23 November 2014

Fox News loses Scripture Showdown with President Obama

In his recent immigration speech, President Obama referred to scripture, saying:
Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.
Which is an accurate statement of Commandment 88:
Thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9
And which also, of course, upset the true believers at Fox News. Here is what they had to say about it at Fox and Friends:

Steve Doocy began by saying:

So there the president of the United States in Cross Hall at the White House invoking scriptures, which I believe have to do with feeding the poor and hungry, and nothing about visas.
But Mr. Doocy's belief here is incorrect. The president's reference was nearly a direct quote of Exodus 23:9, which says nothing at all about feeding the poor and hungry, but rather how "strangers" ("immigrants" in The Common English Bible) should be treated. The Bible commands believers not to oppress immigrants. And that seems relevant to the immigration and visa policy debate.

Then came Elizabeth Hasselback, who began quoting scripture herself, challenging the president to a "Scripture Showdown" (begins at about 1:54):

I'm just saying, Proverbs 11:14, since we are in a scripture showdown: Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Proverbs 12:15

From which, I guess, we are supposed to conclude that President Obama is a fool for not taking the advice of congressional Republicans. (Seems like a risky thing to say in light of Jesus's words in Matthew 5:22.)

And finally, Tucker Carlson says (2:48) this:

But to quote scripture? That is totally out of bounds -- that is just out of bounds!

Which is really interesting, since less than 48 hours earlier, Fox News complained that President Obama didn't quote the Bible enough. Now, when he quotes the Bible in his speech on immigration, it "is totally out of bounds."

Of course, I (more or less) agree with Mr. Carlson here. It is out of bounds. The Bible is worse than useless as a guide to government and public policy (or anything else). In this case, the president referred to one of the Bible's few good commandments. But what if he decided to impose Commandment 87 instead of 88?

Not even Fox News would go along with that one!

20 November 2014

Alma 31: The Zoramites

After Korihor was *Ahem* dealt with, Alma heard of another problem in the land. Apparently the Zoramites, in the land east of Zarahemla called Antionum, were perverting the ways of the Lord. This concerned Alma because they might gang up with the Lamanites, and that could be really bad for his people. He considered his options, and decided that preaching to them would be better than fighting them, because in his mind, "it [preaching] had a much more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, that happened unto them". 

Now it came to pass that after the end of Korihor, Alma having received tidings that the Zoramites were perverting the ways of the Lord, and that Zoram, who was their leader, was leading the hearts of the people to bow down to dumb idols, his heart again began to sicken because of the iniquity of the people. 31.1
For it was the cause of great sorrow to Alma to know of iniquity among his people; therefore his heart was exceedingly sorrowful because of the separation of the Zoramites from the Nephites. 31.2
Now the Zoramites had gathered themselves together in a land which they called Antionum, which was east of the land of Zarahemla, which lay nearly bordering upon the seashore, which was south of the land of Jershon, which also bordered upon the wilderness south, which wilderness was full of the Lamanites. 31.3
Now the Nephites greatly feared that the Zoramites would enter into a correspondence with the Lamanites, and that it would be the means of great loss on the part of the Nephites. 31.4
And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God. 31.5
Alma gathered together the dream team: Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Amulek and Zeezrom, and two of his sons: Shiblon and Corianton. He left Aaron's brother Himni and his son Helamon to hold down the fort.
Therefore he took Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner; and Himni he did leave in the church in Zarahemla; but the former three he took with him, and also Amulek and Zeezrom, who were at Melek; and he also took two of his sons. 31.6 
Now the eldest of his sons he took not with him, and his name was Helaman; but the names of those whom he took with him were Shiblon and Corianton; and these are the names of those who went with him among the Zoramites, to preach unto them the word. 31.7
Alma and his crew had a tough job ahead of them. Not only had the Zoramites stopped praying to God, they were actively involved in another cultlike religion. They had built "synagogues" that were almost like pyramids, where only one man could pray at once. He would climb to the top of the synagogue, stretch his hands toward the sky, and recite a prayer in a loud voice.

