“We Did Observe to Keep the Judgments”

Alan C. Miner

According to John Welch, [Nephi] was a real person, who lived in a real world. It is a testimony to [him] to see how aptly his words fit into the ancient legal setting as we understand it. . ..

It is important to realize that the law of Moses did more than regulate the priestly ordinances or ritual aspects of ancient Israel. It embraced both religious and secular, cultic and civil law. For example, Jethro said to Moses, "Thou shalt teach them ordinances [hopim] and laws [torot]" (Exodus 18:20), and accordingly Moses issued laws and judgments, and established rulers and judges--not only for their religious purification, but also for the government of his people. Some of Moses' "ordinances" are ordinances in the sense of city ordinances; others are ordinances in the sense of priesthood ordinances. His judgments (the mishpatim) and his commandments (usually the mitzvot), found largely in Exodus and Deuteronomy, establish what we could consider to be the criminal, civil, family and administrative laws, as well as the constitutional fabric of ancient Israelite society. . . .

This seems to be the clear meaning of 2 Nephi 5:10, affirming that the earliest Nephites kept "the judgments [mishpatim], and the statutes [hopim?], and the commandments [mitzvot?] of the Lord in all things according to the law of Moses." [John W. Welch, "Lehi's Last Will and Testament: A Legal Approach," in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure, pp. 62-64]

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