Killing for Jesus

Aaron’s thoughtful post, and particularly the story of the discussions at the MTC, reminded me of similar discussions I’ve had–mostly on my own mission. We all of course asked whether or not we would die for Christ if forced to profess our beliefs, and we all (so far as I can remember) happily said we would, insisting (partly joking and partly serious) that if we died as missionaries insisting we believed in Christ, we were guaranteed a place in heaven and a hot wife in the hereafter.

But we also had another discussion from time to time. Would we kill for Christ?

The discussion was usually pretty simple. If we were ordered to kill, a la Abraham, would we do it? Those were typically easy to answer: The order is coming straight from God himself, and, well, we knew it was mighty hypothetical, so people could confidently say yes they would. The harder discussion came when asking if we’d kill if the prophet asked us to. Here, I knew the answer quickly: no way. But I was genuinely surprised at how many missionaries said they would kill someone if the prophet asked them to. They expressed confidence that it was what the Lord wanted, they would either not be caught, or if they were caught and tried for their crime, they would be secured a place in heaven.

At the time as a missionary, I saw this as a relatively simple point of disagreement. Now, I’m much more creeped out by my own answers and those of the people around me. We celebrate the story of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac as a great example of faith and of following the will of God. But if we sat in Church and listened to someone tell the same story about how they were commanded by God to take their child up to the mountains and kill them, but just as they were about to do it, God told them to stop, we’d be on the phone to Child Protective Services in a heartbeat.

If asked to kill by God, the prophet, the Bishop, or Steve Evans, I’d have to say no. I think most people would give the same answer. But today, I’m more interested in the purpose of these kinds of hypothetical discussions and how they fit in our culture. Why do we feel the need as young missionaries to reiterate our faith and beliefs in such strong terms: ie, we’d die for Jesus or kill for him? Is it because we don’t have the same opportunities that appear in the scriptures and church history to reaffirm our faith? Chances our, we won’t be asked to abandon our homes and march off to Missouri anytime soon (that was another common hypothetical – if the prophet said it was time to go back, would you?). Does it reveal a deeper insecurity among missionaries about their faith or their purpose as a missionary that they try and appear the uber-faithful type by insisting they’d go to such extremes?

Comments

  1. Kill? Yes. Move to Missouri? I’ll have to think about that.

    In all seriousness, if the prophet made such a request of me (unless we’re talking about self-defense or something like that), I’d assume he was a fallen prophet.

    What we’ve talked about here at home is what would we do if the prophet restored polygamy? I honestly don’t know.

  2. Nit to pick, the standard reading on Gen. 22 is wrong. Abraham’s test isnt whether or not he would be faithful to the command to sacrifice Isaac, it was whether or not he understood the Lord’s theology of sacrifice. The KJV on Gen 22:5 is obscure, but the Hebrew makes it clear that Abraham told the servants that both he and Isaac would go up to the mountain together and both would return together (see the JPS or Fox’s translation). The Hebrew is so clear the standard Rabbinical read on it is that Abraham is deliberately lying to hide the imminent homicide from the accompanying servants so they wouldnt interfere. The other possibility, dare I say probability, is Abraham was telling the truth. Given his near sacrifice and being spared at the last moment, per the PofGP Abraham account, its likely he knew he wouldnt be required to kill Isaac. Here is the evidence:

    1) He was promised by the Lord that his posterity would cover the whole earth, and it wasnt to be through his servant or though Ishmael, so it had to be through Isaac

    2) He was spared being sacrificed himself at the last moment

    3) He told his servants they would both go up and return

    4) Abraham was no dolt

    With respect to the subject at hand, there are better examples of when the Lord commands people to kill. Those examples would be Nephi killing Laban, the Israelites killing the various Canaanite populationss, and the institution of capital punishment in Gen. 9:6. However, all of these are well explained as to why. There is no guess work here. The Lord does not arbitrarily tell people to kill.

