Sunday, April 03, 2011

It's in the Bible, It Must Be True

  • The Lord approves of and commands genocide (1 Samuel 15:1-3) and disapproves of freedom of religion (2 Kings 14:3-4, 2 Kings 18:3-4)
  • Poor people should be allowed to drink away their misery. (Proverbs 31:6-7)
  • Ancient Nazarites were white (Lamentations 4:7), but Jeremiah was black. (Jeremiah 8:21)
  • God doesn't answer the prayers of the prophet (Lamentations 3:8)
  • The Messiah came about a year and a half after the return of the Jews from Babylon, ca. 536 BC (Daniel 9:24), was killed just over a year later (Daniel 9:26), and the end of the world occurred either 3.5 years after that or 7 years, depending on whether the time periods from Daniel 12:9-12 are supposed to be additive.  (Note that these verses were apparently the basis for William Miller's prediction of the second coming to be 1844.)
  • Men shouldn't touch women.  (1 Corinthians 7:1)
  • Women shouldn't speak in church; in fact, all gospel questions should be directed only to their husbands (sorry, single ladies) (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
  • Christ was the second man on earth (1 Corinthians 15:47)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"The Miracle of Forgiveness" and the Gospel of Good News

A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in the Pittsburgh 1st Ward about eternal progression, and while I was studying for the talk I thought about a story Pres. Kimball told about a lady who struggled with the commandments nearly all her life, and he asked the question "at what point was she 'saved'?" with the answer being "the moment she started progressing towards becoming like God." At least, I thought it was Pres. Kimball, it might have been something from Stephen Robinson.

Anyway, I thought I ought to do a search for the story, thinking perhaps it might have been in "The Miracle of Forgiveness." When I did a Google search for the book, unfortunately the top link that comes up appears to be a site trying to discredit Mormonism (, as opposed to which appears to have a positive slant). The third link that comes up is also hostile to the church. It appears this book is not used much in the church any more.

The gist of both websites, as far as Pres. Kimball's book is concerned, was that it is at odds with the message of forgiveness presented by, say, Paul in the book of Romans. They even encourage Mormons to read the book (just so they can make the contrast). I for one have not actually read the entire book, although I have read selections from it. I understand it is rather harsh in explaining sin and its consequences.

It occurred to me during church meetings today that Pres. Kimball is actually in good company, even if we ignore the even more harsh consequences of sin described in the Old Testament. In Mosiah 12:20-24, we see Abinadi similarly criticized for not preaching good tidings, joy, redemption, and salvation; focusing instead on warnings about sin and destruction. The following chapters (end of 12 through 16) contain Abinadi's response to this criticism, which is rather long and difficult to summarize. Possibly by the time you finish reading it, you've already forgotten the original question. Try to remember it next time. It shows that the messages of salvation and condemnation are in fact different sides of the same coin. (This is related to my earlier discussion on agency.)

PS: Jeff Lindsay came to the same conclusion about this chapter on his blog entry found here. Although I can't prove it, I actually didn't read it until I had already come up with the same idea about Abinadi's message. He did not, however, draw the parallel with Pres. Kimball.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Avatar and hypocrisy

Erm, changed my mind. I think I'll keep this blog alive. That way I can post thoughts that I'm not entirely sure Sarah wants to be associated with.

Adam R and I watched the movie "Avatar" during my break between driving days as I was going to Pittsburgh. The special effects were great of course, and the story was... well, how do I put this... well told, but it still left me feeling a little empty. Certainly I felt like it was a bit trite to use the United States military as the "bad guys" (in spite of the director's insistence that it wasn't meant to be "anti-American") but something else bothered me about it. Then it occurred to me, the message was inconsistent. Dare I say, hypocritical.

The "Na'vi" aliens in the story, as pounded into our heads starting not long into the movie, are respectful-- even reverent-- for the environment of their planet/moon. They don't respect the humans because humans are destructive. In fact, they have no respect or reverence at all for human life. Oh I know, James Cameron will argue that they were only defending themselves. Aha, but didn't the female lead also kill one of those cat-like creatures in defense of the male lead near the beginning? And the cat-like creature got this whole mini-funeral scene. The "jarheads"? Nothing. They got an ignominious military defeat during which many were killed, and those who survived were sent packing back to their own "dying world" (presumably to die themselves?) except those who were graciously allowed to stay behind (under some unspecified criteria, but we are led to assume because they're the "good guys.")

I suppose Mr. I-Know-Bad-When-I-See-It Cameron will then argue that the humans were motivated out of greed, whereas the cat-like creature was acting out of instinct. Mmm, well, I guess some of them were, but by far most of them were military and acting under obedience. Then of course Mr. They-Should-Know-Better might point out that "just following orders" was established as an invalid defense at the Nuremburg trials. But then I would point out that the humans were under threat-- again, near the beginning of the movie, we see their machinery with clear signs of having been through an attack, including arrows sticking out from the truck wheels. We also witnesses a big orientation meeting in which they were told that many of them were going to die on this planet/moon. They were in a dangerous place, so I would argue that the marines felt that they were the ones acting in self-defense, and no impartial war-crimes tribunal would ever convict them.

