Evidences and Reconciliations 06/23/08

John Nilsson death, faith, God, history 43 Comments

So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.

Joshua 10:40

Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13

Discuss, my friends:

Comments

comments

Comments 43

  1. Murder. The word “kill” should be translated as “murder”. Now we can have a discussion on whether God can command murder or not.

  2. If murder is the premeditated taking of one person’s life with intent, then Nephi and Laban should be added to the discussion.

  3. Kent,

    Good point about the political aspect of terrorism / freedom fighting. I am not a fan of FARMS, but I did see an old Cuban propaganda film (“I am Cuba”) that addressed this same issue in a similar way (!). The mental state of the actor would be the most important factor in any criminal proceeding against Nephi. The text does seem to suggest that Nephi was after his property and that would be a mitigating factor; but the proportionality is way out of sync with what seems to be the right way to go. As always, the devil would likely be in the details we are not privy to.

  4. The basic idea that a discussions like this is even necessary seems evident to the idea that deity has a difficult time in communicating effectively. Deity seems to communicate with the efficiency of a human being with all the ambiguity, semantics, euphemisms, and unclear rhetoric. Furthermore, the fact that apologists have to justify and clarify the “perfect” word of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being seems to say something as well.

  5. Prophets and apologists are all really just interpreters I suppose. But here’s a thought – how were the Ten Commandments written? By the finger of God on stone tablets? Or did Moses chisel them under God’s instruction? Was it altered later? Did God ever “write” any scripture directly?

  6. Tony,

    You’re misquoting Nietzsche. I’m not sure I understand why God should make anything easy. Mormons do not, generally, believe in an omnipotent, omniscent and omnipresent being – at least not as these things are generally conceived. One of the real challenges in intellectual life is to be able to hold two seemingly opposing ideas at one time and synthesize new ideas from within the tension.

    ~

  7. #6 NM Tony – Thank you. This is well said. I have had this thought for a long time, but have never really been able to articulate it that well.

    The killing ordered by God also puzzles me, and I can’t figure it out. It seems like a punitive matter (as was the case when God himself flooded the entire earth). If all of the people of the earth were God’s valiant children in heaven, and chose to be on God’s side, then God “punishes” them by killing them (or ordering them killed), does this speak to his parenting skills? This may sound flippant, but it’s a serious question. Why can’t (or couldn’t) an omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving father communicate in a way that his children could understand? And, if he can’t communicate with them in a way they can understand, why should they be punished by being killed?

    Is it really possible that every man, woman and child of that city, (and in Noah’s time of the whole earth) was completely irredeemable? None of the children were worth saving? They were sinners too? The infants and toddlers?

    The deliberate, intentional killing of one’s own children in an effort to punish them is seen in our society as one of the most abhorrent crimes imaginable. Why would God do it, and is he setting an example for us as fathers to follow when he does? A lot of these things involving God and the killing of his own children seem very hard to understand.

  8. When you study the forces and processes that make up a living thing, it seems terribly incongruous to a loving God that he would ever under any circumstances command its destruction. Sure, He/She is God, and there are justifiable circumstances when a life must be taken to preserve life.

    I see the commandment to take life in the scriptures as ‘men’ justifying their own mis-deeds.

  9. Maybe God-ordered killing isn’t a punishment. Maybe it’s just His way of yanking someone off the stage of life who refuses to stay on script and is ruining it for everyone else. I have to think God doesn’t view killing the same way we do. We can’t do it because we’re not omniscient. But He’s omniscient, so He’ll only do it when it’s the best alternative (?).

  10. Th word is “murder” not “kill”. Can God murder? No he can’t. By his grace we are living and breathing. We should credit every single day we live to him.

    I can see how an LDS person may believe we don’t deserve God’s wrath (because we are basically good, obeying Gods commandments, or progressing to become “like God”). The historical Christian stance is that we all deserve death, and suffering (because none of us are good). It is by God’s grace that we do not suffer the same wrath as some of those in the old testement.

