So long, Steve, and Godspeed.

The second personal computer I ever owned[1] was an Apple II, with no floppy drive. I bought it, along with a small color TV, from my close friend Robert Trammel while we were both living in Houston sometime around 1980.We had already spent hours together programming on it, then carefully (though not always successfully) saving our programs out to cassette tape. After three months, I sold the computer and TV back to Robert — not because I didn’t like it, but because I was spending far too much time on it.

A few years later — in 1982 — my close friend Wayne Holder hired me into his nascent software company, Oasis Systems, in part to help with his existing and planned word processing utilities (The Word Plus, Punctuation + Style), but mostly to develop computer games. And we did, developing Sundog: Frozen Legacy on the Apple II, a game for which I still get e-mails (and which Wayne is even now working on resurrecting for modern platforms). In January 1984, a few months before Sundog shipped, we were invited by Guy Kawasaki to come up to Apple to see a preview of the Mac and to talk about what software we could port to the Mac. Through my connections with computer stores in San Diego, I was able to get a personal loan of a Mac for a few days at home prior to the official announcement in Cupertino later that month, which Wayne and I attended as well. That was my first time seeing Steve Jobs in person, and it remains a memorable highlight of my professional life.

When the Mac shipped a few days later, I went down to the one computer store in San Diego that I knew would be getting machines from Apple. I took $3000 in cash with me and managed to convince the store owner — a friend — to let me have one of the three Macs he had to sell. Through a connection with Phil Lemmons — editor-in-chief at BYTE — I ended up writing the official BYTE review of the 128K Macintosh (August 1984 issue). By the end of 1984, I was writing full-time for BYTE, including on-going coverage of the Macintosh, particularly once my BYTE column started in mid-1985. After a few years of writing for BYTE, I switched to writing for Macworld magazine. Steve was now long-gone from Apple, and Apple was having some of its own problems going forward.

But in late 1987, I was contacted by Addison-Wesley. They were interested in having me write a book about Steve Jobs’ new project at NeXT. Folks at NeXT had apparently suggested me to Addison-Wesley, probably due to my writing at BYTE and Macworld. I leapt at the opportunity, particularly since in coincided with our family moving from Utah to just outside Santa Cruz (where I would be doing technical writing for Borland on a consulting basis). Once there, I found myself invited to visit NeXT HQ on Deer Creek Road, sit in on meetings, and attend the 0.3 NeXTstep Dev Camp. And, yes, that meant getting actual face time with Steve Jobs as well — not a lot, but this was a man whose creations had been impacting my personal and professional life for over a decade at this point.

The writing of the book dragged out as I waited to get my hands on an actual NeXT cube, which finally happened (if I recall correctly) at the end of 1988 or early 1989. I wrote the first several drafts of the book on that NeXT cube itself. The book came out in the fall of 1989; it remains the single most successful book I’ve ever written, due to the intense interest in NeXT itself, more than any particular writing skills or technical insight on my part.

The following year, I found myself working with a world-class typographer (Mike Parker) and graphic designer (Vic Spindler) to create a design-oriented desktop publishing system. I was doing all the software prototyping on my NeXT cube, and we made the decision to make the NeXT our first target platform. For five years — 1990 to 1995 — I served as chief architect and CTO at Pages Software Inc, where we developed Pages by Pages and then WebPages, while spending nearly two years just trying to raise venture funding. We closed on funding at the start of 1992 and shipped our first version of Pages in early 1994. We quickly sold all that we were going to in the all-too-small NeXTstep market. My frustrations at seeing larger firm try to leverage off of NeXT’s incredible innovations led to an op-ed piece in the November 1994 issue of BYTE, “Whither NextStep?” The day that issue came out was the last time that Steve Jobs and I spoke — he called me from the back of a car somewhere to ask me what the hell I was doing writing that. I said, telling the truth. Pages would close its door the next year, unable to secure additional funding to move its technology to Windows.

When Steve engineered his brilliant reverse takeover of Apple — getting Apple to buy NeXT for $400 million, then slowly moving himself into the CEO seat — I was not optimistic. I still had unconditional praise for the NextStep technology, but I was dubious about Steve’s ability to sell technology to markets and to compete with Microsoft.

