Abstract: The prophecies in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 are third-generation members of the same family of texts derived from Isaiah 11:11–12 and Isaiah 29:4, all of which ultimately rely on yāsap (yôsîp or yôsip) idioms to describe the gathering of Israel and the concomitant coming forth of additional scripture. Mormon, following Nephi, apparently engages in a specific kind of wordplay on the name Joseph in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 that ultimately harks back to the divine promises made to Joseph in Egypt (2 Nephi 25:21; see also especially 2 Nephi 3:4–16, Genesis 50:24–34 JST) and to his descendants. This wordplay looks forward to the name and role of the prophetic translator through whom additional scripture “[would] be brought again” and “[would] come again” in the last days.
The basic meaning of the verb yāsap is to “add” or “increase,”1 with the more developed idiomatic senses of “to do [something] again, more”2 (literally, to “add to do”).3 The name Joseph (yôsēp) is a third-person masculine singular form of this verb in its causative stem, [Page 280]meaning “may Yahweh add” (see Genesis 30:23–24).4 In previous studies, I have treated wordplays related to the name Joseph. For example, Nephi’s autobiographical adaptation of wordplay on Joseph in Genesis 37:5, 8 (“and they [Joseph’s brothers] hated him yet the more,” wayyôsipû ʿôd) in 2 Nephi 5:2 (“their [Nephi’s brothers’] anger did increase against me”) demonstrates Nephi’s consciousness of biblical wordplay on Joseph and its narratological and rhetorical potential.5 Nevertheless, building on previous findings, I endeavor to present new insights that are brought out in the passages explored here that have not been heretofore recognized.
As has been noted previously,6 a comparison of Nephi’s quotations of Isaiah 11:11 and 29:14 in 2 Nephi 25:17 (in connection with the Lord’s “promise … unto Joseph,” v. 21)7 and 29:1–2 (in connection with the Lord’s promises to Nephi himself) reveals how central the Hebrew yāsap (yôsîp) idiom is to Nephi’s juxtaposition and exegesis of two of Isaiah’s prophecies. Nephi twice issues his own prophecies that juxtapose Isaiah’s promise of the Lord’s universal gathering of scattered Israel from Isaiah 11:11 with Isaiah’s separate prophecy of the coming forth of a sealed book as part of a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14) in order to create a single eschatological prophecy. The two prophecies’ shared use of the verb yāsap appears to be the lexical basis for Nephi’s joining them together, as shown in Table 1.
The divine promise to Nephi “that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved and handed down unto my seed from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph [yôsēp] that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should [Page 281]stand” helps us appreciate the “Joseph”-centric nature of Nephi’s “Gezera Shawa”-type8 quotations of Isaiah in 2 Nephi 25:17 and 29:1 as evincing direct and deliberate wordplay on the name Joseph.9
|Isaiah 11:11–12 and 29:14||2 Nephi 25:17, 21; 29:1–2|
|And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11–12; emphasis in all scriptural citations is mine.)
Therefore, behold, I will proceed [yôsīp/yôsip] to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. (Isaiah 29:14)
|[T]he Lord will set his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state. Wherefore he will proceed [yôsīp/yôsip] to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men. (2 Nephi 25:17)
Wherefore for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved and handed down unto my seed from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph [yôsēp] that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand. (2 Nephi 25:21)
But behold, there shall be many at that day when I shall proceed [yôsīp or yôsip] to do a marvelous work among them, that I may remember my covenants which I have made unto the children of men, that I may set my hand again [*wĕʾōsîp] the second time to recover my people which are of the house of Israel — and also that I may remember the promises which I have made unto thee Nephi and also unto thy father, that I would remember your seed, and that the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed, and my words shall hiss forth unto the ends of the earth for a standard [nēs] unto my people which are of the house of Israel. (2 Nephi 29:1–2)
In this study, I propose that we see similar allusions to the name Joseph much later on in the Book of Mormon when the author-editor [Page 282]Mormon, following abridgment and arrangement of Jesus’s post-resurrectional sermons at the temple in Bountiful, states his intent for their inclusion: “And these things have I written which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people. And I have wrote them to the intent that they may be brought again [cf. yôsîpû] unto this people from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken” (3 Nephi 26:8). Mormon’s statement not only reflects the language of 2 Nephi 25:17, 21 and 29:1–2, including the divine promises regarding the writings of Nephi and his successors (especially that “the words of your seed should proceed forth out of my mouth unto your seed”), but it also reflects the onomastic wordplay found in those passages. Mormon repeats the same technique when he articulates Ammaron’s purpose in hiding up all the previously kept prophetic Nephite records. Again, the language of 2 Nephi 25:17, 21; 29:1 is evident: “And he [Ammaron] did hide them up unto the Lord, that they might come again unto the remnant of the house of Jacob, according to the prophecies and the promises of the Lord” (4 Nephi 1:49).
In this article, I will attempt to demonstrate that 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 are third-generation members of the same family as 2 Nephi 25:17, 21 and 29:1–2, derived from Isaiah 11:11–12 and Isaiah 29:4, all of which rely on yāsap (yôsîp or yôsip) idioms to describe the gathering of Israel and the concomitant coming forth of additional scripture. I will further attempt to show that Mormon, following Nephi, engages in a specific kind of wordplay on the name Joseph in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 that ultimately harks back to the divine promises made to Joseph in Egypt (2 Nephi 3:4–16; 25:21; Genesis 50:24–34 JST) and his descendants and looks forward to the prophetic translator through whom additional scripture “[would] be brought again” and “[would] come again.” This coming forth of this additional scripture, written by Nephi and his descendants, constitutes an essential element in the fulfillment of the prophetic promise that the Lord “shall … again [cf. yôsîp] bring a remnant of the seed of Joseph to the knowledge of the Lord their God” (3 Nephi 5:23) and the final gathering that would follow (see especially 3 Nephi 5:24–26). The fulfillment of the divine promises to Joseph, Nephi, and their descendants is ultimately necessary to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.
[Page 283]Truths “Brought Again unto This People”:
A Statement of Purpose by Mormon
In 3 Nephi 26:8–9, Mormon crafts a statement of purpose for recording his abridgment of the account of Christ’s post-resurrectional appearance at the temple in Bountiful and the things that he taught the people at that time (3 Nephi 11–26). This statement of purpose draws on Nephi’s earlier language in 2 Nephi 25:17; 29:1, language that is itself directly dependent on Isaiah 11:11 and 29:14:
And these things have I written which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people. And I have wrote them to the intent that they may be brought again [cf. yôsîpû] unto this people from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
And when they shall have received this — which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith — and if it should so be that they shall believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. (3 Nephi 26:8–9)
The designation “this people” in 3 Nephi 26:8, like the designation “this people” (hāʿām-hazzeh)10 in Isaiah 29:14 from which it was probably originally taken, has reference to the people’s covenant status as belonging to the house of Israel. “This people” constitutes the same referent as “his people” in 2 Nephi 25:17 and “my people which are of the house of Israel” in 2 Nephi 29:1. The longer purpose clause, “to the intent that they may be brought again [yôsîpû/yōsipû] unto this people,” functionally echoes the yôsîp/yôsīp language of 2 Nephi 25:17 (+21) and 29:1, as well as Isaiah 11:11 and 29:14 from whence it all originates. Mormon’s use of this language adopts and adapts the concept of divine [Page 284]adding to give his latter-day audience more detailed insight into how his record would come forth as additional scripture in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming forth of the sealed book.
The phrase “from the Gentiles” in 3 Nephi 26:8 reveals an additional source of second-generational influence. Nephi’s prophetic interpretation in 1 Nephi 22:8–12, a text apparently derived from Isaiah 29:14; 49:22–23, Genesis 22:18 (and, to a lesser degree, from Isaiah 11:11), clearly lays out the role of the Gentiles in the gathering and restoration of Israel in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. Mormon’s statement of authorial intent in 3 Nephi 26:8–9 describes the role of the Gentiles in very similar terms, as shown in Table 2.
|1 Nephi 22:8–12||3 Nephi 26:8–9; 5:23–24|
|And after that our seed is scattered, the Lord God will proceed [yôsīp or yôsip] to do a marvelous work among the Gentiles [Isaiah 29:14] which shall be of great worth unto our seed. Wherefore it is likened unto the being nursed by the Gentiles and being carried in their arms and upon their shoulders. And it shall also be of worth unto the Gentiles — and not only unto the Gentiles but unto all the house of Israel — unto the making known of the covenants of the Father of heaven unto Abraham, saying: In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. And I would, my brethren, that ye should know that all the kindreds of the earth cannot be blessed unless he shall make bare his arm in the eyes of the nations. Wherefore the Lord God will proceed [yôsīp or yôsip] to make bare his arm in the eyes of all the nations, in bringing about his covenants and his gospel unto they which are of the house of Israel. Wherefore he will bring them again [cf. yôsîp] out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their first inheritance [cf. Isaiah 11:11–12]. And they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness [Isaiah 29:18], and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel [Isaiah 49:26].||And these things have I written which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people. And I have wrote them to the intent that they may be brought again [cf. yôsîpû] unto this people from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken. And when they shall have received this — which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith — and if it should so be that they shall believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them. (3 Nephi 26:8–9)
Yea, and surely shall he again [yôsîp] bring a remnant of the seed of Joseph [yôsēp] to the knowledge of the Lord their God. And as surely as the Lord liveth will he gather in from the four quarters of the earth all the remnant of the seed of Jacob, which are scattered abroad upon all the face of the earth. (3 Nephi 5:23–24)
[Page 285]Nephi’s explanation of Isaiah 48–49 to his brothers in 1 Nephi 22 is the text that most clearly describes the relationship between Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming forth of the sealed book (Isaiah 29) and the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.11 Previously in his vision of the tree of life, Nephi had seen that the “the book of the Lamb of God which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew” (i.e., the biblical record) would “c[o]me forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren” (1 Nephi 13:38). The coming forth of “other books,” including the Nephite records, would follow the same pattern: “by the power of the Lamb from the Gentiles unto them” (1 Nephi 13:39). Thus, as Nephi later told his brothers, “then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed” (1 Nephi 15:13). Shon Hopkin suggests that “the Gentiles” in the preceding verses
are associated with those who were led by God to the Americas (see 2 Nephi 13:12–19), those who persecuted the descendants of the Jews and the Lamanites (1 Nephi 13; 2 Nephi 29:5; 3 Nephi 29:8), those who would live in a day of wickedness and apostasy (see 2 Nephi 27:1, 28), those who would receive the fullness of the gospel and carry the Book of Mormon to others (see 1 Nephi 13:38; 15:13–16; 2 Nephi 30:3) and those who would be identified today as Christians (see 1 Nephi 13:19–23; 2 Nephi 26:20).12
Jesus uses the designation “Gentiles” in his teachings at the temple in Bountiful (as preserved by Mormon), and Mormon uses “Gentiles” in 3 Nephi 26:8 in precisely this same sense. In fact, Mormon anchors his prophetic statement of purpose in the teachings of Jesus at the temple in Bountiful with the phrase “according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.”
Jesus had taught the Lamanites and Nephites, using Isaiah-derived yôsîp language, regarding the eschatological gathering and restoration [Page 286]of Israel (“my people”): “And verily I say unto you: I give unto you a sign that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place, that I shall gather in from their long dispersion my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again [cf. ʾôsîp] among them my Zion” (3 Nephi 21:1; cf. Isaiah 11:11). The “sign” of this future gathering and restoration would be his words (and the words of the Nephite prophets), as a scriptural record, being “made known unto the Gentiles, that they may know concerning this people which are a remnant of the house of Jacob and concerning this my people which shall be scattered by them” (3 Nephi 21:2). Jesus declared that this divinely added scriptural record would “come forth from the Gentiles”:
Therefore when these works, and the works which shall be wrought among you hereafter, shall come forth from the Gentiles unto your seed, which shall dwindle in unbelief because of iniquity — for thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may shew forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles — if they will not harden their hearts — that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. (3 Nephi 21:5–6)
Clarifying the Prophecy of the
Coming Forth of the Sealed Book
When we examine Mormon’s “Joseph” wordplay in 3 Nephi 26:8 in the broader context of his larger editorial statement in 3 Nephi 26:8–10, some additional key details emerge. The Lord’s words in 3 Nephi 26:10 appear to reflect an additional wordplay on the name Joseph in terms of canon-formula terminology:
And these things have I written which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people. And I have wrote them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
And when they shall have received this — which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith — and if it should so be that they shall believe these things, then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
[Page 287]And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation.
Behold, I were about to write them all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbid it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:8–11)
As noted previously, Mormon’s purpose clause “to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people from the Gentiles” suggests the eventual divine addition of things (words) that will become scripture, as promised by the resurrected Lord himself. However, this divine scriptural addition will be limited and probationary — i.e., the Lord would use this scriptural addition (the “lesser part”) to test or try the faith of the believing Gentiles through whom it would come forth. Cheryl Brown notes that “The Lord was … cautious about what was contained in the record, withholding even some very good things in order to test the faithful.”13 Regarding the divine withholding described in these verses, Tad R. Callister remarked, “God withholds certain truths because their release would be premature in His divine timetable. The Savior made this observation to His disciples: ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now’ (John 16:12). Our lack of spiritual maturity and readiness may delay the timetable for our receipt of certain answers.”14
Belief in and faithfulness to this “lesser” addition would result in even greater scriptural additions. Regarding this possibility, Moroni later wrote: “And whoso receiveth this record and shall not condemn it because of the imperfections which are in it, the same shall know of greater things than these” (Mormon 8:12).15
[Page 288]Along with the promise of the divine “adding” of scripture that he gives in 3 Nephi 26:8, Mormon raises the possibility of a divine “withholding” of scripture. In the Pentateuch, Moses stands as the central figure in the giving of divine law. Deuteronomy preserves strict injunctions against human adding to or human diminution of this law: “Ye shall not add [lōʾ tōsipû] unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [wĕlōʾ tigrĕʿû] ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2); “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add [lōʾ tōsēp] thereto, nor diminish [wĕlōʾ tigraʿ] from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32 [MT 13:1]; cf. Deuteronomy 5:22 [MT 18]; Proverbs 30:5).
Injunctions such as these, sometimes called canon-formulae or Textsicherungsformel (“text securing formula”), have certainly influenced the development of modern notions of scriptural “canon.” G. André notes that in these canon formulae, “the hiphil of ysp with ʿal [i.e., add] is used as the opposite of gāraʿ min [i.e., diminish from].”16 The broader view of the Deuteronomic legislation is not that divine law and aspects of it will never be added to or “done away17 [*tiggāraʿ]”18 André continues, “The warning against apostasy indicates that in its present literary context the formula defends the substance of Yahwism and is not intended to define a canon.”19
Moses, as recorded in Deuteronomy, declared that the Lord would raise up a prophet with the same authority of Moses to give divine law and scripture: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken … I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18). On [Page 289]another occasion, when the Lord gave Moses the commandment to write scripture (“thou shalt write the things which I shall speak,” Moses 1:40) he also foretold: “And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again [cf. yôsîpû/*wĕhôsîpû] among the children of men — among as many as shall believe” (Moses 1:41).20 Even in foretelling the unauthorized human diminution of the divine words that Moses would write, the Lord foretold the divinely authorized restoration of the those words in language that also seems to have anticipated the name and role of the raised-up “another like unto” Moses — a Joseph.21
Deuteronomy 18:15–19 also has a Christological interpretation (and perhaps, as David Calabro has recently argued, so does Moses 1:41),22 in which the Lord himself is the raised-up prophet “like unto Moses,” and a lawgiver. In 3 Nephi, Mormon’s inclusion of Jesus’s “Sermon at the Temple”23 and other teachings at the temple in Bountiful highlights Jesus’s role as lawgiver in the same mode as Moses (i.e., as the lawgiver of whom Moses was a type) in Deuteronomy and the raised-up prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15–19 to whom Israel was under obligation to “hear:” “Behold, I am the law [hattôrâ] and the light. Look unto me and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life” (3 Nephi 15:9).
This post-resurrectional theophany and teaching fulfilled a prophecy from Nephi: “And after that Christ shall have risen from the dead, he shall shew himself unto you, my children and my beloved brethren, and the words which he shall speak unto you shall be the law [cf. hattôrâ] [Page 290]which ye shall do” (2 Nephi 26:1). Nephi anticipated the time when the “law [would] be done away [*tiggāraʿ]” (2 Nephi 25:27; gāraʿ, “diminish,” “restrain,” “withdraw,” “remove”24 is a synonym of ʾāsap [“gather”] in the sense of “withdraw,” or “take away”).25 Christ would authoritatively “do away with” or “diminish” (yigraʿ) “old” applications of divine law and “add” the “new.” In the Sermon at the Temple he declared, “Therefore those things which were of old time which were under the law [hattôrâ], in me are all fulfilled. Old things are done away [*yiggārĕʿû], and all things have become new” (3 Nephi 12:46–47).
Nephi’s prophecy coheres with his Christological interpretation of Deuteronomy 18:15–19. Nephi records:
And the Lord will surely prepare a way for his people unto the fulfilling of the words of Moses, which he spake, saying: A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that all they which will not hear that prophet shall be cut off from among the people. And now I Nephi declare unto you that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel. Wherefore he shall execute judgment in righteousness. (1 Nephi 22:20–21)
While Nephi’s Christological interpretation — with its ultimate latter-day and millennial fulfillment — is assuredly valid, the criteria for discerning true prophets in Deuteronomy 18:20–22 suggests that ancient Israel also understood Deuteronomy 18:15–19 as constituting an etiology for prophets as an institution and authoritative prophecy more generally. In other words, “raised-up” prophets could authoritatively add to previously given divine instruction (cf., e.g., Jeremiah 36:32).26
One portion of Nephi’s vision of the tree of life (recorded in 1 Nephi 13) emphasizes the unauthorized human diminution (“taking away”) of divine words and law in the sense denoted in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:31 [MT 13:1]. Nephi’s angelic guide informed him that “the Gentiles” of “the great and abominable church” would “take away,” “keep back,” and “diminish” (gāraʿ or ʾāsap) divine law, covenants, and scripture:
[Page 291]For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away; …
There are many plain and most precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. And after that these plain and precious things were taken away, it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles … because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book … and because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceeding great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them. (1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29)
The text of 1 Nephi 13 also details the divine response to the human diminution of the divine word in the latter days: the Lord would not allow this diminution to permanently prevail: “Neither will the Lord God suffer that the Gentiles shall forever remain in that state of awful wickedness which thou beholdest that they are in because of the plain and most precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which hath been kept back by that abominable church, whose formation thou hast seen” (1 Nephi 13:32). Like the term “diminish” in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:31 [MT 13:1] and perhaps “take away” (if it does not reflect ʾāsap), the expression “kept back” may also reflect the Hebrew verb gāraʿ (see especially Numbers 9:7).27 What is “kept back” through unauthorized, human diminution of divine law, covenant, and scripture, God promises to bring forth in all its plainness and preciousness:
And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after that I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel — and this remnant of which I speak is the seed of thy father — wherefore after that I have visited them in judgment and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after that the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which hath been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb, wherefore I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, saith the Lamb, insomuch that I will bring forth unto [Page 292]them in mine own power much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb. (1 Nephi 13:34)
The Lord would meet the human diminution of scripture with the bringing forth — or re-adding — of the same “plain and precious things [words]” that had been “taken away.” These restored words would constitute scriptural records: “These last records which thou hast seen among the Gentiles … shall make known the plain and precious things [words] which have been taken away from them [i.e., the records “of the twelve apostles of the Lamb”]” (1 Nephi 13:40).
Just as apostasy and recalcitrance has resulted in the human diminution of scripture, they have also, in some cases, prompted God to “take away” from scripture — or at least withhold access to and the understanding of it. Nephi’s brother Jacob cited the pre-exilic Judahites as an example of those from whom God has “taken away” the understanding of prophecy and scripture:
But behold, the Jews [the ancient Judahites] were a stiffnecked people, and they despised the words of plainness and killed the prophets and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand because they desired it. And because they desired it, God hath done it that they may stumble. (Jacob 4:14)
Jacob, using Zenos’s allegory and Isaiah 11:11, prophesied that the Lord would remedy the apostasy and scattering that inevitably resulted from this diminished understanding: “And in the day that he shall set his hand again [cf. yôsīp, i.e., add his hand] the second time to recover his people is the day — yea, even the last time — that the servants of the Lord shall go forth in his power to nourish and prune his vineyard; and after that the end soon cometh” (Jacob 6:2).28
The divine withholding of scripture envisioned in 3 Nephi 26:10 (“And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation”) is [Page 293]less akin to the example in Jacob 4:14 and more akin to what the Lord describes in 2 Nephi 28:30: “For unto him that receiveth I will give more; and them that shall say we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” Obtaining “the greater things” or “more” is predicated on reception of — i.e., belief in and obedience to — the “lesser things.”
Mormon hews to the divine principle taught by Alma the Younger to the apostate Nephites of Ammonihah29 in language that helps us appreciate the connection between “the greater things” that Jesus taught at the temple in Bountiful and the type of esoteric teachings that we closely associate with the holy temple today:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart, only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word. And he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God, until they know them in full.
And he that will harden his heart, to him is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:9–11)
Thus, in the end, Mormon strictly limits his record to “the things [words] which have been commanded me of the Lord,” a point which he gives double emphasis: “Therefore I Mormon do write the things which have been commanded me of the Lord. And now I Mormon make an end of my sayings and proceed to write the things which have been commanded me” (3 Nephi 26:12). It is perhaps worth noting that Mormon’s “proceed[ing] to write” these things will ultimately constitute an important part of the Lord’s “proceed[ing] [yôsīp] to do a marvelous work” in the coming forth of the sealed book (Isaiah 29:14).
[Page 294]“That They Might Come Again unto the
Remnant of the House of Jacob”
Mormon makes another important third-generational statement based on Isaiah 11:11–12 and 29:4 (via 2 Nephi 25:17, 21; 29:1) at the conclusion of 4 Nephi in his laconic abridgment of the record of Ammaron:
And it came to pass that after three hundred and five years had passed away — and the people did still remain in wickedness — and Amos died, and his brother Ammaron did keep the record in his stead.
And it came to pass that when three hundred and twenty years had passed away, Ammaron being constrained by the Holy Ghost did hide up the records which were sacred, yea, even all the sacred records which had been handed down from generation to generation, which were sacred, even until the three hundred and twentieth year from the coming of Christ.
And he did hide them up unto the Lord, that they might come again unto the remnant of the house of Jacob, according to the prophecies and the promises of the Lord. And thus is the end of the record of Ammaron. (4 Nephi 1:47–49)
Mormon’s inclusion of the purpose clause “that they might come again [cf. *lĕmaʿan yôsîpû] unto the remnant [šĕʾār] of the house of Jacob according to the prophecies of the Lord” possibly derives from Ammaron’s own account, and it expresses the core idea of Mormon’s prophecy in 3 Nephi 5:23: “Yea, and surely shall he again [cf. yôsîp] bring a remnant [šĕʾār/šĕʾērît] of the seed of Joseph [yôsēp] to the knowledge of the Lord their God.” Both 3 Nephi 5:23 and 4 Nephi 1:49 share a genetic origin in the yôsîp– and remnant-language of Isaiah 11:11 (“the Lord shall set his hand again [yôsîp] the second time to recover the remnant [šĕʾār] of his people [ʿammô]”) and the prophecy of the coming forth of the sealed book of Isaiah 29:14 (“behold, I will proceed [yôsīp/yôsip] to do a marvellous work among this people [hāʿām hazzeh], even a marvellous work and a wonder”).
A comparison of 4 Nephi 1:49 and the previously discussed second-generation yāsap/yôsîp texts in 2 Nephi 25:17, 21 and 29:1–2, with a focus on the additional key term “promises,” helps us to better see the genetic relationship between these texts:
And he [Ammaron] did hide them up unto the Lord, that they might come again [cf. lĕmaʿan yôsîpû] unto the remnant of [Page 295]the house of Jacob, according to the prophecies and the promises of the Lord. And thus is the end of the record of Ammaron. (4 Nephi 1:49)
The yôsîp wordplay recalls Joseph in Egypt as the one to whom special divine promises of preservation, gathering, and restoration were made. It also looks forward to the name and role of the one who would serve as the human instrumentality — a Joseph (“may He [God] add,” “may He do [something] again”) — through whom ancient scripture could “come … again” in fulfillment of the divine promises to Joseph (and Lehi and Nephi, his descendants).
Like 3 Nephi 5:23, 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 reflect the use of the Hebrew yāsap/yôsîp idiom in the tradition of Nephi’s use of Isaiah. Comparisons of these three texts with 2 Nephi 25:17, 21 and 29:1–2 reveals that the former are third-generation members of the same family of prophetic texts stemming from Isaiah 11:11–12 and Isaiah 29:4, all of which ultimately rely on yāsap/yôsip idioms to describe the gathering of Israel and the concomitant coming forth of additional scripture.
Mormon, following Nephi’s masterful use of Isaiah, engages in a specific kind of wordplay on the name Joseph in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 that ultimately harks back to the divine promises made to Joseph in Egypt (2 Nephi 25:21; see also especially 2 Nephi 3:4–16; Genesis 50:24–34 JST) and to his descendants. This wordplay emphasizes the fulfillment of the promises to Joseph the patriarch and looks forward to the name and role of the prophetic translator through whom additional scripture “[would] be brought again” and “[would] come again” in the last days in fulfillment of those promises — a Joseph. Related to this wordplay — and against the conceptual backdrop of the Deuteronomic canon formulae — 3 Nephi 26:10 details the divine, probationary withholding of the “the greater things” that Jesus taught at the temple in Bountiful from this additional scripture, contingent upon the faithfulness or unfaithfulness of the recipients of the “lesser part.”
The Joseph wordplays in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 and 4 Nephi 1:49 are innovative in that they bring the onomastic theme forward to the work that Mormon himself was specifically called to do, during his life and times, in terms of preparing the record to be “brought again” or to “come again” to Lehi’s descendants — descendants of the patriarch Joseph — through the agency of the prophet Joseph Smith. In other words, they [Page 296]more directly link Mormon’s life and work with the prophet Joseph Smith’s life and work.
Additionally, the Joseph wordplay in 3 Nephi 26:8–10 accentuates not only the Lord’s initial limiting of what would be “brought again” as “the lesser part” of what Jesus taught at the temple in Bountiful, but also that “the greater things” would be divinely included or withheld, contingent upon the faithfulness of the Lord’s people. Thus, 3 Nephi 26:8–10 serves as an extension of the concept of the divine addition and diminution (taking away or withholding) of scripture articulated by Nephi (see 2 Nephi 28:27–30; cf. 29:1–10) and the principle of divine addition and withholding of the word described by Alma in Alma 12:8–9. All of this helps readers appreciate additional senses in which the name Joseph denotes divine increase and suggests the concept of eternal increase.
[Author’s Note: I would like to thank Suzy Bowen, Jeff Lindsay, Allen Wyatt, Godfrey Ellis, Victor Worth, Alan Sikes, Tanya Spackman, Don Norton, and Daniel C. Peterson for making the publishing of this article possible.]