  11. #11 Thomas, with all due respect, I think most Mormons do “believe in an omnipotent, omniscent and omnipresent being” EXCEPT when they have to try to explain the behaviors of this God to those who are questioning. The standard answer to Tony’s perspective (or my question) in Sunday School would be “We’ll just have to wait to have that one revealed to us in the eternities, Brother Callahan. We know that it was God’s plan and that’s all we need to know right now.” This answer works in Sunday School and has been used many times in General Conference as well. However, with the church becoming more public, more questions being asked, we now only use this answer among our faithful (I suspect as an attempt to keep them faithful and not asking questions) and use much more apologetic answers, even those requiring mental gymnastics in a public setting such as the “blogernacle”.

    We give all kinds of goofy nonsense answers in Sunday School. There the answers are unequivocal. We give a different caliber of goofy nonsense answers here, but with the specific purpose of being able to wiggle out of what we said if we get called on it, and claim that we were speaking “broadly” or “narrowly” or whatever qualifier that we need to to wiggle. The next day, however when we are back teaching early morning seminary to sleepy teenagers, we give the unequivocal answers again.

    I find it all quite disingenuous.

  12. Welcome to Mormonism 201. Andrew, you may not have noticed my reference to Blake Ostler’s article in the other thread “The Bright Night of my Soul” but it does treat your question about how/why God communicates as he does with his children.

  13. #16 – Ostler – my brain hurts. Every time I look at apologist stuff I wonder why EVERYTHING seems to take 40 typed pages to explain. I thought the gospel was supposed to be simple. Again, Tony’s comment seems appropriate. Even if God is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, at least he is still God, and there are hundreds of examples where he was able to communicate clearly. I just don’t get the whole idea of the dark glass as evidence of truth and light. A dark glass seems to me to be evidence of darkness, not light.

    Be clear with us, God. Don’t give us riddles. Don’t try to confuse us, you probably can, you’re GOD, remember? You’re supposed to show love to us, not punish us because we can’t figure you out.

  14. Andrew,

    Mormons, speaking broadly, of course, as there is no other way to speak about what all Mormons believe, may very well have Christianized notions about God’s three onmis. But, to the extent they do, they haven’t thought through to some of the neccesary conclusions of their beliefs. (For instance, what are the implications of the fact that God, having a body, can’t be in two places at once?) But why pick on an average Mormon? The fact that someone, or some Sunday School class, doesn’t have an answer to your question, right at their fingertips, doesn’t mean that an answer doesn’t exist – and the thing you’re critisizing is simply another way of saying that we think there is an answer, we just don’t know it – in fact, a rather honest position – in fact, your position. Only you think you know the answer – the answer that there is no God.

    “The next day, however when we are back teaching early morning seminary to sleepy teenagers, we give the unequivocal answers again.”

    Who is we?

    “I find it all quite disingenuous.”

    Pot, meet Kettle – as they say on the internet. People around here are very nice, they play nice, they will take another person’s sincerity for granted. And this makes a nice place for everyone to be able to express themselves. I’m not that far progressed. I like being a little rougher, from time to time. And, of course, people aren’t that good. People are not sincere. They go to great lengths to deceive themselves and others. I’m right about this – and you’ve said as much. People will deceive themselves as to the nature of their experience in order to maintain their belief, their relationships, their equilibrium. But this cuts every way. And I’ve known enough proudly “rational” people, and known them well, to know that it is a mental structure absolutely subject to the same illusions.

    Best to you.

    ~

  15. “Be clear with us, God. Don’t give us riddles. Don’t try to confuse us, you probably can, you’re GOD, remember? You’re supposed to show love to us, not punish us because we can’t figure you out.”

    You forgot to ask for a some cookies. Everything is easier to take with a plate of cookies.

    ~

  16. #12. I cannot imagine a supreme being ever being backed into a corner where ordering a hit is the best alternative. What message does that send about the sanctity of life to ‘his’ creations? Given the rather nebulous nature of god’s communication, it would seem that giving such commandments would be extremely dangerous. How are we as a society to understand when another person has been commanded to take a life.

    Certainly God in his infinite creativity could come up with some way for Nephi to obtain the plates without resorting to murder.

  17. Thomas,
    Apparently I have ruffled some feathers. I try to be polite, but sometimes in the midst of discussions I get frustrated. If I have seemed insincere or disingenuous to you, I apologize. I suspect I have been sarcastic here at times and that may have been inappropriate.

