A note on a proposed Book of Mormon geography

This is a somewhat technical and fairly esoteric essay.

But, given how badly the author I review stumbles, and given the rather unpleasant way he engages in the discussion and treats those with whom he disagrees, I think it was worth doing.

I don’t expect it will alter any views, but I think we need to at least call attention to bad reasoning and problematic claims, especially when authors or those selling a product use them as a springboard for other things.


Timely quotes on the passing scene–Part 7: Other scriptures

Book of Mormon:

Therefore I say unto you, that he that will not hear my voice, the same shall ye not receive into my church, for him I will not receive at the last day. Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge according to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. 30 Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me….Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward….

And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the word of the Lord. And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. (Mosiah 26:28-36)



Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened.  For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?  do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth.  Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. (1 Corinthians 5:6-13)

Shame versus shame

John Gee found a great quote from Gordon B. Hinckley:

We live in an age of compromise and acquiescence. In situations with which we are daily confronted, we know what is right, but under pressure from our peers and the beguiling voices on those who would persuade us, we capitulate. We compromise. We acquiesce. We give in, and we are ashamed of ourselves. . . . We must cultivate the strength to follow our convictions. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 135, ellipses in source.)

The interesting thing is that if we succumb to such urgings, we are ashamed of ourselves–or ought to be.

But, one could add that if one will not succumb, those who have tried to persuade us–often with protestations of good will and friendship (for it is difficult to beguile with a severe tone)–will typically turn quickly, and resort to shaming of their own.

It is, in fact, precisely this tactic that Nephi sees in vision: “after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed….And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost” (1 Nephi 8:25, 28).

Being scoffed at is never pleasant, but I regard it as a sign of success. Scoffing is an admission of intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy–it is not an argument, it is a tantrum (compare Moses 1:19).

This should not be surprising, though it often seems so. The adversary–like those who endorse his tactics–“is permissive on most things, but not on granting passports for citizens to leave his realm.” [Neal A. Maxwell, Deposition of a Disciple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 11–12.]

Indeed, a key article of un-faith is that Satan’s realm is both preeminent, and all that matters. Only a fool would ignore it or not want to be a part of it….right?

Fellow thralls can expect bonhomie and courtesy; aliens passing by, never. Which is strange for a realm in which “tolerance” is a watchword, but it is tolerance or permissiveness within rigidly circumscribed boundaries.

Don’t believe me? Just try transgressing one.

Comraderie in the great and spacious building

In some of us there is such a deep need for comraderie and acceptance that, insincerely, we throw in with prevailing opinions or groups. We may think we are only setting aside a small principle for a small moment. But almost always it turns out to be much more.

– Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will But Thine (Bookcraft, 1988).

I think the greatest attraction of the great and spacious building is the esprit de corps one enjoys from being part of the crowd with their pointing fingers. It’s as lovely a in-group, out-group image as you’d ever wish to see.

After all, what is the fun of being informed, enlightened, wise, and sophisticated if one cannot point it out and have it acknowledged?

This is the only explanation (aside from pure sociopathy) that makes sense of some of what I’ve seen.

Not, of course, that I’m ruling out sociopathy in all cases.

But, as with all such observations, we are quickly turned back on ourselves: ‘Lord, is it I?’

The BYU’s versus University of Utah’s: Elder Maxwell on different forums

Not long after I became Commissioner of Church Education, way back in 1970, I asked if I might briefly teach an honors class at BYU. I had been teaching an honors class at the University of Utah on American political ideas and wanted to see how the “U” and the “Y” students compared. I found what I expected–that the BYU students were every bit as bright and enjoyable as were the students at the University of Utah. There was only one difference: at a state university, and quite properly, I could not inject gospel concepts into my teaching, such as pertained to the nature of man and therefore to what kind of government is best for man, and so forth. This may seem a small point, but in fact the opportunity for the infusion of gospel concepts confers a major advantage associated with being a disciple-scholar.

-Neal A. Maxwell, “The Disciple Scholar,” in On Becoming a Disciple–Scholar, edited by Henry B. Eying (Bookcraft, Salt Lake, 1995), 1-2.

How ironic it is when those who could introduce gospel concepts or perspectives into their declarations decline to do so.[1]

This is sometimes because they feel such perspectives are irrelevant, or have nothing to offer. But, such choices usually arise out of a fear that there will be mockery or dismissal (the worst kind of mockery, sometimes) from the secular galleries to which they play.

And, the risk from those galleries is very real, in some domains. People who want a secular career in such matters are perhaps well-advised not to rock the boat, not to stand out, and certainly not to threaten the prevailing orthodoxies. And so, their personal reluctance is understandable. We cannot, after all, expect to speak out only when doing so is popular and comfortable. We are told, rather, to expect the reverse.

Sadly, though, those who decline to discuss matters of particular interest to the Saints are not content with their own silence.

Instead, they often turn to attack and marginalize those who have chosen differently–often handing out the same disparagement and mockery which they have feared in their turn, lest their silence be seen by the Big Brother gallery as consent.

