Friday, August 24, 2012

2 Nephi 19: Isaiah, Trailers for Upcoming Releases

"For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still."

This sentence appears three times in this chapter (and, of course, in Isaiah chapter 9, which is pretty much the same thing).  The sentence, and its repetition, speaks to God's mercy.

The first time it's used, it shows God's mercy towards those who "devour" Israel, his chosen people.  The second time, He's extending his hand toward hypocrites and evildoers.  The third time, He stretches out his hand despite disloyalty, conflict, and "wickedness [burning] as the fire," within the tribes of Israel.  The third use of this sentence is the final statement in the chapter.

I think the point here is that God is merciful.  He doesn't give up on people.

Which is why I find it odd that a church that believes the words of this book to be the words of God can be so casual with excommunication.  Excommunication from Mormonism means being stripped of all blessings gained from church membership--the loss of Priesthood, the loss of baptismal covenants, the loss of temple covenants, etc.  Considering that the church leadership claims it is given authority directly from God, it seems contradictory of the church's teachings when someone is excommunicated for doing something not-so-terrible.

Take the September Six as an example.  You could say that what they did was contentious, or wicked, or disloyal.  But they didn't murder anyone or sexually abuse anyone.  I think their "crimes" should have easily fallen under the blanket of God's mercy--but they were excommunicated anyway (okay, one was only disfellowshipped).

If the Mormon leadership doesn't act in accordance with God's characteristics, maybe they don't actually have any divine authority.

(And yes...I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as interesting things to say about the Isaiah chapters go.  Is it the Book of Jacob yet??)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What Tipped the Scales

I had another interesting discussion today with one of my employees.  It was the same kid that I explained Mormonism to and the same kid who offered to pray for me.

For no apparent reason, during our shift, he blurted out, "You should go back to church."  It would have bothered me if anybody else there had said it, but for some reason his teddy-bear demeanor and totally harmless attitude made it sound like he wasn't overstepping his bounds at all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Passing the Sacrament

When I was twelve, I was ordained as a Deacon in the Aaronic Priesthood and given the duty of passing the sacrament.  This meant that, at the appointed time during church every Sunday, my Aaronic Priesthood brethren and I would distribute the bread and water (symbolizing the body and blood of Christ) to the congregation.

This is lauded in Mormon culture as an important step in the development of the next generation of honorable Mormon men.  The act of passing the sacrament, I was told, was a sacred duty that I was to take very seriously as the first of many of my Priesthood responsibilities.  But to illustrate the silliness of the so-called "preparatory Priesthood" and the idiocy of placing a "sacred duty" in the hands of a twelve-year-old boy, let me describe the thoughts that went through my head every time I passed the sacrament:  I hope this looks cool.

I was a cookie-cutter Mormon child.  I was a perfect-attendance-scriptures-open-always-knew-the-answers-in-class-bishop's-son-honest-to-goodness-true-believing-Mormon and all I was thinking about was making sure I looked cool.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Appearance of Evil

LDS leaders have preached that members should "avoid the appearance of evil."  Even when I was a faithful true-believing Mormon, I always thought that was silly.  Here's why.

When I was in middle school, my dad was the bishop of our ward.  He took his calling very seriously...or maybe too seriously.  Once when we were travelling somewhere (I don't remember where, maybe it was for Christmas shopping or something), he realized that he'd missed the turn to our destination.  I pointed to the next place along the road to turn around and suggested he pull a U-turn in a little parking lot next to the street.  The parking lot was for an adult bookstore.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2 Nephi 18: Isaiah, Fullscreen Version



Not much to say here except that I don't like this particular verse:
To the law and to the testimony; and if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
This is the kind of thinking that makes a portion of Mormonism, a portion of Christianity, and a portion of many other religions so...icky.  The "if it doesn't line up with our teachings then it's bad" philosophy is a great way to influence people to despise everyone else.  It's not always despising.  Sometimes it's condescending pity, overwhelming self-righteousness, or unflinching arrogance.

Of course, even though the LDS church has sentiments such as these in its scripture, it also preaches that other religions accomplish some good and is proud to work side-by-side with other religious organizations in its relief efforts.  Even though these organizations have been interpreted to collectively make up the "great and abominable church."

There's some doublethink for ya.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2 Nephi 17: Isaiah, Original Storyboards

This chapter is a great example of the Isaiah-quoting's status as little more than filler in the Book of Mormon.  Why?  Because of the chapter heading.

