Sunday, May 2, 2010

Will the real Nephi please stand up?

Was there really a person named Nephi who actually lived in the Book of Mormon? —LIFE

Yes, there's a Nephi in the Book of Mormon. More than one actually. Are you asking whether the book itself is historical and not something cobbled together by Joseph Smith and perhaps others? That's an obvious no. None of the purported history from the Book of Mormon looks remotely like what we know about ancient America today. It fails every test one could throw at it—agricultural, linguistic, technological, metallurgical, cultural, you name it. Every test, that is, except the one the Mormon responders here keep pushing: that you should ignore all contradictory evidence and pray for a good feeling about the book. Feeling is knowing. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Anyway, the name you asked about, Nephi, is not in the King James Bible like many of the other Book of Mormon names. It is, however, in the Apocrypha, which was part of the Smith family Bible. If it were the name of an ancient Hebrew, being translated into English in 1830, you'd think the spelling would be phonetic, like Nefi. Then again, you'd think all of the thees and thous and thus sayeths would have no place in a modern translation either. Seriously, how obvious does it have to be?


"The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel—half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern—which was about every sentence or two—he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as 'exceeding sore,' 'and it came to pass,' etc., and made things satisfactory again. 'And it came to pass' was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet." —Mark Twain, Roughing It