Friday, August 6, 2010
No Atheists in the Book of Mormon - or - Mormons Don't Belive in Atheists Part 1
I've decided to address the Mormon idea that atheists are not really atheists. When I told my bishop last year, a different one than now, that I was becoming an atheist he was nice and concerned and interested in meeting with me bi-weekly. Told me to come out to church, that doubt isn't uncommon (a good sign in my mind), and that it could take me a little while but I'd come back. I was truly open to having my faith renewed, and twice over the next year I sometimes felt like there could be a god afterall.
At one of those times, in the fall of 09, I told my bishop that I wanted a calling and that I felt more positive about God's existence. His remark was to give me whatever calling I wanted and he was happy I was coming back. But then, at the end of the meeting as I was leaving, he told me to come back soon. He mentioned, on the side, that people often leave the church for sinful reasons and need to repent, and if I needed to talk to him he would welcome it.
I think this is what probably started me back off the path. See, last year I had doubts but I also was still indoctrinated and didn't wish to become an 'Alma the younger' and fall away and then later feel bad and go to hell for three days. So I stayed pretty upright. I also hadn't left for any sinful reasons. For the bishop, who's an awesome guy but really fell into the normal Mormon way of dealing with atheists, to say that to me just offset me enough to begin to notice how the church views atheists in general. Much like how my current bishop, after asking about my unbelief, his second question was on my worthiness (though in relation to my ecc. endorsement).
I will approach this in a mock-scientific way, a hypothesis, if you will. I'm betting that I can go through the BoM with all the anti-Christ, and atheist characters, and that I will find not a single one truly denied god's existence. Each one will probably have done what they did because they wanted to be sinful, lied about Christ, and later admitted to believing in god. I may be wrong, I'm saying this off the top of my head. I don't think Nehor ever 'repented' but I think he believed in a god, just one that allowed sin. We shall soon see though.
I think there are 3 or 4 figures in the BoM that are anti-Christs. And I think the church takes its view of atheists from these. I will start with one example now and resume later.
Example Number 1 - Sherem, in Jacob 7. An anti-Christ (he denied the coming Christ) he was supposedly very good with words and flattery. In fact, he had a perfect knowledge of the language of the people, so I guess he knew every word and all the meanings to those words? He was also very 'learned' which is a bad thing in the LDS church.
So Jacob meets with Sherem, I'm guessing it wasn't too difficult cause even after 60 years about 20-40 people wouldn't have been grown that much. So Jacob tells him he is leading people away, and that Sherem speaks blasphemy, and this confounds Sherem, for whatever reason since I'm sure other people would have said similar things to him before.
But the point is reached here: Jacob asks if he believe in the scriptures and Sherem says he does. So he believes in scriptures? Then Sherem is like, 'show me a sign' and Jacob says 'okay', and Sherem collapses right there and then calls the people to his bedside later. He tells them he was deceived by the devil and that he always believed in the coming Jesus. So, an almost atheist who did bad things cause he wanted to or was tricked by Satan, but certainly not an atheist.
Also, the answer to this problem is surprisingly simple. For the people who had followed Sherem, much like a cult I'm sure, they felt bad but searched the scriptures and got better. So reading the scriptures is the answer. Actually, fasting, praying, and reading the scriptures always seem to be the answer for everything in the LDS church. How do you become godlike? Do these 3 things. How do you gain more talents? Well, use them, but also do these 3 things. How do we get blessings? Do these three things. Over and over. Read a book that you are told is true, pray as if you're talking to someone (would prayer be as easy if your eyes were open and you saw that the room was empty?), and stop eating for a while and ask for something from god for your suffering (which is a psychological effect of 'if I made myself go through with this it MUST mean something).
Times up for now, let's see how the double-date goes.