  3. As far as the point of these hypotheticals I think they are used by teachers to make some point that is really rather unrelated to the lesson. More often they are posed by fairly inexperienced teachers who don’t anticipate such questions leading to a heated debate that eats the rest of the lesson time and makes everyone mad. I grew up in a ward that was filled with mostly older folks. Any hypothetical question *always* lead to a debate about ‘Sons of Perdition’ or ‘Adam’s belly button or lack thereof’ (I’m really not kidding about the belly button) The debate was mostly between converts who never really gave up their Lutheran, Anglican, or Methodist beliefs and the people who grew up in places like Circleville. I always felt bad when the Bishopric called someone who recently moved in to teach Sunday School because the poor soul never knew what him them those first few Sundays.

    Anyhow, the two most common points they are used to make is “where do you draw the line on ‘little’ sins?” and “If you are willing to do why not show your faith by doing .” My personal favorite (shared at least once a year in young womens): “If a non-member boy asked you out would you say yes? If he asked you out a second time would you say yes? What if he asked you to be his girlfriend? If he asked you to meet his family? If he asked you to marry him?” Most of the girls caught on by the the ‘girlfriend’ question and started saying “no.”
    The general idea (which I suppose is a good one) is if you make up your mind before hand then it will be easier to go through with it even when you’re emotionally involved.

  4. My theory is that when God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac, it was a pass-pass test. Abraham chose the obedient route and was blessed for it … but I think if he had refused on principle, he also would have been blessed.

    After all, if Abraham says: “No God, that’s one thing I won’t do” … what is God going to say to him?

  5. #2 doritio reminds me of kierkegaard’s understand of abraham in fear and trembling. however, i side more with kierkegaard such that it wasn’t so clear to abraham that he would not have to sacrifice his son. it was abrahams faith that assured him that somehow he was going to sacrifice his son and have his son live to give abraham his promised prosperity. the test of faith was if abraham really believed that god would give him what god promised.

  6. QUOTE
    ===========
    My personal favorite (shared at least once a year in young womens): “If a non-member boy asked you out would you say yes? If he asked you out a second time would you say yes? What if he asked you to be his girlfriend? If he asked you to meet his family? If he asked you to marry him?” Most of the girls caught on by the the ‘girlfriend’ question and started saying “no.”
    The general idea (which I suppose is a good one) is if you make up your mind before hand then
    ===========

    They honestly don’t do that do they? Teach the children that non members are untouchable like a dirty social class? If the lesson that loving a nonmember is wrong then the lesson is wrong. Am I reading into this more then there is, or is it as twisted as it sounds?

  7. In response to your question Gunner, yes they do teach that. I remember being taught that in YWs. They also continue teaching it in the singles wards, where we are urged in RS to not date non-members because then we might fall in love and then have to choose between temple-marriage and love.

    It’s been my experience that there is a covert understanding between members that nonmembers, while not necessarily bad people, are not the best people for members to associate with. I recetly had a home teaching lesson in which the HT instructed me to reach outside my circle of member friends (which in reality is about 2 or 3 people) and find nonmember friends because they are good people too, even if they are misguided. And when I mention I’m dating someone, the next question is always, “Is he a member?” and when I say no, it’s followed with, “Ohhhhh.”

    To the larger post, I have always wondered why we look back to the past and used outdated hypotheticals myself. I remember visiting Winter Quarters, Mt. Pisgah, etc. on a trip one time with church and as we were at the waterfront in Nauvoo all our leaders kept asking us, “Would you do it? Would you have the faith to leave your home and posessions and trudge in the cold for God?”

    I was then and still am now of the opinion that those are useless examples, because realistically, when will I ever face that? There is a reason that the pioneers, Abraham, etc were born in the time period they were born in, a reason they faced the trials and tribulation they did, and the same applies for us. I was not faced with crossing the plains because THAT IS NOT WHAT THE LORD INTENDED FOR ME. So why dwell on what I WOULD have done then? Rather, I think leaders should address issues that we are faced with now. If we are the Saints in the final dispensation, held back for some of the worst trials and tribulations, why should we dwell on what we might have done instead of focusing on our here and now?? I’ve always felt it was a waste of time. A better hypothetical now is a more realistic one, based on this time period.

    One of my favorite quotes I learned in seminary, and of course I can’t remember who said it, goes, “The test today is not whether we will die for the gospel, but whether we will live it.”

  8. Gunner,

    Who are “they”?

