I recently had my mind blown when I discovered a complete sub-culture in the Janeite community (fans of Jane Austen) and the idea of “shadow stories” hidden in plain site in her novels. Some of these are kind of obvious when you sit and think about the plots for just a few minutes, but to make this idea more clear, there is a line in Pride & Prejudice that lays the idea bare, although it is easily missed by most readers (including me!):
“This will not do,” said Elizabeth; “you never will be able to make both of them good for anything. Take your choice, but you must be satisfied with only one. There is but such a quantity of merit between them; just enough to make one good sort of man; and of late it has been shifting about pretty much. For my part, I am inclined to believe it all Darcy’s; but you shall do as you choose.” . . . “There certainly was some great mismanagement in the education of those two young men. One has got all the goodness, and the other all the appearance of it.”Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice, Chapter 40
Up to this point in the novel, Wickham has had all the appearance of good and Darcy has had all the appearance of evil, but a letter from Darcy, outlining his own defense, changes our heroine’s perspective to a new belief that Wickham is evil but charming, while Darcy is good but *ahem* charmless or lacking in suave mannerism, different than he appears. The reader goes along with Elizabeth’s changed perspective and doesn’t really question it, but as Arnie Perlstein (who came up with the term “shadow stories”) would point out, the author explicitly refrains from making the assertion that Darcy is the good one, instead focusing on the fact that to interpret the story, you must decide which character is telling the truth: Wickham or Darcy. In fact, the word “appears” is used throughout this exchange between sisters Jane and Lizzy in reference to Darcy, as if it’s a clue that you could still read this story with a “shadow” interpretation, that Darcy only appears to be good, and that Lizzy’s original interpretation of these two men was correct. Bear in mind that Lizzy changes her mind about Darcy only after she learns that he’s a marital prospect who finds her attractive, unlike his sneering dismissive insult of her at the start of the novel. She’s suddenly motivated to believe he’s good. To paraphrase the Baroness in The Sound of Music: there’s nothing so attractive as a person who’s in love with you.
I’m sure that interpreting Darcy in this way would make 99% of Austen fans want to throw something. Fair enough.
His shadow interpretation of Emma is even worse for fans, but the stakes are lower since nobody is as invested in Emma and George Knightly in the way they are invested in Colin Firth, I mean Darcy. Read on, if you dare.
The “shadow story” of Emma is that Jane Fairfax is preggers (which totally seems obvious if you think about it), the ill-mannered but wealthy Mrs. Elton is literally trying to set her up as a prostitute (“governess” is slang for prostitute at the time, which is confusing since both things existed, and if you have read the book, Jane Fairfax talks at length about the flesh-peddling practice of making unmarriageable women become governesses which she equates with slavery), Frank Churchill is a murderer blackmailed into becoming engaged to Jane Fairfax to hide the scandal of her pregnancy, Mrs. Taylor-Weston marries in haste to adopt Jane Fairfax’s baby, Mrs. Bates is clearly Jane Fairfax’s mother (and Jane herself was born out of wedlock, not to an imaginary dead sister), John Knightly is the father (!) of Jane’s baby (they have an odd conversation by the post office that frankly is pretty convincing on this one, trust me), Mr. Woodhouse (Emma’s father) is dying of syphilis and is likely the father of many of these bastard children in Highbury (which symbolizes the immorality of the Royal Court, one of Austen’s favorite targets of criticism), George Knightly (even his name sounds like he’s at court) is a pedophile (fans of the Beckinsale Emma may find this one easy enough to believe) who orchestrates the whole thing to get Emma’s money. Whew! That’s quite a shadow story, one that is full of plausible theories when you think about it. It’s no wonder Amy Heckerling called her modern adaptation of Emma Clueless.
The gist of a “shadow story” is that there is an unreliable narrator, one who only gives an obstructed view of the truth or one with a prejudiced slant to it. We shouldn’t necessarily believe what we are told. We should ask questions about the details that in retrospect seem fishy or hint at hidden motives and plots that aren’t being told to us directly. While most literature is not constructed this way, some of the best, most enduring literature is.
