strtoupper('“I')f God Shall Smite Thee Let That Be a Sign Unto Thee That He Has Power”

According to John Welch, the stunning of Sherem -- see Jacob 7:13-15) was precisely the kind of sign or restraint that people in the ancient Mediterranean world [and by extension the Nephite world] expected a god to manifest in a judicial setting when false accusations or unfair ploys placed an opponent at a distinct disadvantage.

What is interesting, in comparing this Mediterranean cultural practice with what is recorded in the Book of Mormon, is that stricken litigants often erected confession stelae. The inscriptions apparently were "a confession of guilt, to which the author has been forced by the punishing intervention of the deity, often manifested by illness or accident" In hopes of appeasing the offended god, a punished litigant would inscribe on the stela a clear profession of his newly admitted faith in the deity and would warn others not to disdain the gods.

The story of Sherem shows these same trends of confession. Sherem also acknowledged the power of God:

And it came to pass that on the morrow the multitude were gathered together; and he [Sherem] spake plainly unto them and denied the things which he had taught them, and confessed the Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost, and the ministering of angels. And he spake plainly unto them, that he had been deceived by the power of the devil. And he spake of hell, and of eternity, and of eternal punishment. (Jacob 7:17-18)

[John W. Welch, "Cursing a Litigant with Speechlessness," in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon, p. 155] [See the commentary on Alma 30:49 and Alma 30:52]

Alan C. Miner -

Alan C. Miner

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