If I were to make a happy ending to this movie (make no mistake, I do not consider its current ending as anything resembling "happy"), I would think Jake (the male lead) was in an ideal situation to be a sort of emissary. The aliens trusted him, the humans trusted him. We are only told the humans want to mine "unobtainium" (haha, very clever Mr. Less-Subtle-Than-A-Heavy-Blunt-Object, are you trying to send a message there?) We don't know what they want it for, but obviously it has some kind of value. Maybe it's an ideal material for making artificial hearts and saving lives, ever think about that? Anyway, whatever value it has, this emissary and the rest of the humans should have developed an explanation for why this is of value, and presented it in a way that the aliens were able to understand. There would have been no deadline imposed. Perhaps some compromise reached, in which the mineral could be mined at an angle to minimize the impact. I mean, the aliens weren't using the mineral at all. Surely they could put some smart people together to come up with a solution. If you want to share a message of peace, that would have been a happy ending, instead of Mr. Enlightened-Moralizer's same-story, different-sides approach of "kill the bad guys."

Yes I'm a grouchy old man. Now get off my lawn.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Combining blogs

As a reward for my graduation, my wife has allowed me to become a contributor to her blog, "Trust me... I'm a doctor!" We may end up merging the posts from the two blogs at some point, and redirect the URL for this blog to the other one. Just a heads-up.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Something I never knew about myself.

A few weeks ago we were in Cheyenne visiting Sarah's family. One of our nieces drew this picture for me. It's nice to know how much a part of the family I've become, but I'm a little concerned about the implications of my being a "gril."

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Funny Because It's True, but Strangely Comforting

A friend of mine posted this comic on his Facebook page a few weeks ago.

If you don't get the first panel, don't worry about it, it's just a nerdy way of expressing the feeling in the last panel. I've felt about that close to graduation for about two years now, myself. At least I know the feeling is common enough to appear in a comic strip. (For those who are not familiar, "Piled Higher and Deeper" is a little like Dilbert, except in an academic setting rather than corporate America.)

Friday, March 27, 2009

References to "Nehorism" in the Book of Mormon

Here is where I will be keeping and updating my list of references to the doctrine of Nehor in the Book of Mormon, both direct and indirect, as promised in my last post:

  • The aforementioned trial of Abinadi, starting with Noah's priests' attempt to trap him in his words in Mosiah 12:20-24. Note that the priests' descendants were later described as following Nehor's doctrine in Alma 21:4.

  • Nehor himself, mentioned in Alma 1.

  • The people of Ammonihah, attempting to trap Amulek in his words. This one isn't quite so obvious, but since Ammonihah is referred to as "Desolation of Nehors" (Alma 16:11) after its destruction, I think it's safe to include it. Zeezrom's little trap, in Alma 11:26-35, seems to consist of getting Amulek to say that God cannot save his people in their sins. Amulek seems to be anticipating the trap, since his answer contains an explanation "for it is impossible for him to deny his word." Undeterred, Zeezrom still points out that Amulek is imposing limits on God's power. The argument sticks-- his argument is prominently used against Alma and Amulek as they are accused and thrown into prison in Alma 14:5. When approaching theology from the doctrine of Nehor, which is that God has the power to save everyone regardless of what they do in life, this is indeed a contradiction to the omnipotence of God (and lying appears to have been a punishable offense during the reign of the judges).

  • The Lamanites appear to have a tradition of Nehorism, as described in Alma 18:5: "Notwithstanding they believed in a Great Spirit, they supposed that whatsoever they did was right." (emphasis mine) Where did this idea come from? Lamoni's father (the king of the Lamanites), as it says earlier in the verse. Did he get it from his father too, or was there a more direct line to Nehor...? (See next paragraph)

  • The Amalekites are also mentioned in Alma 21:4 as being after the order of Nehor. Incidentally, this is the first mention of this group of people in the Book of Mormon, however some (myself included) believe that these are the same people as the Amlicites, who deserted to the Lamanites in Alma 2-- and gee whiz, looky there, Amlici was described as being after the order of Nehor in Alma 2:1! (Perhaps this is where Lamoni got his tradition of Nehorism, but I digress.) Aaron, brother of Ammon and son of Mosiah, unsuccessfully argued with an Amalekite who challenged him over Aaron's calling people to repentance. "How knowest thou the thought and intent of our hearts? How knowest thou that we have cause to repent? How knowest thou that we are not a righteous people? Behold, we have built sanctuaries, and we do assemble ourselves together to worship God. We do believe that God will save all men." (emphasis mine)
  • Samuel the Lamanite talks about priests becoming financially successful by adopting Nehorism in Helaman 13:27-28.
  • ... more to come as I find them...