“Their Grey Hairs Were About to Be Brought Down to Lie Low in the Dust”

Alan C. Miner

In writing about the grief and sorrow suffered by his parents "because of their children," and more specifically because of "the iniquity of my brethren," that "they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave." (1 Nephi 18:18). Noel Reynolds notes that here Nephi chooses the exact phrase found in Genesis to describe the effects of family rebellion on the patriarch Jacob. Jacob of old accuses his older sons of bringing "down [his] gray hairs with sorrow to the grave" (Genesis 42:38). This same phrase is repeated to such an extent in Genesis that it formulaically evokes memories of Jacob. In Genesis 44:29 Judah quotes Jacob's lament exactly. In verse 31 he repeats the lament again. These statements in Jacob's old age echo his earlier statement when, upon receiving the supposed evidence of Joseph's death, he said, "I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning" (Genesis 37:35). Noel B. Reynolds, "The Political Dimension in Nephi's Small Plates," FARMS, 1987, pp. 32-33]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary