A Peculiar People?

Many people perceive Latter-day Saints as “peculiar” in the modern sense of being a little strange, weird, odd or different. For instance, I recently saw a blurb for an anti-Mormon book on the Internet that said: “Mormons are a very peculiar people, but they claim to be Christians.” Some Saints view this perception perversely as something of a badge of honor, as evidence that we are the people spoken of in 1 Peter 2:9: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people”. In one of the old Melchizedek Priesthood Study Guides there was a lesson entitled “Become a Distinctive People,” which was keyed to 1 Peter 2:9. This title was attempting to put a positive spin on the common understanding of what it means to be a “peculiar people.”

What did Peter mean by the expression “a peculiar people”? He seems to be taking designations used for the children of Israel, the people of the covenant, and applying them to the members of the elect community, to the Saints of his day. In doing this he shows in particular the influence of Exodus 19:5-6, which reads as follows: “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure [segullah] unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”

“Peculiar treasure” translates the single word segullah. This word is cognate with the Akkadian sikiltum, and conveys the sense of valued property to which one has an exclusive right of possession. From a very early date, however, the term was used metaphorically of people. For instance, the royal seal of Abban of Alalakh designates the owner as the sikiltum of the god, his “servant” and “beloved.” Also, a letter from the Hittite sovereign to the king of Ugarit characterizes his vassal as his “servant” and sglt “treasured possession.” For these examples, see the JPS Torah Commentary, ad loc.

The expression ‘am segullah “treasured people” is used several times in Deuteronomy, as in 7:6: “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people ['am segullah] unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (See also 14:2 and 26:18-19.) Other Old Testament occurrences of the word include Psalm 135:4: “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure [segullah],” and Malachi 3:17: “And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels [segullah]; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” The word is used in the literal sense of king’s treasure in Eccl. 2:8 and 1 Chron. 2:3. (If you want to see what the word segullah looks like in Hebrew, Brent Top wrote a book with Bookcraft called A Peculiar Treasure: Old Testament Messages for Our Day. The cover art has this Hebrew word in large letters superimposed on a scroll. Various LDS booksellers have a picture of the cover on their web sites, so a quick search should turn one of these up. I have not read the book, so I cannot comment on it.)

In the New Testament, this concept is picked up by three Greek words. First, the verb peripoieomai means to cause to remain over and above, to save up, lay by, procure, keep, save for oneself. The cognate noun, peripoiesis, which is the word Peter used, means keeping safe, preservation, gaining possession of, acquisition, procuring. A related word is periousios, which means having more than enough, rich, wealthy. Interestingly, the word periousios is usually the word chosen in the Septuagint to render Hebrew segullah. This suggests that in the Old Testament, there was a certain stress on the “value” aspect of the word, so it is often rendered “special treasure” or some such thing. In the New Testament, periousios only appears once, in Titus 2:14. More common is the verb (three occurrences, at Luke 17:33, Acts 20:28 and 1 Tim. 3:13), and peripoiesis, which occurs five times (Eph. 1:14, 1 Thess. 5:9, 2 Thess. 2:14, Heb. 10:39, and of course 1 Pet. 2:9). The New Testament seems to stress less the wealth aspect of the word, and more the possession aspect. Peter’s Greek literally says: “a people for (his) possession” and might be rendered something like “God’s own people.” The word is rich, and it is worthwhile to read the scriptures cited above and explore the different nuances of meaning it conveys, including the sense of salvation (from saving up, laying by more than enough). To me, the sense of God’s special covenant people is especially strong, as is the sense of ownership. This might have something to do with the slave imagery that is common in the New Testament. (When Paul calls himself “a doulos of Jesus Christ,” we soften the concept by rendering “servant”; a stronger rendering would be “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” Cf. the title “Master.”)

The KJV rendering “peculiar” was actually a perfectly acceptable translation at the time, but the primary meaning of the word in English has drifted so far from its original meaning that it is no longer an appropriate rendering. The English word “peculiar” derives from the Latin peculium “private property,” which is the word one would use of a slave or one’s cattle (pecu means “cattle”). Something like the original meaning of the word persists in modern English, as when we say “that type of flower is peculiar to this region of country.” But today the primary meaning of the word is “weird, odd.” If one really wants to, one could read the modern concept of “weird” into the word in its scriptural uses, because one aspect of the word is holiness, which entails separation, and it is our aggressive boundary maintenance from the rest of society that results in the perception that we are a little bit weird. But that is very much a developed meaning; the primary meaning of the word has to do with God’s covenant relationship with us.

