Difference between revisions of "User talk:Matthewfaulconer/Testimony related to difficult scriptures"

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(A Thought)
 
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On a related note, I think it would be good to have a broader discussion on the role of private interpretation in the Church. I'll wait until things quiet down on the blog. That would probably be the right place for it. --[[User:Matthewfaulconer|Matthew Faulconer]] 08:23, 3 February 2007 (CET)
 
On a related note, I think it would be good to have a broader discussion on the role of private interpretation in the Church. I'll wait until things quiet down on the blog. That would probably be the right place for it. --[[User:Matthewfaulconer|Matthew Faulconer]] 08:23, 3 February 2007 (CET)
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I agree that it is a contradiction, given this very clear message in the new testament: Matthew 18:6
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“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
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There are other contradictions in how the character of God appears in the scriptures. Perhaps that is because the scriptures are imperfect, since they are written by humans. Is it not possible to believe the scriptures but retain our critical thinking?? Not every single word and explanation can be perfectly expressed and recorded. We still need to follow the spirit to understand them in my opinion. There are some commandments which when applied all the time, actually go against the commandment of compassion. And that would then seem to be paradoxical. How can God love all his children and yet create situations that are correct according to the commandments, but cause direct suffering? For example, the suffering the people of colour went through from not being able to have the priesthood. Or the suffering the trans and gay people have when having to live commandments that prevent them from being fully actualised human beings? These are hard questions. I know people have a lot of opinions about them. But the call of compassion from the spirit I feel has to have its place amidst trust in the scriptures.
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There is a verse in D+C that supports this: 58:26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

Latest revision as of 07:49, 15 May 2022

A Thought[edit]

Matthew, a thought perhaps of some help. You feel by the Spirit that it would be wicked to kill the child you hold in your arms. Absolutely! But Saul was not commanded to kill your child, nor are you. The question, perhaps, might better be asked thus: what did those soldiers feel in the moment? What does this have to do with Abraham and Isaac? Do we turn to Kierkegaard here? At least this much, though: there is no contradiction in messages from the Spirit to you. You have not been commanded to kill anyone, and you have been commanded to believe these scriptures. In dealing with the question in the OT, it seems rather to be a question of what they must have experienced. If the text does not dwell on this question, then there may not have been a difficulty, and we might want to explore the cultural presuppositions of such a people. Or we might turn to a text that does dwell on a similar question: Abraham and Isaac?