    I am sincere. I would love some answers. Again, I personally would appreciate the answers to be consistent with what I was taught, that it is simple and clear and straightforward and rational. I can’t find answers that seem to meet those standards. Those standards don’t seem unreasonable to me.

    The fundamental question of this thread, as I understand it, is how do we rationalize the two apparently contradictory statements. I understand that many folks here embrace the idea of holding two ideas that essentially negate one another, and seemingly believing both and disbelieving both.

    It seems to me that God teaches through paradoxes, rather than parables. I have a hard time with the intellectual exercise of holding opposites to both be true and both be false, and to negate one another and to prove one another all at the same time. That is difficult for me in an intellectual exercise, but if that is what is required to understand reality, then the implications seem to me that EVERYTHING I EVER DO will be wrong, but that’s ok, because it will also be right. How then do I choose?

    We are taught that God is simple and easy to understand. Your explanations and those of the apologists at FAIR-LDS are anything but simple, straightforward and easy. They are mind-bending. Is that what is really required? Really? God requires that of us?

    I have stated many times, I want very much to believe in God again, but I can’t figure out how. Anyone who attempts to help me starts by telling me that it is simple, but then it turns into what seem to me mental gymnastics.

    Yeah, at times I guess I get frustrated, but I ask your indulgence. This church doesn’t appear to be at all what I was told it was when I started 20 years ago.

    And, you belittle me for asking for clarity. Tell me I should ask for cookies too! I was taught that the function of the prophet was to provide clarity. My examination of things, even when I go to the scriptures, teachings of the prophets, Ensign articles, etc. and do it in a spirit of prayer and fasting rarely (if ever) leads to clarity. It leads to a “stupor of thought.” And, as I have mentioned in another thread, the answer I am always given is that it is somehow my own fault. It lies within me, apparently, because it can’t be within God. Also as I said elsewhere, that seems to be the Emperor’s New Clothes argument, that I can’t see the clothes becasue I am stupid.

  18. So you read it and your brain hurts, or you saw that it was posted at FAIR and you dismissed it? As far as Ostler goes, this is light stuff. Maybe you would open to his ideas if he spoke at Sunstone, as he did here?

  19. Andrew, I copied something you wrote back in #10, but it applies to everything you’ve posted here – and what I wrote in my last post. It is:

    “The killing ordered by God also puzzles me, and I can’t figure it out.”

    With ALL due respect and all the meekness I can muster, this is not correct. You CAN “figure it out” – given the general meaning of that phrase. Iow, you CAN construct a reasonable explanation that is every bit as logical as any other explanation. I can do it, and so can you.

    What you CAN’T do is construct an **AIRTIGHT** explanation that will withstand **EVERY** criticism – that will silence **ALL** complaints – on EITHER side of this (and most) discussions. I can’t do that, and neither can you. Occam’s Razor isn’t always the best answer, because sometimes there is no best answer. (Ask anyone who has been convicted of a crime they didn’t commit based on solid circumstantial evidence.)

    If you are looking for certainty about questions like this one, I guarantee you won’t find one outside of direct revelation. As Thomas implied, I can poke just as many logical holes in any comment on this thread as you can in any comment I am likely to make on this thread. What you need to do, imho, is quit trying to be certain of everything – because that attempt is driving and will continue to drive you crazy. Pick what you want to believe – one way or the other – and accept the limitations of your justifications for that belief. It’s the only way to be happy.

    I do so within Mormonism; Nick does it as a “fundamentalist gay Mormon”; others do it completely outside the Church; those who do nothing but attack Mormon beliefs (NOT you, thus far) haven’t done it yet.

  20. Andrew C. – “I just don’t get the whole idea of the dark glass as evidence of truth and light. A dark glass seems to me to be evidence of darkness, not light.” To me, the dark glass is not evidence of anything. It’s just a description. We’re not on this earth to test God. We’re here to be tested. Will we make good choices? Will we live good lives? You can do well on that test regardless of your belief in the existence of God, IMO.