And thus, fear of mockery or marginalization leads to marginalization and mockery of another. But, such things are not new, and have long been predicted:

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost….And great was the multitude that did enter into that strange building. And after they did enter into that building they did point the finger of scorn at me and those that were partaking of the fruit also; but we heeded them not….For as many as heeded them, had fallen away. (1 Nephi 8:28, 33-34)

This was an image to which Elder Maxwell returned frequently. I suspect he saw its fulfillment throughout his career in government, politics, and education. After all, those are all domains in which such tendencies are magnified, not lessened.

Brothers and sisters, we dare not hold back the restored gospel’s declaratives! We dare not hold back the reassuring revelations and truth-telling translations about “things as they really are, and … things as they really will be.” These are so needed by those whose weary hands hang down because they suffer from doctrinal anemia, which can best be treated by the red blood cells of the Restoration (see Jacob 4:13). To hold back would be to restrain repentance and to obscure the beckoning spiritual alternative, which will become “fair as the sun, and clear as the moon” (see D&C 105:31).

Meanwhile, let us expect that many will regard us indifferently. Others will see us as quaint or misled. Let us bear the pointing fingers which, ironically, belong to those finally who, being bored, find the “great and spacious building” to be a stale and cramped third-class hotel (see 1 Ne. 8:31–33). Let us revile not the revilers and heed them not (see D&C 31:9). Instead, let us use our energy to hold up the shield of faith to quench the incoming fiery darts—aided perhaps by a touch of spiritual Teflon (see 1 Ne. 15:24).

– Neal A. Maxwell, “How Choice a Seer,” general conference, October 2003.

Happily, there are still some who seek to fulfill that vision and duty.

But, it is chilling when those who can in places they could decide they won’t–and neither will anyone else.

Who better to shout down the believers than fellow believers?

[1] Speaking of such things is, as Elder Maxwell noted, clearly inappropriate in (say) a publicly funded school system, or a government office serving the entire community. I—like Elder Maxwell—am here referring to venues and circumstances for which there is no ethical or moral impediment to so speaking. This refers to the BYUs of our lives, not the University of Utah’s–the public square of demonstrative discourse, not the public school of the captive audience.

On our duties to those we forgive

Someone asked me recently about duties toward those who harm us seriously–the profound betrayals of trust, the abusers, and so forth.

To be sure, we are to forgive them. But, does this forgiveness necessarily involve a restoration of our previous relationship, in all its dimensions?

I do not think so. We must forgive everyone, but everyone is not entitled to our faith, our trust, or our intimacy. (They may regain it, of course, but that depends upon them and their actions, not upon us or our forgiveness.)

To use a well-worn example, Jesus forgave the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross, but upon his resurrection he did not visit those same soldiers and sit down to a meal of fish and honeycomb with them. They had not demonstrated themselves ready or worthy of such an association.

Surely the Lord does not expect us to expose ourselves again to repeated abuse or manipulation by a parent or spouse, for example. We have moral agency, and need not acquiesce in our own abuse or mistreatment. We forgive everyone; we would likely only trust or have confidence in someone who had repented and changed—and, sadly, not everyone does or will.

Joseph F. Smith illustrated the proper way between two extremes:

I feel in my heart to forgive all men in the broad sense that God requires of me to forgive all men, and I desire to love my neighbor as myself; and to this extent I bear no malice toward any of the children of my Father…

Some of our good Latter–day Saints have become so exceedingly good that they cannot tell the difference between a Saint of God, an honest man, and a son of Beelzebub, who has yielded himself absolutely to sin and wickedness. And they call that liberality, broadness of mind, exceeding love. I do not want to become so blinded with love for my enemies that I cannot discern between light and darkness, between truth and error, between good and evil, but I hope to live so that I shall have sufficient light in me to discern between error and truth, and to cast my lot on the side of truth and not on the side of error and darkness. The Lord bless the Latter–day Saints. If I am too narrow with reference to these matters, I hope that the wisdom of my brethren and the Spirit of Light from the Lord may broaden my soul…

There are those —and they abound largely in our midst —who will shut their eyes to every virtue and to every good thing connected with this latter–day work, and will pour out floods of falsehood and misrepresentation against the people of God. I forgive them for this. I leave them in the hands of the just Judge. Let him deal with them as seemeth him good, but they are not and cannot become my bosom companions. I cannot condescend to that. While I would not harm a hair of their heads, while I would not throw a straw in their path, to hinder them from turning from the error of their way to the light of truth; I would as soon think of taking a centipede or a scorpion, or any poisonous reptile, and putting it into my bosom, as I would think of becoming a companion or an associate of such men.

– President Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report (October 1907): 5–6; also in Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1986), 337.

The mistake against which he speaks is that of a false, or we might say “wicked,” tolerance. We need not accept or endorse anything and everything simply to be thought “tolerant.” This kind of tolerance is dishonest–we pretend that certain actions do not bother us, when they do (or ought to). Additionally, it also winks at sin and may encourage it. It denies that serious matters are truly serious. It minimizes or denies sin, instead of recognizing its depth.

This is not forgiveness, so much as it is a denial that there is anything much to forgive.

If we are not careful, our supposed broadness of mind can lead us into the broad roads and wide gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13; 1 Nephi 12:17; 3 Nephi 14:13).