“He Cast Out Devils and Unclean Spirits and Even His Brother Did He Raise from the Dead”

Brant Gardner

There is a powerful parallel in the preparation of the people for the resurrection of the Savior. In the New Testament, Jesus performs miracles. He specifically casts out devils, and he raises Lazarus from the dead. In the New World, and approximately the same time, Nephi functions as a Jesus-surrogate, performing the same types of miracles, including the raising from the dead.

This paralleling of events in preparation for the death and resurrection of the Savior suggests that these events had a particular meaning that pointed to, and were fulfilled in, the resurrection of the Atoning Messiah. Although the post-resurrection appearance of the Messiah in both continents would have some differences, there were parallels, and one of the parallels is in the preparation for the event. In the Book of Mormon, these preparatory parallels receive only passing notice, perhaps because Mormon does not know of the similar events that are recorded in the Old World. Mormon may not have understood the way in which Nephi functioned as a Jesus-surrogate in his actions just prior to the coming of the Atoning Messiah to the New World.

Cultural: The raising of Nephi’s brother from death is the only indication we have of this brother. We may assume that he was also a righteous man, as he was worthy of this pre-figuring “resurrection.” We may also assume that he was stoned by the people for his preaching, given the antagonism Mormon notes for Nephi.

Stoning as a means of punishing death was known in Mesoamerican culture. Of course there is no archaeological record of stoning, but there is textual information about the practice from the time of the Aztecs where it was used as the principle punishment for adultery (Warwick Bray. Everyday Life of the Aztecs. Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1991, p. 69). Of course adultery would not have been Nephi’s brother’s crime, but the presence of the punishment confirms that it was known and used as a punishment in the region.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon