The Book of Mormon is anti-war?

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September 16, 2010 by J. Madson

Before I get into my argument in upcoming posts, I wanted to share the article that is running in the SL Tribune tomorrow. Pick up a copy or you can read it at their site

I’m hoping we can start a dialogue within our faith on these issues and really analyze what the message of the Book of Mormon is on violence and conflict. I am a firm believer that in the non-violence espoused by Jesus of Nazareth in the New Testament. I am also a firm believer that the Book of Mormon is a warning to us that if we do not imitate Christ in loving others, even enemies, we will end up as the Nephites did.

29 thoughts on “The Book of Mormon is anti-war?

  1. elchupacabras says:

    Best of luck on your book! I too am a pacifist and am tired of the neo-con hawkish interpretation of The Book of Mormon as an excuse to further American hegemony.

    I loved these quotes from the article: “There is a very old desire on the part of Mormons to prove themselves as true Americans,” said Bushman, a Harvard-educated expert on LDS history. “Our thinking is that we have to support the leaders in our government. That is admirable in many ways. But we don’t want to be unthinking in our support.”

    Bushman said he does believe the Book of Mormon spells out certain conditions “in which you have to defend your wives and your children and your liberty and your rights,” he said. “But, as we know, everyone believes that they are going to war to defend themselves. The terrorists even believe that they are defending themselves against American aggression.”

  2. mormongandhi says:

    Congratulations on contributing to a very exciting, thought-provoking and interesting article at Salt Lake Tribune. I can’t wait to follow your posts. Eagerly awaiting your posts on the Book of Mormon’s anti-war message! Finally. Out of interest though, for those who haven’t seen this yet on youtube, please check out: Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Neither Let It Be Afraid, a Message of Peace for LDS in the Military. This is a church video that more than ever puts forward a succinct official church position on war. http://mormongandhi.com/video-a-message-of-peace-for-lds-in-the-military-service/

    • Tod Robbins says:

      Thanks for the video post Mormon Gandhi. Josh, you’re doing an important work. I read the same message from the Book of Mormon. Keep us up to date on the book. Cheers.

    • Eduard A. Erdtsieck says:

      It is not anti-war, but a reminder to our time to watch out for the abuse of civil power by others and to step forward as Alma did in King Noah’s court.

      • mormongandhi says:

        Interesting that you bring this particular example forward Eduard, as Abinadi and Alma’s actions with regards to King Noah are some of the most intriguing examples of nonviolent resistance in the Book of Mormon. Without resorting to violence, Abinadi speaks truth to power, condemns King Noah’s unrighteous rule over his people, and gets killed, while Alma, for having attempted to defend the resister, is cast out and starts teaching and organizing his own followers underground. In time, King Noah found out where Alma’s peaceable followers of Christ were meeting, and sent his army to destroy them. Being warned by God of the army’s coming, Alma quickly led his band of approximately 450 subverts into the wilderness for eight days, stopping in an uninhabited area, where the people of Alma establish the city of Helam. They prosper for many years, remaining faithful to God’s commandments.

  3. Eduard A. Erdtsieck says:

    President Hinckley addressed a topic called “War and Peace”, during the 2003 April Conference, sunday afternoon session. He discussed the war powers of our nation and how it will impact Church members?

  4. Seth says:

    Josh, my old friend, what HAVE you been smokin’, huh? Just discovered your bloggin, and perused Laplante’s article. I’ve been reading the OT, compiling notes for a political/ historical/ legal commentary of the Bible. The Exodus and its aftermath, in which Joshua leads Israel in a series of conquests v. the many groups in Canaan, is, quite simply, a war of aggression. But, it was still a “righteous” war, no? The BOM is replete with instances of Nephite defensive war, and there are a few offensives, in case I’m not mistaken, as well. Milton, while no prophet, is arguably our language’s greatest poet, and I daresay massively influential to Jos. Smith–his poetic depiction of the War in Heaven I would venture is likely accurate. Actual force was used. This is a materialistic universe. The weapons of war grow larger throughout this cosmos. It’s absurd to deny the role of war in human existence. The issue is NOT whether the Scriptures advocate war, but what wars we should engage in today? And, perhaps even more importantly, HOW we engage in them? The Orwellian barrage of hippie peacenik garbage that has inundated our society and its culture for the past 4 decades, via modern so-called “news” media, has retarded our ability to properly answer these questions and deal with REAL communist and Islamic threats to our liberty and security. As Reagan once stated, the ultimate weapon is the unfettered will of a free people. We are no longer able to properly judge what kind of force is appropriate b/c we have lost what made us so powerful to begin with, namely our freedom. We have become beholden to an aristocracy of monied interests that use our military like it’s a world police force, and spend our money to the same point that broke the back of the Roman Republic. Please pardon if I digressed, this is just my stream of consciousness coming at ya baby!! Share this with Ron, he’ll know that only pure Montana could send this. Seth

    • Joseph says:

      J. answered your claim pretty thoroughly, but there are a few other points that come to my mind.

      First off, your question about whether the Israelite invasion of the Land of Canaan was a righteous war. My answer to that is, I don’t think so. Joseph Smith indicated that “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” I have come to believe that the version of that invasion in the Old Testament is a result of transmission and translation problems.

      Contrast this with the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith said was “the most correct of any book on earth”:

      20 Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.

      21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands. (3 Nephi 3:20-21)

      I am confused as to what Nephite battles could be interpreted as “wars of aggression.” On this point I also disagree with J. in that I don’t know of any pro-war statements in the Book of Mormon. There are statements that, taken out of context, could be interpreted that way, but put back into context, a pro-war interpretation doesn’t hold up. War is accepted as a “necessary evil,” but it is not promoted. It is shown as being a disaster, as J. describes so well below.

      In comparing the above verses from the Book of Mormon to the Old Testament I have come to the following beliefs:

      1. The Book of Mormon writers had a different version of the Old Testament, as is often stated in the Book of Mormon.
      2. While there may have been false traditions that had crept into the Old Testament (Brass Plates) of the Book of Mormon writers, the prophets and righteous leaders of the Book of Mormon clearly do not see those traditions has having application to them.

      Of course, my rejection of much of the Old Testament is a personal belief, and not one accepted in the LDS Church in general. But, even accepting the questionable proposition that the Old Testament isn’t a total mess, the Book of Mormon, in contrast to the Old Testament, is the book for “our day.”

      And, as a second witness, the New Testament writers also reject much of the Old Testament, and describe Christ as one who rejected much in those traditions. The New Testament writers, like the Book of Mormon writers, were also dealing with scriptures that were different from what has come down to us as the Old Testament.

      And yes, the Book of Mormon, as well as the New Testament, are anti-war. I don’t know what you’d have to be smoking to NOT see that.

  5. J. Madson says:

    Seth, good to see you round these parts. Of course the war in Canaan was one of aggression. Of course the BoM is full of defensive wars and while they never invaded foreign lands, there are certainly many prowar voices in the scriptures. You certainly dont take me for a fool to not see that. As to the war in heaven, we simply dont know much to anything about it so I can speculate but it would just be that, speculation. I agree that we should wrestle with what wars we should engage in and how. I would answer no wars and no engagement. Now when you say

    We have become beholden to an aristocracy of monied interests that use our military like it’s a world police force, and spend our money to the same point that broke the back of the Roman Republic.