    “Again, I personally would appreciate the answers to be consistent with what I was taught, that it is simple and clear and straightforward and rational. I can’t find answers that seem to meet those standards. Those standards don’t seem unreasonable to me.” Answers that are consistent with what you were taught is a tall order, my friend. For one thing, based on Ray’s description of the bright night of the soul and Andrew’s of the dark night of the soul, both of them were “taught” different things, yet they have sort of concluded the same thing. I have been in many lessons at church and elsewhere and come away with something totally different than everyone else I talk to. If JS taught one thing, it’s that we become our own teachers through personal revelation and interactions with God.

    I am very sorry for your frustrating experience. I can empathize from times in my life. Just remember that what you are asking for is not simple (whatever you think you were taught or told) and that the people you are asking are only sharing thoughts and experiences from our varied perspectives, not a party line or a spin; we’re imperfect, and we’re just making our way like you are. I’m glad you are here even if you feel we don’t have the answers you want.

  21. #22 Kent, I didn’t read it, mostly because of how long it was. I did skim it, however, and I found parts that seemed to be “mental gymnastics” and I gave up on it.

    #23 Ray, thank you. I am frustrated. I am driving myself crazy. And, you see, your suggestion makes perfect sense, “pick one” and deal with it. I am trying to pick one that doesn’t require lying to myself or others. I think for me, that has to be on the side that there just isn’t a God, or at the very least, if there is a God, he’s not into organized religion. That isn’t, however, what I WANT to pick. I WANT to believe in God. I WANT the church to fit into the nice little box with a bow that it fit in 20 years ago for me.

    So, thank you. And, as far as attacking, just before I took a little break and went out to buy gas with my wife, I posted a rather hostile-sounding comment on the News Flash thread, directed at Lorin. I know better, but in the midst of driving myself crazy, I do things that I later regret.

    #24 Hawkgrrl. Thank you for your kind thoughts I appreciate your sensitivity.

    As I have said before I can’t figure out why I can’t have what you guys have, perhaps that is what is so frustrating for me. I do wish you well. I think I’ll give the bloggernacle a rest for a while.

    Again thank you.

  22. #9:

    I wasn’t attempting to quote Nietzsche or reference him in anyway. As far as God making it easy, I never mentioned that either. I would, however, like him/her/it to make sense and clarify his/her/its position, as Andrew mentioned, if deity is so inclined. But I think we all know how that is coming along. The world is after all filled with differing views on what the divine will of deity is.

    I am one who is firmly skeptical of grandiose claims of perfection or even near perfection; nevertheless, I would be willing to accept the unbiased and clear evidence of a divine being if such is offered. But the reality is evidence of divinity is entirely subjective and anecdotal; therefore, I and many others claim that there is no way to prove or disprove deity, which makes me agnostic. So when a tribe or individual claims that they kill in the name of their particular deity, it sounds an awful lot like tribal/individual justification for a heinous act-“God told me too.” Why would a omnipotent or even very powerful being need to rely on a bunch of barbarians to enact his/her/its will when it could cause a natural disaster and wipe out the inhabitants from the “chosen land.” Heck, why not make some other uninhabited land prosper and make that the chosen land and bypass the whole killing thing? Why would Nephi need to kill Laban if Laban was drunk? Why not have Laban choke on his own vomit or get run down by a speeding horse? Instead, Nephi decapitates him after a dozen witnesses saw him earlier attempting to “reclaim” his property and Ladan threatens him. Now, there is a suspect in a crime. This makes less sense to do if one is trying to maintain a certain discretion.

  23. Andrew, I have a good friend who let go of it all and just focused on living a Christ-like life for a spell. He is MUCH happier now. God Bless, as ironic as that sounds.

  24. Im gonna skip alot of the side discussion and address the “contradiction” which I dont see as a contradiction.

    The scripture are only contradictory if we give them equal weight and assume God is commanding in both instances and the individual is understanding him correctly. The reason why I tend to think people like Joshua and David are incorrect in the understanding of God and God’s commands are because I personally believe that the closest thing we have to a clear message about what God is like and what he wants form us is in Jesus Christ. If you have seen him, you have seen the Father.

