Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Alma 63: Epilogue

And, finally, we have reached the end of the Beastly Book of Alma.  Nothing important happens in this chapter, except that all the cool people die.


The Curious Case of Hagoth's Helpers
Hagoth is an "exceedingly curious" Nephite.  He decides to explore, but rather than explore by spreading out on the enormous continent his people have already settled in, he thinks the best way to find new places is to sail to them.  Somehow, he manages to convince five thousand four hundred men plus all of their families to take this dangerous, blind adventure with him.

No, scratch that.  He doesn't actually go with, because he stays behind to build more ships for more people.  When the first boat comes back, he loads it up with more idiots and sends a whole fleet of ships out to his new colony.  It's unclear whether he personally accompanies his guinea pigs this time.  Not that it matters, because none of the ships, including one that left solo after that second batch, ever returns.

Moral of the story?  Doctrinally, there isn't one.  But practically speaking, we can learn that if you really need to fill six verses of column space, a juicy mysterious disappearance will do nicely.


Corianton's Character Arc Ends in Confusion
In one last dereliction of duty, Corianton is not around to take up the mantle of prophet and record keeper from his dying brother Shiblon.  Why is this?  Because he's a moron.

Instead of chasing after the harlot Isabel, this time, Corianton is chasing after a pipe dream.  Apparently having swallowed Hagoth's sense of manifest destiny or foreign colonization or whatever you want to call it, the least uptight of Alma the Younger's sons takes it upon himself to resupply the colony by getting in a boat and sailing up north.  This brings up three questions:

First, where does he think he's going?  This is like two verses after we learn that nobody knows what happened to these ships but that it's popularly assumed they sank.  Does Corianton really think if he just sails north with a bunch of food he'll find Hagoth even though he has no idea what happened to them or where they are?

Second, how does he know they need provisions?  If nobody knows the fate of Hagoth's fleet, Zarahemla certainly hasn't received a letter requesting aid.

And third, why would they need provisions?  Does Corianton think Hagoth and his followers are dumb enough to settle in the middle of a desert?  Does he think they won't start building around a good supply of fresh water, lots of plant life to harvest and lots of animal life to hunt?

I had such high hopes for Corianton, but his exit from the Book of Mormon is almost as lame and as frustrating as Maria LaGuerta's exit from Dexter.


Also, War
These neighboring civilizations with shared ancestry are suspiciously similar to rowdy brothers in adjacent bedrooms.  It's been a mere eight years since the end of the last war, and the Lamanites decide to attack Moronihah because Nephite "dissenters" have aroused their ire.  After the horrendous details of Captain Moroni's various exploits, perhaps Joseph Smith is becoming as tired of his subject matter as his audience was, because this conflict is glossed over in just two verses.

But rest assured, the good guys win and the Lamanites scurry back to their own lands to lick their wounds and doubtlessly plot their sinister vengeance like good little savages.

And thus ends the record of Alma/Helaman/Shiblon.

Whew.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Old Arguments Against Gay Marriage

Yesterday's ruling by the United States Supreme Court has brought with it a bit of a backlash on social media.  Reading a lot of these angry, often senseless comments from people who disagree with the decision reminded me of one of my own rants on the same subject from almost ten years ago.  After a little bit of digging through my archives, I finally found it.  And, to my chagrin, it was even worse than I remembered.