I may be misunderstanding your point. I said in my post that I do not believe God commanded to kill all these children like this. Are you saying you disagree? If so, there are probably some interesting things we could say about this but I don't know that there is much we could say that would really address that disagreement. Just as, if I tell someone I believe the Book or Mormon is true and they say they don't. There are lots of things we could talk about around that topic that might be interesting but I think little of it is stuff that will really address our difference of opinion. --Matthew Faulconer 04:27, 30 Jun 2006 (UTC) (PS I am 99% sure I posted a response earlier but I do not see it now. Very odd.)
Or I am misunderstanding yours? If I understood your post, you are saying that you feel by the Spirit that your child is innocent and should never be harmed, and then you generalize from that feeling to conclude (and now, rationally, I think) that the same would be true of all children. My point is to say that the Spirit has not told you that those soldiers were not to kill those children, but that it has only told you not to harm your own child. The Spirit has, however, told you that the scriptures are true, and so you are presented with two messages from the Spirit that do not contradict, though one message contradicts a conclusion you draw from the other message. The messages themselves, however, do not run up against each other, as far as I can tell.
Now, whether or not I believe God commanded these men to kill these children.... I suppose I should first say that I didn't state any opinion on that in my first comment. I couldn't state my thoughts on the question without a careful exegesis of the text. There may be reason to believe that there were cultural aspects at work here, that our sensibilities are shocked because of our own cultural situation, etc. I don't know without having studied it carefully. In fact, my point was to dislodge the apparent contradiction you feel from that particular text, precisely because--at a simple glance--it does not look to me like there is any reason to doubt that there was such a commandment given, but that we simply are so far removed from the situation--textually if in no other way--to regard it the way you have. Rather, I would suggest we take up a scriptural situation like Abraham/Isaac, where the text bears sustained study of this dilemma.
I don't know if that's clear, really. I hope. Some thoughts, at least. I confess I'm not sure where there is at all a "difference of opinion" here. I didn't recognize one in the first place. I still don't. --Joe Spencer 15:24, 30 Jun 2006 (UTC)
Joe, I don't think I understand this line:
we simply are so far removed from the situation--textually if in no other way--to regard it the way you have.
My next question involves this sentence:
I would suggest we take up a scriptural situation like Abraham/Isaac, where the text bears sustained study of this dilemma.
It seems like one thing we agree is that this text doesn't deal with a dilemma about whether to kill the children. Instead this is about some people who were told to kill everything, didn't obey (they saved the king and some goats) but didn't save the innocent. It is precisely because the text doesn't dwell on this question of whether or not to kill the innocent which suggests that studying the story of Abraham's command to sacrifice Isaac isn't going to somehow rid us of the question which I had--whether God would command Israel to kill all the Amorites even "the infant and suckling."
Finally, I am confused by several statements you make that to me only follow if one believes that I (and presumably all) are commanded to believe that every word in the scriptures is true. Certainly if we are going to invoke the fallibility of scriptures for anything, what nobler reason could we find than this? --Matthew Faulconer 14:38, 3 Jul 2006 (UTC)
Matthew, I think we're talking more to each other now, at any rate. The underlying issue is, as you point out, how we take the scriptures broadly. I don't for an instance feel that we "are commanded to believe that every word in the scriptures is true." However, I do think that taking any scripture as blatantly false (whatever that would mean) should only be done with a great deal of caution. It seems like a great deal of presumption on our part to declare that the authors of any scriptural text were not inspired. But ultimately, taking the scriptures as either true or false is probably a misunderstanding of them anyway, is it not? The whole plan of salvation is a question of call and response, of a call from God that comes to us to invite us into His presence, and of our response to that call, our coming into His presence and then accomplishing whatever work He commissions us to do (grace, then works). If that is the whole plan of salvation, then where do scriptures fit in? Scriptures are, I think, the personal records of those who have experienced this two-fold pattern of grace and works. Every scriptural text is a sort of endowment script, a narrative that follows the call into God's presence and the process through which that call was answered. No scriptural text is binding in that sense. The scriptures are a series of texts that help us to know the call/response structure of our relation with God, and that give us examples of what it all means. Perhaps more than anything, the scriptures present us with the interconnectedness of the many calls and responses (for example, what our call/response has to do with the call/response of Abraham, etc.). What seems to be most important in a text like the one you are considering is whether or not these people answered the call with the appropriate response. Apparently they did not. But the question as to whether or not one ought to kill the innocent is not raised--that is ultimately an "ethical" question, a non-scriptural question, perhaps even an extra-evangelical question (beyond the purview of the gospel). Ethics is always philosophy, begins with philosophy and ends, perhaps, with the scriptures. I suppose, then, what I've been trying to say (yikes, is this too blunt?) is that reading the passage in question as a question of whether the innocents should have been killed is to take up first the philosophies of men, and then to mingle them with scripture. The text calls us to do things the other way. What does the text say and what does it suggest? Now, let's think that, and let's adjust our philosophies to what the text seems to say. Something like this, anyway. --Joe Spencer 15:34, 3 Jul 2006 (UTC)

A couple quick random and not-too-profound thoughts:

  • Regarding Joe's mention of "philosophies of men," I recently jumped in to an interesting T&S thread regarding this (note also the WBC quote I posted a few comments later, and some subsequent discussion). I've been meaning to add some commentary regarding this here but haven't gotten around to it....
  • I think there's an argument to be made (albeit, an argument I think which is very flawed and horrid in many ways) that parallels the historical blacks and the priesthood rationales (related to our unfinished Abr 1:26 discussion): In stark economic terms, the problem Matthew is raising could be stated that the presumed benefit of killing the women and children would be so Israel would have less temptation to become idolotrous (at least this seems to be the theme developed in the violent chapters in the book of Joshua, which the SS lessons conveniently skipped). The cost of course is the lives of these women and children. So to address Matthew's concerns it seems you could either emphasize the benefit or somehow deemphasize the costs (there doesn't seem to be much wriggle room for third option of finding a textual ambiguity or loophole like in Judg 11:36, at least not without resortin to some sort of errors-in-the-text argument). One way to deemphasize the costs of the lives of these women and children would be to speculate as to poor premortal premortal choices they may've made. (Again, I'm not advocating this view, more just preempting this argument I can imagine someone making!)

