This chapter includes one of the few places where the KJV reading of Isaiah is undoubtedly superior to what we find in the Book of Mormon; most of the time the textual differences serve to make the text more understandable, or emphasise some particular element or interpretation. In 2 Nephi 15:8, however, we find the following:
Wo unto them that join house to house, till there can be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
The correct meaning of this can be inferred, but it is plainer when we turn to the KJV. A textual comparison of the two shows the following:
Wo unto them that join house to house <that lay field to field>, till there can be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
(2 Nephi 15:8//Isaiah 5:8, where bold indicates text found only in the BoM, and <triangular brackets> text found only in the KJV)
Thus the KJV reads:
Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!
That crucial line “that lay field to field” makes clear that we’re not talking here of some specific condemnation of buying the neighbouring property and knocking it through, but rather the accumulation of property, especially at the expense and displacing of others (“that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth”). That’s something we definitely see in the Bible – perhaps the most gratuitous example being the murder of Naboth so that Ahab could seize his ancestral inheritance (1 Kings 21) – and in our time too. I confess my first thought was “eminent domain!”, but setting my animus against Trump aside, this is not just a danger for the rich and powerful. Covetousness and heaping up of possessions are a spiritual danger, especially when they come by means of diminishing others.
Of course, possessions are not the only thing that can be a danger – we can also be distracted by our pleasures, our entertainments and the vain things of the world:
Wo unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink, that continue until night, and wine inflame them!
And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine are in their feasts; but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of his hands.
Therefore, my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.
Therefore, hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure; and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.
While it’s drink and music and feasting that are mentioned here it can surely apply to any pleasure or luxury that can consume our time and our mental attention. I guess I’d better cut back on Magic: The Gathering…