The endless stream of Jaredite names and kings continues, but at least in this chapter we start to get a little more detail.
The Sexism Continues
Yes, we've all heard that there are only three female Book of Mormon characters with names. But the problem isn't just about the way the narrative is skewed to heavily favor the involvement of men—it's also about the way women are depicted when they're important enough to be part of the story.
So here's the situation: the king Omer is overthrown by his son, Jared, who imprisons him and uses him as a puppet ruler. Omer's other children don't like this, so they go to war against Jared, defeat him in battle, and only spare his life when he agrees to return the kingdom to Omer. This is when the "exceedingly fair" daughter of Jared hatches a plan to get him back on the throne. Knowing full well how hot she is, she dances for Akish, who's one of Omer's buddies, and gets him so riled up that he wants to marry her. Jared's price to approve the wedding? Bring me Omer's head.
No, really. Literally. This is what Jared says in verse 12: "I will give her unto you, if ye will bring unto me the head of my father, the king." This results in Akish setting up a secret combination (and we all know how bad those things are) so that he and his friends can conspire to murder the king.
So it's safe to say that Jared's daughter is a central figure in the events that unfold in this chapter. Nevertheless, despite being the originator of a pretty plot-important intrigue, she isn't named. The men around her all proudly bear monikers preserved into the modern era, but she does not.
And this also continues a slight pattern in the Book of Mormon. This woman's strength appears to lie primarily in her sex appeal and her ability to manipulate men with it, and it's not the first time this has happened in a book that's almost entirely barren of the female presence. Remember the harlot Isabel who led away Corianton? Remember the way the priests of Noah went nuts when they saw those Lamanite daughters dancing? It's the sex appeal.
But for Abish and arguably Sariah, we'd learn from the Book of Mormon that women are uniformly weak, uninteresting, and only powerful or remarkable in rare intervals due solely to the fact that men like the way they look.
An Un-Level Playing Field
Moroni's narration brings up an odd point when he starts to speak directly to present-day Gentiles (verse 23):
Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.Oh, that's nice. The Book of Mormon will be revealed to us so that we can read this stuff, avoid suffering, and escape eternal destruction.
But where was this sentiment a few chapters ago when God was choosing to withhold the gospel from the Earth? How is it wisdom to let humanity blunder around in the dark for a millennium or two and then brag about how great it is to suddenly offer to illuminate the way for them? I mean, if God is specifically showing these scriptures to us in order to help us avoid the sword of justice, doesn't it logically follow that he doesn't actually care if all those other people who lived during the great apostasy avoid the sword of justice?
Thou Shalt Not Kill
I'm not going through this chapter in order, because this last verse I'm going to address is way too juicy to stick in the middle. I had to save the best for last (verse 19):
For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.The Lord worketh not in secret combinations? So...when Joseph became a Freemason and then quickly designed Mormon temple ceremonies to closely mirror that organization, including all the ritual secrecy...that wasn't from the Lord? Even though the highest levels of leadership of his church have no public transcripts, no available financial statements, and hardly any accountability as they amass wealth, buy up properties, and run businesses to—dare I say it—get gain, that's not how the Lord works?
But honestly, that's not even my biggest problem with this verse. It's that this verse also emphatically states that God has forbidden the shedding of blood in all things. God damn, Joseph, did you even read the book you wrote? Because that's one hell of a continuity error. Let's go back to the beginning, to Nephi 4:10-13:
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him.
And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property.
And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands;
Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.
It's pretty safe to say that this took place after the "beginning of man," which means that Ether, a prophet of God, also happens to be a filthy liar. God specifically told Nephi to shed blood. He engineered the situation to deliver Laban into Nephi's hands so that he could kill him. He didn't strike Laban dead like Uzzah or get him conveniently trampled like Korihor. He arranged for one of his servants to chop his head off.
God is clearly not the same yesterday, today, and forever. But he certainly is fond of insisting that he is.
And besides, if God is so vehemently opposed to bloodshed, why are his scriptures so littered with violence? Look at all the faithful Mormons who have shed blood—Nephi, Ammon, Captain Moroni, and the Stripling Warriors on to Joseph Smith (defending himself at Carthage Jail) and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Didn't somebody once famously say something about knowing them by their fruits? The fruits of this god seem to include a history of violence.
Thankfully, I wouldn't say that there's anything particularly violent about the current LDS church. But I don't think it's accurate to say that Mormonism worships a god who has forbidden bloodshed since the beginning of man. But that's exactly what this chapter of the Book of Mormon teaches.