    Thats something I can get behind. Now the larger q or insinuation that these were righteous wars in the scriptures, let me propose the following.

    The scriptures have voices that support violence and other voices that denounce violence. Some that take up arms, others that lay down arms. Now, as someone who thinks attempts to harmonize many things in the scriptures is impossible and frankly folly, I would suggest that these voices as to violence cannot be reconciled. The slaughter by Joshua of children in Jericho and thereabouts cannot be reconciled with love your enemies, turn the other cheek, etc. for example. The scriptures read us and give us a choice: which voice will we follow; that of the sacrificial economy of satan or that of self sacrificial love or agape that Jesus demonstrates. I choose to read the scriptures through the lens of Jesus of Nazareth. I choose to use that as my model and not that of the voices for violence. Is that an arbitrary choice? perhaps. But I would much rather put my lot in with the prince of peace who says that if e have seen him we have seen the father rather than those claiming to hear Gods voice.

    Now as to the BoM text I argue presents a non-violent message. If I was to tell you about a civilization that over the course of a thousand years was engaged in countless wars and that those very wars were more often than not caused by disaffected elements in their own tribe, that those same wars only ended after much death and violence and even then only resulted in brief periods of respite followed by renewed war and violence as each successive generation continued the bloodfeud you would wonder whether they should be emulated.

    Furthermore, every time this civilization chose to engage in dialogue rather than take up arms, their “enemies” would lay down their weapons, refuse to fight, and even give land back. Indeed, this civilization even claimed to receive a visitation by deity who told them to give up all forms of violence and hundreds of years of peace broke out only to be followed by a return to violence and war ending in the end of their civilization what would we conclude.

    I think we would have to conclude that 1) we might want to figure out what makes people in our society feel like outcasts enough to leave and begin wars 2) we would prob conclude that dialogue always worked better in engaging their “enemies” 3) that no matter who the pro war voices were in said society that the results speak for themselves, violence begat violence, created more hate, animosity, and anger among the people and eventually ended in one eternal round of death and warfare. 4) So yeah the BoM is a nonviolent text to me. It shows clearly what happens when we choose the wrong model to follow. Its a perfect case study of what not to do with examples of brief periods where people tried another options, non violence and it worked.

    And yes this has direct bearing on the when and how of warfare today. It is no accident that violent actions throughout the globe by the US have only created more hate, animosity, and anger leading to more violence. I think its about time we try a different method.

    • Seth says:

      Allow me to clarify my position—my prior remarks were too off-the-cuff. I was just excited to discover Josh’s blog because it reminded me of the discussions we used to have back in college. The B.O.M. thread most intrigued me. Apparently Josh has a related article in the Tribune? If so, please direct me to that sometime.

      I have become increasingly concerned with the welfare of our country, and for the past few years have embarked on a rigorous self-study of materials I consider would assist me to better see the world as our Founders did. They were influenced by many, but it’s gen. known that they cited the Bible the most, and then Montesquieu. Locke was also a major influence. Apparently like Joseph, I tended to ignore the Old Testament, but having just concluded an intensive study of it, I see where the Framers were coming from—it is a treasure trove of political truth. Locke, for ex., cites to Gideon and Samuel for their admonitions to Israel against monarchies (easily extrapolated to modern notions of “big government”). The final verse of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Judg. 21: 25 (repeating the same line found in Judg. 17: 6). The time of the Judges is fascinating because it spans nearly the same amount of time that America has formally existed as a nation; we have also had no king, and have largely governed ourselves. However, I sense that this may no longer necessarily be the case anymore due to the subtle alterations made to our culture and morality (not so subtle when viewed historically, however). Our political culture now defers to government, our people bow down to its power. I digress.

      Joseph, what’s your basis that the Israeli reclamation of the Holy Land after nearly half a millennium under Egyptian bondage is a mistranslation? The JST offers relatively few substantive changes—Jos. Smith himself does not agree with your dismissal of the OT. Neither does the Lord Himself, who quotes from the OT extensively during his ministry (our NT Gospels). He was obviously learned in the Hebrew scriptures—what I call the “reclamation” of Canaan was a seminal point in Israeli history, which led to Christ. I raised the reclamation because it seemed problematic to your and Josh’s theory of the scriptures somehow being “anti-war.”

      I disagree with Josh that we cannot “reconcile” the scriptures, even despite the flaws and holes in the OT that do exist. We can do so historically, and I believe that was one of Jos. Smith’s fundamental tasks—to reconcile seemingly disparate truths found throughout the scriptures. Anything truly “irreconcilable” was due to unauthorized or intentionally distorting interpolations by compilers along the way. We know Christ was the God of the OT, and that He is not only a God of mercy but of justice as well. Justice renders punishment necessary and we also know that God often punishes the wicked by the wicked. But, he also punishes the wicked by the righteous. The Exodus/Reclamation is an obvious example of the latter; the much later Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are examples of the former. Were the Lord’s angelic destroyers “pro-war” when they utterly destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah for the wickedness found therein? My main point, which I sense that both of you missed, was that it is overly simplistic, or reductive, to label the B.O.M., or any scripture, “anti-war.”

      Unlike Joseph, I take the OT very seriously intellectually. Christ never rejected the large-scale justice of the OT (which was admittedly sometimes brutal), only aspects of the Law, the hyper-enforcement of which in His time overshadowed its spirit. Many of Christ’s “nonviolent” teachings are personal in nature, not political; they admonish the individual.

      As for the B.O.M. specifically—I partially raised the OT because of how many striking parallels there are b/t post-reclamation Israel/Judah and the contemporaneous Nephite/Lamanite civilizations—Captain Moroni certainly leads some military offensives. Ammon is not exactly “nonviolent” in some of his conversion methods. If anything, it is the Book of Ether that is the best example of the futility of war. But, war was only futile then because both sides were so wicked. We well know that there are “good guys” and “bad guys” in most wars, despite the efforts of someone like Clint Eastwood attempting to humanize the Japanese in Letters from Iwo Jima.

      Locke is clear that war begins when one unjustly uses force against another. The aggressor is therefore exposed to death, just as “the way of beasts.” Locke also points to 2 Kings for support that God actually condones revolution, or war, when govt. is itself instituted by force, and not by right. I’ll let you answer whether it has been America or its fascist, communist, and radical Islamist antagonists over the past century who have been the “aggressors.” And also whether we have come to the point our Founders did in seizing back the reigns of power from their masters, who also likely today will not cede back such power without a forceful struggle. Those are more pressing questions to me, not whether “war,” or “violence,” per se are inherently bad. Locke simply stated long ago what I think Joseph alluded to, which is perhaps the most concise point throughout our new thread here—war is a “necessary evil.” But it is necessary nevertheless, Josh!

      Please indulge me with related ideas from Paine, and then Demosthenes. Thomas Paine, the firebrand: “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” He defines the “origin and rise” of government as “a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world[,]” and its “design and end” to be “freedom and security.” I would suggest that war also fits into that. The Revolutionary War was necessary for us to enjoy the freedom we have in this country now for so long. No “dialogue” with King George would have achieved the same result, Josh. No “dialogue” with Al Qaeda or the Ayatolla or whoever will deter them from seeking our destruction, although I recognize Alma’s and the sons’ of Mosiah missionary successes with the Lamanites. However, the latter was an instance of neighboring nations that were also essentially kin, and notice how the power of the word had only a temporary effect.

