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The Book of Jarom

Jarom was the son of Enos. It is likely that the small plates of Nephi were delivered to Jarom by his father Enos in about 420 BC (see Enos 1:25-26).

Jarom Chapter 1

1 Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept.

verse 1 "I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos" We begin to learn something of Jarom. It is apparent that he was a man of few words. Certainly he was not given to much writing. We will learn that Jarom had in his possession the small plates of Nephi for almost sixty years, and these fifteen verses are all we have to show for those years.

For commentary on the Hebrew derivation of his name, see the supplemental article, Names in the Book of Mormon.

"that our genealogy may be kept" Beginning with Jarom, the authors of the small plates seem to regard their purpose as mainly genealogical. It is interesting that this purpose was never mentioned by Nephi or Jacob and may be a purpose which arose by default. Most of these authors did not regard themselves as qualified to speak as God's mouthpiece, and were more comfortable with simply keeping a genealogy.

Since the time of Adam there has existed among believers the tradition of keeping a journal, referred to in scripture as a "book of remembrance" (Moses 6:4-6; Moses 6:46; Malachi 3:16-17; 3 Nephi 24:16). Jarom implies here that the same tradition existed in his family line as well.

2 And as these plates are small, and as these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites, wherefore, it must needs be that I write a little; but I shall not write the things of my prophesying, nor of my revelations. For what could I write more than my fathers have written? For have not they revealed the plan of salvation? I say unto you, Yea; and this sufficeth me.

verse 2 "as these plates are small" Jarom is simply commenting that there is but little room left to write on the small plates of Nephi. Keep in mind that the words "large" and "small," when used in the Book of Mormon text to modify "plates," do not refer to the size of each single plate in the set. Rather they refer to the number of plates in the set and hence to the space available for written material. Today we would speak of a book that has few pages as a "short" book. A book with many pages is a "long" book. Thus the set of large plates of Nephi will eventually be a long book, and the set of small plates of Nephi is now, and will continue to be, a short book.

"these things are written for the intent of the benefit of our brethren the Lamanites" It is clear that one of the major purposes the Lord had in mind for the Book of Mormon was to testify to the apostate remnant of the Lamanites in the latter days (see Enos 1:16-17, D&C 3:19-20).

"it must needs be that I write a little" Jarom writes this phrase with the spirit of not wanting to shirk his duty to his errant brethren the Lamanites.

Jarom then says in effect, "But I won't write much. Anyway it would be difficult for me to add to what has already been written by my ancestors Nephi, Jacob, and Enos."

"plan of salvation" We have previously discussed this interesting term in the commentary for 2 Nephi 9:6. For the reader's convenience I will reproduce that discussion here. Man has always had a deep need to discern some design, purpose, pattern, or plan regarding his existence. This has been referred to as man's "architectonic" need. That our God is a God of order and has a well defined plan for the redemption of his children is clear from other references in the Book of Mormon. The "plan of salvation" is also mentioned in the Book of Mormon in Alma 24:14 and Alma 42:5. This plan is referred to by several other names in the Book of Mormon including: "the way of deliverance of our God" (2 Nephi 9:11), "the plan of our God" (2 Nephi 9:13), the "eternal plan of deliverance" (2 Nephi 11:5), "the great plan of redemption" (Jacob 6:8), "the plan of redemption" (Alma 12:25), the "plan of happiness" (Alma 42:8), the "plan of mercy" (Alma 42:15), and the "merciful plan of the great Creator" (2 Nephi 9:6). It is interesting to note that nowhere in the Bible is it even mentioned that God has a plan for the salvation of his children. We know, however, that Old and New Testament authors knew about the plan of salvation. We read, for example, in the books of Abraham and Moses in the Pearl of Great Price about the pre-earth life and the Grand Council that we attended there. In these books, these concepts are mentioned but briefly. Evidently they were assumed to be common knowledge among those for whom these books were originally written. Peter's reference to Christ's visit to the spirit world also illustrates this point. He obviously did not intend to give a discourse on the subject. Rather, his reference to spirit prison was only used in making another point (1 Peter 3:19).

