The abused becomes the abuser

Troubled with the carnage unleashed by Moses, a friend wrote me the following:

I grew up with the Prince of Egypt-type of perception that Moses (upon discovering his identity) was appalled at the mistreatment of his people i.e. the killing of innocent children and the abuse his fellow people suffered at the hands of Egyptian soldiers.

There seems a little irony in what he then goes on to do or orders to have done: killing and genocide in God’s name. It seems strange that in one sermon Moses can remind the Hebrews of the command “Thou shalt not kill” and then the following sermon orders the “destruction” of every people (aggressor or not) that is currently occupying Canaan. What seems just as merciless is the instruction further to kill any Hebrew (his own people) who choose to worship other Gods, amongst other things. A further list of orders are then given designed to keep a pure religion and race, all the time affirming their superiority over others … all of which make Hitler’s ideals seem liberal!

I am asking for your understanding of these scriptures. What insights do you have that would help me see Moses and the Law of Moses in a better light? What info don’t we have that could help justify Moses’ orders, i.e. were the Hebrews the subject of continual aggression from these other nations? What were they doing that was so abhorrent that God wanted them killed for?

The Christianity I am comfortable with today is “humanitarian” if I had to choose a word to best describe it. Jesus affirms this above everything: there is no contradiction between love of ones fellow man and love for God. There are so many tenets we espouse today that run contrary to God’s will in the Torah … Please help before I lump the first five alongside The Songs of Solomon.

*****

Sensing that a legal discussion of justifiable homicide in ancient Near Eastern law was not what my friend was looking for, here’s my response:

First, of all, don’t ditch the Song of Songs, a marvellous exposition of erotic love! (Nothing at all wrong with that under the right constraints.)

As you know I’ve spent a good part of my academic life studying the Old Testament and so certainly understand your concerns. My dissertation was on slavery and it gives one pause that something which is so obviously a moral evil to us — the possession of human chattel — is not condemned by the Bible.

I endorse what [your father] says about the fallibility of the Bible. Certainly we have to be careful to not go too far down that road, but I think it is striking that the carnage evident in the wandering and conquest narratives is eschewed elsewhere in the scriptures, which to me might suggest that a nationalistic human hand has left a trace in the extant Mosaic record. Even the later Old Testament seems to find these stories difficult. Many of the prophets (e.g. Amos) have a less nationalistic view of Israel and some books (e.g. Jonah) demonstrate very clearly God’s love for all people. In the Book of Moses, Enoch sees God weeping because humans love killing. In the New Testament, Jesus quite clearly tells us to love our enemies. And the righteous Book of Mormon people — and note that they are inheritors of the Israelite religion — advocate principles of “just war” not cruel slaughter: why would that be if they believed Moses’ killings to justify the death of the infidel Lamanites? Given all that, I don’t think there is any need to see compulsions to commit genocide and other ills as ethically normative (hooray!) and the weight of the scriptures and the lived Gospel would seem to be on your side.

Bottom line: read as the word of God, the Old Testament is a wonderful but murky old book. There’s a good reason why Jesus preached a renewed Gospel of love both in the meridian of time and in the Restoration. Don’t sweat it, old boy!

******

Any more advice for my friend? Any good literature on this subject? My friend was hoping, I think, for some justification for Moses’ actions. As an ancient law historian, I think I can do this. As a Christian, I can’t. In this regard, I think Mormons are well placed among Christians to accept the human hand in scriptural tradition and to discard erroneous ideas in favour of better revelation. In this regard, don’t the words of Christ stand as the last testament?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

Comments

  1. The Book of Mormon is murky too – I am mainly thinking of 3 Nephi Chapter 9.

    If you read that chapter and ponder that Jesus personally states that he destroyed all those cities – just before he comes down and preaches the Sermon on the Mount … well, it helps to merge the seemingly different God of the Old Testament with the Jesus of the New Testament.

    I just ran through the chapter and came up with sixteen names of cities that were destroyed (at least three are referred to as “great cities”):

    Zarahemla, Moroni, Moronihah, Gilgal, Onihah, Mocum, Jerusalem, Gadiandi, Gadiomnah, Jacob, Gimgimno,
    Jacobugath, Laman, Josh, Gad, Kishkumen

  2. Ah, but it’s one thing for God to kill, it’s another to brutalise a whole people by ordering them to kill.

  3. nat kelly says:

    I would recommend your friend check out the works of Robert Allen Warrior. He is a Native American who critiqued Liberation Theology from an “indigenous people’s” perspective. He points out that liberation ultimately fails if the newly liberated oppressed people go on to become oppressors (helloooo Canaan). Warrior’s stuff is really good.

    I don’t think you need to “justify” Moses. I think that (if the Bible does in fact record historical facts in this regard, which I am skeptical of) it’s okay to say it was wrong. I mean, it’s just one group of people trying to claim their own military superiority.

    I had a Black professor once who said a few wise things on this topic – you are only fighting for social justice if you are willing to fight for other people’s social justice too. As a Black man, he felt the test of his commitment to equality was his willingness to fight for LGBT rights – a group he didn’t identify with, but whose oppression he should be able to recognize.

    So yeah. Don’t be an oppressor. Word.

  4. RJH,

    The Book of Mormon has that one covered too. We all know the story of Nephi and Laban.

    We are stuck with, have to come to terms with, the reality that sometimes God commands people to kill and actually expects them to carry it out (unlike the Abraham story).

  5. Martin says:

    #1 danithew — I have no problem with God himself slaughtering the wicked. Killing people is not the same when you have power to resurrect them.

    I do have a hard time with people killing in God’s name. It happens a lot, but it’s got to be very rare indeed that God actually commands such a thing. When He does, I feel worse for those commanded to do the killing than I do for those getting killed. How could you not feel spiritually damaged by doing such a thing?

  6. Martin,

    a) killing in the name of God and b) actually being told to kill (by God) are quite often two very different things.

    I recognize that.

    But the fact that example B exists in the scriptures is something we have to contend with.

    A lot of people dismiss the Old Testament and uphold the New Testament. My point is the Book of Mormon makes it clear that isn’t a choice. The seemingly brutal god of the OT and the charitable god of the NT are in fact the same personality.

    So I try to understand/grasp/comprehend that reality.

  7. Danithew,

    Nephi’s killing of Laban and the Canaanite genocide are so massively quantitatively different that any appeals to their qualitative similarity are ultimately absurd. Also, Nephi appears to be genuinely conflicted and regretful about the command; Moses and Joshua display no such hesitance. The conquest narratives are utterly out of place with the totality of the Gospel; those that argue otherwise are straining out a gnat in order to swallow a sociopathic camel.

  8. RJH, it could be argued that Nephi’s reluctance to obey God’s command, any command, even to kill, was in fact a defect rather than a virtue. Personally, I’m glad he wasn’t eager to do the act – but those passages are not intended as a basis for faultfinding in Moses or Joshua.

    Nephi routinely looks to Moses and the Exodus as his inspiration. So it’s a perversion of scriptural interpretation to try and condemn Moses because he lacked Nephi’s reluctance. Moses is superior to Nephi – not the other way around.

    Genesis 15:16 points out that God tells Abraham that He is delaying the conquest narrative because the Amorites/Canaanites aren’t ripe for destruction – YET. This is important because it shows God is not unjust. If we think it’s wrong for the Amorites/Canaanites to be destroyed in the time of Moses and Joshua, we aren’t trying sufficiently to imagine just how wicked and depraved they must have been.

    But we should let Nephi speak for himself. Nephi actually cited the conquest narratives to bolster his arguments against his brothers, who were refusing to believe that Jerusalem could/would be destroyed:

    1 Nephi 17:33-38
    33 And now, do ye suppose that the children of this land, who were in the land of promise, who were driven out by our fathers, do ye suppose that they were righteous? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
    34 Do ye suppose that our fathers would have been more choice than they if they had been righteous? I say unto you, Nay.
    35 Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God. But behold, this people had rejected every word of God, and they were ripe in iniquity; and the fulness of the wrath of God was upon them; and the Lord did curse the land against them, and bless it unto our fathers; yea, he did curse it against them unto their destruction, and he did bless it unto our fathers unto their obtaining power over it.
    36 Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it.
    37 And he raiseth up a righteous nation, and destroyeth the nations of the wicked.
    38 And he leadeth away the righteous into precious lands, and the wicked he destroyeth, and curseth the land unto them for their sakes.

  9. Danithew, just because Nephi looked to Moses as his inspiration doesn’t mean that Moses is superior to Nephi.

    The argument that reluctance to obey God’s command to kill is somehow a defect strikes me as bizarre fundamentalism.

    Finally, looking to Genesis as a proof for what is done in Exodus is just not a tenable argument…

  10. I had a discussion about this recently in which someone argued that Moses’s story isn’t a problem because death isn’t a big deal in God’s eyes.

    Anyone heard anything similar? I’m not really buying it…sure, God has a different perspective than we do, but I feel like death is still kind of a big deal. Unless you’re twinkled, maybe.

  11. “just because Nephi looked to Moses as his inspiration doesn’t mean that Moses is superior to Nephi” …

    Steve – I agree with the logic. I mean, just because Chuck Berry influenced the Beatles doesn’t mean Chuck Berry is greater than the Beatles.

    But if we were going to have a full-on silly argument about which prophet is superior, I wouldn’t want to argue against Moses.

  12. Danithew, God can make any of these rocks like unto Moses. I think you need to keep the arguments separated between which prophet is superior in a general sense (i.e., more important), vs. between Nephi and Moses, which of them showed better ethics based on the record we have. From an ethical standpoint, Nephi has Moses beat fairly clearly.

  13. Steve, I’m not trying to prove that Exodus is true by referring to Genesis. If one accepts that these passages in Genesis and Exodus are true (as I am doing) then the Genesis passage begins to provide an explanation as to why the conquest was delayed – why instead of happening during the lifetime of Abraham, the conquest happened during the lifetimes of Moses and Joshua.

    Instead of rejecting the account as it is because it doesn’t match with modern day sensibilities (which often make sense to me), I struggle to understand why events unfolded the way they are related and how they could be justified.

    I quoted Nephi because he provides reasoning. He doesn’t tell us specifically what the Amorites/Canaanites were doing – but Nephi does make it clear that (he believed) they provoked God to a point that he ordered them to be destroyed.

    This is that very same Nephi who was reluctant to kill Laban.

    In some ways, even though he had some clear fundamentalist beliefs in relation to the account of the Exodus and the conquest narratives, Nephi also shows us that when it came down to his own reality – Nephi had some of our sensibilities.

    Which makes him all the more interesting and pertinent to this discussion.

  14. Do we have to take the BoM as a verbatim word from God sort of record? I’m okay with Christ never having taken credit for cities being destroyed, primarily because I’m not sure I believe that God has some magical power over nature to bend it to His will… more that God uses natural happenings to teach people eternal lessons. Maybe that stuff was added in by Mormon, or maybe not.

    And I agree that the Nephi/Laban comparison is no comparison at all. Not only is Nephi torn about doing it, there is apparently a necessary justification for Laban to lose his life in God’s eyes, and God did not tell Nephi to just forget about it and torch the whole blasted city.

  15. Dan, except that you’re ignoring the fact that Genesis and Exodus are being transcribed simultaneously with a common intent by the author (namely, a conquering Israelite). There’s every reason to mistrust the author’s description of the conquest.

    Further, I see no need to attempt to justify murder and genocide! I know that you want to sleep soundly at night knowing that these prophets were good people, Dan, but you’re completely throwing your morals out the window in the process. Murder and genocide are not “modern day sensibilities,” my man. If you peaceably accept Nephi’s slaying of Laban and the destruction of thousands at the hands of the Israelite army, then either you’re really missing something or life just doesn’t mean that much to you…

  16. One thing that is coloring my view on this discussion is some reading I have recently been doing in Jeremiah – as we all know, a contemporary of Nephi.

    Nephi says that the people of Jerusalem were wicked and that Jerusalem had to be destroyed – but Jeremiah actually provides an extended series of specific accusations against Jerusalem that make the case more believable and realistic.

    A person might read 1 Nephi and think what’s the big deal? Why would God destroy a whole city filled with his covenant people?

    Except for Laban, who might be considered representative of the wickedness present in Jerusalem, well, we just don’t have many specifics. It’s too vague to make the case. Lehi had this dream and he says he saw abominations – but it’s very unspecific. We just kind of take his word for it. Or not.

    But Jeremiah makes the case. By the time a person is done reading Jeremiah, one actually thinks – wow, this place and its inhabitants really did need to be destroyed!

    I think we suffer from the same problem in relation to the Canaanites. We don’t really know the specifics of what is going on their in their society and culture. But considering the sources and examples we have available – we might want to at least be willing to consider the possibility that there is a time and a place where God is justified in either destroying a city or ordering that a city be destroyed. And maybe the Canaanite cities and societies fit the bill for that kind of treatment.

    The New Testament actually has supportive material as well. We know that even there, Jesus condemned cities and prophecied their demise.

    So before we say that this sort of thing is contrary to the entirety of the Gospel plan – we should give it a little more thought.

  17. “By the time a person is done reading Jeremiah, one actually thinks – wow, this place and its inhabitants really did need to be destroyed!”

    No, Dan, one doesn’t think that.

  18. Well Steve, there’s one verse that states that the people were engaging in child sacrifice.

    But that’s just one part of it all.

    As one reads Jeremiah, one comes to think that the people of Jerusalem, at that time, had a rampant mafia culture. They were robbing, murdering, committing adultery, lying, etc. and etc. and etc. It wasn’t just that these things were happening there – but these activities were so prevalent and had permeated to such an extent. Jeremiah seems to be saying that everyone or almost everyone was involved in these activities.

    One commentary I read on this was that because Jerusalem had been miraculously saved previously (during the time of Hezekiah) from the Assyrians – the people of Jerusalem believed that they were protected by the existence of the temple. They thought – God will not allow Jerusalem to be destroyed because the temple was there.

    But apparently they also thought that this gave them a license to break every single commandment and to do it often. They were freeriders on the covenant promises – breaking all the laws and still counting on God to save them.

    And God’s response was that he would not protect them so that they could do those things.

  19. Dan, civilizations have done such monstrous things throughout time. Did God destroy all past civilizations?

  20. MikeInWeHo says:

    “wow, this place and its inhabitants really did need to be destroyed!”

    That kind of thinking scares me. History is replete with atrocities committed by people who thought like that. If God really wants to destroy a city, he can smack it down with an asteroid or some such. Personally, I will never be persuaded that any genocide was ever the will of the Lord. It either didn’t really happen in history (some of the O.T. accounts, perhaps), or the people who did it were deluded in their belief that they were following God’s command and that delusion is reflected in the scriptural account.

  21. Cynthia L. says:

    Well Steve, there’s one verse that states that the people were engaging in child sacrifice.

    So, danithew, if I’m following you here: (a) life is so precious and taking of it so awful and unforgivable, (b) that if a group of people take even a few lives (via child sacrifice), then (c) another group of people should take all those people’s lives (including children), and (d) we should not think it awful and forgive the people in (c) for that (but not the people in (b)).

  22. “I’m not sure I believe that God has some magical power over nature to bend it to His will… more that God uses natural happenings to teach people eternal lessons.”

    Hmmm. Not much of a God then, is he Enna?

    Seems to me that prophets may at times make too much of God’s involvement in certain events, but if you believe in God as a creator, then it seems inconsistent to say that he doesn’t have power over natural happenings. It makes an awful lot of the scriptures a flat lie.

  23. “From an ethical standpoint, Nephi has Moses beat fairly clearly.”

    I wonder what Nephi would have to say about that.

  24. John C. says:

    Ronan,
    I think you know my take on all of this. The call to genocide is more a matter of establishing rightful ownership than it is a matter of slaughtering the innocents. The whole of the Pentateuch is an argument that the Israelites have a legitimate claim to Canaan, even though they are not technically from there (at least not recently).

    Danithew,
    Of course, the author of Joshua argues that Joshua goes a’slaughterin’ (except a large number of Canaanites remain unslaughtered by the end of the book). Judges starts with the angel being angry (and God, too) because the Israelites still haven’t killed anybody. Of course, Joshua/Judges starts the Deuteronomistic History which is a lengthy argument that Josiah’s reign was the bestest ever. Jeremiah is closely associated with the Deuteronomist school, which argued that syncretism with Canaanite practice (which is often remarkably like Hebrew practice) is the cause of God’s disfavor (all those cakes being baked for the Mother in Heaven (and so forth)). So it isn’t surprising that Jeremiah is down with the genocide that the authors of Joshua, Judges, and Deuteronomy were happy with. That said, the Deuteronomistic school is the villain in Margaret Barker’s work, so if you like Jeremiah’s critique, you are fighting Barker (which might appeal in any case).

    Finally, Lehi is definitely influenced by the Deuteronomistic school (which makes sense since he mentions Jeremiah (but never quotes him)), but the brass plates (or whatever Lehi used) also seem to imply E, which is a more syncretic approach (but also one that endorses the slaughter of the Egyptians at least and other groups may be implied).

    The moral is that all these groups applied prophetic hyperbole (genocide may not actually be genocide) and they all had political agendas that they applied to their understanding of God. In all things OT, Caveat Emptor.

  25. I sometimes wonder if Moses starting off from the very beginning with the wrong step of violence and that this misstep continued the Israelites in a life of violence.

    While we might admire Moses (as the prince) for using violence against a fellow Egyptian to protect an Israelite, what if he had shown a little more restraint and instead used his (providential?) position of power to help all of the Israelites? If he had not been kicked out of Egypt, could he have found himself in a position to deliver the Israelites without the violence, without the exodus, and without hte centuries of violence that the Israelites later found themselves in?

  26. Cynthia L.,

    Perhaps it would have been better if God had sent another flood instead.

    Oh, but the then Steve is sure to argue that Moses made the whole flood story up to justify his own unethical behavior.

  27. “Not much of a God then, is he Enna?”

    MCQ, to me God like attributes have more to do with the perfection of character than the ability to whip up a tornado at will. God works within natural law, something eternal (as are we all).

    Mankind has taken to describing things we can’t explain to God, until we can explain them…

    But this is why I have no problem accepting that God/Christ does not slaughter innocents. Perfection of character would not require testosterone-fueled displays of power, but a prophet or two might want it to keep his people in line.

  28. Jack, what’s your problem exactly?

  29. No problem. Why do you ask?

    Well actually I’m just a wee bit concerned that some folks have a hard time with genocide. That’s all.

  30. I too believe that God does not slaughter innocents. That’s a large step removed, however, from saying he does not have power over natural forces that could either kill or save. If God can’t calm the storms we face, whether they are literal or figurative storms, then I don’t see much point in praying to him. Since I believe he can, and has, I continue to pray for that help. If the price of that belief is accepting that God can use his power to kill as well as save, I guess I have to accept that. However, saying he can is not the same thing as saying he has, and it’s a judgment way over my level of knowlege to say whether anyone God has killed was innocent.

  31. Heh. Jack, you just redeemed yourself.

  32. Steve wrote: “Dan, civilizations have done such monstrous things throughout time. Did God destroy all past civilizations?”

    I recognize what you are saying.

    That was why I wrote this earlier (in the comment you were responding to):

    “It wasn’t just that these things were happening there – but these activities were so prevalent and had permeated to such an extent. Jeremiah seems to be saying that everyone or almost everyone was involved in these activities.”

    Of course robbery, murder, adultery, etc. exist to a certain extent in any city or civilization. What I was trying to point out is that it wasn’t just that these things existed, but that they had become endemic.

    I suspect, from God’s point of view, that if everyone in a society is either an oppressor or a victim – then maybe God starts to consider whether that society should continue to exist.

    I don’t know God’s calculus – but I’m just trying to imagine how He might look at a community or a city or a civilization and whether he chooses to protect it to some degree or to allow it to be subject to threatening outside forces.

    What would be the point of protecting a society that is not only failing to grant security to its citizens but is actively feeding (speaking metaphorically, hopefully) on them?

  33. Eric Russell says:

    This particular issue, while interesting, actually comes in at #173 on my list of most pressing questions of the Old Testament. #1, of course, is how Balaam’s assdonkey was able to talk.

  34. One thing I have been pondering about, in relation to this question, is the debate about whether or not the allies should have bombed Auschwitz.

    It’s not a debate I know a lot about – I’m just starting to read about it in some places online – but I think as a debate it helps us to contemplate, in a much more modern context, how bad things can get in a particular place – and also see how sane people might argue that such a site should be attacked/destroyed – even if it means that innocents will inevitably be slain.

    I understand that Moses was ordering that all be killed in these places and it’s the innocents we’re thinking about and that is truly alarming to us. But it seems to me that it’s not because of the innocents that these places are being attacked/conquered.

    I’m not pretending that I actually have the answers to these things. Nor am I suggesting that human beings can somehow extrapolate a formula or a means to justify taking these actions themselves. I’m just trying to understand something that I feel is not just an OT problem but a problem that is raised almost accross the board in all of our scriptures.

  35. Joseph Smith taught:

    “God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt not utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted–by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire” (TPJS p.256)

    In the military you have standing orders and special orders. The standing orders are that you salute your superior officer. But if you salute your superior officer in the battlefield, you’re telling the sniper exactly who to take out. The special orders for that particular circumstance are different. It’s the same with the Lord; although there may be special orders at times, as long as they come from the right source (God’s will revealed by revelation) then it’s right.

  36. ^- Sorry should be “Thou shalt utterly destroy”

  37. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this, but:

    The Christianity I am comfortable with today is “humanitarian” if I had to choose a word to best describe it.

    The religion of Moses’ day was not Christian. In fact Christ’s teachings were supremely radical to what the Israelites were used to. Just thought that should be made clear.

  38. the narrator,

    #25,

    I sometimes wonder if Moses starting off from the very beginning with the wrong step of violence and that this misstep continued the Israelites in a life of violence.

    nails it!

  39. Must we believe that God really gave those orders? Or is it retrofitting onto God the Israelites’ particular battles with others as they took over those lands? I can imagine a world where history had a different purpose and meaning reporting the Mountain Meadow’s Massacre as God’s will in a battle of good over evil.

  40. Norbert says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve made my own peace with the OT’s troubling aspects. It is clear to me that the purpose of the various books of the Old Testament, and even the various authors within those books, are massively different than the purposes we ascribe to them in our correlated ‘find the key ideas’ approach. The justification for Israelite possession of Canaan is a significant thread that runs through the book, but there are threads that run through it which contradict it is well, as Ronan points out. Trying to ‘liken this to myself’ as a moral act is a waste of time since that was clearly never the purpose of this specific text. More importantly, it leaves the message of Christ in tatters.

  41. “First, of all, don’t ditch the Song of Songs, a marvellous exposition of erotic love! (Nothing at all wrong with that under the right constraints.)”

    I had a seminary teacher who told us that everyone who read the Song of Solomon had ended up committing some act of immorality. I didn’t know there were scriptures with curses attached. So of course, I went home that day and read it. Silly seminary teachers.

    We actually talked about this in one of my psych classes forever ago. Our teacher said that in his opinion, the reason for the flood was that society had become so wicked that agency ceased to exist. If all a child sees and experiences is evil, does (s)he really have a chance to choose the right? I can see the same being true for those cities and society that were destroyed in the OT. But that also made me wonder. If that is true on the large scale, why not on the small? I’ve seen kids in psych hospital who were sexual predators because they had been abused so severely. Why didn’t God send the abuser a clot in the brain?

  42. Peter LLC says:

    the debate about whether or not the allies should have bombed Auschwitz…helps us to contemplate…how sane people might argue that such a site should be attacked/destroyed – even if it means that innocents will inevitably be slain.

    Why wonder about Auschwitz when you can simply review the historical record of Normandy in the summer of 1944? Given the number of innocents that were slain in the course of their liberation, the place must have been rife with moral corruption.

  43. It seems to me that there is a very common trait in humans to create God’s in their own image. In this case, Israelites create a violent, jealous, conquering God who then justifies what they already desired in their heart.

    We can call this taking the Lord’s name in vain or we can call it scapegoating God. Either way it has the same effect. It serves to paint a narrative where our evil behavior is considered righteous and even commanded by the God we have fashioned in our own image. It should be of no surprise that when the true God appears and is nothing like this false image that the natural result would be to scapegoat him again and this time on a cross and not just textually and culturally.

    I tend to think that this is precisely what was occurring in the OT as God was slowly trying to move a barbaric and backwards people towards him. Its fortunate for all of us that God finally had to appear in the flesh to make clear just how messed up our narratives were. Its unfortunate that while we have made great progress there are still some in our culture who see God as barbaric and backwards rather than the scapegoated victim of the text.

  44. Strange is the predilection to want to support genocide. If I see any of you dressed as Indians in southern Utah, I’m going to run away. Fast.

    Actually, that’s not fair. I understand the need to want to support such an important and honoured figure as Moses. But, danithew and others, this is not about trying to bend Moses around “modern sensibilities,” and by accusing me of such you have clearly not carefully read my argument. This is about comparing Moses to the grand sweep of the Gospel where he and the other Deuteronomic heroes stick out like sore thumbs. Read the end of Jonah for a polemic against the Neanderthalic interpretation of these stories.

    Nephi, Jesus, and others all herald Moses, but none advocate his methods. Why is this? Perhaps it is because, as has been suggested above, they are not meant to be taken as a standard of universal normative ethics. I said I would avoid legal history, but John C. is right: these tales are meant to a) demonstrate ownership of the land, and b) set out standards of ritual holiness and should be read as such.

    It is important to note that even conservative Mormon scholars are coming around to the idea of a Deuteronomic polemic (cf. Margaret Barker), i.e. that the conquest narratives should not be read at historical face value. That is not to deny the historicity or import of Moses but to suggest a more accurate reading of the texts. (I think Nephite ethics support this, saying nothing of Christ, or the Gospel preached by Thomas S. Monson.)

    And danithew, your citation of Jeremiah is apropos. Prophetic polemic should not be underestimated. In order to effect repentance, Jeremiah turns up the heat, but note: Jerusalem was not “destroyed” to the extent you suggest. The archaeological and historical record is clear: yes, the fall of the temple was a national disaster but it was not accompanied by widespread slaughter and although many Jews were deported, many remained and many of those who went to Babylon prospered.

    Remember the lesson of D&C 19: the scriptures often exaggerate for rhetorical effect. That is not to dismiss them but to read them with a touch of caution and an eye always on the wider Gospel where the overwhelming message isn’t “kill” but “forgive”.

    Why on earth do you want it otherwise? Or are Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris et al. right about us?

  45. Aaron R. says:

    ‘That is not to deny the historicity or import of Moses but to suggest a more accurate reading of the texts.’

    Though I agree with this in principle, I can the potential for some to understand that position as advocating a fallible view of scripture (which you seem a little hesitant to accept in your OP). How do you reconcile what might be seen as a discrepancy between ‘read as the word of God’ with the idea that these narratives are (perhaps) not what they claim to be, or seem to claim to be?

  46. Aaron R. says:

    Sorry Ronan, I forgot to add one more comment:

    Do you think then that these ‘more accurate’ readings of the text are something that should be taught in Sunday School?

    It is seems that wildly different ethical/theological questions would be raised as a result of such an approach. With this different questions is simple to see that difference answers would also be offered. Hence a vastly different type of dialogue would result in those classes that participate in this type of exercise on a Sunday from those classes that do not.

  47. Aaron,

    1. Oh, it’s a delicate dance for sure and I wouldn’t want Christians to simply abandon the basic historicity Old Testament when confronted by difficult issues. I have no formula for deciding where to draw the line, but I think two facts are self-evident: a) Embedded in Mormonism is the idea of the fallibility of scripture; b) An overlaying human hand in the Bible is clear to see. I think readers should do what I have tried to do here: compare such stories and ethics with the wider Gospel. I have done this with the Mosaic and conquest stories and I think that they stand alone and anomalous.

    2. Sunday School. Again difficult. We had a great lesson on Sunday where we basically spoke about the requirements of holiness for Christians today. Again, the Mosaic narrative seems to go against the grain. After all, the priests who ignored the beaten man in the parable of the Good Samaritan thought they were being “holy” according to the Mosaic law by avoiding what they thought was a corpse. Jesus is clear: this is nonsense.

  48. Aaron R., as Mormons, we occupy a unique position in not claiming that the Old Testatment or other scripture are “infallible” — a fundamental of our faith is a caveat that is so major that it is a stumbling block to much of creedal Christianity: “as far as it is translated correctly”. This issue of translating correctly, I would think, also encompasses the purpose and use of writings, i.e. the Deuteronomistic argument about the political uses of these narratives at certain times in Israelite history. To the extent that we Mormons are abandoning our inspired caveat to biblical understanding and following in the footsteps of creedal Christians who espouse an “inerrant” view of scripture, then it is to our collective detriment.

  49. Aaron R. says:

    I also feel that being too quick to abandon historicity is not a satisfactory solution. In some ways I think that such issues (like the one troubling your friend) require more spiritual work if they are read through a historical lens, even if we eventually decide that historicity is doubtful. That work, for me, is what is important about these stories.

    There is a difficult jump to make for many LDS here, even though we accept the fallibility of scripture. On this I recall one of Brad Kramer’s recurring themes from the zeitcast discussions which focused on our ability to distinguish between ontological claims and textual claims of fallibility. I have subsequently wondered how this applies to the OT, which he did not explicitly discuss.

    Your SS experience is interesting. Perhaps taking the OT on its own merits is problematic, as you mention in point 1. Being able and willing to draw out these differences might be a useful way of raising this type of discussion without creating dissonance for LDS who are not comfortable with these other ideas of fallibility.

    This is an issue I have struggled (and am struggling with – I am not sure I will ever resolve it) and so I very much appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

  50. Aaron R. says:

    John, I did not see your comment whilst I was writing mine. Do you then think we are abandoning our ‘inspired caveat’ as you suggest in your comment?

    I, or course, agree that this is an important part of our religious landscape and yet within that caveat there is a great deal interpretive scope. For example, it might be possible to accept as fallible the political or socio-economic developments of Nephite society. Or it might be possible to accept errors in transcription (which is why we like the heb. footnotes in our scriptures) but is seems to me that applying such critical tools to our scriptural texts would not be within the realms of acceptability for some. My point being that although I agree with both your point and Ronan’s I am unsure how this inspired caveat is being understood today and with what consequences to the possibility of discussion in our Church-services and religious culture more generally.

    I should note my focus upon the Church here may seem a little banal and even silly, but it is important because I still feel that this is where my most important religious discussions take place. For, it is among those people in my ward with whom I must serve and live rather than the, to some extent, distant and anonymous people who comment on and write for blogs.

  51. I am not voting for a belief in Biblical inerrancy.

    Nor am I a fan of genocide. Actually, up to this point, I had not used the word “genocide” in any of my comments – but I also recognize that instances of genocide or events approximating genocide are essentially what we are talking about here.

    I’m not likening these scriptures to us in such a manner that I am saying “let’s see if we can formulate rules by which we would be justified in enacting genocide.”

    I am willing to concede and consider that any writer of any text (including the Bible) would have biases.

    But I tend to accept that the writers of the Bible were prophets and that they were having visions and that God was talking to them. To a certain extent, that means I accept the books on their own terms – I’m not dismissing the texts because they alarm me or bother me or surprise me or confuse me – I’m trying to reconcile these things and understand how it is that they came about.

    One point I am trying to make is that this isn’t just an Old Testament problem. It’s a New Testament problem too. It’s a Book of Mormon problem too. The destruction of wicked cities and civilizations is a recurring theme to a great degree. Certainly this is central to the Book of Mormon. If we reject that any city should ever be destroyed, that such a thing is always unjustified and wrong – we might be ignoring a significant or critical scriptural point.

  52. Aaron,
    Here’s something to think about:

    Can we herald Winston Churchill as the saviour of our nation without believing God wanted the fire-bombing of Germany?

  53. >I accept the books on their own terms – I’m not dismissing the texts because they alarm me or bother me or surprise me or confuse me – I’m trying to reconcile these things and understand how it is that they came about.

    Well, of course. Do you think I am doing something different?

    And your point about the NT and the BoM is exactly wrong, as I have demonstrated.

  54. Danithew,
    Most of the books don’t claim to be written by prophets (the Pentateuch certainly doesn’t)

  55. Aaron R. says:

    Ronan,

    I think the answer is Yes. I am not a history expert so whether this was a necessary part of the victory I am not wholly sure. That seems to be implied in the question. If it was a necessary part of the victory then this brings us back to the idea upon which a lot these discussions are based, which is: what are the principles upon which God will contemplate murder?

    If such bombings were not essential then the other important question is: can Winston Churchill have been a ‘divinely called’ and acted contrary to God’s will in such a radical way (assuming of course it was contrary to God’s will)?

    In this regard I like Maffly-Kipp’s essay in Sunstone regarding the contemporary need for ‘sincerity’ or ‘righteousness’ in religious leaders/people which she attributes to protestant culture. It is possible, in her view, that we should allow the possibility that God can work through sinful people. The problem with this of course is that it raises interesting questions about spirituality and covenants.

  56. Ronan, great example with Churchill and the firebombing of Germany.

    Aaron, believe me, I’m all for historicity as well, as many around here are aware. Where we have a bit of a weakness in the Church is in actually knowing something about the text and context of scripture. We often fall into a trap of using scriptures as little more than ethics lessons or prooftexts to support a particular meaningful doctrine. This approach can sometimes distract our thoughts from considerations of the genesis, transmission, reception and purpose of particular books and texts among the biblical canon (or what little is known of such issues). Often, however, precisely such considerations can enlighten us as to how the Gospel is relevant in certain ways in our lives.

  57. I just reread the end of Jonah this morning. Its argument against the killing of the innocent — no matter their heathen proclivities — is stark and I have little doubt that it was intended as a correction to the way nationalistic Jews were reading and transmitting their own narratives. Why on earth would we want to revert to the earlier interpretation, given that it is so obviously rebutted by the NT, the BoM, the Restoration, and the universal Gospel?

  58. Kristine says:

    “But I tend to accept that the writers of the Bible were prophets and that they were having visions and that God was talking to them.”

    Which writers? What kind of prophets? What kind of visions?

    I just don’t understand how any of that argues for your interpretation over any other. Prophets’ words have to be interpreted, always, and they’re already a mediated version of the word of God, even if the prophet says God spoke into his ear (which few of them claim). If they’re seeing visions, we know (from Joseph Smith’s varied accounts) how difficult it is to record the truth of what one sees in words.

    You assert your belief as though it settles some questions, and I don’t think it does. It may change the form of the questions, but it doesn’t answer them.

  59. And your point about the NT and the BoM is exactly wrong, as I have demonstrated.

    What? I missed that. How did you demonstrate that my point about the NT and BoM is exactly wrong? Which comment(s)? I will re-read.

    In the book of Jonah, we read that the people of Ninevah repented. How does that counter or overturn lessons drawn from the fates of other (unrepentant) places described earlier?

  60. #5, 20

    Let’s not forget that it is usually through the service
    of another person/people…

  61. Oh, danithew. Your coyness cannot avoid the fact that your argument has been weighed and found wanting. There is nothing in the BoM, PoGP, the latter OT, or NT remotely as brutal and brutalising as Moses and the conquest. It’s rather obvious. That you cannot see that is not my failure.

    You should take a Jonah class at Yeshiva. Here’s your 30 second taster: the narrator knows Nineveh has repented but Jonah doesn’t, which is why Jonah sits around awaiting their destruction. See! Many layers! Jonah assumed the wickedness of the heathen and expected them to die. This is precisely the old approach against which the book of Jonah is writing.

    But hey, you read it in your way if it makes you happy. You’d still be wrong, though.

  62. RJH,

    I don’t think you are even reading what I am writing in my comments.

    I’m not being coy and I understand Jonah just fine.

  63. I am sure that in your head you understand Jonah just fine. As I said, if it makes you happy, I’m all for it. But keep it in your head, mate. You’re doing the atheists a big service otherwise.

  64. Ronan, the old approach didn’t just destroy people because they were ‘heathen’ … it took into account whether they were wicked or not.

    That was why I brought up Genesis 15:16

    Genesis 15:13-16
    13 And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;
    14 And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.
    15 And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.
    16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

    As I understand this passage, the Lord is telling Abraham straight out that the time for Abraham’s descendants to inherit the land will come later.

    I know that Steve said earlier that the writer of this Genesis passage was biased – he wrote “Genesis and Exodus are being transcribed simultaneously with a common intent by the author (namely, a conquering Israelite). There’s every reason to mistrust the author’s description of the conquest.

