August 8, 2008

Brant Gardner: Mormon's Editorial Method and Meta-Message

Gardner's paper is now available from the FAIR site.

According to Gardner, Latter-day Saints often misunderstand what Mormon did in the compilation of the Book of Mormon; a complex process. Some may think the Book of Mormon is a “zip-filed” version of the plates of Nephi, though Gardner believes this is mistaken. In other words, Mormon was active and intentional in his process. He didn’t include things because they were just there waiting, but because he selected those things that talked about what he wanted to include.

How Mormon did what he did.

Charged with task of keeping them at age ten, received the plates at age 24, and spent rest of life reading and condensing them. We cannot know when he changed from chronicler to author, though a pretty good time line can be constructed. Mormon doesn’t tell how much plates were removed from the hill Shim. Mormon is fulfilling duty as national scribe. When Mormon was about 46 he removed the plates because of the land being overrun. Thus he wrote on the large plates for about 22 years. 367th year is when he acquired the plates. An outline or rough draft was prepared by at least 379 at age 58, through 385 when he died at some point when Moroni took over.

Clues that Mormon had outline before committing material to plates:
-Head notes
Added before the rest of the text, not added later. They indicate Mormon wrote them prior to the chapters, thus he knew the contents first. In Mormon’s editing of the large plates Head notes absent from Mosiah, etc. because of the lost manuscript. Otherwise, it would have had a headnote. Mormon, Ether and Moroni did not have head notes. So Mormon was consistent in adding head notes to the books he included.

Didn’t just copy a previously written text though he copied from orig. source material he allowed himself to interact in tangents. “And thus we see,” etc.

"Repetitive resumption"
an editor returning to an original text repeats a key word to show when the text is being interrupted. (See Alma 17:13) See also Alma 30: 56-58, "begging for his food" is repeated to bookend an editorial interlude.

Book Names
The Book names seem to change when there was a new prophet, this occurred in the small plates. The Book of Mormon we have includes parts that replace the later lost parts.

Gardner argues the original outline was as follows:
Lehi, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman, Nephi (3), Nephi (4), Mormon

Mormon organized it by titling books but the books themselves contained abridged writings of many:
Lehi: Lehi, Nephi, and unknown rulers until reign of Mosiah. 400 yrs.
Mosiah: Mosiah 1, Benjamin, Mosiah 2, Alma the elder
Alma: Alma the Younger, and Helaman the elder
Helaman: Heleman the younger, and Nephi, his son

Gardner argues that the book divisions were based on the rulership, or change of political line. For example: The large plates contained the records of the subsequent Nephi's as kings. What happens between the book of Lehi and Mosiah? Omni tells us that Mosiah flees and founds a new dynasty, therefore he gets a new book. Alma begins at the change of rulership as well, thus beginning with the first of the new line of rulers, not Alma the first. Alma gives up that position, Helaman takes over. Change of political lines again. 3 Nephi is taken from a separate personal account, etc.

Chapter Divisions:
There seems to be something that queued Joseph Smith of a division of chapters. Numbers were not added, though. He told scribes to just write "chapter." Thus, the original chapters represent Mormon's chapter divisions as orig. reflected. Orson Pratt changed the chapter divisions in 1879.

In many cases, but not all, Mormon makes a new chapter at an inserted sermon, or when a sermon ends. Often these are marked with "amen." Mormon then placed concluding material at the beginning of chapters rather than the end. When O. Pratt re-cut the chapters he followed a modern understanding, moving them to the conclusion rather than the beginning of the next chapter.

What does this tell us?
Mormon considers the sermon unit as more important than the narrative. Second, he is likely quoting narratives rather than paraphrasing. Mormon is shifting sources. This is another time he makes a chapter division. He is quoting sermons. The sermons are from the plates, the history are from Mormon's interpretation.