3 Behold, it is expedient that much should be done among this people, because of the hardness of their hearts, and the deafness of their ears, and the blindness of their minds, and the stiffness of their necks; nevertheless, God is exceedingly merciful unto them, and has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land.

verse 3 Jarom provides us a description of "this people." Who are they? He likely is referring to his own people, the Nephites. This description was probably written shortly after Jarom received the small plates of Nephi from his father Enos in about 420 BC. It is interesting to contrast his description of the Nephites in this verse with that in verse 5, written some twenty years later. Apparently significant spiritual improvement had taken place. Keep in mind that this spiritual improvement is not likely due to the efforts of Jarom. The progeny of Jacob, by this time, were outside of the circle of prophets and priesthood leaders among the people.

Spiritual blindness, or insensitivity to the Spirit of God, is referred to in the Book of Mormon using several different phrases. Jarom uses several of them in this verse: "hardness of their hearts," "deafness of their ears," "blindness of their minds," and "stiffness of their necks." Others include "blind the eyes," "stiffnecked," "despise the words of plainness," and "looking beyond the mark." See the discussion of hard-heartedness in the commentary for Alma 10:6.

"God . . . has not as yet swept them off from the face of the land" Jarom's use of the conjunction "as yet" suggests that he may have had a revealed premonition of the eventual annihilation of the Nephite people.

4 And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.

verse 4 Jarom is still referring to his own people, the Nephites, and he assures us that there are righteous people and prophets among his people, though they do not come from the line of Jacob.

This is an important verse which explains a vital principle. Simply stated, the faithful do not only have the right to receive inspiration, rather they will receive revelations or "communion with the Holy Spirit." Without this communion a person cannot know of the divinity of Jesus Christ or of the truth of his gospel.

5 And now, behold, two hundred years had passed away, and the people of Nephi had waxed strong in the land. They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord. And they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme. And the laws of the land were exceedingly strict.

verse 5 "two hundred years had passed away" This phrase is based on the time Lehi and his family departed Jerusalem. There will eventually be three separate Nephite methods of chronological reckoning. See the commentary for 3 Nephi 1:1.

It seems likely that Jarom's writings were entered onto the small plates of Nephi in three installments. The first includes verses 1 through 4 and was probably engraved shortly after Jarom received the small plates of Nephi from his father Enos. The second begins here in verse 5 and extends through verse 12. This entry was made some twenty years after Jarom was given possession of the plates. The final brief entry includes verses 13 through 15 and was made thirty-eight years later or some fifty-eight years after Jarom became custodian of the plates.

"They observed to keep the law of Moses and the sabbath day holy unto the Lord." Obviously the spiritual state of the Nephites has improved since Jarom's first entry (verses 1-4) onto the small plates of Nephi.

On Sinai the Lord gave to Moses the commandment, "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8). Many have erroneously assumed that the law of Sabbath day observance originated with the law of Moses. Keeping the seventh day holy is actually a vital principle of the fulness of gospel (Genesis 2:2-3; D&C 59:9-14).

"they profaned not; neither did they blaspheme" To profane is to violate anything sacred or treat it with abuse, irreverence, or contempt; to show disrespect for sacred things. Similarly, to blaspheme is to speak disrespectfully of sacred things.

6 And they were scattered upon much of the face of the land, and the Lamanites also. And they were exceedingly more numerous than were they of the Nephites; and they loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts.

verse 6 It is noteworthy that the Lamanites, at this point in history, were "exceedingly more numerous" than the Nephites. Why is it that after some 175 years of separation of the two groups, the Lamanites, who were living generally less civilized lives than the Nephites, would far outnumber the Nephites? One would expect the opposite. After all, the Nephites had buildings, good agricultural tools, and adequate weapons for defense. One possible explanation is that Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael, after Nephi's departure from the land of their first inheritance, joined ranks and intermarried with the indigenous peoples in the area (see the supplemental article, Book of Mormon Myths). This might also explain a natural acquisition of the mark of the dark skin that became a sign of the Lamanites' apostasy. The fact that the dark skin was the result of intermarriage may well explain why skin color was so important to the Nephites. Like their Israelite ancestors, the Nephites preferred to maintain tribal purity by avoiding marriage outside their culture.