    This is the lens from which I believe we should compare and contrast all scriptures. If it doesnt measure up, then maybe the lesson to be learned is not that God is a violent, capricious, and, imo, someone not worthy of much worship unless we worship beings simply because they are the biggest bully on the block, but rather that God has been trying to pull us out of a moral morass and abyss since the beginning and like that parable of the wicked tenants, we keep killing everyone who tells us to stop killing whether physically covering them up as ancient Israel did with cairns or by justifying our behavior by claiming deity commanded us. There were competing narrative in Israel. Was God the God of the victims such as Abel all the way down to Zechariah or was he the God of violence and vengeance. It seems to me Christ showed which he was and like those earlier victims was killed.

    Is it any wonder they set there hearts to kill Jesus when he tells them they are murderers and children of Satan? Is it an wonder than when Stephen accuses them of murdering Jesus they must now murder him to cover the truth?

    my two cents

  25. Oh and I agree with the earlier reference to killing Laban being the foundation of Nephite culture. Murders found civilizations. Whether it be Cain who murders Abel and founds the first city. Romolus who murders his brother Remulus to found Rome or Nephi who kills Laban. It sure solved the problem of Laman and Lemuel wanting to return. With that murder they could no longer return, they were now a new civilization. The foundational murder unites the community.

  26. 29. I don’t know if you have your tongue in cheek or not. Maybe God could write a book: “The wonderful benefits of murder.”

    What a lovely lesson for a loving God to teach his children.

  27. Yep, SkyDaddy ® wants us to depend and rely on him, and follow his rules to receive his love and blessings. He is such a great dude.

    But man, if you have some brass plates he wants, watch out.

  28. Assuming God wants someone “taken out”, he has two choices:(or more maybe)

    1. Tell his child to VIOLATE a principal he has been living by or
    2. Direct intervention. God has “taken people out” himself whether by accident, heart attack –whatever.

    As a parent, I could not conceive of telling my child to violate principal when I was in a position to intervene myself. Doesn’t this “command that violates principal” deny that we have an interventionist God? Do ALL of God’s dealings have to come from the hand of man? If he intervenes, then why not intervene to prevent a child from having to violate principal?

  29. #32 Pseudolus

    Like I said earlier in the thread. I can’t understand it very well even if God himself is intervening and doing it himself (through floods, earthquakes, etc.). If he really killed every baby and toddler on earth in Noah’s time, what implications does that have? Weren’t they innocent? Couldn’t a very bright guy like God figure out a way to save the babies and toddlers, or at least a few of them?

    This is the God who came up with the idea of gravity, set the speed of light, and who loves his children, and holds the innocent blameless, but yet couldn’t come up with a way to protect or save the innocent little ones, but rather had them suffer a horrible death of disease, starvation, drowning, and calamity. We have some idea of how painful these deaths would have been based on the big tsunami in Indonesia and the Indian Ocean a few years ago in December. Wow, that’s an awful way to go. Seems especially cruel.

  30. #33
    Andrew, I think it will be REALLY COOL when they find a layer of salt water in ANY of the low laying glaciers (much less high glaciers). The Earth was covered in water — for ~a year. Does it appear that god tests our faith by removing whale bones from the plains of mongolia where some may have been when the waters receded? A frozen whale impaled on a himilayan peak would do wonders. Maybe God whitewashes to test our faith. Maybe he removed all the water after he put it here. That would be a heck of a lot of thermal energy needed to evaporate 5 lineal miles of water. Imagine the atmospheric pressures!! Why did he let the Maya start their calendar in 3114 BC? That’s before the flood.

    Man, you ask one question, and a hundred seem to flow from it– each question raising more questions than it answers.

  31. #34 -Man, you ask one question, and a hundred seem to flow from it– each question raising more questions than it answers.

    Philosphphy – questions that can’t be answered.
    Religion – answers that can’t be questioned.

  32. I know this particular line of thinking can get societies into trouble (think suicide bombers), but one of the fundamental assumptions about leads one to think these scriptures present a contradiction is that human life must always be preserved at all costs and in all circumstances. Heavenly Father views his children in stages, pre-mortal, mortal, post-mortal. I think D&C 42:45-46 provides some insight into the Lord’s views on death:
    http://scriptures.lds.org/en/dc/42/45#45

    We are all strangers here. We are not meant to be here, forever. And the God who gave us this life and this earth does not want us to be so transfixed on the here and now that we forget we’re mere sojourners.