  9. Why is so bad to want our YM/YW to marry faithful members of the church?

    Gunner, in response to your inquiry, I don’t think the lesson is to make them a “dirty social class”, but rather to illustrate the chain of events. If you want a temple marriage, dating non-members isn’t likely to get you there. While plenty of members have been brought in through the flirt-to-convert strategy, I am not sure it is the best strategy (as I have witnessed many failures of this, including my first mission baptism – oh the heartbreak).

    As far as reflecting on historical examples, why are they useless? Although I will likely never fight in a trench war, or have to negotiate boer polictics is it useless to study these? Sure it may not exactly relate, but there are worthwhile reasons to study history. Similarly, likening the example of the plains saints, or abraham or nephi can cause us to reflect.

    As a teenager I traveled a portion of the mormon battallion trail in arizona. While not nearly as long or difficult as those saints, it was especially meaningful to me because of my great great grandfather and great great uncle Zadock Knapp Judd & Hyrum Judd who marched in the battalion. My point, although I probably won’t be faced with marching through a desert with a tyranical leader with little equipment, no water and disease on my way to a non-existent war, I can get a sense for the feelings they may have had as they left their families and sacrificed, of the wonder they had upon crossing the desert, so different from their home in Ontario, and their amazement at seeing the pacific ocean.

    I don’t think that the questions we ask such as “would you be prepared to sacrifice like Abraham?”, “Would you kill like Nephi?”, “Would you Cross the plains?” should be used as litmus tests, because they don’t exactly parallel our circumstances today. I would hope these don’t show up as temple recomend questions. But I do think these are valuable tools for reflection, so that we can explore our own relationship with God and the outlines of our own faith.

    Also perhaps the question for abrham was not “will you kill?” but “Will you sacrifice?”. Thus the intent is key.

  10. I remember that when I used to have these lessons, such as “would you die for Christ?”, and the passionate faithful sunday school class members say “yes!”, it’s really a lesson about how we without hesitation say Yes! to the “big” things, but we can’t even do the little things. You mean you’re willing to die (or kill) for Jesus but you’re not willing to pay a tenth of your income, abstain from afternoon tea, or turn away from the R-rated movie?? That was the point of those lessons, I think.
    And as far as young women’s – the key line was “you marry who you date.” I guess I flunkjed Young Women’s.

  11. Evidently, I also flunkjed spelling.

  12. Gunner,
    As meems said the key line was “you marry who you date.” The young womens program that I was involved in (which I hope isn’t the norm or at least isn’t the norm anymore) was very focused on Temple marriage and was brought into every lesson. Any sin we could commit would drive us farther from that lofty goal and every good deed brought us closer. Dating non-members was highly discouraged, as was dating boys who hadn’t served missions. I dated a boy who was excused from serving a mission for medical reasons and he wisely insisted on getting a letter signed by a member of the 12 to lest anyone question his truthfulness. My mom even demanded to know why he didn’t try again because he was “obviously better now.” If he hadn’t demanded that letter he may never have been able to convince any girl who was raised in the church to seriously date him (we broke up for other reasons). Instead of dying for Christ it was always “would you give up _____ to go to the Temple?” My major gripe is they focused so much on getting to the Temple not many of us really knew what to do with ourselves once we got there, but that rant is way off the topic.

  13. Adriane must have grown up in an apostate ward. The only members I know who talk like that are old crackpots who nobody listens to anyway. I have never heard those sentiments seriously embraced or diispersed by members of the Church. But I keep on realizing that, although my Church has always been called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it must have been some mutant form of it, since everyone else’s experience therein has been so different from mine.

    Really, Adriane- you must live in the community of crackpot saints. My fellow Latter-day Saints would never act as you describe (unless I’m just too stupid to notice, but that I highly doubt…)

    Or are you just making this stuff up?

  14. I don’t know, Jordan. She doesn’t sound all that off-base to me. For the whole Church? No. But for those “special” saints that make the rest of us look goofy – she’s spot on.

    A lot of the YW I grew up with were told not only to just date Church members, but just date return missionaries. Some current friends of mine, a part-member family (he’s a member, she’s not) are constantly treated as if their marriage is a tragedy. When the home teachers come over, my friends are “comforted” by being told that the home teachers are praying for them and their marriage. Wacky.

