Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Book of Mormon Lesson #4

Posted by cherylem on January 27, 2008

I apologize for posting this too late to be helpful, but maybe it will do someone some good four years from now!

I’m attaching the materials (knowing that I’m late and not wanting to work with the formatting to get all the stuff into a blog post).

My lesson emphasized what “repentance” might mean, what “righteousness” might mean, and how the Church of the Devil is defined. We used scriptures from throughout the standard works.

I had three handouts.

The first (BOM #4 handout) was my actual class structure.

The 2nd (wrath of God) is building on an idea that I began last year in the NT: the wrath of God can almost always be read as the “absence” of God, or the “separation” from God. The notes aren’t actually much on this document, however – just a listing of scriptures which I would have discussed if I had the time.

The 3rd (Theme of war in 1 Nephi 12-14) was, again, just a sketch that emphasized how war played into the whole discussion of the great and abominable church.

Some of the material in the BOM #4 handout – the characteristics of the Church of the Devil – came from Mack Stirling notes (Institute Class) of about a decade ago.

Here are the attachments.

BOM #4 handout

Wrath of God

War Theme 1 Nephi 12-14

13 Responses to “Book of Mormon Lesson #4”

  1. tiara said

    don’t worry, cherylm. In our stake we already had a stake conference so we will be doing #4 next week. It’s not too late to be useful and I’m sure we’re not the only stake like that.

  2. brianj said

    Cheryl: these notes are great! I especially liked the notes on the wrath of God and your detailed description of repentance. (You can see my comment over on Nathan’s post to read how I look at this “turning”.)

    I’m also interest in your discussion of the great and abominable church. We focused on that in my class, too. I was fortunate to have a high counselor speak in sacrament meeting right before my class, because he made the point (very clearly) that there is a difference between the Lord’s church (i.e., the LDS Church) and the kingdom of God. That helped me to make the point that membership in the LDS Church does not equate to membership in the Church of the Lamb, that Mormons can very well be members of the Church of the Devil, etc.

    Our discussion was especially focused on the word “covenant” and how it is emphasized by the angel (thanks, Robert, for pointing me to this!). We discussed the differences between the two churches in terms of how they view covenants. What are your thoughts?

  3. Cherylem said

    Brian,
    For me the jury is still out in discussions regarding law, covenant, etc. My gut tells me we are prone to misreading most of these texts quite badly. I haven’t joined in any of these discussions for this very reason – I am not yet sure what I want to say.

    Interestingly, Mark Kinzer, a messianic Jewish rabbi that I’ve mentioned before, loves the Hebrew Bible (our OT) convenant theology – he believes Christ IS the Mosaic law, and all (but I’m not sure what he means by “all) aspects of the law are aspects of Christ. So he has a great regard for that ancient covenant. (At least I think that is what he believes). See his book here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Postmissionary-Messianic-Judaism-Redefining-Engagement/dp/1587431521/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1201820835&sr=8-1

    and his congregation here:

    http://www.cza-annarbor.org/

    The few discussions I’ve had with Mark about this caused me to take a step back from anything I’ve believed about convenant theology previously. He gets this in ways I’ve only begun to think about. But I don’t know enough to say more than that, unfortunately. And I think Mark’s congregation (though perhaps not Mark himself) runs the danger of elitism, as we also do.

    As we move through the Book of Mormon, perhaps I can say more about this later.

    Regarding turning, you said in the post you referenced:

    “Let me cut to the important point: We say “this life is a test” and we quote Abraham 3:25. My question: “What is the question on that test, and is it a trick question?” Abraham says that the question is “Will you do everything I tell you to?” There are those who respond, “Yes,” and then live their lives trying to live up to that promise, do all they are commanded, etc. (i.e., live the law perfectly). As you point out above, we all fall short and so we are doomed—if this is our “answer”—to fail the test.

    “But suppose it is a trick question. Suppose that it’s not as important whether or not we do “all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command,” as it is that we enjoy trying.

    “To draw an analogy with repentance: Do I dread repentance, but hold my nose and “go through the steps”? Or do I look forward to every opportunity to repent, relishing the feeling of drawing nearer to my God?”

    My response when I read this the other day and yes – today also – is a general cringing regarding the obedience issue. Abraham 3:25 reads: And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

    This question is particularly Abrahamic, because we all know how obedient Abraham was. Abraham has become our model for obedience. So the question, in context asked about human beings before the creation of the world, can also be read to apply to the man who we say wrote this text: Abraham. It is THE question of the Abrahamic test generally. Will Abraham do everything God, or the gods, require him to do?

