Saturday, January 17, 2015

Apostasy and Scripture

Here's an idea I've had for the past few days. I could put some effort into formulating it, but screw that, that's not how I roll. I'mma dash off some barely-coherent crap.

I can remember the feeling I had as a child of anticipating additional scripture. I wanted to read the record of the Lost Tribes of Israel and the Book of Ether (assuming the whole record was named after the final compiler the way Mormon's record was). But then Moroni went and threw this bucket of cold water on my plans:

For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord. And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are. [emphasis added]
So the Jaredite record won't come forth until the recipients have one-of-a-kind faith. Hmm, that's a pretty tall order.

But there are two ways to raise the average faith rating of a group: get everyone more faithful, or lose the below-average. Of course, no one says, "Your testimony must be this tall to enter." But what does happen quite a bit is those with insufficient faith remove themselves from the group.

Over the past few years, I've been growing increasingly frustrated with the dwindling faith of those around me. The Maxwell Institute problem is a big deal to me because I think a number of people are very wrong and what's even more disturbing is the refusal of those in authority positions to set them straight. When John Dehlin says he can call Church headquarters and get a Mormon Studies Review article yanked, even if that's not what happened, the fact that the story is sort of believable (after all, something got the article yanked) is perhaps the most-troubling aspect of it all.

So I'm tired of feeling like I'm taking crazy pills. I want to be done with it. I feel like a Nephite on the first Christmas Eve: I know I'm right, but I'd like to get past the "But are you really right? REALLY?!?" that the world--increasingly so from fellow Mormons--brings up daily.

I got to thinking about the Nephites in the time of Mosiah the First. Sure, the record is spartan, but we can read between the lines.

  1. Mosiah didn't lead the Nephite nation to Zarahemla, he led "as many as would hearken". This seems to me to be a major division among the people. Those who viewed the Brass Plates as "inspired fiction" and those who thought Mosiah was just a member of the oppressive privileged patriarchy (and possibly suffering from dementia) stayed behind. Only those who demonstrated their faith by following their prophet-king into the woods were there for what came next.
  2. What came next was the discovery of the people of Zarahemla (in the Columbus-discovering-America sense of "discovery"--Zarahemla wasn't the one who was lost in the woods). The first part of their faith, that they would still be safe in a reduced group, was rewarded with the addition of a group larger than their own.
  3. Then came the first information regarding Jaredites: a record made by the last Jaredite king. And then, because the people desired more information, Mosiah's grandson translated the Book of Ether.

The Book of Ether was "another testament of Jehovah (Jesus Christ)," and probably faced opposition from those who said, "Brass plates! Brass plates! We have got brass plates, and there cannot be any more brass plates." It also functioned for the Nephites as the Book of Mormon is to function for us: a record of the previously-favored inhabitants to point out for us the causes of their destruction so we don't repeat the process. It was immense, and just as the Book of Mormon introduced Nephite names into Mormon culture, the Book of Ether introduced Jaredite names into Nephite culture (proper names show a notable shift from the time of Alma onward). During the tail-end of Helaman, when the Nephites bastardized everything about their religion, there was probably as much Book of Ether artwork and memorabilia as there is Book of Mormon merchandise in our day (think Emer action figure).

My point is that the Nephite process of receiving the Book of Ether shows a pattern for receiving additional scripture. First, there's a winnowing, removing those who are dragging down the faith of the group. The remaining rump then receives the desired blessing in reward for their perseverance.

Of course, there's more required than just desiring the record as an intellectual curiosity. President Ezra Taft Benson was adamant about the need for the church to take the Book of Mormon seriously before we will be blessed with anything else. Perhaps it's no accident that we will (at least, we should) hear that message repeatedly this year in Priesthood and Relief Society. And only those who have not winnowed themselves away will be there to hear it.

1 comment:

Alanna said...

Buying Book of Mormon action figures doesn't make me more righteous????

Okay, I love this post. I've become increasingly alarmed at the number of people I see dissenting away from the Church. I'd never considered that it might be a necessary step in refining our members. That's a lot less scary than that half our membership is going nuts...