“Looking Beyond the Mark”

Brant Gardner

Jacob, speaking in the past tense, explains how the Old World Jews have misunderstood the prophets. They were “looking beyond the mark”—looking for something different than that which they received: the Messiah’s mission. Jacob is saying that the Jews expected, and continued to expect, a different mission. Old World Israel retained a belief in the Triumphant Messiah, but its belief in the atoning mission faded into the background after Josiah. The Book of Mormon’s emphasis on the atonement attempts to reinstate that belief. The fact that Jacob must declare it so firmly appears to indicate that the tendency to dismiss atonement while concentrating on the eschatological mission also crossed the ocean with Lehi’s family. I have speculated that this belief was the doctrinal difference between Laman and Lemuel and the rest of the family, but Jacob would not need to articulate the concept so clearly if it were not also available among the Nephites.

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