Friday, April 24, 2015
If there is one reoccurring lesson in The Book of Mormon it's probably that "inasmuch as ye keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper" (1 Ne. 2:20; 4:14; 13:15, 20; 2 Ne. 1:9, 20; 4:4; Omni 1:6; Mos. 1:7, 17; 2:22, 31, 36; 7:29; 25:24; 26:37; 27:7; Alma 9:13, 22-23; 36:1, 30; 37:13, 43; 38:1; 45:8; 48:15, 25; 50:18-20; Hel. 12:1-2; 3 Ne. 5:22) or, in other words, if you do what God wants you to do he'll bless you with wealth and lots of kids. (Congratulations, God loves you!) In fact, the entire book is about two groups who were both righteous enough to be blessed with life in the Americas only to fall from grace and get wipe out almost completely by the will of God. The Book of Mormon exists to bolster the idea that God gives you health and wealth if you behave.
Take a look at how the Jaredites and Lehites "prosper", "multiply" and "wax" (often "exceedingly") every few chapters (2 Ne. 5:11, 13; Jar. 1:8; Mos. 2:2; 9:9; 10:5; 21:16; 23:19-20; Alma 1:31; 50:18-20; 62:48, 51; Hel. 3:8, 20; 4:13, 15; 6:12; 11:20; 3 Ne. 6:4-5; 4 Ne. 1:4, 10, 18, 23, 28; Eth. 6:18; 7:26; 9:16; 10:16, 28), but they're also always becoming prideful and "waxing in iniquity". That's when God has to smite them down (by the tens of thousands) to make them humble again so they follow the commandments again so God can bless them with riches again so they can get prideful again, etc. (You'd think God would catch on after a while, wouldn't you?) Within the LDS Church this cyclical narrative within The Book of Mormon is known as the Pride Cycle. I would dare say that the majority of believing Mormons are very familiar with the concept though few have probably lived the cycle, but it's supposed to be one of the greatest and clearest warnings in Mormon scripture.
Outside of Mormonism this kind of relationship with God is called the Prosperity Gospel and it was very popular with the Puritans who colonized New England.
Lucy Mack, Joseph Smith's mother, had a strong Puritan leaning, so in addition to growing up surrounded by New England's general culture of discussing and believing in the Prosperity Gospel Joseph had an earful of it at home.
His other ear was full of his father's Universalist tendencies and his grandfather's adherence to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason. Predictably enough Universalism and rational skepticism are also extremely prominent in The Book of Mormon (though always as opponents of truth).
It's almost as though The Book of Mormon was written specifically for Joseph Smith's father and family members...
Could Joseph Smith have written The Book of Mormon? I mean, it just happens to be full of the very religious education he received at home! Let's hope he didn't, though. It would be extremely inconvenient for our testimony of The Book of Mormon. Maybe we shouldn't think about it too much after all.