As a final note, I will point out that Joseph Smith did not use the English expression “peculiar people” in his revelations. I wonder, however, whether the expression “a choice and a favored people of the Lord” in 2 Nephi 1:19 might not in some fashion reflect an underlying Hebrew something like ‘am segullat YHWH. This is, of course, pure speculation.

Comments

  1. A second tie between Exodus 19:5-6 and 1 Peter 2:9 is the concept of being both priest and king, in the phrases “a kingdom of priests” and “a royal priesthood.”

    IIRC, William Moran has proposed that we should understand the Exodus passage as meaning both kings and priests, not a kingdom made up of priests. – Moran, “A Kingdom of Priests” in The Bible in Current Catholic Thought, ed. J. McKenzie, 7-20.

  2. Interesting discussion. It seems that I’ve come across (too) many people who interpret this scripture as meaning that we, as a people, are meant to go way out of our way to make ourselves stand out. Almost to the point where we desire for people to point at us and say “What the heck is that all about?” Very much a badge of honor thing.

    That seems to me not to be what Paul was talking about.

  3. I’m reminded of Joseph’s address to the Relief Society on their founding:

    All must act in concert or nothing can be done, that the society should move according to the ancient Priesthood, hence there should be a select society, separate from all the evils of the world, choice, virtuous and holy. Said he was going to make of this society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day—as in Paul’s day—that it is the privilege of each member to live long and enjoy health. (WoJS pg. 110)

  4. No matter how you cut it, you’ve got to admit that some Mormons are more peculiar than others.

  5. That was very interesting, Kevin. Your presentation is very enlightening, at least to a semi-educated person such as myself.

    In light of Christ’s metaphor of the narrow path, I am wondering though if there isn’t something to the notion that Christians are required to deviate from the mainstream.

  6. Seth R. says:

    If the scriptures are any guide, if you simply assumed, as a matter of course, that anything that is “fashionable/popular/accepted” is a sure sign of wickedness,

    you’d be right more than 75% of the time.

    I think a prudent Mormon’s first reaction to anything popular or well-liked should always be:

    It’s probably crap, but I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.

  7. Your specualation on 2 Nephi 1:19 makes perfect sense. Joseph Smith borrowed heavily from the King James Version in crafting his translation, but perhaps this is one case where he didn’t.

  8. Peculiar Mormons:
    There’s a chiropractic school in the middle of Iowa with many many many LDS students. They have reported in testimony meetings etc that chiropracty heals so many of the body’s ills that they don’t even immunize their kids. Because the the Spirit and correct spinal adjustment can purge the body of disease and other bad stuff.
    Peculiar!

    The problem I have with this ‘peculiar people’ idea is the way it ranks people in the eyes of God. That those special people are loved a bit more by God, get more of his attention, or are even given more responsbility to care for other non-peculiarites. That last one is condescending and the lead to people thinking that they’re better than others which makes for imperialist thinking and action and or isolationist thinking and action. Either one prevents holiness in people.

    Seth R. I like many popular and well-liked things. I might be selective according to my own tastes but I don’t think I’m very wicked.

  9. Kevin and Copedi

    Is there any evidence that Joseph Smith knew any Hebrew when he was translating the Book of Mormon?

  10. Amri,

    I don’t mind the distinct possibility that “popular stuff” may indeed be good.

    But I do mind how cock-sure most people seem to be that it is (when they’re questioning at all).

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    gomez, I think it is abundantly clear that Joseph had no academic knowledge of Hebrew when he translated the BoM. (So if my suggestion is correct, it is a matter of inspired, not academic translation.)

    Joseph of course studied Hebrew under Joshua Seixas at the Kirtland Hebrew School five or six years later, and returned to his Hebrew studies under Alexander Neibaur in Nauvoo. But all of this was too late to be an influence on the BoM.

  12. Amri, I think you raised a similar point on another thread. I am not sure that we can so easily dismiss the idea of God having chosen peoples. The scriptures (and our own history) are rather emphatic on the topic. Sure, God loves all his children, but he has his covenant people.

