10 November 2008

God on Trial: The Rabbi Speaks

Rabbi Akiba: Who led us out of Egypt?

Judge: God led us out of Egypt.

Rabbi: I have a question. Why were we in Egypt to start with?

Judge: There was a famine, so we took shelter.

Rabbi: Who sent the famine?

Judge: Well we don't know much about the famine...

Rabbi: God sent the famine. So God sent us to Egypt and God took us out of Egypt.

Judge: And later he sent us out of Babylon in order that we might...

Rabbi: And when he brought us out of Egypt, how did he do it? By words, vision, miracle?

Judge: Moses asked Pharaoh...

Rabbi: And when Pharaoh said no?

Inmate: The plagues.

Rabbi: First Moses turned the Egyptians' water to blood. Then God sent the plague of frogs; next a plague of mosquitoes; then a plague of flies. Then he slew their livestock. Next a plague of boils. Next came the hail, which battered down the crops and even the trees and structures everywhere, except in Goshen where the Israelites lived.

Judge: But still Pharaoh did not agree.

Rabbi: And so a plague of locusts, and then the days of darkness, and finally what?

Judge: God slew the firstborn of Egypt and led us out of Egypt.

Rabbi: He struck down the firstborn, from the firstborn and heir of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the slave at the mill. He slew them all. Did he slay Pharaoh?

Judge: No, I don't think so. It was later.

Rabbi: It was Pharaoh that said no, but God let him live. And slew his children instead. All the children. And then the people made their escape taking with them the gold and silver and jewelry and garments of the Egyptians. And then God drowned the soldiers who pursued them. He did not close the waters up so that the soldier could not follow. He waited until they were following and then he closed the waters. And then what?

Judge: And then the desert and ultimately the promised land.

Rabbi: No. The promised land was empty and a new place, uncultivated.

Judge: No. There were...

Rabbi: When the Lord thy God shall bring you into the promised land you shall cast out many nations before you, nations much greater and mightier than you are. You shall smite them and utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Inmate: It shows us his favor. We are his people.

Rabbi: And he gave us a king in Saul. Now when the people of Amalek fought Saul's people, what did the Lord God command? I'll ask the scholar.

Scholar: Crush Amalek and put him under the curse of destruction.

Rabbi: Was Saul to show any mercy to spare anyone?

Scholar: Do not spare...

Rabbi: Do not spare him, but kill. Kill man, woman, babe, and suckling, ox, and sheep, cattle and donkey. So Saul set out to do this and on the way he met some Kenites. Now these were not Amalek's people, he had no quarrel with them. He urged them to flee. And the Lord our God was he pleased by the mercy of Saul, by the justice of Saul?

Scholar: No. No he wasn't.

Rabbi: And when Saul decided not to slaughter all the livestock and to take it to feed his people, was God pleased with his prudence, his charity?

Scholar: No.

Rabbi: No, he was not. He said, you have rejected the word of Adonai, therefore he has rejected you as king. And then to please the Lord our God, Samuel brought forth the king Agar and hacked him to pieces before the Lord at Gilgar.

After Saul there came David who took Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite to himself after arranging to have Uriah killed -- against the wishes of God. Did God strike David for this?

Scholar: In a manner of speaking...

Rabbi: Did he strike Bathsheba?

Scholar: In the sense that when they had...

Rabbi: Adonai said, since you have sinned against me, the child will die. (Turning to the judge) You asked earlier, who would punish a child? God does.

Rabbi: Now did the child die suddenly, mercifully, without pain?

Scholar: In a...

Rabbi: Seven days. Seven days that child spent dying in pain while David wrapped himself in sack and ashes and fasted and sought to show his sorrow to God. Did God listen?

Scholar: The child died.

Rabbi: Did that child find that God was just?

Did the Amalekites think that Adonai was just?

Did the mothers of Egypt -- the mothers -- did they think that Adonai was just?

Scholar: But Adonai is our God, surely...

Rabbi: Oh, what? Did God not make the Egyptians? Did he not make their rivers and make their crops grow? If not him, then who? What? Some other God? But what did he make them for? To punish them? To starve, to frighten, to slaughter them? The people of Amalek, the people of Egypt, what was it like for them when Adonai turned against them? It was like this.

Today there was a selection, yes? When David defeated the Moabites, what did he do?

Judge: He made them lie on the ground in lines and he chose one to live and two to die.

Rabbi: We have become the Moabites. We are learning how it was for the Amalekites. They faced extinction at the hand of Adonai. They died for his purpose. They fell as we are falling. They were afraid as we are afraid. And what did they learn? They learned that Adonai, the Lord our God, our God, is not good. He is not good. He was not ever good. He was only on our side.

God is not good. At the beginning when he repented that he had made human beings and flooded the earth. Why? What had they done to deserve annihilation? What could they have done to deserve such wholesale slaughter? What could they have done that was so bad? God is not good.

When he asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Abraham should have said no. We should have taught our God the justice that was in our hearts. We should have stood up to him. He is not good. He has simply been strong. He has simply been on our side.

When we were brought here, we were brought by train. A guard slapped my face. On their belts they had written "Got mit uns" -- God is with us. Who is to say that he is not? Perhaps he is. Is there any other explanation? What we see here: his power, his majesty, his might, all these things that turned against us. He is still God, but not our God. He has become our enemy.