    About here my brain shuts down. This whole issue of absolute obedience, otherwise known as the Abrahamic test, is too much for me. God required something of Abraham, we are told, that should never be required of anyone: human sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own son. This was Abraham’s cruel and evil test.

    When we compare Jesus to Isaac as the sacrificed son we are basically saying we believe in human sacrifice, and that our religion is founded on human sacrifice, a human sacrifice that God required. This is repugnant to me.

    You ask if this is a trick question. (will we do everything God commands, even as, it is inferred, Abraham?). Perhaps there are advantages to not being Abraham or even desiring perfect obedience. If God commands me to do something like that, I will refuse. If he commands my husband, I will do everything in my power to see that obedience does not happen.

    So perhaps it is a trick question. Or perhaps we are misunderstanding the text. Jewish thinkers have struggled and struggled with this story, but at least they don’t, universally, automatically assume Abraham did good. Maybe the trick was that Abraham should have said no. When it became apparent he wasn’t going to refuse to thrust the knife in his own son’s heart (or wherever) and burn the body on the altar of sacrifice, God had to step in to save him from himself, and Isaac from the burning.

    So what does it mean to do everything God requires? What did the gods mean when, in Abraham, when they were thinking this before the creation of the earth? There are questions upon questions here, not least of all whether or not we have to take this story (the creation story in Abraham) literally.

    But regarding repenting – holding our nose and all that – I can talk about this more easily. I think you are onto something here. The joy of repentance is not in self-flagellation or even in going through the four steps. The joy is in the turning, and seeing right then and there the possibilities – the light, the fruit, the tree – or as much as we can see. I think repentance is another one of those misunderstood concepts. It is all in who we are trying to mimic, who we are trying to become [like]. So when we are baptized unto repentance (turning), we have turned our back on the old ways, the old idols, the old desires, and begin to pray that God would show us what we need to desire.

    I do believe repentance involves restitution, when appropriate and possible. But mostly, repentance is the joy of again finding our center, rediscovering our God, and moving forward along the path.

    So, those are my thoughts. Back at you.

  4. robf said

    Cherylem, going to her great reword ;-)

    Sorry, my misreading!

  5. cherylem said

    hahahaha. But I’m going to delete that comment and now you won’t have anything to refer to!

  6. Robert C. said

    cheryl, I think you’ve actually articulated quite nicely the kind of thought-stopping issues that the Akedah are is supposed to force us to confront. I’ll have more to say later, but one approach that I think you didn’t mention is, I think, uniquely open to Mormons because of Abraham’s close encounter with being sacrificed himself when he was young. This emphasizes the very, very different culture that Abraham lived in and I think it gives us a stronger reason to think about the symbolic significance involved in the whole ordeal in a way that must be viewed as very distant from the ethical revulsion that we feel when reading the story. Also, I think this deepens the significance of Abraham not being required to actually sacrifice his son: God is not like other gods that require such sacrifice….

  7. robf said

    Cherylem (#5), spoilsport!

  8. brianj said

    Cheryl: Your discussion of Abraham reminded me of a class I was in (at church) where we were discussing the recent Ensign article on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The teacher had just begun class, asked if anyone had seen the article and what were their thoughts, and one of the members responded, “I read the article and I think the important message is that if we just follow our priesthood leaders, then everything will be okay.” I was speechless (good thing I wasn’t teaching), but the teacher simply smiled and said, “Well, as they say, ‘The devil is in the details.'”

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll respond more later, posting some of my lesson notes so you can see where my “covenant” thoughts led me.

  9. RuthS said

    The gospel is so simple and beautiful, yet when I read this discussion I become discouraged because it is so tortured. All the Lord has asked us to do is choose eternal life over eternal death that is all. When our choices are weighed on that scale it really isn’t very hard.

    I know, I know, the practice is always a lot more difficult than theory, or at least it would seem so. Of course there are all those pesky commandments and covenants and various guidelines that complicate things. Never the less when we are willing to embrace the simple truths and live by them we will be given more light. And as we continue the light will grow brighter and brighter until we understand everything. If we choose not to embrace the light then whatever light we have will begin to grow dimmer until we have none.

    It doesn’t matter what principle it is just going through the motions isn’t really going to do it for us. It seems to me that when it comes to repentance somewhere along the line there has to be a broken heart and a contrite spirit for it to take.

  10. Robert C. said

    On the one hand, I think Ruth is right in noting how tortured our conversation is here and how simple the gospel ultimately is.

