Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alma 38: Bad God

Now Alma imparts his fatherly wisdom to Shiblon.  The problem is that Shiblon is pretty righteous, and that makes him boring.  So instead of two long chapters, he only needs fifteen verses, much of which is simply a rehashing of what was said to Helaman.

It's So Hard to Trust
Alma makes another dubious promise on God's behalf in verse 5:
And now my son, Shiblon, I would that ye should remember, that as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.
This is kind of a corollary to what Alma said two chapters ago.  He told Helaman that keeping the commandments would lead to prosperity, and here he tells Shiblon that trusting God will also bring relief from your problems.

I mean, just look at Abinadi.  He had unfailing trust in God, and it's not like he was captured, imprisoned and burned to death or anything.  And take the People of Alma as another example.  After escaping from King Noah's army and starting their own little town, it's not like God failed to reward their faithfulness by keeping them from being discovered by the Lamanites and put under the heel of the former leader of King Noah's wicked priests.  And let's not forget the Martin and Willie handcart companies.  God definitely didn't allow any of those people who were literally dedicating their lives to following him and his prophets to starve, freeze, and die in the wilderness.

God always makes things okay as long as you trust in him.  The Book of Mormon and early church history are full of examples.

Dear Heavenly Father, I Suck
Alma reminds Shiblon to pray, but to make sure he doesn't pray the way the Zoramites didpublicly and with pompous, flowery language to elicit the accolades of men.  He also reminds his son to pray humbly (verse 14)
Do not say: O God, I thank thee that we are better than our brethren; but rather say: O Lord, forgive my unworthiness, and remember my brethren in mercyyea, acknowledge your unworthiness before God at all times.
Whoa.  I mean, not praying like a conceited jerk I get, but you lost me at "acknowledge your unworthiness at all times."

Mormonism is fond of painting God as a loving father who just wants what's best for his children.  This verse does not support that depiction.  This verse points to a God who has no intention of treating us as equals and wants us to be perpetually aware of our own hideous insignificance.

It's no wonder Mormonism is such a stressful religion to believe in.  We're constantly being told that the natural man is an enemy to God and that we are free to choose liberty or death.  We have a long list of things to check off in order to qualify for the highest degree of glory, but there's always that pesky enduring to the end that means no outcome can ever be certain.  We're taught to be happy because we're supposed to be happy if we're doing the right things.  We're taught to feel responsible for the spiritual wellbeing of everyone around us and that not going that extra mile in fellowship or home teaching might make the difference required to keep a wayward member from gaining exaltation.  And on top of all that, we should acknowledge our unworthiness before God at all times.

It makes prayer sound like an embarrassment.  Like we're malnourished orphans tugging at God's robe to beg for a morsel of scrap.  That's not a healthy father/child relationship.  And considering that God has chosen to frame the relationship that way by use of his prophet Alma, it makes God seem like a stuck-up prick instead of a benevolent, perfected being.

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