"If it should be one body" (v. 11)
My thinking here is that "it" refers to the ancient deep waters of chaos. The emphasis here, I think, is on the fact that the very act of creation entailed separation. And so, if everything were "one body," it wouldn't really make sense to speak of an it except for that one body. But if there's nothing besides that body, how would an it really be an it? But then, based on the idea that God is eternal and man was with God in the beginning, does this mean that there was always opposition and things were never "one body" like Lehi is saying? I lean toward a view that creation is an ongoing (eternal round) type of act that is tantamount to organizing, and I think it's intimately related to law and justice. That is, when God gives a (the) law, opportunities for obedience and disobedience are created/organized. And before the law is given, these opportunities don't exist. This also makes me think about the Word of God which is often compared to a cutting sword. Without the Word, opportunities for obedience and disobedience don't exist (and, I would think that there is neither justice nor mercy without the law and without the Word). Furthermore, I think any call we receive ("enticing") is an act of creation in the same way, if we respond to righteous enticings, we become as the light and/or the land of creation—we separate ourselves from what is evil. Also, I think the idea of being made from the dust of the earth is significant in this light. That is, the fall makes us less than the dust of the earth, but it also makes us as the gods knowing (through experience) good and evil (cf. "doing no good, for they knew no sin" in v. 23). In this sense, if each of us are as Adam and Eve, then perhaps our birth of divine consciousness is in our first accountable act of disobedience. If not, how are we to understand v. 23? --RobertC 04:16, 14 Oct 2006 (UTC)
- I have so many responses to what you've raised here Robert, that I'm trying to make sense of how to respond at all. Let me speak textually first. All of this discussion of opposition has so far proceeded without reference to the textual structure of this chapter, which is vital to any understanding of it at all. It is absolutely vital that one understand that Lehi is speaking specifically to Jacob here. He gives Jacob the specific task to become a temple priest (I understand "service of God" to be taken in this strict sense), and then he begins to prepare him for that task. He then spends thirteen verses logically undoing the whole of the creation, and at the beginning of verse 14, he opens the discourse up to all of the gathered listeners. Once Jacob has seen the undoing of the whole question, Lehi begins to reassemble the mass by offering, the creation, then the fall, and then the atonement, concluding with brief reference to the veil. The discussion in verse 11 is quite vital to the logical undoing of the order of things. But that just means that it cannot be considered on its own (is it ever not just considered on its own?). It is a necessary interpretation of the juxtaposed "ends of the law" and "ends of the atonement." And it opens onto the darkest possibility of the absence of law. Now, if Jacob is receiving his preliminary instruction in preparation to be a temple priest (or, more likely, high priest), he is being taught about the "law" and "atonement" tied to the temple. The Law of Moses, and the Day of Atonement, I take it, are the subjects upon which Lehi is discoursing. It seems to me to be a mistake to try to understand this is universal terms from the beginning. It most certainly can be drawn into that sort of a context, but only with a very clear understanding of the duplicit Law of Moses (made to condemn, yet with a built-in atonement). When Lehi gets to verse 11, he is thinking out the nature of the law's duplicit nature: the law itself must have been set up with opposition. When he goes on to discuss the possibility of there being no law, he is discussing the possibility of there being no word, no language that introduces distinctions into things in general (see my next paragraph), and he admits that if there were no word/law, there would be nothing (all one body, the unnamed, and hence, the undifferentiated: no differance).
- All of this opens onto a second point. The word of God is compared to sword precisely, it seems to me, because it is the word that introduces distinctions into things. Here is a point where the structuralists, and perhaps more importantly the post-structuralists, must absolutely be kept in mind when reading these passages. The word itself introduces the distinction, which means that the difference between two things hangs on the words themselves. It is language that introduces distinctions into things, and it is precisely for that reason that God said "Let there be light." It had to be spoken. The structuralists generally are so enlightening on this point, and Derrida's discussions of this point among the post-structuralists especially opens the theme for me. The law--the lex, the lectus, the logos, the word, the Word--introduces the distinction between things. As soon as the word was spoken to Adam and Eve, the fruit would be eaten, no question. Opposition itself (in English) is the consequence of expression: the word means to set (pose) against (ob-), which is a specific act of man, an act of expression (expression is a question of flesh, not a question of the tongue--which is flesh). Even the opposition between the trees was a sort of word of God, a setting performed by expression, etc. I can't understand opposition in any other sense.
- Now, to speak philosophically. If all of this is taken into account, then the introduction of law must be clarified. To speak a law is to introduce the possibility of obedience/disobedience, but these have become something quite different from what we generally think of them. The law is the spoken word, and obedience becomes one's dedication to the speaker of the word, and disobedience becomes one's rejection of the speaker. The word calls the called into subjectivity, into selfhood, and the called can then respond in one of two ways, by choosing the caller, or by taking up the selfhood in a sort of solipsism, by fleeing (ultimately toward suicide--like being thrown overboard). The caller offers, in the spoken word, the two options: either community or solipsism (which amounts to suicide). That is, one has only two options in the face of the law: love of other, or love of self. Isn't it for this reason that Lewis depicts hell the way he does in the Great Divorce? Each person in hell travels farther and farther from the grey city until he/she is so absolutely distant from all people that there is, effectively, no distance whatsoever between them, because distance implies relation. Each individual eventually cancels even his/her individuality, because he/she rejects all relation, becomes a law unto him/herself (speaking to oneself only, in a sort of pure psychosis--quite literally, wrapped up only within one's own psyche, and with no relation nor access to anything else).
