Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alma 32: Faith is Like a Bad Acid Trip

Alma and his Super Missionary Friends struggle to find success among the Zoramites until they find a foothold in the poor people who have been cast out of their own religion and marginalized by their own society.  Alma praises them for their humility (though he points out that they were forced to become that way instead of coming by their humility legitimately) and begins to preach to them about faith.

Alma Pretends that God is Just
Perhaps because he's fresh off his confrontation with Korihor, Alma makes a point to tell the humbler Zoramites that asking for a sign from God is a bad idea:
Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.
Now I ask, is this faith?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.
And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression? 
There you have itGod doesn't give us signs of his existence because he's that good of a guy.  After all, if we had proof and then decided to do bad stuff, he'd have to punish us even worse.  So all you Korihors out there should be grateful that it's so difficult to tell whether God exists or not.  Apparently the attribute that elicits the application of mercy is belief, not knowledge.  Still no word on why that's the case.

If You Have True Faith, it's Impossible to Know if it's Unfounded
Another scripture mastery crops up in this chapter (for those of you who attended seminary) as Alma begins to pontificate on the subject of faith:
And now as I said concerning faithfaith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.
That's the best explanation you've got?
There's kind of a big problem with this.  If the definition of faith is to hope for unseen things that are true and not having a perfect knowledge of whatever that is then you're pretty much picking a faith and hoping that whatever you're deciding to have faith in isn't one of the innumerable horrible, untrue things that you can have faith in.  It's Russian roulette with five rounds instead of one.

Alma's pretty much saying that you should be volunteering to delude yourself.  Let's say, for example, that I have faith that the Atlanta Braves are going to win the World Series this year.  I don't have a knowledge of it and I don't have any concrete, quantifiable evidence to make that claim with any certainty, but I hope for it very much.  Alma would praise my faith.  Any sane church member would realize that I'm lying to myself because of my obsessive dedication to a sports franchise.  But somehow, when that same blind faith is applied to Mormonism, it's okay.

Or, read another way, Alma is praising the virtues of chosen ignorance.  Or suggesting that one shouldn't try to find any kind of scientific or historical basis for the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon because that would destroy the purpose of faith as well.  Any way I read this, it's not a good thing.

The Scientific Method According to Alma
And now we approach Alma's famous comparison between faith and the growth of a seedand by "famous," I of course mean, "famous in the small Mormon circle and completely unknown and irrelevant to the rest of the world."  Here is the basic outline of Alma's oft-quoted sermonand by "oft-quoted," I of course mean, "oft-quoted in Mormondom but literally never referenced anywhere else in any way, ever."

If you plant the word of God in your heart and don't kill it with your disbelief, it will grow into some metaphysical, logic-defying tree thing inside of youmetaphorically speaking, of course.  It will enlarge your soul, enlighten your understanding and become metaphorically delicious (verse 28).  This will increase your faith, but not give you a perfect knowledge of anything (verse 29), because perfect knowledge is bad and useless and faith is everything that could ever be admirable or important.  If the seed metaphorically sprouts in the metaphorical soil of your metaphorical bosom, that means the seed was good, and therefore the word of God you planted is true (verse 30).  But if you don't nourish the tree of your faith that sprouts from the word of God, it won't yield the fruit of whatever-the-fruit-is-symbolic-of-this-time (verses 37-40).

This is a poor way to experiment with anything.  Is heroin good?  Dunno, maybe I'll try it and see how I feel.  I'm not going to research whether it's addictive or whether people die from using it.  I'm not going to attempt to learn what it does to my body.  I'm just going to give it a shot and if it makes me feel good, then it must be a good thing.  Even applied to choosing a religion, this is bad advice.  Lots of religions have lots of great aspects to them, but it doesn't mean they have the truth.

And it's really difficult to measure the enlargement of your soul, the enlightenment of your understanding and the deliciousness of the activity you're experimenting with.  Alma provides a haphazard experimental setup with no control group and a completely subjective method of observation.  And he also expects us to compare this subjective, emotional data against a subjective, emotional hypothesis.  And he also tells us how to recognize the "correct" answer, which will obviously introduce some bias into the mix.

