To accomplish this, Spencer focuses on a few case studies of where the Book of Mormon either interprets itself or appropriates other texts (especially the writings of Isaiah) in its own narrative or theological structure. He begins by looking at how Alma's conversion narrative in Alma 36 deliberately mirror's Lehi's own sôd experience in 1 Nephi 1. In other words, Alma 36 turned Lehi's own experience into a type that was reenacted by Alma himself. "Not only does Alma tell a story in which history is reconciled with a revelatory event, he also relates that story–––as fragment of history–––to another revelatory event, namely, that of [Lehi's in] 1 Nephi 1. While the prophetic event remembered with the narrative spiritualizes Alma's past history of sin, the visionary event reenacted in Alma's telling of the narrative spiritualizes Alma's past history of conversion" (p. 26). It is easy enough to simply notice that Alma directly quotes 1 Nephi 1 (Alma 36:22). Spencer takes his analysis to a fascinating new level, however, in showing how the entire structure of Alma's narrative typologically reflects Lehi's.
|Spencer's restructuring of Alma's conversion narrative as a reenactment of Lehi's experience in 1 Nephi 1.|
There is much that I liked about Spencer's analysis of Isaiah in 2 Nephi. His two chapters on Nephi's use of Isaiah (pp. 33–104) are packed with great insights, but perhaps my favorite was his discussion of Nephi's narrative and theological outline in 2 Nephi reflecting the creation, fall, atonement, and veil (the temple). I can't do Spencer's argument justice in this brief review, as it is fairly complex. The reader should simply pick up a copy and read it for him or herself. What I can do is provide a tantalizing teaser with the chart below from Spencer's book.
The last portion of Spencer's book focuses on Abinadi's use of Isaiah in his contest with the priests of Noah (pp. 105–172). As with his discussion of Nephi's use of Isaiah, Spencer's reading here is complex, and is best looked at directly by the reader. The ultimate takeaway, however, is rather straightforward:
Abinadi's speech, then, can be read as having two major parts: (1) a revisionary discussion of the relationship between the Law and the Prophets that (2) allows for a further revisionary discussion of how Isaiah should be read. Whatever else Abinadi's speech accomplishes, it reworks the meaning of the Law for the Nephites and opens the way for the church that then shapes Nephite religious thought up until the visit of Christ in Third Nephi. (p. 137)I'm not sure I can adequately describe how wonderful I thought An Other Testament is. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and would heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to seriously engage the Book of Mormon in a meaningful way. A close reading of the Book of Mormon is both spiritually and intellectually rewarding, and Joseph Spencer is an excellent guide through such a reading.