7 And it came to pass that they came many times against us, the Nephites, to battle. But our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord; wherefore, we withstood the Lamanites and swept them away out of our lands, and began to fortify our cities, or whatsoever place of our inheritance.

verse 7 "Our kings and our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord" Obviously there was a noble tradition of kings and other leaders established among the Nephites. When Jarom uses the term "leaders" here, does he refer to the secular leaders or the religious leaders of his people? It is likely that he is referring to the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ that had been established among them. It is also apparent that Jarom himself was not one of the major secular or religious leaders, since he is speaking of them in the third person. A careful reading of the next verse suggests he may have been a soldier or artisan.

"or whatsoever place of our inheritance" Apparently some of the people of Nephi did not live in the cities.

8 And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war-yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war.

verse 8 In times past, critics of the Book of Mormon have enjoyed pointing out that archaeologists have felt that metals were not used in Mesoamerica until AD 900. Now we know that metals were used in Mesoamerica in Book of Mormon times ("A Reconsideration of Early Metal in Mesoamerica," John L. Sorenson, Katunob 9 [March 1976]:1-18).

9 And thus being prepared to meet the Lamanites, they did not prosper against us. But the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.

verse 9 "the word of the Lord was verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land" This classic Book of Mormon doctrine was first spoken by father Lehi (2 Nephi 1:20) and will be reiterated yet again (Omni 1:6).

10 And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.

verse 10 Again, we find the same pattern commented upon in Enos 1:22. When the Lord contemplates the destruction of a people, he sends "many prophets," or, in this verse, "prophets" among the people to make certain they are abundantly warned. We are left with no information whatever as to the identity of these prophets. Wouldn't it be fascinating to read the account of this period of time from the large plates of Nephi, the book of Lehi?

11 Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.

verse 11 "prophets, and the priests, and the teachers" Here is a listing of the offices in the church of that day. There is no evidence that they had the Aaronic priesthood. Thus, we may assume that these are offices in the Melchizedek priesthood.

"believe in him to come as though he already was" This is a poignant phrase. Though the advent of Christ was yet hundreds of years away, the prophets and other religious leaders were urging the people to believe in Jesus Christ as though he had already come. It is sobering to remind ourselves that today, we have the advantage of believing in Jesus Christ at a time when we have access to scriptural records that he did indeed come!

12 And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance.

verse 12 "prick their hearts with the word" This terminology suggests that the people were frightened by the "threats" of the prophets, priests, and teachers, and dared not disobey the law of Moses. Perhaps having one's heart "pricked" by the Spirit is a lesser stage of conversion. Later on, more complete conversion may occur as one's heart is "touched" or "moved."

13 And it came to pass that two hundred and thirty and eight years had passed away after the manner of wars, and contentions, and dissensions, for the space of much of the time.after the manner of wars, and contentions, and dissensions, for the space of much of the time.

verse 13 As pointed out previously, Jarom probably received the small plates of Nephi about 420 BC or one hundred and seventy-nine years after Lehi's family left Jerusalem. Thus it would seem that Jarom's "ministry" extended about fifty-nine or so years.

14 And I, Jarom, do not write more, for the plates are small. But behold, my brethren, ye can go to the other plates of Nephi; for behold, upon them the records of our wars are engraven, according to the writings of the kings, or those which they caused to be written.

verse 14 "for the plates are small" There is not much room left on these small plates of Nephi.

"the other plates of Nephi" These are the large plates of Nephi which are held in the possession of the secular leader or king of the land.

15 And I deliver these plates into the hands of my son Omni, that they may be kept according to the commandments of my fathers.

verse 15 This transfer of plates from father to son probably occurred in about 361 BC.

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