Monthly Archives: April 2021

You Have No Grounds for Prejudice

Jacob 3 continues the sermon from Jacob 2. In it, Jacob points out that the only reason a rival tribal group is hostile to the tribal group to which his audience belongs is because of the sins and errors of their fathers. Having just torn into the sins of the fathers of his own tribal group, Jacob concludes that there is no reason to consider the other tribe to be more wicked.

He seals that with a commandment from God: “Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, which is the word of God, that ye revile no more against them because of the darkness of their skins; neither shall ye revile against them because of their filthiness; but ye shall remember your own filthiness, and remember that their filthiness came because of their fathers.” In other words, stop hating the “others” based upon a perception of them which is man-made.

In the narrative, the two tribal groups are all descendants of the same family group, and they are only 2-3 generations away from those family founders. Both have expressed hatred for each other and Jacob’s group is already referring to the other one as dark, loathsome, and cursed. That’s all a perception, though: in only 2-3 generations, we don’t see any sort of situation that leads to a sudden change in human skin pigmentation. The racism/tribalism in this case is all in the heads of the people suffering from that disease, as it always is.

With a comment along the lines of Jesus’ about clearing the obstructions from one’s own eyes before helping another to clear a minor irritant, Jacob instructs these wayward fathers to remember their own children. The implication being that they are not immune from committing the same paternal errors associated with the “others.” They are, in fact, cited as being more sinful because of their neglect of their families, and that they are putting their nation on a path to destruction. All this, of course, is connected back to their seeking of wealth and social divisions based upon wealth.

In sum, Jacob emphasizes the equality of man before God and the need to treat each other with equality and dignity: anything less than that puts us on the path to destruction as a nation.

The Abominations of the Husbands

The sermon in Jacob 2 seems to be split into two portions. The first is about people who have focused on going after wealth and the second is about people committing whoredoms in having many wives and concubines. Of the two parts, I have heard much more sermonizing in my life about the latter than the former, so much so that I didn’t realize the connection between the two.

Basically, the part about the wives and concubines is after the style of David and Solomon. This matter is not that of committing infidelities on the side: this is about using women as elements of one’s status – objectification of women, as it were.

Even in teachings about the law of chastity, I see a slighting of Jacob’s message here: he’s specifically talking to rich men who are destroying their familial relationships through their greed, expressed via sexual avenues in this case. He spoke about rich men destroying social relationships through social stratification in his earlier part of the message. In essence, this is not a teaching that applies to one and all, equally. Yes, there is a law of chastity that God expects us all to keep, but this lack of chastity among the rulers of the people is especially dangerous, as this is what leads to the destruction of the people.

This message is clearly addressing “the abominations of the husbands”. It’s the husbands who have “broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you.”

Jacob condemns not just sexual sins, but sexual sins as an extension of an abuse of power born out of an unjust power structure based on wealth. When a society has a law for the rich and a law for the poor alongside a law for the men and a law for the women, it is not a godly nation. It is ripening for its destruction.

The Return to Wickedness

In Jacob 2, the prophet Jacob is compelled by God to declare to the people that they are becoming more wicked and to deliver a warning to them. That warning, starting in verse 12, pertains to riches. Jacob condemns those who seek riches and then, as they obtain them more abundantly than others, establish a social hierarchy.

The signs: displays of wealth, costly apparel, and persecution of others because those with more wealth suppose that they are better than the others.

This supposition is not necessarily a blunt, broad, or overbearing one. It can also be subtle and done with a smile. Persecution can be done without hatred or ill-feeling towards the persecuted. Persecution can arise simply out of seeing other people as different and deciding that their social position or legal equality should therefore be different. Statements defending persecution often include comments on how we can’t expect “those people” to behave, act, or decide properly about certain things. Because of those statements, “those people” find themselves walled off from equality by people who believe that money makes someone more important.

Persecution, whether it’s done by someone who expresses open hatred or by someone who protests that they’re “the least racist person”, is condemned by God. God’s judgments for persecutors are promised, and speedily so.

Jacob’s message from God is direct and piercing: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they bay be rich like unto you.” Seeking riches in and of themselves is no crime, provided one seeks God first and then seeks the riches with the intent of doing good – to others! “To clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” When one uses money for those purposes, there is no time nor desire for fine apparel or displays of wealth – and with none of those things, there is no persecution.

Jacob’s message is to see those with less wealth not as requiring different societal position, but as requiring the same love and compassion as any human desires or needs. Jacob closes his comments on the pride of riches with a comment that, “… the one being is as precious in His sight as the other.”

The Primary Signs of Wickedness

I say primary and not just first, because these signs are the first and most prominent among a people that is becoming – or which has become – wicked in the eyes of God. Jacob 1:15-16 describes the primary signs: “And now it came to pass that the people… began to grow hard in their hearts, and indulge themselves somewhat in wicked practices, such as like unto David of old desiring many wives and concubines, and also Solomon, his son. Yea, and they also began to search much gold and silver, and began to be lifted up somewhat in pride.”

The people were good prior to that change, but now they show the early stages of wickedness, and those things can only get worse if left uncorrected. They obviously do not value women as individuals and they are obsessing over riches. Both of these things lead to ruin. Imagine a society like Margaret Atwood’s Gilead – the rich have a law very much different from the poor, and the women at all levels are made to suffer under a patriarchy. When a nation makes women less than men before the law, that is a crime in the eyes of God.

