Thursday, September 1, 2016

3 Nephi 21: If/Then/Else/Never

Jesus continues to rant and prophesy about the House of Israel and all that jazz.  This chapter essentially boils down to an excessively verbose if/then/else statement:

If the Gentiles do not repent, then...
  • their horses will be cut off from their midst and their chariots will be destroyed
  • their cities will be cut off and their strongholds will be thrown down
  • witchcraft and soothsaying will disappear
  • graven images will be taken
  • groves will be plucked up and cities will be destroyed (instead of merely cut off)
  • lying, deceiving, envying, strife, priestcraft and whoredoms will cease
  • God will cut the unrepentant off from his people
  • God will execute his vengeance upon the wicked
  • God will establish his church among them
  • they will be numbered among the remnant of Jacob
  • they will assist in the gathering to New Jerusalem
  • missionary work will commence among all the scattered tribes of Israel
But the problem is that neither the if nor the else makes a convincing argument.  Basically none of the if stuff sounds like it's happened, except maybe the part about cities being destroyed.  There have been a few natural disasters that could, to some people, qualify as a fulfilled prophecy.  Except that, from a Mormon standpoint, the Gentiles have hardly repented.

On the else end of things, the prophecies are so simple and easily self-fulfilled by the church.  The church was established, the church oversees patriarchal blessings that explicitly "adopt" Gentiles into the houses of Jacob, and the church obsessively sends out missionaries to as many parts of the world as it can.  Does it really count as a fulfilled prophecy if it's fulfilled by an organization that has a vested interest in appearing to continue the same claim to authority as the person who produced the prophecy?  I mean, if you predict a flood in a specific location, there's no way you could have caused that prediction to come true.  But if you found a religion, predict that your religion will send missionaries all over the world, and then the leaders who take up the standard of your religion after your death decide to send missionaries all over the world...the validity of that prophecy deserves a lot more logical scrutiny.

The New Jerusalem thing is a snag, though.  Isn't that supposed to be in Independence, Missouri?  What, exactly, are we doing with the gathering?  Because mainstream Mormonism is still heavily clustered around Utah, not around the New Jerusalem.  And though rumors have circulated for a long time that someday the prophet will call on the members to make the trek back to Zion, promulgators of these rumors tend to exist on the fringes of "normal" Mormon society.  The top leadership of the church tends to remain conspicuously silent on the specifics of these matters.

Skipping back to the beginning of the chapter, we can see Jesus's objective in sharing all this information (verse 1):
And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—
So the whole point of telling us this stuff is so that we have a sign so we can recognize when something important is about to happen.  But the Gentiles are wicked and the good chunk of Jesus's prophecy devoted to that possibility has not even begun to come to pass.  And some simpler, easily fulfilled prophecies dependent on the Gentiles' lack of wickedness have come to fruition.

Which makes this whole chapter...pointless.  Why give a sign if the stuff that's supposed to happen won't and the stuff that shouldn't happen is forced to happen by your own church?

How are we supposed to read and interpret the signs if they're so muddled by unreliability and uncertainty?

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