Friday, March 2, 2012

1 Nephi 11: The Tree of Life, Digitally Remastered

Oh Look, More Visions
Nephi has a vision of what his dad saw in the vision of the Tree of Life. I've already touched on how many freaking visions have taken place so far, and the trend seems to be continuing.

Why Is Mary Beautiful?
In Nephi's vision, the angel shows him Mary and asks him what he sees. His answer? "A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins." I don't understand why he makes a big deal about how beautiful she is. Why didn't he just say "a virgin?" Or, to be less creepy, why not "a young woman?"

In fact, assigning Mary an almost supernatural level of beauty kind of demeans some of the important aspects of Jesus's birth. As one of the most notable lessons of what power and greatness really mean, Jesus--the King of the Jews, Savior of Mankind, Son of God, etc, etc--was born into extremely humble circumstances. His father was a carpenter, not a member of the wealthy class. He was brought into the world to little fanfare in a stable. Saying that his mother was the most beautiful of all virgins makes those circumstances seem less humble. The whole point is that he was born to parents who were totally average and unremarkable to the world, but they were good people in the eyes of God. What we're supposed to learn from the story of Jesus's birth is that what the world sees isn't what is important--that greatness comes from character and not from wealth or social status.

But if Mary is a total babe...well, let's just say that's something the world definitely notices. It waters down the meaning of the story. So why bother to mention that Mary is beautiful at all?

Origins of the Superiority Complex
In the closing verses of this chapter, Nephi learns that the "great and spacious building" which Lehi saw in his dream (the one with the people who mocked the ones who followed the iron rod to the tree and ate the fruit) represented the pride of the world. And, apparently, in Nephi's version, this building fell. And then the angel told him:
Thus shall be the destruction of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, that shall fight against the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Nice. So Joseph Smith writes a book that he claims contains the word of God. The book also contains statements like this ("'ll get yours!"). Then Smith begins preaching that the religion he built around this book is the only religion on the entire planet that's actually right about stuff.

And a century and a half later, Mormons have this weird theological superiority complex and an "us versus them" mentality. That sounds a little bit like cause and effect.


  1. I'm more confused that he could tell by looking at her that she was a virgin.