The early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is filled with inspiring stories of angelic visitations. Joseph Smith testified of appearances by Elijah, Moses, Noah, and the Apostle John. A golden statue of the Angel Moroni sits atop LDS temples to remind the faithful that Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith several times to instruct Smith on how to translate the Golden Plates into the Book of Mormon.
Another angelic visitation from the early days of the Church, according to official Church sources, occurred while Joseph Smith was struggling with “the Doctrine of Plural Marriage” and a command he had received to take on additional wives. (Journal of Discourses, Vol.20, p.28 – p.29) In an essay released by the church in 2014 on the LDS.org website, this angelic visitation was described as follows:
“Joseph told associates that an angel appeared to him three times between 1834 and 1842 and commanded him to proceed with plural marriage….During the…final appearance, the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.”
When releasing this recent essay, the Church rejected a unique opportunity to move away from the polygamy doctrine which has plagued it for nearly 200 years. It could have emphasized the statement Gordon B. Hinckley made in 1998, where he said that polygamy “was not doctrinal” Source The LDS Church could have moved away from the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants saying that if Joseph had ‘ten virgins given unto him” it would not be adultery. The same section that threatens Emma Smith with destruction if she would not agree with Joseph marrying and, in many cases, having sexual relationships with other women.
Instead, the Church’s assertion that angels are occasionally sent by God to force men to obey His will presents the question: Why would God not only want Joseph to abandon his fidelity and loyalty to Emma in order to pursue and marry other women (including teenage girls and women who were married to other faithful men), but feel such actions to be imperative enough that He would send an angel threatening Joseph with destruction if he did not comply?
If providing Joseph, Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders with additional wives warranted a sword wielding visit from an angel, why did God not send an angel to stop the murder of 120 men, women and children in the 1857 tragedy at Mountain Meadows? Why did God not send an angel to stop Brigham Young from promoting a doctrine that prevented families of African descent from the blessings given in LDS temples? Why was an angel not sent to stop Hitler?
Could God have sent an angel, or an army of angels, to stop the recent kidnapping of girls by ISIS to prevent them from being placed in “Rape Camps” where they are brutally molested multiple times a day to provide pleasure for radical Islamic terrorists? Source
Mormon apologists will oppose my words by saying that God decides when to send his angels and to whom; and that His ways and purposes are higher than mine. In a church that is the great defender of “family values” and “traditional marriage,” why was the last recorded purpose an angel was sent to Earth to force a man to commit adultery, or at the very least, to demand the institution of a marriage relationship that is decidedly not monogamous nor supportive of healthy, intimate relationships?
Being raised in the LDS Church has taught me many great things, including; “Wherefore you are left to inquire for yourself….and ponder these things which you have received” (D&C 30:3). And, “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things (Moroni 10:5)”
I cannot believe that a loving God would send an angel to force his prophet to secretly cheat on his wife and take other men’s wives. It is even more repulsive to me that Joseph Smith would use the same story and his position of authority to threaten the salvation of not only a teenage girl, but her family, in order to force her into a marriage. Source
I have pondered and prayed about the story of The Angel and His Sword enough that I know that this will never make me feel good, no matter how long I consider it.
Good points. Thank you.
You didn’t pray long enough?
It might be worth checking the source on the “Angel with a drawn sword” account, since Joseph never talked about polygamy publicly, and mormons had an incentive to make up stuff to justify polygamy.
As to the lack of angels preventing Mountain Meadows, etc., well, Moroni said it best:
” 37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.
38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.”
Maybe faith ain’t what it used to be.
Really? More blame the believer bullshit? So it’s the fault of those who don’t see angels, why they don’t see angels? Angels are ready and waiting to show themselves but it’s because we just don’t have enough faith that we don’t get visited?
According to that reasoning, Ireland must be busting at the seams with leprechauns and pots of gold. Oh, you can’t see them? It must be something wrong with your belief and level of faith in them. They are there. Look at all of the stories about them. Modern people just don’t have the same level of faith that they did in the past.
(If your reply was sarcastic, please disregard.)
I agree totally! The church has a problem–they probably would like to denounce polygamy but what does that mean for section 132? Did Joseph make it up? If he made up that one, what else could he have made up? I don’t think the church wants to go down that path so it’s easier to just stick with the angel and the drawn sword story. Too bad.
There are no contemporaneous accounts of the angel and the sword. This certainly lowers the reliability of the story in my mind. My guess is that Joseph or some other person in the past did share this story and that it was exaggerated over time to the point that we can’t have confidence in the account as it exists today.
The history is problematic, not to mention the theological implications that you very astutely pointed out. I was really upset when they first posted the polygamy essays and I wish they had just left all the angel stories out of the essays completely. However, on further reflection, I do think including the angel and the sword stories is a good idea because it allows us to discuss them.
I don’t agree with the conclusions the authors draw around these stories. I think the angel stories are a good object lesson about how myths and legends are formed over time. The whole Brigham being transfigured into the form of Joseph Smith is a good analogous story that shows how story evolution and exaggeration can happen.
Give the fact that the LDS people have documented every word ever spoken by the “prophets & apostles,” I do not doubt that Joseph claimed to have been coerced by a sword-wielding angel. If you look closely, Joseph was “practicing polygamy” long before he uttered the revelation. A dirty, nasty affair, indeed.
Seems Brian Hales puts credence to the story
“In any case, it would not be surprising to learn that an angel, or even several angels, were involved with Joseph’s 1841 decision to enter into his
second plural marriage. BYU professor Alexander L. Baugh has documented some seventy-six “visionary experiences” of the Prophet between 1820 and 1844, thirty-one of which included angelic visits.31 The importance of eternal marriage, including the principle of plural marriage, coupled with the obvious challenges both principles would present to Joseph, make it a significant event in his life and a likely opportunity for an encounter with a heavenly being.
Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner reported that the Prophet informed her that the angel came three times, the first visit in 1834: “In 1834 he [Joseph Smith] was commanded to take me for a wife. . . . The angel came to him three times.”32 She also quoted the Prophet: “The angel came to me three times between the years of 1834 and 1842 and said I was to obey that principle or he would slay me.”33 If these dates were accurate, the first angelic visit may have prompted the Alger plural marriage, probably in 1835.34 It also possible that
Joseph’s poignant memories about the fiasco caused by the Alger union dissolution prompted him to dawdle before engaging in further plurality. The chronology further supports the likelihood that sometime before April 5, 1841, when the Prophet was sealed to plural wife Louisa Beaman in Nauvoo, the angel returned for a second visit to admonish Joseph to use the sealing authority and to obey the earlier directives. Joseph F. Smith summarized: “Joseph
Smith was commanded to take wives, he hesitated and postponed it, seeing the consequences and the trouble that it would bring and he shrank from the responsibility, but he prayed to the Lord for it to pass as Jesus did, but Jesus had to drink it to the dregs so it was with Joseph Smith, the Lord had revealed it to him, and said now is the time for it to be practiced—but it was not until he had been told he must practice it or be destroyed that he made the attempt.”
We live in a world saturated with sex. Sex is the subtext of practically everything. Immodesty and immorality are constantly and enthusiastically promoted. Internet pornography (staunchly protected!) is destroying lives, marriages, and families (not so staunchly protected) as fast as a horse can run. In such a spiritually toxic climate, critics have a field day with Joseph Smith and plural marriage, considering it only in terms of sex – what other explanation can there be? The long and short of this perspective is this: Lust. Joseph Smith is a hypocrite who couldn’t or wouldn’t control his. He wanted to have sex with other women. Polygamy is the social and psychological window dressing to justify his lust. The End.
This analysis raises several problems for the Church. How can God accommodate such gross sexual immorality – and with the next several prophets as well? So much for being unable to look upon sin “with the least degree of allowance.” How Joseph was supposed to fool God with polygamy while maintaining close ties with Him is anyone’s guess. Is it not the case that covering sins, gratifying pride, or exercising any degree of unrighteous control nullifies Priesthood authority altogether?
So the plural-marriage-as-lust angle not only belittles Joseph Smith, it belittles God. Why call Joseph Smith in the first place, knowing he will so soon run off the rails to repeatedly violate the standards of sexual morality? A pretty big thing for Joseph to get wrong and for God to overlook. Wrong choice for the First Vision, you’d think. Couldn’t God have found a prophet who would hold to the course as did the many others He has called throughout history? Why should the prophet of the final Restoration before the Second Coming turn out to be less of a prophet than Enoch, Moses or Nephi?
And if Joseph failed – where’s the backup plan? Where is the second attempt at the Restoration in these days preceding the return of the Savior? Where are the divine condemnation of Joseph Smith and his misled Church and the announcement of Joseph’s righteous successor and divinely approved Church? Who else is expending time and money to build temples and perform therein the sealing work to bind families together (and keep all the records) to avoid the earth being “utterly wasted” at the Second Coming? Who else has tens of thousands of missionaries out there spreading this (or any) Restored Gospel? Who else has the Book of Mormon? Where’s THAT restored church, the one the world cannot object to on grounds of polygamy, the one without Joseph Smith?