Boy, was I wrong. I was not only wrong about his abilities at Apple, I was wrong in my BYTE article about NextStep being on a downward slope. NextStep, of course, was the foundation of Mac OS X, and Steve transformed Apple into the most-admired, most-imitated, and most-valuable company in the world. And I was tickled that, when Apple brought out its own word processor, it was named “Pages”. Steve had always liked that name when we were developing (and shipping) our own product years before; glad he was able to use it.

To quote John Perry Barlow over on FB, “The world is suddenly a less interesting place.” ..bruce w..

[1] The first was an HP-67 card-reading programmable calculator.

[Cross-posted from And Still I Persist]

Smoking on General Conference Weekend

No, not what you think. 🙂 I’m smoking a beef brisket and a few racks of pork babyback ribs today in anticipation of General Conference this weekend. It’s been quite a few years (at least six, while still living back in DC) since I smoked just one brisket cut; at our most recent very large scale BBQ (VLSB), back on Pioneer Day weekend, I smoked nine (9) briskets totaling about 70 lbs. On the other hand, we had roughly 200 people show up for that BBQ, whereas for now I’ve only invited our three home teaching families to come over, watch Conference, and eat some good smoked meats. A feast for body and soul, if you will.  ..bruce..

Parsing Nephi: First Nephi III (1 Nephi 10-14)

Here’s the introduction to this series, and here is the previous entry.

I’ll now talk about the third chapter of the first “Book of Nephi” from the original Book of Mormon manuscript.

Lehi’s Prophecy

In Chapter III of First Nephi, Nephi gives us his third introduction in as many chapters, and again finds himself taking a detour from covering his “reign and ministry” to cover something more important (all quotes are from Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text):

And now I Nephi proceed to give an account upon these plates
of my proceedings and my reign and ministry.
Wherefore to proceed with mine account,
I must speak somewhat of the things of my father and also my brethren.

Nephi covers exactly two things in Chapter III. The first is his father Lehi’s prophecy of a future Messiah and the forerunner Prophet who should go before Him. This is a more detailed followup to Lehi’s prophecies in the streets of Jerusalem:

And he testified that the things which he saw and heard,
and also the things which he read in the book [in his vision],
manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah
and also the redemption of the world. (First Nephi I; 1 Nephi 1:19)

But here in Chapter III, Lehi is giving the same prophecies and warnings, in apparently greater detail, to Nephi’s brothers, as a follow-up to his concerns about Laman and Lemuel as a result of his dream. He ties it into the scattering of Israel and then ties that into their own flight from Jerusalem and towards “the land of promise.” The account is brief –less that two pages in the Skousen edition — and Nephi defers the rest of the details to his “other book”.

Nephi’s Ascension Vision

The rest of Chapter III — roughly 14 pages in Skousen — is devoted to Nephi’s ascension vision, which blends together elements of both Lehi’s dream and Lehi’s prophecies, but covers much more than Nephi has reported from his father. Nephi was frank about what he wanted:

And it came to pass that after I Nephi having heard all the words of my father…
…that I Nephi was desirous also
that I might see and hear and know of these things by the power of the Holy Ghost…

He then digresses momentarily to issue a short but stern “blessing/warning” sermon, promising that God will answer those who “diligently seek” but will “cast off forever” those who are “found unclean before the judgment seat of God.” He then adds, for the first time, his own prophetic imprimatur:

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
that I should speak these things and deny them not.

The modern edition of the Book of Mormon places this statement at the end of 1 Nephi 10, wrapping up his sermonette, but I think Nephi meant it as much for all that would follow in the rest of Chapter III: his ascension vision:

And the Holy Ghost giveth authority
that I should speak these things and deny them not.
For it came to pass that after I had desired
to know the things that my father had seen,
and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me,
wherefore as I sat pondering in mine heart,
I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord,
yea, into an exceeding high mountain,
a mountain which I never had before seen
and upon which I never had before sat my foot.

Nephi then records an expansive and detailed vision of future (to Nephi) history, all centered around the coming of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel in the last days. Much has been written about this vision, and a discussion of it doesn’t really fit within the premise of these posts except to note this: Nephi is serving notice, both to his own posterity and that of his brothers, that he was by that point every bit as much a prophet and seer as his father Lehi. He closes up his chapter with that testimony:

And behold, I Nephi am forbidden
that I should write the remainder of the things which I saw.
Wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me,
and I have not written but a small part of the things which I saw.
And I bear record that I saw the things which my father saw,
and the angel of the Lord did make them known unto me.
And now I make an end of speaking concerning the things
which I saw while I was carried away in the spirit.
And if all the things which I saw are not written,
the things which I have written are true.
And thus it is.

