Many of my choices in books this year have been influenced by a decision to try and catch up on literature about the Book of Mormon. I feel a bit overwhelmed, to be honest, since there’s a lot out there and I have been more focused on the New Testament in recent years. I recently finished reading Christ and the Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7, a collection of essays on Jacob 7 that resulted from a two-week gathering of the Mormon Theology Seminar. There are both a published book version and a free PDF version offered through the Maxwell Institute. It’s a good read, and I felt like there some interesting takeaways that have changed how I see Sherem (the titular antichrist).
Sherem is an interesting character. We don’t know where he comes from, but Jacob portrays him as a no-good, trouble-causing vagabond that shows up on the scene and disrupts Jacob’s congregation and people. Jacob even goes as far as telling Sherem to his face that: “thou art of the devil,” and still refers to him as a “wicked man” after his repentance and death. Jacob also structures his telling of the story to present Sherem as a sort of anti-prophet, inverting a trope from the Hebrew Bible where “there came a man of God” who delivers a message to someone in authority, often followed by showing a sign that God’s power is behind him. Instead, Sherem’s coming is noted as “there came a man” (omitting the usual “of God”) who challenges the authorities with a religious message, but then is at the receiving end of the sign from a man of God instead of giving one. All this puts Sherem in a very negative light.
Yet, for all of the bad press, Sherem’s story resembles that of Paul in the New Testament in some ways. Like Paul, who “was violently persecuting the church of God” because he was “far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors,” Sherem attempted to “overthrow the doctrine of Christ” because he felt that it led people to “pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses which is the right way.” Paul underwent a dramatic conversion experience where “God … was pleased to reveal his Son to me,” during which “he fell to the ground and heard a voice,” and following which “for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” Likewise, as a result of Jacob’s prayer, “the power of the Lord came upon [Sherem], insomuch that he fell to the earth. And it came to pass that he was nourished for the space of many days.” Following this dramatic experience, Sherem had the people of Nephi gathered and “confessed the Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost, and the ministering of angels,” admitting that “he had been deceived by the power of the devil” in his previous efforts. Like Paul, who was a significant factor in the spread of Christianity among the eastern regions of the Roman Empire, Sherem’s preaching proved significant in securing belief in the Doctrine of Christ among the Nephites, since after his deathbed sermon, “the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures.” Sherem, like Paul, seemed to be a sincere and zealous believer in the religious traditions passed on to him prior to a dramatic conversion to Christianity. The big difference is that while Paul was able to embrace hope in Christ’s grace and was able to continue to serve the Lord, Sherem fixated on the possibility that he was past redemption and died soon after his encounter with Jacob.
That being said, there are a few reasons for why Sherem may have portrayed so negatively by Jacob. First, the narrative seems to be a microcosm of the ongoing struggles Jacob had with convincing his people to embrace a Christian perspective. As he noted: “We labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God” (Jacob 1:7), but found that they “began to grow hard in their hearts” (Jacob 1:15). The story of Sherem, perhaps, preserves some of that ongoing struggle in a single, pointed narrative (which may explain why Jacob decided to include it after he has already ended his record twice). Another point that Adam Miller brought up is that Jacob may have seen Sherem as a symbol of his struggles with his older brothers. Laman and Lemuel are portrayed as being “like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem,” complaining about Lehi “because he was a visionary man” and later stating that they believed that “the people who were in the land of Jerusalem were a righteous people; for they kept the statues and judgements of the Lord, and all his commandments, according to the law of Moses.” Religious differences may have contributed to split in the family and Jacob’s lament that the Nephites had become “a lonesome and a solemn people … hated of our brethren” (Jacob 7:26). Thus, as Adam Miller wrote, Jacob “can’t engage with Sherem because, throughout their encounter, he’s too busy shadow-boxing his brothers.” Whatever case, Jacob may have been hard on Sherem in his record because he was dealing with his own demons throughout the course of their encounter.
 Jacob 7:14, 23.
 See Jana Riess “‘There Came a Man’: Sherem, Scapegoating, and the Inversion of Prophetic Tradition,” in Christ and the Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7, ed. Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer (2018), Maxwell Institute Publications, 23, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/mi/23/. Compare this to the stories introduced in 1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Kings 13:1; 1 Kings 20:28; 2 Kings 1:6; 2 Kings 4:42; and 2 Chronicles 25:7.
 Galatians 1:13-14. All references to the Bible use the New Revised Standard Version.
 Jacob 7:2, 7.
 Galatians 1:16-17 and Acts 9:4, 9.
 Jacob 7:15-17.
 Jacob 7:23.
 1 Nephi 2:11, 13; 1 Nephi 17:22.
 Adam S. Miller, “Reading Signs of Repeating Symptoms,” in Christ and the Antichrist: Reading Jacob 7, ed. Adam S. Miller and Joseph M. Spencer (2018), Maxwell Institute Publications, 23, https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/mi/23/., 24.