      Demosthenes nearly single-handedly staved off the Macedonian incursion into free Athenian society. Philip and his son Alexander plunged the free republics of Greece into a situation where they sought and gained empire through a series of great wars, emulated by the Caesars much later when they broke up the Roman Republic. They could have been thwarted if the Athenians would have heeded Demosthenes’ impassioned calls to defend their free society with force. Instead, they heeded “pro-peace” voices that urged war was no solution—it proved to be the end of the golden age in Greece. Philip ran them over. Please substitute “Greece” for “America” below: “All Greece is now divided into two parties; the one composed of those who desire neither to exercise nor be subject to arbitrary power, but to enjoy the benefits of liberty, laws, and independence; the other, of those who, while they aim at an absolute command of their fellow-citizens, are themselves the vassals of another person, by whose means they hope to obtain their purposes.” And: “Every monarch, every tyrant, is an enemy of liberty, and the opposer of laws. Will ye not then be careful, lest, while ye seek to be freed from war, ye find yourselves his slaves?”

      I am troubled my our government’s recent misuses of the U.S. military, and in that I feel Josh and I are on the same page. But I am even more troubled by Americans’ general lack of zeal, their lack of patriotism, their preaching of a false peace. Such preaching is rooted in an ignorance of history and frankly, an ignorance of scripture. Jeremiah witnesses firsthand the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and he states something so powerful, something that has crept into our own society, sadly even our church, during perhaps a similar “historical tipping point:” “Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.” Jer. 14: 13-15.

      The righteous have a duty to engage in war to prevent tyranny, which comes to a nation both externally and internally, and to preserve their freedom. The wicked have a duty to repent and become righteous again. It is when the wicked preach “peace” and thereby expose an otherwise righteous nation to a conquering enemy that we are in grave danger. Internal and external enemies have been gathering against our nation, our people, for far too long now, taking advantage of our prosperity and goodwill. They seek our destruction, the thousand years of darkness Reagan spoke of and that followed the collapse of Rome by the hordes of the 4th century. I consider America to be the New Jerusalem. There is no question in my mind that it is. To witness its downfall is the reason I lament, as Jeremiah did for his country so long ago. You may have to call Ron in to help you with this one, Josh. 😉

      Seth

  6. J. Madson says:

    Joseph

    I dont necessarily think that the BoM voices were prowar in that they wanted preemptive war etc but certainly they were not all pacifist non violent voices. They were certainly willing to engage in violence but like I said before, I think the message that violence begets violence is shown pretty dramatically, despite whatever reasons they felt justified to engage in war.

    • Joseph says:

      Thanks for clarifying. I will certainly agree that wars always end badly in the Book of Mormon.

      The differences between a rigidly pacifist program versus accepting the need for self-defense at times have already been hashed out on this blog, so I’m not interested in going there. That’s something I just don’t have any solid conclusions I’ve been able to come to yet, anyway.

      But again, I do agree that the Book of Mormon is anti-war. Maybe it’s that I’m a meticulous reader, but I’m still baffled about how that is so often missed.

  7. J. Madson says:

    Seth

    you wrote alot so Ill try to break it down in to manageable parts.

    “Joseph, what’s your basis that the Israeli reclamation of the Holy Land after nearly half a millennium under Egyptian bondage is a mistranslation?”

    Cant speak for Joseph, but there is little to no historical evidence that this ever took place and alot of evidence that the historical reality is very different from biblical account. Secondly, I reject the notion that God demanded they slit children’s throats, dash babies to the ground, etc in the name of a reclaimed holy land. I believe that these people scapegoated God and do what all people do when they give into their violent desires, claim God told them to do it.

    “We know Christ was the God of the OT, and that He is not only a God of mercy but of justice as well. Justice renders punishment necessary and we also know that God often punishes the wicked by the wicked. But, he also punishes the wicked by the righteous. The Exodus/Reclamation is an obvious example of the latter”

    Disagree that Christ is the God of the OT (a whole other discussion). Also disagree that justice renders punishment necessary (this is retributive justice/ a uniquely western idea which is not scriptural. The scriptures argue for restorative justice which is not based upon punishment). Disagree about Sodom & Gomorrah as well. Im not a literalist but even if I was I would reject the notion that what some angelic destroyer did should be our moral code when we have a living breathing deity in Jesus of Nazareth who is pretty clear on issues of violence and war. In other words, I agree there is value in the OT but I do not want to live an OT ethics because I live in light of the kingdom of God announced by Jesus. To reject that and seek ethics in the OT is to live as if he never came, imho.

    Christ never rejected the large-scale justice of the OT (which was admittedly sometimes brutal), only aspects of the Law, the hyper-enforcement of which in His time overshadowed its spirit. Many of Christ’s “nonviolent” teachings are personal in nature, not political; they admonish the individual.

    Completely disagree. This is the nonsense that Neibuhr and other Christian realists have tried to argue because the command to give up violence was too much. They want to spiritualize and personalize a gospel that is social and political. They did not kill Jesus because he said a few niceties about being good and kind (everyone already believed that) They wanted to kill him because he challenged the political and social powers of his day. Jesus is historical and when we reject the political and historical realities of that message we turn him into a pop culture icon which has little worth. In stronger terms, I would say we further the end of the cross by making his political and social message mute just as the powers of his day tried to. Love your enemies (ethnos in Greek, meaning national enemies). btw.

    As for the B.O.M. specifically— you are again doing what I think too many war apologists (can I call you that🙂 do in picking out voices of people who engaged in violence as a model. I wouldnt care if Ammon was the most violent man in history. Just because he is a character in the BoM does not give him moral force or persuasion. As I said before, Jesus mediates these conflicts and makes clear that he rejects violence. Secondly the book as a historical text shows that violence doesnt work. It only creates more animosity, more violence, and leads to destruction. Necessary it is not. It is only the lack of imagination and will to follow other options that leads some to think it necessary.

    I’ll let you answer whether it has been America or its fascist, communist, and radical Islamist antagonists over the past century who have been the “aggressors.”

    hmm, can we say both.

    The Revolutionary War was necessary for us to enjoy the freedom we have in this country now for so long. No “dialogue” with King George would have achieved the same result, Josh. No “dialogue” with Al Qaeda or the Ayatolla or whoever will deter them from seeking our destruction, although I recognize Alma’s and the sons’ of Mosiah missionary successes with the Lamanites. However, the latter was an instance of neighboring nations that were also essentially kin, and notice how the power of the word had only a temporary effect.

    Disagree again. Revolutionary War was not necessary. Same result? perhaps not. We prob would have ended the slave trade earlier if we followed Britains lead. And I think you misread the text if the word only has a temporary affect. Since Samuel the Lamanite and Jesus himself point to the Lamanites as being the most converted and the exemplar of Christian conversion.

    I am troubled my our government’s recent misuses of the U.S. military, and in that I feel Josh and I are on the same page. But I am even more troubled by Americans’ general lack of zeal, their lack of patriotism, their preaching of a false peace. Such preaching is rooted in an ignorance of history and frankly, an ignorance of scripture. Jeremiah witnesses firsthand the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and he states something so powerful, something that has crept into our own society, sadly even our church, during perhaps a similar “historical tipping point:” “Then said I, Ah, Lord God! Behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.” Jer. 14: 13-15.