The first chapter set forth Nephi being dutiful and obedient. The second chapter set forth Nephi being believing and on the right path (as per Lehi’s dream). This third chapter establishes Nephi as a prophet in his own right. The next chapter shows the start of Nephi’s ministry.

Next post: First Nephi IV (1 Nephi 15).

Parsing Nephi: First Nephi II (1 Nephi 6-9)

Here’s the introduction to this series, and here is the previous entry.

Nephi has written the first chapter of his “reign and ministry” record on what we refer to as “the small plates”. As noted, Nephi touches on almost every major point of contention between him and his brothers: primogeniture leadership, the brass plates, the sword of Laban, divine calling, being led by God out of Jerusalem, and so on.

Nephi’s second chapter (which maps to 1 Nephi 6-9 in modern editions) is shorter and covers just three major themes:

  • how Nephi’s reign-and-ministry record (the small plates) fits in with all the other plates (the brass plates and Nephi’s other plates)
  • the second trip back to Jerusalem for Ishmael and his family
  • Lehi’s vision of the tree of life

Let’s look at each of these.

Nephi’s second set of plates

Chapter II starts and ends with this topic, in which Nephi further clarifies what will and will not be on his reign-and-ministry (“small”) plates.

  • His father’s genealogy (descending from Joseph), which is on the brass plates, will not be on these plates (but will be on the other plates).
  • His father’s full record will be on the other (“large”) plates, but not on these.
  • His goal for the small plates is to “write of the things of God. For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob and be saved.”
  • These small plates “are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people.”
  • “These plates are for the more part of the ministry, and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people.”
  • Finally, “the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I knoweth not.”

Remember that Nephi is working on these plates some 30 to 40 years after he and his family left Jerusalem. He’s already fled “with those who would follow me” and set up a city and culture center distinct from that of Laman and Lemuel. As a literate student of the (then-extant) Hebrew scriptures, Nephi is familiar with the contents of the brass plates, which he describes at the end of First Nephi I as containing (among other things):

a record of the Jews from the beginning,
even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah,

and also the prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning,
even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah,
and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah.

Nephi most likely sees his large and small plates as a direct and unbroken continuation of these two portions of the brass plates (history and prophecy, respectively), since he starts his small plates (and likely his large plates as well) “in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah.” In other words, he sees himself as a prophet/king with the responsibility for keeping the scriptures going forward. As such, he would therefore have the divine claim to the brass plates, as opposed to having stolen them from his older brothers (as the Lamanites would later claim).

Return for Ishmael’s Family

The second major topic for First Nephi II is the return trip to Jerusalem for Ishmael’s family. There are numerous parallels with the earlier trip to get the brass plates:

  • It is done by divine commandment via Lehi for the salvation of his seed.
  • Laman and Lemuel rebel (along with two of Ishmael’s sons).
  • Nephi rebukes his brothers for their lack of faith and obedience.
  • Laman and Lemuel threaten Nephi’s life.
  • Nephi is saved via apparent divine intervention (though Nephi’s bonds are merely “loosed” instead of Nephi being able to “burst” them).
  • Laman, Lemuel repent and ask Nephi’s forgiveness.
  • They all journey to Lehi’s camp, where thanks are given to God, along with sacrifices and burnt offerings (possibly for forgiveness of Laman and Lemuel’s sins, as per S. Kent Brown).

Nephi’s account in Chapter I of the first trip back to Jerusalem, among other things, legitimized his claim to both Laban’s sword and the brass plates. This account shows the divine commandment that brought Ishmael’s family out of Jerusalem and to the Americas. This was likely a sore point with Ishmael’s sons, who pretty much threw in their lot with Laman and Lemuel. Again, Nephi is most probably trying preemptively to set the record straight as to how Ishmael’s family ended up in the Americas.

The Tree of Life Vision

The third major topic for First Nephi II is Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Unlike Nephi’s own vision (found in First Nephi III), which is focused on the coming of a Messiah, Lehi’s vision (as recounted by Nephi) is focused almost entirely on his family and emphasizes once again the differences between Laman and Lemuel and the rest of Nephi’s family (including Nephi). As Lehi puts it:

And behold, because of the thing which I have seen,
I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam.
For I have reason to suppose
that they and also many of their seed will be saved.
But behold, Laman and Lemuel, I fear exceedingly because of you.