  13. J.–you’re right there’s lots of scriptural evidence that says that God has a “peculiar people” but it makes me nervous. That’s all. And it doesn’t quite fit in to how I see God. I wasn’t trying to argue that the scriptures don’t say it, only that I don’t get it and humans usually do horrible stuff with that kind of language/belief.

  14. Also, while I am a little bit crazy, I do not think that my distaste for this language/idea/doctrine proves it. There seems to be to equal scriptural evidence that God is no respecter of persons, that bond and free, male and female, black and white are alike to God and that Christ was a great equalizer. He came to the peculiar people established in the OT and the context of the Mosiac law and spent most of his time with prostitutes, publicans, “sinners”, the sick and afflicted (sometimes thought to be so because of sin and therefore could potentially put them on the outs with the special folk), Samaritans and other non-covenant people. Peculiar people language/covenant people idea is distinctive (mostly) to the OT, much of which is doctrinally fulfilled by Jesus.

    I hate the claims that mine is more right than yours so I’m not trying to say that at all. I just don’t think I’m way off scriptural base for being uneasy with this idea.

  15. Hm. I think the original post is about New Testement usage of the concept. Then in the restoration we have the whole concept of literal Zion and the royal priesthood.

    I do agree that Jesus’ message was aimed to prevent pride among the chosen (and all other) people, though. His reaching out to social outcasts, as you mention, illustrates this.

  16. J.S.

    I must agree with Amri on this one. I don’t understand the concept of a covenant people. In most cases they are only “covenant people” because of heritage. Some might argue that it is what you did in the pre-existance that determined whether you were “born in the covenant” or put on this earth to luck into the truth. That would be okay if we were placed on this earth with a recollection of the pre-existence, but since we are all here with no recollection of a pre-existence, where you are born determines great advantage or disadvantage, and this is simply not a fair scenario coming from a just God. I simply don’t believe in this “covenant people” business.

  17. Amri:

    The problem I have with this ‘peculiar people’ idea is the way it ranks people in the eyes of God.

    Exactly. And the problem gets worse because we feel justified to rank people.

  18. Kevin,
    I didn’t mean for it to be a threadjack. Are the NT and OT usages of peculiar people very different? I didn’t think they were exactly the same but related–first cousins maybe?

    Bestow on me your knowledge, please.

  19. Kevin Barney says:

    Amri, I don’t consider your comments a threadjack. The original post was focused on common LDS misunderstanding of the use of the scriptural expression “peculiar people” to mean, essentially, “weird people.” We may well qualify as weird people, but that is not what the scriptures are talking about.

    Certainly the scriptures talk about covenant peoples, but the question of whether the whole notion of a covenant people makes sense in light of other scriptural imperatives regarding God being no respecter of persons and so forth strikes me as a natural outgrowth of the original post. So I think it’s fine for posters to go down that path.

    (I address the OT and NT conceptions in the original post. To my perception, the OT usage was focused more on the “wealth” aspect of the word, and the NT usage more on the “possession” aspect.)

  20. rleonard says:

    I think the idea of a covenant people goes against the grain of a PC western world. No surprise that many of us have issues with it.

    However its clearly in the mainstream of mormon teachings/ thought. One advantage that we have in discussing it is that you can join the covenant people by get this…. making a covenant (baptism)

  21. Can the body be discarded and connection to the head retained? Which is more proud and egocentric? Entering established covenants to take Christ’s name on us, or thinking we can write our own vows?

  22. Adam Greenwood says:

    Southerners referred to slavery as ‘our peculiar institution.’ I don’t think they meant that it was wierd or freakish. They meant it was unique or special.

  23. Kevin Barney says:

    I would see the “our peculiar institution” example as simply an instance of the older meaning of the word “peculiar” (i.e., that which uniquely belongs to someone/something) as opposed to the more recent, developed meaning of weird or freakish.

  24. Kevin,

    Didn’t Nibley stretch the meaning of “peculiar” into the likes of “sealed?” If so, what do you think?

    Re: Covenant people–

    The BoM makes it clear that the Lord establishes his covennant people. It is also very clear with regard to the idea that God really doesn’t give a hoot about lineage (in the long run). It’s all about personal righteousness–that’s what qualifies one to be part of his covenant people.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    Jack, I’ve read a lot of Nibley, but the particular peculiar = sealed thing you mention doesn’t ring a bell for me.

