“We Have Received the Word of God”

Brant Gardner

Literature: This series of woe-statements recapitulates Nephi’s categories of the unrighteous and reinforces the judgment that will befall them. Each type has been previously mentioned, and they are listed here in roughly inverse order from their first mention. This is not a formal chiasm, however, only a general reversal in a different context.

The repetition of virtually the same statement in verses 27 and 29 reinforces my reading of this passage as not a formal literary reversal. The two statements pose an interesting structural problem, however. The repetition is clear, but typically a repetition will either be exact (to provide literary emphasis) or will be slightly different to highlight that slight difference. Because these two are not exact, the second case seems likely.

In verse 27 the “wicked” state that “we have received.” In verse 29, the “wicked” state that “we have received the word of God.” This suggests that there is a difference in two types of “the wicked” and that the difference relates to their sources of learning. Thus, those who have “received” refers to the people described in verse 26 who subscribe to the authority and learning of men. Because they deny God, they cite what they have “received” without mentioning God.

Similarly, the “wicked” of verses 28–29 have received the Yahweh’s word as their source of learning. This group is divided into two subgroups: those who are angered because of Yahweh’s word and those who are complacent about it. According to Nephi, this particular condemnation applies to the angry, not to the complacent. Verses 24 and 25 describe the complacent. While still qualifying as “wicked” by God’s definitions, they have not strayed so far as those who are angry because of the word nor those who deny that there is a word of God.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 2