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Enochscion

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Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« on: December 28, 2020, 11:06:23 pm »
I've noticed for a while that Doctrine & Covenants 1 seems to present a pretty harsh tone. Basically, the Lord starts speaking to all the earth and telling them they're going to hell in a hand basket and need to shape up or his servants are going to seal them up to damnation (more or less).

That strikes me as somewhat odd, because usually in the scriptures the Lord only "rebukes with sharpness" those who are members of his church/covenant people and in transgression, or those who are committing serious crimes against humanity that don't require any particular religious light and truth to know are really bad.

Now, to some extent, the Lord in the early Restoration spoke with an emphasis on his justice over his mercy--which I expect was mostly about speaking to servants according to their language, and their language of God was more fire and brimstone than nowadays. If he had spoken to them with less of that justice aspect of his nature they might not have been able to hear his voice as easily.

But still, D&C 1 stands out because he's going pretty hard on the world who aren't members of his church (and probably mostly directed at the US) in the rebuking.

And then I remembered the writings of Moroni, where he was shown Joseph Smith's day and was very negatively impressed regarding their degree of righteousness. Now, we don't need to imagine he's comparing them to the "awful scene of bloodshed" he was witnessing in his own society. Instead, I expect (based on what he says) that he's comparing those who professed Christianity (probably 90%+ in the US 1830s) to the church in his own time that ended up getting killed off because of their faithfulness. Perhaps their access to the Bible really was enough for the Lord to treat them as much more accountable than the non-Jewish nations his prophets only rebuked for the most heinous crimes against humanity.

How wicked were the people in Joseph Smith's day? Was the 1830s a particular moral slump compared to the times when the Gentiles were "led by the hand of God" and "humbled themselves" before him in the preceding years? There were a lot of revivals going on, which does sort of imply that at least some of the people themselves felt that they needed to shape up--though that doesn't necessarily mean much, since there are always people who feel that way and people who feel the opposite.

And of course there was the slavery of the US south, which probably stood out as abominable to Moroni, coming from a culture where slavery had been abolished centuries ago (who knows what was currently going on regarding that in Moroni's day, but he had the records of more righteous times).

It seems to me like, regardless of what else was going on, the 1830s sort of needs to stand out as having morally backslid compared to the decades or centuries leading up to it, for the harsh rebukes to make sense. And the people had to know they were being bad.

Do we have much historical evidence to back this up?
 

Roper

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2020, 12:21:59 am »
I can see how the first part of Section 1 gives that impression.

Then we have the second part of Section 1, verses 17 - 23, which explain the unbelievably uplifting and ennobling promises of the restored Gospel: Everyone can speak in the name of God, the everlasting covenant established, the fulness of the gospel proclaimed to all the earth, the foundations of the Lord's church to be established, etc.

Then, an unflinchingly honest explanation of prophets and prophecy (vs 24 - 30).

An assurance of the Lord's mercy and love for all His children (vs 31 - 37).

Then this, at the end: "38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; ... 39 For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen."

I guess in today's parlance, you could say the Lord dropped a 19th century "Truth Bomb" to serve as the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants. No sugar-coating anything.

Or, as Mal said during the opening credits of Firefly: "Here's how it is..."  ;)

Speaking for myself, I like the language. It leaves little room for someone to misconstrue the message. But then, the Doctrine and Covenants has long been my favorite volume of scripture, because it's the one volume in the canon which didn't go through a translation process from a previous record. I find the language more immediate and accessible, even when it seems uncomfortably direct.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 
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cook

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2020, 02:14:36 pm »
Just this morning I was thinking about that harshness and had a just a thought, not saying this would be the case, but since it was about 1,5 years after the church was organized and they had faced all kinds of trouble by evil men, perhaos the people needed to know and feel that God has noticed and also thinks of their opposing powers evil and that they will get paid...

I can't really express but kind of saying, yes, you've been treated badly, don't worry, I'll take care if the bad guys, you just focus on following the prophet.
 