Here is an artistic rendition of a Zoramite synagogue, from LDS.org

Now the Zoramites were dissenters from the Nephites; therefore they had had the word of God preached unto them. 31.8
But they had fallen into great errors, for they would not observe to keep the commandments of God, and his statutes, according to the law of Moses. 31.9
Neither would they observe the performances of the church, to continue in prayer and supplication to God daily, that they might not enter into temptation. 31.10
Yea, in fine, they did pervert the ways of the Lord in very many instances; therefore, for this cause, Alma and his brethren went into the land to preach the word unto them. 31.11
Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld; 31.12
For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. 31.13
Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying: 31.14

Here is the prayer (verses 15-18). Apparently every single Zoramite would recite this same prayer. (It must have taken a while.)

Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ. 31.16
But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.  31.17
And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen. 31.18
For behold, every man did go forth and offer up these same prayers. 31.20

Alma and his brethren were pretty shocked when they heard this prayer for the first time.
Now it came to pass that after Alma and his brethren and his sons had heard these prayers, they were astonished beyond all measure. 31.19
And the second time. And the third time. And the 4th time. Yes, every single Zoramite made this exact same prayer once a week, and then they just went home and carried on with their lives until the next week, when they did the same thing again.
Now, from this stand they did offer up, every man, the selfsame prayer unto God, thanking their God that they were chosen of him, and that he did not lead them away after the tradition of their brethren, and that their hearts were not stolen away to believe in things to come, which they knew nothing about. 31.22 
Now, after the people had all offered up thanks after this manner, they returned to their homes, never speaking of their God again until they had assembled themselves together again to the holy stand, to offer up thanks after their manner. 31.23
While observing them, Alma also happened to notice that they were wicked, greedy, perverse people who bragged all the time.
Now when Alma saw this his heart was grieved; for he saw that they were a wicked and a perverse people; yea, he saw that their hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods. 31.24 
Yea, and he also saw that their hearts were lifted up unto great boasting, in their pride. 31.25
Alma finishes up the chapter with a long prayer to God, asking him to give them strength and success in converting the Zoramites. The prayer worked, and Alma and his brethren were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now it came to pass that when Alma had said these words, that he clapped his hands upon all them who were with him. And behold, as he clapped his hands upon them, they were filled with the Holy Spirit. 31.36
Alma's fellowship then split up to go preaching to the Zoramites. They didn't stop to think about what they would eat, drink, or wear during their mission. As luck would have it, though, God cast a magic spell on them so they wouldn't have to eat or drink during their mission, and they would have extra strength. How cool is that?
And after that they did separate themselves one from another, taking no thought for themselves what they should eat, or what they should drink, or what they should put on. 31.37 
And the Lord provided for them that they should hunger not, neither should they thirst; yea, and he also gave them strength, that they should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ. Now this was according to the prayer of Alma; and this because he prayed in faith. 31.38

19 November 2014

EJ&T Deuteronomy 15: Cancel all debts every seventh year

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Cancel all debts every seven years.
  2. This law only applies to Jews. Loans made to Gentiles remain in effect during "the Lord's release."

    At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release. Deuteronomy 15:1-3

  3. Lend money to other nations.
  4. Thou shalt lend unto many nations. Deuteronomy 15:6a

  5. Don't borrow money from other nations.
  6. Thou shalt not borrow [from other nations]. Deuteronomy 15:6b

  7. Don't do any work with your firstborn bull.
  8. thou shalt do no work with the firstling of thy bullock. Deuteronomy 15:19

  9. Don't shear your firstborn sheep.
  10. Thou shalt not ... shear the firstling of thy sheep. Deuteronomy 15:19

  11. Eat your firstborn bulls and sheep in the place where God chooses.
  12. Thou shalt eat it before the LORD thy God year by year in the place which the LORD shall choose, thou and thy household. Deuteronomy 15:20

Alma 30: Korihor (part 2)

This post picks up where the last one leaves off.  If you remember, Korihor, (the Anti-Christ!) was arrested for criticizing the church, and brought before the high priest of the land of Gideon, who, after interrogating him, didn't really know what to do with him. He decided to send him to Alma, the chief judge over all the land.