  15. Yes, but John, from everything I’ve read from you during the last two years it is clear to me that you and I also belong to different churches.

    That stuff has never happened around me. Curious.

  16. Jordan –

    I don’t know if John H. and I belong to the same church either, but it was a HUGE deal in my ward if one of the YW or YM dated a non-Mormon. It was very much frowned upon, mostly because I lived in a small town in Utah where practically everyone was Mormon. You really had to go out of your way to associate with non-Mormons. And why would you do that, when there were plenty of sweet YW and righteous YM to choose from? But even when I lived in England with no Mormons, the youth were counseled pretty much to move to Utah or something to make sure they married a member.

    Anyway, I think we had this discussion over at another blog a few weeks ago, so I don’t want to threadjack, but I had to respond to your incredulity at Adrianne’s comment with my own very similar experiences.

    To the original point of the post (how did we get on this tangent?), I find it difficult to think of a situation where I would kill for God. I don’t think I trust my spiritual sense enough to feel confident that I would know definitively that God wanted me to kill someone. Also, if God wants the person dead, then He doesn’t really need me to do it.

  17. Contrary to the fanaticism imagined by John H. and Adriane, which I contend does not exist in the church I belong to, I think members that would “kill for God” are far and few between, if they even exist at all.

    I would not kill for God. If I thought God was telling me to kill someone, I would probably assume that I was mentally ill and seek help.

    And this entire hypothetical is completely far-fetched, ridiculous, and borderline sadistic- kind of like asking someone about the situation where you “have” to give up one of your children, and wondering which it would be. A pointless inquiry.

  18. We all of course asked whether or not we would die for Christ if forced to profess our beliefs, and we all (so far as I can remember) happily said we would, insisting (partly joking and partly serious) that if we died as missionaries insisting we believed in Christ, we were guaranteed a place in heaven and a hot wife in the hereafter.

    John- seriously, where do you come up with this stuff? Did you go to the mission of psychos or something? I never remember having such asanine discussions on my mission with anyone. But I have occasionally seen reference to something like what you describe in the humor section of the Salt Lake Tribune, as a joke. Are you sure you’re not confusing some joke you heard somewhere with reality?

  19. One more note, than I’m through.

    In my experience, President Bush and his hordes are the only ones stupid enough to be killing for Jesus.

  20. Sounds like Jordan is off his meds again!

    But . . .

    I don’t remember ever having discussions on my mission about “would you kill for God?”

    And, I don’t think that my daughters got much “stay away from non-member boys” during high school. If they had they would never have had any friends. (On the other hand, young folks in NYC don’t date much–they just seem to hang out in groups.)

    So far, they don’t seem to have turned out too bad.

  21. “John- seriously, where do you come up with this stuff? Did you go to the mission of psychos or something? I never remember having such asanine discussions on my mission with anyone.”

    Wow – struck a nerve did we? I guess Mark B. is right. From the sound of this thread, ironically, there’s only one person we’d worry about actually killing for God.

    Nope, it was real, Jordan, and I don’t think the things people have been discussing are as uncommon as you suggest. Of course, since other peoples’ antecdotes don’t fit nicely into your worldview, then I do think it’s best to just dismiss them outright with angry comments about psychos and asinine discussions. Stay on track, friend, stay on track.

  22. Mark:

    That was my point exactly. John H. always comes up with all this weird stuff that supposedly goes on in the Church. Either he’s making it all up, or he has met all of the fringe-element psycho members that ever existed. I don’t think he’s making stuff up, and I also don’t think he’s just been “unfortunate” enough to have all the odd experiences he touts. I just think he likes to exaggerate a little. But don’t we all?

    And I didn’t mean to come off as unbalanced (though that was a nice jab there at the mentally ill, I must say. Very sympathetic. I personally learned through sad experience not to make jibes at people on “meds” but it still seems like an acceptable thing to do, I guess.)

  23. I’m not angry- just highly incredulous. And I’m not dismissing you- I don’t think you’re psycho. But if half the things you say are true, then you’ve met a whole element of the church that I have never come across.