The More Impenetrably Complex the Text, the More People Will Trust It
Alma makes several dubious statements throughout this meandering, nebulous passage.
And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed?  I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness.
Yeah, sure.  But there are plenty of examples of things in nature that look good but can be hazardous.  Simple example?  Roses are beautiful but have thorns.  And you know what?  Roses grow from seeds!  Want more examples?  Look what a few seconds on Google turns up.

The moral of the story, here, Alma, is that things that have good results can still be bad.  The church is no exceptionthanks for teaching me to be honest and respectful and hard-working, but I'm not too happy about the brainwashing, the sexual oppression and the constant feelings of frantic inadequacy.
And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect?  Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled in your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.
Now I'm totally confused.  It sounded before like perfect knowledge was a bad thing and faith was what you wanted.  But you just told us how to get a perfect knowledge of something and making our faith dormant and I'm not entirely sure if that's what we're supposed to do or not.  Because Alma also said earlier that having a perfect knowledge of something makes us more accountable, which is why God wants us to have faith instead, so we definitely don't want to have the perfect knowledge that you're making to sound like a positive achievement.
Never go in against a Zarahemlan when potential converts are on the line!
Alma's throwing all these phrases around and it seems like they don't mean the same things all the time, but it definitely sounds cool because of all that "enlightenment" and "expanding minds" talk.  But this chapter is about to outdo itself in verse 35:
O then, is not this real?  I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good; and now behold, after ye have tasted this light is your knowledge perfect?
Really, really bad riddles...
Whatsoever is light is good because it is discernible?  Literally or metaphorically, that's some terrible amateur philosophical balderdash you've got there.  And don't forget the synesthesia going on at the end with the whole tasting-something-traditionally-perceived-with-the-sense-of-sight bit.  It's very possible that Joseph Smith "translated" this chapter of the Book of Mormon after eating some unusual mushrooms he found in the forest.  Either that, or he was just trying to write something so ethereal and profound that people would react with "oooh, that's deep," and conclude that his crappy novel was actually inspired of God.

But I like my first explanation better because it's funnier.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Alma 31: Another Competing Religion

Alma decides that it's time to go to the rescue of the followers of Zoram, who have been swallowed up in some wacky religion or something.

Pre-Columbian Column Inches are Cheap
Two verses (by which I mean several inches of valuable etching space on the gold plates) are expended on describing exactly who Alma invites to accompany him on his mission to the Zoramites and who he decides to leave behind.  He takes three of the sons of Mosiah (Himner was needed on the home front, apparently) as well as his old buddies Amulek and Zeezrom.  The situation among the Zoramites was dire enough to require some new talent, so Alma brings two of his three sons along.

Exciting stuff.  But is it really that scripturally important to describe the lineup of your missionary supergroup in such detail?  If that's not bad enough, just wait until we sit through a verbatim transcription of the Zoramites' heretical ritual prayer (verses 15-18). 

And we're expected to believe that these records were abridged and fine-tuned to apply directly to the modern age?

Oh, the Iniquity!
Here is what Alma observes of the Zoramite religion:
  • They publicly perform memorized prayers from a raised platform
  • They claim to be God's chosen people
  • They only mention God on their days of worship 
  • They believed there would be no Christ

His conclusion? 
Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods.
Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride. 
What? Who said anything about pride or perversion?  We just read a lengthy description of the Zoramite worship ceremony and with no explanation their behavior is immediately linked to things we've seen no evidence of.  Okay, their prayer is a little arrogant, but no more so than the Nephites, who also think they're God's elite.

News flash, Alma:  having different religious convictions doesn't make you a bad person.  

Real Missionaries Don't Suffer
Alma says a prayer with his croniesa prayer that is suspiciously even more bombastic than the prayer of the apostate Zoramites from atop their Rameumptomand gives them all a Spirit-infused pat on the back. And this happens (verses 37-38):
And after they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on.
And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ.  Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith. 
There you have itmembers of Alma's posse suffered no afflictions on their journeys, opting to simply live by the spirit.  And all because of Alma's prayer of faith.

