This post is a continuation of the analysis of 3 Nephi 12 compared to Matthew 5. In the first part we saw that the printers manuscript included a word that is found in the New Testament but not in the Book of Mormon. In the second part we determined that the primary difference between 3 Nephi and Matthew is wordiness, specifically Book of Mormon wordiness. Considering the plates were gold and space was limited this seems illogical. That all being said, the careful examination of this chapter continues to provide meaningful insight into the Book of Mormon. I will continue to use 3N and M5 to refer to 3 Nephi and Matthew 5 respectively.
Verse 15 of 3N changes the tone of the verse by switching from the imperative form in M5 to a subjunctive in 3N. The Book of Mormon states: “Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel?”, whereas Matthew states: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;”. The printers manuscript is consistent with the current version of the Book of Mormon. Why does the Book of Mormon turn this into a question? Why would Christ be less assertive once he had been deified? This just seems odd and again adds words needlessly to the text.
Verse 16 of 3N continues the pattern of wordiness, but does match the printers manuscript. This verse appears to contradict others within the Bible and Book of Mormon as it encourages the faithful to show off their good works to “men” in M5 and “this people” in 3N. By comparison elsewhere in the scriptures the disciples of Christ are encouraged to be the salt of the Earth, which by its nature is invisible when combined with food.
Verse 17 is fascinating because it is a perfect copy, aside from punctuation. What is particularly interesting is that this verse references the “law” and the “prophets”. The “prophets” in the context of M5 is referencing the writings of the prophets of the Old Testament. Some of these came after the Babylonian exile. Perhaps in the Book of Mormon context, the prophets referenced are Alma, Abinadi, and Nephi, among others? The law is understood by both groups as the Law of Moses.
Verse 18 is an interesting reverse of the wordiness pattern. In 3N it is actually shorter, as it excludes the phrase “Till heaven and Earth pass”, suggesting that prophetic law has until the end of the Earth to be fulfilled. The Book of Mormon appears to exclude this nuance, and effectively suggests that the law was totally fulfilled in Christ. This belief is consistent with Christianity thought especially in 1830.
Verse 19 introduces a complete change in doctrine from M5. In 3N it states that all who “believe in me…repent of your sins, and come unto me with a broken heart and contrite spirit…” shall be saved. In M5 Christ encourages his disciples to keep all the commandments and by so doing they shall be great. 3N is consistent conceptually with the idea that after His atonement, Christ is suggesting that the law is fulfilled and that a new law has been introduced.
What is especially interesting is, this doctrine is very much Christian, but not so much LDS. Christ does not say, “all those who receive temple ordinances, don’t drink coffee, do all their home teaching, and attend sacrament meeting every Sunday.” No Christ just says to believe in Him. To me this sounds much more like the doctrine found in Romans of the New Testament that LDS seem to apologize away as incomplete or inaccurate.
This realization led me to an interesting summary of Book of Mormon theology from an 1830 perspective linked here. What is notable is that the Book of Mormon appears to answer many of the theological debates between the major sects of the day. Interestingly enough, Alexander Campbell is quoted in 1831 as saying, “[The Book of Mormon] resolves every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last ten years.” While the Book of Mormon appears to be perfectly written for 1830 it is difficult to see how it is written for 2016. While many aspects of human nature continue to be a challenge, the Book of Mormon has no sense for LGBT issues, the internet, nuclear weapons, industrialization, global warming, or any form of modern technology. So is it possible that Mormon and Moroni perfectly saw 1830, but struggled to see beyond that? I cannot see how that would be possible.