    And the hypothetical here is quite incredible- killing for Christ? Indeed… I’ve never heard of such a thing.

  24. From a current YM leader of many years.

    My fellow YM leaders in my ward strongly strongly strongly encourage our YM to date member girls. (not exclusivly IE steady girl friend) Our job to get our boys on missions. I have worked with about 50 priests in the last few years. I have seen maybe 35 of them serve missions. Here is the deal. IF they get into a “Steady” relationship for an extended amount of time with a non-member girl their chances of going on a mission go down the longer they exclusivly date the non-member. Not kidding. We know we are losing a kid when he starts really seeing a non member girl a lot. Usually they get sexually active and he gets iffy on the church. 2 years ago we had a kid who is really good looking and charming. Girls swarmed him. He came to the YM president and asked for help. We advised him to find some good member girls to date in another ward. He found some and I was never prouder when the outcome was good.

    The same thing can happen with the member girls to. Just not quite as likely as my years of experience show me.

    FYI one of our priests just broke up with a member girl after few months. We all were happy about this as we felt he was seeing her to much. FYI both her parents and his parents agreed.

    Bottom line is that to much exclusive dating and the YM get into trouble. Non Member girls tend to be more trouble sexually faster but exclusively dating anybody for a long period of time can end up with no mission.

  25. Bottom line is that to much exclusive dating and the YM get into trouble.

    BS. Only from your narrow perspective. Personally, I think it would be good if, for a change, we would start encouraging our young men to experience relationships, so that they know what they’re getting into before they rush off to get married after their missions. If they experience a real relationship, perhaps they wouldn’t have such romantic notions of it, saving themselves the hassle later of early marriage and lifelong hell. (Not a personal allusion, mind you.)

    But that’s beside the point.

  26. Jordan,

    Sorry bro. I bring the experience of many years of YM and 30-35 missionaries out of my program. I know what I am talking about. The strength of youth pamphlet agrees with me. Your approach will lead to lots of kids unworthy to serve missions.

    They should date lots of different girls and get to know what they like in the other sex. Then they can make a good marriage choice.

  27. Sorry. You are probably right. And thanks for not snarking back.

    Now, would it really be so bad if kids were unworthy to serve missions? I mean, after all, look at what John H. experienced on his! In all seriousness, perhaps the constant emphasis always on young men serving missions does more harm than good. (This emphasis is something I have noticed in my church experience.) I served a mission and it was great, but not everyone is cut out to be a missionary, nor does everyone want to be a missionary. And why should they?

    But again, I digress in a large way.

  28. back to the post.

    I do not think I have ever heard a hypothetical about killing for Jesus. Maybe in the context of discussing Nephi killing Laban but everybody knows that that was a very unusual situation and Nephi was mighty disturbed about it.

    I cannot imagine a hypothetical discussion like this with adults in Sunday School.

    I CAN imagine Missionaries sitting around fantasizing about being GA’s, getting killed for Jesus, and how hot their wives will be if they work hard. Then again they are 19-21 and they all think that they will be GA’s and have hot wives if they work hard.

  29. The wackiest thing I endured on my mission was the elder in our district in the LTM (for you kids, that’s Language Training Mission–during the good old days before the MTC) who loved “Dear to the Heart of the Shepherd” and wanted us all to hold hands in a circle when we prayed.

    Back to Jordan: Yeah, you are digressing. The reason that everyone should “want” to be a missionary is that we are called to be “witnesses of God at all times and in all places” and as bearers of the priesthood we have the responsibility to preach the gospel. That’s why we should all want to serve and do all we can to prepare ourselves to serve.

  30. I guess I’m wicked then, Mark. I neither want to be a missionary right now, nor would I “kill for Christ.”

  31. Am I Adriane? Because that isn’t what my signature says but mine is the closest to Adriane. We’ll assume that I am.

    Jordan,
    I swear I am not making this up. But as I pointed out earlier most of the people in my ward were either late adult converts that never completely understood or accepted genuine church doctrine. The rest of the ward came from the smallest of small towns in Utah that were generally founded by three polygamous families where inbreeding was rampant and external involvement was rare. Keep in mind all of them were very old. Most of the YW leaders were women raised in the day where ‘securing’ a good husband was a woman’s ticket to a happy life. I can’t really blame them for interpreting the church’s focus on having a family to be similar to what they learned growing up. Except when they were growing up they were told to get men with ‘good prospects’ or wealth. To make it church friendly they changed it to righteous young men, who prove their righteousness by serving missions, and being active members.