Contrast this with almost every Mormon missionary ever...even after the prayers of their families, the blessings of their priesthood leaders and their own prayers of faith, missionaries suffer sickness, mental illness, and occasionally death.  In this chapter we learn whybecause they and those around them lacked sufficient faith.  They didn't have enough joy in Christ to swallow up their problems.

Good to know.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alma 30: Korihor the Not-So-Terrible-After-All

Korihor enters, stage left.  Korihor is an Anti-Christ, which in the Book of Mormon just means he's a successful preacher of non-Mormon values.  He tries to convince the Nephites that there is no God and that they should pretty much do whatever they want because nothing special happens after they die.  Expectedly, the existing religious establishment in the area becomes uncomfortable.

Only God Can Make Us Unequal
As Korihor begins leading away the righteous, this chapter is careful to point out that there is, in fact, freedom of religion under Nephite rule.
Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
Here, God is saying, "Do as I say, not as I do."  Though God has apparently ensured that there can be no law among the Nephites that would promote inequality, he's free to make other groups of people unequal as he sees fit.  And, yes, for about the six thousandth time, I'm referencing the curse of dark skin that God put on the Lamanites so that his precious Nephites wouldn't sully their seed with corrupted Lamanite blood.

Also, this verse sounds like a pretty good reason to legalize gay marriage, but I doubt your average Mormon would see it that way.

Ammon Disobeys God
After spreading his damnable lies among the Nephites, Korihor travels to their protectorate, the land of the people of Ammon (the ones who used to be called the Anti-Nephi-Lehies).  The people of Ammon, however, weren't quite so gullible:
But behold they were more wise than many of the Nephites; for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people.
And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. 
We just got done talking about how there could be no legal ramifications for believing differently than anyone else because God wanted everyone to be equal...and then this happens.

Korihor, who theoretically is supposed to be able to believe and preach whatever religion he wants to, is put under some kind of citizen's arrest and taken before Ammon, who decides to deport him.  That sounds like a legal punishment to me.  This is freedom of religion?

And not only that, but Ammon has just directly disobeyed what verse 7 explained was God's will.

Korihor Knocks one Out of the Park
In the land of Gideon, Korihor is brought before the high priest, who questions why he's teaching all these awful things among the people.  Our favorite Anti-Christ responds with another accidentally prophetic section of the Book of Mormon (see Ammonihah:  A Portent of Things to Come).  
And Korihor said unto him: Because I do not teach the foolish traditions of your fathers, and because I do not teach this people to bind themselves down under the foolish ordinances and performances which are laid down by ancient priests, to usurp power and authority over them, to keep them in ignorance, that they may not lift up their heads, but be brought down according to thy words.
Ye say that this is a free people.  Behold, I say they are in bondage.  Ye say that those ancient prophecies are true.  Behold, I say that ye do not know that they are true.
Ye say that this people is a guilty and a fallen people, because of the transgression of a parent.  Behold, I say that a child is not guilty because of its parents.
And ye also say that Christ shall come.  But behold, I say that ye do not know that there shall be a Christ.  And ye say also that he shall be slain for the sins of the world
And thus ye lead away this people after the foolish traditions of your fathers, and according to your own desires; and ye keep them down, even as it were in bondage, that ye may glut yourselves with the labors of their hands, that they durst not look up with boldness, and that they durst not enjoy their rights and privileges.
Yea, they durst not make use of that which is their own lest they should offend their priests, who do yoke them according to their desires, and have brought them to believe, by their traditions and their dreams and their whims and their visions and their pretended mysteries, that they should, if they did not do according to their words, offend some unknown being, who they say is Goda being who never has been seen or known, who never was nor ever will be.
This is gonna be good...
He gets a little darker than I would at the end there, what with the there has never been a God stuff.  But despite the length of this quote, I kind of had to include it all.  It speaks so dramatically and so eloquently to the current state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that it's uncanny.

Korihor knew what he was talking about.

Yes, of Course, the Planets!
When Korihor is brought before Alma and the chief judge over the entirety of Nephite civilization, Alma makes a weird statement:  "What evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not?  I say unto you, ye have none, save it be your word only."