The riches go along with that in terms of creating further unequal social structures, and I’ve made comment on that line in previous posts. But finding an added element of gender rights to this narrative is fascinating. Therefore, beware those who fight against equal rights: they will drag a nation into wickedness and ruin.

The Sin of -centric Thinking

I used to teach History. I remember the first time I was cautioned about Eurocentric thinking. I bristled at the thought because I myself had been taught from a largely Eurocentric point of view – that is, pretty much all the history worth knowing was from Europe and the USA, and that’s that. Once I learned how much history happened outside of Europe and how it was downplayed by Europeans because it didn’t happen in Europe, my thinking changed.

There’s also the idea of “American Exceptionalism” that postulates America is a special place, and that automatically makes it a better place and its national interest better interests. That’s another type of -centric thinking that comes out of a biased point of view. It’s propaganda for a theory of superiority of one people relative to another – the beginnings of nationalism and racism.

The Book of Mormon takes both of those ideas out to the dustbin of history. The success of America in its revolt against the British came not because of any inherent goodness of the Americans or specialness from their geographic blessings: the Book of Mormon laconically states that God willed it, and so it happened. While other authors of the day sang the praises of the mettle and determination of the Founding Fathers, the Book of Mormon passes over it all as a matter of God’s will, nothing more and nothing less. The USA is not a special, gifted place because it is the USA, in so many words. It is a nation made up of people who can choose to ruin it as surely as they can choose to make it better.

As for other -centrisms, 2 Nephi 29 comes down very hard on the people who think they have it all, and who forget that all humanity is a family. It talks about the Gentiles rejecting additional words of God because they already have a collection of God’s words to people in Palestine. There’s a deeper issue in that, “Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles?”

It would seem that the Gentiles have forgotten whose shoulders they stand upon. The next verse is even more severe: “O ye Gentiles, have ye remembered the Jews, mine ancient covenant people? Nay; but ye have cursed them, and have hated them, and have not sought to recover them. But behold, I will return all these things upon your own heads; for I the Lord have not forgotten my people.”

The antisemitism that accompanied much of Western Civilization’s thinking – and which remains with us to this day – is clearly condemned in this passage.

Later in the chapter, God speaks of drawing Israel, his covenant people, from all the world. Essentially, we cannot say that only one people is blessed above all others. Rather, the seed of Abraham is in all nations, and we have to live according to that knowledge. Should we, in a bout of some kind of -centric thinking, deny equality to another, we may very well be making war against Israel, and, by extension, war against God Himself.

On the Corruption of the Last Days

2 Nephi 28 describes the wickedness of the latter days, in which people put themselves above others out of their pride, and who justify their wealth and lofty position at the expense of others with false doctrines. They are corrupted because of pride, and pride leads them to rob the poor.

“They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.”

Wickedness is associated once more not with base and brutish actions, but with premeditated sins of civilization – amassing wealth and fineries through exploiting the poor and denying them the resources used in making those fineries.

The Path I Follow

I may rest along the way, but not too long.
There is a destination I intend to reach.
I see many footprints along the way,
Some leaving the trail,
Others joining.

I walk alone at times, but I also know times of company
Good and bad
Some footpaths that have left the trail are mine
I nearly died out there
I almost lost my way more than once

There is a handrail
I can hold to it
I can lean on it for stability
I can use it to pull myself along
When the slope is too steep
When my arms are stronger than my legs
When I stagger and falter.
Sometimes, all I can do is sit by the rail and weep.

I have crossed dry plains, marshlands, mountain passes, deep and soothing forests, quiet deserts, and eagle-topped hills.

I have heard many languages spoken by my fellow-travelers
Many faces of various shapes and colors dot my memories
I hear voices from the dust
And I have had friends pass to the dust,
And I am promised such a fate, as well.

Still, I walk on.
Death is part of the journey.
It is not the end, it is a stretch of road.
In life, we choose the path we follow when we are dead
We choose a rough and rocky path forward
Or pacing between prison walls

Pebbles in my shoes, pains in my muscles
Illness in my guts, mind swimming in fatigue
But I have a destination I must attain
Even when others question if it is truly there
Even when others mock me for thinking it is there

I move more quickly when I give aid to others
I move not at all when I feed my demons
I leave the path when I harm others unknowingly
I drive others from the path when I harm, aware of the harm I do
I have real guilt for the wrong I have done
And I will not arrive at my destination on my own
I cannot enter that place, unclean as I am

So I try to open every door on my path
That I might have a door opened for me
I try to give hope to every person on my path
That I might have hope given to me
It is not hypocrisy when I try to do good as I sin
It is a desperate desire that I might become clean
And humble
And found worthy

I see those who do not bow their heads,
Who draw things unto themselves,
Who amass and array about their persons
Who do not see any need to change
Who do not see any need in their fellows
They do not walk with anyone,
But remain in their palaces
And they cannot arrive at the place they do not move towards

Sometimes all I can do is say “one more step”
And then take it

You will see many sets of footprints on the path
The trick is not to follow any of them
But instead to hold that handrail
To smile and to be kind
To ask for help when you need it
And to have hope that you will arrive
And be cleansed of your evils that you might enter therein
There is a way for that last door to open
And then I will have the rest I seek after a life and a death
Of walking on that path