The Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates


The Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates

TitleThe Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1987
AuthorsReynolds, Noel B.
JournalBYU Studies Quarterly
Volume27
Issue4
Pagination15-37
Keywords1 Nephi; Politics; Small Plates
Abstract

Every people needs to know that its laws and rulers are legitimate and authoritative. This is why stories of national origins and city foundings are so important to human societies throughout the world. Such stories provide explanations of the legitimate origins of their laws and their rulers. Not untypically, such traditions also deal with ambiguous elements of the founding, explaining away possibly competing accounts. When Nephi undertook late in his life to write a third account of the founding events of the Lehite colony, it appears that he wanted to provide his descendants with a document that would serve this function. His small plates systematically defend the Nephite tradition concerning origins and refute the competing account advanced by the Lamanites. Several factors indicate that Nephi carefully structured his writings to convince his own and later generations that the Lord had selected him over his elder brothers to be Lehi's political and spiritual successor. Thus, the writings of Nephi can be read in part as apolitical tract or a "lineage history," written to document the legitimacy of Nephi's rule and religious teachings.