Saturday, July 7, 2012

2 Nephi 11: Logic and Revelation

Chapter 11 is only 8 verses long, and it's pretty light on the earth-shattering doctrines.  But there are two things about this chapter I'd like to mention:  revelation and the mess that is verse 7.

No More Revelation
In verses 2 and 3, Nephi mentions that both he and his brother Jacob have physically seen Jesus.  Nephi and his brother were among the spiritual leadership of their society.  But this bold, direct claim stands in contrast to recent actions of the current church leadership.  When is the last time a Mormon prophet explicitly claimed to have a face-to-face meeting with a member of the godhead?  And let's not forget the change to chapter 14 of Gospel Principles which describes an Apostle as being "a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ," implying that an Apostle is not a physical eyewitness of Jesus Christ's existence.

This is reminiscent of a part of the Joseph Smith story--young Joseph was told by local religious leaders that he could not have seen a vision of God because there are no more visions or revelation in the modern age.  But a church that teaches that divine revelation is just as alive today as it was in the Bible is suspiciously shy of addressing the subject directly.

Unlucky Verse Seven
Nephi makes an interesting series of assumptions in verse 7:

 1.  "If there be no Christ there be no God"
Isn't it the other way around?  Besides, there are plenty of religions that teach belief in a supreme being and don't teach of Christ.  This is not the strongest case you can make for the existence of Christ.

2.  "If there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation."
This is far from an original argument, but I guess I'll cut Nephi some slack, considering he was writing it in 600 BC.  Smith does not get the benefit of the doubt, because I'm pretty sure this was an overused concept even in 1830.  But what I really dislike about this sentence is its connection to the previous claim.  The objective here is to claim that if there was no Christ we wouldn't exist, therefore Christ must exist.  This is horrible logic.

3.  "There is a God, and he is Christ"
Wait...I thought Christ was the son of God.  This is pretty important to Mormon Doctrine--they don't buy into the whole Trinity thing.  I've heard apostles (I want to say...Russell M. Nelson in particular) explain things like this away by saying that "god" is a title and even though God is our God, Christ is also a god.  This is a sloppy, hair-splitting, retrofitted teaching.

Pretty much what happened here was Joseph Smith made some outlandish claims and tried to pass them off as logic, and then he proceeded to destroy his own church's doctrines about the nature of the godhead.

Good going.

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