Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Alma 12: Worst. Sermon. Ever.

The missionary Amulek has finished verbally sparring with the corrupt lawyer Zeezrom, so the prophet Alma the Younger steps in to deliver the fatal strike.

Alma:  The Man With the Golden Investigator
Zeezrom is probably a pretty good example of the Golden Investigator that every missionary wants but that hardly any missionary ever gets.  At the outset, Zeezrom is openly hostile to the missionaries' message, but after his cunning comments are met with firm rebukes by Alma and Amulek he begins to change.  Which doesn't seem very realistic to me.  Generally people resist when they're confronted with overly opinionated people who call them liars in a public argument.

Apparently Zeezrom actually knows the truth, but he's fighting against it so that he can feel comfortable in his sinful lifestyle.  He's met with such powerful oratory that he actually begins to "tremble under a consciousness of his guilt."  Which doesn't seem very realistic to me.

By verse 8, he's asking penetrating questions about doctrine in an honest desire to understand the gospel.  Which doesn't seem very realistic to me.  You'd think it would take a little more time for him to abandon the iniquitous ways upon which he's built his entire life.  One hundred eighty degree turns aren't made on a dime.

Also, considering that he's supposed to be this really clever lawyer schooled in the art of twisting words, he gives up pretty easily when Amulek's replies to his questions in the last chapter pretty much amount to "You're trying to trick me, let me tell you what I should have said."  Which doesn't seem very realistic to me.

Alma Forgets His Past
In verses 9 through 11, Alma explains that God is willing to reveal his "mysteries" to people, but that such revelation is conditional upon an open heart.  The people who "harden" their hearts receive "a lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his [God's] mysteries" and the people who are willing to listen will receive "a greater portion of the word...to know the mysteries of God."  

There's a big problem here.  Alma doesn't count.

This is Alma the Younger, son of Alma.  This is Alma the Younger, whose opposition to and persecution of the church caused his father so much suffering that God sent an angel to the punk kid to set him straight.  Alma's heart was about as hardened as it could have been.  But he saw a freaking heavenly messenger and was pretty much converted overnight.  

Also, the apostle Paul hasn't been born yet.  But when he is, he won't count either.

Other than those two extremely notable examples, though (and probably a few others), Alma makes a perfectly valid point. So much for God being no respecter of persons though.

Alma Denies the Existence of Spirit Prison
According to the Plan of Salvation, after we die, we proceed to the Spirit World for a time.  The Spirit World consists of Spirit Prison, where the wicked will dwell, and Spirit Paradise, where the righteous will be.  The righteous will do missionary work in Spirit Prison to give everyone the opportunity to hear the gospel just in case they didn't get the chance while alive.  Eventually, there will be a resurrection, and then everyone will move on to their final destination (which hopefully involves a degree of glory...I have my fingers crossed that the sorting hat places me in the Celestial Kingdom when the time comes).
The Plan of LOLvation  The Plan of Failiness.  The Plan of Redumbtion.  Okay, I'll stop.
Here's a helpful diagram for you, buddy.  Good luck with Ammonihah and everything.
But this is not what Alma preaches in this chapter.  Instead, the prophet of the Lord says:
Whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness.
Then is the time when their torments shall be as a lake of fire and brimstone, whose flame ascendeth up forever and ever; and then is the time that they shall be chained down to an everlasting destruction, according to the power and captivity of Satan, he having subjected them according to his will.
Here, Alma explains that whoever suffers physical death and is still a sinner will then suffer spiritual death, be held captive by Satan, and pretty much become Lucifer's plaything.  But what happened to the waiting period between a person's death and the resurrections?  Where's the second chance to hear and accept the truth of the gospel?

Oh, right.  Joseph Smith hadn't come up with that part yet.

God's Hero Complex
Alma discusses the wondrous mercy of God's Plan of Redemption in verse 25:
Now, if it had not been for the plan of redemption, which was laid from the foundation of the world, there could have been no resurrection of the dead; but there was a plan of redemption laid, which shall bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, of which has been spoken.
"If it had not been for the plan of redem........."  NO!  NO!  JUST NO!
If it had not been for the Plan of Redemption, there would have been no need for a resurrection of the dead.

In the beginning, when we were all spirit babies living with God in the preexistence, apparently we were all dumb enough to say, "Yeah!  I'm totally on board with leaving the presence of my father, forgetting he existed, taking a mortal body, testing my fortitude in a world of sin, and hoping I'm good enough to get back into the presence of my father.  Even though I'm risking an eternity of torturous separation from my father, it's a gamble I'm willing to take because if I play my cards right this somehow allows my progression into godhood.  Sign me up!"

We had a good thing going with God until he decided to make us jump through hoops to earn our right to live with him forever.  If he'd never decided to go with the Plan of Redemption, we would never have taken mortal bodies.  Obviously, this would mean that we would never experience physical death.  And therefore, we would never have needed anything called "the resurrection of the dead."  It's not the Plan of Redemption that overcomes this.  It's the Plan of Redemption that introduces it as a problem and then bombastically parades around the solution like it would have been an issue at all in the first place.
"If you don't want a physical body then I won't resurrect it when it dies."

Why is God Wrathful?
Alma ascribes these words to our loving Heavenly Father:
And whosoever will harden his heart and will do iniquity, behold, I swear in my wrath that he shall not enter into my rest.
And this guy is a perfected, exalted being?  This "my way or the highway" crap sounds a whole lot like some extremely imperfect people I know.  I've used a similar kind of phrasing many times at work...but that's when I'm managing people who aren't my children and for whom I'm not popularly assumed to have an unconditional love. How can someone be so vindictive, so capricious and so unapologetically wrathful and expect us to not only believe that he's perfect but also to worship him and dedicate our lives to him?

I think God needs to hire a press secretary to smooth out these kinds of misunderstandings.

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