--RobertC 16:00, 3 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Joe,
I feel like we are on the verge of going in circles. We may not be able to make much more progress on this topic that is fruitful. In any case, thanks for taking the time to read through my thoughts and spending some time responding to them. I honestly appreciate that. I disagree with you whole-heartedly but I appreciate the chance to explain better what I meant by responding to your questions.
I do think that taking any scripture as blatantly false (whatever that would mean) should only be done with a great deal of caution.
We agree here.
But ultimately, taking the scriptures as either true or false is probably a misunderstanding of them anyway, is it not?
No. The sentence "the scriptures are true" is a perfectly good sentence, has meaning, is itself true, and doesn't suggest a misunderstanding of the scriptures.
What seems to be most important in a text like the one you are considering is whether or not these people answered the call with the appropriate response.
I don't see any reason to believe in a single most important question for this scripture. I think the question you ask presupposes that they were asked to kill all the children. That is what my question questions. And I think my question is important. It is important in understanding our relationship to God, his relationship to his chosen people and more widely his relationship to all his children. I have further evidence that it is an important question. I have sat through a Sunday school lesson hearing people defend the idea that God would tell the Israelites to kill these innocent children and heard their poor answers. If for no other reason, it is an important question because some answer it so badly. (Robert's, as he warns, is another example of a bad way to answer this question.)
But the question as to whether or not one ought to kill the innocent is not raised...
Just as a side note: that wasn't my question. My question was why God would command this, or, did he really command this, but not whether we should follow the commands of God.
reading the passage in question as a question of whether the innocents should have been killed is to take up first the philosophies of men, and then to mingle them with scripture.
Assuming you are talking about my question (did God really command Israel to kill the innocent children) then it seems you are saying that simply asking whether something in the scriptures is false is to mingle the philosophies of men with the scriptures. Is that right? If so, is it also mingling the philosophies of men with the scriptures to ask whether something in the scriptures is true?

--Matthew Faulconer 03:19, 4 Jul 2006 (UTC) Robert, thanks for the link to the post on mingling the philosophies of men with scriptures. --Matthew Faulconer 03:19, 4 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Matthew, I've been wrestling all day with how to answer this post. I think the best way to begin is by taking up this question: "it seems you are saying that simply asking whether somethign in the scriptures is false is to mingle the philosophies of men with the scriptures. Is that right? If so, is it also mingling the philosophies of men with the scriptures to ask whether something in the scriptures is true?"

The answer to both questions, I think, is "yes." I think introducing the false/true distinction into the scriptures is to mingle them with the philosophies of men. The scriptures do not, it seems to me the more I read them carefully, bear in them the concept of truth/falsity as we understand it. The Hebrew word "truth" certainly does not correspond to anything like our word "truth." What I think our devotion to the scriptures amounts to (or what I think it should amount to) is this: we are to take the texts as they present themselves. If they do not raise the question of truth/falsity, then if we do, it is our own addition to them. I don't believe that the writers of the Old Testament were thinking in terms of historicity or truth/falsity when they wrote these accounts. They were thinking in a wholly different logic, a whole other logos (even Logos?).

What I think this amounts to, oddly, is the following. If we transcend the issue of truth/falsity, then a given scriptural text can be both true and false at the same time. It may be that there never was a historical event like the command to kill these innocents, while even at the same time, the text is absolutely true to itself. However, at the same time, since we have at the very moment we can say this transcended the question, the text is neither true nor false, and neither of the above statements makes any sense. I don't believe, ultimately, that the scriptures are a question of history or historicity in the common sense of these terms (that actual events are accurately recorded).