    However…. Well, I guess I think we can find this same kind of tortured expression many places in scripture—say, in the many scriptural laments we find, perhaps most familiar in D&C 121:1ff: “O God, where art thou? . . . How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye . . . behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people . . . and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?”

    I guess my concern is that we often relegate or filter God’s call into something that is merely comfortable, that doesn’t really challenge us to the core. D&C 132 is one of those sections that tortures me. I can’t read it or even think about it without thinking of the Abrahamic sacrifice that, say, many of the early Mormon women in polygamous marriages were called upon to bear. Also, an image of Laban’s bleeding body lying on the ground next to Nephi haunts me from time to time. Mind you, I often keep such images far from my thoughts because they are too tortuous to endure too frequently. Perhaps I suffer from simply having too vivid and too literal of an imagination. Most weeks, frankly, I look for an out so that my thoughts during the sacrament will be distracted b/c I cannot bear thinking too directly or frequently about the tortuous scene at Golgotha, a time and place I usually prefer to keep quite distant from my own.

    I don’t mean to propagate discouragement, and I don’t think we have to experience something tantamount to self-flagellation every time we partake of the sacrament. And yet I’m very much inclined toward complacency. I’m not sure that we can really appreciate the gospel without experiencing some rather intense tortuous thoughts. And the extent to which I cannot face excruciating thoughts, I think integrity demands that I deeply sympathize with so-called apostates who have left the Church in discouragement or revulsion. After all, I find much that is revulsive in scripture. Most of the time I would prefer a white-washed edition of the scriptures that does not have passages which grate against my modern sensibilities against violence and suffering. And yet I think without these unnerving passages the scriptures would not really be able to touch me to the core in a way that would really change me. I know my heart can be extremely stubborn, and I’m very good at self-justifying rationalizations. Many times I have nearly convinced myself that I was offering my whole soul to God only to discover that this was a terribly proud self-deception. And yet, paradoxically, this terrifying discovery, effected only by the most horrifying aspects of the gospel, has been the only real cure to discouragement (and self-deception) in my life.

    I think Ruth is right that a broken heart and contrite spirit makes the gospel and life itself easy to live—it’s the breaking and crushing (contrite = past participle of contrere = “to crush” in Latin) part of this process that, for me, is not so easy….

  11. cherylem said

    Robert,
    Thanks for these comments, which are honest and courageous. Well said.

  12. Cherylem,

    It seems to me that you are onto something with Abraham saying, No I wont sacrifice my son. And frankly I dont think God requires that Jesus die at all.

    I’ve always wondered whether Abraham passed the test. Perhaps there are different levels of passing, just as there are degrees of glory.Perhaps the highest form of righteousness is to renounce all sacrifices other than the broken heart and contrite spirit. Apparently God is not into those sacrifices according to Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and sorts.

    Robert mentions Abrahams own history with human sacrifice. If anything, this should have been an experience that taught Abraham how innocent those that get sacrificed truly are. He apparently was not happy about his own personal sacrifice nor his sons. He argued with the Lord over Sodom and Gomorrah, maybe he did the same in this case. In Islam it is of course the same ram that Abel slew.

    To me I find the broken heart and contrite spirit intimately involved with all these other sacrifices. It is almost as if through human and animal and any other form of sacrifice we try to control our own salvation. Maybe the acceptable sacrifice that the Sons of Levi will offer, the one they could not get, is the broken heart and contrite spirit. Maybe Christ does away with any sacrifice not based upon that.

  13. joespencer said

    I’m sorry I’ve only just come to this discussion…

    I have many thoughts on Abraham, and, as most would guess, I’m sympathetic to the Genesis portrayal of the event. My seminary lessons on Genesis 22 begin to explain this (see http://othonors.mypodcast.com), as does my chapter for the hopefully forthcoming publication of the Abraham Seminar (see http://readingabraham.blogspot.com for the proceedings; the paper is, of course, in my own possession).

    But in short: I think it is precisely stories like this—that that we feel an immediate repugnance for—that prove to be the ones we should give the most careful attention and fidelity to. Jacob 4:5, which explicitly draws the connection between the Akedah and the events surrounding the cross, lays the groundwork not only for rethinking the atonement along non-human-sacrifice lines, but also for thinking quite carefully about how it is that Abraham’s movement in the Akedah was not one of obedience, but one of faith and grace.

    I think this reading deserves closer attention (I undertake that reading at some length in my lectures, making them, I think, a good place to start a discussion).

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