- Sorry for the ravings, but this chapter is so vital the Book of Mormon understanding of the Law of Moses, and it is so important to Jacob's later discourses, and it is so simple, in the end, that it easily sets me off when it is taken too philosophically. In the end, what Elder Ballard said about this chapter was so significant during General Conference: wisdom is the question here, and wisdom is a question of families. Lehi teaches his son Jacob in terms of Old Testament wisdom literature, which, as Margaret Barker is constantly reminding us, is all about the temple. --Joe Spencer 13:59, 14 Oct 2006 (UTC)
- Joe, thanks for this response, this helps me understand where you're going with a lot of things. But I don't think I follow very well what you're getting at in your juxtaposing of wisdom with taking these passages too philosophically (though I suspect you are using wisdom in the sense of "making the best use of available knowledge" rather than focusing on an abstract pursuit of such knowledge). The "wisdom" bookends in verses 12 and 24 (note also the curious "for your profit and learning" in v. 14) do suggest an interesting way of reading this entire passage that emphasizes the need to choose (hence the emphasis in vv. 26ff) to be in relation with God rather than just pontificating about these mysteries (which also seems to be the emphasis in Alma 42). So, I take it that my philosophical musings, in direct contrast to a central contextual point of this passage, is what set you off? If so, point well taken! (Though your fabulous response isn't much of a deterrent for repeating such a mistake....) --RobertC 16:04, 14 Oct 2006 (UTC)
- Wisdom. I suppose I should point silently to Margaret Barker's writings on wisdom, but I will provide at least a little bit of clarification. Wisdom is, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc., a question of father/son relationships, which I take (especially because of the language of the first three chapters of Proverbs) to be a relationship mediated by the veil of the temple (father on one side, son on the other--perfectly embodied in the trinitarian play: there is a reason Jesus is the "child of Wisdom"). Wisdom is, then, a question of revelation, little less. It is incredibly significant to me that the two great themes of Proverbs are sexual immorality and selfish pride, the two themes Jacob is constantly concerned with as well (O be wise, what more can I say?): the two things one must watch out for when the veil becomes a question are the law of chastity and the law of consecration. Etc., etc., etc. Wisdom is what one seeks in revelation--the mysteries--that are completely and unquestionably intertwined with the two acts of marriage and consecration, seed and land, the Abrahamic Covenant. Wisdom. Not just applied thinking, but the thinking one does in seeking the blessings of the covenant. Seeking that is on the way to the covenant: wisdom. Something like that. Philosophy: thinking for thinking's sake. Derrida is wonderful because he helps me think the texts that hang as a veil between me and the fulness of the covenant, not because I particularly care about linguistics. Philosophy, traditionally defined, is a sort of love of being right, not a love of anything real. If the philo (or even eros in the Symposium) of philosophy is guided by agape (or if the parallel storge of cultural Mormonism is guided by agape), then it shall become an exalted love, it shall be taken up within Love Himself. (Perhaps I have Lewis's The Four Loves and Till We Have Faces in mind here, but I think you get the point.) --Joe Spencer 23:46, 15 Oct 2006 (UTC)
Joe, I love that take on Proverbs, I love the book of Proverbs. It definatly invokes deeper thinking on just about each line. I have never thought of it as to concepts of law of chastity and law of consecration but now that you mention it I can totally see how that applies to scriptures in proverbs. For example chapter four has a wonderful advice on staying away from sin, I think it applicable to today. "Avoid it, pass not by it, and turn away." Don't even try it don't even peak or wonder about the sin that lies in todays world. for "They sleep not unless they cause some to fall" In my opinion that may be talking of the Devil and followers that sleep is taken away or sleep may be satisfaction is taking away unless they cause some to fall. Then counsel is given to "ponder the path of thy feet" Think of where this road may lead you before you take it. If every member of the church followed these simple rules of 1. Avoiding it and not even tampering with sin 2. Also Thinking of where actions may lead before we take them. Do you think that the church members would have such a problem with pornography or other problems with the law of chastisty? Also the counsel of "As a man thinketh so is he" to me that implies consecration be cuase whatever we think of we do, whatever we surround ourselves with invokes thoughts into our mind. If we stand in holy places and surround ourselves with service then we do service and eventually become service given in nature, or if we surround ourselves with worldly things then we become part of this world, and have no time for God. By surrounding ourselves and thoughts with God then we comsecrate our time, talents and eventually our whole selves to God and therefore consecrate our lives to him. Very eye opening comments Joe thanks that make me look at Proverbs in a whole other light.--Jeff Batt 04:24, 20 Oct 2006 (UTC)