    That isn’t non-sensical – but does the bias mean what is said is untrue and should be dismissed out of hand? I don’t think Steve’s point skewers the Genesis passage. It means we should perhaps be wary and aware – but that isn’t our only source to work with on the subject.

    That’s when I look to what Nephi wrote about this. Nephi himself backs this accounting up in 1 Nephi 17 when he speaks to his brothers, which I quoted in an earlier comment. Nephi tells his brothers that the inhabitants of the land would not have had the land cursed against them and been thrown out of the land if they had been righteous. He’s not saying they were just being tossed out for Israelite nationalist reasons – he’s saying if they were righteous (or at least not unrighteous) that they would have remained in their lands.

    Do we distrust Nephi’s view of the conquest narrative as too biased and drop it as well?

    The story of Jonah and Ninevah doesn’t overturn the perspective. It operates from the same approach/dichotomy that Nephi is talking about. If the people are righteous or repentant, destruction will be averted. On that basis Ninevah is saved.

    So the basis of the destruction or salvation of Ninevah is the same as it is for the Canaanites and the Jerusalemites. If they are repentant, and they are, then they are saved. If they are not repentant, they are threatened (by Jonah) with imminent destruction.

    So I’m not being coy. And I don’t think I’m misunderstanding the Jonah story. It operates with the same kinds of assumptions.

  65. Dave K. says:

    I think the Book of Mormon has a lot to offer on this issue, as it also relates God’s dealings with an Old Testament people at war with its neighbors – neighbors who at some time in the past had had and then rejected the gospel.

    I find it quite telling that the Book of Mormon does NOT ever sanction the Nephite’s killing of women, children, or other innocents, as appears in the Old Testament. The BOM does establish that God enlists man to kill specific wicked individuals for his purposes (Nephi/Laban). And it establishes that God may himself destroy a people “ripe with iniquity” (3 Nephi destruction). But God never commands the Nephites to destroy the Lamanites or any apostate Nephite group. He only condones their defense of their homes, families, and religion. When the wicked are wiped out in the BOM, it is either by God himself (3 Nephi) or more often by other wicked peoples.

    From the above, I have a great hope (though not assurety) that the Old Testament statements condoning the slaughter of women and children are uninspired additions to the scriptures made by scribes in an attempt to justify what are clearly bad acts. If we LDS are going to take our lumps for declaring the Bible is not perfect, and moreover that the BOM is more perfect than the Bible (though itself still error-prone), we might as well trumpet situations, such as the one in this discussion, where that belief leads to a merciful God we would all hope for.

  66. Actually, Dave K., that comment – particularly the second paragraph, makes a distinction in a way that I find is really helpful. That’s a pretty powerful point about differences between the Book of Mormon war narratives and the OT war narratives.

    I’m still trying to figure out 3 Nephi 9 – but that’s a different kind of category – which I know people have been pointing out too.

  67. Eric Russell says:

    Not a big fan of demanding one reading of a literary text over others because it may or may not service athiests.

  68. Aaron R. says:

    John,

    Sorry I have been away but I just quickly wanted to respond to your comment primarily because I do not think I explained myself very well. It seems that my position is similar to yours (and Ronan’s), my questions are more practical rather than historical/theological. I am trying to think through how the Church culture got to the point that it did and perhaps how we can raise these questions in an environment where, as I noted above the infallibility of scripture seems to mean very different things (i.e. from almost-inerrant to almost-metaphorical).

    Because I agree, as you write, “precisely such considerations can enlighten us as to how the Gospel is relevant in certain ways in our lives”.

  69. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 67
    I think what Ronan is saying is that this particular reading, while common in the past, is part of why society is secularizing. When the religious voice in the public square asserts that God at times condones murder and even genocide, we should not be surprised when all but a radicalized minority close their hearts and minds to the message. So for a proselytizing faith in particular, you darn well better get the message right.

  70. Dave K,
    Exactly.

    Eric,
    That’s just an unfortunate byproduct. My main point is that danithew’s reading does disservice to the majority of the rest of holy writ.

    Danithew,
    You either did not read my comment #61 or did not understand it. Either way, I’m not sure there is any benefit to be had in arguing any further with you. I have your reading. You have mine.

  71. Eric Russell says:

    Mike, that is my understanding of Ronan’s comment as well.

  72. Cameron says:

    Inasmuch as I have been in primary for the last two years and now I have to sub for the GD teacher, I am totally out of the loop with all this. Add that to my knowledge of the OT is lacking. I was wondering if the Canaanites were conquered or destroyed? Were all the Canaanites killed off? Did they worship another God. Thanks!

  73. Cameron,

    There is little archaeological or historical evidence for the destruction of the Canaanites. That is not some liberal/revisionist doubt-making, either: the book of Judges has the Israelites fighting cities that Joshua was supposed to have destroyed. Another example of hyperbole and another reason to be cautious in reading the account.

    (This is not to say, however, that there was no Israelite settlement of the land, nor that there weren’t skirmishes. I happen to believe that there is adequate attestation for the broad sweep of the narrative just not the nasty little details = later accretions.)

  74. Dave K—One point worth mulling over is that God told Nephi why He would not remove the Lamanites from the land, and it was not only out of mercy.

    The truth of it is, I feel, that while human suffering and death are important to God, they are not the most important. What other message was sent to us by the Atonement worth more than that God sees our eternal salvation and exaltation as worth more than death and pain, even the death and pain of an innocent?

    It is a doctrinal given that the immortality and eternal life of man is God’s work, both individually and collectively. Everything He does must be seen through that lens in order to understand Him. With our limited understanding, we might cry and revile against the pain of mortality and what we see as “death of innocents” in the same way a baby cries out at the cruelty of the pain of birth and entering a loud, cold world only to be smacked on the behind and pricked by needles.

    My dealings with the Lord have been such that I’ve seen that sometimes He commands things that cause pain and even death to those who did nothing to invite it. I think that part of being God is being able to make hard choices in order to meet His great, just and merciful goal.

    I think that when we meet Him, we will see that everything in our lives is designed to maximize our chances to return to Him in glory. Even death, when necessary.

  75. Adam Greenwood says:

    Thanks, Danithew, for not ignoring the real offensiveness of scripture, or comfortably pretending that it isn’t really scripture. There’s nothing comfortable about it, but still it is there.

  76. I just made an unkind comment about Adam which I now regret.

    I am simply frustrated that an honest attempt to prejudice the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, and the lived Gospel of Christ over the conquest tales is somehow taken as an affront to scripture, especially when I have made an attempt to do so with a careful appeal to scripture and not simply my unfounded interpretation thereof. I take that as a personal insult to my own testimony of God’s word and I won’t have it.

    I vehemently disagree with danithew but I don’t doubt his personal moral character. Similarly, disagree with me but don’t you dare cast it as a matter of faith.

  77. RJH, I think I said something about “perversion of scripture” in one of my initial comments – and no doubt that instilled the vehemence you are talking about. At least I’m guessing that’s what you are referring to with your “affront to scripture” point.

    Vehemence and even contempt which has certainly been noted. Don’t know quite what to do with it.

    I was too sharp in some of my earlier comments. I apologize. Seems like I’m having to do that too much lately. I’ll try to take more preventative measures.

    I am sincerely trying to find ways to understand and configure the conquest narrative, the book of Jeremiah, the story of Nephi and Laban, Jesus’s condemnation of a number of cities in the New Testament, 3 Nephi 9 and many other scriptural passages that have to do with disturbing issues like violence and judgment – issues that often seem to conflict directly with the Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount, the golden rule, etc. It doesn’t resolve easily – because God often seems to actually be involved or acts of destruction are attributed to Him or His instructions.

    I don’t know quite what to do with the documentary hypothesis. I accept that we don’t really know who all the writers, transmitters, editors, etc. of these scriptures have been – and that this creates all kinds of potential problems. Simultaneously I believe these records have a strong basis in the words of real prophets and real prophecy and real history – and that we must take them seriously – even when they are very problematic or disturbing.

    One thing – however strongly we may feel – we (any of us – me included) may need to avoid a sense of having provided the definitive final answers to these questions. We can point out inconsistencies or weaknesses in each others arguments – but from what I’ve seen – these questions aren’t going to resolve easily and neatly.

  78. Peter LLC says:

    God often seems to actually be involved or acts of destruction are attributed to Him or His instructions.

    That’s some serious fudging–is God behind it or not?

  79. Peter, it’s a very broad range of acts and scriptural passages that we’re talking about here – so the fudging is just a way to speak in a very general way and leave the question at least somewhat open.

  80. We don’t even need to go to the NT to critique genocide. It is not just later OT books like Jonah which give a different message:

    Leviticus 19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

    Leviticus 19:34 But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

    The italics are an interesting comparison to the title of the post.

  81. Great point Jacob — the italicized words particularly are what the Book of Mormon always seeks to reinforce when we read the internal admonishments that the people should remember God’s dealings with their fathers.

  82. danithew,
    It seems to me that part of the problem here is what sort of constraints we put on our understanding of God when we insist that he is “good.” You are correct that the Jesus of 3 Nephi 9 (if that is Jesus) killed a lot of children (presumably), along with (presumably) a lot of wicked men and women. Of course, there may have been innocent men and women in there, too. We’ve no way of knowing and the BoM prophets weren’t afraid of prophetic hyperbole either. It doesn’t seem “good” for God to indiscriminately kill (it isn’t behavior we’d call good amongst humans, certainly), but He’s God and we are not, so perhaps we shouldn’t question.

    Of course, not questioning (or valuing the offensiveness for its own sake, as a kind of test or something (just how appalling can God get before belief in Him as a “good” God is impossible)) seems to be what Mr. Greenwood is advocating. That, of course, has its own group of problems (just ask the Laffertys). Frankly, I’m a little bit in this camp because if God is interventionist, which I believe, then he allows some pretty horrible stuff (on par with and including genocide) to happen. This is the atheist thing that Ronan was referring to (a God who endorses or demands genocide cannot be reasonably called “good” without rendering the term “good” meaningless). Some people may say that this is cool, because God’s word is good by definition, therefore intent doesn’t matter. That doesn’t seem to be what Adam and I are endorsing; I’m definitely in the “God is confusing as all get out” camp and I won’t speak for Mr. Greenwood further.

    So, if you insist on God being “good” meaning something that remotely resembles God actually being good, then he can’t order genocide. So, when you encounter it, you put human (or diabolical) interlocutors into the text. There is plenty of good reason to assume that the text of the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy in particular) was much more of a political statement than it was a religious statement, so it isn’t particularly hard to imagine the insertion of human preferences over divine in those commands. It isn’t a stretch when you consider the historical context of the events described, the literary history of the text, or the various uses to which those texts have been put throughout millennia. Certainly, if you are looking to justify some abhorrent behavior, you can find justification in the OT. The question, to a great degree, is whether you should.

    Which isn’t to say that this is what you are seeking to do. But your approach can (and often has been) twisted in that direction. You can laud the righteous and villify the wicked without the examples of Canaan and Zedekiah-era Jerusalem and perhaps we had better do that instead. As Ronan points out Jonah argues against simply assuming that the heathen should be crushed (Nineveh repents for a day in sackcloth and ashes; do we have any historical reason to assume that they changed their ways? Did the cattle repent?). That said, I really think Job is the best book for pointing out that the good are sometimes devastated for no good reason and that assuming devastation = wickedness is a moral wrong. Which isn’t to deny that God called those folks wicked (because the text says he does), but rather to say that addressing those statements more critically might be what God wants of us.

  83. Adam Greenwood says:

    I would be happy to have you speak for me if I understood what you are saying.

    I think I’m saying what Danithew is saying: that no matter how inexplicable 3 Nephi 9 or the OT is, its still part of the scripture.

    I don’t believe that it means we’re supposed to do crazy, jihadi type stuff today–anyone who’s confused about that, I’m sure President Monson will set him straight that hometeaching and charity is what God requires of us, not piles of skulls. But I abhor dismissing scriptures because they make us deeply uncomfortable. I abhor finding contradictions in scripture and thinking that we’re therefore entitled to discard part of it.

    I do not believe that God is nice.

  84. Eric Russell says:

    (a God who endorses or demands genocide cannot be reasonably called “good” without rendering the term “good” meaningless)

    Only if God is a utilitarian, John, which I don’t think he is. And even if he were, it’s still likely untrue.