Textual Flow Indicators:
Sentance endings and punctuation was added by publisher not the translator or scribe. And it came to pass was a visual cue, starting 37 out of 49 paragraphs in original edition. Gilbert, the publisher, noted "and it came to pass" and the other "and now" were cues which functioned like paragraph breaks or topic changes. "And it came to pass" refers to time, "and now" marks the change of concepts. This is why "and it came to pass" only 13 times in 2 Nephi. It is not a story-bound book, it is more conceptual. 1 Nephi uses it 109 times, because it is a different style, more historical in focus. The historical chapters in 2 Nephi are the ones "and it came to pass" was used in 2 Nephi.

It would be unusual for JS to come up with these phrases to mark paragraphs, etc. Perhaps JS got it from the Bible. But this isn't a case of just using phrases, but actually the phrases function flawlessly as textual markers. This has historical precedence among Mayan texts. "It happens," and "it happened." Gardner is not suggesting that the BoM influenced the Maya or that the Maya influenced the BoM. He argues that the function itself is similar because of its necessity in a similar circumstance.

Mormon's Interaction with his Material
How faithful was he to his sources, etc. It seems Mormon did intend to produce sermons faithfully, etc. How faithful was he to his sources in constructing the history? Mormons purposes were didactive, not reconstructive. The facts would be shaped around the intended meaning.

When he tells story of people of Zeniff, he quotes the whole record. Next, he switches to Noah's reign and describes it himself. The descriptions are clearly from Mormon's own descriptions. It seems Noah had some good things going, making things happen. Mormon repainted Noah as rotten from the start, even though the early sources couldn't have said he was that bad off the bat when the king himself was bad. Thus he manipulates the material. Similarly to the story of Nehor. Mormon makes sure we don't like him, though some really like him. Mormon names a religious movement for him. Nehor was not the earliest nor the most infamous foe, there was much more serious things. Gardner named the religion for a murderer to link it with the unsavory. "Order of the Nehors" then was Mormon's label. Other times Mormon tells things he couldn't know. Mosiah 22:16 says after being pursued for 2 days their trackers were lost. The Limhites wouldn't have known why the Lamanites stopped pursuit. Still, the record tells what happened to the Lamanites. Later he describes a war wherein the Nephites drive the Lamanites out. Mormon suggests they were then devoured by beasts, etc. because the bones were found. What if the bones weren't even theirs? It is possible.

Does this mean Mormon was less than a prophet?

Mormon's Meta-Message

No. It means his understanding of his task was ancient. The ancient world say history as the things that fit into his religious understanding. He used history to construct a moral story. Mormon wrote to convince that Jesus is the Messiah, not that the doctrine itself is true.

4th Nephi is so unique, it is the "Seinfeld" book, the book about nothing. The typical editorial method was stringing quotes together with historical narrative. In the absence of content of 4th Nephi we see how Mormon intended to convince us that Jesus is the Christ.

4th Nephi starts out by simply saying that All the people were converted, and everyone dealt justly. This verse says that only 2 years after the Messiah's visit all are converted. There was no enmity, etc. What kind of sermons did they receive? We are not told. We learn they were living happily ever after.

Was it true that all were converted in the land? 
Yes, but this was a limited geography. Only 2 years had passed .Mormon doesn't say how far the actual gospel message was spread. As Mormon moves to more historical info in the next verse, "they had all things in common, no rich and poor, all made free, partakers of heavenly gift." (4 Nephi 1:3). Shows that culturally things were right, but in all, this info is nothing to chew on at face value. Empty information, "married, blessed, etc." This shows the normal continuation of life during this time of peace. "They did not walk after law of moses, etc. they walked after the new laws, fast, pray, word of Lord." Mormon has already explained the Nephite religious observances were after the pattern Christ gave. Thus, Mormon is marking empty time here. Structure, not episodes, carry the message. Communicates info rather than relates history. (See 4 Ne. 1:6; 4 Ne. 1:14). Large blocks of text about the time passing away. Mormon repeats series' of years where nothing happens. Mormon has marked empty years before in the record, too. He seems to be using a dated chronicles of some kind. In this case, he gives the most he has ever given.