On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that Joseph was faithful to his death in accomplishing what the Lord wanted accomplished, and no dearth of those willing to testify to this. Above all, why is the Holy Ghost continuing to testify of the truthfulness of a Restoration that included plural marriage?
The solution to this quandary is to return to the original assumption about polygamy – and reject it. Plural marriage is not about sex at all. It is not a program for sexual satisfaction. It never was. It’s about something else. It’s the “something else” that ought to engage our focus. It’s about families, unity and eternity. It’s what Joseph Smith said it was – a commandment given to him by God for that time. God was the originator, not Joseph Smith. As with the Book of Mormon (“An angel gave me the plates”) so too with plural marriage – the straightforward explanation given by Joseph is the true one. Joseph Smith did not have a problem with immorality that Church members (and God) have to turn a blind eye to. Joseph Smith did not deviate from the Lord’s instructions for the Restoration.
Of the plural wives who left testimony, many stated that they had prayed for (who wouldn’t?) and had received a spiritual witness (sometimes dramatic) that the course they were following was approved by God. Here is Helen Mar Kimball (the 14-year old so often cited in literature on polygamy):
“The Latter-day Saints would not enter into this holy order of matrimony unless they had received some stronger and more convincing proofs of its correctness than the testimony of a man, for in obeying this law it has cost them a sacrifice nearly equal to that of Abraham.”
And later in her life, “. . . of that pure and unalloyed bliss [to come] I solemnly testify that I have had a foretaste.”
To be sure, this was not her – or anyone else’s – first reaction upon hearing the doctrine, but Helen’s experience and witness is echoed by others, who also received “strong and convincing” confirmation.
A big obstacle to understanding plural marriage in Joseph Smith’s time is the scarcity in contemporary documentation. There is very little. This lack has been filled by critics with – what else? – sex, with all its innuendoes and in all its salacious forms. And why not, sex being touted as the principle concern of life? But must it have to have been so with Joseph?
Is it a simple topic to get your mind around? No. Challenging? Yes. A trial of faith? Certainly. Plural marriage runs contrary to our expectations. Ask Abraham about challenges to faith and commandments that run contrary to expectation. But it can be and has been discussed in terms other than sex. It need not be an unbreachable obstacle to faith. The essays on the lds.org website are well-written and a good place to begin.
And where is the condemnation of polygamy in the Bible? Why is the Lord OK with what should be clear violations of the law of chastity? Let’s reason this way: For the past 4,000 years, the over-arching family structure for salvation has been the House of Israel – non-members who accept the Savior are even adopted into it. The House of Israel, this family structure, was established through the sexual relations of one man and four women. The evidence of the Lord’s love for, and nourishing of, the House of Israel are overwhelming, obvious and ongoing. (see Jacob 5, much of Isaiah, Matt 15:24 and Russell M. Nelson, Oct 2006) Where’s the condemnation of the sexual relations that produced it?
Nowhere. Does God have a double standard for chastity?
The difficulty and challenge come for those members who want Joseph Smith to be right about the Restoration – but wrong about polygamy. They have some heavy lifting to do. And their problem isn’t just with Brother Joseph, but with the next five prophets as well, all of whom defended the doctrine and its practice and all of whom were polygamous. (A later prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, was the son of Joseph F. Smith and a plural wife.) Where’s the divine denunciation of what otherwise would have to be seen as a monumental breach of the law of chastity?
For members, the only viable option is to see plural marriage as instituted and sustained by God for a season in His Church and for His own purposes. Investigation needs to begin with this. One thing it did is distance the Church from the surrounding culture early on and has forced members, then and now, to examine their faith in God and the spiritual witnesses they receive. The Lord must have known how polygamy would appear to Joseph Smith’s world, and to ours. It’s not a great marketing strategy. What, then, does He expect of us?
Will any of us be fully satisfied that we understand the whole of God’s plan here in mortality? Likely not. But we can be satisfied that all will be well. We can get a witness of that. Does it make sense that any woman in the Celestial Kingdom is unhappy and feels she has been deceived or slighted? Are any there at cross purposes, one with another? No one there, woman or man, would persuade us to lose faith in the Savior, in His Church or in His Priesthood. They pray that we won’t. After all, they are our family. They want us to join them there.
Family. One man and his wives. How much more UN INTIMATE is that? The man can’t be there emotionally for his wives and certainly not for all the children. Is that our model for God? He provides for us the necessities of life but cannot have a personal relationship with us? The only real and lasting emotional bond is between mother and child?
There are Islamic terrorists who pray and know God wants them to kill the infidels. Catholics have prayed and seen the Virgin Mary. Pentecostals are filled with the spirit and speak in tongues. The idea that people have had “witnesses” regarding polygamy means no more than any other religious “witness”. A practice that requires threats, secrecy, lying and the breaking of the hearts of innocent people does not come from any God I worship.
Multiple women said he said that or in other versions, that the women would be damned if they didn’t marry him.
You honestly think the church would put that in the essay if there wasn’t solid historical backing?
Hope, you said the historicity is problematic. Please explain how.
But you are right, many of the faith promoting stories in the church aren’t true, one of the reason the church isn’t true…these spiritual angelic visions never happened.
I feel that this post is very poorly written. Not because I disagree with it, but the reasoning being drawn, I feel, is very poor.
One suggestion i would have for all of you, is to go and ask a local teacher of church doctrine, or at least someone with more background knowledge than you, to explain D&C 132 and the reason Joseph was told to have multiple wives. I say this because the answer is in several church papers to which i dont know the names of, but someone else would. We did go over this subject in our church doctrine class at school, and we went over why it was needed. I suggest you also, get with a seminary teacher, Bishop, or stake president,and discuss this. Then take your discussion to the lord and ask for a confirmation of what you heard and learned. If you feel the spirit, its all good. If you didnt, then try again. If anyone would like to have a chat with my seminary teacher on this subject, please reply and i will put you in contact with him. He will be happy to talk with you. Have a great day!
Did God ever send an angel to coerce someone to do something in the Bible? I can think of occasions when an angel announced a judgment (a *result* for doing something), or to encourage, or to threaten enemies, but I can’t think of any case where an angel appears in order to coerce or force someone to do something, especially against their will.
But perhaps i’m overlooking such an instance. Anybody?
Forgive the delay in response, Corbin— i forgot that you’d replied!
The angel *stopped* Balaam from cursing Israel, he didn’t order him to do something against his will.
Balaam then *blessed* Israel, not despite his desire to curse, but because that was the prophecy given to him to pronounce. And he had already agreed to do this. But indeed a prophet’s job in any case is only to *obtain* a prophecy, not to invent one.
Num 22.31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
Num 22.32 And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me:
Num 22.34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.
Num 22.35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.
Num 23.3 And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he sheweth me I will tell thee.
Num 23.8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?
In the Bible, God never coerced someone to do something against his will, whether by angel or by any other means. He has given us our freedom, and he doesn’t violate it, although he sometimes responds in displeasure— “because thy way is perverse before me”. But responding to someone is different than forcing them ahead of time to do something they don’t want to do.
Joseph Smith was drawing on biblical imagery— in fact probably drawing on the Balaam story, given the angel with the drawn sword— but he uses it to make an excuse and to blame God(!) for his own sin.
I can’t see how this is good.
I find I mildly ironic that with a year of when the church claims Joseph Smith having started learning the principle of polygamy (1831)that this revelation of the D&C comes forth about the whole church being under condemnation for not receiving the new covenant of the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:57). This revelation comes amidst Joe beginning to translate the bible (1830-1833). I find I no surprise the condemnation and warning as Joe read of ancient polygamous relations. Not to mention considering what Jacob 2 mentions concerning polygamy and how it was an abomination for David and Solomon to have wives and how they sought to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms. God allowing people to sin is not the same as condoning that sin. Bad people can do marvelous things. It was the high priest Caiaphas of whom we are taught retains his priesthood office despite condemning the savior to death.
Joseph had been told he would see the savior if he lived to a ripe old age but that was contingent upon his choices. Joe was warned in D&C3:4-11 men who follow their own dictates and carnal desires bring the vengeance of a just God on them. Interesting that being tarred and feather came in 1832 (possibly for having adulterous relations with a Nancy Marinda and the mob had brought a doctor to castrate Joe but they didn’t go through with it) seems like God warning a man about the consequences of sin. God could easily protect his prophet but why protect him from learning from the awful abdominal acts he brought upon the church? Was it not destroying the printing press that led to Joe’s demise?
Has this guy ever read the Bible? Obviously has an ax to grind. Why else misrepresent?
