strtoupper('“T')he Traditions of Our Fathers”

From a Nephite perspective, this is the foundation of the conflict between Lamanite and Nephite. There are two objects of hatred, the "tradition of our fathers" and "our records." In later restatements of this conflict, we will see only the traditions issue, and not the records. For all intents and purposes, however, they are the same issue.

What might the "traditions of our fathers" refer to? Certainly one aspect is their inherited religious beliefs, their Jewish traditions out of Jerusalem. While this is possible, it is not likely. Laman and Lemuel may not have been very religious, but their rebellion was not against God (in their eyes) as much as it was the oppression of younger brother who had usurped the right of leadership for the family.

It is the tradition of superior status of the Nephites that galled, and would continue to gall, the Lamanites. While the Nephites remained, their traditions indicated that they had precedence over the Lamanites. The lesson of later Mesoamerica is instructive here. When the young city of Tenochtitan began to flex its military and political muscle, they made moves to assure that they could lay claim to a Toltec heritage. This was an essential legitimizer of power, and a step taken to establish themselves as legitimate powers. (Gillespie, Susan D. The Aztec Kings. Tucson, University of Arizona Press. 1989, p. 25).

In the earlier times of the Lamanites, we may also assume appeals to legitimacy. Whereas the Lamanites probably mixed with other communities (as did the Nephites), their claim to inherent right of leadership was diminished by the countervailing claims of the Nephites. In addition, the records of the Nephites established, and probably sacralized those claims.

In later Mesoamerican society, written map, or lienzo, established the land ownership of certain groups. (see Marcus, Joyce. Mesoamerican Writing Systems. Princeton University Press, 1992, pp. 153-189). Mesoamericans held documents in esteem as legal, moral, and religious proof of claims upon land or leadership, as evidenced by the rapid assimilation of the Nahuas (Aztecs) to the written documents required of the Spanish courts (see Anderson, Arthur J.O., Frances Berdan, and James Lockhart. Beyond the Codices. University of California Press, 1976). Thus when the Lamanites threaten the records of the Nephites, they threaten the legitimacy of the Nephite position and right of rule.

Enos 1:15

15 Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.

Enos' desires to preserve the records now have multiple contexts. He is preserving them for a beneficial purpose, but the urgency of the preservation itself is based on explicit threats upon them by the Lamanites. In this desire to preserve the records, the Lord grants Enos' desire.

Brant Gardner -

Brant Gardner

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon

References