M* Book Club: Nibley’s An Approach to the BoM, chapter 19

chapter 19, Man versus Man


In this chapter, Nibley notes the challenges in the Arabian wilderness between men.  Robbers are all over the place, and are a challenge.  He notes that it is considered a legal and honorable trade for Bedouins to raid caravans.  It reminds me of something I’ve come to learn about in the modern US prison system.  There is a difference between stealing and taking.  To steal is a bad and dishonorable thing. However, if an offender takes something from another while he is present to see the taking occur, then it is honorable. Why? Because the rightful owner has the chance to defend and claim his property, if he’s brave and strong enough to do so.

We see this same concept occurring among the ancient robbers. They tended to raid the caravans, an honorable thing to do. Thieves, as we can read in Ali Baba’s account in 1001 Arabian Nights, was not considered honorable for stealing treasure that was not his.

So, when Laban took the treasures from Nephi and his brethren, it was not viewed as a bad thing for him to do.  He gave them the chance to defend their property, and so rightfully claimed it.

Nibley also speaks about Lehi’s tent as being the center of the caravan. He’s correct in this. However, it goes beyond this Arabic conception.  Lehi’s tent and rough altars of stone were his portable Tabernacle. In Moses’ Tabernacle and in the Temple, the altar was in the outer court.  Lehi’s altar would also be outside of his tent.  But the great vision of the Tree of Life occurred within Lehi’s tent.  The Liahona was found right outside his tent door. Lehi’s tent was the place where God communicated with his people, just as the Tabernacle was where God spoke through Moses and others.

Lehi’s tent was a portable  temple.  Wherever he stopped, he created a sacred space, which included altars, but with his tent as the center of the universe.

One thought on “M* Book Club: Nibley’s An Approach to the BoM, chapter 19

  1. Ali Baba isn’t the best example. It is actually an 18th c. French adaptation of a folktale told by a Syrian monk, but you are right about the attitudes towards stealing as opposed to robbing.

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