    Now I know this kind of philosophy is dangerous. One the one hand it explains the house-cleaning in Israel, or the Flood, or all of the really awful calamities that accompany the last days (I mean, read D&C Section 29, but only on a full stomach). A loving God has a much bigger view than we do of mortality. But on the other hand you get suicide bombers, self-flagellators, and other misguided nutjobs who think life is cheap and expendable.

    The spiritual test for discerning this issue is likely the same one that can differentiate between Joseph Smith and David Koresh.

  33. #36

    My SP has told me to get a testimony that “whatever god commands is right –no matter how disturbing”. I ran into Koresh issues. What is the test to differentiate between Joseph Smith and David Koresh?

  34. Joshua at #29: What murder founded the Canadian or American identity, or the Mormon ‘volk’ for that matter? Sorry, but I can’t tell if you are being serious or not.

    As a personal note – The only test that I have found that distinguishes between a Joseph Smith and a David Koresh is the spirituality that makes me redundant.

  35. Green Man,

    I was serious in #28 and as to #29, there is pretty good evidence that most ancient cultures were founded on a “murder”. Obviously this does not hold in all cases. But I do find it interesting that the events surrounding the founding of America were certainly violent. In particular, the civil war was a form of human sacrifice wherein countless were sacrificed to found a new nation, a nation united complete with a totem or symbol of that sacrifice, the flag.

  36. #35 Andrew C. –

    “Philosphphy – questions that can’t be answered.
    Religion – answers that can’t be questioned.”

    Mormon Matters: Questioning answers and answering questions with questions.

  37. Andrew,

    As for my ruffled feathers, I probably still tend to be more vehement than I used to be, but really I’m nothing like I used to be, so I try to give myself a little slack. In any case, I should certainly try to be more kind, all the time.

    As to some of your points:

    You say you’re sincere. I don’t know whether you are or aren’t. On what grounds should I beleive you, simply because you’ve said so? What if it truns out that you are either insincere, or are yourself blind to the fact that you argue in bad faith? Then where are we in determining how we should relate your assertions to reality? There is more than one way to use the word, and in so far as it is a virtue it means something other than our common usage which is little more than: I really mean this. It seems to me that really meaning it hardly constitutes a noteworthy virtue. In any case, I don’t know you from Adam – but I have known some people who I’ve found to be deeply honest, and many others more like me who live by their own lights – who are, so to speak, true to themselves, including their reasonably worthy ethics – and after quite a long period of observation, I decided that the most deeply honest people _I knew_ were also deeply involved with the gospel. Whereas the less honest people were quite like me, and were all around me: cynical, mocking, self-satisfied, morally easily satisfied. I decided I wanted to be more like the latter – and that is one reason among several that I returned to the church. I observed, with my eyes, and later with my heart. It was perfectly observable: people who not only understood but also deeply lived their Mormon religion (this means so much more than looking and acting like a Mormon, even sincerly, maybe especially sincerly) were people I wanted to be like.

    You say you would sincerly love to believe in God again. But it seems that you only want to believe if He never violates your criteria. It is tough for me to see why the existence of God should hang on a contemporary view, even less the views of any given person. You might say, I would rather not beleive in a God that does this or that; or, you might say that I would be against a God that does this or that. I often say that kind of thing in relation to a God that would create children knowing that the vast majority of them will suffer eternal torture. I would be against a God like that. But, my being against it, of itself, says nothing about whether that kind of God exists or not. One might hear that the ocean is blue, and beleive that. Then, after, you might hear that the ocean is also green or gray, depending on the weather. It might have sunk deep in your soul that the ocean is blue, and you may decide to reject the idea of ocean if, by golly, it is so that the ocean is ever green or gray. But what does this say about the existence of the ocean. Don’t strain my metaphor on me – I’m only trying to talk in a revealing way about our biases, not about the existence of actual oceans as compared to the existence of gods.

