“Blessed Are the Gentiles”

Brant Gardner

The first theme is the blessing and cursing of the Gentiles relative to the scriptures. The second antithetical parallel deals with the scriptures’ direction or movement. They will go among the Gentiles, and then go from the Gentiles. The Gentiles are therefore blessed because they preserved the Old World scriptures. However, when the Gentiles begin to reject those scriptures’ teachings, the scriptures (the gospel) will be taken from them and given to the Jews. The movement is also antithetical: first, from the Jews to the Gentiles, then from the Gentiles back to the Jews.

Another important clarification is the larger context of the Savior’s message to the twelve. He began with concern over divided Israel. The “other sheep” section confirms that Israel is scattered and that its gathering lies in the future. The Nephite scriptures will play a role in this gathering and, interestingly, will first go to the Gentiles (v. 4). Through the Gentiles (v. 6), the Nephite scriptures will teach the gospel to remnants of the house of Israel before the gathering (v. 5). This development is unexpected. The very definition of a Gentile at that time was an unbeliever; thus, Gentile possession of the gospel (more specifically, the scriptures) reverses the expected order. This future fact constitutes another antithesis.

Verse 7 establishes the directional antithesis; the scriptures go from the Jews to the Gentiles. Verse 8 proclaims woe on the unbelieving Gentiles—the antithetical parallel to the Gentiles’ blessing. In both clauses, the blessing and the cursing are caused by the Gentiles’ treatment of the scriptures and the gospel. They are blessed for preserving them and cursed for straying from their teachings.

Verse 8 introduces a new theme—the Gentiles’ maltreatment of the Jews. These persecutions occur after the Gentiles fail to understand the scriptures and gospel and are under woe. The maltreatment (also v. 9) serves as an antithesis of expectation. As the covenant people, the Jews should merit better treatment, but they have rejected the scriptures and the gospel. While the Gentiles possess the scriptures and gospel, they are blessed. While the Jews do not have the scriptures and the gospel, they are persecuted. However, persecuting the Jews shows that the Gentiles have departed from the scriptures and the gospel; such persecution therefore heralds another reversal.

The final reversal begins in verse 10 when the gospel is taken from the Gentiles and given back to the house of Israel.

Translation: The themes and the structural reversals are indications of Mormon’s purposeful structuring of the plate text, but the obscure and convoluted English text suggests that Joseph may not have grasped that complex structure. At one point, Joseph interjects an aside that follows the structure, but which is never completed and does not return to the original idea. This apparent loss of conceptual control occurs in verse 8, immediately after the pronouncement of wo on the unbelieving Gentiles. The aside begins “for notwithstanding. . .” “For” would normally predict a causal relationship between the following material and the previous material. That relationship never materializes. In this case, the surviving antithetical parallelisms suggest greater clarity in the underlying text than Joseph was able to capture with his “wandering” English translation.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5