Mormon's use of time in 4 Nephi:
41, 51, 71
42, 52, 72
49, 59, 79

These years are place holders. Mormon has gone from history into story. The spacing separated by 7 years, Mormon divides 4 Nephi into 4 blocks of 100 years each. He molds history into the pattern. Mesoamericans grouped things into 400 year periods (Bachtoon, like the concept of a century, etc.) Each of the hundred year blocks is treated as one event, etc. It is important to Mormon that the effects of the Messiah's meeting last for 200 years. Thus, there is a purpose in 4 Ne. which is to convince Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Messiah.

Lehi: 400 yrs.
Mosiah: 100 yrs.
Alma: 35 yrs.
Helaman 48 yrs.
3 Nephi: 35 yrs.
4 Nephi 400 years in forty verses. After the Messiah has come, the narrative is rapid in one book. All of 4 Nephi is a placeholder between the appearance of the Messiah and Mormon's own story. This is the strongest evidence of Mormon's historical intention. Mormon was the Messiah's apostle, his witness. Thus, he describes the pattern of history that precedes the appearance of the Messiah; thus what went before will parallel what is yet to come.

The historical pattern as shown by Mormon:
Decent to apostasy,
Destruction of Nephite polity,
The Messiah comes

The book ends with pessimism. But this isn't the message. The message is the cycle of history. Darkness before glorious light. He did so that we, too might know that the pattern will end with the appearance of the Messiah. The Messiah will come. That is Mormon's optimistic message, that Jesus is the Messiah who came, and will come.

Question and Answer:

Q- Wasn't Mormon's abridge of Ether in the sealed plates?
It seems a certain set of prophecies were those of the brother of Jared. Mormon says we'll get the info, and Moroni gives us the commentary on it (which is the info furthest removed. It was a very complex source)

Q- How were they physically put on the plates.
Brent Metcalfe asked him several years ago and he has an answer: I don't know. He believes they were at the end. Regardless of where they were physically, it seems JS translated them in the correct order. JS wasn't looking at the plates at least some of the time, so there you have it.

Q- How do the chapter breaks affect chaismus
Gardner disagrees with some of the foundings regarding Chiasm but did not offer detail.

Q- How old was Alma the younger when the angel appeared?
We don't know, it is hard to tell from the text. Old enough to know better.

Q-Was Capt. Moroni one of Mormon's fav's? Why did he like him so much?
He seems to have really liked Capt. Moroni. I have the impression of him reading Moroni like some people read the art of war. He was written in the text as the ultimate hero. Mormon seems to absolutely love the man. It seems there are some war stuff included precisely because he really admired them. Wars were included because of the wars preceding the 2nd coming. But he really took off with it. A little self-indulgent on that one.

Q- When Mormon records the teaching of Alma to his sons, can we assume this is a direct quotes from letters, etc.?
There are a lot of wordprint studies, etc. take a look at the pro's and cons. It seems that Mormon is frequently quoting the large plates. He is confident that he is getting at least some direct quotes. Take, for example, that Mormon cuts down on the stuff related to Shiblon.

Q- Do you accept the Arnold Friberg translation?
He did us some disservices. It has ruined the self-body image of the men of the Church! Take a look at the strippling sons! They were 12 to 14! I've never seen anything like it! Arnold and I don't get along on those topics.

This is an ancient book. Mormon put it together for us in a very specific way. It is a remarkable work that Mormon did to get us what we have. Think of how long it took to teach us from 1,000 years of history to teach us that Jesus is the Christ! Fascinating, wonderful stuff! Thank you.

1 comment:

Yehudit said...

A friend of mine has "translated" the Anton Manscript:

Post a Comment

All views are welcome when shared respectfully. Use a name or consistent pseudonym rather than "anonymous." Deletions of inflammatory posts will be noted. Thanks for joining the conversation.