    Oh Seth, do love you and agree that the US use of military has been obscene but we certainly dont need the false patriotism of reliance on force and military. But I suggest you reread Jeremiah and what he was condemning. First of all Jeremiah condemned the rulers and priests of his day as relying too much on military might. Hananiah (happy talk) and others claimed that all was well and that by relying on the military might of Egypt all would be dandy. Jeremiah is proving my point, that by relying on military might and not the Lord they would reap what the sow. Violence begets violence.

    Jeremiah condemned their reliance on violence, condemning the cult of sacrifice and stated that God never told Moses nor any of the priests to sacrifice, condemned the wicked rulers of his day who turned the temple into a den of thieves by robbing from the poor and hoarding it in a religious institution. Note, Jesus cites this in the temple. We are also directed by the gospel to the words of Zechariah 9:9-10 who spoke of the day when the one riding upon an ass would come to Jerusalem proclaiming a message of peace. That this individual would remove the war chariot from Ephraim, the warhorse from Jerusalem and the battle bow and announce peace to all nations. We should always remember Jesus lament over the city of Jerusalem and their refusal to give up violence. It is in my view, this message which is made large in the BoM as well that is so needed today

    “Now when Jesus approached and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you had only known on this day, even you, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and surround you and close in on you from every side. They will demolish you–you and your children within your walls–and they will not leave within you one stone on top of another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.””
    (Luke 19:41–44 NET)

    • Seth says:

      Now then, that’s more like it, Josh. I will respond to your rebuttals in the same general order that you broke up my long post.

      Joseph dismissed the OT on the basis of mistranslation, you that the hist. evid. is supposedly lacking. I suppose you consider Moses’ leading of a great exodus of Hebrews from Egypt just great poetry, then? The righteous power and glory of David’s and Solomon’s kingdom est. approximately three centuries later just magically appeared? Or, do you side with the archeology that suggests that these (D. and S.) were just local tribal chieftains? There is little verifiable evidence of anything 2,300 ago, Josh. It’s not what I base my belief, or faith, upon. Many scholars have made similar claims to discredit the BOM—the scriptural texts themselves are historical because of my faith, which is not to say that the OT is infallible or perfect; it certainly is not. Neither is the NT. There is an underlying assumption in the BOM that the OT IS historical and factual, although we are unclear just how closely the brass plates resemble our KJV. You compare me to Neibuhr, yet you sound like National Geographic, man. I consider Christ, as well as all of the OT prophets (who foretold Christ’s coming, and many of events, both good and bad, that have yet to be fulfilled) to be historical. Please see how closely Revelation resembles the apocalyptic literature of old. Yet, according to your view (and perhaps Joseph’s) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel were just waxing poetic?

      Clarification: Christ is “a” god of the OT. I agree this is tangential to our main discussion. The angels sent from God to destroy S/G are just as “living breathing” as Christ; they were sent by the same God. I reject one of your underlying premises—that the OT “ethic” cannot be reconciled with Christ’s teachings. The BOM clarifies how the Mosaic law was in perfect harmony with Christianity. Christ simply did away with the former’s strict rites and with the misinterpretations and misconceptions that had come to dominate Jewish national life during his time, mistakes that came and went in fits for centuries before—there were many great OT revivals, to wit several of the Judges, David, Josiah, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, the Maccabees, etc.—but that by His time had completely corrupted what the prophets of old had taught and instituted in the first place. The controversy was not that he preached peace.

      You curiously dismiss my example of Ammon’s violence, which leads me to believe that you are selectively choosing whatever conforms to your theory. Violence and war may not be the best solution to certain problems, but when they serve a righteous purpose, such as the conversion of King Laman or the eradication by Joshua of the Canaanites who had reached a point of wickedness where they were regularly sacrificing their children to pagan idols (Molech, etc.) and thereby polluting the land promised to Abraham and his seed, then your assertion that “violence doesn’t work” becomes overly simplistic, as I previously stated. I think you’ve gotten carried away with your pacifist idealism, and have sort of mingled that with scripture. “Violence doesn’t work.” Tell that to Captain Moroni or to George Washington! The Revolutionary War was most surely necessary, but it wasn’t pleasant, and it was the British who made it necessary. I’m not praising or advocating war here, Josh. But, sometimes we must do the hard thing, which is why I quoted Paine’s immortal “These are times that try men’s souls” passage.

      The Lamanites were a great example of conversion and did bury their weapons, etc. But for how long? They soon reverted back to their warlike traditions, and their wickedness, and ultimately utterly destroyed the Nephites, and were allowed to do so b/c the Nephites’ unrighteousness was even greater. Cortez encountered a Lamanite remnant in a state of abject wickedness and barbarity, similar to the peoples Joshua led the Israelis to destroy. Similar to the radical Islamists of our day, who cut off the heads of western news reporters with rusty knives while chanting “Allahu Akbar!” and kill thousands of innocent citizens in one fell swoop with commercial jet airliners and justify it by their scripture. They are just 7th century relics who want to see the world burn. How are such threats NOT necessary to combat, and violently? Your “retributive” v. “restorative” distinction is irrelevant in light of such examples.

      You misconstrue Jeremiah. He never denied the existence of sacrifice under the Mosaic law, only that the Jews, b/c of their vanity and unrighteousness, had perverted such a system by incorporating forms of pagan worship, which included human sacrifice. This is a common theme of nearly every prophet of the OT, a perversion often attributed to the desire to appease the “strange wives” they unlawfully took and their vanity to emulate the heathen nations that surrounded them. Even Solomon the Wise was guilty of this; I have yet to quite understand the allure the ancients had for idolatry, but there was certainly a political element to it. Anyway, Jeremiah is condemning Jewish wickedness and apostasy, not violent opposition of their enemies (who eventually burned their civilization literally to the ground). You didn’t specifically address the scripture I quoted, which he re-states elsewhere and is an important theme of his general lamentation, in which he condemns the “all is well in Zion” mentality the people had then, something that was partially derived from their leaders’ misplaced reliance on Egypt. Such reliance was not misplaced because it somehow violated a universal code of nonviolence you seek to impose on scripture, Josh, but b/c it was built upon a false faith in the aid of a foreign, and itself idolatrous and wicked, nation, and not on the deliverance of God, who had rewarded their faith so many times in the past.

      Zechariah prophesied of what the Lord Himself declared four centuries later: Peace. But, again, you oversimplify. Peace as the natural result of righteousness. There is no peace for the wicked who reject that message, however. The agency of this mortal world affords the wicked this choice—it is why Christ’s message of peace is tempered by “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.” Matt. 10: 34. Christ is not advocating war here, only predicting that division and strife will occur b/c of his teachings. He taught, as I realize, that peace is only ultimately realized after great strife. Strife b/t good and evil, as there always has been. Do you deny there are “good guys” and “bad guys” in war? Not even Christ’s millennial reign will completely stamp out war or violence or the “bad guys,” as there is prophesied a great and final conflict at the end of the millennium before the final judgment. Christ lamented war, as Jeremiah did before Him, and as I do now. They never taught, however, that war was never necessary. They certainly did not intend the namby-pamby “let’s have a dialogue with Al Qaeda” vibe I am getting from you.

