Fourth Nephi — the Seinfeld Book??

Brant Gardner’s article, “Mormon’s Editorial Method and Meta-Message,” the subject of my previous post, has an intriguing statement about Fourth Nephi in the Book of Mormon being a “Seinfeld book” because it is about nothing – but a very important “nothing.” Gardner has extended comments about this unique book and what it does for the text. Here’s how he introduces that section of his paper:

The best place to see how Mormon used his whole text to convince us that Jesus is the Messiah is in 4 Nephi. The book of 4 Nephi has become one of my favorite books because it is so absolutely unique in Mormon’s work. I call it the “Seinfeld book,” because it is a book about nothing. Every other book we have received from Mormon’s hand was filled with important events and long speeches clarifying important gospel principles. 4 Nephi has none of this. Where Mormon’s typical editorial method was to string together large quotations from his source material with a minimalist linking text, 4 Nephi has no identifiable quotations from his source plates. 4 Nephi is Mormon’s intentional book about nothing. In the very absence of content, it reveals how Mormon expected that the entire structure of his opus would convince us that Jesus is the Messiah.

I would appreciate your reactions to his analysis of 4th Nephi. Certainly interesting!


Author: Jeff Lindsay

9 thoughts on “Fourth Nephi — the Seinfeld Book??

  1. His commentary, *Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon* (6 vol.; Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007) is a must-read. Full of insights, especially from his Mesoamerican training.

  2. In the very absence of content, [4 Nephi] reveals how Mormon expected that the entire structure of his opus would convince us that Jesus is the Messiah.

    Maybe it’s just late and I’m tired, but this is lost on me, even after reading the whole section in the article.

    Is it just a complicated way of saying that Mormon wanted to skip straight from the most climactic event of his history to the most climactic event of his own time? Or is there more to it?

  3. “If it bleeds it leads.”
    There was very little bad news in the book of Fourth Nephi. Verse 16 says it all

    “And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”

  4. I’ve often thought that the Book of Mormon, being given for our time, teaches us primarily how to prepare for the 2nd coming of the Savior. It does so by teaching lessons from the Nephites primarily between the founding of their democracy and the 1st coming of the Savior to them.

    When we get past the 2nd Coming, we may find that knowing about how the Nephites lived in those couple hundred of years is more relevant to our situation then. If we then need to know about the missing 4th Nephi history/doctrine, I’m sure it will be revealed at that time.

  5. Two-thirds of Mormon’s abridgement (the Plates of Mormon) remain sealed, untranslated and unrevealed to the world. Therefore, there are another 1062 pages of abridgement to go. (Current Book of Mormon has 531 pages.)

    If Mormon’s total abridgement (1593 equivalent English pages), is less than 1%, or “less than the hundredth part” as he said, of the original records, then his “source documents”, the Large Plates of Nephi, would constitute over 15,930 pages of English text.

    Assuming the source docs were spread evenly over the 1,000 year Nephite dynasty, that’s still only about 16 pages per year.

    And our book known as the Book of Ether, is also “just” an abridgement too. (Those 24 plates must have been pretty big.)

    I wonder if Ether wrote those 24 plates as an abridgement of a larger multi-generational record, or whether he wrote by revelation.

  6. I think that 4th Nephi’s theme is influence of faith unto the people. It’s great testimony about teachings of Jesus

  7. If Fourth Nephi is a Seinfeld book, Mormon being Seinfeld, then I nominate Amos (verse 47) to be Kramer, because he was different from everyone else in his generation, and Ammaron to be Newman, since he cared for and preserved the messages to the people. Sadly, no one in the book appears to be George or Elaine.

  8. Maybe Mormon didn’t have many sources from that period (unlikely), or maybe he just saw he was running out of space and decided to sum up. I’m not sure I understand the point Gardner’s trying to get across.

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