I have been talking with Mormon missionaries and visiting a local LDS church. They encouraged me to read from the Book of Mormon which they count as guiding authority for their own spiritual path. I fear no new ideas and I am open to all exploration in the world of the Spirit. I have finished reading First Nephi. It focuses on a family whose Patriarch is Lehi and married to Sariah with four sons; Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, in the order of age. Laman and Lemuel were the constantly reprimanded sons whose faith was often subject to evaporation under pressure. Sam was faithful and supportive of his father and his youngest brother who were both gifted visionaries inspired by prophetic capacity. They were a Jewish family of the tribe of Joseph, with the Egyptian language and Hebrew belief system. Lehi received warning from God that Jerusalem was coming under judgment and facing the coming of the Babylonian captivity. Lehi sought to warn his neighbors in an attempt to alter that fate or extend escape to those who would listen. He came under assault and after prayer, left his riches and residence behind and took his family into the wilderness for refuge. They recovered sacred and administratively important words recorded on brass plates at the direction of God, probably in preparation for their long term departure. Lehi and Nephi have visions of the Tree of Life. They are directed to migrate to a “Land of Promise” that is not Israel. It is the American continent. Nephi received directions to build a ship and off they go. They arrive in the new Promised Land around 590 BC. That is the historical gist of the book as I understand it.
I took an Integrated Arts course in college and we discussed the willing suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy a movie or a story. It is basically necessary to ignite the imagination and explore the creation of other minds. I did the same thing as I began reading in the Book of Mormon. These were the internal critics I had to silence in order to eat the popcorn and watch the story unfold:
- The Primary Prophet of the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, lived from 1805 to 1844 in the United States and was the writer of these words. He is rewriting history as prophecy. He synthesizes new testament ideas into an old testament environment. (Missionary Response was that he has faced some doubts himself in younger years but they are no different than problems with the Bible that has come under intellectual criticism. Ultimately it is the reality of what it produces in his own life and how empowering it is for him to face daily living. Good answer, I thought. Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Bible removing some of the “fantastical portions” and Thomas Paine wrote critically of the Scriptures in his book “The Age of Reason.” There are many writings confronting the internal consistency of the Bible. See wikipedia link here.There is also a site called the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible that confronts contradictions in the Bible, the Koran, and in the Book of Mormon. See link here. I will write separately on my own beliefs concerning these problems in a later post.) ———-
- In my social science studies I know of no anthropological studies that support the idea of records being kept on metal plates. (Missionary Response was that there are Mormon authorities who have gathered anthropological information that support the prospect of recording information in such a durable fashion. He said he would find a link for me, but I found one myself. I found it interesting and I could see the benefits of a people given to migration to develop such a system. See link here.) ——–
- The 3 and 8 witnesses that verify the supernatural intervention of the writing of the Book of Mormon had human problems such as vested interests, family ties, susceptibility to magical thinking, and ultimately that all eleven ended up leaving the LDS church. (Missionary preemptive apologetic mention of this problem caused me to check it out. I found a link that confronted this issue. The missionary believed that it was telling that even though these witnesses suffered human problems they never recanted their testimony. Good enough to move on. See link here.)
There are terms in the book I was not familiar with such as “ministry of my people” in Chapter 9. The missionary explained this to be a keeping and promoting of the word of their God. In Chapter 10 I ran into another phrase, “days of probation,” which refers to the fallen state of humanity.
In chapter 11 verse 13 the Holy Spirit appears to Nephi in the form of a human, talking in human speak. When the Holy Spirit says “Look!” the Spirit has disappeared and Nephi’s vision is directed from Jerusalem to Nazareth and sees a Virgin. Now for me, this shows the Holy Spirit appearing in one of It’s many forms but reveals Itself to be the Mother God. The Mormon missionary gave me a bit of a sideways look when I suggested such. So moving on.
The Mormon concept of hell seems to be equipped with a few more chances to evade eternal separation from God including a time in the spirit realm to be taught prior to a final decision. Chapter 14 seemed to touch on the 3 hells of the New Testament, but the missionaries said there is one hell that is hard to get to and you have to really want such a fate. The concept of the Church of the Devil is mentioned but it appears to be something nebulous and not associated with a particular group, unless it is the “everyone else” concept of being a Gentile.
Overall, I gained more from the personologies (see About page) of the young missionaries than the First Book of Nephi.