      Also, you ignored my reference to Locke, who clearly sets forth his justification for war and a people’s right of revolution. I am not so naïve to place a halo over America in every military conflict we’ve had—since Vietnam I think the way our govt. has managed our “wars” has gotten out-of-hand. It’s become the “military industrial complex” Ike warned us about over 50 yrs. ago. But, the colonists were not the “aggressor,” they were exercising their rights. The fascist and communist powers of Europe and Asia, and current radical Islamic forces in the middle east are the very kind of “aggressors” Locke meant. I’m sure he never envisioned nuclear warfare. Our Founders were inspired, no doubt, and they derived much from Locke, himself from the Bible and classical thinkers, and who recognized the need to go to war to exercise certain inalienable rights and to fight back tyranny and suppression, and to purge the land of wickedness when necessary. It is a common theme throughout the Bible and the BOM, and the greatest secular sources of all history confirm this. And no, my realization of it does not make me a “war apologist,” only one who does not buy into the whole ersatz-intellectual pacifist agenda the political Left has slipped into America’s collective consciousness via modern media propaganda, an agenda that you have apparently, and strangely, bought into yourself.

      Seth

  8. J. Madson says:

    Seth

    1) The scriptures were written by men who to greater and lesser degrees understood Gods will and the reality of his nature. The OT is a complex document that is at war with itself, inconsistent, and has a priestly tradition (deuternonmists) at odd with the prophetic. It is not to say that there is not history there but we need to be careful to understand that first and foremost they did not write history in the germanic school of thought but as ancients would. It is mythic history meant primarily to tell a narrative and moral and secondarily to reflect what we moderns call history. There is nothing glorious or righteous about David or Solomon unless you are an establishment figure attempting to prop up a corrupt regime. You are making the same mistake I suggested people do with the BoM. Just because someone says something in scripture does not make it true or correct. David, Solomon, Joshua, etc who are they but men simply trying to approximate what they believe is the will of God. There is a reason Jesus had to come and reveal clearly God’s nature. Because these fools had been so wrong for so long.

    The prophets were not enamored with these men. Additionally, those called prophets in the OT were anti-establishment figures who spoke concerning international law, social justice, and human rights, as opposed to religious issues. If they are poetic it is only their style for their substance is outright radical and speaks to the liberation of the weak and powerless while rejecting reliance on violence and the sword. If you think I am dismissing these writings out of hand because of lack of historical evidence than you misunderstand me. I am merely suggesting that when a text asserts historical claims and we want to use it to justify some code of ethics we should subject it to a certain degree of logic and reason As Chomsky clarifies

    The word “prophet” is a very bad translation of

    an obscure Hebrew word, navi. Nobody knows what it means. But today they’d be called dissident intellectuals. They were giving geopolitical analysis, arguing that the acts of the rulers were going to destroy society. And they condemned the acts of evil kings. They called for justice and mercy to orphans and widows and so on. They weren’t praised. They weren’t honored. They were imprisoned like Jeremiah. They were driven into the desert. They were hated. Now at the time, there were intellectuals, “prophets,” who were very well treated. They were the flatterers of the court. Centuries later, they were called “false prophets”

    you state

    The BOM clarifies how the Mosaic law was in perfect harmony with Christianity.

    I categorically disagree. Rather it states multiple times that when Christ comes weshould make whatever he says and does the law. They recognized clearly they did not live higher law. Christ is filling up the intent of the law. An eye for an eye was Gods attempt to limit violence, Jesus then fills in Gods ultimate goal or intent when he intensifies the torah in asserting you shouldnt even respond in kind but love your enemies. Matthew purposefully frames Jesus as the new moses coming to reveal Gods law on a new mountain. Everything in the sermon is fulfilling God’s plan for his creation. A plan which speaks to the liberation of the weak and rejects all forms of violence, economic, social, and military.

    Your analysis cannot offer any credible reason for why Jesus was killed. His message was just like those prophets before him, anti-establishment, social justice, etc and his methods were non-violent. If you want to delve into the NT be my guest.

    Seth, here is the problem. Of course I dismiss Ammon’s violence. Because it is irrelevant to my argument. My ethics are not based upon him. As I dismiss George Washington who murdered soldiers who refused to fight, as I dismiss Captain Moroni who had similar problems. Who is Captain Moroni that I should follow his model? 14 years of bloodshed and horror only to end hostilities for a brief moment before war breaks out anew. I would hardly call having my children fight the same wars again and again any form of success. Is it any surprise, for example, that the US nation founded upon violence feels justified in using violence throughout the world. We are the greatest purveyor of violence in the world whether it be arms sales or actual conflict.

    The Lamanites were a great example of conversion and did bury their weapons, etc. But for how long? They soon reverted back to their warlike traditions, and their wickedness, and ultimately utterly destroyed the Nephites, and were allowed to do so b/c the Nephites’ unrighteousness was even greater.

    You cannot just make up stuff here. You need some proof. Remember, the lamanites did not just bury their weapons once. Every time lamanites converted they renounced violence and as Samuel tells us they NEVER took them up again. It is they who Jesus cites specifically as being baptized by fire long before Nephites. Furthermore, to say they have warlike traditions and wickedness is to buy into the Nephite PR machine that Samuel and Jesus so roundly condemn. When you speak of radical Islamists I certainly can agree that cutting heads off and attacking innocents is evil but dont be so blind to not realize that the US is just as consumed by notions of crusade and killing innocents. This idea that it is us v them is exactly why we are in this mess. Our collective inability to renounce violence and accept each other as brother and sister. It is a form of imperial arrogance to not see that we are just as much terrorists as a nation only we are much more efficient in our death dealing, killing millions. Lets not even address the hundreds of thousands of children we willingly killed as part of sanctions.

    You misconstrue Jeremiah. He never denied the existence of sacrifice under the Mosaic law.

    Sorry the text disagrees with you. The Hebrew for Jeremiah 7:22-23 reads thus (words in parentheses exist in the text but are not required in translation for smooth English speaking): “… (22) For I did not speak to your fathers nor did I command them in the day I brought them [lit: in the day of bringing them] out of/from the land of Egypt, concerning (matters of) burnt offering or sacrifice. (23) Rather [the Hebrew here is explicit on the “rather”], this (word) is what I commanded them: ‘Obey my voice, that I may be your God and you may be my people [lit: and I will be to you for a God and you will be to me for a people]; walk only in the way which I will command you, (in order) that it may go well with you.’” Hosea 6:4 “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Isaiah 1 where he states that he is sick of all their festivals and sacrifices because they do not practice social justice. Amos, I reject all your sacrifices, I want justice to roll down like waters. Or best yet, Jesus himself who affirms that loving God and one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

    The agency of this mortal world affords the wicked this choice—it is why Christ’s message of peace is tempered by “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.” Matt. 10: 34. Christ is not advocating war here, only predicting that division and strife will occur b/c of his teachings.

    I agree with this assessment. The human inevitability of violence and chaos is irrelevant to whether it is divinely necessary and furthermore whether Christians should be engaged in such behavior. Of course I ignore Locke. I dont agree with him and find little persuasive in his statements. So we are clear, my pacifism is not due to any political calculations but is based in my Christianity. We can fight tyranny, fight suppression, purge the land of wickedness, of course. I am right there with you. Where we differ are the means. Jesus is a double revolutionary, rejecting both the status quo and the violent means. My pacifism is rooted in Christian anarchism of Tolstoy, MLK Jr. etc which is all rooted in the gospels.