  26. When I think of the designation of peculiar people, I don’t think of it from my point of view, but from the point of view of my neighbors. For example, I don’t think I am any better than anyone else because of my religion, race, sex or any other reason. And I usually don’t try to be peculiar or think it makes me more favored in God’s eyes. But my neighbors think I am peculiar because I don’t do some of the things that are more common among non-LDS. Therefore, the distinction of peculiar for me is something that is bestowed upon me by my neighbors, not something I bestow upon myself. For me it doesn’t mean anything. For my neighbors it simply means I am a little different.

    We are taught to not be of the world, meaning partakers of sin that is natural to the world. If we abstain (the best we can) from the sin of the natural world, and our neighbors think we are peculiar for it, what’s wrong with that. Would we rather conform to the mainstream of the world for the sake of being non peculiar.

    For those mormons who think being peculiar makes them better than everyone else, perhaps they have some work to do in the pride department. But just because some stumble over pride, I don’t think we should stop doing the things that God has asked of us (whether through scripture or through his servants) just so our neighbors won’t call us peculiar.

  27. I do like Kevin’s discussion of the shift in focus from the “wealth” aspect of the word to the “possession” aspect. We are valuable because we are his.

    I think that with this interpretation, it does more to define the nature of the covenant than to seperate the covenant people from others.

  28. The law still uses a word derived from the Latin “peculium” which preserves the original KJV meaning of “peculiar.” This is the adjective “pecuniary” meaning that one has a property right. An example of a common use would be a sentence like “Mr. X has a pecuniary interest in these assets” which means that X has a property ownership claim on them.

    I like to use this in explaining the scriptural phrase “peculiar people.” It does not mean that we are odd, or that we are special. It means that having committed ourselves to God we are “owned” by Him. It is about our responsiblities and obligations as God’s “owned,” not privileges or oddities.

  29. I am with Amri on the concept or implications of the concept of God’s chosen, covenant, or peculiar people. Personally, I believe that God loves each one of His children the best.

  30. I agree with Amri that being loving and accepting of others is important. I also agree with the warning that the “peculiar” rhetoric can lead to exclusiveness and unfairness.

    But I also believe it is important to stand on the Lord’s side.

    And I rank the priorities of correct doctrine/belief and preservation of the community of believers higher than I rank the mandate to be accepting of our neighbors.

    My concern is that we are gradually starting to rank “being friends” more highly than “being right.” When that re-prioritization is complete, we will cease to be the Lord’s people.

  31. Steve Evans says:

    Seth, for the most part isn’t it right to be friends? What’ you’re really talking about is not sinning even as we live in the world. There’s nothing about the Lord’s side, practically speaking, that requires us to sacrifice our friends and neighbors.

  32. rleonard says:

    Steve,

    Seth is saying lets not throw out our doctrines in a burst of PC thought.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    rleonard, I realize that — I just don’t really see a lot of PC thought that requires us to throw out our doctrines as a practical matter. Maybe the world tempts us via R-rated movies or whatever but I don’t equate that with putting community 2nd or anything so severe.

  34. I am not trying to be PC when I say I don’t believe God ranks people. I hate all kinds of people and say all kinds of horrible things. I think I”m better than everyone else. Smart people are better than dumb people. People with my tastes are much much better than people without. People who like Chicken Soup for the Soul should be shunned and, in my book, spend major time in purgatory. People who love Karl Rove are despised and I am convinced have to pay hell time. I am very un-PC.

    I just don’t think God is like me.

  35. rleonard says:

    How do then get around “born in the covenant” Pat Blessings, gathering of Isreal, Temple work, Alma 13, “noble and great ones in the PGP” forordination, gathering of manassas Etc.

    I am just wondering the thought process so let me know.

  36. Steve Evans says:

    rleonard, God is able to raise up these stones to Abraham. Those blessings and predictions don’t mean squat if we don’t follow the commandments. Being a “peculiar people” means anything in particular other than a particular obligation to serve God. Blessings come from obedience to those obligations, not from inherited status.

  37. rleonard says:

    But Steve,

    Address the points of doctrine above. You seem ready to dismiss them along with the canon and modern prophets esp regarding Isreal.

