Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Why Did Laban Need to Die

The Book of Mormon starts out with an interesting story about the family and life of one young man, Nephi. In the course of the first few chapters, their life is uprooted by the local's desire to kill Nephi's father, and so they flee by the voice of god. When Nephi's father realizes, oops, they failed to bring scriptures along, god sends Nephi and his brothers on a quest back to Jerusalem to retrieve the original copy of the scriptures. They happen to be in the possession of a man named Laban. Why? I have no idea. He must have been a librarian, or curator, or inherited them.

Nephi and his brothers try every method they can think of to secure the scriptures, written on bound brass plates. From asking nicely to offering money. Laban is insulted, and threatens to kill them by their third unsolicited visit to take his property. I might be a teensy bit annoyed at this point as well. So Nephi and his brothers leave, defeated. His older brothers get carried away and beat the crap out of him. And after a bit, he decides to go back and do it himself.

Low and behold, he stumbles upon Laban, drunken to the point of unconsciousness in the street. God says, okay, here is his, kill him and then you can take the plates.
"Nephi Kills Laban" photo credit
Wait, What? You want me to kill him? Of course Nephi was uncomfortable. Not only was this an insane request, it went against the commandments, and probably his own personal morality.  God said, it's better that he perishes than your whole people parish in unbelief. So Nephi does the deed, takes Laban's clothes, steals the plates, and takes the book keeper along.


So, god commanded murder to get a book. Ah, but not just any book, scripture. The word of god, dictated to his prophets and transcribed onto the plates.


Written down by prophets.


Anyone else seeing the irony here? God asked Nephi to kill an innocent man because he didn't want to give up scriptures, when Nephi had his very own prophet daddy at home who could have easily written down the books of scripture through revelation from god.

Nephi also had the option of noticing Laban drunk, gone to the library, created a diversion to get the book keeper out and stolen them. He ended up taking the dang book keeper along anyways, maybe he could have just lied and said Laban said he could borrow them. Or offered the guy his freedom up front and they could have left together. Or! Laban was drunk, he still could have taken his clothes and impersonated him.

So why did Laban need to die?

Obedience. God is obsessed with obedience. Not morality, obedience. God has defied what is commonly accepted as ethical and moral for the sake of obedience. 

Example: Nephi and Laban

Example: Israelites and Canaanites (The children of Cane were thought to be the a fallen race, and the children were punished for the disobedience of the father. And they were made to be slaves, killed as children outside of the covenant, and just all around poorly treated)

Example: The genocide of the Hittites (god commanded the slaughter of every man woman child infant and animal {save the virgins who were spoils of war}, which is unethical and amoral. How can we say he was a loving god when he was happy to slay babies and women?)

Example: Esther marrying out of the covenant (marrying outside of the covenant was a nono, and subject to shunning, banishment, stoning, disowning, loss of birthright etc. And yet Esther had to marry outside of the covenant to be queen and get the king to not kill her people. So it was marital coercion in which god acted out his will that time around)

Example: Young pregnant virgin (do you really think Mary had a choice in the story? not only was she unmarried, she was under age, if she was only espoused, she was near to or just going through puberty. Which means her body wasn't physically mature to carry a child. And in her patriarchal culture, she would have been legally stoned to death for a pregnancy out of wedlock. If the sanctity of marriage and sex was so important to god, why did he bring his chosen son to the world in such a repulsive manner?)

Example: death to every first born in egypt (murder is bad, especially innocent babies, not that all were babies, but how many were children under the age of accountability who had committed no wrong? all to prove a point to the Pharaoh?) 

Example: Polygammy (so many times in the scriptures it say to have more than one wife is amoral, it's also unethical and unfair treatment of women, but church members were called to obey this "law" even though it went against the current laws of the land)

Example: slavery (slaves obey your masters, where is the morality or agency here?)

Example: Job (the agency of all of the people around Job was essentially taken away and morality thrown to the wind to show Job's obedience. Why did they not have a choice? If church members believe Satan can only temp and not force, how was he able to "tempt" so effectively everyone in Job's life? It seems like god had a hand in it to prove a point that Job was in fact blindly obedient to a fault)

Example: women are property (how is this moral or ethical? Of course, this isn't current, this is biblical, but it is still sick and wrong. And it was sanctioned by god. How could a god treat his "precious daughters" as property?)

Example: the flood that killed every man, woman, child, suckling baby, animal and insect in existence except one family. (I don't think this needs explanation......)


So it has never been a question of morality. Which is strange, because LDS doctrine affirms eternal laws and eternal morality, or objectivism. When their own doctrine is the antithesis of objectivism. It's all subjective. It all changes. Well, they say, god makes the rules, god can break the rules. Which also goes against the doctrine of god is bound by eternal laws.

So what are these eternal laws? Gravity? Evolution? I always thought that god made commandments based on objectivism, like murder is always wrong. But it seems like the scriptures are littered with god sanctioned killing. Holy wars, pity killing, scarifies, punishment. Don't kill, unless god tells you to, then its okay. That sure opens up a can of worms allowing people to claim absolution in god's name.

So again, it has never been about morality. It has been about obedience to god's subjectivity. Call me crazy, but I think that is ridiculous.

Why did Laban have to die for Nephi to prove his obedience? Why was that important to his eternal salvation? Let's take it a bit further. Why is any experience necessary for eternal salvation? If god was a fair god, he'd make it the same across the board. Instead, he lets some children be raped, some nursing mothers starve and watch their children die, some people suffer through cancer, some people get shot up in a public setting by a maniac, some people go to "war" and be away from their family because the price of oil is going up. Its sick. It really is. Why are any of these experiences necessary to gain salvation? And why does one person get to have the trial of living in a lavish mansion and not being able to find the right brand of caviar, while another wastes away from cholera? 

Well, god knows what each of us need. Tell me please! Explain this to me how a 10 year old girl in Bangladesh needs to work long hours each day in a fire hazard factory getting paid less than 10 cents to sew my shirt? Why is it necessary for that five year old boy in the monastery to be assaulted by his superior every night? Why does a morbid elderly woman need to "endure" to the end as she slowly bleeds to death in her brain?

Either god is a sadistic narcissist, or he simply doesn't exist. I'd much rather not have god exist, than know that he does and happily allows and often commands the evils of the world. 

Do I believe the Book of Mormon is true? No, so I don't believe the story of Laban and Nephi. I do believe it points out a very sick part of religion though, particularly the LDS religion, where obedience to god (the prophet in charge at the time) is what secures your salvation. And we mustn't forget the gobs of money required to fuel god's empire and build multimillion dollar malls and invest stock in word of wisdom fails like Burger King.

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