Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Horror ?

In this season of observing “the dark side,” my nephew put out a call for horror movie suggestions. If he were open to my suggestions, here is a small sample (of an endless litany—shortest to longest):
  1. Opium in China ~ http://www.history.com/shows/mankind-the-story-of-all-of-us/videos/opium-in-china (4 min.; see also ftn 1)
  2. Docu. ~ Auschwitz: The Nazi Final Solution ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/auschwitz-nazi-final-solution/ (47 min.)
  3. Docu. ~ Nazi Concentration Camps ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/nazi-concentration-camps/ (58 min.)
  4. Movie:  The Children’s War (2010, documentary abt Uganda child soldiers ~ 64 min.)
  5. Docu. ~ Ghosts of Abu Ghraib ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/ghosts-of-abu-ghraib/ (82 Min.)
  6. Movie:   Dirty Wars (2013: 87 min.)
  7. Docu. ~ Aghet: A Genocide ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/aghet-genocide/ (93 min.)
  8. Docu. ~ The New American Century ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/new-american-century/ (94 min.)
  9. Docu. ~ War By Other Means ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/war-by-other-means/ (1992: 52 min.)
10. Docu. ~ Stealing a Nation ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/stealing-a-nation/ (2004: 56 min.)
11. Docu. ~ Making a Killing: The Untold Story of Psychotropic Drugging ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/making-a-killing-the-untold-story-of-psychotropic-drugging/ (95 min.)
12. Movie:   Taxi to the Dark Side (2007: 106 min.)
13. Movie:   Bloody Sunday (2002: 107 min.)
14. Docu. ~ Congo: White King, Red Rubber, Black Death ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/congo-white-king-red-rubber-black-death/ (110 min.)
15. Docu. ~ Blood and Oil ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/blood-oil/ (2010: 112 min.)
16. Movie:  The Killing Fields (1984: 141 min.)
17. Docu. ~ Racism: A History ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/racism-history/ (2007: 176 min.)
18. Docu. ~ The Most Evil Men in History ~ http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/most-evil-men-in-history/ (300 min.)
This is just a small, diverse sampling of what the pursuit of power and profit has wrought in past and present. Why then, do we, so often, stop our ears and shut our eyes to the horrors in the real world while taking pleasure in scaring ourselves with fiction?

What is the weapon of our mass distraction (WMD2) for this October week? Fictional horror movies? What will it be next week? and every week thereafter till we wake up to realize:
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. (Old Testament | Psalms 119:53)?
What are we doing?—for Heaven's sake!

1.  Other textual supporting sources:
▪ Opium: The Downfall of Imperial China http://www.historywiz.com/downfall.htm
▪ The Opening to China Part I: the First Opium War, the United States, and the Treaty of Wangxia, 1839–1844 ~ https://history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/china-1
2. WMD ~ first heard it used this way by others. Also could be termed Weapons of Media Distraction; Weapons of Mass Deception, etc.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

(Mis)Understanding Nephi ?

Several times over the years, I have encountered critical analyses of Nephi[1] of Book of Mormon renown. My most recent encounter was with a book entitled, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide;1 and frankly, there is much I do not understand about this “Reader’s Guide.” But first, let us review some background:
▪ Nephi’s account begins circa 600 B.C., though how soon he began writing it cannot be known, nor can the frequency of writing (despite scholarly assertions);
▪ About 55 years after 600 B.C., Nephi turns his records and the responsibility for continuing them to his younger brother Jacob;2
▪ Some time thereafter Nephi dies, likely between 544-530 B.C. (Jacob 1:9, 12);
His3 55 years of history and teaching contained in the “small plates of Nephi” constitute 117 pages of our current edition of the Book of Mormon; BUT few of those pages give any space to history. Besides extensive quoting of Isaiah (35 pages) and 8 other pages devoted to his brother Jacob’s teaching, Nephi is left with about 74 pages to detail 55 years which amounts to about 1.3 pages per year.
This is the sequence of Nephi’s reference to his “small plates” (bold emphasis added below):
Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 9:2-6 ~ And now, as I have spoken concerning these plates, behold they are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people; for the plates upon which I make a full account of my people I have given the name of Nephi; wherefore, they are called the plates of Nephi, after mine own name; and these plates also are called the plates of Nephi. Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people. Upon the other plates should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings, and the wars and contentions of my people; wherefore these plates are for the more part of the ministry; and the other plates are for the more part of the reign of the kings and the wars and contentions of my people. Wherefore, the Lord hath commanded me to make these plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is. Amen.

Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 19:3-6 ~ And after I had made these plates by way of commandment, I, Nephi, received a commandment that the ministry and the prophecies, the more plain and precious parts of them, should be written upon these plates; and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord. Wherefore, I, Nephi, did make a record upon the other plates, which gives an account, or which gives a greater account of the wars and contentions and destructions of my people. And this have I done, and commanded my people what they should do after I was gone; and that these plates should be handed down from one generation to another, or from one prophet to another, until further commandments of the Lord. And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter; and then, behold, I proceed according to that which I have spoken; and this I do that the more sacred things may be kept for the knowledge of my people. Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred.

Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 4:14-15 ~ For I, Nephi, was constrained to speak unto them, according to his word; for I had spoken many things unto them, and also my father, before his death; many of which sayings are written upon mine other plates; for a more history part are written upon mine other plates. And upon these I write the things of my soul, and many of the scriptures which are engraven upon the plates of brass. For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children.

Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 5:30-33 ~ And it came to pass that the Lord God said unto me: Make other plates; and thou shalt engraven many things upon them which are good in my sight, for the profit of thy people. Wherefore, I, Nephi, to be obedient to the commandments of the Lord, went and made these plates upon which I have engraven these things. And I engraved that which is pleasing unto God. And if my people are pleased with the things of God they will be pleased with mine engravings which are upon these plates. And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.
Now back to “A Reader’s Guide” where the author (GH) discusses Nephi’s record-keeping, claiming that at least thirty years elapsed before Nephi began his record. From GH, p. 13:
“Nephi is not recording events as they happen. Instead, he is a middle-age man recounting incidents from is teens and early twenties, with the full knowledge that life in the Promised Land has soured, that there has been an irreparable breach with his brothers, and that his closest relatives have spent years trying to kill each other. We are reading a second version of his memoirs, based in part on writings of his father and focusing particularly on spiritual matters (as God had commanded in 1 Ne. 9:3-4).”

“Nephi relates incidents from his own life, long after the fact, …”;

“… a second record, which was an abridgment of his first draft.” [Except!! does one make a first draft on metal plates?!!]
As to “not recording events as they happen,” and “long after the fact” the evidence that GH seems to rely on is 2 Nephi 5:28-31 (GH, p. 12, 32, 45). But what if 2 Nephi 5:30 is not the beginning point of the “small plates,” but just a fulfillment of Nephi’s promise from 1 Nephi 19:5 where he wrote: “And an account of my making these plates shall be given hereafter”?

GH’s underlying premise seems to imply a less-than-truthful recollection on the part of an aging, self-righteous, agenda-driven Nephi. But why such endeavor to discredit Nephi when the record witnesses how much God favored him with visions and revelations? Sure, Nephi wrote the record, but if God and angels spoke to you, how would you record it so you wouldn’t sound self-righteous or self-serving to those who didn’t want to hear what you had to say? And if you really were self-righteous, why would you write 2 Nephi 4:16-35, sometimes called the Psalm of Nephi?

Are we so unfamiliar with:
For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard. (2 Nephi 4:15-16);
—so unfamiliar that we discount such praiseworthy motives? so committed to a point of view that we forget to measure “by their fruits”? as in:
… every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them (3 Nephi 14:17-20).
Consider the teachings in those first 117 pages of the “Small Plates of Nephi,” plus Jacob 1:10-11:
The people having loved Nephi exceedingly, he having been a great protector for them, having wielded the sword of Laban in their defence, and having labored in all his days for their welfare—Wherefore, the people were desirous to retain in remembrance his name. ...
Now to another point: How many times do Book of Mormon narrators have to say:
And it mattereth not to me that I am particular to give a full account of all the things of my father, for they cannot be written upon these plates, for I desire the room that I may write of the things of God. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 6:3)

… and also a great many more things, which cannot be written upon these plates. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 9:1)

