Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book of Mormon Word Usage: Repair

Among the more constructive uses for words in the Book of Mormon is the use of the word repair. The word occurs six times in the Book of Mormon, but one has been accidentally deleted from recent editions.

Twice the word repair is used to refer to physical construction. Thus Zeniff and his people
began to build buildings, and to repair the walls of the city (Mosiah 9:8).
Likewise, before the destruction in Third Nephi,
there were many cities built anew, and there were many old cities repaired. (3 Nephi 6:7).
But the term repair was more often used in the Book of Mormon in a metaphorical sense. Thus the sons of Mosiah, after their conversion,
traveled throughout all the land of Zarahemla, and among all the people who were under the reign of king Mosiah, zealously striving to repair all the injuries which they had done to the church, confessing all their sins, and publishing all the things which they had seen, and explaining the prophecies and the scriptures to all who desired to hear them. (Mosiah 27:35)
This repair was part of the repentance process. The sons of Mosiah strove to repair the injuries they had inflicted by confessing their sins, publishing all the things they had seen including the appearance of an angel, and explaining the scriptures to anyone who wanted to hear them.

So also the Lamanites converted by the sons of Mosiah vowed:
If the Lord saith unto us go, we will go down unto our brethren, and we will be their slaves until we repair unto them the many murders and sins which we have committed against them. (Alma 27:8)
Becoming slaves turned out not to be an option so it is not clear how much time one would have to be a slave in order to repair a murder, but the converted Lamanites seem to have thought that even if it took the rest of their lives, that restitution was in order.

Later in the Book of Mormon account
many of those dissenters who had gone over from the Nephites . . . came forth and did confess their sins and were baptized unto repentance, and immediately returned to the Nephites to endeavor to repair unto them the wrongs which they had done. (Helaman 5:17)
Repairing is thus part of repentance. Like the physical instances of repairing, it requires fixing the problems created by the actions and returning things to their proper function. It is also interesting that repairing wrongs is something that repentant souls "strive" or "endeavor" to do or are considered at least hypothetically. It is not clear that mortals are fully capable of repairing their wrongs, but they ultimately must try to do so.

The last instance of repair in the Book of Mormon fits these latter usages. Royal Skousen has already told the story of how the word was deleted through a copying error. The 1830 edition had retain instead of repair by mistake. Since the word made no sense, it was dropped. Here it is in its original context:
Therefore I command you, my son, in the fear of God, that ye refrain from your iniquities; That ye turn to the Lord with all your mind, might, and strength; that ye lead away the hearts of no more to do wickedly; but rather return unto them, and acknowledge your faults and repair that wrong which ye have done. (Alma 39:12–13)
Here Alma outlines steps of repentance for his son:
  • Refrain from repeating his sins.
  • Turn to the Lord.
  • Do not encourage others to commit iniquity.
  • Acknowledge his faults.
  • Repair the wrong done.
These procedures constitute the repentance that Alma's son must do. Acknowledging his faults and repairing the wrong are essential requirements in repentance. Like the walls of a city, failure to repair the damage done is incomplete repentance and leaves the soul in a weak position.