And it came to pass that when he was brought before Alma and the chief judge. Alma 30.30a
When Korihor arrived, he continued to "blaspheme" just like he did before.
...he did go on in the same manner as he did in the land of Gideon; yea, he went on to blaspheme. 30.30b
He was a little more specific with his criticisms of Alma, though. In addition to accusing the church of being wrong about their prophecies, the afterlife, etc., he also accused the church leadership of enriching themselves off of the members of the church. Alma was quick to defend himself against this charge. And I have to admit, the Book of Mormon makes this very clear: the church leaders were not paid for their work. It was an all-volunteer operation, except a small per-diem payment to judges (1 senine of gold, or a senum of silver per day in court).

And he did rise up in great swelling words before Alma, and did revile against the priests and teachers, accusing them of leading away the people after the silly traditions of their fathers, for the sake of glutting on the labors of the people. 30.31
Now Alma said unto him: Thou knowest that we do not glut ourselves upon the labors of this people; for behold I have labored even from the commencement of the reign of the judges until now, with mine own hands for my support, notwithstanding my many travels round about the land to declare the word of God unto my people. 30.32 
And notwithstanding the many labors which I have performed in the church, I have never received so much as even one senine for my labor; neither has any of my brethren, save it were in the judgment-seat; and then we have received only according to law for our time. 30.33 
And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren? 30.34
Alma then pivots to the more pressing issue of the existence of God. Korihor denies that God exists, and then Alma says, "Will you deny it again? I'm telling you, God exists, bro."
 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? 30.37 
 And he answered, Nay. 30.38 
 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come. 30.39

Alma then uses the oldest trick in the book: shifting the burden of proof. He asks Korihor to provide evidence that God doesn't exist.  After all, he had the testimonies of others. Alma also accused Korihor of being possessed by the devil, just for good measure.

And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only. 30.40
But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true? 30.41
Behold, I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God. 30.42
Korihor asked Alma for a sign, and that then he would believe in God. But Alma wasn't having it. Weren't the testimonies of his brethren and the holy prophets enough for Korihor? Even the motion of the earth and the animals on it prove that there is a God. What else do you need?

 43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words. 30.43 

 44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. 30.44

Korihor sticks to his guns. He wants a sign, or he will continue to lead people away from the church.
And yet do ye go about, leading away the hearts of this people, testifying unto them there is no God? And yet will ye deny against all these witnesses? And he said: Yea, I will deny, except ye shall show me a sign. 30.45

Alma warns Korihor that if he continues down this path, that he will "lose his soul". (Stop asking for a sign, man! Don't you know that God doesn't like that?) Alma warns Korihor that if he keeps denying God and asking for a sign, then he'll get a sign all right: God will strike him dumb, and he will never speak again.

And now it came to pass that Alma said unto him: Behold, I am grieved because of the hardness of your heart, yea, that ye will still resist the spirit of the truth, that thy soul may be destroyed. 30.46
But behold, it is better that thy soul should be lost than that thou shouldst be the means of bringing many souls down to destruction, by thy lying and by thy flattering words; therefore if thou shalt deny again, behold God shall smite thee, that thou shalt become dumb, that thou shalt never open thy mouth any more, that thou shalt not deceive this people any more. 30.47
Korihor quickly clarifies his position, that he's not denying the existence of a god, but he doesn't believe that there is one, until he is shown a sign. This seems pretty reasonable, but it's enough for Alma to curse him in the name of God. So Korihor got his sign, after all!

Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe. 30.48
Now Alma said unto him: This will I give unto thee for a sign, that thou shalt be struck dumb, according to my words; and I say, that in the name of God, ye shall be struck dumb, that ye shall no more have utterance. 30.49
Now when Alma had said these words, Korihor was struck dumb, that he could not have utterance, according to the words of Alma. 30.50
Then Alma taunts him a bit. "What do you think about God, now? Huh? Do you have any doubts anymore? Can you speak up a bit, I can't hear you... What's the matter, cat-got-your-tongue?"
And now when the chief judge saw this, he put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor, saying: Art thou convinced of the power of God? In whom did ye desire that Alma should show forth his sign? Would ye that he should afflict others, to show unto thee a sign? Behold, he has showed unto you a sign; and now will ye dispute more? 30.51
Korihor grabs a notebook or something* and writes a quick note to Alma, explaining how he now believes in God, and how the devil made him deny God's existence, and everything else that Alma wanted to hear. He pleaded with him to make the curse go away, but Alma told him that he wasn't going to, because then he would continue to lead people away from the church.
And Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying: I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God. 30.52
But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me. 30.53
Now when he had said this, he besought that Alma should pray unto God, that the curse might be taken from him. 30.54
But Alma said unto him: If this curse should be taken from thee thou wouldst again lead away the hearts of this people; therefore, it shall be unto thee even as the Lord will. 30.55

Korihor became a beggar from that point on.

And it came to pass that the curse was not taken off of Korihor; but he was cast out, and went about from house to house begging for his food. 30.56
Then something really interesting happened. The story of Korihor spread like wildfire, but that wasn't enough for Alma. Alma make a proclamation throughout the land, threatening all of the other unbelievers that God would strike them dumb too, if the didn't "speedily repent". So much for freedom of religion!
Now the knowledge of what had happened unto Korihor was immediately published throughout all the land; yea, the proclamation was sent forth by the chief judge to all the people in the land, declaring unto those who had believed in the words of Korihor that they must speedily repent, lest the same judgments would come unto them. 30.57
So everybody repented. And Korihor continued begging. Obviously.
 58 And it came to pass that they were all convinced of the wickedness of Korihor; therefore they were all converted again unto the Lord; and this put an end to the iniquity after the manner of Korihor. And Korihor did go about from house to house, begging food for his support. 30.58

Eventually he tried to beg from the Zoramites, and he was killed. I guess they had very strict laws against panhandling over there.
And it came to pass that as he went forth among the people, yea, among a people who had separated themselves from the Nephites and called themselves Zoramites, being led by a man whose name was Zoram—and as he went forth amongst them, behold, he was run upon and trodden down, even until he was dead. 30.59
And thus we see the end of him who perverteth the ways of the Lord; and thus we see that the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell. 30.60

*I wonder what Korihor was writing on. You'd think that if they had paper, then all of their records wouldn't be chiseled onto golden plates... And how many people back then were literate?

18 November 2014

EJ&T Deuteronomy 14: Don't make any baldness between your eyes for dead people or eat any abominable thing

In the Every Jot and Tittle project, I am listing all of the Bible's commandments from Genesis to Revelation, in accordance with Jesus's words in Matthew 5:18-19. I have no idea how many commandments I'll find, but Jewish tradition claims there are 613. See here for a list of those that I've found so far.

  1. Don't make any baldness between your eyes for dead people.
  2. Ye shall not ... make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. Deuteronomy 14:1

  3. Don't eat any abominable thing.
  4. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing. Deuteronomy 14:3

  5. Eat these animals: oxen, sheep, goats, harts, roebucks, fallow deer, pygargs, and chamois.
  6. These are the beasts which ye shall eat: the ox, the sheep, and the goat, The hart, and the roebuck, and the fallow deer, and the wild goat, and the pygarg, and the wild ox, and the chamois. Deuteronomy 14:4-5

  7. Eat clean birds.
  8. Of all clean birds ye shall eat. Deuteronomy 14:11

    All clean fowls ye may eat. Deuteronomy 14:20

  9. Don't eat animals that die by themselves. Feed them to strangers or sell them to aliens.
  10. Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien. Deuteronomy 14:21