December 10th, 2007

To Mentally Stone a Prophet


photo credit: Nathan Moody

…their hearts were turned from the Lord their God, and they did stone the prophets and did cast them out from among them. (3 Nephi 7:14)

In our day of civility and propriety, we read with horror and amazement the stories in scripture recounting the stoning of prophets by those who opposed them. Shocked at such a barbaric response, we dismiss easily the possibility that such a thing could happen in our day.

But while the physical act of stoning no longer is taking place, it seems that some within our ranks are just as guilty as their predecessors:

Even in the Church many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones.

Let us not make the error of the ancients. Numerous modern sectarians believe in the Abrahams, the Moseses, and the Pauls, but resist believing in today’s prophets. The ancients also could accept the prophets of an earlier day, but denounced and cursed the ones who were their contemporaries. (Spencer W. Kimball, via Quoty)

What does it mean to mentally stone a prophet? The answer is found when we first understand why the prophets of old were physically stoned. Samuel the Lamanite, responding to the same trend in his own day, explained:

…if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. (Helaman 13:26)

It is apparent that the intent of stoning a prophet was to silence him. Confronted by a person speaking boldly against their wickedness, these people wanted to find a way to “cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him”. They had been cut to the center, and lashed out against their accuser.

While such a practice was more common (and slightly more acceptable) in ancient middle eastern societies, the underlying motive continues in our day, as President Kimball described. Mentally stoning a prophet also entails silencing him, although it be in a more indirect fashion.

Being confronted by our “accuser” only via television, magazine, or the internet, we can far more easily “cast him out”. A push of a button now throws up an effective defense against the Lord’s anointed.

No, we who are civilized don’t stone prophets… we just ignore them.

29 Responses to “To Mentally Stone a Prophet”

  1. Allie
    December 10, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    Yes, we do ignore them far too often…

    Derek at aliberalmormon has a post about helping the poor, and how we get so caught up with homosexuality being the downfall of sodom and Gomorrah, that we totally ignore the bigger issue. We should all trying harder to listen to the words of the prophets about such an important issue.

    Instead, we figure if someone is struggling, it’s their own doing. But as Elder Russel M. Nelson said, “To care fully for the poor, we must help the poor to change. As they are taught and abide doctrines of Deity, spiritual strength will come that enlightens the mind and liberates the soul from the yoke of bondage. When people of the earth accept the gospel of Christ, their attitudes change. Their understanding and capabilities increase.” It might make us feel better about not helping others if we imagine that they brought their problems upon themselves, but the Lord would have us do better than that.

    Sorry for the vent Connor, it’s hard for me to see so much suffering and feel that there is so little that I can do about it. Maybe if everyone does a little bit more, we can make a difference.

  2. Connor
    December 10, 2007 at 11:24 am #

    Allie,

    What you point out is in my mind a distinction between sins of omission and commission. I do agree that we focus more heavily on sins of commission, perhaps because they’re more noticeable. If we see somebody smoking or having a child out of wedlock, we can more easily judge them (and perhaps feel better about ourselves).

    But with sins of omission (such as not helping the poor, being righteous stewards, giving a generous fast offering), the right hand often does not see the left, and therefore they go unnoticed. We have no way of knowing, usually, whether Bro. Jones is living a life of consecration in his free time.

    Is one more important than the other? Perhaps not. But perhaps we ought to give both equal weight in our own lives—focus not only on obeying the “Thou shalt nots”, but also the “Thou shalts”.

  3. Allie
    December 10, 2007 at 11:30 am #

    Sometimes I wonder if the sins of omission are more serious, only because they are so much easier to fall into.

  4. Scott
    December 10, 2007 at 11:48 am #

    One of the most difficult thing to teach my children is the concept of hating the sin while loving the sinner. I can’t even say that I do well at it. But I hope that I do some things that help my children understand.

    I have a neighbor that has smoked for three decades. She has tried every cessation method out there, but she never can pull herself free of the addiction. I wish my neighbor didn’t smoke because I know the blessings that she could otherwise enjoy. I try to help my kids understand that, although this neighbor smokes, she is a good person. I hardly feel superior to her, but I do feel blessed. This lady has faced some challenges in life that we haven’t had to deal with.