If you don’t feel the spirit, then why ‘try again’? Why don’t you take it at that point that the spirit isn’t into it?
It seems like you’re saying, Make up your mind that it’s right, and then pray, and if you don’t get confirmation, keep doing so until you do.
This seems more than a little delusional.
Hmm. Ok, Balaam. I should have thought of that!
But the angel doesn’t actually threaten Balaam with death if he doesn’t do something, does he? He says he *would* have killed him if his ass hadn’t saved him, which is, in effect, a warning *against* doing something he was mistakenly setting out to do; and then he tells him to proceed under instruction, which Balaam is certainly willing to do. Here’s the story:
Nm 22.32 “And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: 33 And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive. 34 And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again. 35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.”
The difference between this and the story of Smith and his angel is that Smith claims the angel forced him to do something he didn’t want to do, whereas once Balaam’s eyes were opened, he saw the error of his ways and was clearly *willing* to go along with the angel. He just didn’t know any better before that. Balaam said, “I have sinned,… if it displeases you, I will go back”, and the angel says, No, that won’t be necessary; just do as I tell you— and, being a shaman, Balaam would theoretically have done that anyway. Whereas Smith more or less says, “It looked like a sin and it seemed like a sin and I felt it was a sin, and everything i know says it was a sin, but God ordered me to do it, on pain of death!”
So Smith seems to have claimed that it was totally against his conscience, but God made him do it.
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Ga 1.8). Does that have any application here? What is the role of conscience in Mormon life?
I think verse 23 of the Balaam account is significant, because it represents the angel as having a sword drawn in his hand.
I am aware of no other scriptural precedent for this upon which Joseph Smith could have drawn.
sorry, i posted the response meant for here to your first comment above, so just look a screenful or so upwards.
Awesome post. So completely spot on.
We need more faithful questioning like this. Not apologetic nonsense.
D&C 132:36 Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac; nevertheless, it was written: Thou shalt not kill. Abraham, however, did not refuse, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.
Eugene England wrote an essay about obedience, integrity and paradox that is worth reading. I think the larger world God lives in is not always going to be congruent with our mortal perspective – or our conscience. A trial of faith is just that. Therein lies the experience and challenge of morality. Ambiguity abounds here, which causes divisions. How will we respond? Where is the final ground of our faith? When Lehi speaks of mists of darkness, he wasn’t kidding, was he?
Then you obviously don’t understand it
D&C 132.36 elides, combines, and omits more than a little from Abraham’s story.
Gn 22.1 provides the necessary pre-understanding for the events of the chapter. Without it, God’s request that Abraham offer up Isaac as a “burnt offering” would be inexplicable. By stating clearly at the start that “God tested Abraham,” the writer quickly allays any doubt about God’s purpose. There is, then, no thought of an actual sacrifice of Isaac in the narrative.
The rabbis and early christian fathers of course discuss Gn 22 at great length, and in line with what I just mentioned, their consensus is generally that Abraham shows the nature of his faith in Gn 22.8: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” That is the only indication he gives of what’s on his mind in the whole story. And indeed, even as the angel stays the knife, “Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son” (22.13). True, the story is troubling because the reader can’t quite shake the uneasy feeling, Abraham didn’t *know* the angel would stop him, and in any case what if he hadn’t come? But the story itself doesn’t tell us that these were Abraham’s thoughts, nor that God actually wanted him to sacrifice Isaac. In the story, God’s only thought is to test Abraham, and Abraham’s only thought was, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
The drama will end with exactly these words, repeated twice, so here the writer is letting the end of the story appear and foreshadow what will happen. Thus the reader is both assured of the nature of Abraham’s faithfulness and clued as to the outcome of the narrative. Since these are the only words Abraham speaks, they are the only thing that casts light on his silence throughout the rest of the story. Amid the anguish which we can’t help reading into his silence, we now also recognize his silent confidence in the Lord who will provide.
Horrific as this story is if our grip on these details slackens in the slightest way, we still haven’t in any case come up with an example from the Bible of God *coercing* someone to do something they didn’t want to do— forcing them to do something against their conscience and against their will, by dire threat and force majeure. “God tested Abraham, and said to him… ‘Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering…'” (22.1-2). There was no coercion; there was only a test, to see what Abraham would do. God uttered no threat that if he did not sacrifice Isaac, then…, etc. And Abraham faithfully went ahead with what he would have to do to carry out the test, but what he said to Jacob was not, “God says you must die, my son”, but “God will provide what we need”— and that is indeed what God did.
Yes, Gn 22 is a meditation on the nature of faith, but I can’t agree that “the larger world God lives in is not always going to be congruent with our mortal perspective – or our conscience”.
“For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; but when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ” (1Co 8.10-11).
If it is a sin for a Christian to do something that’s technically ok for themselves, but may wound the conscience of a weaker brother or sister— that’s the thrust of Paul’s argument in 1Co 8 and 10, and it seems an important argument, for he spends a lot of time on it— how much more would it be a sin for God not just to wound but even to violate the conscience of one of his children? How is it possible for us to value a good conscience (our own, or anyone’s) if we see that God himself disregards it? Conscience then becomes meaningless.
if you think that God is “our heavenly father”, would you as a father then feel comfortable with treating your children this way? After all, you live in a “larger world” than your children do— at least your little ones.
“Well, i had this feeling that i shouldn’t do it, but who knows what such feelings are worth. Even God obviously doesn’t regard them as having any final weight.”
Wouldn’t you describe this as the morality of a sociopath?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I found them valuable. Especially this part:
“How is it possible for us to value a good conscience (our own, or anyone’s) if we see that God himself disregards it?”
This needs to be discussed more.
Joseph Caiaphas was hardly “called of God, by prophecy,” but owed his “priesthood” office to the Romans – he was appointed by the predecessor of Pontius Pilate. It’s safe to say that neither prophecy nor the laying on of hands nor God’s approval was involved. The prior high priest, his father-in-law Annas, had been similarly appointed by the then current Roman overseer. In God’s eyes, the pair of them had the same priesthood authority as King Herod.
As for the tar-and-feather incident, it is just as possible to argue that the assault was a manifestation of anti-Mormonism in general. The mob seemed incensed at reports that members would be required to sell all their possessions to a scam. The mob went after Sidney Rigdon as well, who was the first to be beaten; it’s a close call which of the two was the worse for wear. Of course, this perspective doesn’t have the sexy zing of the other telling, which also serves better to discredit Joseph, a key factor for its adherents.
The idea that the Savior, Moses and Elijah appeared in the Kirtland temple to confer divine authority on the same man that God was having serially punished for the “awful abominable acts he brought upon the Church,” is ridiculous.
Finally, the scriptures record a long, sad, recurring history of the prophets (the kind called by God) being abused, tortured, imprisoned and murdered. All of these were punished in consequence of their sins, were they? I think we can safely ascribe this opposition to Satan, not God. Satan hates God, God’s servants, and God’s Church. He can’t destroy God, but he is giving the servants and the Church his best shot.
So what happened to, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9)?
My children and I stand in a different relation to God than my children do to me.
So, no, I don’t think God is a sociopath. And I prefer the straight-forward explanation given in Hebrews 11:17-19 as an insight to D&C 132. The rabbis and church fathers had plenty of spare time on their hands to overthink things (actually, everything) without benefit of revelation. Their writings show it. It’s where infant baptism came from. Jesus condemned those blind guides who “strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.” They have their modern counterparts. Do rabbis, church fathers, philosophers and theologians have interesting, even important things to say? Of course, as there is, as always, a spectrum in the philosophies of men and women running from responsible to looney, but I weigh their worth by the scales of the scriptures and revelations of the Restoration, and not the other way around.
C.S. Lewis in yet another of his excellent essays “God in the Dock”, observed:
“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches the judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge; God is in the dock [or on the witnesses stand]. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.”
Lewis was dead wrong about one thing, however: Modern man is not going to acquit God.
Well, also 2Sm 24.16, though there was no sword involved; that the sword in Smith’s story was fiery probably alludes to Gn 3.24. But i don’t think there’s enough clue to say that any particular verse from the Bible lies behind Smith’s story. I think our culture generally has images of God like that floating around. There’s a similar line in the Battle Hymn of the Republic too, which was written about the same time as smith’s story.
My point isn’t that you can’t find an angel with arm outstretched, with or without sword, in the Bible, but that in the Bible, God simply **never** forces someone to do something against their conscience. With or without angel!
A pure conscience is enormously important in Scripture. The New Testament mentions it no fewer than 30 times— Acts 23.1; 24.16; Rom 2.15; 9.1; 13.5; 1 Cor 8.7, 10, 12; 10.25, 27–29; 2 Cor 1.12; 4.2; 5.11; 1 Tim 1.5, 19; 3.9; 4.2; 2 Tim 1.3; Titus 1.15; Heb 9.9, 14; 10.2, 22; 13.18; 1 Pet 2.19; 3.16, 21. Why would God violate it? This story of Smith’s is, um, “unprecedented”.