I’ve never considered the Book of Mormon to be any sort of literary masterpiece. In my view the prose is so clunky and it came to pass it’s nearly unreadable! But there are several occurences in the book that hint at “shadow stories” or things happening off the page that might alter the straightforward reading. This doesn’t mean the author did these things deliberately. For example, any memoir, religious text or otherwise obviously biased text should be read with suspicion. Here are a few I could immediately think of:
The concept of Nephi as an unreliable narrator has become a common post-modern interpretation. This doesn’t mean that he is deliberately deceitful or says things that aren’t true, just that his portion of the Book of Mormon is very biased toward defending his youthful decisions. He casts himself as his father’s spiritual heir, his older brothers as faithless, lazy, and murderous. He even glosses over the murder he commits, justifying it as a religious imperative with the sanction of an actual heavenly messenger (!). He blames his brothers for passing to their children “the sins of their fathers,” without acknowledging that he has done the same in being unable to heal the breach in his own family caused at least in part by his own intolerant, arrogant, usurpation of power. He even hints that his parents think he’s gone too far, but doesn’t elaborate for fear of contradicting the narrative that he deserves to be in charge and to inherit the role of leader from his father.
Speaking of Nephi’s family, there’s something hinky about the ages of Lehi and Sariah’s kids. When they leave Jerusalem, they have 4 sons: Laman, Lemuel, Nephi and Sam. While in the desert, Sariah gives birth to two more sons. (They also have 4 daughters, both unnamed and completely unimportant to Nephi’s Bechdel-failing narrative). Additionally, throughout ancient history, infant mortality rates were roughly 50%, which means that to have 10 children survive into adulthood, you would on average have at least 20 full-term pregnancy terms that take up roughly one year of fertility (this doesn’t include miscarriages which weren’t counted in infant mortality as they didn’t involve a birth, and breastfeeing curttails pregnancy to a degree). So, given a fertility span for women that starts at menarche (around 12 or 13 at earliest) and ends at menopause (roughly 50), but declines sharply at age 35 (successful pregnancy after age 40, particularly in ancient times was almost unheard of), the pregnancy time period for Sariah would probably be around twenty years at very least. If she bore Laman at age 15, she would have been leaving Jerusalem around age 30, giving her time (just barely, given fertility odds) to bear two more sons (Jacob & Joseph) in the wilderness where they roamed for 8 years (until she was around 38). Nephi mentions his parents’ “gray hairs” which seems a little early for people in their 30s / 40s, but life was hard back then and life spans shorter, so that’s possible. No matter how you do the math, Nephi and his three brothers had to be teenagers when they left Jerusalem. That is a totally different view of his “leadership” claim as well as murdering Laban and so forth than the Arnold Frieberg vision of jacked up 40 year olds sailing around the world with their aged parents. It also hints at Nephi being an even more unreliable narrator. Have you ever heard some of the justifications people put out there for their adolescent behavior? 
We are told that Jesus sets up a new Church among the people of the Book of Mormon, using a military-sounding formula to form congregations and leaders in same sized groups, which begs the obvious question–why is his ministry in the Book of Mormon so different from what happens in the New Testament? Are we to believe that he did the same in Jerusalem, but it wasn’t recorded or was altered for the record? It’s a very simple method of organizing his believers, but it must have had some of the same practical problems they had in the Old World (e.g. geographical distances). Why would it be so different from the clues we are given later by Paul for Church organization in the early Christian church?
Korihor is referred to as “anti-Christ” which is a very powerful religious slur in our modern Christian era, but why would it be taken in the same way in a pre-Christian culture? There’s got to be a big difference in how one perceives a theoretical savior who is expected to come to earth but hasn’t yet, and one whose life and ministry comprise our teachings. Also, how do Korihor’s views make any sense at all when he explains his actions? He doesn’t believe in God, because a heavenly being told him not to? Isn’t that like not believing in leprechauns because your Lucky Charms cereal told you they aren’t real?
Mormon, as abridger, repeatedly apologizes for the mistakes made in the book, claiming they are the mistakes of men, but he fails to point out any errors specifically, despite his role in selecting what he thinks are the best stories (don’t quit your day job, buddy) . This is incredibly similar to Joseph’s own apologetic statements about his “foibles” without actually claiming anything worse than joking around with his buddies over card games (paraphrase). He neglects to include more egregious actions like Fanny Alger and lying to Emma constantly about marrying other women, including teens and those already married to his friends he’s sent abroad. That’s kind of like apologizing for not emptying the dishwasher after you’ve accidentally parked your car in the living room.