    • Seth says:

      Josh, this is why I rarely blog. The little showdowns, like ours here, can be enjoyable and challenging, but it’s pointless b/c those who take the time to write the kind of epistles we’ve been exchanging are already convinced of their own way. I’ll give it a couple more shots, though.

      You state that David, Solomon, Joshua et al. were unrighteous “fools,” and Christ came to clarify what they approximated to be God’s will. This is not only ludicrous, but it demonstrates how incoherent your message is. Later you praise other OT prophets as “dissident intellectuals” who were rejected b/c they preached a form of “social justice.” If the Psalms are merely an approximation of “the will of God” on David’s part, well that’s some approximation! There are not a few throughout history that consider these to be the greatest and most Spirit-filled verse ever written. The Lord Himself refers numerously to them. Solomon was personally visited by God at least twice, and his Proverbs and Ecclesiastes rival anything Plato or Aristotle in all of their wisdom penned, certainly anything your beloved little moderns, like Chomsky, have spouted and peddled as “wisdom.” And I’m sorry if I’m not intellectual enough for you to accept that Joshua parting the Jordan, as Moses had parted the Red Sea before him, is just “mythic history.” However, these were also secular rulers and some did commit major sin. Saul fell into the trap that was THE major problem for ancient Jewry, and that was THE main point of Christ’s whole ministry—he offered sacrifice as atonement for disobeying Samuel’s commandment to not despoil the Amalekites. Samuel, “[T]o obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Sam. 15: 22. More on this later.

      Now, to the absurd explanation of the concept of “prophet” by Chomsky. He defines the ancient Hebrew “navi” for prophet as “dissident intellectual” immediately after stating “[n]obody knows what it means.” Really? You’ve gotta be pulling my leg with this stuff, Josh. Rather, old Noam and his friends fancy THEMSELVES as “dissident intellectuals” and revel in playing semantics with the Word of God. True prophets of any age, and Christ was the prophet of prophets, as it were, all preached repentance and were castigated and slain by those they condemned b/c the people, led by evil civil and priestly leaders, refused to repent. It wasn’t about “peace” and it wasn’t about “social justice.” And you lecture me about transforming Christ into a “pop culture icon!”

      Christ was the fulfillment of God’s plan, as you state, but it was a plan that, at least anciently, included a system of animal sacrifices that were symbolic (“types” and “shadows”) of Christ’s later ultimate sacrifice for the sin of mankind. Later, you claim Isaiah and others rejected the Mosaic law altogether. No! You wrest the scriptures from their true meaning when you make such erroneous claims. I pray the incoherence of your theory is not deliberate. Read Isaiah 1 more closely, when he states in v. 13, “Bring no more your VAIN oblations” (emph. added). Again, you’ve missed a key point here. The prophets are not suggesting that the Mosaic law never existed, or was not divinely revealed, but that the people (prodded by vain and aspiring leaders and false prophets) had gone astray from the Mosaic law by attempting to cover over their sins through sacrifice, as Saul had done. They also engaged in the idolatrous rituals and practices of neighboring peoples, such as the Philistines, Edomites, etc. with the latters’ “groves” and “images.” Isaiah’s and the other prophets’ condemnation stems from the vanity of what the Mosaic law had become, not the Mosaic law per se, or as initially revealed (or re-revealed during the points of revival I alluded to in my last post). This was also central to Christ’s own teachings. It had become so bad by Jesus’ time that he suspended the entire system altogether, and yes, revealed a “higher law.”

      As for me not offering “any credible reason for why Jesus was killed.” I most certainly did so. Again, He overturned the long established RELIGIOUS order—by His time a perversion of the Mosaic Law and of the teachings of subsequent prophets who had urged their people to truly abide by that Law, in letter AND in spirit (see my analysis of Isaiah, supra). The Pharisees and others successfully made it a political issue, tattling to their Roman superiors that He posed a threat to order in the province, etc. Is it too much of a stretch to see the sword of God in the seminal event of Titus razing Jerusalem to the ground only 35 years later? Or is that too “retributive” for you, Josh?

      Of course you dismiss Ammon’s violence! It simply does not comport with your pie-in-the-sky notion that the BOM is somehow a pacifist tract that bolsters the “Christian anarchism” of the NT. I guess Jos. Smith is the pre-incarnation of Tolstoy or MLK now? Washington and Capt. Moroni were murderers? The U.S. has killed millions? And you accuse me of “just mak[ing] up stuff here.”?? There were indeed certain groups of Lamanites throughout their 1,000 yr. interaction with the Nephites who converted and laid down their weapons of war PERMANENTLY. So what? Samuel is one of the very few Lamanite prophets in the BOM, the rest were Nephite. Who was it that destroyed the Nephites? The Lamanites did during their final series of cataclysmic wars, wars that remind one of the great wars that Rome had with the Persians in the 2nd century when a “moiety” of the Roman empire perished, or later in the 4th century when the three great barbarian tyrants (Alaric, Genseric, and Attila) finally broke the Western Empire’s back, or the Crusades when many millions died beating back the Muslim hordes, or last century when the three greatest tyrants since Genghis Khan (Hitler, Stalin, and Mao) starved over 70 million of their own people and were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions more. We know all too well of Hitler’s systematic genocide of the Jews. The Nephites were also victims of their own internal strife and dissension (the Gadiantons), a problem common to all of the critical breakdowns of history’s civilizations I just listed. It was not about violence per se, though—violence and war were only products of much deeper spiritual problems, such as what some have labeled “the pride cycle” in the BOM, the “love of gold” Demosthenes identifies that sunk Athens, etc.

      Evil exists in the world, Josh, and our current enemies are serious. Hitler and Stalin, today Iran and China, or whoever (it doesn’t matter) don’t give one rat’s behind about your idealistic pie-in-the-sky call to “renounce violence.” It is the height of western arrogance to cling to this ridiculous hippie ideal of placing a daisy in the barrel of an M-16, and then turn away and pat oneself on the back that “I did my job b/c I just renounced violence today.” Is that understood? It must be, so that we can all move on and begin to fight back this great evil, this great conspiracy of our time, authored by Satan himself who has always been bent on destroying the souls of mankind. The real problem has become that “the World” as a single mysterious entity as alluded to in apocalyptic scripture has been only recently realized through modern technology (mass communication, transportation, wmds, etc.). The Evil One has turned these technological blessings against mankind. I am not afraid, but we as Americans, esp. educated Church members, need to stop wringing our hands of violence and parroting the chirp-chirping of so-called intellectuals like Chomsky, who is touted by the likes of media hacks such as Chris Matthews, who themselves eat up the same drivel as if it were manna from heaven. These types don’t even really concern me, b/c as perhaps the greatest historian in all of history, Edward Gibbon, so presciently stated, in the context of Muslim destruction of the priceless treasures of Alexandria’s libraries: “[it cannot] fairly be presumed that any important truth, any useful discovery in art or nature, has been snatched away from the curiosity of modern ages.” This is a striking claim, one that I feel only the Restoration by Jos. Smith really challenges.

      So, I agree, we do differ in the means, yes.

      Seth

      p.s. can i get an “amen” in the house? it’s like the grand canyon up in here!

