|Lehi reading (left), Nephi smelting (middle), and Jacob writing (right), |
with plates front and center. Image by Book of Mormon Central
I will apologize up front for the general lack of documentation in the this post. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on scribes, writing, and literacy in ancient Israel (and its ancient Near Eastern context) and wanted to hammer out some thoughts that have been jumbling around in my head. Something more refined (with sources cited) will be coming later as part of a larger work.
If there is one thing we know about Lehi and Nephi, it’s that they could read and write. Nephi, we know, could write very well. 1 and 2 Nephi is an impressively crafted text which accomplishes various narrative goals whilst employing a variety of literary conventions and all kinds of subtle allusions. It is, in a word, brilliant. Whether Lehi was such a skilled writer, we don’t know. We lack any samples of his direct writing, but we know he read and wrote because Nephi tells us about it. And Nephi’s own learning came from Lehi, but did his own skill and learning exceed Lehi’s? We don’t know (but as assumed below, I think it did…).