We are told Captain Moroni is a great guy, someone worthy of emulation, but he’s a short-sighted, militaristic hothead who nearly topples the government because of his lack of interpersonal skills.
Speaking of this, the story pitting the “freemen” against the “kingmen” is also quite interesting. The “kingmen” are cast as the baddies, but the “freemen” whose name literally contains the word “free” are the ones who are willing to kill the “kingmen” to get their way. How is that freedom? Which thing is really being critiqued here?
These are just a handful of possible “shadow stories” in the scripture. There is another example from the Bible that I found that discusses why Job is an unreliable narrator whose story can’t be taken at face value, and is potentially critiquing what it claims to uphold.
- Do you find the idea of shadow stories intriguing in the scriptures or do you prefer to read them at face value for their metaphorical meaning?
- Do you think it’s wrong to be skeptical of scriptural accounts?
- Are there any scriptural stories that strike you as odd?
- Do you find Gospel Doctrine discussions to be open to these types of questions?
 Steve Martin, for example, had white hair at age 29.
 *cough* Brett Kavanaugh *cough, cough*
 The war chapters were really the best things in these records? Really??
Thanks for the post. I know that I’m far from the first one to suggest this (even just on W&T), but the one story that immediately leaps out at me starts in the Book of Omni. 320 years after landing wherever the Land of Lehi-Nephi is, Amaron writes that a majority of the Nephites are destroyed (resumably by the Lamanites, but it’s not actually stated who caused the destruction), then three generations later (or at least three record keepers later), Mosiah the First escapes with a few others (the danger is never described) and they discover the Land and City of Zarahemla. Then Mosiah, a foreigner, is somehow bloodlessly put on the Zarahemlan throne… because he taught the people of Zarahemla his language and religion? Laying aside the historicity of the Book of Mormon, was Mosiah in fact a conqueror who subjugated the people of Zarahamela. And are the subsequent books of Mosiah, Alma, and Helaman largely a story of ruling class Nephites dealing with a native Zarahemlan insurgency supported by Zarahemlan expats and Lamanites who found them to be convenient allies?
It seems to me that Orson Scott Card made a living out of pointing out and expanding Shadow stories… laying aside his exploration of the shadow stories in the Ender series (ie., Ender’s Shadow series), we find him exploring the shadow story of Joseph Smith, Jr. in the Alvin Maker series, and the shadow story of Nephi and his brothers (as well as, later, Alma the younger) in the Homecoming Series. Indeed, isn’t shadow story interpretation the source of much fan fiction?
Expanding on the theme that Moroni or Nephi were less than totally reliable story tellers: we’ve heard a relatively recent explanation for the dark skin curse descriptions found in the BOM. And this explanation suggests that it wasn’t Joseph Smith who was racist when writing the BOM, it was Nephi or Moroni who were racist and and planted the idea in the BOM that dark skin was a curse. JS couldn’t help but translate what the plates said (a.k.a. what was said on the rock in the hat?).
I’m not sure I buy that particular interpretation of Emma, but it does add an interesting twist to the narrative.
Here’s an idea regarding the sons of Lehi. Perhaps Sariah was past the age of child birth, so Lehi took on a second wife or concubine who birthed Jacob and Joseph. Jacob was named so because Lehi identified with Abraham and Isaac as a father of a new people, who happened to have multiple wives. Nephi followed his example and continued the practice. Layman and Lemuel felt that their mom was disgraced and tried to oppose Nephi in the adoption of the practice leading to the political split.
Following the example of their dad, the sons and grandsons of Nephi take multiple wives and the practice becomes “cool” among the ruling class. Tender hearted Jacob, who saw the sorrow of his mother and Sariah under Lehi, condemns the practice, highlighting that Lamar and Lemuel were correct on this issue.
Generations later, the house of Nephi has become so corrupt that a violent revolution occurs. The ruling class is killed or exiled and a new king is appointed, from whom the line of Mosiah, Benjamin, Mosiah descends.
Jared Hickman’s “Learning to Read with the Book of Mormon” is relevant here. Dialogue, 48, no. 1 Spring 2015.