What sparked this philippic on my old blog was a thread on an internet forum I used to frequent. The poster had started a poll whose wording I took issue with.  And here, ladies and gentlemen, is my terrible, terrible opinion from October 26, 2006:
Then I read the poll about gay marriage the poster had set up. The vague question was, simply, "Gay Marriage?" The three options were: 
Yes
No, because God
No, because some other reason 
The poster had voted for "Yes." I looked over the options for a moment, and, after voting, decided that something had to be said about the glaring flaws in this poll. So I replied: 
"No, because God." I like that. It makes me feel like your stereotypical Christian who refuses to deviate from his principles just because they've always been his principles. You know, the kind who opposes gay marriage and abortion and stem cell research even though he can't really think of a good non-religious reason. The person who uses "Because God" as the "Your Mom" comeback of the political world. The guy who is a drain on progressive society because he's old-fashioned and stuck in his clearly misguided ways. The guy whose opinion should be ignored because it's not based in anything important. The one who sits on top of his shack all day with a shotgun, spitting tobacco juice and scratching his pot belly. The citizen who doesn't count."  
There have been a lot of unfair stereotypes in the history of the world, and this is just another one. But it really bothers me that the religious community is starting to be dismissed as a negligible, superstitious parasite on society. There are a lot of people who think religion is unnecessary and outdated. They think that piety is a sign of mental weakness, a voluntary submission to brainwashing. 
Well, to those people, I say: You're just a bunch of amoral, godless, new age hippies who are all destined to burn in hell for an eternity.  
This poster, however, was not even trying. He is an atheist and is in favor of gay marriage and critical of religion in general. "No, because God" is such a sloppily constructed phrase that it indicates childishness and irrationality in someone who would agree with such a line. So to that poster, I say, "No, because God." If that makes me childish and irrational, fine. I'd rather be childish and irrational than hesitant to support my opinions because I'm afraid of being unfairly labeled.  
In fact, let's try using my version of the question on you.  Are you in favor of nationally legalizing gay marriage? 
No
Yes, because I think I'm too cool for God
Yes, because of some other reason 
So, your options are these: Choose "No." Sell out to the opposite side. Or choose the second option. Admit to my erroneously trivialized description of your beliefs. Or choose the third option. Ascribe your beliefs to the worthless abyss of "other." Appear to have a tenuous, unsupported opinion. 
So what's your answer then?
Damn, that's horrifying.  That used to be me.  Look at all that emotional grandstanding without a single legal argument or any kind of mention of equality, human rights, or what's actually in the Constitution.  Look at all that self-congratulatory tunnel vision.  Look at how I basically got off on being offended.  Look at that hilariously oblivious reference to brainwashing.

But look at how these same arguments are still being made.  Look at my old persecution complex, my rage against secularism, and my emerging fears about the oppression of religious freedom. Look at how I thought being unfairly labeled was akin to the trampling of my personal rights.

If the Supreme Court's ruling is any indication, big changes can happen.  They may be long overdue, but sometimes, society can get things right.  And if my old blog post is any indication, small changes can happen too.  As infuriating as I find these people spouting claims that the Supreme Court's decision is illegal or dangerous or oppressive, it's important for me to remember that, had this happened ten years ago, I would have been right there on the front lines explaining how this would lead to the downfall of our very civilization.

But nations can change.  People can change.  Opinions can change.  And in the wake of this historic ruling, it's probably less important for us to hate on the haters than it is for us to hope for the future.  Maybe those people can change and maybe our society can adjust enough to accept the Supreme Court's decision, accept the rights that all our citizens deserve, and accept homosexuality in our culture as something that shouldn't be demonized, disparaged or discriminated against.

And to Zorfox from the old forum days, I'm sorry.  I was an asshole.  But I'm working on it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alma 62: The Nephihah Stratagem

Moroni receives Pahoran's letter and decides to rush off to his aid.  This chapter seems to have a higher-than-average level of insanity to it, so buckle up....


Perhaps an Apology is in Order?
Captain Moroni has kind of a weird reaction to Pahoran's epistle in the opening verses of this chapter:
And now it came to pass that when Moroni had received this epistle his heart did take courage, and was filled with exceeding great joy because of the faithfulness of Pahoran, that he was not also a traitor to the freedom and cause of his country.
But he did also mourn exceedingly because of the iniquity of those who had driven Pahoran from the judgment-seat, yea, in fine because of those who had rebelled against their country and also their God. 
Okay, so I'm not liking the equating of "country" with "God," here, but the strangest part is that Moroni makes no mention of, you know...remorse.  He spent a whole chapter chewing Pahoran out and spouting threats at him for his imagined offenses, only to learn that Pahoran was still a good guy and just barely hanging on despite his own problems.  In response, Moroni is happy that Pahoran is in his corner, and sad that people had kicked him out of the capital.  But where's the sorrow for being a presumptuous jerk?  Where's the contrition for threatening to beat up an old friend?