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pnr

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2020, 06:21:16 pm »
I really find useful the website revelations in context which says this about D&C 1

Quote
Given that responsibility to preach, and given that the October 30 revelation stated that the gospel would “roll forth unto the ends of the earth,”9 it was imperative that the revelations Joseph had already received should be published. McLellin later recollected that “hours were spent” at the conference discussing whether to publish the revelations before “it was finally decided to have them printed.”10 According to McLellin’s recollections, he, Oliver Cowdery, and possibly Sidney Rigdon had been appointed to draft a preface for the Book of Commandments. Yet when the men presented the preface to the conference, its participants “picked it all to pieces” and “requested Joseph to enquire of the Lord about it.” After bowing in prayer with the conference, Joseph, according to McLellin, “dictated by the Spirit the preface,” doing so as he sat by “a window of the room in which the conference was sitting.” McLellin remembered that “Joseph would deliver a few sentences and Sydney [Rigdon] would write them down, then read them aloud,....
  https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/revelations-in-context/william-mclellins-five-questions?lang=eng
Nauvoo 1270, Feb 2005
 
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Roper

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2020, 12:18:16 am »
Just this morning I was thinking about that harshness and had a just a thought, ... kind of saying, yes, you've been treated badly, don't worry, I'll take care if the bad guys, you just focus on following the prophet.

That's a great way to think about it, Cook.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2020, 10:01:40 am »
Also: while the message was the Lord's, I have no doubt the choices of rhetoric and tone, in addition to being 'according to their [cultural and expectations of] language' had active participation from Joseph.

Prophets often act as 'speechwriters' for God. They know the message they are directed to convey, and then are trusted to work through how to best convey that message to those under their stewardship.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2020, 10:44:01 am by Taalcon »
 
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Enochscion

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2020, 01:34:43 am »
Also: while the message was the Lord's, I have no doubt the choices of rhetoric and tone, in addition to being 'according to their [cultural and expectations of] language' had active participation from Joseph.

Prophets often act as 'speechwriters' for God. They know the message they are directed to convey, and then are trusted to work through how to best convey that message to those under their stewardship.

I don't know how often that happens when something is given in the first person divine.

When I'm receiving personal revelations to me, words aren't usually featured (other than maybe one or two particular ones), possibly because I think more in imagery than words. Instead, I get pure ideas, and if I attempt to put those into words to communicate to someone, there are feelings of wrongness if I'm attempting to express it in words that aren't right somehow, and either a positive feeling or just lack of a negative feeling otherwise.

However, when I'm giving a priesthood blessing, that's not generally what happens at all. Instead, I get specific words and phrases--usually one to three words at a time, with little to no impression of context--and I have to say those words before I get the next ones. Sometimes that can be stressful, especially if the words don't sound like they'll make a coherent sentence (spoiler--If I trust and go ahead, they almost always do) so I'll wrangle around a bit and say something close to precise words, and sometimes the Lord leaves it at that, while other times he keeps impressing the exact words until I say them. The more in tune with the Spirit I am at the time of giving the blessing, the more it works like that. If I'm not as in tune, the inspiration can be fuzzier, and I have to add a lot more of my thoughts into what words to put the vague impressions into, but given the context of my own relative spiritual state, I consider that the results of my failing. When I feel as in tune as I do receiving the best personal revelations in the wordless manner of pure ideas, priesthood blessings I give are almost entirely inspired as specific words with no ideas or context imparted to me.

I know the Lord works differently with different people, but my experiences speaking by the spirit of prophecy to others (e.g., priesthood blessings) really resonate with the kind of word for word inspiration that the Book of Mormon seemed to be given in, and there is something about that that seems more fitting for communicable revelation. When I'm getting pure ideas for my own benefit, sometimes they are things that are easy to talk about in my own words, but other times I'm not sure where I should start, and that obviously wouldn't be as beneficial in talking about it with others as if the Lord had just told me precisely what to say.

In D&C 136, the Lord's voice through Brigham Young is a bit different than through Joseph Smith, and based on my experiences, it seems like it might differ in a similar way to how priesthood blessings differ based on the level of spirituality at the time. Brigham Young was new at this and his unique,"so, no more at present" closing seems to me a lot like something that might happen to me.
 
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Roper

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2020, 06:59:05 am »
I know the Lord works differently with different people...

Undoubtedly. I believe that we understand the will of the Lord in the ways which carry the most meaning for us. And when it comes to differentiation for the individual needs of His children, the Lord is the Master Teacher. My experience is that it also changes over time, as we learn to hear the voice of the Lord more clearly and in different ways.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 
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Taalcon

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2020, 09:55:41 am »
Enochscion,
It gets more complicated when we take into consideration that many of the 'First Person Divine' texts were revised, edited and expanded.

When I was on my mission, after writing my promptings and observations in my study journal, I decided to switch it up, and write it as first person communications from God to me. I began with my name, and instead of passive, third-person thoughts about what I should do, I chose to present them them as direct addresses. It shocked me how easily I could go back and forth, and how sometimes, presenting the same material in a different context, effected my willingness to pay attention to those insights, and to return to them. Later in my mission, I would even return to some of them and ... see them in a new light, and revise them.