But I’m not sure how recent the idea is that story-telling reliability is not the BoM prophets’ strongpoint. I remember reading (but cannot now find) that BY said something like the BoM would be very different if it were re-translated/re-written in his day. Anybody know how to correct or confirm that memory?
Sometimes we think things are new or recent when they are only new or recent to us.
I guess I am going to have to go re-read Emma.
I actually think there are so many shadow stories in the BoM that it’s impossible for me to read in a straightforward way anymore. I was trying to read it with my very skeptical, very smart adolescent son and he was absolutely ripping Nephi apart (having no inclination, as I had at his age, to assume Nephi to be reliable). So basically we were reading the whole thing as “how Nephi shows us what not to do” and he felt that was a waste of time.
A very large overarching shadow story in the BoM is the misogyny. Carol Lynne Pearson’s article “Could Feminism have saved the Nephites” explains this well. But basically that the Nephites were super misogynistic, including all the narrators, and this was their downfall so we should learn what *not* to do from them.
I want to think more on stories that seem weird to me … for sure a lot in the Bible but I’ll chew on this for a while re the Book of Mormon
A few of my favorite shadow stories, some of which may reflect a background narrative playing out in JS’s mind as he was dictating:
-The very first first-person account in the Book of Mormon dictation–the record of Zeniff–reeks of Zeniff being an unreliable narrator. According to Zeniff, he was a righteous dude who didn’t want to take the land away from the good Lamanites, but then he decides to go in with his army, and the Lamanites just peacefully decide to uproot and move out because they secretly had a TWELVE YEAR plan to enslave Zeniff’s people. More likely, Zeniff wasn’t a good due, the Lamanites gave the land to Zeniff because he came in with a friggin army, and that the Lamanites only fought back after having their people slaughtered by Zeniff’s people after they began settling beyond the agreed borders, resulting in minor conflicts over food. (Basically Zeniff is Zionist Israelis, and the Lamanites are Palestinians in Gaza.) It’s Zeniff’s actions and the subsequent abduction of Lamanite daughters by Zeniff’s grandsons’s priests that ultimately lead to the remaining Nephite-Lamanite conflicts in the BofM.
-Ammon and the sons of Mosiah are primarily on a political mission to rectify the border conflict that Zeniff and his descendents poured fuel on. As soon as the Lamanites realize that they are not spies but emissaries trying to establish peace between the two nations, King Lamoni seeks to unify them by offering his daughter (Lamanite princess) to marry Ammon (Lamanite prince).
-King Lamoni’s father is likely named Laman, following the tradition of naming kings as such at their coronation.(which the Nephites did before Mosiah, and Lamanites seems to continue to do until Lamoni’s father passes on the kingship to his other son. The absence of Lamoni’s father’s name and the naming of the new king as “Anti-Nephi-Lehi” instead of Laman seems to indicate a clear rejection of the Lamanite tradition of despising the Nephites, with the narrators of the BofM respecting that and never using the last King Laman’s name.
Also, going along with what you said about Lehi and Sariah’s age when Jacob and Joseph were conceived, I like the idea of those boys being born of a different polygamous wife. (I wrote about this year, using much of the same points https://loydo38.blogspot.com/2009/04/did-lehi-pick-up-second-wife-in.html). Thus when Jacob condemns polygamy and declares, “”For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things,” he is simultaneously saying that putting himself on a pedestal by claiming that God specifically wanted him conceived.
Great post. I’ve got lots of thoughts, but will keep things brief:
One thing that’s clear is the underlying thread of American exceptionalism. The land is “choice”, etc.. and the very setting of the book is, one could argue, a move away from more traditional Abrahamic religious paradigms and more towards a new, uniquely American, and therefore superior, Christianity (though, as folks point out, it’s weird to encounter so many references to Christ before he shows up).
Another thing is the whole (supposed) valorizing of military might, fighting for “true” causes, etc. Obviously taken from sources like Augustine’s notion of Just War, etc., but also the really bizarre hero-worship of Captain Moroni and the (IMHO) insane justifications for violence and killing, supposedly in the name of righteousness.
And I’d like to know where all of the exact quotes come from. How do we get such detailed accounts of things and who, really, was the witness for all of these things and how did they get recorded so (supposedly) accurately?