    Further along this line, you want God to be simple, and claim that we teach that God is simple. Sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about. I’ve always been taught that understanding God comes, finally, at the end of a long and often very difficult exposure to reality, characterized by learning and growing, and a constant augmentation of our capacity. It hardly seems likely then that such a being would be simple to understand, in total, at the start. I know the phrase ‘the gospel in its simplicity.’ And it might be true that many of the most important things are simple – it doesn’t take a super genius to understand the basic idea of kindness, or the difference between telling the truth or telling a lie, or the idea that parents love their children. Repentence, also, is simple – it simply means changing for the better. Two things, though – first, while very important things might be simple, seeing the way clear to how those simple things apply in a complex reality is often painful mentally and emotionally, and; second, anything looks simple once you’ve mastered it and know it, but will seem complex or something that can only be strained after before you’ve mastered it. The “mysteries of God” are only mysteries and paradoxes until they are no longer mysteries. Once you know the mystery, the difficulty is resolved.

    Let me give you an example of holding two ideas which seem to contradict together in tension. It seems to many that there is an unresolveable opposition between the doctrine that we are saved by grace and the doctrine that only those who do works are saved. There is enough tension there that people fight and reject each other over it. But, after holding them together in tension long enough, it might dawn on you that they are both true, but onyl viewed from a truthful perspective. The resolution of many differences that seem opposite, or approaching opposition, can be resolved in the same way.

    Finally, does it really make sense to come in and claim that you want rationality, then when people are rational, think about things and express themselves, dismiss it on grounds that is constitutes ‘mental gymanstics.’ It violates your idea that the truth should be simple, binary – and, by the by – already to confrom to your own ssimple understanding of reality and morality. You might forgive me if I say that you don’t seem to want to explore anything at all, that you’ve already entrenched yourself pretty sucessfully in your own views.

    As to the subject at hand.

    I don’t have much problem with God telling Nephi to kill Laban. God could, instead, turn Laban into a rabbit? I suppose so. Or, maybe he can’t. Remember that we don’t beleive that God can do anything. But, there are lessons in that dilemna that I think are apt. Not that we will ever be told to kill a person. But, we may be told that the right thing to do, on a given occasion, seems deeply against the rule as we’ve understood it. Nephi tried in our courts would be found guilty. We don’t admit ‘God told me so’ as a defense. Thank God, right? But, the question is _did_ God tell him so. Perhaps the goods of having Laban removed from Jerusalem – and who knows what this guy may have done, or may be going to do – the good of having Lehi’s family unable to return to Jerusalem, the good of having Nephi tested as potently aspossible in whether or not he can recognize and excercise faith in divine communcation, and the good of having Nephi able to kill when neccesary all tipped the scales in favor. I do understand why this may seem strained to you – it does not seem strained to me, because of things I’ve seen in real life.

    I personally don’t think we can hold up the scriptural account and decide that God is incapable of being terrible. Does this contradict that idea that God also acts from love, or loves all his children. Only in the way that the ideas of salvation by faith or works seem to contradict. We hold those ideas in tension until we see the full scope of reality. I’ve always assumed that God has a full repetoire of behaviours in his arsenal. The word “holy” is entemologically associated with the word “whole.” It literally means ‘complete’, that which cannot be added to or taken away from. That seems to me to mean that God’s personality is as inclusive of passions as it is possible to be. That he also has wrath, as well as love. We are told that we shall not judge, neither smite – but not because there won’t be any judging or smiting, but because those are the domain of God, who, being perfect, will respond perfectly.

    All that said – when it comes to telling the children of Israel to commit genocide – maybe he did, but I don’t believe it. I find it likely that He told Israel to occupy the land he’d promised. And, that provided more thana little tension – as we see that such things do – and that it included war, and ultimately ‘atrocities’ commited by the Israelites, who later justified it by a kind of folk doctrine that never went away.

    At least, that is where I stand today. Tomorrow, a personal revelation, or some other information might float through my transit that causes me to rethink. In fact – I will absolutely have to rethink, because I don’t beleive I understand everything perfectly. I don’t understand totally – that is an absolute given. I fully expect that I will alter my perspective as more light comes available to me. I take that as what it means to be a Mormon.

    ~

  38. NM Tony,

    I found the quote I was reffering to in Beyond Good and Evil. I’ve got to find a pillow. But maybe I’ll post it later. You might find it interesting.

    I think you’ve really got to read Nietzsche if you’re going to be an atheist or hardened agnostic, since he’s the prophet of it. I personally love him. Really, I have a tenderness for him. But, he’s tough on the ears.

    ~

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