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.


  1. 2 We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression. (Pearl of Great Price, Articles of Faith, Articles of Faith 1)'re born to Lamanite parents or black...and don't complain about it or try to improve your lot in life, because that is a sin.

    I just realized something important. I worked my butt off during my mission, obeyed the rules, put in my work hours, got up and went to bed when I was supposed to, was respectful to my companion and the people, etc. I wanted so much to baptize more people and spend all my days teaching the gospel, but I realize now that I was a sinner wishing that. I should have been content with just a handful of baptisms where it was common to go home with none.

    1. Right?

      Don't get me wrong, there's plebty of value in being grateful for what you have. But I think wanting something better is what drives us to achieve important things for ourselves and for our societies. Teaching people that wishing for greater ability is sinful quashes one of the best things about being human.

    2. "Wanting something better" is one of the main sales pitches missionaries use to get people to join the church.

    3. That's also a good point! Maybe you're supposed to want something better if you're a sinful godless heathen, but once you find the church you'd better keep quiet and enjoy it, right?

      Slightly relevant: I've had the song "Oh That I Were an Angel" stuck in my head on and off since I posted this. It's been twenty-four hours. Get out of my brain.

    4. Crap! Now it's going to be stuck in MY head. Maybe it's time to revisit the Steven Kapp Ducreux memes. Or even better, sing Don't Stop Believin'.

    5. Hold on to that feeling? Now it's sounding like Journey wrote that song about applying Moroni's promise.

      ...luckily, I think the theory breaks down pretty quickly after that line.

  2. And while we're at it..."We believe that man will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression....(But women will be punished for Eve's transgression forever, even though it was necessary to break one of the two commandments).

    1. I think I've called Lucifer an unsung hero of the Mormon mythos, but I need to add Eve to that list. She really took one for the team by eating that fruit.