Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Moroni 6: Idealized Flashback

Moroni continues explaining how things were way back when the Nephites were still basking in the post-Messianic-visitation afterglow.

Tear 'em Down to Build 'em Up
Verse 2 paints an interesting vision of the baptismal ordinance that doesn't exactly jive with the present-day Mormon version:
Neither did they receive any unto baptism save they came forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, and witnessed unto the church that they truly repented of all their sins.
I can absolutely guarantee that when I was baptized I had neither a broken heart nor a contrite spirit.  It was a rite of passage.  I was excited, not heartbroken.  I had a proud spirit, not a contrite one, because I was doing what my family and my ward leaders wanted me to do.  I was eight and had yet to really commit serious sin, but I don't recall any public affirmation I had to make detailing the renouncing of my iniquitous ways. 

With the church's continuing obsession with growth, this scriptural teaching has almost definitely fallen by the wayside.  Missionary discussions push for baptismal commitments so early on that there's no way the elders have time to really assess the brokenness of an investigator's heart or the contriteness of an investigator's spirit.  The numbers-driven mission culture has resulted in Japanese "baseball baptisms" and South American "soccer baptisms."  The church is not following the pattern set forth in scripture by the Mormonism the Nephites observed immediately after Jesus Christ appeared to them.

Plus I don't love the concept of a convert needing to be broken down to a piteously devastated level—I mean brokenheartedly contrite level—to be worthy of God's saving ordinances...buuuuut that's a different discussion.

Pharisaical Paradise
A possible precursor to today's courts of love crops up in verse 7:
And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ.
Does that not sound eerily like "every member a thought policeman" or what?  And it seems to imply excommunication, which I despise.  It seems that the Nephites were even more liberal with the spiritual guillotine than the Monsonites are, because all it took was an unregenerate member with three people willing to tattle.

But another difference here between ancient and modern churches is less flattering to today's Mormonism.  I'm not sure it's fair to say that the LDS church is so strident in its opposition to iniquity as its predecessor.  Financial fraud, sexual predation, and other forms of abuse are far too common in the church and far too poorly penalized.  If the church were following the example of this short-lived Nephite utopia, excommunications would be more common and they would be applied more commonly to damaging, traumatizing, and predatory iniquity than to any threats posed by doubt or homosexuality.

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