Thursday, April 5, 2012

2 Nephi 1: Famous Last Words

Welcome to Second Nephi!

After the family has settled into the promised land, Lehi decides that he's about to die.  He imparts some words of wisdom to leave his family with.

That's One Crappy Covenant
In verse 5, Lehi explains the gift God has given him for his obedience:
Yea, the Lord hath covenanted this land unto me, and to my children forever, and also all those who should be led out of other countries by the hand of the Lord.
So here's the deal, Lehi:  You've been great about this whole getting-relocated-halfway-around-the-globe thing, so I'll tell you what--this land that you've been moved to will belong to your descendants forever.  And also it will belong to whoever else I decide to cram in there.  Wouldn't want to make you feel too special by giving you some kind of exclusive deal or anything.

Oh, and one more thing--these other people I bring in will kill, manipulate and generally mistreat the majority of your descendants, but it's cool because your descendants will break the deal by rejecting the Messiah.  So pretty much I'm going to hold them responsible for the conditions of a covenant that was made long before they were born and without their knowledge.  Eventually, though, they'll break the rules to the deal they didn't know about and that's why I'll punish them by letting the white men slaughter them.

That's...not a fair deal.

Nephi's Motives are Pure...Mostly
In verse 25, Lehi tells Laman and Lemuel that Nephi didn't "[seek] power nor authority over [them]."  That's kind of a load of crap.

Just look at 1 Nephi 17--when Nephi tries to get Laman and Lemuel to help him build the boat.  Not only does he complain that they refuse to work for him, but he also does that whole hulking out thing.  He, without claiming any inspiration from God, warns his brothers not to beat him up because he's full of the power of God and anyone who touches him "shall wither even as a dried reed."  Maybe...Nephi was using fear to get his brothers under his thumb?

God:  Just or Petty?
This chapter contains five full claims to the fact that people in the new world will prosper if they keep the commandments of God but will be punished or cursed if they fall into iniquity or reject God.  But in verse 22 Lehi mentions that it's a "just God" that will do this.

And while I understand that a God following the laws of justice would punish wickedness, some of the punishments described seem like overkill.  For example, "a cursing...upon you for the space of many generations" doesn't seem very just, especially considering that the people will also be "visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil."

Joseph Smith Leaves His Options Open
While the United States may be a major player in the world today, it was not a military or economic powerhouse in the 1820s when Joseph Smith was dreaming up the Book of Mormon.  But, in keeping with his theme of America being a promised land, Joseph decided to make some prophecies about this great country:
Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom [God] shall bring.  And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore they shall never be brought down into captivity;
A bold statement.  America shall never be conquered by an enemy.  It will be a land of liberty.  Wonderful.  But just in case it turns out that this prophecy doesn't come true (after all, many great nations in history have fallen), Joseph reiterates the caveat:
...wherefore they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever.
Smith is saying, "I'm making a prophecy--but if it turns out I'm wrong, this is why."  Brilliant.  Way to cover your bases, Joe.

Although I think it's safe to say at this point that you're wrong anyway.  With all the premarital sex, pornography, drugs, violence, atheism and homosexuality, you'd think the Mormon god would be positively irate these days about the moral state of his promised land.

But where's the smiting?  Where are the curses?  Where's the famine?  America's far from perfect, but it's still a land of liberty in comparison to much of the world.  The economy's been having some trouble and gas prices are high but this is hardly the dramatic vengeance God promised.

Hell, he's aiming to install a Mormon as President of the country--how mad could he be?

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