    Now that my neighbor has smoking-related health problems, we often clear her driveway and sidewalks when it snows. My wife and I love this neighbor and wish the best for her. We know that the Lord loves her.

    For all of my failings, occasionally the a true Christian spirit breaks through to the surface.

  5. Obi wan liberali
    December 10, 2007 at 2:20 pm #

    Stoning is obviously a harsh word. But if someone vehemently disagrees with a Mormon prophet and expresses disagreement in an assertive manner, is that “stoning?”

    I find many of Brigham Young’s comments on race to be reprehensible and I don’t shy away from speaking out against those ideas, which are based on the belief that skin pigmentation is the result of the unrighteousness of your progenitors or from being a fence-sitter in the pre-existence.

    I’m just curious from the eyes of active Mormons, is taking exception to the teachings of current or past Mormon prophets equal to “stoning” them? What is the appropriate action of the active Mormon when someone does this?

    Honestly, I’m curious.

  6. Carissa
    December 11, 2007 at 9:41 am #

    I don’t shy away from speaking out against those ideas, which are based on the belief that skin pigmentation is the result of the unrighteousness of your progenitors

    Just out of curiosity, how do you speak out against the scriptures about it (like Alma 3:6)?

  7. Obi wan liberali
    December 11, 2007 at 3:05 pm #

    I speak out against the ideas articulated in the scripture you mention as well as those that have been altered from the original references to lamanites being “dark and loathsome” and nephites being “white and delightsome” and the implication those make in society.

    The Mormon Church with it’s divinely inspired prophets were not leaders in the great movements of the day such as civil rights, but fought against it. Reprehensible things were uttered by church leaders to the members. If the leaders today utter reprehensible things, is it the job of the members to comply and support, or by taking a stand, are they “stoning” the prophets? I guess that was the crux of my question.

  8. Daniel
    December 13, 2007 at 8:33 pm #

    Ignoring someone is like throwing rocks at them? Don’t you think this shows a rather hyperactive sense of metaphor?

    I used to hear this kind of talk a bit in church, but now I wonder if it isn’t designed to evoke feelings of guilt.

    I have no interest in throwing rocks at people who think they are prophets. I’d rather see that they get the psychological help that they need.

    Re the image: I’m glad we don’t have a mouth on our hand, even though it might be kind of useful sometimes (e.g. tasting with fingers).

  9. joe
    December 27, 2007 at 1:05 am #

    Allie,
    Thats curious, why did you bring up the topic of homosexuality? That wasn’t specifically mentioned in “mentally stoning a prophet”. But you did bring up an interesting point. There is a possibility that the LDS church isn’t exactly correct in what it teaches about homosexuality.

    http://www.iwgonline.org/docs/sodom.html

  10. joe
    December 27, 2007 at 1:07 am #

    Scott,
    I appreciate the sentiment of loving the sinner, and condemning the sin. However, there is a reason WHY its so difficult. Its like saying love the diabetic, but condemn his/her high blood sugar.

  11. joe
    December 27, 2007 at 1:25 am #

    Obi wan liberali,
    Will have to do some more research, but I remember reading something in traditional Chinese medicine about shen, or perhaps the lung meridian being ‘white’ when a person is healthy, and turning other colors when it is not.

    Although TCM is officially a medical practice, but it does have spiritual roots, and emotional states are related to health and the flow of the meridians.

    I was speculating today that the statements in the BOM reguarding dark skin, verses white skin didn’t have to do with pigmentation, but perhaps with the aura that is associated with the skin. I could be totally misunderstanding what was meant in TCM by “shen” as it is a difficult concept for westerners to grasp.

    In any case perhaps its the aura that is of importance. In theory a person that is very fair could have a ‘skin of blackness’ aurically. A person that is dark could have ‘skin of whitness’ aurically. I don’t have any evidence at all that this is what is meant by BOM passages. I haven’t examined them in depth.

  12. Allie
    December 27, 2007 at 8:12 am #

    Joe, if you had read the link I posted, it would have been obvious why I brought up homosexuality.