    What Jesus brought was the ability after Acts 10 and Peters revelation to preach to all the world not just Jews for all mankind to join the covenant people thru baptism. Prior to Acts 10 the covenants were for Isreal. But the promises to Isreal are still in force as demonstrated in Revelations and modern scriptures.

    I would not be so quick to throw out mainstream doctrines in an effort to be accomdating to others. We should be inviting those who have not made covenants to make them.

  38. rleonard says:

    “Children born to parents thus married are natural heirs to the blessings of the priesthood. They are born in the covenant. Hence, “they require no rite of adoption or sealing to insure them place in the posterity of promise.” 23″ Talmadge

    The quotes are manyu reagarding this. Just one example of many.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    rleonard, I’m not throwing out mainstream doctrines — not in the least. I believe that ordinances are essential. But covenants, lineage and inheritance are meaningless absent personal righteousness. I don’t care if Levi was your grandpa; if you don’t live according to the Spirit, you have no right to administer in the priesthood. This is what the canon and modern prophets are saying.

    The principle of being born in the covenant is nothing more than a principle which saves the needless repetition of sealing ordinances for a preexisting family relationship. It does no more to guarantee salvation for those children than it does for any other person.

  40. There might be something more to that principle than a mere practical concern, but I essentially agree with Steve on this.

  41. I think there is John F., but I agree the result is the same.

  42. Steve Evans says:

    John & J., there may well be something more to it, but I cannot determine what that something may be. It flies in the face of personal accountability and the Atonement to permit another person’s ordinance to absolve our sins for us without repentance.

  43. It seems to me that the problem with this “God doesn’t rank people” argument is that it is imprecise. It is true that all people have the same potential and that God desires the same great things for all people. But it is not true that all people have the same stewardships and responsibilities in this life. Therefore I think there is no question that there are some people who are either born part of or choose to join God’s “chosen people” on earth. But what are they chosen for? The answer seems to be that they are chosen to carry a special (peculiar) stewardship and responsibility in life.

    The parable of the talents must be employed in this discussion I think. God’s chosen people are comparable to the stewards with 5 talents in the parable. They must make the most of their stewardship or they will not be received with a “well done thou good and faithful servant” at the last day. Therefore I think that Steve is very correct in saying that being born part of the “peculiar people” is no free ride to the approval of God — it is simply a greater level of responsibility and stewardship. God may not rank people in terms of there potential, but the parable of the talents implies he does rank them in terms of responsibility/stewardship.

  44. rleonard says:

    Guys Steve is not addressing the doctrines. He is pointing to personal conduct being important as well. That is not what is even being discussed in my Threadjack. I say no kidding to that point. Does that even need to be said?

  45. Geoff J. I think that’s fair. I just don’t think that the chosen ones are specific to Mormonism. Joseph Smith was chosen to me, but so was Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, John Calvin, you follow me?

    Those people have callings, responsibilities and maybe even privileges with God that I do not. I do not believe there are many many “peculiar” people in the world.

    There are many contradicting doctrines or scriptual ideas out there. Our experiences and relationships with God define how we reconcile them. I recognize all of the scriptural language and Mormon doctrine that speaks of us being a people set aside or owned by God because of our connection to Israel or because of the Priesthood etc. I haven’t written it off as bunk, only it remains something I cannot reconcile with the belief that all are alike to God and have equal access to Him. In order to deal with it, I’ve decided that the best I can do is believe that all are equal and try my best to think through things and do what I think is right. I’m open to being wrong and if God tells me in the after life that there was a peculiar people, I”m hoping He’ll explain it to me in a way that reconciles these two contradicting ideas.

    Until then, I have to ranks some ideas/doctrines and hopefully not people. (Though I have already admitted to ranking people.

    PS. My favorite line on this thread
    rleonard–But Steve!

  46. Amri: Joseph Smith was chosen to me, but so was Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, John Calvin, you follow me?

    Yep, I follow you. I just don’t agree with you. :-)

    It sounds like you simply don’t believe our scriptures when they say that this is the only true and living church on the face of the earth. You are certainly not the only person to have trouble with that idea. I believe it is, but don’t take my word for it. That is something you should get God to tell you his opinion about himself.

