Briefly Second Nephi, with Terryl Givens – Maxwell Institute podcast
I’ve been listening to/reading this podcast tonight, because I really like Second Nephi (and am looking forward to the next episode, about Jacob, which I also really like). In this, Terryl Givens, from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, gives a fascinating introduction to what he believes this book to be about – Nephi’s purpose for writing it (why did he start a new book, for example? What did he then focus on?) Terryl Givens’ conclusion includes that it’s all about covenant – the ‘new, everlasting covenant’ of the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why he includes so much Isaiah, who talks so much about God’s covenant with His people – making it, the breaking of it, renewing it.
One part that resonated with me is this:
So, what we find right there is there has long, long been this Jewish preoccupation with place, right? The promised land. To this day, right, strife in the Middle East is largely oriented around the physical occupation of what was seen as a land of promise. So, immediately following Lehi’s announcement that Jerusalem is destroyed, he tries to console his people by saying, “But, God has given us this new land of promise.” Okay, so far so good, but [laughs] the disappointment comes soon thereafter when they’ve reestablished themselves, they have a new home, they’re going to consider it their new land of promise, and almost immediately, Nephi is warned that he has to take his people and depart further into the wilderness. And so, what we find is that now he’s lost two lands of promise and he has to have a third.
There are a lot of reasons why this resonates with me. One that I’m experiencing is trying to make a good career for myself. I’ve worked a lot of casual jobs, but after a mission and overseas travel in my 20s, I decided I’d try out school teaching. That this was the thing for me to do until I found my eternal companion and started a family. People encouraged me; I did the study (I only needed one year because I already had a Bachelor’s Degree) – where I got excellent marks and which I really enjoyed. I got a few contracts, two at a really nice school, and then – wonder of wonders – I was offered a permanent position at a school in a regional city. I’d heard good things about it, so I accepted, and moved my life there. It didn’t work out, for many reasons, and I left school teaching and became a private tutor instead. Which is nice, but doesn’t earn you the greatest income.
A couple of years later, I decided I needed a new profession that could carry me through as many years as I needed it to – seeing as my marriage-children-family plan hadn’t come to fruition yet, and I had to face the possibility that it could be some time before it did – and therefore support myself better. So I chose the thing I was most interested in (although it was a hard choice between historian/history professor and this), and after much research and reflection, enrolled in an online, part-time Master’s Degree. Again, I got great marks and mostly really enjoyed it. I really felt like it was the right thing to do and very needed in the world. But I didn’t know how to get a job with it. I searched and applied for two years, with maybe 2 interviews in that time. At the end of the two years, I decided I needed to maintain my sanity and financial stability by moving on to something else. It turned out to be a very difficult field to get a foothold in, however desperately needed and topical it is.
Since then, I’ve mostly been treading water, surviving and trying to deal with the other big-deal issues in life. For a long time, I’ve thought about starting my own business, and have had multiple ideas about what it could be. Last year, I decided seriously that that’s what I was actually going to do – if no-one would give me a job, I’d make my own! There, world. So I narrowed down my ideas to one that felt most right and needed at this time. I’ve been learning and developing the concept into something real, and wanted it all to start properly around now. Then, the ‘Rona hit. Suddenly, I realise that, well, it’s gonna be pretty difficult to do workplace consulting which depends on a workplace running normally – including people being there and all – while most of the organisations have their people working from home for the forseeable future. Plan #396 down for the next 6 months – 1 year. (Really plan #3, in this story, but it feels like #396).
So I feel an affinity with Nephi’s people, being promised a land, achieving it and then having to leave it, multiple times. And like the early Latter-day Saints, gathering to a place that they hoped would become Zion, and being pushed out, over and over again. But there was always another promised land. For the Saints, they did finally gather to a place of safety and freedom – but that safety and freedom continued to be threatened and sometimes curtailed by those intent on their destruction (like the Nephites) and the realities of living within a nation where personal and religious freedoms were espoused but not always practised. They learnt that ‘Zion’ is not just a physical place, but ‘purity of heart and living the doctrine of Christ’ (Givens).
It helps me understand that being included in this new, everlasting covenant with God is not easy. It’s also not fickle. The covenant continues, despite challenges. As long as we remain linked firmly to God and Christ, He will keep sending us to that promised land, and we will eventually find one where we can rest… for a while.
There are also very interesting things in the podcast about how the theology that Joseph Smith introduced connects the two ‘different’ covenants of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, and how the Book of Mormon people also lived this connection – which is one thing I’ve always loved about it. They knew why the Law of Moses existed, and they both kept it and looked forward to the Christ who would come. They got it all. So smart. The only group who did, really, in their time.
What insights do you gain from this podcast?