After accusing Korihor of having no evidence to support his claim, Alma then rebukes him for having the audacity to request that Alma not be a complete hypocritical ass and provide his own evidence that God does exist.  Korihor merely asks for a sign that God exists.  Probably frothing at the mouth, Alma responds:
Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets?  The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all the things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.
Oh, hon.  That's what you call circumstantial evidence.  You expect a skeptic to buy into any of that crap?  He wants a sign, not a sermon.

And also, how exactly are the planets supposed to help Korihor realize God exists?  Copernicus won't be born for another fifteen hundred years or so.  The telescope won't be invented for another century or so after that.  What are you going to do, Alma?  Point up into the night sky and say, "Look at that little shiny dot over there.  That's not always in that same spot in the sky because it moves!  Checkmate, God is real!"

More Groupthink
The chief priest's public service announcement informing his people of Korihor's deception has an overwhelmingly effective impact:
And it came to pass that they were all convinced of the wickedness of Korihor; therefore they were all converted again unto the Lord; and this put an end to the iniquity after the manner of Korihor.
That was easy!
For like the zillionth time, Joseph Smith makes his ancient American civilizations act in completely unified groups that often break down along racial lines.  Although the racial aspect doesn't appear to be present in this particular example, it's still absurd to think that a simple edict from Alma calling Korihor's followers to repentance would immediately re-convert every last one of them to the true church.  

Come on.  People aren't like that.

The Fate of Almihor
So let's review the plot of this chapter:
  • Korihor preaches bad stuff
  • People start believing what Korihor is saying
  • Korihor is brought before Alma
  • Alma reprimands Korihor with all the fire and vitriol of his prophetic calling
  • Korihor asks for a sign that God exists
  • Alma has God strike Korihor dumb
  • Korihor writes that he'd been deceived by the devil and he really knew God was real all along
  • Alma throws Korihor out into the streets without lifting his curse of muteness
  • Korihor has to beg for food
  • Korihor is trampled to death
So this huge threat to the membership of the church turns out to be a dude that said he was tricked by the devil, who appeared in the form of an angel.  When his beliefs are challenged, he makes no argument other than to ask for a sign that his challenger is correct.  He's not exactly a skilled debater, but we're expected to believe that he led away a number of the Lord's faithful from their deeply entrenched and culturally reinforced beliefs?

And then, because Korihor dares to ask for the E-word (that is, evidence), he's struck dumb and has to write out his full confession.  Reading this part as a faithful member of the church, this was a moment of supreme comeuppance.  He got what he deserved, admitted he was wrong, was cast out as a beggar and eventually meets an undignified demise.  It's all very neat and kind of wrapped up in this fable-esque kind of self-righteous schadenfreude ending.

But it shouldn't be.  Think of the similarities between Alma and Korihor.  In his youth, Alma the Younger worked against the church and spent his time tearing town the testimonies of the members (see Mosiah 27).  Alma, however, due to the prayers of his father, was visited by an angel and given a chance to repent of his sins.  When he realized that he had been wrong, he completely turned himself around and became a proponent and a leader of the church.

Why doesn't Korihor get that same chance?  He gets no heavenly visitation.  He admits that he was wrong and professes the truth, but instead of being in a coma for a while so he can battle his inner demons, repent, and wake up refreshed and righteous, he gets kicked to the curb and trampled.  Not only does this seem incredibly unfair on God's part, but it also seems horribly insensitive on Alma's.  Wouldn't Alma have seen a little of himself in Korihor and had compassion for him?  Wouldn't he have wanted to help Korihor find his way back to the church the same way he had?

Nope.  Let him fend for himself and then feel smug when he gets killed, that's the spirit.

Always Blame the Devil
Now let's move on to the moral of the story:
And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell.
Sure, it's the devil's fault.  And why wouldn't it be?

First of all, we don't clearly see the end of those who pervert the ways of the Lord, because we have a success story (Alma) and a failure story (Korihor) occupying the same chapter.  Both fought God, one was saved, and one was not.  The only real difference between them seems to be that Alma's daddy was the prophet and Korihor's wasn't.

Which leads me to point out that it's not just the devil who doesn't support his children.  God doesn't either.  He didn't give Korihor the same second chance he gave Alma the Younger.  He just took his voice and then let the devil do the dragging.  That's pretty cold for a loving, benevolent creator.