Recent editions of the Book of Mormon (and by recent I mean way after Joseph Smith died...although according to Wikipedia, it means since 1920) have included summaries before each chapter.  These are helpful little blurbs that can make it easier for the reader to keep track of the important plot developments and doctrinal teachings in each chapter.

For example, here is the chapter summary from 1 Nephi Chapter 19, which is twenty-five verses long:
Nephi makes plates of ore and records the history of his people—The God of Israel will come six hundred years from the time Lehi left Jerusalem—Nephi tells of His sufferings and crucifixion—The Jews will be despised and scattered until the latter days, when they will return unto the Lord.
Before reading that chapter in detail, you already know that Nephi's going to create and describe his records, a rough timeline for when the events of Nephi's life take place will be established, Nephi will speak of Christ's atonement, and then he'll go off on a speech about God's master plan for the Jews and the whole scattering/gathering business. 

But if you look at the summary for our current chapter, 2 Nephi 17, which is also twenty-five verses long, you'll read:
Ephraim and Syria wage war against Judah—Christ will be born of a virgin.
Before reading this chapter in detail, you already know...that Nephi will quote Isaiah's description of Biblical history and impart the not-so-shocking-revelation that Jesus' mother will be a virgin.

What do these twenty-five verses accomplish that wasn't already done in the Bible?  Nothing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

2 Nephi 16: Isaiah, Cast Commentary

Here, Isaiah relates a story about a seraph forgiving him of his sins.  This is...apparently...relevant?  Let's examine it from Nephi's, Moroni's, and Joseph Smith's perspectives.

Nephi knows he's writing this for future generations.  Perhaps he realizes that future prophets will read his records and make their own.  In that case, it makes a little bit of sense for Nephi--who has questioned his own worthiness--to relate this story of the revered figure of Isaiah struggling with his identity as both a prophet and a fallible man.  Maybe Nephi hoped the passage would be a pep talk for future prophets.

Moroni is collecting, abridging, and combining a thousand years of sacred and secular history of his civilization.  Why would he include this chapter?  Nephi's already given his pick-me-up speech to generations of prophets.  Why would Moroni have been inspired to leave this chapter in, considering it was God's plan to have these records be spread across the world and given to millions of people who weren't prophets?  All this is available in the book of Isaiah so including it in the Book of Mormon seems like a waste of valuable plate-space (and, later, printing space).

Joseph Smith
Filler.  Quoting the Bible makes his book seem more credible.

On an unrelated note, why exactly do both accounts of Isaiah's story mention that the seraph used tongs to pluck the coal from the fire?  It's a supernatural its skin really that sensitive?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Evergreen Program

In light of the recent mess with Chick-fil-A's attempt to find a site in Boston despite their recently stated position against homosexuality, I thought I'd come back to a topic I've been meaning to address for several months.

Anybody ever heard of the Evergreen Program?  I never had, until after leaving the church.  Apparently, it's a program that the church has set up to help those with same-sex attraction...stop being gay.

Friday, August 10, 2012

If Mormons Made Lord of the Rings

What if some Mormons got together and decided to make a reinterpretation of the Lord of the Rings films?

Life as a Mormon gives one a very unique perspective on things, and seeing that perspective translated into the arts can often be...interesting.  In thinking about some LDS films (such as The Testaments, Joseph Smith:  Prophet of the Restoration and How Rare a Possession), I began to wonder how an LDS filmmaker with an LDS perspective (and perhaps an LDS agenda) might reinterpret some modern cinematic material.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

2 Nephi 15: Isaiah, Alternate Camera Angle

Verse 20:
Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Sounds like a warning to the LDS church leadership to me.  They're constantly preaching that evil is good and good is evil.  For example, they teach that Joseph Smith was a virtuous, moral man and that those who oppose the church are tools of the adversary.  They teach that obedience to the church is the greatest exercise of free will (darkness for light) and that all the so-called sinners in the world are just following the crowd (light for darkness).  They teach that sex is almost always sinful (bitter for sweet) and that spending most of the week away from your family to fulfill your calling as bishop is honorable (sweet for bitter).

Wo unto them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

When Patriarchs Become Obsolete

An interesting thought occurred to me last night as I was trying to explain patriarchal blessings to my nevermo girlfriend.

I showed her mine as an example, and I noted that it planned my whole life out for me.  It mentioned school, marriage, kids, and all the way up to being an empty-nester (when my wife and I, of course, will become temple workers).  And I considered what would happen if the second coming of Jesus Christ were actually approaching.  How would that affect patriarchal blessings?