Sunday, December 27, 2015

Helaman 14: Another Prick on the Wall, Part II

Still perched precariously atop the wall like a dark and loathsome Humpty Dumpty, Samuel the Lamanite bravely expounds the details of the Savior's imminent arrival.

Samuel Stumbles Through the Plan of Salvation
After explaining the astronomer-confounding signs of Jesus's coming, our favorite minority preacher details the importance of His birth (verse 17):
But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of the Lord.
Except that it doesn't.  When, exactly, will all mankind be brought back into God's presence?  As far as I understand the Plan of Happiness, it's never. Only those who reach the Celestial Kingdom will be graced with the physical companionship (or neighbor-ship) of the big man himself.  And while I suppose the casualties from the War in Heaven might not technically count as "mankind," I don't think we should be rejoicing about any kind of broad, sweeping redemption while a third of our spirit siblings still languish in some cosmic gulag.

Perhaps sensing that he may have misspoken slightly, Samuel tries to walk back his statement in the following verse:
Yea, and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance, that whosoever repenteth the same is not hewn down and cast into the fire; but whosoever repenteth not is hewn down and cast into the fire; and there cometh upon them again a spiritual death, yea, a second death, for they are cut off again as to things pertaining to righteousness.
So maybe all mankind is redeemed from spiritual death, but the people who aren't on the Celestial track are subjected to a second spiritual death.  Which, apparently, is a teaching that is supported by, which states that our resurrection reunites us with God so that we can be judged. Personally, I think it's pretty disingenuous to claim that we're being rescued from our spiritual death if the purpose of said rescue is merely to determine whether or not to return us to our previous state of being spiritually dead.

Ignorance is Bliss
Samuel the Lamanite also demonstrates here that he's a presumptuous little turd who takes wild risks with other people's eternal fates (verse 19):
Therefore repent ye, repent ye, lest by knowing these things and not doing them ye shall suffer yourselves to come under condemnation, and ye are brought down unto this second death.
Why would you publicly declare this stuff knowing full well that the knowledge you're imparting to innumerable strangers is inherently fraught with severe risk? And why would you mention the risks when you're forty verses deep instead of putting them in a disclaimer at the beginning?  Why is it okay to assume that everyone within earshot is totally fine with the terms and conditions to which they haven't agreed?

Miracles, Free Will, and All That Nonsense
Samuel transitions into an explanation for why so many crazy and terrible things are going to happen in America when Jesus dies (verses 28-29):
And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men— 
And this to the intent that whosoever will believe might be saved, and that whosoever will not believe, a righteous judgment might come upon them; and also if they are condemned they bring upon themselves their own condemnation.
There's so much interlacing, overlapping, underpinning wrongness in here that I'm not even sure where to begin explaining how wrong the levels of wrongness are.  But here's an attempt:

First of all, we have Samuel explaining that the purpose of God's powerful displays is to convince anyone who might be an unbeliever.  This flies in the face of the famous Mormon adage "faith precedes the miracle" and also contradicts the common Mormon teaching that the reason Laman and Lemuel never converted despite the miraculous events they'd witnessed is that faith can't be built on miracles.  So I don't know why God thinks knocking over a few mountains and letting a few storms run amok is going to create conditions that allow "no cause for unbelief," since his chosen servants have explained many times that this kind of thing doesn't work.

And it shouldn't have worked anyway in more grounded terms.  At least when an angel appears to someone and claims to be sent by God, things are a little more obvious.  But how is a cascade of unattributed natural disasters supposed to irrefutably imply the presence, identity, and gospel of this particular deity?  What's to stop people from assuming that The Great Spirit or Zeus or Chthulu isn't the one behind all this devastation?  And why isn't God intelligent enough to realize that, if he expects to be understood, he needs to be more direct and more specific?

On top of that, however, doesn't trying to remove the cause for disbelief kind of contradict the stated goals of the Plan of Salvation?  Aren't we supposed to be confronted with many options from which we need to choose the correct one?  Big cosmic displays that are designed to whittle our reasonable choices down to one utterly defeat the purpose of our mortal estate.  Whatever happened to free agency?

And then there's the whole "you make your own bed and you lay down in it" sentiment at the end.  Isn't it good to know that after a lifetime of being buffeted about in a maelstrom of confusing choices, we'll possibly have brought our own condemnation upon ourselves?  This comment is not the mark of a benevolent, compassionate being.  For one thing, God hasn't made his case nearly as compellingly as he thinks he has, so he should be a little more understanding of those who haven't accepted his divinity.  And if he wants to convince us that he's a truly loving paternal figure, he should be a little more gentle and dispense with the "you did this to yourself, you stupid bastard" kind of mentality.

Plus, it's easy to argue that we only brought this condemnation upon ourselves under duress.  I mean, in the War in Heaven, what were our realistic options?  We could have sided with Lucifer and gotten kicked out of Heaven for good, or we could have sided with God and agreed to his sadistic little plan of free agency and no guarantees.  If we went with Lucifer, we'd be totally screwed.  If we went with God, we might wind up totally screwed, or it could totally pay off.  That wasn't exactly a fair choice, and I don't think it's just to be punished so harshly for being railroaded into accepting the Plan of Salvation.


  1. Preaching to people who you know won't accept it, which then condemns them to lose their chance for the Celestial Kingdom always seemed odd to me. A comedian in Salt Lake said the he will wait until after his friends are dead to baptize them. It'll save them 10%. That sounds like a much better plan.

    Didn't Korihor simply want one of those signs so he could be sure? Look what happened to him! The God of Joseph smith needs to get a little more consistent.

    1. Maybe the fine difference is that Korihor ASKED for a sign, but this generation of Nephites is having signs FORCED on them.

      Although, a lot of them are going to die because of these signs, so maybe the two situations aren't that different anyway.