Our brains have a different 'hard coded' language than our native spoken language. Even if we never learned English or German or Japanese or Hebrew or Greek, God would be able to communicate with the 10010010110011s of our brain. Often we 'get' the message, but to then try to be able to record or better understand it, or even communicate it to others, we often have to 'translate' it into a language we can consciously work with, and that can be 'recieved'. We create an artifact that isn't the revelation itself, but a translation of it. And, as time and experience goes by, sometimes we can return to that original communication, and make a better translation, or a more relevant translation.

I think a goal of scripture is to have us get an encounter with that 'artifact', and seek to have it catalyse an experience with the revelatory experience that was translated into that artifact.

We see it modeled in the Book of Mormon. Lehi gives his 'translation' of his Vision experience. Nephi believes it, but still wants to have the experience that Lehi had, not just filtered through Lehi's translation of it. Nephi is granted his request, and he gives us a new translation, expressing things that Lehi didn't, because Nephi had different experiences and concerns than Lehi did. Neither translation was 'better', but they were filtered through a different translation experience, and for a different audience.

It's helpful when we view even the English Language Doctrine and Covenants as translation literature, and as we study it and believe it, also seek to have an encounter with the 'original' that we can be given our own translation (that, it goes without saying, is not to be considered canonical or binding or have authority on anyone else).

God didn't stop giving 'First Person Divine Revelations'. Prophets stopped presenting their revelations in such ways. Even Joseph stopped doing so at the end of his life, not because he wasn't still recieving massive amounts of direct revelation (so much happening in Nauvoo period, and so few 1st person texts in that period!), but likely because he understood then more than ever how his understanding of the significance of an experience could change over time, and setting down something in a direct concrete form could lead to more dogmatism and rigidness among the believers than was helpful. (There already had been fights about him being willing to change the revelation texts of the past, asserting that even he didn't have a right to change the direct words of God - a position that at one point he himself held before experience showed him otherwise!)

This is part of why I love studying the D&C in 2021. With the vast material available to us, this book of scripture and its process, and what it means to be a prophet giving revelation is more on display and open than any other book of scripture we have. We have manuscripts. We have edited manuscripts. We have recollections of those who were there. We have newspapers saying what happened in the world that week. Understanding the Doctrine and Covenants can be a key to better understanding the process of scripture development in the past, and increase our humility towards what we can definitively 'know' about past scriptural figures.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2020, 10:37:29 am by Taalcon »
 
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AndrewR

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2020, 11:18:40 am »
<derail>

Quote
God would be able to communicate with the 10010010110011s of our brain

Not me, for me he would use the 24B3 of my brain.

But for my wife, if it's not the 9395 of her brain, He can forget trying.

</derail>

Happy New Year.

Interesting thread.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2020, 11:21:27 am by AndrewR »
Don't ask me, I only live here.
Nauvoodle since March 2005 #1412
 
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cook

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2020, 04:06:03 pm »
I totally feel this way. Sometimes it presents itself as a knowledge that I was told/taught something when reading the scriptures, that know I understand something better, but I could not express what it is. I just know 'something happened'.

I got a blessing after my mum died from the distric leader (I was on a mission). In the middle of it I thought he spoke Finnish, but he did not, I recognised it wasn't Finnish. I don't know what it was. But I understood it. Yet he did not speak anything but English and I was not able to recall what was said in that language, only that it happened, I understood it and it comforted.

So yes, I truly believe God can speak to us in various ways,in languages we understand, even if they're not languages at all.

We know and understand so little.
 
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Roper

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2020, 07:00:03 pm »
I got a blessing after my mum died from the district leader
Your mum died from the district leader??!! What did he do to her?

I know exactly what you meant, Cook. I'm smiling because this is one of those arcane rules in English about where to place a prepositional phrase. You're doing remarkably well with English. This just gave me a much-needed laugh this afternoon.
All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince."
 

cook

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2021, 07:47:12 am »
 ;D Can't say it like that in  Finnish either.,tough it wouldn't be the same way wrong...  That's what happens when trying to write on the phone, just wanting to do it as quickly as possible to get rid of doing it...
 
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Sarahgirl

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Re: Why the harsh tone of D&C 1?
« Reply #13 on: January 03, 2021, 09:53:20 pm »
The following article (shared at Book of Mormon central under additional sources for D&C 1) talks about some of the same ideas we are talking about here. I really enjoyed it and thought I would share.

https://rsc.byu.edu/you-shall-have-my-word/they-might-come-understanding-revelation-process

Member #350 joined June 2001
 
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