I think you make a good point about other instances of angels with drawn swords in the Bible and in American culture.
And you may be right that there are no Bible stories about angels threatening to kill people unless they do something that violates their conscience.
At least, none come immediately to mind.
On the other hand, we read in the Bible that the angel of death was sent to slay all the firstborn in Egypt in dwellings whose lintels and posts were not daubed with the blood of freshly slaughtered lambs.
And we read that “the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast” and destroyed the hosts of Sennacherib laying siege to Jerusalem in the early 7th century B.C.E.
I am not certain I can appreciate the distinction between God sending an angel to threaten somebody with death unless they do something that violates their conscience, and God sending an angel that actually kills thousands of people for doing something that violates God’s conscience.
What do you think?
I think that way of putting it muddies the waters.
Whatever you may think of God destroying the Egyptians or Assyrians, he wasn’t, in smiting them himself, forcing anyone to violate their conscience. We assume, of course, that God did the smiting in all good conscience. But even if he had a bad conscience about it, he wasn’t forcing someone else do the smiting, who thought it morally repugnant.
The violence in the Bible is a question that would merit careful study in its own place, but it’s not the same question as the one here, about whether God forces someone to do something they find morally repugnant. You don’t find in the Bible a single place where he does this.
As I said above, Smith seems to have claimed that instituting polygamy was totally against his conscience, but God made him do it. And he also seems to have used that story to force some of the women involved to accept it, also.
St Paul said, “I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Ac 24.16), and he wrote to Timothy, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience…” (1Tm 1.5). How can that be the goal when God himself shows by his demands and his own actions that our consciences are irrelevant?
But we don’t find this in the Bible; we find it only in Smith’s testimony about his own actions. So it strikes me that there really is an important difference here between the God in the Bible and the God Smith is talking about. Or how do you see it?
That’s a convenient verse, isn’t it? It could be used to justify all kinds of things. Best to read it in context, where it’s part of Second Isaiah’s peroration on the restoration of Israel.
I found it amusing, though, that you spent a fair amount of energy dissing the rabbis and the early christian writers, but then turned around and quoted CS Lewis.
I didn’t say God was a sociopath. I don’t think God is a sociopath either!
But I did suggest that certain ideas about him were sociopathic by any definition— any definition, that is, except for the one that goes, “Not counting God, anyone who acts sociopathically is a sociopath. God can behave that way, because he’s on a higher level than we are.”
Come to think of it, that’s the kind of argument that victims of spousal abuse, kidnapping, or other such crimes often make, isn’t it?
Oh, come on. So outside of Second Isaiah’s peroration on the restoration of Israel, God’s ways aren’t higher than our ways or His thoughts aren’t higher than ours? I suspect that outside of Second Isaiah, the heavens are still higher than the earth.
I said that for me there was a spectrum of usefulness. C.S. Lewis I place on the useful end. I also acknowledged that, dispite the tendency to overthink, the rabbis and church fathers did have important things to say. The “(actually, everything”) comment I added was glib and I regret it and apologize for it.
True enough, of course, but the question is, how legitimate is it to use Isa 55.8-9 for this argument?
Apart from that, I’ve been wondering whether, and if so, in what sense, one can really say, “My children and I stand in a different relation to God than my children do to me”, given the theology of God as “our heavenly father” as it’s specifically meant in Mormonism?
Surely, God knows more than we do. But in what sense would he be exempt from following the morality (“eternal principles”, no?) that he teaches others? On what basis does he get to violate or ignore someone’s conscience by threatening them to do something they don’t believe in, on pain of death?
That’s where I see the problem; not with polygamy as such, though i think that’s wrong enough, but with the story used to justify its introduction.
john burnett: The violence in the Bible is a question that would merit careful study in its own place, but it’s not the same question as the one here, about whether God forces someone to do something they find morally repugnant. You don’t find in the Bible a single place where he does this.
And yet God famously commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son.
Would this not have been “morally repugnant” to Abraham?
Or is your point that God did not “force” Abraham to kill his son?
Should we think better of Abraham because he was willing to kill his son without being “forced”?
But really, isn’t most of Christianity at bottom exactly the sort of “forcing” you mention?
Isn’t God saying that we have our choice, but if we do differently than he wants, we will spend eternity in punishment?
Even with Joseph Smith’s angel story, Joseph still had his agency. He could do as the angel directed or be slain.
I know that isn’t much agency to speak of, but I am not sure how it is appreciably different from the doctrine that we have our agency to follow God or be punished forever.
It seems to me like the latter is even more severe than the former.
Joseph Smith violated God’s commands time & time again. The Bible never condoned polygamy – God allowed it – just as He allows hideous sin today – but He does not condone it. Joseph married mother & daughter – this was & is strictly forbidden; Joseph married sisters – this, too is strictly forbidden. Of course, Joseph married women who were married to other men. LDS researchers have clearly stated that Joseph had sexual relations with at least nine of his plural wives. There marriages were not simply celestial sealings. Joseph clearly had physical relations with women other than Emma – long before he announced his “revelation.” Joseph used manipulative tactics to coerce young girls & grown women to marry him. Joseph’s revelation for Emma is utterly disgusting – go along with my insatiable, sinful sex drive or you will be destroyed. It is certainly unfortunate that Joseph was murdered by dissenting Mormons (not martyred) in the Carthage jail – a trial would have been very illuminating. Perhaps, in the very near future, Thomas S. Monson will announce a similar revelation – undoubtedly, there will be those who “follow the prophet.” Joseph Smith was an evil man – a narcissistic sociopath who was drunk with power. Read from LDS sources – the complete saga is available from sources deemed to credible, pro-Mormon authors & researchers.
The Bible – and God – most certainly do condone polygamy. God isn’t repeatedly referred to as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were losers, sexual mavericks. Abraham (children by two women) is the standard of righteousness in the scriptures, through whom all nations were and are to be blessed, which promise has been carried down to this day through his similarly blessed grandson’s, Jacob’s, lineage of the House of Israel, which was produced through the sexual relations of one man and four women, two of whom were sisters and all of whom were alive at the same time. There is no condemnation of this to be found anywhere or by anyone in the Bible; no subsequent prophets decry it, nor did Jesus who, in fact, recognized the centrality of the House of Israel and only wants to nurture it, chicks to his wings.
Likewise Joseph Smith. The idea that God, who knows the end from the beginning and selected His leaders from the most faithful in the pre-existence, waited 6,000 years to back a loser like Joseph Smith is ridiculous. The idea that God the Father, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses and Elijah visited, inspired, and conferred divine authority on a sexual predator is utter nonsense. They did so because Joseph had God’s stamp of approval. Joseph Smith is not the originator of plural marriage, God is.
It was the angel’s third appearance over an eight-year period (1834 to 1842) – sent by God – at which time a sword was finally produced. Up until then Joseph had responded fitfully, reluctant to proceed – who wouldn’t be? One assumes the presence of an angel with a drawn sword would serve to focus one’s attention. Like Nephi, who reports he was “constrained by the Spirit” to kill Laban, which action he would not have taken otherwise, so too with Joseph Smith. The answer to polygamy is not to be found in lust.
And so I will contribute a witness that Joseph Smith did nothing that would jeopardize the Restoration, was faithful to the end, is justified of God,and continues to preside, now in glory, in the next world. There is no other Book of Mormon, no other valid Priesthood, and no other temple work to found on the earth. There is no Restoration other than the one 80,000 missionaries are out there testifying of. The Holy Ghost is not testifying of the truthfulness of Restored Gospel so that converts, fresh from the waters of baptism, can turn on Joseph Smith.
I don’t know if it will ever make sense to me that so many of us mormons (Christians in general too) are willing to toss God under the bus for things that go against our moral conscience, and then hand wave it away with “His ways are not our ways.” or “God works in mysterious ways.” As if this is ok, or somehow justifies any bad or harmful behavior.
I guess basically two really big questions I would have are; Why does Joseph Smith get a free pass from being human? (could extend this to any of our prophets, since the idea of having fallible prophets seems to escape so many, and be impossible) And why does God get a free pass from doing evil?
Exactly my thoughts Dusty! Well said.
Hi Corbin Volluz,
Well, as I said above, the first verse of that story is really crucial. The writer states right off the bat that God was “testing” Abraham (22.1). Telling us that, he makes it clear that God has no actual desire for Isaac to be sacrificed; his intention is only to prove something about Abraham and his faithfulness— faithfulness being the trait that most defines Abraham in the Bible. But what is faithfulness?