  85. >But I abhor dismissing scriptures because they make us deeply uncomfortable.

    And there you go again, Adam, imputing spiritually lazy motives where none exist. You just cannot help it, can you?

  86. Eric,
    I would think that a God who endorses the slaughter of children below the age of accountability would have to be a utilitarian, but I’m open to whatever alternative interpretation is motivating you. What is it?

    Adam,
    Nobody here is dismissing scripture; dismissing simplistic interpretations sure, but not scripture. Nor am I saying ignore scriptures that make us uncomfortable (I referred the man to Job, after all).

    I’m frankly curious about how you semantically map “nice” and “good.” Not that I think God is nice necessarily, but I don’t have a clue what you mean.

  87. My two cents:
    I was once discussing with one of my greatly admired professors the issue of abortion and my stance as pro-life. He said something that caught me off guard: “you are assuming that life is the highest form for God.” It didn’t convince me then, nor since, on that issue in particular. But it really made me question my view of life in general, especially as a Mormon (which he was not) that believes in a pre-existence and an afterlife. I now do not believe that life is in and of itself a virtue. If we are on one long voyage of learning and development, then maybe it doesn’t matter much to God if we do it living or dead, but that we do it in a state where we can progress.
    Second thing to consider: If God is all-knowing and all-powerful then EVERY death in history had been by God’s hand, if not by commission, then by omission. So I have to reject worries about 3 Nephi 9. It just doesn’t phase me if God decides to take a large number of people by volcano, by pestilence, or by lung cancer, the end result is the same. And if a living person (or people) have reached a developmental dam, the most humane thing to do is to end their mortal suffering (in sin) and let them progress on a different plane.
    However, with the bigger problem of killing and murder, well this one is harder for me. Not because the ending of a life for a person – since like I said, I don’t think it matters much to god if a person dies by sword or by mosquito bite, but its hard for me to comprehend why he would put someone through the trauma of killing.
    Anyway, my view is that the killings/genocides are a VERY different subject than 3 Nephi 9, and probably don’t even need to be in the same discussion because it confused things.

  88. Eric Russell says:

    Considering how little we know about the particulars behind God’s motives, the possibilities are endless.

  89. John C. – I think your comment does a great job of introducing us to the serious problems and questions that are posed to us by 3 Nephi 9.

    I’m less able or willing as of yet to try and explain or answer the problems posed by 3 Nephi 9 – but I think, as I’ve said earlier, that 3 Nephi 9 helps us or even compels us to mentally merge the God of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament into a Personage that (as a resurrected being) defies our comprehension but certainly invites our awe, love, fear and devotion.

    Adam – I think using the word “nice” for God would be using what is referred to as “faint praise.” Couldn’t agree with you more – but only in the sense that God is something much grander than nice.

  90. Latter-day Guy says:

    A very interesting discussion thus far.

    But I abhor dismissing scriptures because they make us deeply uncomfortable.

    For the sake of not losing my soul––a close thing sometimes––I find I must sometimes “dismiss scriptures because,” if acted on, “they [would] make us deeply [abhorrent].”

  91. Eric,
    That is a cop out. If you have an alternative, present it.

    Danithew,
    I think the OT God required fear, but that doesn’t really match our understanding of a Heavenly Father today. Perhaps it should, but then our Heavenly Father is quite abusive (as has been discussed ad nauseum already). Since the OT God is closely associated with a number of autocracies, perhaps those aspects are best understood as awe nowadays. Who knows?

    Adam and Danithew,
    As I said before, nice wouldn’t enter into my vocabulary of God. Just and Merciful would, but both of those would seem to preclude God commanding the slaughter of children (at least, for conventional definitions of just and merciful). So, semantic entanglement once again.

  92. When we try to define and fully understand the omniscience of God with mortal minds, our discussion becomes futile. One of the challenges in any discussion about God must center on faith, in believing that He knows the beginning from the end and that He loves us with a pure and perfect love, even when we do not fully comprehend why the innocent suffer along with the wicked.

  93. Eric Russell says:

    Maybe there’s more to our existence than just this mortal life. Maybe, in some circumstances, removing us from this life is indeed an act of love and mercy on God’s part.

    That this might be true is in no way contradictory to the fact that it remains a heinous sin to end a person’s life without authorization from God.

  94. I don’t necessarily disagree with 92 or 93, but they require definitions of Good that wouldn’t be recognizable in humans. So, if we are saying that divine morality often doesn’t appear to coincide with human morality, I’m aboard with that. Of course, we’d have to agree that “God is good” is essentially a meaningless statement at that point. Which is fine, in its own way. God’s ways aren’t our ways and all that.

  95. Utter crock and totally un-Mormon.

    All this unknowable God stuff is far removed from a Mormon view of the divine where God is eminently knowable and we are told to be like Him. How on earth can we be like him if we have no idea what “good” looks like?

  96. MCQ-

    Its easy enough to have that belief when your faith hasn’t actually been tested in a situation of life and death for one you love, and then that person dies. A lot of people who have actually been through that trial have a similar belief to Enna. You can’t possibly the pain and suffering that comes from a trial like that, and its extremely hard to swallow that God choose to not save your loved one, and instead choose to kill them, and left you with the torment of life.

    For some people to continue a belief in God, they HAVE to believe that perhaps God is not so involved as others think, and maybe He doesn’t actually reach forth His hand to raise some people, and kill others. Maybe its just nature’s law and they died because they were sick and we haven’t created the cure yet. Simple as that. Not because God actively choose to kill them.

    In my opinion, its pretty cruel to judge others’ beliefs systems that allow them to continue a faith in God, when they have been through something so horrible you can’t even begin to imagine it. No one has a perfect knowledge of God, so you really have no right to bash that viewpoint. We all interpret the scriptures and the gospel differently. We all have to figure out a way to apply it to our lives and situations, in a way that makes sense to us.

  97. Steve G. says:

    95, Should we be like Him? I don’t think we operate in the same domain as He does. God can choose to do or not do stuff of which we don’t have the luxury. If there is somebody who can be saved by our power are we not morally obligated to save that person? If we know that somebody is a child molester are we not morally obligated to report it? God on the other hand can save anybody. He also knows all the child molesters, murderers, etc, and continues to allow them their freedom to continue that practice. Its His right to do so, and I don’t begrudge Him that right, but morally we mortals simply can’t be like Him.

  98. Eric Russell says:

    John, I don’t think divine morality is any different from human morality. That which is morally good, in both cases is, is primarily determined by love.

  99. RJH – there’s material in both our scriptures and in Mormonism to argue the knowability/unknowability of God from either side and still come out a winner.

    I’m not saying you are wrong, mind you. It’s just one of those areas of belief in which there is a span of supportive material.

  100. Maybe that’s the problem. People have differing ideas of what love is.

  101. Steve Evans says:

    Love means killing — that much is clear.

  102. Actually, Steve . . . I think God showed us that love meant dying.

  103. Oh, how the canaanites loved!

  104. Steve Evans says:

    I wish more of you would show me some love.

  105. Steve, I love you like Laban loved Nephi.

  106. Steve Evans says:

    In all fairness — Jesus did coin the “greater love hath no man than this” expression. But I don’t think he meant that love means dying.

  107. Alright you two. Break it up now, break it up. I want to see enough space for the plates of brass between you two.

  108. We love you, Steve. Oh, we love you.

  109. Comments are back.

  110. Peter LLC says:

    Love is noise and love is pain. Love is these blues that I’m singing again.

  111. Dave K. says:

    Adam Greenwood (#83)

    To clarify my thinking, I am not suggesting that we “dismiss[] scriptures because they make us deeply uncomfortable.” Rather, my position is based on what I view to be an inherent conflict between the OT and BOM. Both books cover similar time periods and their covenant peoples were under similar Mosaic systems of law. Both books relate the experiences of a covenant people (Israel; Nephites) who were at war with apostate groups (Cananites, Ammonites, etc.; Lamanites, Amalickiahites, etc.). Yet in one book God commands the slaughter of women and children and in the other he commands his people to do no more than defend themselves. The conflict between the two books is stark and real: the OT condones aggressive warfare; the BOM expressly prohibits it.

    Faced with this conflict, I chose to view the BOM as more authoritative than the Bible. For one thing, its teachings better square with those of Christ in the New Testament. For another, modern day Prophets (e.g., Benson) have taught that the BOM is more reliable scripture than the Bible. Thirdly, the BOM narrative seems to fit better with the changes made by Joseph in his translation of the Bible – for example, in stating that God did not harden Paroah’s heart, but Paroah hardened his own heart.

    Lastly, my personal view of “scripture” is not the mere words themselves, but the words as read through the spirit. In my personal reading of the scriptures, I have had the spirit confirm many “difficult” passages – such as God’s command to Abraham to kill his sons Issac and Ishmael and modern revelations on plural marriage (I have struggled both with the sections establishing the practice as well as those ending it). I have never felt a confirmation of any of the OT passages commanding the slaughter of innocents.

  112. Dave K. says:

    John C. (#86)

    Responding to your statement that “a God who endorses the slaughter of children below the age of accountability would have to be a utilitarian,” I tend to disagree.

    Modern revelation does teach that children who die before the age of accountability die without sin and so remain innocent. But it does not teach that such children are automatically guaranteed any degree of salvation – particularly the highest degree exalataion. They, like all of us, will have to work out their salavation.

    If it were otherwise, I would think a “utilitarian God” would have placed two sacrificial parents on the earth with the responsibility of birthing all children and then killing them before age 8. This would assure the greatest “maximization of salvation.” But it would also be completely at odds with the plan of salvation as I know it.

    I worry and pray for my children’s salvation. But I have no dilusions that I can cheat them out of their mortal test by drowning them before I baptize them. That would only delay their testing, and so would be very non-utilitarian.

  113. Just a note – I was sort of thinking/assuming that the conquest narrative was unique to the Moses/Joshua period and as scriptural account where God delegated a command of total destruction – but there is also the matter of the nation of Amalek during the time of Saul.

    1 Samuel 15:2-3
    2 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.
    3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

    So I’m just adding that to our list of problem texts that have come up in this thread.

  114. Wow.

    I was just taking a glance at the wikipedia entry for Amalek and came across a related scriptural quote or application that was used in an unusually bitter instance of correspondence:

    “Samuel’s words to Agag: “As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women.” (Samuel 1:15:33) were quoted by Israeli President Itzhak Ben-Zvi in his handwriting in response to a telegram sent by Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s wife pleading for clemency of his death sentence.”

  115. Still part of the Deuteronomic History, a theology which is starting to be considered apostate by many Mormon scholars (cf. Barker).

    If you won’t deal with my point, Dan, deal with Dave K’s. Why is this stuff not in the Book of Mormon? And don’t tell me it is, because then you would be displaying wilful intransigence.

  116. Dave K,
    Such a God is certainly not operating from a Deontological position (although, if you think he is, then I would like to hear the maxim motivating that). I suppose he could be operating in a Virtue Ethics mode, but the society that would support that is one that we would definitely consider corrupt. Also, that would mean that God is using his ethics to move up within his own society, which is possibly permissible within our theology but which strikes me as distasteful. Perhaps God is an existentialist, killing all those kids, but willing to take responsibility for it when he meets his God (I’m assuming he would follow Kiekegaard and not the French existentialists (Can God be an atheist?))

    In any case, usually we people justify genocide religiously, they address the deaths of children by saying that they will grow up to be dangerous. Some pain (for them) now, more pleasure (for us) later. Sounds utilitarian to me.

  117. Also, I think saying that Mormon Scholars are abandoning the Deuteronomistic History in droves is an overstatement (not that Ronan actually said that). Barker’s work is usually treated with respect when it endorses a more Canaanite Israelite religion, but I don’t think most on board with tossing Jeremiah. Besides, you could just read Mark Smith and keep both.

  118. >(not that Ronan actually said that)

    That’s OK then!

  119. RJH, I’ll check out Barker. I know you’ve mentioned that author a few times in the comments. I’m not familiar yet with what that person has published – but I’m certainly going to give it a look.

    I don’t know if I accept the documentary hypothesis or not – there are aspects, specific assumptions behind the hypothesis, that I certainly accept – but I don’t know if we can truly rely on it.

    Here are my concerns about talking about the Deuteronomist in relation to this argument. If we accept that the writer of the text is biasing the text for a specific purpose, how do we know what aspects of the account can be dismissed and ignored?

