Sunday, November 26, 2017

Moroni 7: Contradictation

Moroni now shares an old sermon from his father's journal of discourses.  Apparently there was a time during poor Mormons's tumultuous existence when there were actually enough righteous people among the Nephites that he had a church to preach in and a congregation to preach to.  Apparently he had one good week in there between all the war and wickedness.

Say It Ain't Not Isn't Not Not So
Early in his address, Mormon alludes to a classic teaching of Christ (verse
For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
And then he goes on to confusingly deconstruct—or maybe enhance?—this Sermon on the Mount reference.  He basically says that even though you can tell if someone's good by seeing their good works, you may need to redefine good.  And works.  Or maybe know.
For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing. 
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness. 
For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God. 
And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such. 
Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.
Seriously, what's the point in saying you can know someone by their works if you have to clarify that works can look good but not actually be good depending on the doer's disposition and therefore won't count as righteousness only you can't know that because it's due to internal intent instead of the face value of the act itself no matter how pious it may seem because even though the work itself was good it actually wasn't because—

See what I mean?  I'm not a believer in Jesus, so normally I'm fine disagreeing with the Bible.  And normally I'd say that Jesus's version is a bit naive.  But Mormon looks like such an idiot trying to piggyback on Jesus while actually contradicting him that I kind of want to side with Jesus on principle.  "By their fruits shall ye know them" may be naive, but at least it's pithy, memorable, know...not rife with internally contradictory hogwash.

Mormon is an Idiot
This chapter is starting to make me angry (verses 16-17):
For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. 
But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.
Like it's really that friggin' easy! If it were that dead simple there would be a lot less evil in the world. One of the many problems with this concept do you define evil in the convoluted moral calculus that plagues even the most ordinary person? Obviously building a homeless shelter is good and slaughtering your family is bad. But the overwhelming majority of human decisions are far more complex. Lying is bad. Being mean is bad. Do you tell someone the truth if it will cause hurt feelings? Mormon's perfect solution can't even provide a good answer to a relatively simple problem that every single person in the history of everything has faced. What use is it if the obvious questions are easy and the slightly more nuanced questions are impossible?

It's also kind of weird that the Book of Mormon refers to the devil's followers as "his angels."  That makes the Mormon mythology murkier.  What the hell is an angel then, anyway?  According to the LDS Bible dictionary they're messengers of God.  Except when they're not, because this entry also alludes to "the devil's angels," and then gives a few references to the possibly-incorrectly-translated Bible.  It doesn't mention that the devil's angels show up here in the good ol' Book of Mormon, perhaps because you'd think the most correct book that had been translated by the power of God would be able to keep its doctrinal terminology straight.  This is hardly something that's essential to our salvation, but it sure fits well with the theory that Joseph Smith was making this stuff up.

Angels Among Us
Slightly less infuriating, but maybe enough for a groan and an eye roll, is Mormon's clearly outdated teaching about miracles and angels (verses 29 and 30):
And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men. 
For behold, they are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
According to the church-approved narrative of Joseph Smith's life, verse 29 contains a question that Mormonism is uniquely suited to answer. The church is supposed to be proud that miracles and revelation continue in the modern day just like with prophets of old. Except that scriptural-style miracles don't happen anymore. There are no unending loaves and fishes, there are no resurrections of dead friends, there are no missionaries delivered from captivity by dark smoke and loud voices. There are some arguably apocryphal anecdotes from early church history, but miracles—as most people think of them—have least where Mormonism is concerned.

Apostles don't directly claim to speak with God and they don't claim to have been visited by angels. According to Mormon, as long as these prophets are firm in the faith, there isn't really an explanation for why angels don't appear to them—or to other worthy church members. And this is kind of insulting, considering that Alma the Younger, Laman and Lemuel, and Saul of Tarsus were given angelic visitation despite clearly not meeting Mormon's godliness requirements.

What's the point in teaching something in the scriptures if it's not actually going to work out that way? What's worse is the way the next verse begins:
And the office of their ministry is to call men unto repentance...
So they show themselves to those who are firm in the faith and those who need to be called to repentance? What about the rest of us? What about the middle of the spectrum, where people struggle with what they believe and pray for signs and answers? What kind of sense does this angel policy make, and why does it not seem to apply anymore?  Verse 37 answers part of that question:
...and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
This makes no sense! If angels appear by faith, how were they calling faithless scriptural apostates to repentance? And it's obnoxious the way this chapter tries to cover its bases. The past few verses basically boil down to "Of course miracles haven't ceased! Oh, but just in case they have, here's probably why—it's your own fault." How quintessentially Mormon of Mormon.

Faith Hope Love
Remember when the Star Wars prequels came out and we were all disappointed with, among other things, Yoda's terrible dialogue? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering? Except that it isn't as wise as it initially sounded because the ordering of all these terms can be scrambled and it still makes the same amount of sense? Well, Mormon is about to pull a Yoda and crank the dial up to eleven. Verses 38 through 47 is his convoluted masterpiece of solemn-sounding nonsense.  I'll summarize to save you some time:

You can't be saved without faith. You can't attain faith without hope. But without faith there can be no hope. You can have neither faith nor hope without meekness. If you don't have meekness then your faith and hope are not acceptable to God. If you're going to be meek and faithful, you'll need to have charity. Without charity, you are nothing.

Wouldn't it have been simpler and less contradictory to just skip right to the preaching about charity? Because this is really just a pointless moebius strip of semantic self-indulgence.

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