Saturday, June 8, 2013

Enos 1: Marathon Man

Here we have one of the more memorable standalone stories in the Book of Mormon.  Enos, son of Jacob, demonstrates a truly epic example of the power of prayer after his father's words cause his soul to "hunger."

Enos Finds a Cheat Code
Apparently all you need to do to be forgiven of your sins is to pray for a ridiculously long time.  Enos started praying during the day and continued into the night.  It seems he spent hours on his knees begging the Lord to help him.  Not only does this merit hearing the actual voice of God (which, of course, is in keeping so far with the miracle-drenched plot of the Book of Mormon), but this also initiates forgiveness of his sins.  The wording is a little vague, but the implication is that all Enos's sins, whatever they were, were forgiven.

He didn't have to, like, demonstrate that he'd "forsaken" his sins by going a certain amount of time without committing them.  He didn't require weekly or monthly interviews with his bishop so that they could work on his forgiveness process.  He just typed in "idprayallnight" and his soul was scrubbed clean.  (That was a DOOM joke.  All the cheat codes in that game started with "id."  I thought it was funny.  Never mind.)

I guess the important part of the cheat is the amount of continuous time spent in prayer.  Because that's the only thing I can think of that separates my experience from Enos's.  I wanted to know if the church was true. I wanted to know if I should serve a mission.  And I prayed several times a day about it, "crying unto [God] in mighty prayer and supplication" and I didn't hear his voice.  And I definitely didn't get an answer.  So even though the total amount of minutes I spent praying on the subject was probably roughly equal to Enos's, I guess my mistake was not taking the time out of my busy college schedule to do it all in one sitting.

Faith Changes God's Mind
Next, Enos prays for the Nephites and the Lamanites.  After he prays on behalf of the wicked (and loathsome) Lamanites, the Lord tells him, in verse 12, "I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith."

Well, that's just a slap in the face to everyone who's prayed and not received the desired answer.  Enos had enough faith, and that's why God changed his mind and decided to be nice to the Lamanites after all.  God made a promise to Enos concerning the eternal welfare of innumerable Lamanite descendants hundreds of years later just because of his faith.  But if you really need that promotion at work so that you can provide for your family while continuing to pay ten percent of your earnings to the church and your prayer isn't's probably because you didn't have enough faith.

This is, of course, exacerbated by God's problematic comment to Enos in verse 15:
Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.
So either this is a blanket statement issued to all of God's children which is clearly false because it doesn't work...or this is a statement made solely to Enos.  If it is only for Enos, then it demonstrates the kind of promises God makes to those of us who have exercised enough faith.  Which means that if your prayers aren't answered and you haven't received any divine blank checks, again, you don't have as much faith as you should.

This was Entirely Pointless Then?
In verse 18, God informs Enos that his forefathers had prayed for the same things that he'd just asked for and assures him that he'd hold up his end of the bargain because of Enos's faith and  his ancestors' faith.  It seems kind of disingenuous of God to make such a big show of answering Enos's prayer and making promises to him when the stuff Enos was asking for was already taken care of.  Why wouldn't he say that up front?

Verse 20:  Why is having your head shaven such a bad thing?
Verse 21:  Horses.  This is an anachronism in the Book of Mormon that has been pointed out many times before.  They didn't exist in the Americas then, but the Nephites had them anyway.
Verse 22:  Why were there so many prophets?  God needs more than one at a time?
Verse 24:  Wars.  The civilization started by a handful of Nephi's family and friends has only been here for less than two hundred years.  The population can't be that huge yet, especially not if there are continuous wars.  Maybe the term "skirmishes" is more appropriate.

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