    Existence of bias doesn’t automatically mean that we dismiss all the content or that we dismiss content we don’t like. I know you took umbrage at what AG said in relation to that. I’m not trying to push your buttons. I’m not calling you or anyone else lazy. I’m just saying that it might be too convenient an option and it still is quite possible that the writer could be telling the truth or enough of the truth that we can’t just wholly dismiss the conquest narrative as it is.

    Biased accounts don’t necessarily have to be entirely false. I could write down that “President Bush was a wonderful president for eight years” and regardless of what anyone else thinks about the use of the word “wonderful” – it would still be unquestionably true that he was president for eight years. Whoops, I forgot about Cheney. (my attempt to put some humor in here – if you’re mad at me, try to laugh and release some tension)

    My argument then is that even if the Deuteronomistic author is an Israelite nationalist – he still could be accurate in writing down (yes, I know, in Genesis and Exodus and 1 Samuel — all the same author or at least authors with the same nationalist bent) that God commanded the Israelites to destroy the other peoples in the areas. It could be true.

    I’ve been thinking about the Book of Mormon comparison and the question you are asking – which is certainly a solid challenge. There is no question that in the BoM text, Captain Moroni and others display a much more refined and conscientious approach to warfare.

    Does that mean we can dismiss the conquest narrative? Keep in mind that we still have Nephi’s arguments in support of the conquest narrative – arguments in 1 Nephi 17 which I quoted earlier.

    Another thing I have thought about is the story of Ammonihah. Now I understand that it was not destroyed by righteous people or by the chosen people – I believe the destroyers were Lamanites.

    There is still the sense, however, that the city was preached to, that the city refused to repent, and that the Lord arranged for the total destruction of Ammonihah.

    Alma 16:9-11
    9 And thus ended the eleventh year of the judges, the Lamanites having been driven out of the land, and the people of Ammonihah were destroyed; yea, every living soul of the Ammonihahites was destroyed, and also their great city, which they said God could not destroy, because of its greatness.
    10 But behold, in one day it was left desolate; and the carcases were mangled by dogs and wild beasts of the wilderness.
    11 Nevertheless, after many days their dead bodies were heaped up upon the face of the earth, and they were covered with a shallow covering. And now so great was the scent thereof that the people did not go in to possess the land of Ammonihah for many years. And it was called Desolation of Nehors; for they were of the profession of Nehor, who were slain; and their lands remained desolate.

    Now that’s an ugly picture. It certainly seems its even a biased account, that it’s been embroidered and elaborated upon to make a sordid, nasty little point.

    Do we accept it?

    It’s not by any means an exact parallel to the OT conquest narrative – but it has enough similarities that it should be mentioned.

  120. Dave K. says:

    John C:

    I’m honestly having a hard time grasping your arguments. All I was getting at is this: under my understanding of LDS teachings (not as an expert, just a member), there is nothing “utilitarian” about killing children before they are accountable because death is not the end of the probationary state.

  121. Dave K. says:

    Dan,

    Just to come full circle, I don’t completely dismiss the OT accounts. I don’t think we can. The slaughters clearly are all over the books. It may well turn out that they were God’s command, and I will have to adjust my understanding of right/wrong.

    But the BOM allows us a reasonable basis to believe that the OT account is wrong. So while I don’t 100% dismiss the OT account, I feel no compulsion to defend it. Other christians who do not believe in the BOM are in a tougher pickle, and I feel for them.

  122. Dave, I’ve actually been pretty comfortable with things that you’ve said – at least in the past comments I remember reading yesterday and today.

    I think a flexible approach is best here – one that allows for different possibilities – some of which, admittedly, are quite unpleasant to contemplate.

  123. Cameron says:

    In the case of The Battle of Jericho, how do we even know God gave the command to slaughter and burn everyone and everything as it says they did in Josh 6:21, 24? Thats what the scripture says they did but where did they get the command from. Did God just say circle round the city and then blow your horns and scream and shout and that is it? Is there a verse that God says slaughter everyone or did they do that on their own volition?

  124. Peter LLC says:

    if you’re mad at me, try to laugh and release some tension

    Try stroking him gently on the head while singing your admonition to the tune of a popular lullaby. It will work wonders, I tell you.

  125. Dave K.,
    That’s not my understanding of LDS theology at all (lay or official). What I’ve always heard said was that children who die prior to the age of accountability will grow up during the millennium where, when they reach the appropriate age, they will be transfigured into having a celestial body (no death required, or not much of one). More specifically, I’ve also heard that children who die, die unto the Lord. They don’t have to go through the pitfalls of mortality like the rest of us. You are the first person I’ve ever heard express something different.

    In any case, if you believe that they return to God after their initial mortal appearance, then death is a brief pain, followed by great pleasure. That’s very utilitarian.

    Dan,
    Again, nobody is arguing dismissing or ignoring any piece of scripture. What people are arguing is that there are better and worse ways of reading scripture (and that how we read scripture might be one of those trials that God sends us).

    I missed your 1st Nephi 17, but I’ll respond to your Alma 16 and raise you a Mormon. Alma 16 talks about the Lamanites destroying the Ammonihahites. The utter destruction of the Ammonihahites comes after the Ammonihahites had killed the women and children of the righteous in the city who had been forced out. Also, it is part of the outlook of the Book of Mormon that it is the wicked who destroy the wicked (see 1st Nephi 2:23-24 for the beginnings of that). Whether or not it is prophetic hyperbole, that is how the Book of Mormon tries to consistently portray man’s inhumanity to man (which should maybe lead us to reconsider the exception in Nephi).

    Regarding prophetic hyperbole, how many righteous people are there in Mormon’s time? In Mormon, he keeps arguing that he is basically it (including his family and, maybe, eventually members of his army). But in Moroni, Moroni, who isn’t operating with that outlook, points out that Mormon spoke to a group of saints. A group who were relatively assured of exaltation. Also, Moroni directly talks about a church and the order of things in that church. I don’t have the impression from Moroni that he is talking about a home church, either. So, Mormon (the man behind most of the Book of Mormon narrative) understands prophetic hyperbole and crafting narratives to make particular theological points. If we can see this, easily, in the Book of Mormon, why shouldn’t we assume that similar things were happening in Jerusalem?

    What does it matter if women weren’t actually baking cakes to the Queen of Heaven (which they probably weren’t doing)? Does that fundamentally change Jeremiah’s message? What if Ezekiel doesn’t get the layout of the Jerusalem temple right? Does that really lessen the power of the vision in which he went there? I don’t think so. Nor does either proposition deny the historicity of the prophets (Ezekiel obviously could have really had that vision; Jeremiah could have really thought that women were baking cakes).

    In any case, if you feel that there is an abiding important reason to assume that those passages are best understood as God himself commanding the slaughter of the innocent, feel free to do so. I just don’t see it and I don’t see a compelling reason to not prefer other approaches.

  126. Olive #96:

    “Its easy enough to have that belief when your faith hasn’t actually been tested in a situation of life and death for one you love, and then that person dies. A lot of people who have actually been through that trial have a similar belief to Enna. You can’t possibly the pain and suffering that comes from a trial like that, and its extremely hard to swallow that God choose to not save your loved one, and instead choose to kill them, and left you with the torment of life.”

    Wow. You are assuming an awful lot about me in your comment, and there is no basis I know of for you to do so. In other words, you don’t know me and so you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    You seem to be saying that watching a loved one die (which, btw, I have done too) requires that you make a choice bertween a) God killed them, or b) God has no power to save them, so therefore we can’t blame him. That’s a false choice in my opinion, but if believing that those are your only choices makes you feel better, then feel free.

    I’m not bashing anyone’s beliefs, Olive, but I will of course feel free to let you know that a belief like that is not in accord with the Gospel as I understand it, and not required by the death of a loved one, no matter how horrific. If you want people to not say anything about the beliefs you have, then you probably should just keep them to yourself. Coming onto a religious themed site and announcing them is inviting a response.

    Bad things happen. Even to very good people. Even in situations that seem very unfair and unjust. It’s one of the most basic truths of life. One of the most important parts of our lives are how we respond to that basic truth.

    As an example, one family I am close to had a daughter who was killed by a truck while the father was serving as mission president. They could have been outraged by the unfairness of this incident. They could have chosen to blame God for killing their daughter or for not protecting her while they served. Instead, they continued to believe, as I do, that despite such incidents, God is still God. The gospel is still true.

  127. John C.,

    In regards to the Ammonihah-ites, there is no question that knowing what they were culpable of (burning women and children to death and using scriptures for the kindling) helps us to accept the awful fate of the perpetrators.

    One of my points earlier is that we don’t necessarily know much about what the Canaanites were doing so wrong – which only adds to how hard it is to accept the drastic fate (something akin to the fate of the Ammonihah-ites) that is recorded as being ordered for them. We are left with this situation where we have to kind of wonder – we just don’t know. Could it be so bad? How angry can God get and if he gets truly angry, if he is full of wrath and indignation, what kind of things do people have to worry about? Maybe Ammonihah answers those questions. I had earlier pointed to Jerusalem (as described in Jeremiah) as an example as well.

    There’s a few points at least, in Jeremiah, where the Lord says “Shall I not visit you?” … in other words, He is saying that the people there have done some very provocative things, He’s angry, and there is no way He will fail to respond.

    I’m going to look more into the idea of prophetic hyperbole which has been brought up a number of times. It’s something I need to know more about, something I’m certainly willing to give more consideration.

    I’ve also been thinking about the delegation question. Maybe we believe, or would prefer to believe, that based on Book of Mormon teachings, if God is going to go about destroying, he either does it himself or he delegates the destroying to human instruments … and these human instruments must be wicked people. From this vantage point, God will not command righteous people to commit ruthless violent lethal acts against others – or at least not against whole communities/cities.

    It’s an interesting idea that seems to already have a strong basis in the Book of Mormon. I wonder how much it would matter that the Lamanites so vastly outnumbered the Nephites. Does that tip the scales against even the possibility of a conquest narrative? It seems to me that the context is different enough that maybe what we are trying to measure for isn’t a possibility. The picture we regularly get is that the Lamanites are intent and focused on exterminating the Nephites and the Nephites (those who are righteous) are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Did that impel the Nephites to take a less ruthless approach to warfare than their Israelite forebears? I’m brainstorming here …

    Earlier I tried using the Nephi/Laban interaction as an example where God might command a righteous person to kill a wicked person – and use that as an argument in support of the conquest narrative. RJH had disdain for that idea – it was, in his view, “massively, quantitatively different.”

    He might be right about that example not being able to pertain in that way.

    Regardless, overall this is still one of the large-scale scriptural questions to which I am giving some thought and I suspect I’ll be thinking about it for awhile yet.

  128. I think that the Lord is not at all interested in a conquest narrative playing out in the Book of Mormon. To listen to the Israelites, they were outnumbered and surrounded by enemies. Their military might is instrumental to proving the might of God to the audience. However Nephi and Mormon read their audience, they didn’t read them as being particularly impressed by military triumphs (even the Capt. Moroni narratives make clear that Moroni (with the Lord’s help) was responsible for their victories; in the Israelite narrative, the whole point is that God does all the heavy lifting because he likes the Israelites more than he likes all those other people).

    Really, the Book of Mormon has an entirely different approach to (human) warfare (and possibly to divine warfare, too). Which is also fine; God speaks to us according to our language and understanding. I just don’t think it is mandatory that we actually adopt the outlook of the ancient Israelites in order to understand what He said to them.

  129. Actually, come to think of it, Nephite prophets were told in advance that Nephites would be eventually destroyed. The same prophets prayed vigorously that their records would someday make it into the hands of the Lamanites, to persuade them of the covenants of the Lord.

    That, by itself, spells out the eventual doom of the Nephite and clearly cancels out any option of a Book of Mormon conquest (over the Lamanites) narrative.

    It’s just not in the BoM cards.

  130. Several people have argued that the Book of Mormon presents a different view of warfare than the Old Testament, saying that the BOM is more nuanced and more moral, citing Captain Moroni as an example. That may be true on some levels, but I can’t help but look at his systematic murder of 4000 of his own people — the dissenting kingmen who were inconveniently getting in the way of his war plans — as anything but immoral. These were political dissidents. Using Moroni’s logic, the president of the US would be justified in rounding up and methodically killing anti-war protesters (US citizens) who refused to take up arms to defend the country against [terrorists/Nazis/Japanese imperialists/Vietnamese communists... take your pick]. And if there were dissenters unwilling to die for their cause, these dissenters would be forced to take up arms in a cause they didn’t believe in. Or, in the meantime they would be kept indefinitely in prison without trial, because preparing for war was more important than attending to the little things like due process under the law.