The difficulty of saying all of this is that it can very easily be misunderstood or misconstrued. That is why I think your father wrote such a lengthy article on this very subject (see his "Scripture as Incarnation" in Historicity and Latter-day Saint Scripture). In the end, at least this much is clear: to be faithful to the text is to take the text as it presents itself, and that seems, so to speak, to require one to "play along," whether or not a text is "true" in any objective sense.

Even with a day's thought, I don't know that this was clear enough. This much seems clear to me, personally (and now I set thinking--philosophy, I suppose--aside): the scriptures are God's word (Word?), and the Spirit is an infallible guide. What a wonderful tension they so often pull us into! Sometimes I think it is precisely the joy of that tension that thrills my soul in this gospel. An odd thing. But a work worth every moment! --Joe Spencer 00:34, 5 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Since I've recently been reading and discussing theology (mainly Blake Ostler's stuff), I've been thinking a lot about how to approach the scriptures, since I think there are dangers if not more fundamental problems with a theological approach. It's way past time I read Jim's article Joe mentioned, so thanks Joe for the extra plug for it which will finally motivate me to read it. I went back and read Jim's T&S post on "Hermeneutics" and, b/c of the arguably violent theological approach I've been taking recently and the way Joe's been describing what it means to be faithful to a text, the following portion of one of Jim's comments really struck me:
"I think you are right that we too often treat the scriptures as if they were a giant manual produced by one technical writing specialist some place, and that we miss a lot when we take that approach."
I'll probably be posting some notes from Jim's article in the next week or two—I'd appreciate any feedback in helping me digest that article when I get to it.
I still wonder about Matthew's question though b/c I don't believe our own presuppositions and cultural background are irrelevant to our encounter with the textual narratives. True, there is no blatant contradiction that Matthew has described, but if we are to take Nephi's "likening the scriptures to ourselves" seriously, I think it makes sense at least to ask why the text doesn't address what would seem an obvious issue to address from our perspective and background. Maybe I'm too steeped in the attitude of making sense of the scriptures as a whole, as a way to understand some reliable, unchanging aspect of God (that is, I'm not ready to abandon all hope of a thoelogical aspect to understanding the scriptures), that I can't dismiss Matthew's question as easily as Joe seems to. (By the way, I think Nephi's killing of Laban may be a more relevant text for studying the question of killing an innocent person than Abraham and Isaac b/c Nephi seems to have the same moral qualms I would!)
Also, if I'm understanding this conversation right, it seems Joe's answer to Matthew's question, "Is it also mingling the philosophies of men with the scriptures to ask whether something in the scriptures is true?" is yes. That is, once we accept the scriptures as canon, if we are to be true to the text of the canon, then in so doing we have already effectively answered the question of whether the scriptures is canon (yes), and must move on to letting the scriptures teach us, even if what it seems to teach us contradicts an ethical philosophy we hold dear.
If this passage weren't in the Bible, I'd feel more persuaded that Joe's approach is the one we must take. However, b/c of the conditional clause in the Articles of Faith regarding the Bible, I think that, on rare occassions like this, there is room for the Latter-Day Saint student of the scriptures to view certain aspects of the Bible as untrue in the not-translated-correctly sense (which I think could be taken to include uninspired redacting of the scriptures).... --RobertC 13:44, 5 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Joe, I respect your attention to the text as you read the scriptures as I think most members (including myself) would be better off with more of that. Maybe Robert's position represents a middle ground--yes, the text itself deserves special status but we cannot let it be so other-worldly that we have no possibility of applying it to our own lives. (Robert I hope you don't disagree with what I attribute to you.) Could we agree then that there is some sense of the word true that would make the phrase "the scriptures are true" acceptable? If so, could you help me out use that same definition when you interpret my question, "Is it true that the Lord asked Israel to kill the innocent infant and suckling"? (As a side note, when looking for the opposite of true as applied to scripture I think it better to say not true, or in error, or has a fault, or is mistranslated (where we think of translation in the same sense that the JST is a translation which is quite different than how we usually use the word.) All of these are better than false.)

