So apparently all the righteous survivors in this quasi-apocalyptic ancient American wasteland have gathered around the water cooler in Bountiful to discuss current events and this Jesus character.
In this chapter, we will learn how the Godhead is really a superposition of two states which allows them to simultaneously exist as three separate beings and one unified being. Let's begin in verse 14:
Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.This, obviously, muddies the Mormon claim that the church rejects the concept of the Trinity, which is kind of a superposition of three states all by itself. (Yes, I am willing to admit that my knowledge of quantum physics is very generously described as cursory and these jokes probably will not hold up well among those who are actually educated in the field.) The problem here is that Jesus has just identified himself as God. But he's the Son of God, isn't he? How can he be both? This verse seems to me like it's leaning dangerously toward the evil Trinitarian side. But now let's take a look at verse 27:
...for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.Okay, yeah, this makes it sound exactly like the Trinity to me. Three beings in one. Pretty standard stuff here. Until verse 32:
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.Okay, wait, so now they're three separate beings, right? The Father gave the doctrine to the Son, which he wouldn't need to do if they were the same person. And all the members of the Godhead seem to, I don't know, testify of each other, so it seems pretty evident that these are three individual dudes. Right? Wrong, because of verse 36:
And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.And round and round we go. While it's certainly possible that being "one" is, in this context, metaphorical as opposed to a reference to their physical identities, it sounds to me like the kind of concept that I, as a young Mormon, was taught originated from a group of uninspired men at the Council of Nicaea (although that appears to be inaccurate).
Modern Mormonism is very clear about the Trinity being hogwash—God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three competely distinct entities. But this chapter, nestled in the meaty dramatic climax of the church's central text, seems to be voting three-to-one in favor of a Trinitarian perspective. Four-to-one if you throw in all the times Jesus is referred to as "the Lord," a title generally reserved for God the Father.
And you know what makes all of this even worse? Verse 28:
And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.Jesus lays down the law so that there can be a standardized format for official baptisms because he doesn't want his people disputing important doctrines. Well, then, Sherlock, if you want to avoid doctrinal misconceptions, maybe you should be crystal clear about how many different people you may or may not be.
Note to Joseph Smith: Learn to plan ahead. This is the kind of problem you get when your theology evolves beyond—and in glaring contradiction to—your founding book of scripture.
Jesus forgets an important part of Nephi's personal journey in verse 21:
And the Lord said unto him: I give unto you power that ye shall baptize this people when I am again ascended into heaven.Why does Nephi need to be granted the power to baptize? He already has the power to do literally anything he wants to, which, logically, would include baptizing people into God's church. How often do you think people remind Bill Gates that he has the power to hire a secretary if he so chooses?
Also, both times that Nephi has been given priesthood authority, there's been no laying on of hands. Come on, where's the devotion to continuity in the lore? This is the kind of thing that disappoints lifelong fans.
The Devil is of the Devil
Here's one of my old favorite scripture masteries (verse 29):
Here's one of my old favorite scripture masteries (verse 29):
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
The modern church seems to labor under the impression that contention is some kind of divine mantle. Why else would the church leadership so doggedly pit itself against the entire not-strictly-heterosexual community with such acidulous rhetoric? Why else would Holland so publicly and so transparently express anger toward ex-Mormons? Why else would Oaks smack down the Ordain Women and the Any Opposed movements with such reductive, contemptuous backhands? Why else does the church seem to engender such divisive dogma that causes arguments, rifts, and emotional gulfs in so many families?
The spirit of contention abounds and thrives in the LDS church. According to its own depiction of Jesus, the LDS church is of the devil.
A Simple If/Then Statement
Another proto-doctrinal problem arises in verse 34:
And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.Damned? It's just that simple? If the Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel, wouldn't this have been a great time for Jesus to discuss the spirit world and the spirit prison and the celestial, telestial, and terrestrial kingdoms? Apparently the possible eternal destinations of our immortal souls aren't important enough for the man upon whom the entire Plan of Salvation hinges to discuss, much less to include in the book that should contain his most plain and precious truths.
This pithy Messianic soundbite is not reflective at all of what is now considered accurate Mormon theology.
Falling Through Your Own Trap Door
The issue I take with verse 40 actually encapsulates the feel of this entire chapter quite well.
And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.Joseph Smith would go on to declare much, much more than the teachings contained in this chapter, although he'd ascribe it to divine revelation. But it sounds to me like we should disregard the majority of Mormon doctrine and just repent, become as a child, and get baptized, because apparently tobacco, alcohol, coffee, tattoo policies, R-rated movies, endowments, garments, celestial marriage, baptism for the dead, and all that other stuff is completely irrelevant to our salvation.
And Joseph Smith, who continued to tease his truths and embellish his teachings, apparently cometh of evil and is not built upon the rock of our Redeemer. He told us so right here in the book he claimed to have translated.