1 Nephi 10:3 That after they should be destroyed, even that great city Jerusalem, and many be carried away captive into Babylon, according to the own due time of the Lord, they should return again, yea, even be brought back out of captivity; and after they should be brought back out of captivity they should possess again the land of their inheritance.

1 Nephi 16:35 And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father, and because of their afflictions in the wilderness; and they did murmur against my father, because he had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, saying: Our father is dead; yea, and we have wandered much in the wilderness, and we have suffered much affliction, hunger, thirst, and fatigue; and after all these sufferings we must perish in the wilderness with hunger.
1 Nephi 16:36 And thus they did murmur against my father, and also against me; and they were desirous to return again to Jerusalem.
1 Nephi 16:37 And Laman said unto Lemuel and also unto the sons of Ishmael: Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nephi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brethren.
1 Nephi 16:38 Now, he says that the Lord has talked with him, and also that angels have ministered unto him. But behold, we know that he lies unto us; and he tells us these things, and he worketh many things by his cunning arts, that he may deceive our eyes, thinking, perhaps, that he may lead us away into some strange wilderness; and after he has led us away, he has thought to make himself a king and a ruler over us, that he may do with us according to his will and pleasure. And after this manner did my brother Laman stir up their hearts to anger.

1 Nephi 17:14 Yea, and the Lord said also that: After ye have arrived in the promised land, ye shall know that I, the Lord, am God; and that I, the Lord, did deliver you from destruction; yea, that I did bring you out of the land of Jerusalem.

1 Nephi 17:20 And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart; yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.
1 Nephi 17:21 Behold, these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our possessions and the land of our inheritance; yea, and we might have been happy.
1 Nephi 17:22 And we know that the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statutes and judgments of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses; wherefore, we know that they are a righteous people; and our father hath judged them, and hath led us away because we would hearken unto his words; yea, and our brother is like unto him. And after this manner of language did my brethren murmur and complain against us.
1 Nephi 17:43 And now, after all these things, the time has come that they have become wicked, yea, nearly unto ripeness; and I know not but they are at this day about to be destroyed; for I know that the day must surely come that they must be destroyed, save a few only, who shall be led away into captivity.
1 Nephi 17:44 Wherefore, the Lord commanded my father that he should depart into the wilderness; and the Jews also sought to take away his life; yea, and ye also have sought to take away his life; wherefore, ye are murderers in your hearts and ye are like unto them.

1 Nephi 19:20 For behold, I have workings in the spirit, which doth weary me even that all my joints are weak, for those who are at Jerusalem; for had not the Lord been merciful, to show unto me concerning them, even as he had prophets of old, I should have perished also.

2 Nephi 1:1 AND now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had made an end of teaching my brethren, our father, Lehi, also spake many things unto them, and rehearsed unto them, how great things the Lord had done for them in bringing them out of the land of Jerusalem.
2 Nephi 1:2 And he spake unto them concerning their rebellions upon the waters, and the mercies of God in sparing their lives, that they were not swallowed up in the sea.
2 Nephi 1:3 And he also spake unto them concerning the land of promise, which they had obtained–how merciful the Lord had been in warning us that we should flee out of the land of Jerusalem.
2 Nephi 1:4 For, behold, said he, I have seen a vision, in which I know that Jerusalem is destroyed; and had we remained in Jerusalem we should also have perished.
2 Nephi 1:5 But, said he, notwithstanding our afflictions, we have obtained a land of promise, a land which is choice above all other lands; a land which the Lord God hath covenanted with me should be a land for the inheritance of my seed. Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
2 Nephi 1:9 Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves. And if it so be that they shall keep his commandments they shall be blessed upon the face of this land, and there shall be none to molest them, nor to take away the land of their inheritance; and they shall dwell safely forever.

2 Nephi 1:24 Rebel no more against your brother, whose views have been glorious, and who hath kept the commandments from the time that we left Jerusalem; and who hath been an instrument in the hands of God, in bringing us forth into the land of promise; for were it not for him, we must have perished with hunger in the wilderness; nevertheless, ye sought to take away his life; yea, and he hath suffered much sorrow because of you.

2 Nephi 6:8 And now I, Jacob, would speak somewhat concerning these words. For behold, the Lord has shown me that those who were at Jerusalem, from whence we came, have been slain and carried away captive.

2 Nephi 25:5 Yea, and my soul delighteth in the words of Isaiah, for I came out from Jerusalem, and mine eyes hath beheld the things of the Jews, and I know that the Jews do understand the things of the prophets, and there is none other people that understand the things which were spoken unto the Jews like unto them, save it be that they are taught after the manner of the things of the Jews.
2 Nephi 25:6 But behold, I, Nephi, have not taught my children after the manner of the Jews; but behold, I, of myself, have dwelt at Jerusalem, wherefore I know concerning the regions round about; and I have made mention unto my children concerning the judgments of God, which hath come to pass among the Jews, unto my children, according to all that which Isaiah hath spoken, and I do not write them.
2 Nephi 25:10 Wherefore, it hath been told them concerning the destruction which should come upon them, immediately after my father left Jerusalem; nevertheless, they hardened their hearts; and according to my prophecy they have been destroyed, save it be those which are carried away captive into Babylon.

