Saturday, June 13, 2020

D&C 22: Groggy God

This section is surprisingly dense with problems considering it's a whopping four verses.  

Holy Paradox, Batman!
It begins with what should be a blatant self-contradiction from God that might set some kind of a land speed record (verse 1):

Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning.

Okay, read that back and tell me how it makes sense.  The old covenants are gone.  This is a new covenant, which existed previously, from the beginning.'s not new then?  Or is it?

This is like the nonsense God mumbles when he wakes up in the morning and his consciousness is still struggling to separate reality from the dream it was just inhabiting.  It sounds like him, but he's not actually making sense.

Works Without Works Are Dead
Then we move on to a sideways entry into the old faith-versus-works debate that I'm not sure the current church would fully agree with:

Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.

For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.
God refers to dead works twice here.  Nelson and Friends seem to really emphasize works, though, because they want you to keep busy being anxiously engaged—and I do mean anxiously—in a Mormon cause.  If works were really dead, why would they prescribe so many works like doing your ministering, serving in your callings, attending your presidency meetings, teaching your children the Come, Follow Me curriculum, cleaning the church, indexing names from public records, attending the temple, et cetera?  If works were really dead, wouldn't all that constitute an apostolic edict to waste your life doing things that don't really amount to anything? 

But that's not really what bothers me about this passage.  What really bothers me is that this covenant of baptism is being propped up as a solution to the fact that works are dead.  But isn't...isn't baptism just...isn't it just another work?  It's not a state of mind.  It's not a quality of building faith in oneself.  It's an outward expression of faith, sure, but it's a discrete one-time event.  It's a task to be accomplished.  It's a work.

The normal thing to debate about here is whether faith is of greater importance than works.  But God is saying that the things we do aren't going to get us into Heaven, so he's remedying the problem by giving us a required physical action to complete.  He's not saying we should focus on faith because our works are dead.  He's saying we should focus on a specific work because works are dead.

Three verses in and God still hasn't snapped out of his post-sleep stupor.

Who's in Charge Here?
But maybe God is back to his old self for the last verse:

Wherefore, enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to counsel your God. Amen.

Damn, Elohim just dropped the mic.

Apparently Joseph didn't like the way some of his converts were approaching the concept of baptism.  This isn't like a driver's license, people, you can't just cross denominational lines and keep using what you came with.  You gotta take the driver's test all over again when you join this church.

I suppose counseling God on this issue would have been pretty tempting for the early Saints, though.  It seems reasonable that if you were baptized into Christianity you wouldn't think a Mormon baptism to be necessary.  But this scripture sounds like something Oaks would whip out when confronted with Ordain Women, Any Opposed, or anyone pushing for sincere acceptance of LGBT members.  It is frustrating to be in a position of authority over people who relentlessly challenge your actions.

But it would help if your actions weren't so awful.  People are less likely to question things that aren't awful—which is a lesson Joseph would learn too late, if at all.

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