    Perhaps we can justify Moroni’s actions because he put his mass murder plan to a vote before actually carrying it out. Fortunately for him, the people said “yes, kill them all,” rather than “is this Moroni guy really advocating mass murder of our own people? Doesn’t this make him a dangerous person, especially knowing that he is in charge of the army? Can’t we put him in jail for talking like this?” And, fortunately for Moroni, the narrator of the book seems to agree with the people who voted in favor of this mass murder.

    Maybe Moroni’s strategy allowed for some military victories and political unity. It came at a pretty high cost though, and no on seems to mind.

    Alma 51:15-21

  131. Steve Evans says:

    Paul, you and Ronan should sauna together.

  132. Looks like this post got snarked.

    (I had practically forgotten about Snarkernackle until I checked it this morning)

  133. danithew,
    The current iteration of Snarkernackle is seemingly comprised of the old Mister Correlation, who is kind of unfunny. It’s a shame…

  134. I have no idea which pseudonyms line up with which actual identities. I only remember that Kurt Neumiller was connected with it – no idea if he still has any role there.

    I check into these snarker sites maybe once every six months – but they don’t seem to do much or have as much activity as they did for a time in the past.

  135. Yeah, what happened to Trash Calls and the original Snarker? Mister Correlation is the only gig going on and he pretty much sucks. I don’t get it, there’s so many things going on in the nacle that are just crying out to be made fun of!

  136. Steve Evans says:

    I heard through GST that Joseph Addison died.

    Kurt Neumiller retired from the bloggernacle.

  137. BTW, Paul, #130: It wasn’t mass murder. The passages you cite make clear that there was, in fact, a battle. These weren’t peace activists who were demonstrating against war of any kind, these were political enemies seeking to overthrow the existing government and install a monarchy during a time of war. Big difference. After a vote, there was a pitched battle between these monarchists and the army. Some of them were kiled in battle, some of them were arrested and some agreed to join the army as required by law (essentially there was a draft in place). Please explain how any of this is equal to genocide. It’s not. Not even close.

  138. Steve, that’s ironic since Addison always insisted he was already dead. As for Kurt, I guess “vaya con dios” would be appropriate.

  139. Also, Paul there is precedent in our own history for what Moroni did in denying the arrested monarchists a trial until after the war. Abraham Lincoln did pretty much the same thing during the American Civil War. Priorities, man, priorities.

  140. Steve Evans says:

    Heh, I remember that. Addison was dead, wasn’t he.

  141. Responding to Paul B.’s comment –

    When I used Captain Moroni as an example of a more refined approach to warfare, I was thinking of how he found a way, in the midst of a battle, where the enemy was being obliterated – to step himself and his troops back and offer terms of peace. They were strict terms that he offered – and he was ready to continue the fight – but it’s a striking example of self-control in the heat of a battle.

    As the conquest narrative went – as I understand it, there wasn’t supposed to be peace overtures. Just obliteration.

    So that’s the comparison I was making – though I didn’t explain that out.

    I pretty much agree with MCQ in comment #137. It probably wouldn’t hurt to go back and read the actual text/narrative in the Book of Mormon to see what is specifically being said – but what MCQ wrote sounds right to me.

  142. For the record, I wrote about as much of Addison’s material as I did Mark E. Petersen’s. Which is to say, a fair amount.

  143. #137. I didn’t use the word genocide. Thanks to Stalin, the word doesn’t apply to the killing of political dissidents. From the all-knowing Wikipedia:

    “While a precise definition varies among genocide scholars, a legal definition is found in the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Article 2 of this convention defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”[2] Because of the insistence of Joseph Stalin, this definition of genocide under international law does not include political groups.”

    If the word did apply to political dissidents, though, I think what Moroni did would qualify.

    I can grant that the narrator explains that the kingmen took up their arms against Moroni’s men (once Moroni’s men began attacking), so there was armed conflict on both sides. Even so, the wording of the passages makes it very clear that the whole reason why Moroni asked for permission to kill these people is because they refused to take up arms against the Lamanites. It doesn’t say that the kingmen were attacking the freemen or that there was any armed conflict caused by the kingmen.

    From my reading of the text, the conflict between the kingmen and the freemen wasn’t really a violent one until Moroni made it so.

    Moroni was exasperated that he had spent so much time and effort — blood sweat and tears — trying to save these people from the Lamanites, and here they are, openly refusing to support him in his bid to continue to defend them through military strength.

    The kingmen had started a grassroots campaign among the well-to-do to try to do away with the current system of government and place in its stead a system that favored birthlines and wealth. They were voted down by the voice of the majority. Losing the vote didn’t make them suddenly change their minds, so they were still actively dissenting the political system that they didn’t like.

    When Moroni saw the imminent threat that the Lamanites posed, and when he saw that the kingmen were using this threat to their political advantage by stubbornly refusing to take up arms, Moroni made the decision that his people would be better off eliminating this internal political threat by killing them off. I suppose he was making an example of them.

    Take a second to read this passage closely (Alma 51:20):

    “And the remainder of those dissenters, rather than be smitten down to the earth by the sword, yielded to the standard of liberty, and were compelled to hoist the title of liberty upon their towers, and in their cities, and to take up arms in defence of their country.”

    Compelled to hoist the title of liberty? Does anyone else see the irony in this phrase?

    …And you were lucky enough to be *compelled* to hoist the title of liberty only if you hadn’t already been killed as a result of your refusal to do so.

    That’s a strange kind of liberty, if you ask me.

    So, yes, even though Stalin managed to keep the mass murder of political dissidents out of the official definition of genocide, thus disallowing my use of the term in this situation, I look very unfavorably on Moroni’s actions here.

  144. Re #141: I agree that Moroni does come across as someone generally motivated to defend his people rather than thirst after war for war’s sake only. There are indeed instances in which he seeks to make peace with the Lamanites, though these instances aren’t exactly straightforwardly peaceful either (i.e. give us your weapons and surrender with a covenant of peace or else we’ll just keep killing you).

    As warriors go, there are worse.

    That he linked his religious convictions so closely with his military might gives me much pause though.

  145. I will grant you the irony in the use of the title of liberty here, but I think you are soft-pedaling the effect of the king men’s actions. They were opportunists, holding the country hostage during a time of war and defying the national draft because of their disagreement over the form of the government.

    They were not objecting to the war in any way. Thet were not pacifists. They were using the war to extort concessions from the government and they nearly caused the country to lose the war because of their shenanigans. At the very least they caused the unnecessary death of thousands of their countrymen.

    Moroni’s actions may not be the height of political finesse, but they were appropriate to the situation and they certainly compare very favorably with what was going on in Joshua’s time in Canaan. My point is that those two situations are not comparable at all.

  146. Actually, I think Paul is very much onto something – even if he finds the idea repulsive.

    This might just be the Book of Mormon’s version of the offer that can’t be refused.

    I think Nephi compelled Zoram into liberty as well.

    1 Nephi 4:31-34
    31 And now I, Nephi, being a man large in stature, and also having received much astrength of the Lord, therefore I did seize upon the servant of Laban, and held him, that he should not flee.
    32 And it came to pass that I spake with him, that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, we would spare his life.
    33 And I spake unto him, even with an aoath, that he need not fear; that he should be a bfree man like unto us if he would go down in the wilderness with us.
    34 And I also spake unto him, saying: Surely the Lord hath acommanded us to do this thing; and shall we not be diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord? Therefore, if thou wilt go down into the wilderness to my father thou shalt have place with us.

    The bold and italics are mine – just to point where there might be a threat. It’s something I’m musing over a bit lately.

    Compelled to liberty – it’s an interesting idea that scripturally may be unique to the Book of Mormon – though I need to think about it more.

  147. Bah – forgot to edit out the footnote letters from that scripture reference. Try to ignore them.

  148. I’m definitely not claiming the kingmen were pacifists. And I am by no means saying I’d support their idea of government by the elite. Neither am I claiming that they weren’t a legitimate internal political threat. It may very well have been true that the kingmen put all of the Nephites at risk of being enslaved or killed by the Lamanites. The kingment were politically dangerous and Moroni knew it. I’ll grant all of those points.

    None of those points necessitates the extermination of these human beings though.

    Nobody knows what would have happened if Moroni had taken a different approach. Maybe the story of the Nephites would have taken an entirely different turn, and they would have been enslaved by the Lamanites for generations, much like the Israelites in Egypt. Maybe the Lamanites would have annihilated the Nephites. Maybe many those wars between Nephites and Lamanites could have been avoided with stronger economic interdependency between the two factions. Maybe yes, maybe no.

    Nobody knows, because they chose a different path.

  149. Well then we’re all compelled to liberty danithew:

    “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”

    It’s a bit of a hobson’s choice, isn’t it?

  150. MCQ,

    I like that.

  151. Here’s a real-life modern parallel that I think some of you will appreciate. I’ll tie it into the context of the discussion at the end:

    There was a group of people with radical religious ideas that moved into a small town in a rural area already occupied by farmers and small-town merchants. This group bought up so much land that they essentially took over the entire town and expanded it at an incredible rate. They moved into the area in droves. They set up their own local government, essentially eliminating the political participation of the original locals. Their leader became mayor. They set up their own militia. There were skirmishes between the original people and the new arrivals. The original inhabitants began to feel threatened by the strength and nature of the newcomers. It was difficult to contradict them because of their sheer numbers, and because they claimed to be on a mission from God. In fact, they claimed that the land was really theirs by God’s decree. Bad blood was brewing, with legitimate offenses on both sides. The original inhabitants were sometimes the provokers; sometimes it was the newcomers. Of course, since the newcomers were so much more numerous, they basically got their way. The whole region began to grow suspicious of these new people, and saw them as a political threat. Plus, with the militia they had built up, the truth was they might attack at any time. No one really knew what this group was going to do. Rumors were rampant, and tension was high. Blood had been spilled.

    A tipping point was when a local newspaper published unfavorable articles about this group of newcomers. The newcomers destroyed the printing press. This and other conflicts led the governor to issue a proclamation ordering that these newcomers be forced out of the area or else face extermination by the military. He saw the threat as very real and imminent.

    You’ll probably recognize this as the story of the LDS church in Nauvoo, told with a narrative slant that you probably won’t ever hear in Sunday School.

    I’m not going to defend this narrative slant as being the “true” interpretation of the events in the Nauvoo era. I’m only recounting it this way because this is a legitimate point of view from which to tell the story, however partial it may be.

    Now compare this to the story of Moroni and his extermination of the kingmen. In my comparison, though, Moroni is Governor Boggs, and the LDS church is the kingmen. There are enough parallels between these two situations that ought to make us sit back and at least consider the consequences of the decisions by both Moroni and Governor Boggs. Both were acting to avoid imminent threats as they perceived them. Both ordered the extermination of a whole group of people based on their (perceived) internal political threat.

    I realize that in casting a sort of role reversal, with the LDS church being cast as the “bad guys,” it’s going to cause a knee-jerk reaction in some readers to nitpick the areas in which my comparison doesn’t work (and I’ll grant that the parallels are not exact). Even so, I find that by purposely taking on the “opposing” perspective, we can gain a much clearer understanding of ourselves and our own motives.

    I don’t condone Governor Bogg’s approach. Neither do I condone Moroni’s. Regardless of which of the two may have been a better man on other counts, their decisions in these moments of crisis were similar, and were precipitated by similar sets of circumstances and threats (speaking broadly), at least as they perceived them.

  152. If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, I should bring up the current issue of Dialogue Magazine, and it’s excellent article about God and violence https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V43N01_65.pdf, along with an interview with Rene Girard https://dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V43N01_113.pdf

    Whether you end up agreeing with the authors or not, you owe it to yourself to read their viewpoints.

  153. It’s a nice try Paul, and I’m not saying there aren’t parallels, but ultimately Moroni is not Governor Boggs. Moroni was a general with a full blown invasion and actual war against known enemies coming down on him and had to deal with lawbreakers and opportunists who were likely going to cost his country its freedom.