Would it help to get away from the word true all together? Maybe instead of "Is it true that the Lord asked the Israelites to kill the innocent infant and suckling" we could ask if these words that tell us that the Lord commanded Israel to kill innocent children are truly the words of Christ where words of Christ is used as Nephi uses them in 2 Ne 33:10-11.

Finally, I would point out that one of the most significant points in this conversation is the one, as noted above, we both agree on: "I do think that taking any scripture as blatantly false (whatever that would mean) should only be done with a great deal of caution." --Matthew Faulconer 15:37, 5 Jul 2006 (UTC)

This is a fascinating discussion. I don't think it is only paternal love that gives me sympathy for Matthew's position. There is, indeed, something about holding your child in your arms that makes killing it or any other child unimaginable. So, what is interesting to me is that I can imagine the possibility that the Lord would command us to kill little children, but only if I take a more-or-less abstract view. In the abstract I can say "It is possible that God would command his followers to kill little children," but concretely the idea is not only horrific but also impossible. I wonder what that means about my commitment to taking the scriptures as they give themselves to us? I'm not sure. --Jim Faulconer 11:34, 5 Jul 2006 (UTC)
I think Jim's comment clarifies the issue for me a great deal. Let me see if I can rethink it here for a moment, and then see where that brings things.
Two experiences (events... even phenomenologies?) are at work here. On the one hand, one regards the text in 1 Sam 15 as a father; on the other hand, one regards the text as a student of the scriptures. Jim has called--without, I take it, intending a great deal of precision--the latter "a more-or-less abstract view" (the more I sit here thinking about this distinction, the more I want to call on Derrida's "Foi et Savoir," but I'll try to keep that out of the question). Since I am writing this at my computer while my family is out running some errands, I am certainly taking up this question from the abstract point of view. Is it precisely for that reason that I am reticent to attribute impossibility to the situation? This seems to follow. If so, then I think this can be said: abstraction (whether or not other things do the same is not yet an issue) allows me to think God through concepts I put forth only "under erasure." In other words, my first conclusion: abstraction allows for a certain humility before God; distance from the concrete situation allows me to put my proud conceptual approach to God in check.
I put this last point in these terms (humility, pride) only with reservation (I certainly do not intend to pass judgment by it--especially since I think that in the concrete situation I too would feel a sense of impossibility), but also because it draws out a second aspect of this question. My reticence, at this abstract distance from the situation, to state anything absolute about God is a translation of the concept (!) of humility into the work of thinking, into what I regard to be my relation (both at this moment of abstraction and at the projected concrete moment) to God. Whether this translation is good or bad remains to be decided. That it is my translation is perhaps all I can say for the moment. What all of this amounts to, then, seems to be this: I think that my humility before God is a question of my desire to trust Him enough to keep my thoughts on Him, and certainly then my concepts, under erasure. In other words, my second conclusion: humility is a question--for me--of allowing a sort of freedom to God, of assuming that He can do anything He wants--even command the murder of innocents.
These two conclusions come together: at a safe distance from concrete situations--perhaps in the very act of projecting concrete situations--it is possible for me to "think humbly," to "practice humility," etc. Since I don't know what I would do in the concrete situation, my humility itself remains abstract. I am just doing the talking most of us do in quorum or class when we are asked whether we would do this or that for the Savior.
However, I think that this last paragraph undoes itself with a little thought. It assumes that while holding my child and regarding the text in 1 Sam 15, I am in a concrete situation, whereas I am in an abstract situation when I sit at the computer. Is this distinction justifiable? The concrete situation would be, it seems, only one in which I myself have been issued the command to kill the innocent. Any other situation is just projection onto that concrete situation, and is therefore abstract. Should it not be said, in fact, that all consideration of scripture is abstract? Since I am considering the words of an author (albeit an inspired one--2 Ne 33:1-11 is precisely the text for this), am I not necessarily abstracted from the concrete situation? I was not there in Canaan, nor am I now. It seems, then, that at least this can be said: our attitude to the scriptures is always abstract.
The last paragraph issues in a universal statement, and I think it is a necessary consequence of our abstract consideration of 1 Sam 15 (or rather, it will be for a few more moments). All study of the scriptures is abstract. But if that is the case, then it seems that scripture is ultimately to be understood apart from our relation to God. And that, I think, is what has been rubbing me wrong through this entire discussion on this page. I am ultimately trying to question whether or not our study of the scriptures is an abstract thing. Thinking the Word... isn't this precisely my relation to God (foi and savoir are one and the same, though we name them differently... have I just performed a deconstruction?)? I can't be humble or proud in the concrete situation until the Word Himself carries me into it; but the Word does precisely that as I study. If I believe it is the word of God, sanctified in the Word, is it not my duty to read it as His call? Isn't this concrete? And ultimately (please notice this is a question and not a statement!), isn't my reticence to recognize a call in 1 Sam 15 while I hold my son in my arms a sort of declaration as to whom I love more, God or my son? I think it is because this last question comes to me through this question that I suggested above that we look at Abraham and Isaac: my son or The Son, philsophies of men or scripture, my words or His Word, totality or infinity, idol or icon, etc., etc., etc.?
I think all that I've done in this post is thought through everything I've already said, but rephrased and made clearer through Jim's far-briefer post. I don't know that I'm adding anything, but I think this clarifies everything.
But one further thought... What of the eighth article of faith, the nature of the JST, etc.? I think that all these things teach us our fallibility, not that of the scriptures. That Joseph changed his translations of the Bible over and over, for example, displays that Joseph was learning all the time better how to understand the revelations he received from God much more than it displays the flaws of the texts. As far as the eighth article of faith goes, what are we to make of the word "translated"? It certainly doesn't mean the simple "translation" of one language into another. If it means something like "understood," or "received," or "restored," or whatever, I don't see how that allows us to reject specific texts in the Bible. Evidence of tampering with specific texts, provided by the textual critics, seems to be more license than Aof 8 to consider the Bible to be flawed, and I feel increasingly uncomfortable with textual criticism (comparing Gerald Jantzen's commentary on Job 19 to all others is a perfect example of why). Anyway... This last point remains to be worked out, but I hope the above clarifies things a bit more. --Joe Spencer 21:11, 5 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Joe, I won't admit I understood all of it. I do want to respond to the point of pride/humility not because I disagree with you but rather simply to clarify my own position in light of the recent discussion. I agree that to reject a scripture could be a sign of pride.

