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How would Joseph Smith have been able to write Nephi’s Psalm?

In 2 Nephi 4:16-35 we read what has been coined as the Psalm of Nephi. It reads in part:

Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

Nephi’s psalm fits one particular type of Old Testament Psalm called an “individual lament” which consists of five parts:

  1. Invocation: 2 Nephi 4:16-17
  2. Complaint: 2 Nephi 4:17-19
  3. Confession of Trust: 2 Nephi 4:20-30
  4. Petition: 2 Nephi 4:31-33
  5. Vow of Praise: 2 Nephi 4:34-35

How would Joseph Smith know the Psalms well enough to mimic this type of writing? How did he know to also include the typical covenant-making language?


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