Thursday, April 11, 2013

Jacob 2: State of the Union

Following his Near-Perfect Older Brother's death, Jacob takes it upon himself to address the people concerning some worries he has about their righteousness.

Women Are Like Children
Jacob begins by fretting over the apparent aggressiveness of his preaching:
And also it grieveth me that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God...
So Jacob, in talking to the general public, speaks specifically to just the men.  Not only that, but he lumps adult women in with children when it comes to the maturity to take criticism and confront uncomfortable truths.  The Book of Mormon has been criticized for a kind of passive sexism due to the small number of women who play major roles or even have names (only three women from the Book of Mormon narrative are given names).  But this might be an example of a more active gender bigotry, implying that women have less emotional and spiritual strength than the men.

Being Rich Is Bad, Except When It's Not
Jacob launches into a philippic about wealth.  He warns his people that their searches for precious metals and their financial successes and their expensive clothing have made them prideful.  He berates them for "'persecuting" the less fortunate.

But then we arrive at yet another famous pearl of Book of Mormon wisdom, another scripture mastery, verses 18 and 19:
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and afflicted. 
I have two problems with this—first, the fact that the top leaders of the modern-day church have riches, and they build malls and McTemples instead of clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, liberating the captive and administering relief to the sick and afflicted.

Second, with this verse, Joseph Smith contributes to many Mormons' feelings of inadequacy.  This verse promises temporal material blessings for faith instead of the usual impossible-to-disprove postmortem promises of salvation.  Considering faith in Christ and pure motives should provide one with financial success, those who are struggling to remain employed or manage their budgets can't help but wonder why this verse hasn't come to their aid.  The implication here is that if you're doing what you should, you shouldn't have to worry about your finances.  But there are too many members who think they're doing all they can and are finding that it's not enough when it comes time to balance their checkbooks.

Whether he meant it to or not, verse 19 has cruelly tortured too many of Smith's followers.

An Arbitrary Abomination
Jacob continues by chiding his people for their "whoredoms," criticizing them for justifying their polygamous activity by using the Biblical stories of David and Solomon.  In no uncertain terms, he declares:
Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
Wait, what?!

I know I read this as a faithful member more than once...but it never stuck in my memory.  Which seems odd, considering it preaches flat-out against what Joseph Smith and his friends would later do in the name of God.  Other verses call the practice an abomination and decry its deleterious effects on the emotions of the women affected by it.  But all that apparently would be set aside with Smith decided he wanted to get a little extra action.

I know apologists have found ways around this.  But I think it's pretty clear that even if Smith was a prophet when he published the Book of Mormon, he was at best a fallen prophet when he wed Fanny Alger.

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