Here we have a lengthy section dedicated to Oliver Cowdery as a response from God regarding the vague "thing" that Oliver "desired to know."
Church History Determined That Was a Lie
God makes an incorrect statement in verse 4:
For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.
God is advising Oliver Cowdery that everything he needs can be found in written scripture. But not all things are written in scripture at this point. We know nothing yet about eternal marriage, baptism for the dead, priesthood offices, or the details of the plan of salvation yet. Those seem like some pretty important foundations for God's church and God's gospel. As far as God's rock goes, I'd recommend Oliver for rhythm guitar, but the lineup hasn't been revealed yet either.
Guess the Narrator, Episode 18
This section also contains a scripture mastery heavy hitter, one of my old favorites from my early morning seminary days in the bishop's basement (verses 10-16):
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.And how great is his joy in the soul that repenteth!Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!
Rereading these verses as an ex-Mormon, I'm touched by how detached God sounds. The worth of souls is great in the sight of God? My human dad just says things like, "I love you guys," but my spirit dad says, "you have great worth in my eyes." God is love, he just forgets to say it sometimes. And sometimes his language implies that we're objects with subjective value rather than living beings.
Also, here we have either bad writing, early Mormon Trinitarianism, or both. God is speaking, right? In verse 10, he refers to himself in the third person, and that's fine...he's allowed to do that, I guess, even if he was speaking in the first person a few verses ago.
But then in verse 11, he's referring to our Lord and Redeemer sacrificing himself. This is clearly a reference to Jesus, although he's not usually called "Lord" in modern Mormonism, because that refers to God the Father. So that's merely odd. But he's now referred to both God the Father and Jesus Christ in the third person, so it's a bit unclear who's actually speaking and whether these two people are distinct individuals.
Verse 15 makes things worse when God is talking about bringing souls unto his father. Did we switch narrators? Or has God (the Lord) been speaking the whole time as both his Jesus alter-ego and his Father persona? The only way the identity of the narrator here makes any sense to me is if this section was originally penned with a Trinitarian mindset. That's how God is able to refer to himself and to Jesus in the third person while still narrating from both perspectives. Of course, that merely pushes the burden of logic from the narration and onto the mindbending concept of the Trinity, but I doubt any Mormon would take issue with criticism of the Trinity. Except that it's in their scriptures.
If, as previously stated in this section, the scriptures give us all the knowledge we need about the gospel, why is the scripture currently being revealed making the identities of the members of the godhead so difficult to nail down?
And my last complaint about this passage is the selfish motivations God expects of us. Sure, it's great that tons of baptisms will make us happy, but we're literally saving the eternal fates of our fellow human beings. Shouldn't our motives aspire a little higher than our own fulfilment and reward?
Changing the Rules
God backpedals on a crucial issue in verse 18:
Ask the Father in my name in faith, believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.
Wait...all things which are expedient? Isn't the Holy Ghost a way for us to know the truth of all things? Are you telling me the reason the Spirit didn't confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to me is because it just wasn't expedient? This verse and Moroni 10:4 even use the same verb—manifest. I don't see how this verse is doing anything other than walking back what Moroni so famously taught.
Also, since when do we receive the Holy Ghost merely by asking God in faith in Christ's name believing that we'll receive it? Isn't there supposed to be some kind of, y'know, laying on of hands by a priesthood holder in order to receive that particular gift?
My Name is Jonas
It's starting to feel like someone's just making this stuff up on the fly (verses 24-25):
Wherefore, all men must take upon them the name which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last day;Wherefore, if they know not the name by which they are called, they cannot have place in the kingdom of my Father.
Okay, so you just said (verse 22) all we had to do to be saved was repent, be baptized, and endure to the end. How does a name figure into this? This had better not be some semantic breakdown about how being saved and having a place in the kingdom of my Father are different things. Because when you don't clearly define your terms, it's going to be your fault when people misunderstand you, and you'd think an omniscient god would comprehend that well enough to explain in this section why these two verses don't contradict each other.
But this is just about our eternal happiness, so we can just speak about it in casual generalities and that's not something anyone will get anxious about, right?
Also, not knowing a special name is the dumbest reason not to receive eternal salvation. Theoretically, I could cure cancer and build homeless shelters in dozens of cities and never say an unkind word about anyone, but if I don't know my celestial name, I'm shit outta luck. That's absolute nonsense. And it continues to poke holes in the Mormon depiction of God as a loving Father figure. My biological dad has never once required a secret password for entrance to his house. Because that would be idiotic. He even provides me with the password for his wifi when I'm over there. Because, you know, he actually wants to help his kids and spend time with them.
I suppose it's also likely that the concept of a name here is metaphorical. It's not about knowing the name by which we'll be called (although anyone who's been through a temple endowment knows that at least part of it is knowing the name by which we'll be called), but it's about internalizing the name of Christ so that we're deeply associated with him instead of superficially associated with him or entirely disassociated from him. Which is fine, but surely there are less cryptic and confusing ways for an all-knowing god who would later introduce the idea of a secret temple name by which we'll be called through the veil to have explained this concept in scripture.
One for the Ladies
Verse 42 isn't really doctrinally problematic, but it's not a good look:
For all men must repent and be baptized, and not only men, but women, and children who have arrived at the years of accountability.
Women appear to be a bit of an afterthought, here. Couldn't God, who is wise enough to not have to amend his statements when he's speaking off the cuff, have just said "all people who have arrived at the years of accountability must repent and be baptized"?