And last, though certainly not least, I think the whole B of M is a shadow story of sorts. I think one reading of the book leads one to believe that Joseph Smith was actually trying to create a narrative that ran counter to most of Christian theology and ideology, thus making the entire text subversive. In fact, it’s always been my sense that the B of M suggests that the power of Christ and of God are LESS powerful than human agency and action. That’s especially true of the book’s end where, despite many examples of people having access to prophets, etc., ultimately, it’s the power of human agency, not the power of God or Christ, that determines what happens. It does make one wonder why God would think a negative example is more powerful than a positive one, especially given how Christianity sets up heaven as such a great reward, etc. I’ve often wondered if, despite 3rd Nephi, Smith was really trying to gesture to the Deism that was a popular belief in the late 18th century among at least some prominent founding fathers in order to make the case that God is more distant than we believe and that we’re basically in charge of things. It’s a strange book, regardless.
Mosiah the First arrived during a civil war in Zarahemla.
While the civil war is only mentioned in passing it resonates with the later succession wars.
Note that King Benjamin still has a divided kingdom and the “total conversion” in the record is a common ceremonial statement in similar texts found in the Middle East—not necessarily an actual conversion.
I’ve noted before that when Alma goes to King Mosiah the second with issues, the king meets with a council of priests that does not include Alma and then gets back with him.
The Brigham Young quote is:
“Should the Lord Almighty send an angel to re-write the Bible, it would in many places be very different from what it now is. And I will even venture to say that if the Book of Mormon were now to be re-written, in many instances it would materially differ from the present translation. According as people are willing to receive the things of God, so the heavens send forth their blessings.”
There is a lot to deconstruct in the text.
Stephen, that’s a fascinating take I hadn’t considered, and it takes seriously the suggestion in the Book of Omni that Mosiah the First was at the head of a relatively small group of Nephite refugees. Even a small group could have served as the tipping point in a bitterly divided Zarahemlan civil war (and perhaps they had relatively superior weapons and/or tactics that made a difference?). Having had the opportunity to teach Sunday School last year, I can’t count how many times I told the class that there was a lot more going on in Nephite history than the narrator either knew or was willing to write down.
Anyone interested in the idea of unreliable narrators in the Book of Mormon should read Grant Hardy’s “Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide.” It’s a book length exploration of the BofM that focuses on closely reading the text and not willingly accepting the narrators as omniscient.
I had a similar experience to your son’s when reading 1/2 Nephi a few years ago. I had just finished listening to Educated (by Tara Westover) and started listening to the the Book of Mormon audio version. The feeling from Tara’s story of her religiously abusive family bled into the story of Lehi and Nephi, and not in a good way. It tainted that whole story for me in a way that I have yet to fully reckon with.
One interesting aspect of this discussion is that looking for shadow stories in the BoM, you are taking to BoM for what it claims to be, that is heavily edited historically based propaganda from the ancient Americas.
JLM, that doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. They could just as well be background narratives in JS’s mind that never made it to the dictated story.
1) Yes, the concept of shadow stories is quite intriguing. Having studied history for years, I came to view old histories as largely a window into the mind of the author and to look for what that might suggest about his (hardly ever her) surroundings. What is informing this historian’s or observer’s worldview? What is the cultural backdrop against which the observer is writing? Reading Herodotus from this view completely changes how we view his text. Rather than just accept at face value what he was describing as true, it is important to try to imagine possible biases on his part, and leaps to conclusions that he shouldn’t have made. How did he know? What informed him? Of course, we can look at Jane Austen’s book through this lens, i.e., what historical circumstances shaped and informed her mind, and then we can also look for internal evidence from her works, since she is of course writing a work of fiction and creating characters, as to what the text suggests about the background of the characters which isn’t explicitly mentioned in the text.
