Saturday, October 31, 2015

Helaman 6: Corrupting the Ante

This is a confusing time in Book of Mormon history.  The Gadianton Robbers are gaining power and influence, the Nephites are becoming wicked, the Lamanites are becoming righteous, up is down, black is white, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria.

A Woman's Place is in the Sewing Room
While describing the abundance and prosperity among the Nephites, this chapter makes a point to specifically mention women (verse 13):
Behold their women did toil and spin, and did make all manner of cloth, of fine-twined linen and cloth of every kind, to clothe their nakedness.
But that's it.  That's all they did.  They made clothes.

Nephite Security 
In verse 15, poor old Cezoram, the Chief Judge, is murdered "by an unknown hand" while he's sitting on the actual judgment seat, much in the way Pahoran was murdered.

This is the third assassination of a Chief Judge in less than thirty years.  And let's not forget a very notable close call when Kishkumen tried to kill Helaman.  At what point do the Nephites wise up and get some kind of secret service detail going?  Clearly they won't always have that one random servant around to stab would-be assassins in the heart.

The Power of Secrets
As the Gadianton Robbers grow in power and influence, they develop "secret oaths and covenants," whatever that means.  It sounds like they're halfway between a modern-day cult and a group of dirty Gotham City cops.  But what's interesting is this callback to Alma 37 (verse 25):
Now behold, it is these secret oaths and covenants which Alma commanded his son should not go forth unto the world, lest they should be a means of bringing down the people unto destruction.  
Of course, then the chapter explains (with unnecessary dramatic repetition) that the Gadianton Robbers got these oaths and covenants straight from the devil himself, which makes Alma's words of doom all the more pointless.

It's also worth pointing out that this is insanely paranoid.  Why do oaths and covenants have that kind of power?  How can they be so irresistible to the people that, if made public, everyone would become ensorcelled by their allure and eventually the society would be utterly destroyed?  Alma was so terrified by this possibility that he urged his son to only tell the people what their enemies did, and to teach them to abhor those things...but to never divulge "all their signs and their wonders."  (Alma 37:27)

No.  That's just bad.  And it's something that's reflected by the modern church.

How do today's apostles handle ex-Mormons and anti-Mormons?  By telling the church what these people do and teaching them to abhor those things...but never divulging the why.  Without explaining honest reasons people fight against the church, the context is lost.  All people hear is that ex-Mormons are bad and they do bad things, but without understanding the causes of that behavior, all the church membership is hearing is an interpretation of reality—which is not necessarily truth.

If you don't try to understand your enemy, how can you be sure that your enemy's motives aren't valid?  How can you be sure that you're right and he's wrong?  How can you expect to find truth if you're only getting an interpretation and not hearing any solid fact or opposing testimony?


  1. The only secret oaths and covenants I've ever been introduced to were in the Temple ceremony when I was 18 years old before my mission. I had no idea what was going to be presented. Then after making some covenants, I had to swear not to reveal them and do penalty signs, the first of which was to make the sign of slitting my throat. It still creeps me out to think about it. Of course, the penalty signs were removed from the temple endowment in the 1990's, but I'll never forget them. I really never liked the temple for those reasons, so when I searched and found proof for myself (not from anti-Mormon sites, I might add) that Joseph definitely plagiarized Masonic rituals to create the endowment, I never went back.

    1. That's one of the things that blows my mind about the temple. People who've been around long enough to have performed the penalty parts of the is the change in such a supposedly sacred, divinely inspired ritual not a huge crack in those people's shelves? I'm sure it was weird enough with the penalty. But now that it's no longer performed in the temple, shouldn't people like my parents, who have been attending the temple regularly since the eighties, be bothered by the need for a change? It seems to me like changing the ceremony draws more attention to the possibility that the ceremony is man-made.

      I dunno. Creepy stuff. Part of me wishes sometimes that I'd stuck around long enough to take out my endowments just so I'd have some firsthand knowledge of how messed up it is.

  2. You're totally right. I don't know how people aren't bothered by the temple anyway, but after the changes...I don't get it. I'm not as bothered by them removing the penalties as I am by changes made to what you have to do to get through the veil. You used to have to embrace a guy through the veil using the "5 points of Fellowship," which is another item stolen from the Masons in addition to the different handshakes. Anyway the new "embrace" is different. What are Mormons going to do when they get to the "real" veil? How will they know which embrace to use. Anyway, it's all just crazy stuff so I guess it really doesn't matter to me, but it really should matter to believing Mormons.

    Be glad you didn't go. You were lucky enough to never have to wear the stupid underwear. Also, you can just watch the ceremony on YouTube if you have a couple hours to waste.

    The problem is that members don't want to even think about the church not being true so they don't look into controversial things. There is no doubt in my mind that the temple endowment signs, tokens, and penalties were copied from the Masons.

  3. I tried watching the endowment on YouTube, got bored after twenty minutes, meant to finish it later...and never did. I can't imagine how boring it must be upon regular repetition.