    Boggs? Just a governor who perceived a mostly potential threat looming from the alarmingly numerous newcomers in his state. Not much there in the way of justification for extermination. Which I guess is why Missouri apologized and (to my knowledge) Zarahemla never did.

  154. Arm-chair quaterbacking people being attacked is so much fun – especially when you can throw in a good “religious immigrants as weapons-carrying soldiers” anaolgy.

    I will grant that the outcome of the war might have turned out differently if Moroni had used a few more “pretty pleases” with the Kingmen and a few less swords.

    I also will grant that both Governor Boggs and Captain Moroni perceived a threat. Of course, I also will grant that the University of Michigan has gotten it’s rump handed to it regularly by The Ohio State University since Jim Tressel took over, but I don’t think Captain Moroni would have used that as an excuse to send Teancum and his javelin after Tressel. That rivalry has as much relevance to Captain Moroni as the Extermination Order did – especially if I don’t allow “readers to nitpick the areas in which my comparison doesn’t work.”

  155. Having said that, I’m not convinced God ordered the mass killings in the OT. I reserve the right to quote our Articles of Faith when reading that part of the OT.

  156. There’s still enough of a parallel to make the comparison between Boggs and Moroni instructive, at least in the narrow context of their decisions to exterminate a whole group of people.

    Boggs perceived the Mormons as outsiders, radicals, and traitors to their country, with a militia to back them up. As far as he was concerned, the Mormons had overtaken part of Missouri, and he needed to reclaim it.

    Similarly, the traitorous kingmen had overtaken parts of the Nephites’ realm and Moroni felt the need to reclaim it.

    One point of difference is that Moroni felt led by God to carry out his exterminations. I don’t know that Governor Boggs ever claimed divine guidance in his decision.

    Another point of difference is that Moroni was operating under the “fog of war” with a separate enemy, the Lamanites. That doesn’t give him a free pass, but I can imagine he felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

    Perhaps my main point in all of this is that we need to honestly and deeply question the value and morality of inflicting violence on any population, no matter their motives or degree of unrighteousness. The Mormons were victimized by Governor Boggs (and many others), and though the Mormons were trying their best to live righteously as they understood it, it would be fallacy to say that the Mormons were blameless. The kingmen were victimized by Moroni, and while they have been less righteous than the Nauvoo Mormons, honestly I don’t think that matters much in terms of making the decision whether to exterminate them or not.

    I’m just not a fan of mass extermination of people, no matter how bad or good the people may be. I’m especially not a fan of doing it in the name of God. I think that most — if not all — people who have ever done such things claiming that God told them to do it have been wrong, whether knowingly or not. In Moroni’s case, I give him the benefit of the doubt and can grant that he felt he was doing the right thing for his people and for God. Even so, I believe he overstepped his bounds and attributed his own thought processes and justifications to God.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but until someone threatens to extinguish me for my beliefs, I’m sticking to them.

  157. Paul wrote: Another point of difference is that Moroni was operating under the “fog of war” with a separate enemy, the Lamanites. That doesn’t give him a free pass, but I can imagine he felt a tremendous amount of pressure.

    That’s a huge difference – a decisive difference.

    In my opinion it undermines the comparison to such a degree that the comparison isn’t very useful at all.

  158. If you mean that participation in wars clouds people’s judgment to the extent that they become much less capable of making moral decisions in other areas of life, I’ll agree wholeheartedly with you. War has a way of ruining lives and spirits. It’s a moral sinkhole, and one of the most spiritually damaging activities we can engage in as humans.

    Perhaps these circumstances will afford him some leniency at the judgment. Probably. I would hope that the judgment offers all kinds of leniency, because I’ll certainly need it too. But wrong is wrong and murder is murder. Those people didn’t need to die, and it was at Moroni’s hand that they did. Whether the decision was made with a cloudy mind or a clear one matters little to the question of rightness or wrongness of exterminating a population. We all make all kinds of bad decisions when our minds are clouded. That gives us a sort of excuse, but it doesn’t magically turn bad decisions into good ones.

  159. FWIW, even today’s Meridian article is open to the possibility that there was considerable hyperbole in the conquest narratives. http://www.ldsmag.com/gospeldoctrine/ot/020515ot19.html

  160. Paul,

    I don’t think Moroni’s judgment was clouded. I quoted you – but I was pointing to the fact that you were acknowledging that in addition to the factors that existed in your comparison model – there was an additional variable – the “separate enemy, the Lamanites” that were threatening Moroni and his armies from without even as he was dealing with an insurrection from within.

    In my opinion, Moroni was very clear, rational and straightforward about what he was doing – he absolutely had to be ruthless with the insurrection because there was a simultaneous lethal problem from without threatening the existence of his people and civilization.

    Those who criticize Moroni are often trying to hold him to an absurd and unreal standard. It just seems silly to worry about how he will fare on judgment day. I’m sure he’ll do just fine. In my view – it’s the selfish, narcissistic, ambitious and often downright murderous personalities he had to deal with who will be in serious jeopardy and are going to have some real explaining to do.

  161. I think pretty much all individuals who have perpetuated mass murder have been clear, rational, and straightforward about what they were doing. They had their reasons, and those reasons made sense to them. It all depends on the set of assumptions you’re working with to begin with. I’m questioning the very basis of his assumptions. I don’t think they stand up to scrutiny, and I certainly would not support any leader who made such a decision.

  162. “Extermination” is the wrong word, as applied to Moroni and the king men. He was entitled to take the action he did because the peple gave him the power and he was defending the country froman internal threat during a time of war. He didn’t kill more people than he had to; those who gave up were either arrested or allowed to join the army. Only those who died in battle were killed; nobody was executed, from what I can tell.

    You have to be able to differentiate between necessary and rightful uses of power and wrongful abuses of power. Even the state of Missouri has acknowledged that Boggs’ actions were wrong. Ignoring (for the purposes of argument) the claim that it was ordered by God, the Israelites’ apparent actions in Canaan were obviously wrong. Moroni’s actions are of a whole different character. They have the justification of defending his country in time of war, and the authorization of a vote of the people. You can’t draw much of a parallel between that and the other two circumstances. It just doesn’t fit.

    And if you’r going to go judging Moroni, you better consider this prior judgement first:

    “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”

  163. Paul, you’ve used the phrase “mass murder” at least a couple of times now and you clearly and firmly think of Moroni as a mass murderer.

    So it’s become more plain and obvious to me that on this subject there isn’t much for us to talk about. We’re never going to agree.

  164. If taking the initiative to kill 4000 people — with or without the approval of the citizenry — isn’t mass murder, I don’t know what is. Find a different word for it, if you like. Call it capital punishment for political dissidents if that makes it sound more appealing to you. Or execution of traitors. None of these is appealing to me.

    And the person who wrote the glowing review of Moroni happened to be a warrior himself, who happened to name his own son Moroni in honor of his hero. Mormon is entitled to his assessment of the situation based on his understanding and life experiences, in which he has known so much war and led so many warriors. I’m entitled to my own assessment in which I would do most anything to avoid entering into war in the first place.

  165. Paul, words mean things. You can’t call it murder or execution if it was a pitched battle. Do you call it murder or execution when a fully authorized police officer shoots a suspect when that suspect is shooting at the officer?

    Mormon is also a prophet and a little closer to the facts and te people involved (not to mention the spirit) than, presumably, you and I are. I would think that his interpretation of those facts and his judgment about would be due a little deference. But maybe that’s just my irrational prejudice operating.

  166. Killing does not always constitute murder.

    Killing a large number of people does not always constitute mass murder.

    Just as a temporary aside – I am sure that from the perspective of the person/people being killed, what word we use doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. We might take a lot of comfort from the fact that Nephi was reluctant, that he hesitated to kill Laban – but in the end that reluctance/hesitation made little difference to Laban.

    War is not appealing. It is brutal and awful and bloody and horrifying. But sometimes war is justifiable and even necessary.

    To protect his people, Moroni had to get into the business of killing and he did it very effectively. He and his forces killed a lot of people.

    But he was not a murderer or a mass murderer.

  167. MCQ, you’re right in presuming that there are plenty of people closer to the spirit than I am, despite my best efforts, and Mormon was most assuredly one of them. And both MCQ and danithew are right in pointing out the uselessness of discussing any judgment day scenarios. You’re both right in pointing out a difference between thirsting after blood for the love of murder and killing for more utilitarian reasons (though the thought of “utilitarian killing” makes me shudder to the core).

    I still happen to believe that there were other, better, ways the problem could have been handled by Moroni, or by anyone else who finds him/herself at a decision point of whether to kill large numbers of people to accomplish any goal. I believe that violence only begets violence. It begets resentment in the survivors, and is one of the more powerful recruitment tools for one’s adversaries.

    Perhaps more importantly, the act of inflicting physical violence also inflicts spiritual violence in the perpetrator. This is an extremely important point to me. Killing, and somehow feeling ok about it, for whatever set of justifications, is one of the most harrowing thoughts I can imagine. It grates against my most deeply felt convictions — the kind of convictions that I feel I was born with and was not simply taught; the kind of convictions that ring most true in every way to me; the kind of convictions that feel to me as a gift from God.

    Maybe Moroni was given a different set of spiritual gifts, and he did not feel the internal conflict that I would if I were in his shoes. Maybe we all have to find our own way spiritually, and that was just one of many decision points for him and I shouldn’t judge him on that decision point in isolation from the rest of his life.

    I just know that if I were to make that same decision, it would destroy me spiritually, and I can’t help but project my own spiritual sensibility onto my view of the world, because my spiritual sensitivity is the only spiritual sensibility that I know from personal experience, and it’s the only thing I have to guide me. My gut instinct tells me that Moroni made a poor decision, and that he somehow managed to fit the rationale for that decision into his worldview and his understanding of God’s will for his life.

    I’ve done the same sort of rationalization before in my own life — under vastly different circumstances, minus all the killing (thankfully) — and in hindsight, I regret attributing my own flawed actions to being the will of God. They were the will of Paul. And however well intentioned, some of my actions were just plain wrong. Some of the ways in which I shared the gospel while on my mission come to mind, and to this day make me cringe.

    I’m much more careful now to not give God the credit for my own stupidity. I wish more people would be similarly cautious, and less casual about assuming they know the will of God, or that God prefers that his will be imposed on people rather than allowing for an environment that allows for more complete exercise of agency.

  168. Then we simply disagree, Paul – and further conversation about it won’t change any opinions.

    Until you have been shot at and need to defend yourself or die – and, more importantly, until you are faced with those who would kill your loved ones and need to defend them or see them die – and, even more importantly, until you face the choice between killing a few thousand in actual combat (where you are putting you own life in jeopardy to do your defending) and seeing even more thousands enslaved or killed – until then, I hope you refrain from calling someone who makes the decision to fight a mass murderer.

    I don’t expect this comment to change your mind, but I do expect it to show why I can’t agree with you. We simply see this particular issue through very different lenses.

  169. Ray, I think your second paragraph in comment 168 does a great job of presenting the choice(s) Moroni faced and basically shows why he had to make the decision the way he did.

  170. Paul B said: Mormon is entitled to his assessment of the situation based on his understanding and life experiences, in which he has known so much war and led so many warriors. I’m entitled to my own assessment in which I would do most anything to avoid entering into war in the first place.

    And the remainder of us are entitled to weigh these two assessments as we see fit. Given that one of the assessments is canonized scripture, and one is a personal hindsight opinion, it’s not a difficult choice for many, I suspect…

  171. Moroni did not “have to” make the decisions he did, any more than the Anti-Nephi-Lehis “had to” make their decision to forsake war by covenant with God. They were both choices. Either one could have chosen differently, and the outcomes would have been different. I think it’s safe to say that the attacking Lamanites who slaughtered the pacifist Anti-Nephi-Lehis would not have converted to the gospel, for one thing. And I think that’s a pretty big thing. Moroni can’t claim anything even close to that. The Lamanites hated him and his Nephites until the day he died, and certainly did not convert to the gospel.

  172. I am going to lay down and die rather than continue this argument.

    Chupa-frickin-cabra.

  173. Paul, the Lamanites that were attacking Moroni were the SAME Lamanites that DIDN’T convert and were headed back to kill the Anti-Nephi-Lehites – who then fled to the protection of the Nephites to avoid being exterminated by those same Lamanites.

    I really hate revisionist history, but I too am laying down my weapons of war and joining danithew. I have that luxury.

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