Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ether 1: The Book of Mormon Reboot

And now we dive into Ether, a book of scripture that was aptly named, considering its distant and nebulous relationship with reality.

Genealogy, I Am Reading It
It's a long established claim here that the records that were eventually published as The Book of Mormon were created by pulling together many various accounts of ancient Americans and etching the most important things from these accounts onto a limited number of metal plates.  And this is precisely what Moroni is doing when Ether begins.

But the first five verses of Ether are a needlessly detailed explanation of the fact that Moroni is abridging an existing record.  And then the next twenty-seven verses consist solely of a genealogical line that links the characters in the book to the book's namesake.

Not only was this an absurd waste of effort and space, but it begs the question:  how, exactly, is knowing that Riplakish was the son of Shez essential to my salvation?  How is it essential to anything?  How was it worth writing down when Moroni knew damn well that the book was intended for the modern day, an era in which none of these names and their connections to each other would mean a thing to the reader?

More of God's Favoritism
Getting down to the actual plot here, we're introduced to a family living in the time of the Tower of Babel.  Our main protagonist, referred to so far as merely "the brother of Jared," is "highly favored of the Lord."  So when this brother of Jared prays that he and his brother will not have their language confounded, God grants this request.

And then when Jared prays that his friends and their families will not have their languages confounded, God grants that request too.  And then Jared prays to know whether God is going to relocate them and where they should go.  God replies by giving them directions to "a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth" so that he, his friends, and their families will be blessed and will found a society so awesome that "there shall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth."

This is completely unfair.  But it also seems to be the Mormon God's usual MO.  He plays favorites with the righteous people he likes and lets plenty of other people benefit from his favoritism even when they may not have deserved it.  Laman and Lemuel got rescued from the impending Babylonian captivity and taken to the promised land even though they were wicked.  Alma the Younger had an angel appear to him to convince him of the error of his ways because his daddy was the prophet.  And in this case, a whole bunch of people who may or may not have been righteous get dragged along for the ride to blessedness and prosperity because they (or their family members) are buds with Jared or his brother.

I thought God blessed us for obedience and punished us for disobedience.  How is God supposed to have any kind of moral authority when he's basically acting as a bouncer at the front door by letting the guys who know somebody important cut in line?

Not to Bring the Bible into my Criticism, but...
What I'd like to know is how these guys knew beforehand that God was going to give everybody a different language.  What I'd also like to know is why Jared and his brother would have been given different languages from each other.

Obviously, the Tower of Babel story has lots of problems if you interpret it as historical fact rather than as didactic parable.  But it does seem that, either way, the story offers an explanation for how humanity came to be so vastly multilingual.  And with that in mind, why would God have given every individual person a different language?  Wouldn't he have given each family or each existing social group its own language?  That way, when God scatters them across the face of the earth in Genesis 11, each group can successfully build its own nation.  So why would it be in God's interest that brothers would not be able to understand each other?  Did God also confound the toddlers so that they couldn't communicate with their parents, who also couldn't communicate with each other?  That doesn't make any sense.

Based on Joseph Smith's interpretation of the Tower of Babel story, we could have millions of languages today instead of just a few thousand.

Prayer by Proxy
I also think it's weird that everything the brother of Jared prays for is suggested by Jared himself.  If Jared is the one with the questions, why can't he pray about it?  If the brother of Jared is the one who seems happy to let things play out, why is he the one asking God for changes to the plan?  It's almost as if this story is quietly hinting that the effect of a prayer is dependent upon the identity of the person praying.  But we know that's hogwash because God loves us all equally, right?  God is no respecter of persons, right?  He that asketh receiveth, right?

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