That is what's happened to our covenant. He has made a new covenant with someone else.

God on Trial

Did you see "God on Trial" last night on PBS? If not, you can still watch it (sort of) online here. (Though if your computer is as slow as mine, the video can't keep up with the audio.)

I thought it was superb. Every aspect of the issue was fully developed and presented during the play. If anyone can find the script somewhere online, I'd love to have it. Otherwise I'll just have to transcribe portions of the trial myself so that I can present it here.

05 November 2008

The Seven Wonders of the Book of Mormon

OK, it's finally over. Sarah Palin has returned to Alaska and Barack Obama is our new president. I feel like a born again American.

So I'm in the mood for something completely different. How about something from the Book of Mormon?

Although you may have missed it, Donald Parry, a BYU professor, said at a recent Book of Mormon Lands Conference that the Book of Mormon is filled with "wonder upon wonder upon wonder." Here is his list of the seven wonders of the Book of Mormon.

But I think he left out the most wonderful wonders of all. Here is my list.

  1. The night before Jesus was born was as bright as day everywhere on earth.
    And it came to pass that ... the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying ... the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world ... It came to pass that ... behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness ... when the night came. ... [A]ll the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth. ... It came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was as light as though it was mid-day. It came to pass that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that it was the day that the Lord should be born, because of the sign which had been given. 3 Nephi 1:12-19
  2. For three days after Jesus died there was absolutely no light anywhere on earth -- not from the sun, moon, stars, candles, or campfires.
    This was prophesied in 6 BCE by a North American prophet. How amazing is that?
    And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy ... behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days. Helaman 14:1, 20

    And then in 34 CE it happened just like it was supposed to!

    And the people began to look with great earnestness for the sign which had been given by the prophet Samuel, the Lamanite, yea, for the time that there should be darkness for the space of three days over the face of the land ... ... It came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land.... And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled ... And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars. 3 Nephi 8:3, 20-22
  3. When Jesus died, the entire earth was deformed. Cities sunk into the sea and the inhabitants were drowned. Other cities were burned or destroyed by earthquakes. Highways were broken up and many people were carried away by whirlwinds.
    And now it came to pass that Samuel, the Lamanite, did prophesy ... But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death ... And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great. ... And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate. Helaman 14:1, 20, 23-25
    And there was also a great and terrible tempest; and there was terrible thunder, insomuch that it did shake the whole earth as if it was about to divide asunder ... And the city of Zarahemla did take fire. And the city of Moroni did sink into the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof were drowned. And the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah that in the place of the city there became a great mountain. ... And many great and notable cities were sunk, and many were burned, and many were shaken till the buildings thereof had fallen to the earth, and the inhabitants thereof were slain, and the places were left desolate. ... And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. 3 Nephi 8:6-17
  4. A voice from the sky was heard by every person on earth. (It was the voice of Jesus bragging about burning and drowning entire cities.)
    It came to pass that there was a voice heard among all the inhabitants of the earth, upon all the face of this land, crying: Wo, wo, wo unto this people; wo unto the inhabitants of the whole earth except they shall repent; for the devil laugheth, and his angels rejoice, because of the slain of the fair sons and daughters of my people; ... Behold, that great city Zarahemla have I burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof. And behold, that great city Moroni have I caused to be sunk in the depths of the sea, and the inhabitants thereof to be drowned. that great city Moronihah have I covered with earth, and the inhabitants thereof ... And behold, the city of Gilgal have I caused to be sunk, and the inhabitants thereof to be buried up in the depths of the earth; Yea, and the city of Onihah and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Mocum and the inhabitants thereof, and the city of Jerusalem and the inhabitants thereof; and waters have I caused to come up in the stead thereof, ... And behold, the city of Gadiandi, and the city of Gadiomnah, and the city of Jacob, and the city of Gimgimno, all these have I caused to be sunk, and made hills and valleys in the places thereof; and the inhabitants thereof have I buried up in the depths of the earth ... And behold, that great city Jacobugath, which was inhabited by the people of king Jacob, have I caused to be burned with fire ... And behold, the city of Laman, and the city of Josh, and the city of Gad, and the city of Kishkumen, have I caused to be burned with fire, and the inhabitants thereof ... And many great destructions have I caused to come upon this land, and upon this people ... Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God.... 3 Nephi 9:1-15

    (See 3 Nephi 10:3-6 and 11:3-51 for two other long speeches that Jesus delivered with his sky voice.)

  5. God darkens people's skin to punish them for being evil and to separate them from the good (white) people.
    And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity ... wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people. 2 Nephi 5:21-22
  6. God sometimes makes especially well-behaved dark-skinned people white and delightsome again!
    It came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites. 3 Nephi 2:14-16
  7. Jesus made the already white skin of the Nephites ever whiter so that they became as white as he was, whiter than anything else on earth.
    It came to pass that Jesus blessed them as they did pray unto him; and his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them, and behold they were as white as the countenance and also the garments of Jesus; and behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof ... And when Jesus had spoken these words he came again unto his disciples ... and behold they were white, even as Jesus. 3 Nephi 19:25-30