Joining the Cause
Then Moroni marches across the country, gathering volunteers for the cause of freedom to some background music that's probably either AC/DC or a traditional battle hymn (verse 5):
And it came to pass that thousands did flock unto his standard, and did take up their swords in the defence of their freedom, that they might not come into bondage.
Wait...where were these people hiding?  Do you mean to tell me that the Nephite territory has been filled with thousands of able-bodied, armed men ready to fight for freedom this whole time?  The war's been raging for more than a decade by this point—why did they wait so long to take action?  If the king-men government is a threat to their freedom, why is it more of a threat than the basically everpresent possibility of being overrun by the Lamanites?

Oh, right, because it looks cool to have thousands of them joining Captain Moroni's march.  You know, for the montage sequence.


The Nephite Patriot Act
Moroni and Pahoran unite in Gideon to stomp the king-men and restore the legitimate government.  And then all the rebels who survived are tried according to the law.  Apparently, this whole time that Moroni has been delivering ridiculous ultimatums (exhibits A, B and C), he's actually been acting within the Nephite legal system (verse 9):
And the men of Pachus received their trial, according to the law, and also those king-men who had been taken and cast into prison; and they were executed according to the law; yea, those men of Pachus and those king-men, whosoever would not take up arms in the defence of their country, but would fight against it, were put to death.
I mean, I don't believe in capital punishment anyway, but this is pretty extreme.  These guys aren't Dahmer.  Surely you could at least imprison them, or maybe exile them.  For a culture that's currently so obsessed with freedom, these Nephites don't seem to have much respect for the freedom to live.  Or the freedom not to serve as a soldier in a war you disagree with.

Oh, but it's okay.  The following verse explains:
And thus it became expedient that this law should be strictly observed for the safety of their country; yea, and whosoever was found denying their freedom was speedily executed according to the law.
What?!  That makes absolutely no sense.  First of all, I don't know if you can claim that your country is a safe place when you keep executing groups of your own citizens.  And secondly...what is "denying your freedom?"  These people take differences in political ideology way too much to heart.  This is some Third Reich crap here.  This is not a righteous society!

And I really wish this chapter would stop saying "according to the law" like it's some kind of blanket excuse.  It may be legal, but that doesn't mean it's right.


Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But...
Verse 11:
Moroni and Pahoran having restored peace to the land of Zarahemla, among their own people, having inflicted death upon all those who were not true to the cause of freedom.
You've got to be kidding me.


This Can't Possibly Go Horribly Wrong
In verses 15 through 17, the army of Moroni and Pahoran (who is now a general apparently instead of chief judge) defeat a Lamanite force and then make them "enter into a covenant" not to fight against the Nephites anymore (because that always works—see Honor Among Savages).  After the Lamanites take the oath, they get shipped off to live with the people of Ammon.

So essentially what Pahoran and Moroni have just done is deliver four thousand enemy combatants into the care of a group of...wait for it...pacifists.  What assurances do they have that the Lamanites won't simply overpower their new friends and take control of their territory?  Just their oath.  Their oath that Zerahemnah refused to make back in the day because he was honest enough to point out that there's no way the Lamanites would ever keep it.

What makes it better is that, later in this chapter, when more Lamanites are captured during the reclamation of Nephihah, those prisoners are also sent to live with the people of Ammon.  How is no one concerned or at least suspicious about all this?


That's Not the Real Reason
Moroni and Pahoran set their sights on the city of Nephihah, which is currently under Lamanite control.  So they set up camp nearby and try to figure out how to get the Lamanites to come out of the city to fight.
Now Moroni was desirous that the Lamanites should come out to battle against them, upon the plains; but the Lamanites, knowing of their exceedingly great courage, and beholding the greatness of their numbers, therefore they durst not come out against them; therefore they did not come to battle in that day.
That's why the Lamanites didn't come out to play?  You're telling me it has nothing to do with the fact that they're holed up in a fortified and easily defensible city and that abandoning those entrenchments to face the large Nephite forces on a neutral plain would be at best stupid and at worst suicide?


