Saturday, March 18, 2017

Mormon 7: Mormon Gets Real for a Minute

Our current narrator takes a moment to preach to the Lamanites of the modern era—and, regardless of which version of the Book of Mormon's introduction you go by, that would be the Native Americans.

Essential to Salvation
Mormon includes a peculiar detail in his summary of things that his enemies' descendants will need to know (verse 5):
Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
Don't forget:  Jews killed Jesus.  Very important.

It stands out especially because this section is devoid of some of Joseph Smith's more flowery tendencies.  It's full of strong, straightforward statements such as "Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved."  So in the midst of a chapter that contains simple phrasing and direct doctrinal concepts unfettered by needless metaphors and extraneous details, Mormon still feels the need to mention that the Jews are the ones who killed Jesus.

It reminds me of a particular type of math problem from elementary school.  To teach students effective problem-solving, the goal wasn't to find the numerical answer—the goal was to identify the piece of information provided in the question that wasn't necessary to solve the problem.  The answer would never be "43 apples."  The answer would be something like, "To find the solution, I don't need to know that Sarah had 12 oranges."  Looking back at verse 5, which part is totally irrelevant and not essential to our salvation?  Oh, yeah.  It's blaming the Jews.  That's not useful at all.

Why did Mormon bother to include it?  I mean, the important things are that Jesus died for our sins and that he was resurrected, right?  Not the religious or ethnic identities of those responsible for his execution?

It's good to know that Joseph Smith truly was a prophet.  He predicted American elementary educational practices circa 1995.

Heaven's Gonna Suck
Verse 7 contains a concept that I feel is generally associated more with mainstream Protestantism than with Mormonism, but it's interesting to see it crop up here in LDS scriptural canon:
And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.
Two things about this description of the afterlife bother me.

First, singing ceaseless praises to God for all of eternity sounds like a real bummer.  Perhaps Mormon is being poetic here (possibly unlikely considering the general tone of the rest of this chapter), but I've heard this idea repeated by enough Christians that I'm worried Joseph Smith may have meant it literally.  I get the whole being grateful for existence and mercy and salvation and stuff, but spending the rest of forever worshiping makes me wonder if maybe there's a Dungeons and Dragons tournament going on in Hell that I could sit and watch instead.  Should be way more fun being a spectator to a game I've never played than just thinking up new ways to kiss God's ass until the end of time.

And the second thing that bothers me is God's apparent need for his ass to be kissed in the first place.  You'd think a being of his perfect caliber would be humble enough and magnanimous enough to gracefully shy away from excessive worship so that we can enjoy our eternal glory.  Sure, he gave us the gift of life, but he's certainly not a very gracious gift-giver.  Wouldn't you be annoyed if your aunt called you up six times a day expecting an outpouring of gratitude for that scented candle she sent you last Christmas?  A perfect, benevolent, fatherly deity wouldn't want us to feel indefinitely indebted to him.  He would kindly accept what gratitude we offered, tell us we were quite welcome, and suggest that we not feel the need to mention it any longer.  Right?

Not this god, apparently.  Not that we really have a clear concept of his characteristics anyway, since this verse seems to further complicate the church's scriptural stance on the Trinity.

gic Circular Lo
Near the end of this chapter, Mormon really makes the wheels in your head spin (verse 9):
For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.
Just to clarify a little bit, let me replace a few vague words with the things Mormon is actually referring to:
For behold, [Mormon's words are] written for the intent that ye may believe [the Book of Mormon]; and if ye believe [The Book of Mormon] ye will believe [Mormon's words] also; and if ye believe [Mormon's words] ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.
 So...a part of the Book of Mormon is written for the intent that reader will believe the whole Book of Mormon?  And if the reader believes the whole Book of Mormon he will believe a section contained within the Book of Mormon?  And if he believes that smaller portion he'll know some important stuff?

This whole verse is just ridiculous.  Mormon could have saved himself so much time by simply taking references to his own writings out of the equation:
For behold, if ye believe [The Book of Mormon] ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.
There!  Wasn't that easier to write?  And easier to understand?  Without sacrificing the central point of the verse?  I should be charging Mormon two senines of gold per thousand words for editing fees.

It's almost as though this book was produced by a relatively uneducated, relatively inexperienced writer.


  1. Maybe I'm being nitpicky here, but the Bible I read and all the movies I've seen about Jesus actually have the Romans nailing Jesus to the cross not the Jews.

    If we're ceaselessly singing praises to God, when are we going to find time to endlessly procreate countless numbers of spirit children with our numerous wives on our own planets? Or maybe we sing those praises while procreating. It's a kind of Mormon multitasking.

    1. There probably wasn't a Reformed Egyptian word for "Roman." The closest translation was "Jew." These are not the droids you're looking for.

      And I guess maybe in the celestial Kingdom, it will no longer be blasphemous to call out the Lord's name during sex.