Hopefully what I wrote up on the user page about this difficult scripture comes off for what I meant it: a testimony related to this difficult scripture informed by the Holy Ghost rather than a declaration about putting bounds on God in order that He conform to my beliefs about how the world should be organized. Mine was not meant to be an argument from a universal claim to a particular situation. I don't think arguments like that can be the foundation of a testimony. It is for good reason that we don't get up the first Sunday of the month, lay out a set of assumptions and then show by what means those lead to our conclusion that Jesus Christ is our Savior.

Another issue that I wish to address is whether it is appropriate for me to share my beliefs. Wouldn't it be enough for me to reject the scripture privately? After all, I cannot set myself up in the role to say to others "reject this part here." That isn't my place.

Consider two related experiences: A) as noted above I sat through a Sunday School class where someone asked this question about God commanding the little children to be killed and I heard their answers--not simply "we just don't know" but other answers that were poor. I happened to sit next to the person who asked it during Priesthood open exercises next. He certainly hadn't had his concern resolved. He told me how he had just put his granddaughter to bed when he went to read this assignment for Sunday School. He hadn't pointed it out in class but he was particularly bothered by the use of the word suckling. At the time I had just watched Hotel Rwanda. We both suffered under the same weight. Luckily both of us had been given testimonies of the gospel which prevented that weight from dragging us down. B) An old friend of mine told me a while back that he had lost his testimony while teaching the Old Testament to a primary class--all of the things he was uncomfortable with in the Old Testament added up together just didn't make sense to him. He no longer goes to church. (I don't mean to take away his responsibility for his decision--that isn't for me to judge one way or the other.)