    I would add that Gandhi, MLK Jr., Mother Teresa, John Calvin, etc. never claimed to be prophets of God so they never claimed to be chosen in scriptural sense. I think that they used their free will to do much good in the world and as such may very well have “doubled their talents” and merited the “well done thou good and faithful servant” greeting from God in the afterlife, but that is not the same as being the people God has entrusted with the covenants and ordinances that lead to exaltation. According to our doctrines each of those people must still adhere to Celestial Laws if they are to inherit Celestial Glory in the eternities to come.

    I haven’t written it off as bunk, only it remains something I cannot reconcile with the belief that all are alike to God and have equal access to Him.

    I think that there is no question that all people have equal access to God when it comes to sending communications to him. I like to compare that to “upload speeds”, using an internet analogy. We can all sincerely pray after all. But it seems obvious to me that not everyone has the same download speeds, or abilities to receive and understand messages from God. Many (perhaps most) people seem to be downloading information from God at 14.4 modem speeds (or slower) while other like the prophets seems to be downloading multimedia extravaganzas from God at T3 bandwidth. I believe our doctrines that say that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is a MAJOR boost to our download speeds if we keep the promises we made a baptism and renew weekly with the sacrament. (If we break those promises then the Gift of the Holy Ghost is largely wasted on us.)

    I’m open to being wrong and if God tells me in the after life that there was a peculiar people

    Why wait that long? You can ask him immediately.

  47. You underestimate me and my communicative relationship with God, Geoff.

    I have asked many many many times.

    Either is it like you say, the Holy Ghost is wasted on me or I just get different answers.

  48. Seth R. says:

    “Either is it like you say, the Holy Ghost is wasted on me or I just get different answers.”

    Or it’s a dumb question and God really wants us all to shut-up and do our home teaching.

    Being a “noble and great one” doesn’t score you any points on the game of Celestial Pursuit.

    Just look at King David.

    I think everyone, no matter what their innate capacities, has an equal opportunity to accept or reject God’s will (which is to be baptized a Mormon … sooner or later). The Atonement takes care of the deficiencies.

  49. I don’t think I underestimated your communication with God in that last comment Amri. I wrote it assuming you would ask God and receive clear and unmistakable yes or no answers to your questions. Did you mean overestimate?

    If you are have troubles with download speeds from God (aka receiving personal revelation), well… um… didn’t you say something about the Word of Wisdom recently?… The Gift of the Holy Ghost only boosts our download capabilities if we keep our part of the agreement and all…

  50. Mark Butler says:

    Despite its unfortunate association with a now overturned practice, practically the only explanation for nominal divine favoritism by family or by birth that is compatible with the principle that God is not a respecter of persons, is differential faithfulness in the pre-mortal life. That doesn’t mean anyone has a sure thing, or that it is a hard and fast rule, it just means that righteous people were often born into the same families as other righteous people, notably righteous sons and daughters *preponderantly* becoming the heritage of righteous parents.

    Now of course the plan is much more complex than that – I think the Lord often sends us hard cases on purpose – look at Laman and Lemuel. Indeed the scriptures often talk about all sorts of such things done in order to fulfil divine purposes, e.g. the scattering and gathering of Israel being both judgment and chastening on Israel, and blessing and reward for the Gentiles.

    This is all conditional on continued righteousness, or may be changed by repentance, e.g. all Gentiles may be heir to the Abrahamic covenant – but they are not natural heirs, strictly speaking, but new comers. And of course if a person born naturally into the House of Israel is or becomes unrighteous, the blessings of the covenant are null and void, in fact judgment follows not just for punishment, but so that the Lord may redeem them, even through the most severe chastening, if at all possible.

    A very complex subject that is the theme of about half of the Old Testament, some of the New, and much of the Book of Mormon. If you leave family relationships out the picture, most of those scriptures become meaningless. God most certainly has a design in the human family, and in human families.

  51. I like Jesus’ answer to the question about ranking each other, which I have slightly modified:

    At the same time came the [BCC posters] unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest [that is, the most chosen] in the kingdom of heaven [or on earth for that matter]?
    And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him [or her] in the midst of them,
    And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children [and do your home and visiting teaching], ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
    Whosoever therefore shall humble himself [or herself] as this little child, the same is greatest [most chosen] in the kingdom of heaven [and earth, for that matter–at least if they were born in the covenant in the United States, with Mayflower “legal” immigrant ancestors (who joined the Church at the time of Joseph Smith [if not before]), in an upper middle class active LDS home, in the latter-days, with a SAHM and two parent family, who avoid R-rated movies, caffeinated drinks, democratic candidates and Sunstone, use “thee” and “thou” when praying, and read only the KJV (and WSJ editorial pages)].

