Friday, March 16, 2012

The Risen Jesus: The Immediate and Eternal Text


On September 26-27 back in 2008, a conference which aimed to explore 3 Nephi was held at BYU. The proceedings of that conference were recently published as Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture, edited by Andrew C. Skinner and Gaye Strathearn. I picked up a copy just the other day, and one thing that pleased me is that it included the panel discussion that took place at the end of the conference. In my experience, these are quite often where some of the best, most candid remarks are made, so it is disappointing to me that all too often these do not get published. So I made that the first thing (and so far, the only thing) I read from the volume. I found some of the remarks enlightening, inspiring, and edifying, and so I thought I would share some of those comments, unadulterated with my commentary. Because comments won’t be included in full, I have added some remarks [in brackets] for clarification. Page numbers mark the end of an excerpt and (obviously) indicate the page(s) that excerpt can be found on. Enjoy!

Grant Hardy: But one of the real differences [between the Bible and the Book of Mormon] is that in the narrative portions of the Hebrew Bible the narrators tend to anonymous. They don’t introduce themselves; they don’t talk about why they are writing… whereas with the Book of Mormon narrators, we get to know them pretty well through the course of the book, and perhaps that makes it more immediate as well. It seems like it is told by someone who knows us.

Daniel C. Peterson: And you can actually feel, I think, different personalities. I mean, I have a very strong sense of who Mormon was because he makes comments all throughout.

Robert L. Millet: Or Jacob’s anxiety. (pg. 379)

S. Kent Brown: Jesus himself is the text because he bears in his body the proof of the atonement… when one thinks about ancient texts, one thinks about texts that are inscribed on stone, clay tablets, metal, wood, eventually papyri, which is a softer, more perishable material. Each one of those kinds of surfaces can be destroyed, but the resurrected, glorified body of Jesus cannot. And it bears, as it were, witness of itself, and it carries, in its own way [through the scars in his hands, feet, and side], the text of his suffering and death and resurrection. In a concrete way, the immediate and eternal text is the Risen Jesus, bearing his body marks that will never go away. (pg. 381)

John W. Welch: When I go to the temple, I think of that as being my trip this month or week to Bountiful; what I experience at the temple is my opportunity to come as close as I can to what happened in 3 Nephi. Likewise, when I partake of the sacrament, I like to remember that the sacrament prayers we offer every Sunday don’t come initially from D&C 20, but from Moroni, chapters 4 and 5… Compare those words with 3 Nephi 18. The words in our sacrament prayers are a transformed version of Jesus’s first-person and second-person language recast as third-person text. So we celebrate the sacrament, not only of the Lord’s supper, but also of the Lord’s appearance in 3 Nephi. And when we partake of the bread, we should remember that we eat not only in remembrance of the body that has been broken for us –that’s the New Testament language. What does it say in 3 Nephi? “This ye shall do in remembrance of  the body which I have shown unto you.” That is, in remembrance of the physical, tangible body that, to use Kent’s expression, they were able to “read.” (pg. 381-382)

Grant Hardy: One of my favorite Biblical scholars is E.P. Sanders…Sanders says that study and prayer and temple service bring Israelites into the presence of God, and then he says this: “To study the Torah is to be in the presence of the God who gave it.” And I think that’s what 3 Nephi is like. To read 3 Nephi and to hear those direct quotations of the Savior is to put yourself in Bountiful at the temple. To study 3 Nephi is to be in the presence of the God who gave it, and that may make it incomparable. (pg. 382)

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[I'm sure you noticed, but I got the title from the remarks made by S. Kent Brown]