Jacob 2:25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
Jacob 2:31 For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
Jacob 2:32 And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.

Omni 1:15 Behold, it came to pass that Mosiah discovered that the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon.

Mosiah 2:4 And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla, and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men.

Mosiah 7:20 And again, that same God has brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and has kept and preserved his people even until now; and behold, it is because of our iniquities and abominations that he has brought us into bondage.

Mosiah 10:12 They were a wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, believing in the tradition of their fathers, which is this—Believing that they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem because of the iniquities of their fathers, and that they were wronged in the wilderness by their brethren, and they were also wronged while crossing the sea;
Mosiah 10:13 And again, that they were wronged while in the land of their first inheritance, after they had crossed the sea, and all this because that Nephi was more faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord—therefore he was favored of the Lord, for the Lord heard his prayers and answered them, and he took the lead of their journey in the wilderness.
Mosiah 10:14 And his brethren were wroth with him because they understood not the dealings of the Lord; they were also wroth with him upon the waters because they hardened their hearts against the Lord.
Mosiah 10:15 And again, they were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him.
Mosiah 10:16 And again, they were wroth with him because he departed into the wilderness as the Lord had commanded him, and took the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, for they said that he robbed them.
Mosiah 10:17 And thus they have taught their children that they should hate them, and that they should murder them, and that they should rob and plunder them, and do all they could to destroy them; therefore they have an eternal hatred towards the children of Nephi.

Alma 9:9 Do ye not remember that our father, Lehi, was brought out of Jerusalem by the hand of God? Do ye not remember that they were all led by him through the wilderness?
Alma 9:22 Yea, and after having been delivered of God out of the land of Jerusalem, by the hand of the Lord; having been saved from famine, and from sickness, and all manner of diseases of every kind; and they having waxed strong in battle, that they might not be destroyed; having been brought out of bondage time after time, and having been kept and preserved until now; and they have been prospered until they are rich in all manner of things–

Alma 18:36 Now when Ammon had said these words, he began at the creation of the world, and also the creation of Adam, and told him all the things concerning the fall of man, and rehearsed and laid before him the records and the holy scriptures of the people, which had been spoken by the prophets, even down to the time that their father, Lehi, left Jerusalem.
Alma 18:37 And he also rehearsed unto them (for it was unto the king and to his servants) all the journeyings of their fathers in the wilderness, and all their sufferings with hunger and thirst, and their travail, and so forth.
Alma 18:38 And he also rehearsed unto them concerning the rebellions of Laman and Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, yea, all their rebellions did he relate unto them; and he expounded unto them all the records and scriptures from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem down to the present time.

Alma 20:10 And he also said: Whither art thou going with this Nephite, who is one of the children of a liar?
Alma 20:13 And now when Lamoni had rehearsed unto him all these things, behold, to his astonishment, his father was angry with him, and said: Lamoni, thou art going to deliver these Nephites, who are sons of a liar. Behold, he robbed our fathers; and now his children are also come amongst us that they may, by their cunning and their lyings, deceive us, that they again may rob us of our property.

Alma 22:9 And the king said: Is God that Great Spirit that brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem?

Alma 23:3 And thus they might go forth and preach the word according to their desires, for the king had been converted unto the Lord, and all his household; therefore he sent his proclamation throughout the land unto his people, that the word of God might have no obstruction, but that it might go forth throughout all the land, that his people might be convinced concerning the wicked traditions of their fathers, and that they might be convinced that they were all brethren, and that they ought not to murder, nor to plunder, nor to steal, nor to commit adultery, nor to commit any manner of wickedness.

Alma 36:29 Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.

Alma 54:23 I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram, whom your fathers pressed and brought out of Jerusalem.

Helaman 8:20 And behold, also Zenock, and also Ezias, and also Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (Jeremiah being that same prophet who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem) and now we know that Jerusalem was destroyed according to the words of Jeremiah. O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy?
Helaman 8:21 And now will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek? Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem? But behold, this is not all–
Helaman 8:22 Our father Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem because he testified of these things. Nephi also testified of these things, and also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come.
Helaman 8:23 And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come.
Helaman 8:24 And now, seeing ye know these things and cannot deny them except ye shall lie, therefore in this ye have sinned, for ye have rejected all these things, notwithstanding so many evidences which ye have received; yea, even ye have received all things, both things in heaven, and all things which are in the earth, as a witness that they are true.

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