Most people think that God just wanted to find out whether Abraham would do anything he asked, even to the point of killing his own son and heir. Abraham showed that he was ready to do it, and so we should be ready and willing also, if somehow required, to make a “burnt offering” of whatever is most precious to ourselves.
But this leaves a couple of questions unanswered. First of all, since God doesn’t usually talk to people openly these days, who else might have the authority to tell us to kill our children? And in any case, even if God himself were to tell us to do so, would we? Is it really even ok for God (let alone Abraham) to be so cavalier with the life of an innocent human being, moreover one who is Abraham’s only son and heir, “whom he loves” (Gn 22.2), moreover the heir with whom God himself has promised to make an “everlasting covenant” (17.19)? Can Abraham seriously think of doing that with a good conscience? Can God even ask it with a good conscience?
Don’t— don’t!— tell me that “God’s ways are not our ways”! Let’s just admit that God’s demand is insane. But before we move on, however reluctantly, to other matters, let’s also note the usually overlooked fact that if God, who had promised to establish his covenant precisely with Isaac, did in fact want Abraham to kill Isaac, then he wasn’t planning to keep his promise. And that means, he’s a deceiver. And how can Abraham be faithful to a deceiver? Well, he can be personally loyal— but what he does with Isaac won’t have anything to do with conscience, in that case.
And what makes the story horrific— what gives it its particular force— is that God is staking a claim precisely on Abraham’s conscience. How can a man kill “his son, his only son, whom he loves” (22.2)? If Abraham would murder his son in order to be faithful to God, he must also murder his own conscience as well. And if he does that, and his God is himself not only a deceiver but has no trouble demanding an innocent life, what else will either of them not do?
So (to answer your question), yes, my (previous) point was that God didn’t force Abraham to kill his son. In the Bible, God never forces anyone to do anything, although he sometimes stops them from doing things— for example, from killing Isaac. But in particular, he never forces anyone to act against their conscience.
However, the question of “forcing” is the wrong one to ask about this story, because God neither threatens, nor even so much as warns Abraham of consequences in this case. In fact, the only consequence in view is the obvious, if implicit one, that if Abraham does obey, then his son— “his only son, whom he loves” (22.2), the sole heir of God’s own promise— will die, and die childless. And if Isaac dies childless, then God was being deceitful when he promised to make with Isaac “an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (17.19).
So if Abraham obeys, he accepts that God is a deceiver, and just goes with it. In that case, he shows that deceiving has a divine origin, and there’s no further need for conscience, covenant, or faithfulness! And yet— if he refuses— again he shows that he thinks God a deceiver— whether not serious about the covenant, or not really intending for Abraham to kill his son is immaterial— and again, if God is a deceiver, there’s no further use for conscience, covenant, or faithfulness!
That’s the test, then— not just “will Abraham sacrifice what is most precious to him”, but— “what kind of God does Abraham obey, and what kind of obedience does he obey him with?” And the test is really clever— a kind of double bind— although, as we’ll see, there’s one way out, which will save Isaac and God’s honor at the same time. But strangely enough, it will depend on God, not on Abraham.
For his part, Abraham makes only one comment in the whole story, and it shows that he’s no more interested in killing Isaac than God is. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.” At this point, Isaac, apparently not yet aware that God has demanded his life, asks, “‘My father! my father!… Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘God will see to the lamb for the burnt offering for himself, my son’” (22.6-8— most translations have “God will provide”, but the Hebrew verb is “see”, in the sense of “see to it”). Abraham’s only comment is, “God will see to it”. He says nothing to Isaac about having to die.
From our viewpoint (and, we may surmise, from Abraham’s), God seems to have laid a morally repugnant, unconscionable, insane demand on Abraham, but precisely because Abraham is “faithful”, he accepts it without the least mental reservation— and indeed, to act without mental reservation is the meaning of hᵉyêh ṯāmîm— “be thou perfect/wholehearted”— the requirement God lad upon Abraham in 17.1. But Abraham’s apparently prevaricating word to Isaac shows that he accepts this new demand of God only in full view of the promise God earlier made to him: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (17.19).
So what’s Abraham doing?
By not telling his son, he isn’t just protecting Isaac’s feelings or his own. He shows that he’s leaving open the possibility of another outcome. And in the space of that prevarication, Abraham is calling God’s bluff. And if he has accepted the test, he has done so only as a very high-stakes game of chicken. Who is even testing whom, at this point?
But this is Abraham, that wily merchant who just a few pages earlier, dared to bargain— with God!— over Sodom: “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?… Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice?” (18.23,25). And he even secured God’s assent, even though the city was very wicked: “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten” (18.32). Abraham knows whom he’s dealing with, and he isn’t afraid to play hardball— with God!
But God is testing Abraham. What he wants to know isn’t, as I said and as people usually suppose, just whether Abraham is so incredibly faithful that he would even go so far as to sacrifice “his son, his only son, whom he loved” (22.2), if asked to do so. If that were the end of it, we’d have a nice moral example— and a rather serious question as to just when, exactly, we’re supposed to draw the line. After all, what if somebody— a respected religious leader, perhaps— comes to a woman and says, “In the name of God you have to sleep with me even though you’re married to another man”? The test isn’t to see whether Abraham would actually kill his son for God. It’s to see just what kind of obedience Abraham has; in what way he will be obedient.
And here’s the game: If he trusts God, he will do as required, and kill the heir of the Promise. But if he does as required, he proves God can’t be trusted. If he refuses to do as required, he proves he doesn’t really trust God. But if he doesn’t trust God, then the covenant, whose only condition was trust, is finished. Again, if he goes through with it, he shows that he worships a powerful, but deceiving God, and is prepared to do so at the price of his own conscience (not to mention his son’s life). But again, on the other hand, if he bases his refusal on his own integrity, and chooses to live without God, he forfeits the promise. And remember— the promise was not just “will multiply thee exceedingly… [and] make thee exceeding fruitful” (17.2, 6), but that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12.3). In other words, In thee, the sin of Adam will be undone, and the blessing Adam lost will be restored— for the entire human race.
So God has thrown down just this gauntlet, and now it’s Abraham’s move. So, fully conscious of God’s promise, Abraham climbs the mountain, binds Isaac, seizes the knife, grasps Isaac by the hair and pulls his head back, and—
God blinks. Suggestively for our discussion here, he even sends an angel, not to force Abraham with a knife, but to stop him from wielding one. God admits defeat, and Abraham sacrifices a ram that God provides, just as Abraham said he would, and together with Isaac, worships a faithful God with a pure conscience.
Abraham is not a daredevil who takes his son’s life lightly, even when God requires it. God initiated the contest, and Abraham had no choice but to play. But Abraham trusts that whatever else he says, God will be faithful to his own word. But he trusts God, faithful to his own conscience too. That’s why he said to Isaac only, “God will see to it” (22.8). But he can trust and be faithful to both God and his conscience only if God himself is trustworthy and faithful. If the God who set the contest keeps his promises, then to keep his promise to Isaac, God will have to blink. Abraham may have to go all the way to the mountain, but “as it is said to this day, On the mountain of the Lord, it will be seen” (22.14). “To this day”— because Abraham has shown, once and for all, that when it comes to conscience, that’s what God is looking for.
Of course it has to be the mountain <em<of the Lord, not just any mountain. But on that mountain, where the Lord has authority to demand, Abraham is right to obey. But as a righteous man (15.6), who has held even God to conscience (18.23,25)— he obeys in view only of a righteous God. A slave just does what he’s told because he fears consequences. But, as it turns out, it was precisely the conscience of his covenant partner that the righteous and faithful God wanted to prove— so that he could, in the end, show his respect for it.
The point of this story, then, is not so much that God could say, as he does at the end, “Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Gn 22.12)— rather, the point is that, having seen that Abraham fears both God and his conscience, he stayed Abraham’s hand. And in doing so, he reveals his own faithfulness once and for all. God was faithful precisely to Abraham’s conscience. That is why “Abraham called the name of that place Yhwh-yireh [The LORD has seen]: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen” (22.14).
Now, the remarkable thing is the way in which, by making his demand, God actually invited Abraham to participate in and to constitute God’s own self-disclosure in the world. If Abraham had gone through with the sacrifice, he would have shown that God was a deceiver. If he had stood on his own integrity and refused God, then his last word about him would again have been that God is a deceiver. God put his own honor at great risk here, making it dependent on a man’s response. But that is what was at issue in Abraham’s choice. God “tested” Abraham (22.1), to see if he had faith with conscience., not just faith for its own sake. And Abraham took it right to the mountain, to test whether God would honor his promise.
For all who believe, now, in this God themselves, Abraham’s test has settled whether they would ever have to violate their own conscience out of obedience to God or to anyone else. Abraham was faithful to God’s promise, and God was faithful to Abraham— and thereby showed that he respects the consciences of any who are within the same covenant. Those outside— well, God is One. He respects conscience— but for their part, they’re on their own.