    As for where you say “If they experience a real relationship, perhaps they wouldn’t have such romantic notions of it.” Teenagers are always romantic and I often doubt that any teenager is capable of having a “real relationship” (I’m 22 so I’m not that far away from being a teen). I think the problem with people getting married too young/fast comes from two sources. Mission presidents telling missionaries that “now your mission is to get married” (I’m not making that up either, two of the guys I dated told me about their exit interviews where that was said.) These guys just spent the last two years trying to baptize the whole country in just two years. Can we really be surprised when they complete the comparatively simple task of convincing a girl to marry them in just two months? The second source is people promoting the idea that a Temple marriage is *the* goal. It’s not, eternal marriage and salvation are the goals, and the Temple is a step towards that. The youth get the idea that as long as it happens in the Temple everything will be okay. That way it doesn’t matter if you really know your fiance or not.

    Anyhow, Jordan, I’m curious about where you are from. Even though the lesson manuals are the same worldwide what actually gets taught is often wildly different.

    (sorry about the threadjack…)

  32. I was referring to comment 7- nothing you posted, andermom. No offense, but I didn’t even read your post until now.

    I am from Texas.

    My mission president told me a horrible story about getting married too early, then sent me on my way home with that word of warning specifically NOT to get married too soon.

    I guess I’m in the minority here as far as experiences go.

  33. If an angel of the Lord came to me and said, “go kill your child” I would say, “no way, Jose. If you want that kid dead, do it yourself. I only want to kill them sometimes.”

    It would be a heck of a lot easier for me to shoot some heretic or bad guy for Jesus than it is for me to pray every day on my knees.

  34. Okay, I just found Adrianne…
    Gotta get my eyes checked.

  35. Seth Rogers says:

    The problem with the whole “killing for Jesus” hypothetical is that it’s usually artificial and out-of-context.

    Abraham was so in-tune to what God wanted, that when God asked him to kill Isaac, he knew that God wanted it, no question. You and I are probably not that in-tune.

    When the Israelites were commanded to kill the Ammonites (and their dogs), the command came to a people already preparing for a kill-or-be-killed war. In fact the Israelites in question probably weren’t as upset about the command to kill people as they were about the fact that they wouldn’t get to acquire all the Ammonite property and enjoy the Ammonite women (the traditional right of ancient conquerors).

    When Nephi killed Laban, Laban had already tried to kill him and was probably starting to suspect that Nephi and crew were hiding in the desert nearby. Self-preservation, and a useful lesson: the scriptures are worth dying for.

    All of these commandments came in a context that makes sense. You guys are discussing loony-toon scenarios.

    “What if God told us to invade Switzerland, kill the men and boys, rape the women, and make them our plural wives!?”

    That’s just silly. And it’s really a moot point, because it’s not going to happen. The only time God’s command to kill didn’t make sense was when God was dealing with a man who was so in tune, that there could be no degree of uncertainty. For all the rest of us, it’s probably going to make a degree of sense.

  36. You guys are discussing loony-toon scenarios.

    “What if God told us to invade Switzerland, kill the men and boys, rape the women, and make them our plural wives!?”

    That’s just silly. And it’s really a moot point, because it’s not going to happen. The only time God’s command to kill didn’t make sense was when God was dealing with a man who was so in tune, that there could be no degree of uncertainty. For all the rest of us, it’s probably going to make a degree of sense.

    This is EXACTLY what I have been trying to say, aside from the little side-tracks. Yet I get called mentally ill for the suggestion that this entire hypothetical is completely ridiculous. Well- the shoe fits! Really- who sits around talking about whether or not they would “kill for Christ”?!?

  37. Steve McIntyre says:

    While I never experienced a “would you kill for Christ?” discussion on my mission, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that many missionaries involve themselves in some ridiculous discussions from time to time.