2) Personally I’m deeply skeptical of scriptural accounts and think it naive not to be. But I don’t want to come off as judgmental. When I read the Bible, I read it with the questions in mind of who could have written it, on what medium (papyrus, leaves), what time period, how could they have known x, what parallels do we see in ancient Jewish culture and other surrounding cultures that would have informed the text (i.e., the Instruction of Amenemope clearly informed a few passages in the Book of Proverbs), how was the text transmitted, what might have happened to the text from various transmissions, etc. On the Book of Mormon, I have arrived at a point in my skepticism that I no longer look to ancient Near Eastern cultures or ancient American cultures to inform myself of a possible backstory that influenced the construction of the Book of Mormon. Rather, I look only to early 19th-century northern US cultures for clues about the backstory informing the text. The Book of Mormon, for me, is a window into Joseph Smith’s mind and experiences, and to some extent prevailing worldviews of white Americans in the early 1800s.
3) As for scriptural stories that strike me as odd, you mentioned the ages of Lehi and his family members. Consider how Jacob was born in about 592 BCE and his son Enos dying in 420 BCE. That’s a span of 172 years. Does that mean that Jacob had Enos when was 86 and that Enos died when he was 86? Was Jacob 72 and Enos lived to be 100? The most puzzling story, and the one that derailed my belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, was the story of Sherem. He comes among the people of Jacob (how large would have the people of Jacob been? 200 people tops, I would imagine) and learns their language, chastises them for not obeying the Law of Moses, and says he is acquainted with the scriptures (at least enough to believe them). Why would he need to learn their language? Wouldn’t everyone still speak the same language, even Laman’s break-off community? If there were other indigenous groups when Lehi’s party arrived and Sherem was one of these outsiders, why would he obsess about keeping the Law of Moses? Wouldn’t he have an entirely different religion? Lastly, how would Sherem know about the scriptures if he hadn’t been living among Jacob’s community? Jacob’s community are the only ones that had the brass plates. Did Laman and Lemuel copy them somehow when they broke off? On what medium? How did they take them with them? Did they memorize them and transmit them orally? All of this seems implausible and unlikely. Now in 19th-century upstate New York, people were obsessed with these supposed “anti-Christ” figures. Plus you had itinerant preachers and widespread literacy, printing presses, easy text mass-production and distribution, and Bible-reading. The Sherem story fits very nicely into a 19th-century northern US context. The most plausible explanation is Joseph Smith imposing his cultural surroundings on a distant past of some 2,300-2,400 years before him and is yet another of the many, many anachronisms we find in the Book of Mormon.
4) The prevailing culture in Gospel Doctrine discussions is one that encourages the repetition of the same types of stories and personal experiences and is highly adverse to deep thinking and any narratives that seem to challenge the conventional thinking about the scriptures. These “classes” and “discussions” tend to be hostile environments to deep and critical readings of scriptural texts. I stopped wasting my time and energy going to these “classes” years ago realizing that my attempts to bring new and different insights to be exercises in futility that made me more enemies than friends.
I dunno, the narrator. JSJ seemed to have reguarded the BoM at face value. If he had hidden messages or narratives in the BoM, he doesn’t seem to have hinted at them. Maybe he did, and I’m not aware of it.
JLM, *If* the BofM is the product of years of story-telling and construction, either in his head or during those evening story telling sessions between his first encounter with Moroni and eventually retrieving the plates that his mother reported, then there could very well be plenty that is not necessarily “hidden” but simply left on the cutting room floor or just never explicitly introduced into the dictated narrative. While JS provided very little commentary on the content of the BofM, we know for a fact that there we was at least 116 (and more likely 300) pages of Nephite narrative that failed to get published and that JS offered only very minor insights into.
Also, JS himself did engage with some shadow stories, such as when he declared the brother of Jared’s name to be Mahonri Moriancumer. Whether JS had this in mind when dictating the text, had it revealed to him later on, or extrapolated it using his own shadow story theorizing, it is clearly tied to the BofM theme of places being named after its founder.
John W, very well said. I genuinely love the ideas laid out on this thread, but for me the true shadow story of the BoM is the life and times of Joseph Smith.
For example Nephi—a younger sibling stepping up to fill the vacuum his Biblically-styled prophet father creates by his failings—reads to me like an analog for Joseph Jr, whose depressed, alcoholic dad Joseph Sr had failed society’s expectations of property ownership and was a spiritual outsider to his own family in spite of his visionary heritage. Both Nephi’s and Joseph Jr’s revelations and subsequent actions healed the familial rift, restored the honor of their fathers, and took their families on a physical journey towards a promised land.
Not trying to read too much into it because there were clearly a lot of other influences and imagination at play. But, “Write what you know,” as they say.