… and also many more things which I do not write in this book; for I have written as many of them as were expedient for me in mine other book. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 10:15)

… wherefore the things which I have written sufficeth me; and I have written but a small part of the things which I saw. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 14:28)

Nevertheless, I do not write anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 19:6)

And I cannot write but a few things, which I know must surely come to pass; (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 31:1)

AND now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 33:1)

And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates; but many of their proceedings are written upon the larger plates, and their wars, and their contentions, and the reigns of their kings. (Book of Mormon | Jacob 3:13)

Wherefore, I chose these things, to finish my record upon them, which remainder of my record I shall take from the plates of Nephi; and I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people. (Book of Mormon | Words of Mormon 1:5; see also Helaman 3:14; 3 Nephi 5:8; 26:6)

… he finished his record; (and the hundredth part I have not written) and he hid them in a manner that the people of Limhi did find them  (Book of Mormon | Ether 15:33)?
Yes, how many times before we quit complaining that they did not say enough to explain, justify, or order things to our satisfaction? GH acknowledges some of the above scriptures, but adds: “it is difficult to avoid the suspicion that something is being suppressed here” (p. 17). He is referring to Nephi’s account of acquiring the Brass Plates from Laban. He thinks some third party should have said something to commend Nephi’s actions, despite:
And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban; but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him. And the Spirit said unto me again: Behold the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands. Yea, and I also knew that he had sought to take away mine own life; yea, and he would not hearken unto the commandments of the Lord; and he also had taken away our property. And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief. (Book of Mormon | 1 Nephi 4:10-13; again contrast with New Testament | John 11:49-51)
GH writes:
“… given the unexpected complications [Unexpected by God??] that arose in acquiring the plates, it would have been helpful to have followed up the story with some external, explicit commendation of Nephi’s actions. The one person who could have bestowed such validation—Lehi—is silenced in Nephi’s retelling (making this incident something other than simplistic didactic fiction; Lehi does not speak the words that Nephi the storyteller was hoping to hear).” (GH, p. 17; bold emphasis added.)
Hoping!!! What an astonishing, astounding, incredible assumption!—sufficient, by this single half-sentence, to put into serious question the entire promise of understanding! Do we really think that “imagining” the motives, wishes, or thoughts of real, historical people and then basing assertions on our imaginations, furthers understanding? or does it just offend truth? (Consider GH, p. 23-28)

In my view, this venture in “understanding” descends from there as GH seems to forget that Nephi’s purpose, when engraving the small plates, was NOT:
▫ to self-justify by citing his father’s approval, (he’d had God’s command);
▫ to flesh-out his older brothers’ personalities and individuality (GH, p. 33);
▫ to explain family dynamics in detail and give voice to every character;
▫ to conform to 7th Century B.C. cultural conventions NOR to anticipate 21st century expectations4;
▫ to avoid “narrative gaps” and “chronological disjunctions” etc. (GH, p. 22);
when the guiding purpose was to “persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved (1 Nephi 6:4); to “persuade [my people] that they would remember the Lord their Redeemer” (1 Nephi 19:18); and to select “that which is pleasing unto God” (2 Nephi 5:32).

GH also seems to forget:
… if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates (2 Nephi 5:33);
which unfortunately we have yet to receive, perhaps because:
… your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written— (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 84:54-57; bold emphasis added).
It remains astonishing that judgments of “unwarranted” conclusions (GH, p. 35) can be levied against Nephi when we have not read the fuller record, all the while deconstructing the smaller one that we do have.

I would suggest that this “Reader’s Guide” is not a guide to understanding much beyond the author’s own skepticisms,5 and thus should be read with a heaping measure of our own.

And considering the condemnation we are under, perhaps we should do more reading of the actual lines of the Book of Mormon and less “reading between the lines“ (GH, p. 52).