Poor Korihor.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alma 29: O That I Were an Angel

Alma takes a quiet moment for introspection concerning the limits of his ability as a missionary.

Shut up and Be Content
He begins this chapter by wishing he had greater power to spread the gospel:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
...But behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me. 
Alma's motives seem pure.  He just wants to be able to bring more people to Christ.  He wants to preach repentance and keep his people from suffering in sin.  How is such a wish sinful?

I remember reading this verse as a miserable, confused seminary student who had plenty of wishes for how life could be better.  The closing statement is a slap in the face to anyone who feels any level of dissatisfaction.

Problems?  Be content with your lot in life.  It's sinful to wish for something better.  

What a horrible thing to teach people.

Blameless but Still Cursed
In verse 5, Alma tries to illustrate the fairness of God's judgments:
Yea, and I know that good and evil have come before all men; he that knoweth not good from evil is blameless;
So how, exactly, does Alma (or God, for that matter) justify someone being considered blameless yet still being considered eligible for a curse?

Every child born to Lamanite parents carries the curse of their dark skin.  Because of the wickedness of their ancestors, God felt it necessary to mark the Lamanites so that his righteous Nephites would know not to intermarry with them.  But a newborn Lamanite doesn't know right from wrong.  He should be blameless.  And he shouldn't have any kind of curse that speaks to the transgressions of his progenitors.  Because if someone is truly blameless, he should receive no punishment.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Alma 28: A Bigger, Better War

The Nephites are now guarding the people of Ammon (née Anti-Nephi-Lehies), who have been safely tucked away in a corner of their kingdom.  But the bloodthirsty Lamanites are chasing the people of Ammon and try to fight their way through the Nephite armies to get them back.

Narrative Escalation and Non-Linear Storytelling
Joseph Smith makes a continuity error in verse 2:
And thus there was a tremendous battle; yea, even such an one as never had been known among all the people in the land from the time Lehi left Jerusalem; yea, and tens of thousands of the Lamanites were slain and scattered abroad.
Tens of thousands, you say?  Biggest slaughter in the land since the time Lehi left Jerusalem, you say?
What about the Jaredite civilization, numbering in the millions, that basically swallowed itself up in constant warfare until only one guy remained?  What about the story the people of Zarahemla learned of Coriantumr, the king and last survivor of the Jaredite nation?

My guess is that Joseph either forgot about the Jaredites at this point in the dictation of the book or he hadn't planned on making their society so huge.  But after all these wars and battles, he might have wanted to amp up the carnage and the intensity just so it didn't seem mundane and irrelevant.  So he made hundreds of thousands of Jaredites die in Ether, completely forgetting about this one pesky little verse he'd written a few hundred pages back that puts a cap on the number of casualties his battles are supposed to have.

Yeah, Sure, That's the Moral of the Story
After spending three verses describing the carnage the Lamanites and Nephites caused each other and the depth of sorrow of the mourning civilians, we arrive upon what strikes me as an odd comment in verse 13:
And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.
Wait, what?  "The inequality of man?"  What does that even mean?  What I'm getting from this chapter is how terrible war is and how much of a price we'll all have to pay for the senseless violence of our societies.  But yeah, um, the power of the devil and all that inequality stuff sounds good, too.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Alma 27: You Don't Have to Live Like a Refugee

The Anti-Nephi-Lehies have a big problem:  they're still living in Lamanite territory and the Lamanites still like to kill them because they don't fight back.  What's a righteous, God-fearing society to do?

Another King Gets Conned
Ammon has this brilliant idea that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies should evacuate themselves from Lamanite lands, but he meets some resistance from their king.  The exchange between them (verses 4-14) goes roughly like this:
Ammon:  Let's get out of here!
King:  We can't.  They'll kill us because our people used to murder their people.
Ammon:  Would you do it if God said we should do it?
King:  Of course!
Ammon:  Okay, let me ask God real quick.
(time passes)
Ammon:  God says let's do it! 
This doesn't seem suspicious to anyone else? Ammon doesn't get what he wants, so he gets the king to commit to follow God's counsel.  Then he mysteriously gets God's counsel in private and tells the king that God said to do whatever Ammon wanted.  Crazy how that all worked out in Ammon's favor.