    We all get excited/upset over homosexuality, and pass marriage amendments to “protect” ourselves, when really we’re missing the whole point of the stories of sodom and gomorrah, which should be to care for the poor among us.

    Obi- I kind of always thought the “dark and loathsome” referred to to the activities the lamanites participated in rather than an actual skin color. Jesus is the light of the world, and when people turn away from him to sin, they leave the light (if that makes sense).

  13. Obi wan liberali
    December 27, 2007 at 12:19 pm #

    Allie,

    that is an interesting view, but it contrasts with statements by Spencer W. Kimball regarding a change in the physical appearance of lamanites who had accepted the gospel. The early church appeared to take seriously the idea that races with less skin pigmentation were favored over those who were not.

    Here’s one regarding people of African descent from Brigham Young,

    “You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

    The first man that committed the odious crime of killing one of his brethren will be cursed the longest of any one of the children of Adam. Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings.

    This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race–that they should be the “servant of servants;” and they will be, until that curse is removed.”

    Growing up in the LDS Church through the sixties and seventies, I can say I recall well discussions in both classes and from the pulpit expounding upon the idea of a relationship between righteousness, and whiteness of someone’s skin. I remember a talk from our Stake President even talking about the evils of getting a suntan.

    Maybe it’s because I’m so old that I remember such stuff.

  14. Doc
    December 27, 2007 at 12:45 pm #

    Joe,
    I am a Doctor, I love the diabetic and condemn the high blood sugar all the time. It’s my job. You can say, he they can do what they want the the blood sugar, but if it’s high, then they will suffer the consequences. Am I doing my job if I ignore it?

  15. Allie
    December 27, 2007 at 12:48 pm #

    You know Obi, thinking too much can be uncomfortable. :) We can either choose to avoid being uncomfortable, or we can deal with our uncomfortable-ness. Just to give you some background as to what I’ve been thinking about lately…

    It is disturbing that it was so commonly thought that blacks were less righteous in the preexistence. Over Thanksgiving, while visiting inlaws, a comment was made in sunday school about it (thankfully someone else spoke up and said that it wasn’t true).

    I think it’s a case of the opinions (in these cases opinions of Spencer W. Kimball and Brigham Young) of men based on the time and culture in which they lived.

    Even prophets are men, imperfect and subject to common thoughts of their days.

  16. Joe
    December 27, 2007 at 8:50 pm #

    Doc,
    Let me try again. Perhaps it might be easier to say love an ice cube, but condemn how cold, hard and wet it is.(or any other quality that an ice cube has that defines it as an ice cube)

  17. Joe
    December 27, 2007 at 9:22 pm #

    Allie,
    Sorry I missed something. I would agree with that, and the link I posted makes a similar point.
    http://www.iwgonline.org/docs/sodom.html

    There are fundementalist christians that are saying that the focus on gay issues is limiting and polarizing. So a lot of people are in agreement with you that there is a bigger picture that people seem to be missing.

    Alot of people did spend a lot of time and money passing DOMA, I’m not a law student, but it sort of sounds like DOMA doesn’t eliminate the possibility of legally recognized same sex marriage. I don’t see how this ‘protects’ anyone or defends marriage. There are also statements in the document about polygamy, but it sounds like it doesn’t totally eliminate that as a possibility either. I’m not sure exactly what threat people saw that they had to pass doma.

  18. Allie
    December 27, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Joe- That’s okay, sorry if I sounded critical of your not reading my link (especially since I didn’t read your link either…) :)

    I think people felt like they had to support DOMA out of fear. Fear propels way too much in politics these days.

  19. Joe
    December 27, 2007 at 9:41 pm #

    Allie,
    I was reading from the Book of Abraham last night. It may not be entirely a prophes ‘opinion’ on this matter. Cannonized lds scripture states the following:
    Abraham 1:27

    27 Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham…

    At the very least, the salt lake churchs scripture states that at one time a certain ethnicity was cursed as to the priesthood. I don’t understand this, but LDS people often state that the church never practiced discrimination. It sort of sounds like it did.

  20. Joe
    December 27, 2007 at 9:43 pm #

    yes, fear and ignorance.