More Military Brilliance
Since he can't lure the Lamanites out of Nephihah, Moroni instead personally scouts the city in the middle of the night.  He discovers that the entire Lamanite army is asleep (because honestly, who posts round-the-clock guards when your city is under the threat of attack anymore?).  Moroni then makes use of a whole bunch of ladders and ropes that his army seems to have and has everyone climb over the wall without waking up a single Lamanite soldier (because it's not like the movement of an entire army would make any noise or any of the Lamanites would get up to pee during the night).  In the morning, the Lamanites wake up to discover all of Moroni's men inside the walls of the city, and they flee for their lives.  Bloodthirsty Moroni commands his men to kill as many as possible before they escape, and everyone lives happily ever after (verse 26):
Thus had Moroni and Pahoran obtained the possession of the city of Nephihah without the loss of one soul; and there were many of the Lamanites who were slain.
Not that the ambiguous wording might be implying that the Lamanites don't have souls or anything....

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Moroni is not an ingenious commander.  This plan, like so many of his others, relies heavily on luck and on his opponent being completely inept.
Rigged...by a really bad writer who really needs his hero to succeed.
I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Moroni is not a righteous man. If the Lamanites were really that terrified, why couldn't he just let them run away?  His objective was to reclaim his city, and that objective had been achieved.  If we're so proud of him for doing it without losing any lives on his side, why should it not bother us that he causes many lives to be lost on the opposing side, especially when he could have achieved the same goal without such violence?


Teancum's Last Stand
Eleven chapters ago, Teancum snuck into Amalickiah's camp under cover of darkness and put a javelin through his heart.  Apparently anxious to finish what he started, when all the Lamanite armies are finally surrounded by the Nephite forces, Teancum tries to do the same thing to the current king of the Lamanites—Ammoron, Amalickiah's brother.

He succeeds in killing Ammoron with his signature javelin, but apparently this guy dies more noisily than his brother.  Ammoron's guards are alerted and they chase down Teancum and kill him.

It's sad, but I guess that's what happens when you reuse the exact same plot points—something has to be different or it's just a cheap rehashing of earlier events.  Kill your darlings and all that.


Time for the Wrap-Up
Now that we're winding down the Book of Alma, this chapter attempts to give us some closure on some of the characters we've come to love.  Well, other than Teancum.  That guy died bloody, no way around it.

Pahoran goes back to his judgment seat without any explanation for why he thought it was a good idea to leave it in the first place, especially since he'd just gotten it back from a group of vicious rebels.

Helaman goes back to preaching the gospel, because the war had taken a toll on the Nephites and they needed to repent of their wickedness.  Verse 46 mentions that he "did establish again the church of God, throughout all the land" with no explanation of why it had disappeared in the first place or why it was a good idea for the prophet and leader of the church to shirk his ecclesiastical responsibilities in favor of playing general for a few years.

The Incomparable Captain Moroni hands the reins of the military over to his son Moronihah and retires "that he might spend the remainder of his days in peace" with no explanation as to how a guy that gets off on so much blood and violence and one-sided ideology could possibly enjoy a retirement devoid of such things.

The people of Nephi, as a whole, having soundly defeated the Lamanites for the first time in a long time, become prosperous and righteous simultaneously (which is a rarity).  And as the thirty-fifth year of the reign of the judges draws to a close, everyone is living happily ever after.

Except Teancum.  That guy died bloody.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Alma 61: Pahoran is an Idiot

Pahoran crafts his thoughtful reply to Moroni's angry rant.