  9. J. Madson says:

    Seth,

    heres what I suggest because there are about 6 different big conversations going on. Im going to break it down into sections and we can discuss those. First section, prophets in the OT, then sacrifice, then why Jesus was killed, and so on.

    obviously we need to talk in person, but David, Solomon, Etc were not prophets. The OT is divided into section, the torah, histories, and I am referring to the “prophets” at the tail end who challenged the narrative. It is abundantly clear that they preached social justice and were anti-establishment. The repentance they preached was about these issues including violence.

    Remember David is the one who cut of as many penises as he could of his enemy to prove how righteous and great he was. Look Ive cut of a hundred penises, what a swell guy. Even Moses had great flaws. And this will touch on the progressive nature of the revelation of God in the OT culminating in the final revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. How did Moses institute the priesthood? By commanding Levites to murder a family member or a friend. Are we really going to try and argue that this is somehow connected to God or Deity?

    Lets also remember that it was Joshua whose failures need to be corrected by the new Joshua/Jesus. After murdering thousands of men women and children, Joshua covered up his sins by building cairns on their bodies and scapegoated God, like all murderers do, in claiming it was his will. He had made God in his own image. As Gil Bailie explains:

    “Ultimately, then, it was another Joshua – the Yehosua about whom the Gospels were written – who stepped into the Jordan in a truly decisive way, not “opposite” (neged) his hated in enemies, but “in the presence of” (neged) his God. This Joshua/Jesus became the victim of the kind of sacrificial violence over which his ancestral namesake presided, and, to make the parallel complete, he left behind him no “cairn” that might be turned into yet another sacrificial shrine. They went to the tomb and found it empty.”

    • Seth says:

      Josh, we’re old friends and neighbors, and I respect that you are disseminating your views. I don’t intend to crash your blog here. I tend to get a little chippy, however, when someone libels the father of my country and God’s propehts with the tag “murderer.” That’s not radicalism, it’s sheer pretentiousness and ignorance. I concede that the OT is a challenging and imperfect text, and that there may not be a strict def. of “prophet,” and that some were obviously greater than others. But how are Moses and Joshua not prophets, by any def.? Moses a murderer now? Isaiah, one of the later so-called “prophets of peace” called down a curse against Israel’s enemies that directly led to the death of 185,000 Assyrians. He was not marching in the streets like MLK preaching social justice, and neither was Christ. Do your homework man.

      Your message lacks coherence b/c I sense you’re attempting to bridge your radical leftist politics w/ Mormon doctrine–and all you’re doing is creating a Frankenstein, a freakish hybrid of political and religious thought. What kills me is that radical political leftists consider themselves the “revolutionaries,” when they’re only counter to those who still espouse what our Founders fought and died for. They’re no longer in vogue, but still revolutionary, if you look closely at history before and since the birth of this nation. You can’t get around that one, Josh.

      Well, it’s been fun, but as I stated, blogging is pointless. We’ll have to talk again soon sometime.

      Godspeed,

      Seth

      • J. Madson says:

        When I call Moses a murderer or Joshua a murderer or George Washington it is not lightly.

        George Washington murdered militia men who refused to fight. He also robbed his men of lands and property that was promised.It is a fact, not libel.

        Moses commanded Levites to kill their brother and neighbors to become priests. This is according to the text.

        “‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, ‘Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.’”
        (Exodus 32)

        Joshua likewise commanded Israel to murder infants, children, women and men without respite. War criminal, murderer, etc pick your title. I for one find nothing honorable in slitting the throats of children.

        You cant tell me Isaiah and Jesus did not preach social justice when their words are littered with references to economic equality. Jesus himself defined his ministry as preaching good news to the poor, liberating those in prison, and announcing a year of jubilee where all debts would be forgiven. Social justice indeed. Jesus was quite literally marching around the streets declaring social justice. This is in fact precisely what his ministry was tried to implement it until they killed him.

        The problem for me is that I already know where you are coming from, I grew up hearing the same stuff and have read the same stuff and frankly its not a lack of homework that leads me to reject what you think is so obvious. Again whatever you think my politics may or may not be, they are simply an outgrowth of my desire to follow Christ. It is pretty simple. If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father. Jesus came and revealed what God is like and what it is for someone to follow God. It is a life of self-sacrifice and love for the least of these. It is a willingness to take up your cross rather than kill your enemies. It is the kingdom come.

  10. J. Madson says:

    BTW,

    if you want to read why I actually think the BoM is anti-war you can follow the new post I put up.

    • Seth says:

      There were killings, bro, yes, but it wasn’t “murder.” As an attorney you should know the difference. The historical context of the ancient world was much more brutal than you acknowledge; the ancient Israelites’ actions were actually relatively tame. Wash. fought and risked his life, lost many men, in a fight to the death–it was a brutal war that lasted over six years. You divorce these events from their contexts, man. Christ wasn’t preaching social justice in the mod. political way you’re talking about. You’re deconstructing the Gospel like it’s some exercise in hermeneutics, or something. A lot of these moderns you’ve placed so much faith in are nothing more than educated idiots. I’ve been following similar Left/Right debates throughout my life, in this society, in my own family, law school in San Diego (where I was a distinct political minority!!), etc. I’m thoroughly acquianted w/ all of the leftist rhetoric you subscribe to. But, remember Reagan, who said as early as 1964 that there really is no “left” and “right” in this country, only “up” and “down.” Modern leftist thought is a reversion back to the tyrannies of old, before the liberty of this nation was founded. I just don’t appreciate synethisizing such a philosophy w/ scripture, when they just don’t jive. Seth

      • Bradley says:

        “There were killings, bro, yes, but it wasn’t “murder.” ”

        What would a jury think about Nephi’s killing of Laban? Pictures of the disembodied head, the yellow crime scene tape printed in Hebrew, the coroner’s report showing Laban with a BAC of 0.45%. Nephi says the Holy Ghost told him to do it, but I think he’d be convicted of manslaughter at least. But probably murder, unless he has a good lawyer like Zoram.

        Attorneys should watch where they throw stones. Contemporary America has a serious divide between Justice and the Law, as if actual justice doesn’t matter anymore. It’s become a cynical racket where legislatures, courts and prisons collude to extract profit from the little people. 2.4M inmates can’t be wrong.

  11. J. Madson says:

    I consider the taking of innocent life murder. Not very complicated. Of course the ancient world was brutal. It is my acknowledgment of that which leads me to reject most of their ethics on these issues.

    Im not sure what you think I mean when I say social justice. I mean precisely what the gospel defined his ministry as. Preaching good tidings to the poor, putting down the mighty from their seats, and exalting them of low degree, filling the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He preaches liberty to those in prison and announces a year of jubilee (ie all debts should be forgiven). Remember it is he who defined our status in his kingdom as being directly related to whether we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc. This is what I call social justice.

    I dont mind your accusations, but absent some rationale they are just rhetoric. Of course I am deconstructing narratives and scriptures. Everyone does. We all interpret to varying degrees based upon certain criteria and biases. The question is what is that criteria and bias. I deconstruct the OT through the prism of the revealed word and life of Jesus of Nazareth. I plead guilty as charged. Yes it is important to understand what the text meant to those who wrote the OT etc but in issues of morality and ethics, they are not my guide nor should they be if I am any sort of Christian.