But if an angel appears and demands that we do something contrary to our conscience, we can be sure, after Abraham, that the angel is a demon. And if someone says that such an angel has appeared, he is doing so either to take advantage of someone, or to cover his ass for having taken advantage already. The faithful God does not violate a person’s conscience.
But returning to the issue of whether God forces people to do things— whether against their conscience or not— you also ask,
(To which someone responded, “Amen.”)
At this point, I hesitate to say much, because i don’t want to appear sectarian, but we’re going to have to make some distinctions if we want to avoid defending the indefensible, or overlooking the key facts. But let me offer the following as information— it’s up to you to make of it what you will— but the answer to your question lies at least partly in history, and there are different histories, and they’ve had different consequences.
So— “most of Christianity”. . . .
Have you ever noticed that conditions we consider permanent are often of more recent origin than we think? Did you know, for example, that less than 100 years ago, pink (as a shade of red, an aggressive color) was considered more appropriate for boys, while blue was better for girls? I suspect it’s not even possible to dress a baby boy in pink today!
But similarly, what we think of as “most of Christianity” is actually only about a thousand years old, and much of it only five hundred years old. And similarly, it’s hardly possible to think otherwise. But let’s see.
At about the time of the final split between Eastern and Western Christianity, Anselm (11th c) was rethinking the atonement in terms of certain key ideas of Augustine (4th c) and most especially in terms of Western European feudalism. He sought to reinscribe the idea of God’s justice within feudal notions of honor and satisfaction. By breaking God’s rules (and who hasn’t?), we have insulted God. But for Anselm, the magnitude of an offense is measured by the honor of the person offended, and that is the honor that has to be appeased. So if you offend your neighbor, you say “Pardon me!”, but if you offend the king, you have to say “Pardon me” with a great gift! Since God is infinite, though, we finite creatures can never appease or satisfy or atone for the insult we’ve given him, because we have no gift commensurate with his infinity. Being infinitely just, God can’t just let us get away with it; he must punish us; but being infinitely loving, he wants to save us as well. But his justice requires satisfaction; and his wrath, appeasement. That’s why, as Anselm and the Scholastics who followed him explained, he had to send his Son— his Son was the only person who could appease God’s wrath by offering infinite satisfaction. In part, this is because the Son himself is divine, and his acts have infinite merit; and in part it’s because he’s sinless, and his acts had the needed purity.
Anselm’s theory caught on and became the ruling paradigm in Scholastic theology; and both Luther and Calvin (16th c) were highly trained in this style of thinking. That’s how it came about that in “most of Christianity”, we now have a Savior who saves us from a feudal God (a friend of mine calls him “Zeus”) by taking the punishment we deserve. But of course, it’s still “follow God or be punished forever”, as you put it. Since we don’t really follow God very well, we simply can’t avoid being punished forever, unless we accept Jesus and what he did for us.
The Book of Mormon strikes me as informed by this Scholastic-Reformation background only in a general way, as one would expect if it had been written by a frontier American who got his theology mostly from popular preaching rather than, say, a university-trained theologian living in Vienna or Rome. In some respects it actually seems a little confused. But in particular, the idea that Jesus saves us from God isn’t quite as evident; “atonement” is more vague. Mormonism also advances its own peculiar take on the atonement, centering less on the death of Christ than on his agony in the garden. It seems that the American culture in which Mormonism emerged was no longer quite in sync with feudal ideas of honor and satisfaction. I’m sure you’d be better qualified than I to speak of the specifics of Mormon atonement theory. Yet I honestly think that the “Zeus” of Anselmian and Calvinist scholasticism is still more or less by default the God who still appears in, or is assumed by the Book of Mormon and related literature. That’s why the Book of Mormon is so chock-full of threat and punishment (plus of course lots of miracles for the believing). 1st Nephi provides as many examples as any, but 18.20 put it quite succinctluy: “There was nothing save it were the power of God, which threatened them with destruction, could soften their hearts”.
To be fair, unbelievers in the Book of Mormon always seem to be peculiarly obtuse in the face of prophetic proof, and God’s threats are generally addressed to their better sense of things. And for the most part the threats don’t demand a suspension of conscience, although Korihor (Alma 30) provides an interesting example to the contrary. But precisely in those endless stories of threat and punishment, the book seems to share this idea of God-as-Zeus with “most of Christianity”, and certainly with the part of it that was common in American frontier churches in his day. Nothing convinces me that the church he founded doesn’t share it with “most of Christianity” even now.
But here’s the relevance of all this to our discussion of Abraham, above: Because Smith, and the average American frontier Protestants he was speaking with, both more or less thought of the biblical God precisely as the kind o’ guy who would “shock” people (1Nephi 17.53) and threaten them with flaming swords anyway, Smith could readily tell people that an angel with a flaming sword forced him to enter into a union that he claimed was (initially) against his conscience and morally repugnant to him. People could believe him because they thought that God was the kind o’ guy who went around threatening people with flaming swords anyway. And it strikes me as no accident that today, just as people are starting massively to question the idea of God-as-Zeus in other churches, Mormons are starting question this story of Smith’s as well.
But more generally, something doesn’t quite add up when, as you put it, “God is saying that we have our choice, but if we do differently than he wants, we will spend eternity in punishment”. Such an ethical regime entails all the morality of “Obey or die, slave!” And it’s particularly suspicious, if not odious, when God tells us to violate our conscience or die.
Yet isn’t that the demand Smith acquiesced to, and the demand he then imposed on Emma and other reluctant church members— an obedience which, in the face of deadly threat, renounced its own conscience?
If God is like Zeus, this is understandable. Zeus is about power, and conscience has nothing to do with power.
But as we saw with Abraham, such an idea is actually quite at odds with the God of the Bible— and not in a minor way, for that’s actually the point that the Bible is making, in view of a lot of other deities on offer in the ancient world, including Zeus himself, and Moloch, who demanded the sacrifice of children. Conscience is key. But if “most of Christianity” tends to believe in this Zeus, and promotes a kind of slave morality (as Nietzsche pointed out, only about 50 years after the Book of Mormon was published), then we might ask, was there or is there some other part of Christianity that ever said or says anything else?
One place we can look is behind Anselm and his feudal-Scholastic friends. As it turns out, Christianity everywhere, both East and West, taught that even if we have sinned, we were all created to see God in his uncreated glory, and that all of us, without exception, will indeed see him— for “unto thee shall all flesh come” (Ps 65.2), and “with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Ps 36.9). So “we now see in a mirror, darkly, but then we shall see face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known” (1Co 13.12)— and this is true of both sinners and saints. And when we see God face to face, we will understand that “God is love” (1Jn 4.8), and that he really does love everyone equally and indiscriminately, regardless of their moral status. For “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rm 5.8). God loves everyone with the same love, both the saint and the devil, for “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1Jn 1.5). We were all created to see God in his uncreated glory, and without exception all of us— “all flesh”— will indeed see him.
Whoever we are, then, and no matter what we’ve done, we will spend eternity in God’s light. So the idea that “if we do differently than he wants, we will spend eternity in punishment” is not exactly correct. It may actually surprise you to learn that the doctrine of “hell”, as popularly assumed in our culture (and in the Book of Mormon), was simply unknown during the first thousand years of Christianity, and was not taught in the East at all— nor is it found in the Bible. (Whenever the word “hell” does appear in the Bible, it always translates “she’ol” or “hades”, which are simply “The Grave” writ large; the “land of oblivion” (Ps 88.12) where the dead dwell.
But the light of God’s infinite love appears as “consuming fire” to the ungodly (Hb 12.29). Accordingly, our own response determines whether our vision of God will be light or fire, heaven or gehenna, reward or punishment. And by “response” I don’t mean a “spiritual feeling” or a “burning in the bosom”, but our actual transformation from selfish and self-centered love, to Godlike love which does not seek itself. This transformation comes from God but requires our cooperation.
The question, then, is not whether we “do differently than God wants”, but whether “Christ be formed in us” (Ga 4.19). We ourselves need to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind” (Rm 12.2)— then we shall be “conformed to the image of his glory” (St Basil, quoting Rm 8.29 and Ph 3.10, 21). If we’re not so transformed, then “this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed; but whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (Jn 3.19-21). This isn’t particularly hard to grasp— lust and hatred have no place in love, but if we prefer them, we may have them— yet in the light of God’s love, the truth of what we’ve choosen to become will in that case be very painful to eyes that are accustomed to darkness. So, if we “do differently than God wants”, we will “suffer punishment”, in a sense, but the hell of a conscience that condemns itself and is condemned by itself in the light of truth is not at all the same thing as being condemned to hell by a Judge who doesn’t like that we didn’t do what he wanted.
So one absolutely indispensible condition of the transformation to which God invites us is a pure conscience.