    I would also venture to say that most of us have probably heard some pretty off-the-wall debates/stories/hypotheticals in Gospel Doctrine as well.

    The fact is, these discussions do happen in the Church.

  38. “While I never experienced a “would you kill for Christ?” discussion on my mission, I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that many missionaries involve themselves in some ridiculous discussions from time to time.”

    Exactly. My point of the post (though I obviously did a lousy job making it) wasn’t to ask if we’d kill for Jesus. As I said, “If asked to kill by God, the prophet, the Bishop, or Steve Evans, I’d have to say no. I think most people would give the same answer. But today, I’m more interested in the purpose of these kinds of hypothetical discussions and how they fit in our culture.”

    What is it about young missionaries that engage in “would you kill,” or “would you die” or “would you move to Missouri” kinds of discussions.

  39. Jordan:

    I assure you, I don’t make things up. I am certain, however, that for whatever reason, I have a problem magnifying my negative experiences in the Church and making them the norm. It’s something I’m constantly aware of and constantly try and work on because it isn’t a fair representation of the Church.

    But if I’m guilty of magnifying the negative and making them seem common, then I think your post represents another tendency in the Church. We *do not* like to be portrayed as different, strange, or weird when it comes to our faith. Witness the reaction to Jon Krakauer’s book. Krakauer’s book had plenty of problems, but the objection didn’t seem to be historical or doctrinal innacuracies nearly as much as it seemed to be about Krakauer portraying Mormons as different. We’re desperate to fit in (unless it involves drinking) and react strongly to depictions that suggest otherwise. We want the message to be clear: We are people of faith, but damnit, we are *normal* people of faith – not extreme, not freaks, not different. Maybe I’m out in left field, but your post reacting to the experiences of others in the Church seems to be coming from this cultural need.

    My apologies for the snotty comments earlier.

  40. Aaron Brown says:

    For the record, I would happily kill Steve Evans if God asked me to. Even if he didn’t. Even if he asked me NOT to…

    Aaron B

  41. “We’re desperate to fit in (unless it involves drinking) and react strongly to depictions that suggest otherwise. We want the message to be clear: We are people of faith, but damnit, we are *normal* people of faith – not extreme, not freaks, not different.”

    John H, I was just coming to post about Krakauer…

    I was reading where the Chicago Sun Times said, “Krakauer’s investigation into the nature of zealotry draws some timely parallels with Islam. There is the same schism between sincere adherents who preach peace and fanatical extremists who preach violence. Krakauer asks: Are religious fanatics crazy? “All religious belief is a function of nonrational faith. And faith, by its very definition, tends to be impervious to intellectual argument or academic criticism,” he writes. The case hinges on this idea: “If Ron Lafferty were deemed mentally ill because he obeyed the voice of God, isn’t everyone who believes in God and seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill as well?” That is the difficult epistemological minefield through which the author not so lightly treads.”

    Lafferty believed (and 20 years later still believes) he HAD received a revelation from God to kill his brother’s wife and baby. We don’t think that Abraham or Nephi were mentally ill, but we believe that Lafferty must be. When Joseph threatened to kill one of the guards or himself in Carthage jail for saying vile things, we hold that up as an incredible moment. But when a kid jumps out of a car, it’s not as inspirational.

  42. But if I’m guilty of magnifying the negative and making them seem common, then I think your post represents another tendency in the Church.

    LoL. When I read the first sentence of your post, I was thinking almost the exact same thing. You’re right. Guilty as charged- I definitely do the opposite.

  43. According to Hebrews 11:17-19
    Abraham believed God would raise Isaac from the dead.

  44. But Steve Evans is so cute!

  45. “if we died as missionaries insisting we believed in Christ, we were guaranteed a place in heaven and a hot wife in the hereafter.”

    This comment and the preceding post about the RM who jumped from the truck are fascinating to me. When I first linked to the news article and browsed it, I didn’t catch that it was a Utah newspaper. I saw that it happened in South Jordan, and for some reason thought it happened in the middle east. It fit just fine with my picture of the religious fanatacism that seems to happen over there. I realized my mistake by the end of the article, but thought it would be equally believable in either setting.