The rest of Lehi’s account of his vision pretty much focuses on individual choice, including falling away even after partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. And he ties it twice more to Laman and Lemuel:

And it came to pass that I was desirous
that Laman and Lemuel should come and partake of the fruit also.
Wherefore I cast mine eyes toward the head of the river
that perhaps I might see them.
And it came to pass that I saw them,
but they would not come unto me and partake of the fruit.
. . .
Thus is the words of my father,
for as many as heeded them had fallen away.
And Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit, saith my father.

Nephi then says that Lehi “exceedingly feared for Laman and Lemuel . . . lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord.” So, once again, Nephi shows why he is the favored one, the one to inherit Lehi’s authority and his prophetic mantle, while Laman and Lemuel have been rejected of the Lord.

So far, in his first two chapters, Nephi has been setting forth his version of events surrounding Lehi’s and Ishmael’s families coming out of Jerusalem into the wilderness. At the same time, he has been demonstrating repeatedly God’s (and Lehi’s) acceptance of him and rejection of Laman and Lemuel, as well as Nephi’s legitimate claims to the brass plates and Laban’s sword. The next two chapters will focus largely on prophecy and revelation rather than history — but that won’t let Laman and Lemuel off the hook.

Next post: First Nephi III (1 Nephi 10-14)

Parsing Nephi: First Nephi I (1 Nephi 1-5)

Here’s the introduction to this series, and here’s the first entry.

Nephi is now starting his second historical record on plates, the first being his transcription/abridgment of his father’s record along with his own historical additions: the “Book of Lehi”, lost with the first 116 pages of manuscript, along with the first few chapters of Mosiah. He’s trying to set the record straight, as he sees it, because his brothers are determined to kill him and take over (or wipe out) his people.

In doing so, he touches upon almost every major issues between him and his older brothers all within the space of his first chapter.

His own qualifications

First, Nephi establishes his parentage, education, standing before God, and personal witness of the record — in short, his bona fides. In fact, I am struck by the parallels with what Nephi does at the start of his first chapter and what I do as an expert witness in my written reports, laying out my qualifications for being accepted as an expert and for trusting in what I am about to write.

Also, Laman and Lemuel may well be illiterate or, at least, unable to read the language of the brass plates (cf. Mosiah 1:3-4) . Literacy was not common in 600 BC, and while Lehi and Nephi can both read the brass plates, Nephi has to read the brass plates out loud for his brothers. Hence, Nephi touts his education and literacy at the start of his first chapter.

In short, Nephi is saying, “Here’s why you should trust what I have to say over what Laman and Lemuel are saying.”

Lehi’s calling as a true prophet of God

Laman and Lemuel thought their father was a loon: preaching in the streets, dragging his family out into the wilderness, leaving their riches and property behind, putting them through eight years of desert travels and travails, and then doing this trans-oceanic voyage that moved them irrevocably far away from their homeland. They went so far as to suggest killing Lehi (and Nephi) and heading back to Jerusalem at one point, a rather shocking deed in a patriarchal society.

Nephi, by contrast, portrays his father as a true prophet in Mosaic (pillar of fire, exodus into the desert), Enochian (ascension vision with book), and Jeremaic (preaching in the streets of Jerusalem) terms, all in a short space.  The threat of potential martyrdom merely adds to Lehi’s credibility.

Nephi, the believing and obedient son, to receive the primogeniture leadership birthright

Nephi gains his own personal testimony of his father’s calling, and helps Sam to believe as well, even as Laman and Lemuel being their long history of rebellion against Lehi. As a result, God bears witness to Nephi (later confirmed in this same chapter by an angel) that Nephi will receive the rights of patriarchal leadership rather than Laman or Lemuel, his older brothers. However, Nephi does record the accompanying warning that Laman and Lemuel’s seed will “be a scourge unto thy seed” if his seed is not obedient to God, a prophecy that Nephi recounts as beginning to be fulfilled even before he starts this record.

Nephi as the rightful heir of the brass plates and Laban’s sword; the beginning of his prophetic role

Nephi recounts the trek back to Jerusalem for the brass plates at length, showing that he (unlike his brethren) is willing to follow God’s instructions through Lehi (His prophet). He then goes on to show that — after his brothers failed — he was the one who succeeded in gaining both the brass plates and Laban’s sword. Likewise, Nephi is saved by an angel and guided by the Spirit in accomplishing that, demonstrating the start of his own role as a prophet.

