“I Beheld Wars, and Rumors of Wars”

Brant Gardner

Redaction: Nephi, not yet married or a father, sees a troubled future of conflict and suffering for his posterity: wars, the turmoil of rumored wars, and “great slaughters with the sword.” Given this strong emphasis on violence, fully confirmed by later books in the Book of Mormon, it is remarkable that the small plates record so little strife; but obviously, this was the emphasis of the larger plates.

Interestingly, there is no indication that these future events would be taking place in a new world. Nephi almost certainly would have assumed the setting to be the promised land about which he already knew. The Book of Mormon to this point contains no indication that the Lehites knew either their direction (except away from Jerusalem) or their specific destination.

Literature: In verse 3, Nephi records that many generations pass away, then adds that this passages occurs “after the manner of wars and contentions in the land.” The pairing suggests that Nephi could tell the passage of generations by the characteristic of war among his people. What might this mean? It is possible that the emphasis is on the wars as the cause of the generations passing away. At least as Mormon edits the Nephite story, these wars cause the entire Nephite nation to pass away both before the Messiah came to the New World and during his own days when they see their final days.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1