Friday, June 26, 2020

D&C 24: Preaching, Patience, and Pruning

This section is the first of three revelations given as church leaders were in "partial seclusion" for fear of persecution.  I have to wonder if the vague terms the section header uses to refer to the persecution is a way of softening up the audience for later.  

See, I had no idea when I was in seminary that the "persecution" that landed Joseph Smith dead outside Carthage Jail was largely about polygamy.  But by the time you get to the era when polygamy was a thing, you've been prepared to dismiss persecution as some aimless evil because it's been described in such non-specific but clearly negative language as early on in the story as 1830.  Joseph won't marry Fanny Alger until more than two years after this section and polygamy won't really kick into high gear until almost ten years after this section.  But when we get to that point in the story we'll be used to not knowing the specific motivations for anti-Mormonism—and we'll be used to not having to know them.

Paperback Writer
Today's reading begins with some problematic but not necessarily damning word choice:

Behold, thou wast called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon, and to my ministry;
Yes, God said "write."  And yes, he was talking to Joseph Smith—the chapter summary confirms verses 1-9 and directed at Joseph and verse 10 refers to Oliver Cowdery as "thy brother Oliver." 

So what does this mean, exactly?  I fully admit this is not a smoking gun, but this sure is an odd way for God to phrase his sentence.  Joseph didn't do any of the actual writing of the Book of Mormon, of course, because he had scribes for that.  So if God isn't referring to the physical inscription of the words when he uses the verb "write," what is he referring to?  Is he referring to the act of authorship?  Is God saying Joseph's job was to come up with this stuff?

It's not totally crazy, considering the original publication of the Book of Mormon had Joseph listed as the "author and proprietor."  It does seem crazy that God himself would have called Joseph to fabricate a book of stories to be passed off as religious history and then dropped a hint about this in a later revelation.

So, again, not a smoking gun, but I feel like that particular line fits much more comfortably with ex-Mormon preconceptions than with Mormon preconceptions.

Betting on Every Horse
Let's break down the prophetic logic of verse 4:

But if they receive thee not, I will send upon them a cursing instead of a blessing.
God has just advised Joseph to go speedily to Colesville, Fayette, and Manchester, where the members of the church will support him.  

It's a little weird that a prophecy from an omniscient god contains what basically amounts to an if/then/else statement.  Doesn't God know damn well what's going to happen?  He shouldn't need to qualify his prophecies or cover his bases like this—but a charlatan would need to.  

This is God's way of saying, "Go here so those people will do a thing.  But if they don't do a thing, I'll totally punish those jerkfaced nincompoops."  That's certainly not very godlike, but it does seem like the kind of thing a false prophet may want to put in God's mouth so that he can manipulate people into doing what he wants them to do.

Indolence is Next to Godliness
Verse 9 is suspiciously convenient for a certain audacious young con artist:

And in temporal labors thou shalt not have strength, for this is not thy calling. Attend to thy calling and thou shalt have wherewith to magnify thine office, and to expound all scriptures, and continue in laying on of the hands and confirming the churches.
Joseph just had God give him permission to be intentionally unemployed because that's not his "calling." I'd almost admire the audacity if it weren't so slimy.  And lazy.

Sic 'em, God
God utterly fails to be a reliable wingman in verse 16:
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall lay their hands upon you by violence, ye shall command to be smitten in my name; and, behold, I will smite them according to your words, in mine own due time.

This is a disconcerting clarification God adds at the end here.  If someone physically attacks you, God's got your back, but probably not right away.  But after you've been tarred and feathered and beaten to a pulp, two weeks later, in his own due time, BAM—God's gonna smite the shit outta that guy.  Bummer about the broken teeth and the cracked ribs, but Heavenly Father works on his own timeline.  

Isn't he a great deity to have in your corner?

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