“People of Nephi Round About the Temple Which Was in the Land Bountiful and the * Y Were Marveling and Wondering”

Brant Gardner

This verse figures into the polemics circulating around the timing of the Messiah’s appearance to the Nephites. Brown suggests that the response to disaster as close in time as three days prior is not the occasion for milling around the temple and talking, but rather for the work of saving the wounded and reconstructing life. (S. Kent Brown. From Jerusalem to Zarahemla. Brigham Young University, Provo, 1998, p. 151).Tvedtnes notes that the destruction occurred in the lands southward and the lands northward, but there is no indication that the devastation was total. This leaves the possibility that Bountiful was in effect the “eye of the storm” and was able to avoid most of the damages. (John A. Tvetdnes. The Most Correct Book. Cornerstone, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, 1999, pp. 259-62)

Tvedtnes is undoubtedly correct that the damage was not universal, and that Bountiful may have been spared much of the destruction. This would even be likely if, as suggested earlier, we have the unique event of two nearly simultaneous volcanic events, one to the north and one to the south of the indicated lands. The problem is that whether there is damage or not simply mutes an argument against the later date, but it still comes up against Mormon’s statement.

Both suggestions accept this description as an accurate depiction, when it is actually more likely that what we have is a literary transition into the event. Nephi is again writing after the fact, and constructing his account of the arrival of the Messiah just as he constructed the account of the destructions. The description of the destructions required that the text be written later, and have access to widespread information. The description of Jesus’ visit is likewise a constructed text, a point that will be examined more in detail as we proceed through the texts of that appearance.

The construction of the account, the fact that we do not have Nephi’s transition between the text of the destruction and the text of the arrival, all suggest that it is difficult to use this introduction as evidence of the actual events and timing. This is a literary introduction. There were people in the city of Bountiful who were not at the temple at this point in time. There were people near the temple who were not discussing the words of the Messiah. There were countless numbers of things happening that Nephi does not mention. What he does mention is selected from the universe of possible information to lead us into the more important information that is the arrival of the Savior.

It suits Nephi’s purposes to lead into this marvelous appearance by having the people somewhat prepared for it. They are therefore prepared in physical location; they are at the temple. They are prepared in mental expectations; they are discussing the Messiah. Into this favorable and faithful scenario, Nephi has the Messiah appear.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon