Isaiah COME, FOLLOW ME LESSON AIDS: February 17–23 “We Rejoice in Christ” 2 Nephi 11-25 scrolls

A Radical New Reading of 1st Nephi | Rethinking the first book in the Book of Mormon


Rethinking the Book of Mormon: A Radical Perspective

The Book of Mormon has long been regarded as a sacred and foundational text for the Latter-day Saint community. However, recent scholarship has brought to light a new and radical perspective on the book, challenging traditional interpretations and inviting a deeper understanding of its message. In light of these revelations, it is imperative that we reconsider our approach to reading and interpreting the Book of Mormon.

The book’s very first narrative provides subtle but significant signals that it is intended to be read as countercultural and even anticonventional. Don Bradley, in his groundbreaking research, has uncovered the subversive nature of the book’s opening chapters, revealing a deliberate attempt to challenge social, moral, and theological norms. The narrative presents a radical reversal of values, showcasing a topsy-turvy world where the youngest rules, traditional authority is subverted, and moral hierarchies are flipped.

What makes this reevaluation particularly compelling is its relevance to the contemporary sociopolitical landscape. The Book of Mormon’s message, as deciphered by Bradley, resonates with the countercultural movements of our time, challenging established power structures and advocating for a recentering of societal norms. The book’s portrayal of a reverse Exodus and the redefinition of the sacred center of the world holds profound significance in today’s context.

It is essential that scholars, religious leaders, and the broader community engage with this radical reinterpretation of the Book of Mormon. By rereading the text through the lens of its countercultural and subversive nature, we can gain a deeper appreciation of its message and relevance, not only for the Latter-day Saint community but for society at large. This reevaluation opens up new avenues for scholarly inquiry and theological discourse, enriching our understanding of the complex and multifaceted nature of this sacred text.

This radical perspective on the Book of Mormon as presented by Don Bradley demands our attention and thoughtful consideration. It challenges us to question long-held assumptions and invites us to engage with the text in a way that embraces its countercultural ethos. This newfound understanding has the potential to spark meaningful dialogue and inspire fresh insights, ultimately enriching our scholarly and spiritual engagement with this other testament aligning with the book of Holy Writ.

This book is meant to be read as countercultural. We have misread it. In light of what it says in its first chapter, we need to reread this whole thing. If this doesn’t signal that the book is supposed to be unconventional and even anticonventional, what would? Wow. Yeah. This is as head-exploding for me as it is for anyone, right? Because I had read… I mean, if you’re a Latterday Saint, let’s be honest, how many times have you read first Nephite, chapter one? Nephite It goes in, the spirit tells him, break the law. Break the law of Moses, break its biggest commandment. He does. And that’s how they get this book, and that’s how they’re able to survive.

When the scriptures talk about how the last will be first, and the first will be last and the way that things are going to be flipped on their heads.

It’s a reverse exodus. Wow. You’re supposed to be disturbed by this story. What’s happening here is a re-center entering of the world.

I am smelling what you’re stepping in. I am vibing. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, back to Ward Radio. I’m your host, Cardinellis. I’m joined in the studio by Quaku L by Brad Whitbeck, Dawn Bradley, and Jona Barnes. And there’s some seriously interesting stuff going on in the studio right now. You may not have realized, but Don Bradley has made some really interesting and recent discoveries about the first Book of Nephi and reading it as a pretty radical document and statement from Lehi. Oftentimes on this podcast, we say, you need to subversively build the Kingdom, subversively build Zion. And Don Bradley has done some research here and come up with the conclusion that you need to read Lehi statements in the first Book of Nephi as subverting the traditional authority norms, social norms, theological norms of his day, and believes Nephi’s statements rise to the standard of being radical, and that we should maybe, I don’t know, make a very Che Guevara shirt. So instead of having the murderer on it, it has Nephite’s cool silhouette. Because Don Bradley thinks Nephite was a radical here. So we might need to re-imagine… I don’t like that term. The socialists use that term.

We might need to reconsider how we read it through the lens of Nephite the radical. So Dawn, where do I go wrong? Tell us why you think it’s Nephite the radical.

So, yeah, it’s my contention that from its very first narrative, the Book of Mormon is signaling to us in not so subtle ways that what we are about to read is not conventional, That it is not trying to reinforce social convention, as we might often read it, but that in fact it is trying to subvert or even reverse social convention. And by setting up this expectation in the book’s first narrative, indeed in the very first words of those narrative, it is signaling how we’re supposed to read the entire book. And given that we haven’t seen that, I would argue to a great extent, we have actually misread the Book, the Book of Norman.

Oh, okay. So So this goes beyond figuring out the goodly meant wealthy. I mean, you’re saying we’re doing it all wrong.

Well, I didn’t say all wrong, but yes, wrong. Okay, yeah, I’m really caught. Okay. So back in 1830, Book of Marm comes off the press. Parly P. Pratt gets a copy, and for days, the guy can’t put it down. He doesn’t want to eat, he doesn’t want to sleep. He just wants to read this book. Now, I started realizing saying several years ago that, in a sense, there never was a first time that I read the Book of Mormen, because the Book of Mormen, I had a Book of Mormen stories as a child and so on. And so the book was always mediated to me through some lens that had already been provided to me. So with as much as I’ve read the Book of Morimen, as much scholarship as I’ve done, I wondered, Am I getting direct access to what the Book is saying, or do I always have this lens that other people have given me that’s getting in the way? And so I took a suggestion from my friend Mark Wright, an excellent scholar, to try reading different editions of the Book of Mormon and putting myself in different mindsets so I can just not take anything for granted as I read this book.

And so I was reading a few years ago, I was reading actually the Penguin Edition. It’s got the original Book of Norman chaptering. It doesn’t have verses. And so it breaks, helps break you out of maybe your ordinary mode of reading. And I started reading thinking, If I don’t take anything for granted about who these people are, what I’m being told, what’s actually there in the text, what am I seeing? And what I came to see in just the course of one evening of reading is that the very first story in the Book of Morimen, and even the very first words of that story, are signaling this reversal of values, that there’s something radical going on. When I say the first story, in the Book of Mormon’s earliest text, the manuscript, the 1830 edition, the chaptering was different. Most people probably know this. What to us, is first Nephi, chapter 1 through 4 was first Nephi 1, Roman numeral 1.

Oh, interesting. Okay.

That original chapter was supposed to be understood as one story, one overall narrative. The Book of Romans’ first narrative is God calls Lehi, tells them to go out in the wilderness, and then he sends his sons back to get the brass plates, and they get them. That’s the first story. Okay. How does this story… This is going to be a radical story here. So how does this story start? I’m going to argue that the book, by the way, in this first chapter, it is subverting social authority, it is subverting economic authority or economic value. It is subverting moral authority, at traditional moral authority, and it is subverting geographical authority or what we would call centrality, a sacred center. How do I get there? So you look at the very beginning of first Nephi, and we have the words, The first Book of Nephi, His Reign and Ministry. Assuming we know nothing about the guy, other than what’s said here so far, well- He’s the center of attention.

He’s the minister.

He writes a book, he reigns, he’s a king or ruler. And a prophet. And he’s a prophet or some religious figure who ministers other people. Next words. An account of Lehi and his wife, Sariah, and his four sons being called beginning at the eldest. Notice those words. Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephie. So beginning at the eldest, what did we just learn? There’s this guy, Lehi, and he has four sons, and the youngest of them is Nephi. What did we just see in the title the book?

The Reign in Ministry of Nephi.

Reign in Ministry of Nephite. So wait, the guy who’s ruling?

Yeah, that would have stuck out like a sore thumb. The youngest guy? Yeah. We don’t really take that into account because we’re like that frog who was put in the water when it was cold, and it was boiled. So we don’t realize like, Oh, wow, this water’s warm now. Anybody who is used to probably ancient Semitic culture would realize, Whoa, hold on a second. What’s the youngest son doing inheriting the book?

The youngest does not get the throne. The youngest is not the birthright, naturally, the birthright child. That’s the oldest. But here, the guy in charge, the guy telling us the story, the guy who’s the ruler is the youngest. Where do we get that? We get it in the very first sentence of the Book of Woman, the first sentence. So it’s taking our expectation of primogeniture rule by the… Or gerontocracy, if you will, that the oldest are the ones who will rule, and it’s flipping it. And so we actually get this from the characters in the Book of Woman, even, So you’ve got, Nephi’s brothers say, Our brother, Nephi, has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher who are his elder brothers. So they recognize, Well, we’re the ones in charge. We’re the ones with the religious and political authority. Why is this guy, why is our younger brother presuming to rule over us? Okay. This is super French Revolution.

I’m digging it. Right?

And you need Nephi.

Hopefully, it doesn’t end up French Revolution.

I’m one step away from Saul Alinsky and this guy, man.

Nephi himself signals. He says to his brothers, Behold, you’re my elder brother, and how is it that you’re so hard in your hearts, and so on, that I, your younger brother, should speak unto you and set an example before you. So Nephi and his brothers both recognize the social norm that they’re supposed to be in charge, but he’s in charge. So things are flipped. And then in this little preface or caliphon superscript to first Nephi still, he says, They depart out of the land. Nephi taketh his brother and returneth to the land of Jerusalem. Nephite takes his brothers, his older brothers, so Nephite is in charge. Later, it says, Nephite’s brother rebeleth against him. Now, if any of you have younger brothers, if you’re younger brother said to you, ‘You’re rebelling against me. The only possible response to that is-He gets thumped. Well, either just laughing or thumping him or both. This is preposterous. His older brothers are rebelling against him. And look at the… You’ve got two sets of brothers. So it’s told us you’ve got Laman and Lemuel, the two oldest, Sam and Nephi, the two youngest. So the key figures here that the emphasis goes on in the narrative are Laman is the oldest of the older set, and Nephie, the youngest of the younger set.

So because Laman is the oldest of the older ones, he epitomizes oldness, age.

Previous generation, the establishment.

Right. Nephi, by contrast, as the youngest of the younger set, he epitomizes youth.

Wait. So this same argument that I have about boomers in the church office building right now in 2023 is vindicated by Don Bradley, endorsed fully, and might even be the subject of a new book. You heard it here first, folks. The young generation’s got to take over, baby. It’s right.

We call him the Generation Nephi.

That’s it. I’m not a millennial. I’m a Nefinial.

Okay, cool.

Keep going.

The book is setting up… Everybody is familiar with the idea of the authority of age, but this is setting up a authority of youth. Well, that’s preposterous in traditional terms, right?

Because- It happened in the ’60s when they said, Don’t trust a man over 30.

Gerontocracy has no antonym. Oh, interesting. We have to make one up. Juvenocracy. There you go. Juvenocracy. Juvenocracy. Juvenocracy. Courtesy of Nephite here. We’ve got this concept, rule by the youngest. So it’s taking… And Nephite even seems to connect being older with being rebellious. He says, Laman and Lemu Being the eldest did murmur against their father. He says that in the first chapter here.

Yeah, being the eldest did murmur against their father? It’s almost like he’s rubbing it in. These guys should be the oldest, and they’re murmuring against their father. Right.

So from literally the book’s first sentence, there’s a dramatic subversion of tradition, and it’s subversive. It’s signaling that it’s subversive. So going on in the narrative, Lehi leads this people on a exodus. A lot of people recognize this exodus. And there’s a passover. I actually argue in my book on the last 116 pages, that the Book of Norman narrative here actually begins at passover. In any case, they’re echoing the passover at the original Exodus. In the original Exodus, they’re going to leave the land of Egypt. The Egyptians give them gold and silver to say, Hey, get out of here. So Nephi, however, goes to Laban, who’s like, he likens to the Egyptians in one of the sermons. He does. And he offers to give him gold and silver. So it’s a reversal of the Passover. It’s a reversal of what’s going on in the biblical Exodus.

So just like Nephi’s Ark that Joseph Smith dug up was a golden book inside of a stone Ark, which was a reversal of the golden box holding the stone tablets of Moses in ancient Israel, it seems like this now is a reversal, again, of everything else. Bingo. I just got Bingo from Don Braggly. What now, Quaku? What now, Brad?Jona?Shush.

This is blowing my mind.

So it would be like, Jona, if you ate a whale. There you go. If I ate a whale.

They make whales It’s a sushi.

So here you have the youngest giving away, not the birthright son, he’s giving away the family inheritance, right? Instead of the oldest receiving it, you’ve got the youngest giving it away. And what is he giving it away for? He’s giving it away for brass. He’s giving away gold and silver for brass. What is the relative value of these metals in every culture? Gold and silver are more rare. They are superior in usefulness. They’re superior in value. There is this reversal here where he’s giving away what we would perceive as more valuable for less valuable. But it goes beyond that. Because he actually says that what trading the gold and silver for is the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass. When you engrave, you actually remove metal, you scratch things away. Okay. So what he’s actually trading the gold and silver for isn’t even the brass. Technically, it’s the space is carved out of the brass. It’s the negative space. So he’s trading their most precious material goods for a material nothingness that can contains the symbolic wealth, the spiritual message of the scriptures. So he’s completely… And he’s saying, the spirit tells him that the prosperity of his people depends on him doing this.

I mean, this is the ethos of the scenes that we didn’t even know existed until the dead sea scrolls were inherited. This is awesome. I am smelling what you’re stepping in. I am vibing with what you’re projecting, my man. Keep going.

It reminds We actually have a passage from the Doubt Aging, where it says, We join spokes together in a wheel, but it’s the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay in a pot, but it’s the emptyness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it’s the inner space that makes it livable. We work with being, but non-being is what we use. There are profound depths and messages here. Now, going on in the narrative. Next thing that happens.

Look, I’ll tell you right now, I’m an anti-communist, and you’re not doing a good job of convincing me that, Nephite, he should be a big, fat old radical. But if you wanted to convince me he was a Daoist, I’m down with that. I might just rename this thumbnail as, Nephite, the Daoist.

It should be Niphi the Radical. But anyway. Okay, cool. We’re going on. In the narrative, next thing. So Laben refuses this trade. He tries to drive them out. Nephite He comes back. He’s led by the spirit. He finds Laben drunk. If you think about, what is the most disturbing act that a protagonist in the Book of Mormen takes? What is the heading, Laben? I would say probably cutting off the head of a helpless man. Where does that most disturbing act in the book occur?

On the day of Passover, that the angel of death would have been there. Where?

At the very well, that’s when. Where does it occur? It at the very beginning of the book. So the book is signaling, at its very start, that it is literally a transgressive book because it has this right up front. And not only that, but why is it that Nephite kills this guy? He kills him to get a book. And the book that Nephite himself writes on these plates, he says, was modeled on the plates of brass. So he makes this transgression in order to get the that the book you’re reading this narrative in is modeled on. He’s weaving together a theme here. People have tried to explain, well, Nephite was probably justified by the law of whatever because Labanod tried to kill him. You know what?

It doesn’t say like- No, he was breaking the rules from beginning and including the rules of thou shalt not. Okay.

The book doesn’t try to make the case that what he’s doing is legal. It’s not trying to make that case. You’re supposed to be disturbed by this story. Nephi is disturbed by this. You’re supposed to be disturbed by it, too. He’s doing this in order to get the tablets of the law with the Commandments. What does he do to get them? He breaks the biggest commandment. He breaks the biggest moral taboo of all cultures. You are supposed to be disturbed by this flipping of the moral hierarchy. But what What he’s also doing is it’s-Based. It’s posing-Quick who smiles getting bigger and bigger as you talk. It’s posing the law against the spirit. So layman says, the oldest here, the traditional authority, the oldest, right, says, We know the people of Jerusalem were a righteous people because they kept the Commandments according to the law of Moses. Nephite goes in, the spirit tells them, Break the law, break the law of Moses, break its biggest commandment. He does. And that’s how they get this Book, and that’s how they’re able to survive and thrive. So then after they get this Book, they’re led out into the wilderness further.

God tells them that he is leading them to a promised land. Now, think about this. The idea of being led to a promised land, this is a biblical narrative. This is the Exodus. And Lehi, in this opening narrative, he’s led three days into the wilderness toward this promised land. Well, biblical Exodus. Initially, God leads the Israelites three days out into the wilderness toward the promised land. So this is the same thing, except dramatically They’re going the wrong way.

Yeah, they’re going away from the promised land.

They’re going away from the biblical promised land. It’s a reverse Exodus. Wow. The promised land is like the sacred center of the world, but God’s leading them from the center out to the periphery saying, Forget the promised land, go out to the islands of the sea, go to a place that you don’t even have a name for. So what we’re going to call it is, ironically, the promised land, which is actually the place that you’re leaving. Wow.

That’s so cool.

So what’s happening here is a recentering of the world. The sacred center of the world is being moved here for them from Jerusalem, just somewhere out there, this new promised land on the islands of the sea. And so When you think about how the leahona that guides them toward this promised land is referred to in the book as a compass. Now, for us, we think of compass, and people in Joseph Smith’s time, readers, any readers of this book, and compass, magnetic compass. Magnetic compass points you to the Pole. It points you to the magnetic Pole, the North Pole. So what’s happening is the sacred center of the world. There’s a polar shift going on here where instead of leading them to the biblical promised land, it’s leading them to this new promised land. There’s a shift in what scholars of religion call the Axis Mundi. There’s literally this shift of the axis or the center of the world. There’s this polar shift. So it would be like when Muhammad shifts the sacred center of the world for Muslims from Jerusalem, they pray toward Jerusalem to suddenly they pray toward Mecca. There’s this shift. In the Book of Solomon, we have this reversal over and over of value structure.

