Wednesday, March 30, 2016

3 Nephi 8: Let the Bodies Hit the Floor

So the proverbial crap is about to hit the cataclysmic fan in ancient America.  Cue the epic montage of tragedy and destruction on a massive scale.

Wavering Credibility
This chapter begins by going out of its way to reiterate that all this stuff actually happened:
And now it came to pass that according to our record, and we know our record to be true, for behold, it was a just man who did keep the record—
Yet, in the very next verse, there's apparently some room for error:
And now it came to pass, if there was no mistake made by this man in the reckoning of our time, the thirty and third year had passed away;
If there was no mistake? Is the record true or not? And if there's a possibility that the prophet was wrong about the historical timeline, what else is it possible he's wrong about?  Is God getting his dates mixed up while he's delivering his inspiration to his chosen mouthpieces?

Time is Relative
To signify the crucifixion of Christ, the American continent is hit with storms and whirlwinds and earthquakes.  What stands out to me is the folkloric way the timeline of these events is related (verse 19):
...for behold, they did last for the space of about three hours; and it was said by some that the time was greater; nevertheless, all these great and terrible things were done in about the space of three hours.
That's a lot of bad stuff in a very short time.  But now compare that description to the description of the length of the mist of darkness following these disasters (verse 23):
And it came to pass that it did last for the space of three days that there was no light seen.
And that's it.  It was three days, period.  I'm pretty sure a lot of people would be able to guess the duration of a three-hour disaster with relative accuracy...but three days with no light whatsoever?  How can anyone be expected to have any sense of the passage of time when spending the better part of a week in impenetrable darkness?  How come this time there's no comment about how some say it was four days?

Because Jesus was dead for three days, right?

Well, probably not.  Mark puts his time of death at 3:00 in the afternoon.  The empty tomb is discovered on the third morning.  Christ might not have even been out of commission for two full days.  All of which makes the Book of Mormon's rigid allegiance to the three-day darkness seem to me more like fictional symbolism intended to support popular theological misconceptions rather than a sign to the Americas of the duration of Jesus's temporary incapacitation.

Just Why?
Halfway around the world, a bunch of Romans have murdered the son of God—which was exactly according to God's plan anyway.  How does it make sense to visit such destruction upon a completely separate society in the aftermath of the murder?  I mean, reading this chapter's description of all the awful stuff going on in America sure makes it sound like this was God's most violent temper tantrum since the great flood.

Mormonism spends so much time talking about how much God loves his children.  But this is not loving and it's not good parenting.  Sure, the Nephites were mostly wicked, but they didn't crucify anybody.  And sure, maybe they needed some kind of big sign that the Savior of the world had just died, but a bright star sufficed as a sign of his birth, so why does his death require so much carnage?

Even the three days of darkness on its own, without all the earthquakes and storms, would have been an unmistakable sign.  How loving can God really be if he repeatedly chooses to disregard the value of human life?

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