Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mosiah 26: Alma's On-the-Job Training

Here we encounter some trouble in paradise as the rising generation in Mosiah's kingdom fails to adhere to the religious tradition of their parents.

More Problems With Authority
In case the weirdness about authority and its sources has escaped your detection in the last few chapters, you're about to get slapped in the face with it in verse 8:
Now king Mosiah had given Alma the authority over the church.
King Mosiah.  The secular leader.  Has just.  Given.  God's.  Prophet.  Authority.  Over.  The.  Church.

Preposterous.  I suppose Tommy Monson received his calling from George W. Bush and Barack Obama has simply opted not to replace his predecessor's appointee with his own choice?  Considering how much of a fuss the LDS church likes to make about authority coming from proper, legitimate and divine sources, I find it hilarious that one of the greatest prophets of that church's primary book of scripture not only gave himself the authority to baptize but also had to be granted the authority to run the church by the king of an earthly government.

Alma also doesn't seem to understand that his role is supposed to be different from Mosiah's.  When Alma is confronted with the iniquities of the rebellious non-believers, he delivers them to the secular king to be judged instead of handling the obviously religious matter himself.

God Rewards Gullibility and Recklessness
When Mosiah tells Alma that it's Alma's job (as leader of the church) to handle church-related problems, Alma prays to know what he's supposed to do with the group of non-believers.  This is how God begins his response:
Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon.  Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.
God lays it out for him right there—Alma was blessed because he bought Abinadi's story hook, line and sinker.  He was blessed because he didn't bother with outside confirmation and he didn't worry about anything other than how Abinadi's words made him feel.  Because of his blind belief in unverified claims, he mouthed off to his psychotic boss, which got him fired from an extremely prestigious job and also put his life in immediate danger.  He threw away his career, alienated his friends, and nearly got himself killed all because when some hobo with a white beard told him he was wrong, he trusted that hobo.  And for all that idiocy, the Lord blessed him.

Because that makes perfect sense.

God Doesn't Always Answer Prayers, but When He Does the Answer is Useless
God spends eighteen verses answering Alma's question.  Alma's question was, "what am I supposed to do about all these sinful non-believers who occasionally deceive members of the church with their cunning words?"

God's answer, when all the fat is trimmed off of it, is effectively, "If they don't repent, they don't count as church members."  Which makes me feel like this kind of thing probably happened a lot over the next few days:
ALMA:  Apostate, do you repent of the sins that you have committed?
APOSTATE:  I don't believe in your religion, so I don't think I did anything wrong, so I guess my answer is no.
ALMA:  Then you will be blotted out from the records of the church!
ALMA:  Your punishment for apostasy is excommunication!
APOSTATE:  *shrugs*  Okay...
ALMA:  You can't break up with us because we're breaking up with you! 
—awkward silence—
APOSTATE:   So I can go then? 
How exactly is it such a harsh punishment to excommunicate someone who doesn't want to be a member of your church in the first place?  And how was this answer so complicated that in verse 33 Alma had to write it down so he didn't forget?  After eighteen verses of prayer-answering, it's a little underwhelming when the conclusion of God's thoughts on the subject do little else than make you slap your forehead.

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