Tuesday, November 1, 2016

3 Nephi 24: Schoolyard Gods

In yet another of so many examples of the Book of Mormon borrowing directly from the Bible, Jesus commands the Nephites to write down Malachi chapter 3.

Grammatical Polytheism
Much like earlier Biblical quotations, most of this chapter is extremely similar to the source material except for some subtle, mostly inconsequential changes.  But in verse one, there's an amusing little punctuation change that technically implies that there are other gods.  Here's the original from Malachi 3:
...and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple...
And here's the version from 3 Nephi 24:
...and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple...
She what the Book of Mormon did there?  It removed the appositional commas around the phrase "whom ye seek."  With Malachi's punctuation, this means "the Lord, who is the guy you seek," but with Nephi's punctuation, this means "the specific Lord whom you seek."  But if there's only one god, what other Lord could anybody be seeking anyway?  Is Jesus carefully accounting for Dionysus and Bastet and Queztalcoatl because they're also Lords?

It's silly, I know.  It's not one of those checkmate, Mormons! kinds of things.  But it amuses me and I think it sits nicely atop the heaping pile of evidence that the Book of Mormon was produced only by humans and that it contains some very non-divine flaws.

Will a Man Rob God?
I used to love verses 8 through 12.  It's wonderful in that it promises incalculable blessings in return for paying a faithful tithe.  And it has such a delicious boldness in its phrasing:  Will a man rob God?

But, upon further thought, it feels like a giant, cosmic Come at me, bro.  Like God is daring you to be so recklessly stupid as to not pay your tithing.  Go ahead.  See what happens if you don't.

...but if you do, everything will be hunky dory.  Reading these verses, now, though, I keep flashing back to a slightly different area of my childhood:

Basically, God is a schoolyard bully.  

How petty is it for the omnipotent creator of the universe to demand a share of every poor working stiff's paycheck?  I know the usual rationale is that God has given us everything and it's selfish of us not to be willing to give some of it back.  But some of us don't have anything to spare.  We are completely dependent on God for every single thing that sustains our ability to live.  It's cruel of him to require some of our precious resources when he hasn't necessarily allotted all of us enough resources to guarantee our survival.  

Surely such a powerful being has other ways of accomplishing his purposes that don't involve extorting money from even his most indigent children.  And it's also troubling that his reasoning has nothing to do with helping out the less fortunate.  He takes it very personally when you don't pay him.  It's not Will you accumulate needless wealth while your fellow human beings starve?  It's Will a man rob God?

At a certain point, loyalty to a god like that stops being virtuous and starts being Stockholm Syndrome.

A Poor Father Figure
The final verses of this chapter speak of a book of remembrance into which the names of those who fear and serve God will be written.  The fate of these people is explained in verse 17:
And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
He's talking about sparing these people from destruction.  From being burned as stubble.  Because of this, the familial comparison seems wildly inappropriate.  Shouldn't a man spare his own son from utter obliteration regardless of whether that son serves him?  Would a loving father burn a disobedient child to death and then pat himself on the back for "sparing" his obedient child?

Of course not.  That's horrible.

Yet, somehow, in the face of such inexcusable behavior, the comparison between God and any normal loving father remains strangely prevalent in Mormon discourse.


  1. It's my understanding that the original Book of Mormon transcript had no punctuation. Have you heard that? Apparently the original printers just put it in the best they could and made tons of punctuation errors.


    The sad thing about Mormon God being a bully is that he turns every Bishop into one of his thugs right before Christmas during the "Ward Shakedown" called Tithing Settlement. Even when I paid tithing I hated this and rarely went.

    1. So it looks like the problem is in the printer adding punctuation and from then on it has been a mess. This was a divinely revealed document! I can't believe the audacity of a printer adding punctuation, and those inspired to bring it about letting him! Everyone knows that this inspired book has different meanings for everyone. When you read it you notice things you never noticed before or interpret them differently. Adding punctuation has robbed everyone of determining the meaning meant for them at the time. This perfect book should never have been messed with.

    2. Haha, I wonder how much more difficult it would have been for Mormonism to gain momentum if the original, divinely inspired, unpunctuated Book of Mormon had become the standard version!

    3. "Ward Shakedown" is exactly what it is. I wonder how much money the Bishops will be able to guilt and squeeze out of the membership this year to buy up property, build apartments, and open shopping centers. Of course, we'll never know, because the church isn't transparent about its finances.

  2. Oh, yes, that's right, I've heard that before and forgotten! That link was...helpful to me, but probably wouldn't have been helpful to me as a TBM.

    You can't claim the book is the most correct book on the face of the Earth if its divine creation story doesn't extend to its punctuation--which can, in some cases, twist intended meanings. And if Joseph Smith himself, the one inspired to translate it, reviewed and revised it for the second (and later) editions and still let so many pesky little mistakes slip through his fingers...

    1. No, you are absolutely correct. This book is a mess, and you prove that every single time you post your analysis of another chapter. Thank you for taking the time. I am thoroughly enjoying it.