    Then I read about the reward of a “hot wife” in the hereafter. This idea has a striking similarity to jihadists believing that they will be rewarded in heaven with several virgins.

    I’m reminded that people all over the world aren’t so different from each other.

  46. AmyB: This idea has a striking similarity to jihadists believing that they will be rewarded in heaven with several virgins.

    I thought the problem with jihadists is that they believe it’s OK to kill Americans everywhere in order to effect an Islamicist dominated world. Surely your purported parallel has no bearing whatever on the dangers of fanaticism here or anywhere.

    AmyB: I’m reminded that people all over the world aren’t so different from each other.

    True. No matter where you go, there are wanna-be sophisticates willing to place themselves above others based on a bunch of self-satisfying assumptions concerning the supposed reasonableness of their own position.

  47. John H., I think that you misdiagnose the problem that people have with Krakauer’s book, although I grant that many people have been less-than-articulate in describing their issues with Krakauer’s book (Turley’s response, for example, is nothing short of unreadable for how boring it is). The real problem with Krakauer’s book is that it he’s a complete ignoramus and he misrepresents the LDS church at every turn. It bothers me not at all that he finds Mormons to be different, but I can’t stomach seeing someone put himself forth as an expert on Mormonism while claiming that the Word of Wisdom prohibits masturbation and premarital sex or that the Old Testament mentions a prophet from the 3rd century BC (!!!) or that the Laban living during Zedekiah’s reign in the Book of Mormon is the same as the Laban in the Old Testament who is a contemporary with Abraham’s grandson.

    In my review (available here), my objections to Krakauer are that the tone of his book is sensationalistic, his scholarship is slipshod, and he lacks even a perfunctory level of background knowledge about Mormonism.

  48. Unfortunately, I’m not making anything up. I think I am in a ward with crackpots–it IS a singles ward on a college campus without many Mormons…which could and I think does lead to craziness…

    You’d be amazed at how many young people (18-28) think that non-members are nice people but regrettably steeped in sin and waiting to trap all members with their secular, sinful ways. I had one girl tell me she couldn’t associate with anyone who drank coffee because that person must just be an awful sinner, since coffee will lead to drinking which will lead to drugs which will lead to sex which will lead to PRO-ST-U-TION!. I wanted to roll my eyes and say, “Have fun not associating with ANYONE IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY!!!” because seriously, does she understand how huge Starbucks is?? And I know plenty a person who drinks a cup of coffee without becomming a hooker.

    See? I live in a crackpot ward…

    Sorry about the threadjack. Had to prove my case…I’m surrounded by those “special” Mormons…yeah for me.

  49. DKL True. No matter where you go, there are wanna-be sophisticates willing to place themselves above others based on a bunch of self-satisfying assumptions concerning the supposed reasonableness of their own position.

    There is an awful lot of this around, isnt there, David?

  50. DKL-

    I am not trying to compare missionaries to jihadists on any level other than that they look forward to similar rewards for their actions (whatever those actions may be).

    Maybe I came across as trying to say something more than I actually meant. I’ve lurked for a long time in the bloggernacle, but I don’t comment often. I’m still learning the art of it.

  51. Sorry I was overly harsh, AmyB. I took what you said the wrong way.

  52. As to the question, would I kill for God. When you use the example of Abraham, he didn’t kill anybody but I think he would have. Can’t God raise the dead?

    Let’s take someone who did kill by a command from God. How about Nephi being commanded to kill Laban? He didn’t want to but he cut off the head of Laban. If you wouldn’t obey God in all things, you would not be obedient. This is found in I Ne. 4:8 to 19. Do you really believe that Nephi would have been qualified to lead the group if he had failed in God’s command to slay Laban? This is a classic example in the Book of Mormon and maybe the only example. I’m glad I have never been asked to do such a deed but remember the penaly for sin is your own death. Aren’t we killing ourselves in a way?

    A long-time member who reads 30 chapters of the Book of Mormon each and every day. I read the entire book every 8 days and I am on my 372nd reading of this sacred book. There are 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon. I read every day because of what Elder Oaks said in his talk, ‘Another Testament of Jesus Christ,’ given in April of 1993.

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