What a relief. Incidentally, it's the juiciest chapter I've had the pleasure of reviewing in a while--it's chock full of ridiculous ideas, ironic teachings and glorious contradictions. So let's get started.
Justness Level: Godlike
Nephi prophesies about the conditions in the Americas following the death of Christ. He foretells storms, earthquakes, and great loss of life (though mostly among the wicked). But because Nephi is such a stand-up guy, he has some kind of respect for human life--even the wicked kind:
O the pain, and the anguish of my soul for the loss of the slain of my people!So he takes it to heart that so many of his descendants will be slaughtered and he seems to think it's unfortunate.
...but I must cry unto my God: Thy ways are just.So Nephi, the guy that's idolized in Mormon culture as being one of the most righteous men ever to have walked the earth, thinks that God's choice to end thousands of lives as some kind of his son's death is bad. But he submits that God's ways are just anyway.
I have two problems with this. First, obviously slaughtering people is bad so I would submit that, no, this God's ways are not just. Second, this sets the stage for Mormon programming. The subtle message here is that even when someone so noble and upstanding as Nephi thinks something is is hinky with divinity, they should just shut up and admit to being wrong. Fast forward to the present day and you get people who understand that the church's explicit and implicit oppression of gays has led many to misery, denial and suicide but still claim that there's nothing wrong with the church or its policies about homosexuality. This verse teaches believers to disregard their better judgment.
Shun the Non-Believer
Take a look at verse 17:
For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God.So unbelievers can't have the truth (which seems to lock them in as unbelievers forever) because they want to destroy the things of God. The message here is that anyone who has "dwindled" in unbelief has become actively opposed to all things sacred. This means that every non-Mormon, and especially every ex-Mormon is an enemy. And, by extension, going inactive is akin to attempted deicide.
It's also worth noting that it's not the belief that dwindles, apparently it's the person that dwindles.
Nephi shares some words concering the Gentiles and their churches in verse 20:
...they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor.So among the characteristics of these false churches is the tendency to amass wealth and oppress the poor? Interesting.
On a related note, in last month's Ensign magazine, one of the articles contained a sickeningly faith-promoting story about a recently converted family that approached their bishop with concerns that they didn't have enough money to spare to pay their tithing. This is what the bishop told them:
If paying tithing means that you can't pay for water or electricity, pay tithing. If paying tithing means that you can't pay your rent, pay tithing. Even if paying tithing means that you don't have enough money to feed your family, pay tithing.And, of course, as with any discussion about the church and money, I have to bring up the multi-billion dollar City Creek Mall that the church built in Salt Lake City. It sounds to me like the church is attempting to "get gain" and "grind upon the face of the poor" by squeezing even the most indigent members for every dime and using that money to further the growth of its business ventures.
Sounds like a false church to me. And apparently Nephi would agree.
Right, Because Priestcraft Is Bad, Isn't It?
In verse 29, God commands that there should be no priestcrafts, and further explains that its practictioners only want "gain and praise of the world" instead of "the welfare of Zion."
I think Joseph Smith was hoping that nobody would notice that he was condemning his own behavior. Smith got lots of perks from his status as the prophet of the restoration. He had a group of loyal followers who idolized him, he acquired political power, and he had sex with (or at the very least married) just about as many women as he could want.
As far as neglecting the welfare of Zion goes, he kept his ridiculous cult going, knowing full well that it pissed off a decent amount of the general population. He didn't try to change any of the things that made his people so unpopular--such as ending polygamy or taking responsibility for his troubles with the law.
Everyone's Equal, Just Not Equal in the Same Ways
In verse 33, Nephi describes how good his God is:
...he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.So the Jews, which are God's chosen people, and the Gentiles, which God likes to destroy, are all alike unto him. Males and females are both welcome in God's presence, too, except that women can't get there without a man. Blacks and whites are equal, too, except for a period of a hundred years or so when they weren't eligible for the Priesthood. Other than that, everyone's equal in God's eyes.
The Mormon version of God might need some corrective lenses.