1. Author: Grant Hardy, Professor of History and Religious Studies at the University of North Caroline at Asheville, © 2010, Oxford University Press, Inc, New York, NY.
2. Book of Mormon | Jacob 1:1-4 ~ FOR behold, it came to pass that fifty and five years had passed away from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem; wherefore, Nephi gave me, Jacob, a commandment concerning the small plates, upon which these things are engraven. And he gave me, Jacob, a commandment that I should write upon these plates a few of the things which I considered to be most precious; that I should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people which are called the people of Nephi. For he said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation. And if there were preaching which was sacred, or revelation which was great, or prophesying, that I should engraven the heads of them upon these plates, and touch upon them as much as it were possible, for Christ's sake, and for the sake of our people.
3. Other writers continued the “small plates” so the total page count in our current edition of the Book of Mormon is about 143 pages for the “small plates” but, as noted, Nephi’s contribution consists of the first 117 pages.
4. GH, p. 22 ~ “So in just nine verses we have seen (1) a narrative gap, (2) the narrator’s attempt to disguise it, (3) a chronological disjunction, (4) a deviation from narrative convention (that of silent women), (5) shifts between paraphrase and direct discourse, (6) significant repetition, (7) the demarcation of a literary unit, (8) the balancing of key phrases, (9) allusions to earlier and later events, [10] strong characterization, and [11] an illustration of a theological issue of urgent importance to the narrator.”
5. GH, p. 32 ~ “How someone responds to the personalities in the Book of Mormon will vary according to his or her tastes and inclinations, but it is also a function of how well he or she reads.”

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Things God Cannot (Will Not) Do?

Omnipotent (according to many) is the quality of having unlimited power and is considered an attribute of Diety;1 BUT what does unlimited power mean?

To tyrants, it seems to mean they can do anything they want PERIOD. No restraints, no moral imperatives, no adverse consequences. But, according to revealed Word, such does not reflect God’s view—even concerning His own power. He and His prophets have declared that the Almighty does not have unlimited power as defined by tyrants.

So what is it that God cannot (will not) do?
Therefore ought ye not to tremble? For salvation cometh to none such [that wilfully rebel against God and die in their sins]; for the Lord hath redeemed none such; yea, neither can the Lord redeem such; for he cannot deny himself; for he cannot deny justice when it has its claim. (Book of Mormon | Mosiah 15:27. includes 26)

And I say unto you again that he [God] cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins. (Book of Mormon | Alma 11:37)

That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. … (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 88:35)

... the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. (Book of Mormon | Alma 45:16)

... I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 1:31)

 Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God. (Book of Mormon | Alma 12:32)

 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (New Testament | James 1:13)

I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round. (Book of Mormon | Alma 7:20)

For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them; wherefore, he showed not himself until after their faith. (Book of Mormon | Ether 12:12)

And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles. (Book of Mormon | Mormon 9:19)

And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying he came again to the disciples, and said unto them: So great faith have I never seen among all the Jews; wherefore I could not show unto them so great miracles, because of their unbelief. (Book of Mormon | 3 Nephi 19:35)

... I [God] cannot deny my word. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 39:16)

 ... thou art a God of truth, and canst not lie. (Book of Mormon | Ether 3:12)

I, the Lord, promise the faithful and cannot lie. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 62:6)

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; (New Testament | Titus 1:2)

And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 105:5)

Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that the people in Ohio call upon me in much faith, thinking I will stay my hand in judgment upon the nations, but I cannot deny my word. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 39:16)

Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 84:40-41)
So, to those who think that God is a tyrant, or is sociopathic or psychopathic (as some allege), perhaps our mortal, rational perspective is not all there is. Perhaps we don’t have access to the whole truth of why God does what He does; of the purposes of His “will and pleasure.” Perhaps God is God because He manifests all that is good2 from a vantage point beyond our highest comprehension.
HEAR, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior. Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out. His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 76:1-4)
What stays His hand is an inner compass of self-regulation, integrity, goodness, and all the other virtues that He honors. So, despite what some mean when they say “my work and my glory,” this is what God means:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Pearl of Great Price | Moses 1:39)

He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 26:24)

And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; … (Book of Mormon | Ether 3:4)
Is this not the scope of divine omnipotence—all power self-limiting by virtue of purpose (the benefit of mankind) and integrity?

Oh, that such were the case with humans exercising power!

1. For an expanded discussion, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence
2. (with all its attendants like justice, judgment, righteousness, mercy, truth, goodness, knowledge, understanding, discernment, etc.)