Friday, June 17, 2016

3 Nephi 14: The Sermon on the Rubble, Part III

After concluding his inequitable aside to his apostles, Jesus resumes his remarks to a wider audience.

On Motes and Beams
Just as he did in the Bible, Jesus warns his people against being judgmental.  He also reminds the people that their own flaws make their judgments of others hypocritical.  Yet the culture of the modern LDS church is saturated in judgment and hypocrisy.  Admittedly, a lot of that stuff is cultural rather than doctrinal (for example, looking down on a family with spotty sacrament meeting attendance).  Some of it is an inevitable result of Puritanical policies that micromanage the members' lives (such as the shaming of a woman who wears a sleeveless dress).  And some of it is inescapably doctrinal (insert everything that isn't strictly heterosexual here).

My mother used to frequently criticize the rote pageantry of Catholicism and contrasted Mass with the less-structured layperson instruction of sacrament meetings.  I'm proud that, even as a kid, I quietly wondered "but what about the word-for-word recitation of the sacrament prayers?" when she spoke on the subject.  What I didn't realize then was that the temple ordinances relied heavily on a repetitive solemn pageantry that, when combined with its secretive nature, put any criticism of Catholicism in an absurd light.  

Maybe the Catholics have a mote.  But Mormonism definitely has a beam.  He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.  Judge not, that you be not judged.

A Self-Defeating Deity
In verses 13 and 14, Jesus says some stuff that sure makes it sound like the game is rigged against us:
Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; 
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Okay, so he's saying that the majority of God's children aren't going to Heaven (because remember, we haven't confabulated the degrees of glory yet, so at this point in Mormon theology the afterlife is strictly binary).  But my question is WHY?  If God loves his children and his work and glory is to bring to pass their immortality and eternal life, why would he design a system in which the path to success is narrow and the path to failure is wide?  Why would the gate to eternal glory be strait and the gate to eternal regret be broad?  

Why is God so bad at his job and why does he seem totally fine with his own ineptitude?

More Poor Adaptation
Yes, for the third chapter in a row, I am about to complain about Jesus's failure to properly adapt his originally Old World address for his New World audience.  Take a look at verse 16:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Figs are not native to the Americas.  The Spaniards brought them roughly a millennium and a half after this sermon supposedly took place.  Surely there could have been another fruit for Jesus to use as an example.

I mean, sure, you don't really have to understand the precise plant in question to understand the concept he's teaching.  The context is sufficient.  But wouldn't it be the considerate, Christlike thing to do to tailor your remarks for the specific group of people you're speaking to?  Would it really have been that difficult for Jesus to pose the rhetorical question:  "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or tomatoes of thistles?"

Apparently God is a god of limited cultural sensitivity.


  1. Alex, I just bought your book. Looking forward to reading - it sounds a little like this new musical:
    Of course, your mother might balk at the comparison to Catholics. ;)

    1. Wow, thank you, Donna!

      The musical sounds a lot rauchier and a lot more in-your-face than my book, but it sounds like it definitely grabs your attention. I'm pretty curious about which ELO songs they picked to fit the setting and the themes, haha.