Analysis of 2 Nephi 4 of the Book of Mormon

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“O wretched man that I am! ...I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me!”. “My God hath been my support… He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh”. “Awake my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (Book of Mormon). All of these sentiments were expressed by the great prophet Nephi in what is arguably the only psalm of the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 4:16-35--more commonly referred to as the “Psalm of Nephi”. I argue that 2 Nephi 4 is, in fact, a literary psalm, much like those of the Old Testament- for three reasons. First, it uses the poetic form and language of a psalm; second, it portrays deep religious feeling; and third, it acts as a song of praise to God.

Webster’s online dictionary defines a psalm as, “a sacred song or poem used in worship”. dictionary Clearly, when Joseph Smith translated the plates, he wasn’t given a musical score to accompany 2 Nephi 4. Thus, we will analyze the poetic nature of the passage. Often times we think of poetry in a very limited sense. We imagine rhyming, rhythmic language, or alliteration—but poetry is much more. Doctor Steven P. Sondrup says, “Poetry can be viewed more broadly and taken to include all those utterances in which language artfully and significantly draws attention to itself by the intensification of its own linguistic and formal properties”.1

In order to better appreciate the “Psalm of Nephi” as poetry, and to more clearly understand the elements of poetry it uses, it is helpful to set aside the traditional format found in the LDS standard works—numbered verses and two columns of text-- and separate the text into lines of poetry as they ...

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... the prophet Nephi—one of the great heroes of the Book of Mormon—at times felt frustrated or inadequate. I have been inspired by his trust and confidence in the Lord. I, like he, have felt to “cry unto... my God, the rock of all righteousness” and hope that “my voice shall forever ascend up unto…my rock and mine everlasting God” (2 Nephi 4:35)BOM. While the text of 2 Nephi 4 has always been very significant to me, I had never really understood what made it a psalm. After further investigation, I can see that 2 Nephi 4:16-35 is in fact a psalm, much like those of the Old Testament, because it uses the poetic form and language of a psalm, communicates deep and personal religious feeling, and gives praises to God.

Works Cited

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1989.

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