In light of both of these experiences when I felt relief from this burden I wanted to share how I arrived at it.

Joe, Robert and Dad, thanks for discussing with me. This will be my final comment here--at least for a little while. --Matthew Faulconer 15:56, 6 Jul 2006 (UTC)

Dear GENTLEmen, I am coming to your discussion 7 months later, and finding it fascinating and interesting and gratifying that there are men in the world who would care so much as do you. At the same time, I see a glaring absence in your considerations:

The philosophical, political and religious mores of the time described in the scripture were entirely different from ours. It was a different Dispensation. There was a war on. The Lord wanted his chosen people, the Israelites, to win. Winning involved making sure there were no more Amorites (at that time or later) to challenge the Israelites while they were doing other things they were commanded to do by the Lord. Wiping out this threat meant exactly that: destroying it root and branch. Doing that had to be done personally by the Israelite soldiers; it must have been horrific for them, but it was also a lesson (war is horrible, try and try again as you progress oh My children to get to a point where you won't need war).

In this Dispensation there are now children of God who realize that killing infants and sucklings is beyond horrific, and also understand that the other guy's son and nursing-mother wife are every bit as precious to him as yours are to you. I am grateful that I live in this Dispensation! And yet, and yet we still kill infants and sucklings as well as soldiers -- we do it from farther away, with long-distance weapons that allow us to avoid the horrific experience of killing, on a personal level.

To help us to continue to progress, to avoid thinking that our Dispensation has progressed over that one, our Heavenly Father has provided us with historical scripture that reminds us, as we hold our own babes in our arms, how horrific it is to kill -- even from far away, and even if the war is a righteous one.

So yes, the command to kill all the Amorite infants and children could have come from the same Spirit that tells you to love and cherish your own. The Dispensation was different, the command not so difficult to swallow or reconcile at that time. The object lesson that would be needed in our Dispensation is precious, and is meant to make us think with gravity and gravitas before going to war. Heavenly Father uses simple, natural means -- in this case the inability of Israelites to step outside their status as carnal men -- to work His miracles and provide his lessons.

It would be wise of us to look first for the simplest (and therefore most precious) of explanations rather than resorting to the convoluted methods of philosophical and exegetical discourse (see 2 Ne 9:28-29).

--80.164.106.185 13:05, 26 Jan 2007 (UTC) Meredith

Hi Meredith, Thanks for your thoughts. I don't agree. I do agree it is simple to assert that God commands different people in different cultures to do different things--but I don't think it would be simple to give some good reasoning for why God, who we are familiar with through His Spirit, would tell other people to kill a whole bunch of innocent children because they are in a different culture--when that action seems so different than the God we know. Of course maybe you are simply asserting that in a real sense God is unknowable. In that case, fine but I don't see that as providing a simple explanation--I just see that as saying we don't know God so we can't have an explanation. I'm happy to engage further in this discussion if you wish--though I don't promise to respond quickly.

On a related note, I think it would be good to have a broader discussion on the role of private interpretation in the Church. I'll wait until things quiet down on the blog. That would probably be the right place for it. --Matthew Faulconer 08:23, 3 February 2007 (CET)

I agree that it is a contradiction, given this very clear message in the new testament: Matthew 18:6 “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

There are other contradictions in how the character of God appears in the scriptures. Perhaps that is because the scriptures are imperfect, since they are written by humans. Is it not possible to believe the scriptures but retain our critical thinking?? Not every single word and explanation can be perfectly expressed and recorded. We still need to follow the spirit to understand them in my opinion. There are some commandments which when applied all the time, actually go against the commandment of compassion. And that would then seem to be paradoxical. How can God love all his children and yet create situations that are correct according to the commandments, but cause direct suffering? For example, the suffering the people of colour went through from not being able to have the priesthood. Or the suffering the trans and gay people have when having to live commandments that prevent them from being fully actualised human beings? These are hard questions. I know people have a lot of opinions about them. But the call of compassion from the spirit I feel has to have its place amidst trust in the scriptures.

There is a verse in D+C that supports this: 58:26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.