  21. Joe
    December 27, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    Allie,
    I do find that book interesting. It does say that
    Pharaoh was a righteous man that did his best to imitate hebrew priesthood. (Abraham 1:26) and he was blessed with wisdom, and the blessings of the earth. He just didn’t have the priesthood.

    I watched a very interesting PBS special about the pyramids. One of the great pyramids had some very, very technical innovations based on very profound observations of the heavens. It was designed that the inner resting place of the tomb could view a certain set of stars. One in particular. The pbs special used some term for the stars pretty close to ‘governing ones’. They were fascinated that these stars didn’t move.

    Its interesting speculation that the Pharaoh could have been fascinated with “kolob”? And built a pyramid attempting to connect with the star on some level? Its certainly a more interesting undertaking to unite a people to such a great work than to make human sacrifices as the book of abraham suggests. I still don’t know if the egyptians ever practiced human sacrifice.

  22. Allie
    December 27, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    It does take a long time to change culture doesn’t it… Pharaoh not having the priesthood had nothing to do with his ethnicity. It had to do with his lineage.

    As I understand it, in that time period, the priesthood was passed father to son, but it was Pharaoh’s mother who was descended from Ham and Noah. If it had been his father in that line, he would have been able to receive the priesthood. It wasn’t an issue of ethnicity, it was an issue of lineage. That bit of scripture is often misunderstood.

    For more information read the Pearl of Great Price Commentary by Richard Draper, S. Kent Brown, and Michael D. Rhodes.

  23. joe
    December 28, 2007 at 11:18 pm #

    Allie,
    Lineage and ethnicity go hand in hand. “Shemites” are from shem, often called semites. But this is generally used today to describe the jewish people and sometimes related peoples.

    On another level there is a distinction made about groups of people that can properly be considered ethnicity.

    “The concept of “Semitic” peoples is derived from Biblical accounts of the origins of the cultures known to the ancient Hebrews. Those closest to them in culture and language were generally deemed to be descended from their forefather Shem. Enemies were often said to be descendants of his cursed brother Ham. ”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semite

    This is further supported by the following statement.
    “In the Biblical view, the listed children of Ham, Shem and Japheth correspond to various historic nations and peoples.”

    The table of nations is particularly telling.
    “Ham, forefather of the southern peoples (Hamitic Africa)
    Shem, forefather of the middle peoples (Semitic Arabia)
    Japheth, forefather of the northern peoples (Japhetic Eurasia) ”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Noah

    Genesis 10
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2010&version=9;

    That establishes that the decendents of Ham are considered a people or a nation. The second part about Matrilineal or Patrilineal Descent is more difficult to answer.
    http://judaism.about.com/od/whoisajew/a/whoisjewdescent.htm

    Here is a statement about orthodox jews:
    “…an Orthodox or Conservative rabbi would not consider you Jewish since your mother is not Jewish. According to Judaism’s law of matrilineal descent, Jewish identity is passed on via the mother only (not the father). The Talmud (Kiddushin 68b) explains that the law of matrilineal descent derived from the Torah (Deut. 7:3-4). ”
    http://judaism.about.com/od/whoisajew/a/amijewish.htm

    Using a cart of Chronological calculations of birth date, I found that there was nearly 1,000 years between Noah and Abraham at the least, and just over 4,000 years at the greatest estimated time. This is clearly enough time to establish ethnicity through lineage.
    http://www.accuracyingenesis.com/chronology.html

  24. Allie
    December 29, 2007 at 12:14 pm #

    Yes lineage and ethnicity go hand in hand, but we’re talking three generations. Ham was a priesthood holder, his daughter, Egyptus (sp?) was Pharoah’s mother. The reason pharaoh was not able to have the priesthood was because it was passed patriarchally, and his father was not a in the line of the priesthood.

    I’m just saying that pharaoh not having the priesthood can’t be used to justify the early church denying priesthood to blacks.