Blending the archetypal and the psychological is super-sloppy; using a Jungian concept like “shadow” in psychoanalytic Freudian context will always produce absurdity. Seems you just discovered this.
This post is entertaining– like watching a kid learn to yo-yo.
Travis, when using ‘super’ as an adjective, you don’t hyphenate immediately after the word to create an adjectival phrase if it isn’t modifying anything. Used correctly, I might say that your use of the English language in this post is “super sloppy” (no hyphen) or that you wrote a “super-sloppy post” (with hyphen). I might add that blending the colloquial use of “super” with more sophisticated words, phrases, and concepts is jarring, incongruent, and stylistically inconsistent. Perhaps you just discovered now how to properly use an adjectival phrase and maintain consistent tone. That’s okay. I find your inability to marshal a subject taught in middle school amusing–like a dog trying to each peanut butter.
EAT peanut butter … I blew it.
Travis, you’re likely a troll, but in case you’re not:
1. I think you’ve misunderstood hawkgrrrl’s use of the term “shadow stories”. She’s clearly referring to narrative theory and interpretation, not the shadow as an unconscious aspect of the personality that Jung and Freud discussed (it was Lacan, not Jung or Freud who believed that the subconscious was structured like a language). You’re correct that Freud and Jung differed substantially on many things, including the shadow concept (for Freud, it was equivalent to the entire unconscious and for Jung, it was not as negative an aspect as it was for Freud; Jung believed that the shadow could have positive and negative aspects and that it could include things outside of the “light” of the conscious mind), but again, that’s not really what hawkgrrrl’s talking about here.
2. How big an insecure d**k do you have to be to come on a blog and make a comment like that? A bit of advice: The world already has too many insecure, condescending jackasses. Isn’t it better to try to take part in the discussion and take issue with a substantive aspect of what hawkgrrrl is saying in a mature and collegial way?
3. People who try to come off as smarter than others are generally: 1) Both insecure and immature and 2) Never as smart as they try to appear to be. Hawkgrrrl can think circles around you, but that’s really not the point. This blog isn’t a contest to see who’s the smartest; it’s a place where folks all long the continuum of Mormon belief come to commiserate, share ideas and participate in some kind of community. You should try it sometime.
I think hawkgrrl is awesome, always have.
I still say it’s sloppy.
I still think it is entertaining.
I appreciate the cavalier commentary.
hawkgrrl’s juxtaposition is more useful as a recipe for comedy. I recommend using the “shadow” analysis in the context of archetype (… it’s an age-proven Kabbalist practice that bears fruit).
There is no “shadow Gospel.” When Nephi wrote it, he meant it. So did Mormon and Moroni. They were straight forward and did not hide messages. Those who seek for a “shadow Gospel” must turn to the forgeries of Mark Hofmann.
Wow! I enjoyed this post.
Now, Occam’s razor would have Joseph Smith the unreliable ‘scribe’ rather than Nephi et al unreliable narrators, but I loved the mental journey.
Could you please write more like this? (And if you haven’t read it already, I bet you’d like Jane Austen, Secret Radical by Helena Kelly. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/16/jane-austen-secret-radical-helena-kelly-review
I have had suspicions that there is a shadow story regarding the croc-wearing hot dog eating contest watchers, but it hasn’t yet totally settled for me.
I will grant there may be a sloppiness in comparing the shadow story identified in Emma to those imagined in the BOM, although the comments are far better than the post at identifying some great ones. Probably one of the best examples of a shadow story in the BOM is the one Mette Harrison imagined in her novel The Book of Laman. The fact that Nephi sounds so defensive about usurping his brother makes it clear that there’s another side to that story.
Perhaps an even better shadow story is Hamlet. You can read the story as one of calculating revenge or a descent into madness caused by grief. It completely changes what the story is about and both interpretations work.
Ultimately, though, the sloppiness, IMO, is that the BOM is simply not that well written. The character development is superficial. The plots (and some characters) seem lifted directly out of the Bible. Mormon says he chose the best parts of a greater number of records, and this is still the best he could do, including all the war chapters. There are also a lot of unexplained loopholes and stories that strain credulity (but so do campfire stories and other propaganda). Now, I suppose the real shadow story is this: either it’s a poorly written ancient text, or it’s a poorly fabricated attempt to sound like an ancient text. And yes, either interpretation greatly changes the meaning of the book.