  52. Mark Butler says:

    The question of who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is straightforward. The problem is explaining the contingencies of the scriptural account of the house of Israel now, whether they be for good or for evil.

  53. In what ways are “all alike unto God”? From 2nd Nephi 26, the chapter that ends with that phrase, “hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.” And what follows from partaking of that goodness? Well, in that chapter, three verses on seeking the welfare of Zion.

    A consequence of “coming unto him,” which all are invited to do, is being numbered among the disciples of Christ, being a member of that body. It’s not an incidental consequence; it’s one that permeates all our scriptures. Nephi set it out as one of his writing aims to show “that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith”.

  54. Launa Mower says:

    Here are some pecularities of Mormons as observed by a non-temple attending Mormon (Sacrament Meeting only):

    1. I find it peculiar that my Stake Presidency brother takes handshake loan(s) from Mom and Dad, but never pays them back. He considers himself temple worthy; he attends regularly. It appears that Mom and Dad are financing his Mormonism, since he can’t pay for it himself.

    2. Regarding divorce of Mormons, I find it peculiar that a former Bishop and now Patriarch would strike his former son-in-law’s name from the family’s genalogy and replace it with that of his daughter’s new husband.

    3. I find it peculiar that Mormons hold Joseph Smith to be a hero, even though he could not pass today’s temple recommend interview. Could someone tell me/provide a link to find out who married Joseph and Emma? Also, any Y chromosome DNA data available on Joseph’s male children by his poligy wives? Though Joseph and Emma’s first offspring was stillborn, was it full term? If so, was the child born 9 months after their wedding, or before? In other words, did Joseph and Emma have premarital sex?

    4. I find it peculiar that statuary of Joseph and Emma are extant at Church Headquarters, but a cursory search of Joseph Smith’s geneaology on the Church’s FamSearch web site suggests that Emma is not sealed/was a wife to the Prophet.

    Want to suggest any other peculiarities?

  55. Kevin Barney says:

    In no. 54, re: point 3, you are not suggesting, are you, that just because we do not have an extant marriage record, Joseph and Emma were not actually married? There are other historical sources besides marriage records, and the historical record is clear that they were married at the house of Zechariah Tarble in South Bainbridge on January 18, 1827.

    Joseph and Emma’s first child, Alvin, was stillborn on June 15, 1828 (with birth defects). This is almost a year and a half after their marriage. There is nothing in the historical record to suggest that they had premarital sex.

    Y chromosome DNA data is being studied WRT possible children of Joseph. The results, as reported in meetings of the Mormon History Association and the Journal of Mormon History, have all been negative so far.

  56. #54, I find it more peculiar that you would show up and force your trollish criticisms on an unrelated thread.

  57. Launa Mower says:

    Thanks and apologies to Kevin and J. Stapley, respectively. In deference to J. Stapely, I would prefer not to comment further about Joseph and Emma on this thread.

  58. The Lord does see those who obey him and keep the covenants that they made before they were born as his special treasure. In fact, the Lord considers his latter-day saints to be his jewels, his personal beloved people, the sheep that follow his voice. (This is just how the Lord thinks. If you ask me, he is being rather gracious about it, but he is known for that.) There are people who are obedient but who do not know about the fulness of the gospel, and there are people who are not obedient even though they do know about the fulness of the gospel. Those who operate well in the light they have will be given more, even if it is not in this life. However, the Lord expects those who know about the covenant to honor it. Recently I was surprised to learn that the Lord really does consider his latter-day saints to be the hail that he has saved up for a time of trouble. We hear about how this generation was reserved ad nauseam until it is rather difficult to believe. Nevertheless, the entire generation of this entire dispensation is the hail reserved for a time of trouble, and we belong to that dispensation. (Don’t ask me why the Lord says this … it’s his opinion. I’m just trying to align my thinking with his.)

    JOB 38: 22-23

    Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail
    Which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?

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