  25. Allie
    December 29, 2007 at 2:56 pm #

    Joe- I brought the topic up with my father, since he is interested in that sort of thing, and he has a post on his blog today that might interest you.

    http://centervillecitizen.blogspot.com/2007/12/burden-of-mormon-curse-of-ham.html

  26. Joe
    December 30, 2007 at 12:47 am #

    Allie,
    There are some interesting things to consider about the book of abrahams claims of descent compared with that of the bible. Eygptus as far as I can tell is not in the Holy bible. However, there are more than 3 generations from Noah to abraham. (Gen. 11:10-26) This time period is between 1,000 and 4,000 years. Its stated in the bible that some of these people lived hundreds of years. Noah lived 350 years after the flood.(Gen. 9:28)

    A literal reading of Abraham 1:21-27 doesn’t seem to square with the biblical account. There are some reasons why I think so, but I would have to review things a lot closer to see why, at the moment I don’t see a reason to examine it under a microscope. It remins a fact however that the salt lake church did withold the priesthood from people on the earth. OD2 doesn’t go into why it was witheld in the first place, just that priesthood is now available to all worthy male members.
    http://www.blacklds.org/mormon/declare2.html

    It does remain a fact that lineage appears to be very important to people in the bible. Matthew 1 details the genealogy of Jesus christ. This was to appeal to the jewish people. The importance of lineage seems a difficult issue in reguards to the monotheistic faiths. ISHMAEL is a point of disagreement between christians, jews and arabs.
    http://www.answering-christianity.com/isaac_and_ishmael.htm
    So apparently lineage is important to a lot of people, and I really suspect that there is alot of superstition on this issue reguarding ancestry. I think its ok for anyone to believe what they do, but I hope it does not lead to unethical behavior. But it seems seems to have generated a lot of conflict in the world.

    I did learn some other interesting things. In the tradition of my background there is no stigma attached to race. It dawned on me why that was when I recalled the stories. As far as I remember there isn’t any detailing of ancestry. Also that the spiritual realm appears to choose humans for service and blessing as it sees fit. These stories were oral traditions, not written ones. Some christian guy years ago was really quite critical of that years ago, when I spoke to him. But now I see it actually as a strength not a weakness.

    It is interesting how there is a different property of each teachings about the spiritual realms. The fixation on records, ancestry and authority seems suspect in leading to discrimnation and prejudice.

  27. Joe
    December 30, 2007 at 5:00 pm #

    Isn’t the practice of stoning a prophet one where the prophecies do NOT come true? That is to say that is the fate of a false prophet.

  28. Connor
    December 30, 2007 at 5:02 pm #

    Isn’t the practice of stoning a prophet one where the prophecies do NOT come true? That is to say that is the fate of a false prophet.

    And now, my brethren, ye see that a second prophet of old has testified of the Son of God, and because the people would not understand his words they stoned him to death. (Alma 33:17)

  29. Joe
    December 30, 2007 at 10:41 pm #

    Connor,
    Well, I did a little more research and what I found was interesting.

    “No non-religious court of law recognizes stoning as a form of legal punishment.[citation needed] There have also been numerous cases where stoning refers to layers of rocks being placed on a victim to squeeze them to death, a practice more specifically known as crushing.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

    Of course it is wikipedia, anyone can right anything. But if this entry is correct, there are a number of offenses by which stoning is the punishment. Stoning appears to be associated with the Monotheistic faiths. Actually come to think of it, I have never heard of this practice in relationship to other religions/philosophy, say Hinduism, Buddhism or Jain etc… It also does not appear to be a practice for secular humanists. Its rather strange but it sounds like stoning is still practiced in some parts of the world.

    Its entirely possible that being a false prophet might be considered a wizard.

    “27 ” ‘A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.’ ”
    Leviticus 20:27
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus%2020:6,27

    “6 ” ‘I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.”
    Leviticus 20:6

    A wizard is someone who is “A pretender to supernatural knowledge and power, “a knowing one,” as the original Hebrew word signifies. Such an one was forbidden on pain of death to practice his deceptions (Lev 19:31; Lev 20:6, Lev 20:27; Sa1 28:3; Isa 8:19; Isa 19:3). ”
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/ebd/ebd383.htm

    From what I can see it is a religious person who is inclined to stone for a variety of offenses. Secular humanists may have issues with violence, but here is a page writen by a skeptic details violence contained within the ‘good book’.
    http://ffrf.org/timely/abcsbible.php

    From this, I imagine that a secular humanist that disagrees with religion would not be inclined to stone.

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