Cool Story...But Why the Radio Silence?
Pahoran patiently explains that the king-men faction has overthrown the legitimate government in Zarahemla and kicked Pahoran and his legitimate co-governors out of the city.  The good guys were forced to flee to the land of Gideon and attempt to mount a resistance in exile while the bad guys made a deal with the Lamanites to allow Nephite territory to fall into Lamanite control.

We keep hearing excuses from Pahoran here, but what we don't hear is an acceptable explanation for why he couldn't be bothered to send Moroni a letter sooner to explain what was going on.  He managed to send out a proclamation to his supporters in his neck of the woods, but he couldn't spare a single courier to keep his chief military commander apprised?  I don't know about you, but if a government I was in charge of got overthrown while my biggest, baddest army dude was out of town with a whole bunch of troops, the very first thing I would do is contact that biggest, baddest army dude for help.


Pahoran Wrote this Letter When he was Drunk
Our favorite chief judge might not be the quickest curelom in the pack, but he makes up for his lack of intelligence by being a real swell guy (verse 9):
And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart.
Whoa, what?  Full stop.  The greatness of Moroni's heart?  Where are you getting this from?  Based on the letter he sent you, you should be discussing the blindness of his violent rage, not the greatness of his heart. To further confuse matters, that same verse concludes with this statement:
My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.
Okay, so he was just talking about how he wants to retake the judgment seat because he wants to preserve the rights and liberty of his people.  But what he's talking about now sounds like agency, meaning the freedom to choose as opposed to political freedoms.  And I'm guessing "my soul standeth fast" means that he's somehow motivated and anchored by one or both kinds of freedom.  But the confusion about which he's referring to, combined with the bizarre, extra-clunky phrasing ("in that liberty in the which") and the aforementioned complete misinterpretation of Moroni's anger all make me think that the stress of being forcibly removed from power finally got to him and he wrote the epistle in a state of severe inebriation.


Pacifism, Only Not
In verses 10 through 13, Pahoran makes several haughty statements about war in which he pretends that he and his people are pacifists.
  • They wouldn't shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land
  • They wouldn't shed the blood of their brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion
  • They would subject themselves to the yoke of bondage if God would command them to
  • God doesn't command this, only that they have faith in him unto deliverance
Okay, first of all, Pahoran, don't act like you're above this war business.  Look back on the last five hundred years of your civilization.  You guys fight wars all the time.  You can play the victim all you want, but the Nephites have delivered just as much hurt over the years as the Lamanites.

And secondly, you mention that God has not commanded you to be subject to your enemies, only to put your trust in him so he can deliver you.  If you were really a pacifist (and not just pretending), you wouldn't take up arms in the first place.  You'd negotiate peacefully and place your trust in God like he commands so that he can deliver you from war with some kind of, I don't know, peace agreement.  You know, those things that pacifists like.


NOT COOL, DUDE
Then we get to the part of Pahoran's response where he lays out an action plan (verse 15):
Therefore, come unto me speedily with a few of your men, and leave the remainder in the charge of Lehi and Teancum; give unto them power to conduct the war in that part of the land, according to the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them.
Okay, first of all, can we stop equating political freedom with righteousness?  Religion and politics, guys, it's apples and oranges.  But secondly, didn't Moroni just write a letter begging Pahoran for reinforcements?  Because it sounds like Pahoran is asking Moroni's already dwindling army to come reinforce him.  That's the exact opposite of what Moroni requested.

And what was the other thing Moroni wanted?  Provisions for his troops.  Look at Pahoran's response (verse 16):
Behold, I have sent a few provisions unto them, that they may not perish until ye can come to me.
If you can send provisions, why didn't you do it sooner?  If Moroni hadn't mentioned to you that your troops were wasting away out there, would they have just starved to death because you forgot about them?  Oh, no, I get it, you were just so busy with your civil war that you couldn't squeeze it into your busy schedule.  But now that you're planning to retake the city of Zarahemla, you just have so much free time and extra resources?