Repeated confirmation of Lehi’s status as a prophet (and Nephi’s status as the obedient son and future prophet)

Nephi ends his first chapter by showing that Lehi was truly inspired and acting under God’s direction in sending his sons back for the brass plates, while Laman and Lemuel were wrong for murmuring and rebelling. Even Sariah, who had murmured while her sons were gone, repents and confirms Lehi’s prophetic status. Nephi gives a brief summary of the plates’ contents, indicating all the prophesies, history, and commandments that he (at the time of his writing) now has but his brothers don’t. He then ends his chapter as he began it (post-introduction) — with Lehi prophesying — but with this pointed comment:

And it came to pass that thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us.

So, Nephi is just one chapter into his “reign and ministry” personal history, and he has already touched upon just about every major difference between him and his older brothers, including why he deserves to have the brass plates and Laban’s sword, and why he is his father’s heir, both temporally and spiritually.

It’s important to remember in all this that Nephi has already had visions of the eventual fall and destruction of his own seed, so he is certainly writing this with that in mind. But I think he has a more personal rationale in mind as well (recognizing that the Lord commanded him to do these other plates in the first place).  As I’ll note towards the end of this series, Nephi’s self-justification ultimately turns into self-recrimination, and his history abruptly ends.

Next post: First Nephi II (1 Nephi 6-9).

Parsing Nephi: First Nephi, title and introduction (1830 edition)

Here’s the introduction to this series; briefly put, it is looking at the original ‘chapter’ divisions in the Book of Mormon manuscripts (original and printer’s, resulting in the 1830 first edition). As noted in the introduction, it appears from original manuscript evidence that these chapter divisions were somehow indicated on the plates themselves and thus would represent editorial decisions by the author, in this case, Nephi1 (whom I’ll just refer to as “Nephi” hereafter). All my chapter-and-verse citations will use the modern edition, and I’ll link to the LDS Church’s on-line edition; however, when I quote text directly, I will quote from The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Royal Skousen, editor, Yale University Press, 2009), following Skousen’s layout.

For reference, here is a chart comparing the 1830 chapters to the modern edition chapters.

First Nephi (modern edition: 1 Nephi)

First, a bit of context. Nephi started working on what we now refer to as “the small plates of Nephi” (First and Second Nephi; the plates would eventually contain Jacob, Enos, and Omni as well) thirty or more years after leaving Jerusalem and finished his historical portion sometime within a ten-year period (2 Nephi 5:28-34). By the time he started the plates, he and his followers had fled from Laman and Lemuel, leaving the original Lehite settlement and relocating to what would become known as “the land of Nephi”. When he left, Nephi took with him the brass plates, the director ( “liahona”, though that name is only used once in the Book of Mormon itself and then only several centuries after the time of Nephi), and the sword of Laban (2 Nephi 5:12-14). I suspect it was the theft of these key items — the only tangible links back to Jerusalem as well as objects with substantial religious/totemic value — that infuriated Laman and Lemuel enough to lead them to track down and attack Nephi and his people, though they may also have seen Nephi as a lingering threat to their own legitimacy as rulers over their own people. (Centuries later, we still see Lamanites bitterly complaining about how Nephi robbed Laman and Lemuel not just of physical items but also of “their right to the government“.)

The flight into the wilderness and the initial wars with Laman and his people all happen (2 Nephi 5:1-27) before Nephi creates and starts writing the small plates, the ones that contain “the things of my soul“. Up until now, he has been adding to his father’s record (the lost “Book of Lehi“), but under divine direction he creates a record entirely of his own. He gives it the title, “The Book of Nephi, His Reign and Ministry” (hereafter “First Nephi”), which indicates what he thinks he will be writing about, at least eventually; as it turns out, he writes very little about his ‘reign’, and all that will be saved for the second “Book of Nephi”. And unless you include his (truly remarkable) visions and prophecies, this book doesn’t have much in the way of ‘ministry’ either — mostly just lectures to and arguments with his brothers.

Nephi also lays out what he intends to cover in this book; in essence, an outline or table of contents, but one clearly devised ahead of time, not just because of its location on the plates (at the start of First Nephi), but because of all that it leaves out. While this introduction does clearly sketch out the historical sequence covered by First Nephi and in that order, it completely leaves out those remarkable visions and prophecies alluded to earlier, and the structure of what Nephi actually wrote doesn’t mesh exactly with his planned contents. Here is Nephi’s introduction (after Skousen) as aligned with the actual chapters in First Nephi:

An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah and his four sons,
being called, beginning at the eldest,
Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi.