    • Seth says:

      What “accusations?” I’ve responded to your outlandish claims, many of which are plain reckless, if not offensive. Many of my best points you pass right over, such as Isaiah slaying 185,000 Assyrians in a snap, yet he’s somehow different in your mind than the earlier prophets like Joshua. There has been more blood shed in the name of Christ than in the name of Moses, and the Lord predicted this. Doesn’t necessarily make it “right.” I’m not advocating war or violence, as I stated, but there comes a point when you have to abandon this utopian fantasy world you share with political leftists–YOU’RE not going to bring it about, the Lord is, and only after great strife and armageddon, as I also previously stated; so, stop with the high horse man.

      • J. Madson says:

        Here you go. Isaiah.

        1) Im not really sure how much we should take from magical slayings as a basis for moral code.

        2) This story actually supports my position rather than undermine it. The OT constantly deals with the idea that the Israelites should rely on the arm of the Lord and not military might. This story is in contrast to the northern tribes who tried the arm of flesh and were conquered. The point of the story is that Hezekiah and his people relied on the arm of the Lord and he saved them by miracle not military might.

        3) Lastly, we need to understand that the OT tells the story of God trying to take a group of people and slowly move them from the barbarity of the ancient world slowly toward the kingdom of God. There is a distinct movement away from human sacrifice which is substituted by animal sacrifice as a way of reducing violence, there is also a similar movement away from animal sacrifice and scapegoating enemies outside of the tribe. Isaiah and these other prophets are simply farther along the revelatory path to the kingdom of God than some of their predecessors. Jesus as I have noted over and over again is the ultimate revelation of God’s nature and his will for a man/woman. I highly suggest you read Rene Girards work. SInce you are a philosophy type guy you can tackle his tough one “Things Hidden from the Foundation.” You might find it interesting that Nietzsche understood that Jesus renounced violence and fulfilled God’s intent of reducing such. His qualms were that he understood it is as such and felt it was too weak of a means for change. Thats an aside though.

        4) Christians have of course taken Gods name in vain and shed blood, lots of blood. All this tells me is the pitiful state we are in. There was a time in both the old and new world when Christians renounced all forms of violence (social and economic) until they eventually abandoned those teachings and we got one eternal round of bloodshed in the BoM and an unholy union of the state and Christianity in Constantine that pushed the radical teaching of Christ to the margins.

        5) Lastly this utopian fantasy world or as I prefer to call it ZIon can only come about by those who refuse to take up arms, by those who embrace zion principles of equality and justice. Great strife and armageddon is avoidable if we choose. Chaos, destruction, and armageddon are not from divine necessity but from human inevitability, our refusal to follow another path. It is by the wicked that the wicked are destroyed and we can and should choose another path

  12. Joseph says:

    This conversation has gone lots of places so I’m not even going to try to address all the threads. Also, this isn’t my blog so it doesn’t seem to be the place to try and explain all the complexities of my beliefs in these areas. I will clarify that I’m not a pacifist or a vegan, and I do recognize that killing and death are unfortunate parts of this life.

    In terms of the Old Testament, I don’t claim to have any absolute answers. But, as J. also has pointed out, there is no evidence that the Exodus from Egypt and violent invasion of the Promised Land ever happened. There is evidence that what we have in the Old Testament was massively rewritten around 600 BC to expunge old traditions and set up a regional male war god as the “only true god.” The Book of Mormon writers seem to have more in common with older traditions and it seems likely to me that Nephi and Lehi were treated so violently because they were rejecting the at the time newer traditions of celebrating Jehovah as a male war god.

    I believe Moses was a prophet and not a murderer, but I don’t necessarily believe everything written in the Old Testament about him. I find it interesting that Joseph Smith’s translation of the the Book of Moses seems to me to be from a completely different planet from the Genesis version, sharing only some language and incidents, and putting those incidents in a completely different context. And The Book of Moses does not transition well back into Genesis. It is clearly a fragment from another work that we don’t have anywhere. Yes, I realize that Joseph Smith seemed to take at face value history in the Old Testament, but it is Joseph Smith’s revelations, not his personal beliefs, that I have faith in.

    Also, Seth, since you mention Thomas Paine, I thought I would share what HE had to say about the OLD TESTAMENT in his most important work (his life’s work, really) The Age of Reason Part I Chapter VII:

    “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, IT WOULD BE MORE CONSISTENT THAT WE CALLED IT THE WORD OF A DEMON, THAN THE WORD OF GOD. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my own part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.” [caps are my doing]

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Age_of_Reason/Part_I/Chapter_VII

    I don’t agree with everything Paine said, but since you brought him up, I thought it would be appropriate to share what he actually said. Interestingly enough, according to Bushman’s two books on Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith’s grandfather tried to get Joseph Smith, Sr. to read The Age of Reason.

    Anyway, that’s all I have to say on this post. Again I realize this isn’t my blog, so I apologize for going on so long. Hopefully at least some helpful thoughts were shared.

  13. Seth says:

    “The mind that alters, alters all.” As I’ve already stated, blogging is an exercise in futility–you guys have everything all figured out, apparently. I’m bowing out after this; this is Josh’s blog after all.

    First to Joseph. It’s been awhile man! Paine’s opinion of the OT doesn’t answer why he advocated a violent revolutionary break from England on the part of the colonies. I also don’t agree w/ everything he said, nor with anyone else for that matter.

    Josh, we could go on forever. What you consider “magical” and “mythical” I consider scripture. The incident in Isaiah was not “nonviolent,” which is the point of the whole thread here that you started. You and Joseph make it sound that the OT is not even scripture; the last I checked it’s a standard work of the LDS canon. Leftist utopia is NOT Zion. Armegeddon is necessary b/c of evil men and aggressive nations, which require righteous men and nations to fight back (my whole point here). Lastly, you have made some very interesting points. More power to you!

  14. J. Madson says:

    Joseph,

    I dont know if Moses was a murderer or not, but if we are literalist and want to read the bible like fundamentalists do then I really dont know how to get around the vileness of this scripture

    “‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. And Moses said, ‘Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.’”
    (Exodus 32)

    As to Paine’s quote, Im sure you are aware that Marcion who first put together much of what we call the NT is famous for his heresy (marcionite heresy). Namely that the God in the OT was so radically different than Jesus that he opined that the God of the OT was a demiourge and it took Jesus to come and conquer him and do away with his fallen and as he would say evil laws.

    Seth

    If the point of blogging is to change people’s minds, then it might be futile. I dont have everything figured out, but I have yet to hear anything that would move me backwards towards the camp that sees violence as necessary. As Ive said before, Ive been there, heard all the arguments, and I see nothing in Christianity that supports such a position.

    You do a real disservice to me and others when you create a false dichotomy. I believe there is nothing incompatible with mythical and scriptures (nor did the ancients and those who wrote them) nor is there anything incompatible with thinking the story of Isaiah and the Assyrians is magical. Its still scripture. And even if its historically and factually accurate it still doesnt prove the point you think it does as I explained. Frankly Ive made myself abundantly clear over and over again and you keep going on about whether person x is violent or not. I dont worship person x or make them my model. I only make one person my model.

    You keep saying leftist utopia and I have no idea what you are talking about. Truly dont. Just because people read the scriptures differently, even radically differently than you, does not mean they dont regard them as scripture or believe them. And lastly

    “Armegeddon is necessary b/c of evil men and aggressive nations, which require righteous men and nations to fight back (my whole point here).”

    I agree with the first half, the second half I find really problematic. We are to flee to Zion, not join the world in its grand act of self-destruction. There are no righteous in Armageddon but those who refuse to take part in it.

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