Omni 1:11-12 — LeGrand Baker — early Nephite apostasy
11 And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end.
12 Behold, I am Amaleki, the son of Abinadom. Behold, I will speak unto you somewhat concerning Mosiah, who was made king over the land of Zarahemla; for behold, he being warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness—
Theses verses may be telling a great deal by what they do not say. If one remembers who was writing, then what they write gives us an interesting look at the culture at the time. We learned earlier that there was a tribe of Nephi, another of Jacob, Sam, Laman, Lemuel, and so forth including each of the sons of Ishmael. According to the genealogy given, these authors were of the tribe of Jacob, but not just anyone in the tribe, with the leader of the tribe, the man who has the birthright in name, rank, and probably property. The Small Plates are probably the same to that family as the Brass Plates were to Laban and the House of Manassah. That is, they would be the family heritage, and the genealogical proof of the legitimacy of the owner’s claim to having the family birthright. We are told later that these later writers don’t write much because there aren’t any empty pages left in the book. However, it is safe to say there were some fine goldsmiths by then and the head of the Jacobite tribe could have hired someone to add pages if he wanted to, or if not, to create a second volume. Neither happened. What the writers of the book of Omni seem to be telling us is that the Nephite aristocracy still enjoyed the royal status; went to war when they had one to go to; believed in God, but in a religion which seems more structured than dynamic; but lack the insightfulness and the faithfulness of their forefathers. In this they have become just what one would expect they would.
Human history has shown that a dynamic cultural religion with the underpinnings of personal revelation is exceedingly fragile. Its fragility is that it is itself almost an oxymoron. The inclination of cultural (political, military, economic, organized religion ) leaders is to keep things at the status quo — that is to keep themselves in power with the minimal effort. Sometimes religious teachers unite with the leaders of the state church in order to secure the moral and sacral justification for their own positions of power. As time passes, there is less and less inclination on the part of the religious aristocracy to tolerate much free thinking. In that situation personal revelation becomes culturally acceptable if it is translated into testimony or dedicated behavior, but not if it espouses new ideas or even old ones which are not presently politically correct. There are lots of examples, early Christianity, early Moslem history, Puritanism in America. They all follow the same pattern. The Mormon Church has solved that problem by saying that anyone can and ought to have revelation for him/herself and to fulfill the calling one has in church. But it ends there. Legitimate personal revelation cannot be applied beyond, or be “higher” than one’s self, home, and calling in the church. This permits the dynamics of personal revelation, while at the same time keeping a tight lid on it, preventing that kind of usurpation.