Monday, March 29, 2021

D&C 38: Very Poor Choice of Words

Based on the chapter header, this revelation is essentially one of the earliest general conference transcripts.  There seems to be a lot of careless wording in this section that causes some internal contradictions within these verses and within the broader Mormon theology.

I Don't Get No Respect
The first problematic phrasing I'd like to highlight is in verse 16:

And for your salvation I give unto you a commandment, for I have heard your prayers, and the poor have complained before me, and the rich have I made, and all flesh is mine, and I am no respecter of persons.

It's a bold claim to say you're no respecter of persons in the same sentence where you label the poor as whiners and you label the rich as people who have benefited from your generosity.  I am also no respecter of persons, regardless of whether the person is a nagging shrew or a chill dude.  I'm totally not sexist, though, because I just said I'm no respecter of persons.  I judge everyone on the same criteria, even if they're—ugh—women.

Paradisiacal Glory Like Unto Fort Lauderdale
There have been plenty of questions about the logistics of the afterlife in Mormonism, but this section seems to muddy the waters a bit (verse 20):

And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away.

How is anyone supposed to have the earth as the land of their inheritance if they're going to be exalted and create their own worlds?  What's the point of possessing the land of our inheritance for eternity if we'll be living with God and our massive eternal families in the Celestial Kingdom?  Will the earth stand forever as a planet-sized timeshare that a few billion of us at a time will steal away to when we want a break from the rigors of civilization-building and commandment-issuing?

Paradisiacal Existence Like Unto the Handmaid's Tale
But our post-mortal experience gets even weirder over the two subsequent verses:

But, verily I say unto you that in time ye shall have no king nor ruler, for I will be your king and watch over you.
Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?

Okay, so we won't have a king or a ruler, because God will be our king, which means we'll still have a king.  We shall be a free people as long as we follow a strict set of rules that someone else has established for us.  The only laws we'll have after the Second Coming will be God's laws, but they come with a weird threat that none can stay his hand and therefore no one can stop him and resistance is futile.

I sure am glad the Millennium seems to keep drifting further away from us as time progresses, because that all sounds like some theocratic totalitarianism trying to frame itself as some kind of benevolent libertarian utopian...dictatorship.  I've consumed enough speculative fiction to know that's probably not gonna end well.

Right Back Atcha
God also takes this revelation as a perfect opportunity for him to come dangerously close to arguing against himself (verse 26):

For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?

That's a fantastic question, actually.  

What man among you having billions of children, and is no respecter of them, and they've obediently sided with him in the War in Heaven, and he saith unto the one:  Be thou born into economic abundance with a sexual identity that I don't disapprove of to a family that will grant you access to the ordinances I require for you to gain eternal exaltation and sit thou here; and to the other:  Be thou born into a society with scarce access to water, nutrition, education, medical care, and human rights and also be thou born with a crippling illness that manifests itself in early childhood and sit thou there—and looketh upon his children and saith I am just?

Puzzlement at Pieces
Verse 27 is a good one for the cherry-pickers:

Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

It's undoubtedly a good sentiment, but God and his church don't do much beyond giving it lip service.  God says be thou one and then he uses skin color in canonized scripture as a way to distinguish between the wicked and the righteous.  I wonder why we aren't unified?

God's apostles preach this scripture from the pulpit but consistently paint apostates as dangerous, enact policies that keep LGBTQ+ members at the fringes of the church, and perpetually limit the voice and authority of women in the church.  I wonder why we aren't one?

This is like a jigsaw puzzle manufacturer being confused about why their product comes out of the box in a thousand pieces and requires a lot of time and effort before the customer can see the single completed picture.


Don't Panic
After some nebulous speculation about cataclysmic events, verse 30 includes the classic proverb, "if ye are prepared ye shall not fear."  As far as teachings go that don't target a specific group (like racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic teachings), this is one of the worst, I think.

It does sound nice on its face.  Except there's no way to know if you're actually adequately prepared, which means a statement promising an end to fear actually intensifies the fear.  It leads to sermons like Bednar's speech about the benefits of increasing the loads we carry.  You gotta do more and more to make sure you're prepared, which consequently keeps you in a constant state of anxiety and a constant state of fearing that you'll never achieve that promised peace.  Proclaiming an unattainable cure exacerbates the disease.

And there are still things that you can suffer immensely for even if you're righteous and prepared.  One could easily argue that Daniel, Abinadi, and Joseph Smith were all prepared.  But they still went through horrible things that any reasonable person would fear.  This scriptural adage shames totally reasonable fears and teaches us that if we're afraid of something, then we haven't done enough.  That's not healthy emotionally, spiritually, or cardiovascularly.  

Look Out for Number One
The section ends on a weird note with these closing comments:

And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen.

Save yourselves?  Seriously?

This is 1831, so we can't even make the excuse that the young church is threatened by persecution and needs to abandon Missouri or flee west to the Rocky Mountains or anything like that.  We're still in New York at this point.  Whatever happened to our moral responsibility to spread the gospel and bring the truth to the wayward world so that we can save as many of our brothers and sisters as we can?

Save yourselves.  Fly, you fools.  

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