Accordingly, great spiritual teachers are not about telling us “what God wants”— whether polygamy or tithing or fasting on Fridays— but about helping people to purify their consciences, so that the vision of God’s glory will be heaven for them, and not gehenna; reward, and not punishment. That’s why Paul wrote, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience…” (1Tm 1.5). All other teachings, sacraments, books, and practices have this transformation as their fundamental context.
But how can this work, when angels with flaming swords tell us that God requires us to violate our conscience?
I agree— is there really any difference at all between “follow God or be punished forever”, and “do as the angel directs or be slain”? Either way, it’s the morality of slaves. And as Nietzsche pointed out, the God who requires that, is dead.
But my point here has been that this mutilated Christianity never existed outside the West and before the Middle Ages, even if “most of Christianity” sees it that way.
In the Bible and the early church fathers, we find a Christianity in which the ultimate, final, and unsurpassable revelation of God is Jesus, who did not threaten with a flaming sword but said to his follower, “Put your sword back into its place… do you think that I cannot pray to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26.52-53).
I hope this is all helpful; it has taken me all of several days to think it through!
Why do we say his only son? Didn’t he have another son with Hagar? If polygamy is ok then why isn’t this son acknowledged?
John, you have over-thought this right out of the stratosphere. What a turgid theological world you live in! What happened to the straightforward sense of the scriptures? We are on earth to be tested, to see if we will “do all things whatsoever the Lord God shall command [us].” Abraham was tested to the limit. To whom much is given is much expected. He was willing to sacrifice Isaac because that is what the Lord commanded him to do. Why do it? Because, like Job, Joseph Smith, and countless others, he knew that whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is. God is never wrong. It is not that this was a simple test – what could be more difficult? – but the frame of reference he had was straightforward, and humble: He loved God, knew God loved him, and that was enough. Abraham, whose experience with God had been extensive and intimate, had faith that God would make things turn out right. Per Hebrews, he had faith that God could raise Isaac from the dead. God and Abraham were not trying to outwit each other.
No one’s conscience is superior to, or supersedes, God’s will. No one is ever rewarded for disobeying God or given kudos for dismissing the Holy Ghost. No one operates on a higher moral plane than God.
John, my first sentence seems more harsh than I intended; it would have come off better in person than it does in print. I don’t doubt your intent or intelligence – both are evident. I just disagree with the content of this particular reply of yours. For me, it is a really strained argument, with a lot of assumptions about the minds of both Abraham and God.
I don’t find the mortal conscience the final arbiter of truth or God’s will. For instance, if one’s conscience keeps one from embracing the restored Gospel and the divine calling of Joseph Smith, then it is not serving one well. And I realize that decisions are made based on things other than, or in addition to, the conscience.
Well,Tim Bone, if you’d called my writing style “turgid”, I’d have been really insulted!
But you asked, “What happened to the straightforward sense of the scriptures? We are on earth to be tested, to see if we will ‘do all things whatsoever the Lord God shall command [us].'”
The problem is, though, that what you’re saying adds up to— “We’re here on earth to see if we’re prepared to do unconscionable things as long as it’s for God”!
‘Fraid I just can’t go there.
But God and Abraham were not trying to ‘outwit’ each other. The Text says, explicitly, that God sought to “test” Abraham. I’ve offered some thoughts about that test in the light of the more troubling questions it raises. Rather than ignoring those troubling questions by saying, “Just have faith”, I take it as axiomatic that the purpose of the story is to raise them. If you don’t have any trouble with killing “your son, your only son, whom you love”, well ok then!— I can see why you wouldn’t have trouble with J.Smith’s angel story either. It’s quite minor, by comparison!
But what we often don’t get is that the Bible is actually a lot deeper than the sunday school lessons we make out of it.
To be sure, for a fourth-grader, the Scriptures are “simple and straightforward”, and the “message” that a fourth-grader probably should get out of this story is that we should be prepared to sacrifice even our most valuable possessions if we’re asked to do so by God. But first of all, it’s unlikely that a 10-year-old is going to be talking with God as Abraham did. The voice of God in his/her life is more likely to be that of loving parents, etc. Nor is it likely that a fourth-grader will be called upon to sacrifice an only child. Too, in any case, it’s questionable whether s/he would have the mental equipment to think it through if such a demand were ever required— although I bet that even a 10-year-old would still find such a request unconscionable. It takes a lot of therapy to heal child soldiers, by the way. Do you think Joseph Kony didn’t talk to his captives about how much God wanted them to kill? And they believed he spoke for God!
But as we become adults, we have to learn to evaluate things more deeply.
The Bible isn’t addressed only to 10-year-olds. It’s addressed precisely to adults, who really do face serious questions from time to time— conflicts of conscience, sometimes even with church leaders. You seem to propose that the answer in every case, “Shut up and buck up.” And all you would say to a man or woman who find him/herself facing an awesome question like “kill your son” or “sleep with the prophet even if it looks like adultery” is, “We are on earth to be tested, to see if we will ‘do all things whatsoever the Lord God shall command'”. Is that really the best you’ve got?
I’m troubled by this narrative that Abraham just “had faith that God would make things turn out right”. I talk to a lot of people for whom the counsel, “Just have faith!”, is just not helpful! And as someone pointed out above, it’s delusional to pray to know if something is “true”, and then if you really feel it is not, to keep praying until you decide it is.
“Per Hebrews, he had faith that God could raise Isaac from the dead”— sure, and the story works on that level. But as the author to the Hebrews says, “by this time you ought to be teachers, but… you have come to need milk and not solid food. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe” (Hb 5.12-13).
Well, here’s a little food for thought: have you ever noticed how God actually disappears from the Old Testament? In the beginning, he’s walking in the garden with Adam, and slowly by slowly, he withdraws so that by the time you get to Ezra-Nehemiah, all you have are priests, with a book. But at the same time, the people in the Bible take on more and more color and independence, so that by the time you get to Ezra-Nehemiah, you actually can have priests with a book, and wisdom, and conscience.
Are we here just to obey, or are we here to grow into “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” (Eph 4.13-14)?
You say you “don’t find the mortal conscience the final arbiter of truth or God’s will. For instance, if one’s conscience keeps one from embracing the restored Gospel and the divine calling of Joseph Smith, then it is not serving one well.”
If your “restored Gospel” and “divine calling” require you to ignore and even destroy your very conscience— what kind of man are you becoming?
(Btw, you would undoubtedly enjoy, and find both intriguing and challenging, RE Friedman’s book, The Hidden Face of God (HarperSanFrancisco, 1995).)
I’m struggling more with the fact that angel’s haven’t visited the Prophets and Apostles since this sword bearing fellow. I’m comfortable with God commanding Nephi to lop off a head of a defenseless man and to have lots daughters have sex with their father, who am I to question God, but in the craziest of times in the history of the world, we have leaders that stand up in conference and talk about patience, obedience, and any number of topic, NOT ONE OF WHICH YOU COULD NOT FIND DONE AT LEAST AS GOOD OR BETTER BY A GOOD SOLID SOUTHERN PREACHER! I’m kind of looking for messengers from my father I think. When king benjamin got up to give his address from the tower, he didn’t tell stories from his childhood or speak of himself. He certainly didn’t say follow me, I will never lead you astray. He also worked for himself and never took a sinine of gold from tithing money. I digress. So what I love is that he stood up and said, an angel visited me last night and told me exactly what to tell you. That would be refreshing. But I honestly think that he doesn’t have anybody that has the faith to see an angel, so we are stuck with follow us to the letter and even if we are wrong, the Lord will forgive you if you follow us. That is all they have got left when revelation is absent. So that last angel we get is a flaming sword saying marry lots of women. And it has gone downhill from there. 🙁
Since whatever God requires is right, no one who follows God’s requirements loses anything. Nephi was “constrained by the Spirit” to slay Laban, something he otherwise would not have done. He slayed Laban. Neither He, nor his conscience, nor his soul, nor his life, nor his standing before God, was destroyed.
—which supports my contention that the God of the Book of Mormon does what the God of the Bible never does, which is force people to do things, particularly against their conscience. Or can you think of an exception?
John, I don’t know what more to say about this. God wants us to do what He says. Why is this rocket science?
OK, if Abraham is an insufficient example, how about the Children of Israel who, upon entering the Promised Land, were commanded to “utterly destroy” and “show no mercy” to specified groups who had lost the privilege of living there. These were summarily destroyed. This must have taxed some consciences.
In a prior response, I suppose I should have quoted Joseph Smith in full:
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, “Thou shalt not kill;” at another time He said, “Thou shalt 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….”
Trials differ. The requirements given to Abraham, Nephi and Joseph Smith are not ones I am likely to be given. Some commands may be more challenging to the conscience than others. What of it? In all cases, we are to follow the Savior, Abraham, Nephi, Joseph Smith and scores of others in saying: Not my will Father, but Thine.