Something fishy is going on here.  If I were Moroni, I would probably think that going to the land of Gideon to rescue Pahoran was a trap.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Perfect Visual Metaphor for Mormonism

In my electronic travels this week, I stumbled across a marvelous video that struck me as being both hilarious and shockingly descriptive of the LDS experience.  I present to you a Meaningful Metaphor of Mormonism:
video
(this is pretty awful quality, there's a much better one on imgur)

Now, obviously, this is open to interpretation, but here's my take:  The left side of the screen represents birth, the right side represents happiness, the spinning dial in the center represents the difficulties that life throws at us, and the people depicted are behaving according to what the church tells them.  The way they keep trying to run after they've fallen down illustrates that, even after the church defeats its members, they still think they need to be doing more.

Just look at the mess.

[edit]
I just found the original video!  Looks like a few of the earlier runners made it through.  That might weaken my interpretation a little, though.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Alma 60: Moroni's Maximum Madness

Moroni is still steaming over what he believes is an inexcusable government mismanagement of the war effort.  He decides to send a sternly-worded letter to Pahoran.  Our favorite captain, of course, sent the letter in the previous chapter, but the audience has been withheld from learning its specific contents until now in order to increase the dramatic tension.


Reflexive Pronouns and Other Common Reformed Egyptian Grammatical Foibles
Verse 3 contains a curious mistake:
And now behold, I say unto you that myself, and also my men, and also Helaman and his men, have suffered exceedingly great sufferings; yea, even hunger, thirst, and fatigue, and all manner of afflictions of every kind.
Here Moroni has incorrectly used a reflexive pronoun.  He says "myself" instead of "I."  It's a relatively common mistake, sure, but for a book that was translated out of an ancient language and is touted by its supposed prophetic translator as being the most correct book on the face of the Earth, a little mistake like that speaks volumes.  Sure sounds like it was originally written in English by someone whose grasp of English was imperfect and not supplemented with any divine assistance.


Nephite Logicians Have a Field Day
In his blind rage toward Pahoran, Moroni sets the example for modern-day Mormons by ascribing irrational motives to people he doesn't understand (verse 12):
Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness?  I say unto you, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain;...
What?  Why would Pahoran think that?  And even if he did, it's not like there isn't some scriptural support for such an outlandish belief.  Remember the Armies of Helaman?  The ones who all survived repeated engagements because of their exceeding righteousness?  Well...it doesn't take a huge stretch of the imagination to reason that other Nephite units who lost some men sustained those casualties because they were less righteous than the Stripling Warriors.


Oh, Good, Now the Faithful Will Be Up All Night
In an almost direct contradiction to Helaman's conclusions about his own army, Moroni continues with this troubling statement:
For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked;
That is not the mark of a benevolent, loving God.  If he's all-knowing and all-powerful, he doesn't need evidence to sentence someone to Hell.  But apparently he lets good people die so that the people who kill them can be punished.  Which is completely unnecessary.  The chief judge of Ammonihah was wicked because he wanted to throw all of Alma's followers into a fiery pit and intended to go through with it.  Actually letting every last one of those people burn to death was totally unnecessary.  God shouldn't need to suffer the righteous to be slain so that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked.


Holding God to His Own Standard
A lot of this chapter could play well as a letter to an absent God.  I've seen the Mormon God derisively referred to in ex-Mormon circles as the God of Lost Car Keys, a reference to the "tender mercies" of God being evident in the minutiae of first world life and completely absent in the larger issues of the third world.  God answers a middle-class American Mormon's prayer to find his lost car keys but lets millions of African children starve in their war-torn homes.  Victims of these broader tragedies would be completely justified in directing the same kinds of anger toward God that Moroni directs at Pahoran and his men (italicized words were modified to direct the words at God instead of at the Nephite judges):
Can you think to sit upon your throne in a state of thoughtless stupor, while your enemies are spreading the work of death around you?  Yea, while they are murdering thousands of your children
Yea, even they who have looked up to you for protection, yea, have placed you in a situation that ye might have succored them, yea, ye might have sent armies unto them, to have strengthened them, and have saved thousands of them from falling by the sword.
...ye ought to have stirred yourself more diligently for the welfare and the freedom of this people; but behold, ye have neglected them insomuch that the blood of thousands shall come upon your head for vengeance;
But then Moroni crushes Pahoran with this reminder:
Do ye suppose that God will look upon you as guiltless while ye sit still and behold these things?  Behold I say unto you, Nay.
If the Mormon version of God exists, He does the exact same kind of stuff that Moroni is proclaiming He won't stand for.  The Mormon God is not guiltless.