But then again, the Book of Mormon seems to have a lot of gullible monarchs.

If You Fail to Plan...
Ammon goes to rescue the Anti-Nephi-Lehies from enemy territory.  This is the brilliantly-executed sequence of events:
  1. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies gather up all their stuff and walk out of the Lamanite kingdom. (verse 14)
  2. Ammon leads the people into the wilderness between Lamanite and Nephite territory and has them wait there while he goes and figures out where they'll be allowed to live on Nephite lands. (verses 14-15)
  3. On his way to speak with the Nephite leaders about his group of stranded refugees, Ammon meets his old friend Alma and gets distracted. (verses 16-19)
  4. Ammon goes to speak with the chief judge about the situation, but not before dropping his buddy off at his house to chill for a bit. (verse 20)
  5. The chief judge sends out a message across the realm to ask the people what they wanted to do with the new friends being thrust upon them. (verse 21)
  6. The people come back with an oddly specific consensus for such a large group of people, offering up a particular corner of the nation for the Anti-Nephi-Lehies to inhabit. (verses 22-24)
  7. Ammon goes back to the Anti-Nephi-Lehi camp and helps them move in to the land of Jershon according to the Nephites' arrangement.  (verses 25-26)
So much about this is idiotic.

What if the king of the Anti-Nephi-Lehies had been right and the Nephites had either killed them or left them stranded in the wilderness?  Why didn't Ammon act with a little more urgency on his way to the chief judge so that his friends didn't have to camp out in the middle of nowhere for so long?  Why would an entire group of Nephites unanimously offer to just pick up and move out of their homes so that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies could move in?  And most importantly, why didn't Ammon plan this stuff out in advance to speed the process up and make sure that nothing went wrong, considering the high risk of the scheme in the first place?

Haven't We Been Here Before, Again?
When Ammon runs into his old buddy Alma the Younger, he passes out with happiness:
Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth.
Slipping into unconsciousness due to religious ecstasy or repentant intensity has happened a lot so far in the Book of Mormon.  It's happened so often that even the author acknowledges it by using the word "again" in this verse.

Joseph Smith must be running out of creative juices at this point in his dictation of the book, so I guess he's had to reuse some of his favorite elements a few times.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

God is my Co-signer

My sister recently sent out an email to the whole family linking to an article about the church's construction projects near the new Philadelphia temple site.

It's not a billion-dollar mall this time, but it is a little peculiar that, in addition to the temple and the chapel, the church is also throwing up a 32-story apartment complex and a row of posh townhouses.  The church is going to rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly from this complex.

In a reply email, another sister casually asked if anyone knew why the church was putting up an apartment building...but that was the end of the discussion.  Nobody answered her question by pointing out that the church is essentially a for-profit organization, but nobody tried to explain that the church was simply trying to increase the quality and safety of the neighborhood surrounding its inner-city temple, either.  While I found it a little encouraging that at least one of my sisters felt the need to ask what I feel is a very important question, the fact that the conversation ended without a resolution is kind of depressing.  Most of my family legitimately doesn't care what the church is doing.  Apparently, since the church can do no wrong, they don't need to concern themselves with its corporate functions.

I wish I'd had the guts (or a strong enough relationship with them) to reply with links about the City Creek Mall, the expensive missionary-run hunting preserve, the huge property buys in Florida and the numerous for-profit businesses that are owned and operated by the church.  The problem is that, once I got going, I'd probably pick up so much momentum and be practically screaming at them via email.
...and people tend to understandably resist such angry and violent opposition to their most dearly held beliefs.  So I'd have accomplished nothing.  Meanwhile, the church would continue to make more money from them and a few million other people who willingly donate ten percent of their income to an organization that is starting to resemble a real estate company more than a church.

I'd used to assume that the church had so many business interests just because it liked making even more money than it already had.  But now I'm starting to wonder if the leadership is acutely aware of how membership statistics are flagging and they're working to build the business end of the church specifically so that they'll still have a substantial income once their loyal tithe-payers have dwindled.