Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Mosiah 5: Mass Conversion

King Benjamin begins to wind down his speechifying...for real this time.  He's almost done, I swear.

One More for the List of Things That Just Plain Don't Happen
So apparently, following his address, Benjamin put some feelers out among his peeps to see if they bought all that horrible doctrine of threats and self-flagellation.  Joseph Smith would have us believe that the people reacted this way:
And they all cried with one voice, saying:  Yea, we believe all the words which thou has spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord, Ominipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
...and so on and so forth for another three verses.  This, of course, is completely unrealistic.  People do not behave this way.

When is the last time in recorded history that an entire society was swayed to a particular belief or course of action instantly, unanimously, and passionately based on one address from one authority figure? There are always minority opinions, rebels and dissenters—even when one side should be obviously correct and the other side should be obviously wrong.

But this will be far from Joseph Smith's last mistake along these lines.

Spiritual Incest
Prepare for your mind to be blown by the implication made in verse 7:
And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
King Benjamin's people, then, have become the children of their older brother.  They have been begotten by the first begotten of the guy who already begat them.  That's pretty messed up.

So it's not actually incest, of course, but it's more evidence that Joseph Smith was just making this crap up as he went along.  It's too bad that he predated Tolkien, because he could have learned a lot from that guy when it came to planning out ridiculous mythology while avoiding continuity errors and plot holes.

Smith hadn't really decided on how the whole God/Jesus thing was going to break down yet, I guess.  (In ten chapters, he's going to take a crack at parsing their differences and their relationship and he's going to fail miserably.)  Because if he'd hammered out the whole spirit-children-war-in-heaven-older-brothers stuff, then this verse would have been way too strange to be worded this way.  There are plenty of options for making the same point without getting entangled in weird celestial familial octopuses.

Pearls of Wisdom
Verse 10 made me chuckle:
...whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name
But then I was startled to find a striking teaching a few verses later that I actually agree with.  And I think it's related pretty gracefully, without as much of the clunky writing that plagues this usually worthless tome:
For how knoweth a man the master who he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?
So my first thought, after the initial shock of reading something in the Book of Mormon that I actually liked, was this must be plagiarized!  I did some quick Googling in the hopes of confirming my suspicion, and I learned that some of this verse might be plagiarized, but it's the last few words and not the core concept.  So congratulations, Joseph.  You're on the board with one run.  But we're somewhere in the bottom of the third inning here and you're still down by about 1,346.  So don't get your hopes up.

Incidentally, I'd be interested to learn if anybody else has figured out where that possibly legitimate pearl of wisdom in Mosiah 5:13 actually came from.


  1. I found several verses that are relevant. Some of them are stretches. You are right, I believe, to assume plagiarism. One site ( lists 775 instances where Joseph pulled quotes from the Bible to include in the Book of Mormon, and that does NOT include the 1297 instances of "and it came to pass." (By the way, "and it came to pass" is in the Bible 120 times, the most notable probably being Luke 2:1.)

    Joseph was a master at remembering verses and blending them together to create his own. In many instances, several words will be lifted exactly as written in the bible. I don't believe that is a coincidence. He wanted his book to be believable as scripture, thus he took ideas and quotes directly from the bible to help him try to accomplish that. Counter to what the church wants you to believe, Joseph was not young and uneducated. He was a very intelligent and very educated (by his parents) man when he wrote the Book of Mormon.

    Mosiah 5:13 For how knoweth a man the master who he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

    These 7 words are exactly the same:

    Hebrews 4:12…the thoughts and intents of his heart?

    Here are some similarities:

    Exodus 23:9 …know the heart of a stranger

    John 10:5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers

    Ruth 2:10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?

    Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    OK. This next one is also a stretch, but I find it rather interesting.

    Joseph took ideas from many other books that were available to him in his day. This quote comes from John Pinkerton's Voyages and Travels, Arabia, Vol. 10 pages 171 (published in 1811):

    "occult sciences are in high estimation among the Arabians [as they were with Joseph]. None dare practice them, unless previously authorized by a master in the art, after serving a sort of apprenticeship..."

    I'll keep looking, but this is what I found so far. I find it fascinating.

    1. Yeah, see, none of those relate the same sentiment as the BoM verse, even though parts of them are the same.

      I know Joseph plagiarized. At least that isn't in question. But that one verse stands out so starkly as something that's actually a useful bit of philosophy, and I can't believe it wasn't in the Bible or something.

      It is interesting, though. If you do find something, I'd love to read it. You know, and vindicate my assumption that Joseph was only a good plagiarist and a useless writer on his own!

    2. You are right that they don't have the same meaning. Joseph was good at taking pieces and parts and throwing them out there together.

      Hey, even a bad photographer can get an occasion good shot if he takes enough of them.

      I have been wondering why that verse didn't stand out for me like it did for you.

      I think it's because it's about masters and servants.

      Didn't Christ teach that it's the responsibility of the "master" to serve? Isn't the Bishop or Stake President the servant, not the other way around? Isn't it their job to "know" who the people are in their ward and stake boundaries?

      To me, this verse is much more meaningful worded this way:

      "For how knoweth the master a man who he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

    3. I was thinking more along the lines of men who claim to be loving husbands but never do anything for their wives and people who claim to be environmentalists but can't be bothered to buy a lower-emission car.

      Your flipped version, I guess, makes me think of politicians who are too detached from their constituencies and businessmen who've never worked in the lower levels of their own companies.

      King Benjamin's version and your version are both good points.

      I guess what you did there is kind of demonstrate what Joseph Smith did--you took somebody else's concept, made a few important changes, used a lot of the same words, and came up with something meaningful!