strtoupper('“C')ause My People to Be Industrious”

Anthropological analysis: While textually separated, this statement of Nephi about his people provides an important distinction in the way Nephi sees the differences between his people and the people of Laman and Lemuel. Nephi specifically states that his people are industrious, and labor with their hands. Contrast this description to his description of the "Lamanites:"

2 Ne. 5:24 And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.

The Nephite industriousness is contrasted to the idleness of the Lamanites, and the evidence of their idleness, or at least the one given is that they "did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey." Combined with the evidence of the planting by the Nephites, we see the development, at least temporarily, of a different choice of sustenance.

The Nephites have chosen to continue the agricultural patterns, and the Lamanites have elected to become hunter-gatherers. The election of hunter-gatherer as a mode of sustenance suggests a number of things. First, Nephi suggest that they chose this mode because they were "idle." In order to be "idle" hunters and gatherers, the hunting and gathering must be abundant. This is typically not an easy life, as one must move after the game. However, the Lamanites are "idle." Nephi's description thus suggests that the Lamanites decided to take the easy path to subsistence rather than go through the work of agricultural labor.

Another feature of hunting and gathering societies is that they tend to be smaller, and to lack permanent structures. This is because it takes a large amount of land to supply the band, and their frequent travels through their hunting territory argue against monumental structure (the labor for which typically requires a larger population).

Therefore, we get a picture of the Lamanites from Nephi that shows more than a simple separation in location. There is a conceptual separation in lifestyle as well. It is important to note that this initial hunter-gather phase will obviously be discarded as a Lamanite strategy, as they become a numerous people with cities and kings. Those factors all argue against a continuation of that strategy. However, the important point for future Nephite-Lamanite relationships is that there is a psychological barrier placed between the Nephites and their Lamanite cousins that labels them as "idle" (as well as other things). Very early on, the Lamanites were seen in pejorative contrast to the Nephite life. In the way of most of humanity for ages, peoples tend to approve of people who are most like themselves, and disapprove of those who are different. The roots of the conflict between Lamanite and Nephite begin between brothers, but are magnified between peoples.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon

References