Your assertion that God will never challenge our conscience cannot be sustained.
I cannot think of a worse thought, or system open to abuse than this. Complete submission, and enslavement of our will to another, as told to us by men for ends they claim are just and the will of “god” no matter how much injustice we see and feel.
Wrong is wrong no matter who says it, and claims the authority of a God. Hopefully we will get to a place where if a prophet were to stand and proclaim something clearly unconscionable, we would stand together, and stand against his/her harmful proclamation rather than blindly follow something vile, while twisting our minds to believe it’s okay to cause harm as long as “God” said so.
Well, Tim Bone,
I didn’t say “God will never challenge our conscience”; i asked whether, God ever, in the Bible, forces someone to do something against their conscience (or with it, for that matter). I’m still open to correction, but nobody has shown that he does, and it strikes me that the answer is, in fact, a resounding No. So this is not about whether God “challenges” someone’s conscience, but about whether God ever forces someone to do something against their conscience, as Smith claimed in his angel-with-a-drawn-sword story. There I see a difference between Smith’s idea of God and the one in the Bible— a difference that strikes me as quite significant.
I gave my long exposition of Genesis 22 only because Corbin Volluz suggested (and then withdrew the suggestion) that Abraham was an example of God forcing someone to do something, particularly against their conscience. Responding to that, I got to looking at the Binding of Isaac story and to thinking about a little more deeply than i normally do, and shared the fruit of my reflections about what’s going on in that story. In the sense i discussed, this story is actually similar to others where the protagonist (Moses, Jacob; others?) struggles with God and in the end receives a blessing. That would be worth exploring at further length, though it’s off-topic here. But i posted what i did because it struck me that the Binding of Isaac seemed to be precisely about the importance of following one’s conscience, not transgressing it— and about God’s respect for conscience. It’s a subtle story, and I am certainly not its first commentator in 3000 years. Granted, it has engaged a lot more sunday-school teachers than deep thinkers, but it certainly can give rise to deep thought.
You can’t quote the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith as proof, when the underlying question at issue is whether— given that God does force people to do something against their conscience in those sources (for example, the angel-with-a-drawn-sword story we’re discussing)— the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith are reliable guides in the first place. I’m surprised you keep trying to do that. Yes, Nephi and Joseph Smith, etc. But that is the very thing I was asking about— are such stories of God forcing someone to do something against their conscience, compatible with the God of the Bible?
On the question of the destruction of the Canaanites— again noting that nothing in the Bible makes that into a story of God forcing anyone to do anything— that is a very interesting issue in its own right, and it has come up separately in several other discussions I’ve recently taken part in. There’s even a rather long, and still quite partial, recent discussion of it on my blog. I contend that, from one angle, the entire Bible is written to bring precisely such acts as war and genocide into question, to expose their causes and to turn people away from both the acts and their causes. But that is a whole discussion that doesn’t belong here, where the only question we were discussing was whether God forces people to do things, especially against their conscience, as Smith claimed in his angel story.
My impression is that you value the principle of obedience above all others, and thus any narrative in which God commands something is a narrative about obedience, end of story! And as I’ve said, that may at least some of the time be an appropriate way of responding, for example in sunday school classes. But you have asked about “rocket science”. As I said earlier, the Bible was written for adults, not just children. In fact it was written by the finest minds of an entire civilization over a period of about a thousand years, to be pored over by the finest minds of the rest of the human race for the rest of time. And that’s without even mentioning “revelation”! So are you really so confident that its message is just, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what”? Is life itself just a simple matter of “obeying the prophets”?
I think we can’t abdicate our consciences quite so readily.
I think the idea that following your own conscience despite what God says is wonderful! What better way to prove to God that you are good? I really appreciate your words.
Since I accept the Book of Mormon as the Word of God, I can’t pretend it doesn’t count in a discussion of God’s dealings with this planet. It doesn’t have to measure itself against the Bible. The jury isn’t out on the issue. For me, Nephi, Alma, Mormon and Moroni have the same historicity and the same spiritual pedigrees as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses or the Apostle Paul – and the whole lot of them equal in historic facticity to George Washington. All breathed air on this very world, and all will be available for us to converse with and fellowship with in the hereafter.
Neither can I accept that God was at cross purposes with the various separated branches of the House of Israel, showing preferential love to one above the other or teaching them different plans of salvation.
As for obedience, the standard of “Not my will, but Thine” comes from Jesus, and particularly at the time He was looking most for a bitter cup to be removed from Him. His first words as a resurrected Being to the Nephites were that he had “suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”
I find Joseph Smith’s prophetic credentials are no less than those of Enoch, Abraham, Moses or Lehi and that he, like they, discharged his duties faithfully. The idea that God, who knows the end from the beginning, and after a long line of successful prophets, waited 6,000 years to back a loser to initiate the most important event before the Second Coming, is ridiculous. As Joseph said, he wasn’t perfect, but there was no error in the revelations he taught. And if not Joseph Smith, then who? There has been no substitute called, no “second” restoration, no “got-it-right-this-time-around” restoration.
By divine design, in order to try our faith we are not given answers to all our questions (see Mosiah 23:21 and 3 Nephi 26:11). We have had spiritual witnesses and can continue to have them – will we live by them or doubt them later on? I’m with Brother Callister:
“I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God – that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some alleged scientific findings contrary to the Book of Mormon; time will correct those. And I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith. I cannot live without the priesthood of God to bless my family, and I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. That is the choice we face – a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other.” (Tad Callister, CES Devotional 1/12/2014)
This is the only true Church because it is the sole repository of priesthood power to seal on earth and in heaven. The Church is the sole custodian of valid baptisms on planet Earth.
Here’s another way to look at it: No one in the Spirit World is going to be baptized by proxy into any organization whatsoever other than the church restored by Christ himself through Joseph Smith. Why would any member of His Church, therefore, do anything other than champion that work? Why sidetrack it or persuade others to doubt it or abandon it? Our consciences and allegiances should be riveted on the building up of the Kingdom of God and the establishment of Zion.
You say you can’t live Without having the knowledge that your wife and children are still to you for eternity? Did you know that Brigham himself said no man could make it to the highest celestial kingdom unless you were married to more than one woman? Why is it more Godly to have more wives? How does that not hurt women knowing that?
It’s clear that you believe what you’ve said, but you can’t just say, Well, what Smith said about God is all true and good because he’s God’s prophet!
It (almost) surprises me that you would so consistently rely on such an argument.
I pointed to a seemingly rather deep difference between the Bible, on the one hand, and the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s angel story, on the other— that in the Bible, God never forces anyone to do anything, much less against their conscience; whereas Smith said God forced him into plural marriage at swordpoint and against his will.
What do you make of that?
So far, your only response has been that we should be obedient because that’s how we should be!
I don’t know how much more I can say. Angels are sent by God to give comfort, declare tidings of joy, and for any number of other reasons that suit His righteous purposes. Viewed on a timeline, Joseph Smith was given years to implement plural marriage. He dragged his feet – who wouldn’t? When in 1843 he caused to be written what would become Section 132, he could apparently dictate it from memory. Finally, he said not my will but Thine and proceeded. Neither his conscience nor anything else was “destroyed”; we can hardly view Joseph Smith thereafter as a shattered, ineffective soul, a shell of a man stumbling wide-eyed through the final two years of his life.
People have trials, some greater than others. Jesus pled to have the bitter cup removed but submitted to His Father’s will, and was strengthened by an angel to do so. Jonah fled in the opposite direction from his assignment but was eventually delivered to it by being coughed up by a fish, an experience that can’t be on too many bucket lists. Joseph Smith submitted to his Father’s will as well. Nothing was “destroyed” in so doing. Though continually hounded by enemies in and out of Nauvoo, he bore up until the end. He was in God’s good graces when he left this life, and still is. The angel with the drawn sword was vivid and dramatic, not a symbol of existential despair.
You’re a good man, John, but overthinking here.
What was destroyed were women. Now mormon women all over the world are not as equally important as men. Does God really think Women are more like cattle? They are used to produce “seed” for the kingdom and the when they can no longer do that they are put out in the pasture to be cared for but then a new wife is taken to produce even more seed. What matters is just the seed not the woman. Is this really what God wants? Seems like it. As a woman with daughters this seems abhorrent.
To me, as soon as threatening, force or fear are used to move people to do what is right, wether from angels or men, it rather seems inspired by the devil. The obvious lack of patience and kindness proove that only weaker means can be used to make people do what is right. I would not want to have anything to do with that sort of deceptive powers.
Equating Joseph Smith diddling children and other men’s wives, with Jesus Christ, is really quite astounding… And serves as testimony to the depth and completeness of the Mormon brainwashing process.