This probably is a big stretch / misconstruction of the concept of a shadow story, but reading JCS comments as satire (as has been suggested in previous threads) has greatly enhanced my appreciation for them.
John W. If Jacob and the rest had moved in with natives and were a foreign elite the story makes a lot more sense and fits into the narrative of men taking concubines without their wives knowing until a sermon is preached against it.
Because I have a MA in Comp Lit, I am enjoying this post and comments.
Because I have a MA in Comp Lit, I’m going to find the shadow meanings in the songs of Bon Jovi.
If you’re into shadow stories, you should be watching The Chosen on BYU-TV (or through the show’s app). Matthew, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and Nicodemus all get their shadow stories explored in season 1.
Stephen R. Marsh, thanks for your comment. What you appear to be saying is that we should understand Lehi’s party as having come into contact with indigenous inhabitants and to have become an elite group among even to the point of converting them to believe in at least the Law of Moses and then taking secret concubines among them. We should further understand Sherem to be the possible son of Jacob’s brother, son, nephew, or cousin and an indigenous concubine? Maybe Sherem wasn’t a son of a Lehite at all, but an indigenous person who became a Law of Moses-believer?
Your explanation doesn’t seem to add plausibility in my view. There are three issues that come to mind:
1) The relative smallness of the people of Nephi. Jacob had to have lived rather long, for his son Enos died in 420. So let’s suppose that Jacob lived until he was 90 and was having this interaction with Sherem in his 80s, so 80-90 years after Lehi’s party arrives in the Americas. How big could have the people of Nephi been by then? 1,000 people or so, largely through interactions with indigenous inhabitants that they had somehow assimilated to Jewish culture? How is it that Sherem is living in this small community and has to seek “much opportunity” to speak with Jacob? How is it that he goes among the people and preaches? That to me sounds like an itinerant preacher in early US, not something that would happen in small community of 1,000 or so (and I feeling like I’m being generous with the number) where a group of migrants managed to gain elite status among an indigenous group of hunter-gatherers/foragers who at most may have practiced small agriculture. At least I can’t imagine that this indigenous group would have been larger and more developed, otherwise how would Lehi’s party gain elite status among them?
2) The learnedness of the community. There a number of non-Lehites or mixed-DNA Lehites who somehow are “learned” (Jacob 7:4 notes that Sherem is “learned”) and acquainted with the scriptures. Furthermore, after Sherem dies it is said that the people “searched the scriptures” in Jacob 7:23. How? There was widespread literacy? How did they teach literacy? How would have the text been distributed among them? They made copies? On more brass plates? On stone slabs? On leaves? On animal skins? Was there some sort of location where the brass plates were kept where people could take time out of their days, most of which had to have been occupied hunting, foraging, and planting, to sit down and read these plates? The idea of “searching the scriptures” is a very post-printing press, post-invention of paper, post-literature market concept.
3) The seeming lack of internal evidence of outsiders. Reading 1 Nephi-Omni 1:12, I see no reason to believe just from reading these passages alone that there were any people that Lehi’s party and descendants came into contact with who weren’t descendants of Lehi’s original party. Jacob 1:13 does go out of its way to note that there are “Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites, and Ishmaelites”, all of whom have names that are from derived from people in Lehi’s party. My thinking is that Joseph Smith, like most everyone else in his environment, believed that all of humanity sprouted from Noah and grew and spread rather quickly. He didn’t bother to compute the demographics or understand population growth dynamics. He constructed his narrative of the Book of Mormon by borrowing heavily from the KJV narratives.
Joseph Smith thought that different tribes could emerge from brothers in the same family, much as the sons of Jacob had supposedly grown to be different and often competing tribes. The Nephites and Lamanites were like the tribes of Israel, emerging to be different nations all from the seed and posterity of two different brothers. Ishmael’s and Zoram’s also grew to be different tribes, although occasionally merging with the larger and more predominant Nephite tribe/group/community.
Not a Cougar, Don Bradley’s lost 116 pages book has quite a bit on King Mosiah 1, like a ton.
One of the best books in Mormon Studies to come out lately.