There’s this topsy-turvy world where the youngest rules, gold and silver, are bartered away from absences from brass. The hero valiantly beheads a helpless man, drunkenly asleep. God sends a Moses to lead his people away from the biblical promised land. You have a juvenocracy. You have an exchange of for brass or for nothing. You have be heading at the very beginning of the text, an exodus that goes the wrong way. If this doesn’t signal that the book is supposed to be unconventional and even anticonventional, what would? Wow. Yeah, that’s true. Then look at the context what this comes into. 1830, the year this book is published, is the exact same year that Andrew Jackson initiates Indian removal, and he’s taking the Native Americans, and he’s pushing them out west of the Mississippi. The Book of Morhmen comes out that year, and it’s saying, God gave this land. He covenanted this land to the ancestors of the Native Americans. This is their land. That could not have been more countercultural in Joseph Smith’s time. This book is meant to be read as countercultural. We have misread it. In light of what it says in its first chapter, we need to reread this whole thing.

Oh, I’m loving this. Okay, hold on. We’re going to take a pause. That was amazing. Don Bradley, 2024. Give me one second. No, Don. They’re going to start calling you a progmo. You know that, right? No, no, no, because he’s faithful, and he’s not a missionary for secularism into Morganism or progressivism into Morganism.

I’m reading the book, right?

Yeah, he’s reading the book. Look, Don Bradley’s ability to see connections the rest of us miss, is the stuff of legend. This is literally a fulfill of the quote on the back of your book, The Lost 116 Pages. None of us saw this coming. And you know what? I feel it, bro. I think what you’re speaking is true. We need to reread this. I would love to stay and talk more. In fact, we’re going to do that. Right now, the radio program on FM 98.1, unfortunately, we’re coming up on a commercial break. It’s got to come to a close. We got to pay those bills. We got to let the advertisers do their thing. We love them and we’re grateful for them. We’re going to give them a voice as well. If you’re interested in seeing more about what Dawn Bradley has to say about a radical rereading of the Book of Mormon, specifically, Lehigh’s Exodus from Jerusalem, please make sure you check us out on wardradio. Com or visit hometownstation. Com because this is AM 12:20, KHTS and FM 98.1. We will be back in a flash. Okay, so- Jeez. Hold on. Do you want to say more?

Do you have anything more you want to say?

How many times have we all read… How many times… When I read your book, when I read your book, when I read your book, when I read your book, when I read your book, I was like, I had read everything I got my hands on, and I didn’t see any of this stuff. How does this guy see this stuff? How many times have we read these chapters?

The thing is that this is head-exploding for me as it is for anyone, because I had read… If you’re a Latterday Saint, let’s be honest, how many times have you read first Nephite 1?

It’s the most commonly read verse. They can see on the tools, on the tools, on the gospel library, the church can see what verses you read. How’s that for creepy, Quaker? And they know that widespread across the church, verse Nephi 1 is the most read verse in all the scriptures.

Yeah. So this has been read billions of times, maybe hundreds of millions, at least, right?

I believe, yeah.

And what do we not see that’s in this thing, right? Yeah, it’s wild to me. So after I saw this, I started reading more to see more of the things that are in it, but I’m I’m obviously still at an early stage in that. I really do think the whole book needs to be reread in light of what it’s signaling to us about itself at the very, very beginning.

Okay, so now my only question I have is, in order to truly read this as a radical document, do we need to hate our family and dye our hair purple? Oh my gosh. Do we need to deconstruct anything here?

I actually meant to say in the main episode that obviously the message here is not that the kids need to be in charge of everything. You should go totally against any law and Commandments and behead people. Clearly, this is not what this is about.

No, that’s based. That’s cool. I was more worried about the whole hate your dad thing.

What’s going on here is I think it’s deliberate that the setup up front is trying to break you out of your conventional ways of seeing so that then you can take more seriously the revolutionary message of the rest of the book.

Do you know, it makes me think of when the scriptures talk about how the last will be first and the first will be last and the way that things are going to be flipped on their heads. It really braces you for that because this is the New Testament, like another testament of Jesus Christ from the new world, right? Yeah.

This is epic. This is awesome. Look, the name of his book is The Lost 116 Pages. If you want your mind blown for about three days straight as you read it, just like it’s been blown for 30 minutes straight as you’ve listened to this, go buy Dawn Bradley’s book. And also, please consider giving a contribution to this channel, to this movement, to this vision, to this ward radio of ours by contributing on Venmo or on Cash app at Ward Radio on both those platforms. And for this and more, check us out on wardradio. Com. I ain’t trying to break you down, but for real, you might as well give up now. I think you got a chance, but I don’t see how.

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