Holding Moroni to his Own Standard
What is our hero's solution to the assumed negligence of his government?  His threats are scattered across several verses.
And except ye grant mine epistle, and come out and show unto me a true spirit of freedom, and strive to strengthen and fortify our armies, and grant unto them food for their support, behold... 
I will come unto you, and if there be any among you that has a desire for freedom, yea, if there be even a spark of freedom remaining, behold I will stir up insurrections among you, even until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct.
Behold, I wait for assistance from you; and, except ye do administer unto our relief, behold, I come unto you, even in the land of Zarahemla, and smite you with the sword, insomuch that ye can have no more power to impede the progress of this people in the cause of our freedom.
Moroni just complained in verse 16 of this chapter about how counterproductive the king-men's revolt against the Nephite government was.  But his solution to this problem is...well, another armed revolt.  How is that less counterproductive?  How is he going to strike down everyone who desires to usurp power while he's in the process of usurping power himself?  How is this guy anything but a gigantic bloodthirsty hypocrite?

But wait, there's more!  Apparently God himself is in favor of a poorly-timed revolution, as claimed in verse 33:
Behold, the Lord saith unto me: If those whom ye have appointed your governors do not repent of their sins and iniquities, ye shall go up to battle against them.
Why would God say this?  See, Moroni doesn't realize this yet, but Pahoran actually has a good explanation for his apparent lack of support—he's been ousted by the king-men and has been forced to go into hiding away from the city of Zarahemla.  But God, being omniscient, knows this.  Why would God fuel Moroni's violent wrath by telling him something along the lines of "if the government won't help, you have to overthrow the government"?  That's basically pouring gasoline on the fire.  Unless Moroni was lying to try and make his threat sound legitimate.

Either God is irresponsible here or Moroni, one of the greatest "role models" from the Book of Mormon, is a vengeful, wrathful, deceitful insurgent.


Freedom by Any Means Necessary!
Moroni closes his letter on a confusing note:
Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain.  I seek not for power, but to pull it down.  I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.  And thus I close mine epistle.
So, basically, he loves freedom so much that he's going to stage a military coup and personally oversee the dismantling of his people's legitimate government because he doesn't like the decisions being made.  For freedom.

Because the rule of one rogue military officer who claims not to seek for power is the purest form of government a free society can hope for.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kids Can't Handle the "Truth"

One of my most frequent personal criticism of the LDS church is the way it brainwashes its children with doctrinal concepts too complex for young minds to properly comprehend.  The more time I spend away from the church, the more it frustrates me that members can't see this problem.

A few recent emails from some of my family members have been particularly baffling.  One of my sisters related an experience she had trying to talk to her primary class about L. Tom Perry's recent passing.
I asked them how they thought his family was feeling right now, and the response that I got was that they were probably happy because he was in heaven now.  Um, okay, maybe, but don't you think they will miss him?
Too many Sunday school lessons about how great heaven is and how important it is to go there seem to have dulled these kids' capacity for empathy.  These are children who are old enough to be baptized.  Probably none of them has had a death in his own family yet, but if you're expected to comprehend the importance of Jesus's suffering and death enough that you're qualified to make an informed decision to be baptized, you'd think having a good handle on how death works and how it can affect people would also come with the territory.

Another of my sisters has been looking for poems she can read to her young children and asked for suggestions.  She expressed frustration with Google, because apparently some of the poetry it suggested to her was about death, and poems about death were not good for children.  Of course, her sons have read through the picture-book version of the Book of Mormon with all its violent stories and they've been taught about Jesus and how he died for them, but surely acknowledging death outside of an LDS context can only spell disaster.