[Chapter I]

The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem
because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity
and they seek to destroy his life.

He taketh three days’ journey into the wilderness with his family.

Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem
after the record of the Jews.

The account of their sufferings.

[Chapter II]

They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife.

[Chapter III]

[Chapter IV]

[Chapter V]

They take their families and depart into the wilderness.

Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness.

The course of their travels.

They come to the large waters.

Nephi’s brethren rebel against him.

He confoundeth them, and buildeth a ship.

They call the name of the place Bountiful.

They cross the large waters into the promised land etc.

[Chapter VI]

[Chapter VII]

This is according to the account of Nephi,
or in other words, I, Nephi, wrote this record.

In short, it is clear I think that Nephi started out with an(other) historical record in mind — his “reign and ministry”, with the events that led him to that point. As is often the case for writers, however, what he started out to write is not what he wrote at the end. Likewise, a record that starts on a rather triumphal note (again, “reign and ministry”) diverts into harsh self-recrimination (2 Nephi 4:17-35) just before a very short recounting of his actual reign and ministry (2 Nephi 5:1-28) and an abrupt end to his historical record (the rest of Second Nephi is prophecy and scripture).

Next post: First Nephi I (1 Nephi 1-5). ..bruce..

Parsing Nephi: the earliest Book of Mormon text

Most of you are probably aware that the earliest editions of the Book of Mormon (starting with the 1830 first edition) had different chapter divisions than the current LDS editions. The chapter-and-verse divisions that we are used to were devised by Orson Pratt in 1879 for what was the ninth published edition (chronologically speaking); in so doing, he chopped up the original chapters, which were for the most part longer than the ones we have now. For example, First Nephi chapter I in the 1830 edition maps to 1 Nephi chapters 1-5 in the current LDS edition.

What you may be less aware of is that Royal Skousen, as part of his critical text analysis of the Book of Mormon, believes that the (original) chapter divisions existed on the plates themselves:

It appears that Joseph Smith himself specified the placement of the original chapter breaks. In the translation process, Joseph seems to have seen some visual indication at the end of a section that the section was ending; perhaps the last words of the section were followed by blankness. Recognizing that the section was ending, Joseph then told the scrip to write the word chapter, with the understanding that the appropriate number would be added later. Scribal evidence from the original and printer’s manuscripts supports this interpretation. Oliver Cowdery’s Chapter is always written rapidly and with the same ink flow as the surrounding text. But his chapter numbers are almost always written with heavier ink flow and more carefully. In many cases, Oliver took time to add serifs to his roman numerals. And in one case, the chapter number was written in blue ink while all the surrounding words (including the word Chapter) were written using the normal black ink.

The use of the word chapter and he corresponding numbers is not part of the original text and can therefore be considered noncanonical. But the breaks that Joseph Smith apparently saw can be considered a part of the original text and should be indicated in the [critical] text, perhaps by placing white spaces between sections. (Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part One: 1 Nephi 1 – 2 Nephi 20, Royal Skousen, FARMS, 2004, p. 44).

Note that, by contrast, the paragraph breaks in the 1830 edition are not extant in the original and printer’s manuscripts and instead were added by the typesetter; ibid., p. 45.

If we assume that Skousen is correct and that the 1830 chapter breaks represented compositional divisions on the Book of Mormon plates themselves, then it is fair to consider that Nephi may have had conscious reasons for how each division (‘chapter’) was structured. Nephi wrote all of 1 Nephi, as well as 2 Nephi 1-5 (Second Nephi I-IV in the 1830 edition) between 30 and 40 years after leaving Jerusalem (cf. 2 Nephi 5:28-34). Nephi had already been keeping his “other history” on the “other plates” (cf. 1 Nephi 6, 2 Nephi 5:29-30), so this represented a new writing venture for him, and one that took many years to complete. As has been pointed out by many, many commentators over the decades, Nephi almost certainly wrote his “small plates” record, among other reasons, to defend himself against Laman and Lemuel’s claims (which became a lasting Lamanite tradition) that he was a liar and a thief, not to mention a usurper of Laman’s leadership rights under primogeniture. Finally, given the apparent difficulty of engraving upon the metal plates, it is likely that Nephi did some degree of composing, outlining, or otherwise structuring what he was going to engrave in each division before starting it.

Putting all that together, it is fair I think to hypothesize that Nephi may have had a deliberate structure to each of the chapters in First Nephi, as well as Second Nephi I-IV (2 Nephi 1-5), which together make up the totality of Nephi’s historical record on the small plates; the rest of Second Nephi comprises Jacob’s sermon, excerpts from Isaiah, and Nephi’s own prophecies, preaching and testimony, all without any other historical information or setting (contemporary to Nephi, that is).

This is a long lead-in to what will be a series of posts looking at First Nephi I-VII and Second Nephi I-IV (using Skousen’s The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text, Yale University Press, 2009) to see what themes or structures can be derived from the presentation and contents of each chapter.

The next post covers First Nephi’s title and introduction. ..bruce..

A secular General Conference talk (sort of)

From time to time, I hear members of the Church (particularly within the Bloggernacle) grumble about the ‘simplistic, standard’ answers given time and again over the pulpit and particularly in General Conference. You know: pray, go to church, hold family home evening, pay your tithing, stay out of debt, keep the commandments, etc. Of course, the same talks also point out how easy it is to stop doing these things, and how life doesn’t function quite as well.

Which is why I found this article by James Altucher, entitled “How to be THE LUCKIEST GUY ON THE PLANET in 4 Easy Steps”, so interesting. Altucher is a “hedge fund manager and author” (quoting from Wikipedia); I know nothing about his professional success or his writings, and just happened to stumble upon his post from a link I found elsewhere. First, he sets up his problem statement:

My ONLY Three Goals in Life

A)     I want to be happy.

B)      I want to eradicate unhappiness in my life.

C)      I want every day to be as smooth as possible. No hassles.

That’s it. I’m not asking for much. I need simple goals else I can’t achieve them.

There’s been at least ten times in my life that everything seemed so low I felt like I would never achieve the above three things and the world would be better off without me. Other times I felt like I was stuck at a crossroads and would never figure out which road to take. Each time I bounced back.

When I look back at these times now I realize there was a common thread. Each time there were four things, and only four things, that were always in place in order for me to bounce back. Now I try to incorporate these four things into a daily practice so I never dip low again.

And then he talks about the four elements of that daily practice: physical; emotional; mental; and spiritual. Go read the article to find out his details of each. There’s nothing breathtaking about the advice, and I might have a few disagreements with some of his suggestions under ’emotional’ — but then again, I might not; I might just say it a little more nicely. 😉

He then describes the results:

The Results

A)     Within about one month, I’d notice coincidences start to happen. I’d start to feel lucky. People would smile at me more.

B)      Within three months the ideas would really start flowing, to the point where I felt overwhelming urges to execute the ideas.

C)      Within six months, good ideas would start flowing, I’d begin executing them, and everyone around me would help me put everything together.

D)     Within a year my life was always completely different. 100% upside down from the year before. More money, more luck, more health, etc. And then I’d get lazy and stop doing the practice. And everything falls apart again. But now I’m trying to do it every day.

Its hard to do all of this every day. Nobody is perfect. I don’t know if I’ll do all of these things today. But I know when I do it, it works.

Familiar sounding pattern, isn’t it? Much of life is expecting or hoping for shortcuts and good fortune. As Altucher points out, as scores of LDS leaders have pointed out, what really works is daily consistency in doing the right things. When we do that, doors open — maybe not right away, and maybe not in the way we expect, but nevertheless they open.

Food for thought.  ..bruce..

A brief thought on Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. — Matthew 11:28-30

Our stake president quoted this verse during the adult session of our stake conference last night. I had my iPad out to take notes (using the Index Card app), so on a whim, I flipped over to the Kindle app, where I have an interlinear Greek New Testament (full disclosure: I had exactly one semester of New Testament Greek some 35 years ago at BYU, but I keep poking at it) and tapped on a few of the key Greek words to see if there were any insights to gain.

As it turns out, the Greek word that is translated as “rest” in verses 28 and 29 is anapauo, which does not necessarily mean to cease from all labor from that point on. Instead, the primary meaning is “to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength” (Strong’s 373). In other words, one could interpret this to mean that the Savior isn’t saying that we will cease to labor under His yoke; instead, He is promising to give us the periodic rest breaks we need to be able to continue our labors.

Sort of like my current calling as High Priests Group secretary. Hmm.  ..bruce..