Another story from a primary class shared with my family this week was about a 9-year-old girl who taught part of the lesson on Sunday.  Apparently, she did well until an awkward bit at the end.
She had her cousin visiting that day, and so she called on her to say the closing prayer.  I had assumed the whole time that this cousin was a member, but she asked how to start a prayer.  I couldn't tell if she was being serious or just being silly.  The other kids prompted her, so she started properly, asked for it to rain cupcakes and unicorns, and then ended.  I'm not even sure if she said amen or not.  The rest of the class looked at her like she was crazy.  They didn't even laugh (which was surprising) and then someone suggested that we have someone else say a real prayer.
Well, that's one person who will probably never step foot in a Mormon chapel again.  The girl who was teaching, of course, should never have called on her cousin to do something that she was clearly unfamiliar with and uncomfortable with.  She's nine, though, so maybe she just didn't realize how horribly she was putting her cousin on the spot.  Still, the rest of the class staring at her "like she was crazy" probably didn't help.

But they probably had no idea how to react because they're so unaccustomed to what other children think about God or about how to talk to him.  Many of them probably have never considered what it was like not to know how to pray they way they've been taught to pray their whole lives.  I remember thinking that saying grace over dinner was the weirdest thing when I encountered it for the first time at a Boy Scout camp when I was maybe twelve or thirteen.

The icing on the cake, though, is the suggestion that someone else say a "real" prayer.  I'm not sure if that's my sister's wording or a direct quote from the kid, but either way, it sucks to be that cousin.  Her attempt at communication with her Father in Heaven was apparently unacceptable, so it needs to be redone by someone who knows how to do it the right way.  Sure, she prayed for unicorns and cupcakes, but if we really believe in a loving God, he was listening anyway, and he was certainly listening to what was in her heart, even if she didn't say it aloud.  Instead of accepting her unstructured prayer to make her feel welcome and to encourage her to pray in the future, her peers discarded her feeble effort and replaced it with their own "acceptable" version.  And my sister presided over the whole mess, encouraging the one-sided development of their worldview through her failure to intervene.

I hate how the church fosters these attitudes in people.  I was like that, and I still have trouble shedding some of the behaviors and biases and preconceptions that were pounded into me for the first twenty years of my life.

I had a friend in middle school who was a very vocal evangelical Christian, and he spent a lot of time trying to convert me.  Looking back, the arguments that I made when I discussed religion with him weren't fact-based in any way.  I just knew he was wrong because all I knew was that I was right.  I wasn't addressing his claims on a scriptural basis or a logical basis, I was simply frustrated and confused by the fact that stating my own religious belief wasn't changing his mind.  I spent five days a week in school surrounded by people from other backgrounds and belief systems, but because of the ironclad programming of primary classes from years before, I still couldn't understand the ways that other people saw the world and experienced life.  I was too Mormon to comprehend it.  If 9-year-old me had encountered somebody in church who had no clue how to pray, I'm sure I'd have reacted much the same way:  This girl doesn't know how to pray?  How do you not know how to pray?

Children don't get it.  They can't get it.  But the church knows what children can wrap their brains around:  their parents.  Their parents are the highest authority they've ever known.  If their parents spend too much time teaching them about Jesus and Joseph Smith, about how Democrats are destroying the country, about how Wal-Mart is the worst place on earth and about how violins are the most beautiful sounding of all the instruments, most of these impressionable kids are going to grow up into devoutly Mormon, vehemently Republican, loyal Target shoppers with a weird rosin fetish.  That's just how it works.  The church knows that early indoctrination can take a lifetime to unravel if it ever starts unraveling at all, and the way it uses that knowledge to abuse its power and the way it gets its members to help is one of the most disgusting crimes of which the church has ever been guilty.

Worst of all, the abuse feeds itself.  My sisters are good people, but they can't see the damage being done to these kids because it was done to them, too, and none of this stuff, when seen through the corruption-colored glasses of Mormon indoctrination, seems wrong.